10 Film Distribution Essentials - Raindance

You have finished your short, feature or documentary and sent it to film festivals.

After a festival screening, a sales rep comes snapping at your heels, and tries to feel you out to see what kind of filmmaker you really are: a talented amateur or a true professional.

First thing they usually want to know in my experience, BEFORE they talk about money, is whether or not you can stand up to the plate and deliver. By that I mean: a sales rep or distributor will want to know if you can deliver the ‘deliverables.’ Most so-called filmmakers can’t.

Lets take a closer look. These are some great tips from a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011. Make sure you speak to your sales agent and/or lawyer as terms and condiditon do change.

A. Essential Delivery Materials

There are some basic things a filmmaker needs to supply that are pretty obvious. There is no way out for this list. You will save the distributor time and money, and earn yourself filmmaker brownie points on some others.

1. Feature film on HDCam or digital file
– Original aspect ratio
– Native frame rate
Brownie points:
– 5.1 mix
– Trailer
Extra Brownie points:
– Additional versions: Clean output (no titles), DME separated

2. Key art/Poster art

300 dpi
Bonus points: separated art layers

3. Audio output:
Channel 1: 5.1 track: Left
Channel 2: 5.1 track: Right
Channel 3: 5.1 track: Center
Channel 4: 5.1 track: Lfe
Channel 5: 5.1 track: Left Surround
Channel 6: 5.1 track: Right Surround
Channels 7+8: Full Mix Stereo L&R
Channels 9+10: M&E Stereo L&R

Many Extra Brownie Points:
– 4×3 pan and scan – does provide additional flexibility for certain outlets, although most now will accept the film letterboxed within a 4×3 frame
– Audio Commentary – standard for DVD release, easy enough to do on your own
– Closed Captions & Subtitles – you will increase the value of a non-English language film many times over to an non-English speaking distributor – Good production stills and footage is the hallmark of a marketing savvy filmmaker
– Social media outlets & web presence (built-in marketing platforms and hooks)
– Pre-organized binder of all clearances, releases and music licensing information. I use a dropbox with all materials meaning I can easily send a link to a distributor.

B. Delivery Material Checklist

A good habit is to plan your delivery schedule at the very start of the filmmaking process. Ideally, one would assign one person the responsibiulity of collecting all the appropriate material.

– Check into available grants in case you need more money
– Assess viability of crowd funding campaign and initiate if appropriate
– Commence building social media infrastructure
[Read: Social Media for The Complete, Absolute and Utter Beginner]
– Consider what pre-production material might be useful as DVD extras. For example audition tapes, storyboards, script meetings
– Talent agreements need to be negotiated and firmly in place

Capture behind the scenes footage
Get good production stills
Get a video blog going
Collect material for your EPK

Set up your project for ease of output for audio channels during assembly of feature and trailer:
a) Narration
b) DME
c) Music
Save and organize for future use:
a) Outtakes/deleted scenes
b) Alternative Endings
Confirm all legal materials are in progress or finalized before you finish the edit:
a) All talent agreements (promotion & appearances, approval, likeness and image grants)
b) Music cue sheet (with prioritized notes about out-of-content usage)

Press Kit and Marketing Handout Preparation:
[Read: 7 Essentials Of A Press Kit]
a) Press clippings
b) Premiere footage
c) Trailer
d) EPK
e) Promotional Clips
f) Continued social media presence

DVD Extras Creation audio commentary
a) Interview footage
b) Casting tapes/story boards/notes on napkins
c) Audio Commentaries
Distribution Preparation
a) Transcript
b) Closed captioning

Delivery Folder Structure

When you license (or ‘sell’) your film you will need to supply a list of legal documents and paperwork to the distributor. These include:

Archival Clip Licenses
Cast and Crew Restrictions
Certificate of Authorship
Certificate of Origin
Chain of Title
Credit Items
Literary Materials
MPAA Documentation
Other Agreements

If you are a UK producer, you will also want to apply to the DCMS for the 20% DCMS Producer’s TAX Credit. For this you will also need audited accounts. Please read their site carefully

Fade Out

Don’t let this lengthy list overwhelm you. It’s all part of the craft. And remember: To get really good at anything in life, sometimes you need to do what you don’t like doing.

Happy hunting!



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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