by Carole Dean
Peter Broderick is an expert on film distribution for indie films. His company, Paradigm Consulting, helps filmmakers design and implement state-of-the-art financing, distribution, and outreach strategies.
He can review your film and give you excellent advice on your film’s potential market. I advise every filmmaker who has the opportunity to seek his advice.
He joined me on my Art of Film Funding podcast “How Not to Negotiate a Distribution Deal” and shared his film distribution wisdom with us.
Think of Film Distribution as a Partnership
“In many cases, in the past, the relationship between distributors and filmmakers has been a kind of master/slave relationship” Peter explained. “ All the power was in the distributor and all the decisions were made by the distributor. The filmmaker just had to kind of follow whatever the distributor decided.”
Peter considers that these days, in the newer world of distribution, we should really think about partnerships that are win/win. “It’s good for both sides. They appreciate what the other partner brings to the situation and they want to maximize the relationship. Have it work for both sides.”
Create a Customized Film Distribution Plan
Before filmmakers get that distribution offer, Peter recommends that they have designed a customized distribution strategy. Customize it to their goals, their target audiences, and the avenues of distribution and the versions of the film.
You should be specific about what rights you want to give to the distributor. You also need to be clear about the rights you want to retain. This could include the right to do screenings, and the right to sell downloads, streams, and DVDs directly from your own website.
By creating this, you can show it to a distributor and say, “We’re really interested in working with you. This is what we’d like to do. Can you partner with us using our customized distribution plan?”
This gives the distributor a clear understanding of what you want to give them. It importantly outlines what you want to keep. It puts you in a stronger position for negotiating.
Ask Before You Sign
When a film is finished, the filmmaker too often wants to get the film seen. They sometimes can take a distribution deal they later regret.
“Of course you want to hear lovely things about your film.” But don’t, Peter warns, be seduced by the distributor’s flattery. Be diligent in finding people who are working or have worked with this distributor. Don’t rely on the references distributors give you, since all distributors will have at least a few clients that like them.
“Find filmmakers online” he suggests, “who have worked with the distributors you’re considering.” Peter recommends speaking with 3 to 5 filmmakers about each distributor you’re seriously considering. He recommends asking pointed rather than general questions.
For example, instead of asking “do you like your distributor?”, ask if they’ve made as many sales as they expected to make and if the filmmaker has received the amount of revenues they expected to receive.
Don’t ask, “Do you like your distributor.” Do ask, “How much money have you made?”
Ask “Is the distributor working for you?” “How often do they call you or communicate?” “Do they treat you as a partner instead of an annoyance?” Make sure they are treating other filmmaker the way you want to be treated before you consider making a deal.
“You’re bringing knowledge, you’re bringing some core audiences, you’re bringing expertise in the area that your film is made within and they should value that.”
Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film production. She is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts. See IMDB for producing credits.