Last year, Pronto Films, our dynamic member Maxim Asadchiy in Ukraine, put together their first international co-production. The advice they got received from fellow IQ members was really helpful for them to gain confidence at the beginning of production. As they were gearing up to obtain distribution, they looked again to fellow IQers for guidance.
The feature on which they just completed postproduction, “Brothers. The Final Confession”, is a psychological drama based on the best-seller by Sweden writer Torgny Lindgren. It was directed by Victoria Trofimenko.
Vern suggested a conference where some of our experienced feature producers could give the team at Pronto insight and feedback. Fellow IQ members Kevin DeWalt (Canada) and Alex Boden (UK) graciously agreed to share their wisdom, and Kjartan Thordarson (Iceland) contributed as IQ’s VP of Entertainment: it made for a most compelling conversation. Our seasoned producers had some extensive and detailed advice to producers looking for distribution & sales for an independent art film, summarized below.
Attending a festival or market is the best way to connect with distributors and sales people, even if you attend for just one or two days. Best events to attend are Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, AFM, and Sundance. You want to meet the people you will do business with. Kicking off at Berlin may be easier to manage as well as a good initial exposure, to be followed up at Cannes. So the best thing would be to attend both! However if you are just entering the field now, smaller films of more ‘local’ (i.e. European) origin, may be more visible on its first outing in Berlin rather than at Cannes.
Distributors vs. Sales Agents
Sales agents have connections with many distributors. Buyers prefer to deal with sales agents, as it makes them more confident that the deliverables will be there. It’s easier to get attention from sales people, but if distributors express interest, that can work too. Media Luna specializes in first time talent, foreign language, art films. Ida Martins works there, she’s a great person to speak to. A good place to start. http://www.medialuna.biz
Sales Agents & Distribution Deals
Ask agents for the deals they offer, and go to a few agents to compare, however it’s important that you don’t waste your time with a company that does not sell your type of film. You can have a clause that if there is no activity, no sales at Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, etc., within 12 to 25 months, the rights come back to you.
If you do not have stars and the distributors don’t know there’s a market for your particular film, it’s hard to get money up front. You can negotiate a lower commission/percentage fee if there is no money upfront. Typically distributors ask for a 15 year license, worldwide. If you can license to a local distributor, you would keep that territory to yourself. Holding DVD rights is only for big producers. You could possibly hold your country for DVD, but not other territories. It’s best to discuss this with the sales agents. They can tell you which companies are interested, and you can choose together.
You have to hook your potential buyer/agent in. Your main stills are really important, and/or a good poster if you don’t have one already. One page with one photo with the essential details are important to someone who does not know the film. There are 3 types of trailer: investment trailer, sales trailer, or promotional trailer.
IQ Member Josh Miller (Canada) also provided some insight by email about creating a good poster for an art film. “It should give us a sense of the story, genre, conflicts, time period, etc. and make us want to see the film. If the film is about two brothers, then inherent in such a story is that there will be conflict between them that will threaten their brotherly love for each other.”
One of the distribution conference call’s goals was to support connections and partnerships between IQ members. This is an aspect of my job which I relish.
When new member Alihan from Turkey expressed that he was interested in expanding business, in particular with servicing feature films, another conference call was organized around this issue. Alihan Karagul (Turkey), Moulay Belghiti (Morocco), Alon Hattingh (Malta), Olga (for IQ member Ivo Van Vollenhoven, Barcelona), Ricardo Maldonado with Rodrigo (Peru), Sebastian Otero (Argentina). Rupert Harvey (Canada) and Peer Oppenheimer (United States) kindly provided insights from the feature film/television producers’ point of view.
Many ideas for supporting and networking with each other were shared. It was decided to continue the conversation with a call on May 20, 15h GMT. Anyone interested in participating should contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
The recording of both calls is available on our google drive: