We polled 30 distributors of independent film content and here's what we learned:
The average term for distribution rights is 10-15 years. As most distributors provided a range, this suggests that the term is negotiable so don't forget to negotiate. A few distributors provided terms of less than 10 years. In these cases, most release 50 or more films per year.
The majority of distributors polled are seeking worldwide rights, though some would settle for North America. Distributors with a strong international presence require worldwide rights as their business depends upon it. Keeping international rights will give you an opportunity to seek
3. Selection Criteria
Though there was some variation across distributors, the most common themes included:
Established, mobilizable audience
Powerful, innovative story
Recognizable cast was often indicated as a factor, but not a defining one. The key message was that ideal films have an easily identifiable target audience with a high purchase potential.
4. Social Media
40% of the distributors polled indicated that they leverage social media as a critical input to their selection process. The remaining 60% indicated that, though they consider it an input, it does not drive decision-making. Active social communities seemed to trump the need for cast-based social following.
5. Films Per Year
Most of the distributors (80%) release fewer than 50 films per year, with an average of 15 - 20. Some distributors were well over that mark, distributing anywhere from 100 to 400 films. At 15-20 films per year, competition remains high amongst those that leverage industry curation via film festivals, sales agents, and pre-existing relationships. There is a much higher opportunity to get picked up by those distributors topping 100 annual releases (e.g. Gravitas Ventures, Kino Lorber, and Seed&Spark).
We hope that these five facts give you a feel for the independent distribution market. Here are the key takeaways:
Be prepared to license your film for 10 - 15 years (but keep the negotiations open.
Distributors will settle for North American rights but will take worldwide if you give it to them.
You need to have a clearly-identifiable audience that can be targeted through your own marketing and/or that of your distributor
Social media following helps but a proven track record of community mobilization is best
Competition remains high amongst distributors as they each release an average of 15-20 films per year. The best way to get on their radar is to learn how they like to receive content and to leverage those channels as best you can (e.g., film festivals, sales agents, preexisting relationships, etc.)
Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.
If you're looking for someone to help you on your creative journey, feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to work with you!