Most people break the process of making a film into three categories, Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production. However, if no one sees it, then making the film was just a waste of time, so we need to add a fourth important step in the overall process… Distribution.
It takes a TON of work to make a movie. Countless hours are labored while prepping the film in Pre-Production, there’s never enough time or money while making the film during the Production phase and Post-Production is where you take all that you were able to shoot and put it together in the most effective and enticing film you can make.
After all of those long, hard and challenging hours, the natural inclination is to go into some sort of post-film making hibernation and to sleep for six straight weeks, but the real work is only just beginning.
The next, most critical step is getting your film in front of as many eyes as possible through whatever distribution method you can devise, whether that be to self-distribute or use an established distribution company.
You can choose to attempt a costly, but legitimizing theatrical run or choose a more cost effective, yet limiting DVD-0nly distribution path. You can try to get your film on television channels or make it available on-line via a free or pay web site.
All of these are important options and we’ll tackle these in more detail in a future blog entry about distribution.
What we want to talk about today is a very important, yet frequently overlooked expense and time-consuming process called Deliverables.
Whether you acquire a distributor or not, many of the same deliverables (items for which you must deliver to the distribution entity before they invest money in prepping and releasing your masterpiece) must be acquired, not only for getting your film on the screen, but to cover your legal booty as well.
The following information is under the assumption that the film maker has agreed to a generic distribution agreement which, unfortunately for the film maker, is heavily weighted to the Distributor’s advantage.
Also note that EVERYTHING in a distribution agreement is up for negotiation. You don’t have to agree to the terms they provide and they don’t have to agree to the terms you suggest. If you can work well together, you’ll come up with something that is acceptable to both parties.
First, understand that deliverables are at the expense of the film maker. So, if you don’t have it in the overall film budget, you may be stuck with a great film that you can’t afford to release.
Second, understand that, in a generic distribution agreement, any costs incurred by the distributor to get your film out there (theatrical prints, DVD creation/duplication, art work, etc.) are recouped by the Distributor first, before you get your cut. So, if the Distributor spends $10,000 on getting your DVDs in stores nationwide and your film makes $11,000, the Distributor gets their $10,000 first and then you get a percentage of the remaining $1,000 depending on the agreement with the Distributor.
Now, let’s take a little closer look at some of the more common deliverables film makers must provide:
Film, Behind-the-Scene footage, Interviews, etc.:
- A copy of the film, of course.
- Whatever footage you have recorded that can be used to promote the film should be made available to the distributor. If you’ve already edited together the footage, the better.
- These will have to be provided to the Distributor in one or more of a variety of different formats, the conversion of which from your original footage can get costly.
- It will also require the audio conform to specific requirements.
- If you know your distributor is only going to release your film on DVD, then getting a projection master high-definition on tape version will seem unnecessary. Ask questions and negotiate to what you can provide.
Dialogue, Effects and Music:
- You’ll need to provide a separate recording of the diaglogue, a separate recording of any sound effects and a separate recording of the music. This can usually be provided on CD.
- You’ll need a copy of the shooting script, which allows for closed-captioning as well as language translation.
- You’ll need a copy of all of your credits, including any credit obligations that you are contractually required to include.
- Music Cue Sheets and License Materials which requires title, composer, names and addresses, and where it was used in your film as well as any licensed material you are using, the contractual agreements for that material and which areas of the world you have the right to use that material.
- You’ll need to provide a copy of all of your location agreements.
- You’ll need to provide a copy of all of your actor agreements.
- You’ll need to provide a copy of your copyright from the Library of Congress.
- Any documentation of any agreement you have with anyone involved in the film, such as writers, musicians or any other third parties.
- You’ll need proof that you can use all of the footage in your film, that your film has a Title Report, which give you clearance to use any images/words in your film (i.e., you have Pizza Hut in the background of one of your shots or you talk about Burger King in your dialogue). You’ll also need a certificate of insurance which will cover you and the distributor from any legal action taken (like, if Pizza Hut sues for using their product image without approval).
- Do yourself a favor. Don’t include references to real products or companies. Saves a lot of potential hassle. For example, in the film To Save a Life, when a character was surfing the web, instead of using Google or Yahoo, they made up a search engine called “Glooglapedia” or something like that.
- Any still pics and publicity materials should be included (trailers, artwork, etc.)
- Synopsis of the story, Cast list and Crew list
- Anything else that can be used to sell your film.
That’s just a high-level synopsis of what you can expect to deliver to a distributor. As mentioned, this list can be substantially smaller or larger or different depending on the agreement.
It’s a lot of stuff, isn’t it? But it’s all important. Even if you decide to distribute the film yourself, it would be wise to have most, if not all, of this documentation and material available. The same challenges, legal or marketing, that are faced by established distributors could be faced by you if you self-distribute.
So, make this list of deliverables as part of your pre-production check-list and follow through with augmenting the list as you move through all phases of the film making process.
At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is deliver a quality film to your audience. Don’t let any of these often over-looked deliverables get in the way of your reaching that dream.