Updated: May 21, 2020
Indie film distributors want to leverage their existing processes to exploit a slate of intellectual property (IP) for profit. Though some may have aspirations to make a name for themselves in a specific genre, the underlying goal remains the same.
Let’s break that down a bit by discussing the individual parts:
“Distributors want to leverage their existing processes...”
The distribution game is all about running a well-oiled machine that minimizes costs and maximizes profit potential. This means that distributors want things to work according to plan with the fewest hiccups and obstacles as possible. Efficiency is the name of the game here.
To be efficient, distributors can’t afford to waste time dealing with unprepared filmmakers. They want you to come to the table with your contracts in order, your film artifacts ready, your releases signed, and your licenses secured. The harder the onboarding process is (or appears to be), the less attractive your film is to them.
”...to exploit a slate...”
A distributor‘s success is dependent on building a large portfolio of films. This allows them to hedge against the films that underperform with the success of those that perform beyond expectations. This approach also allows them to make small profits from a large number of films which adds up nicely over time.
Depending on the goals of the distributor, the slate can be specific to a niche audience, genre, topic, theme, or even geographic area. If you’re looking to be a part of one of these slates, you’ll need to align your film with their goals. Many distributors choose more than one genre in order to maximize their profit potential.
As streaming platforms become even more prevalent, slates enable distributors to leverage their content in the creation of their own branded streaming platforms. The larger the slate, the more options they provide their audience. Options are what keep audiences engaged and keep the subscription money coming in.
”...of intellectual property...”
Intellectual Property (IP) is “property that derives from the work of the mind” and can be exploited for profit. When you sign over your IP to a distributor, they own the IP and can exploit it in a variety of markets. Depending on their infrastructure and their distribution markets, they may want the IP in full to include all derivative works. They may also want the exclusive rights to distribute nationally and internationally. This is something you’ll need to negotiate based on your intentions for leveraging your IP.
Distributors are businesses and their bottom line is profit. The value of your film does not live in your passion or how important the film is to you. The value of your film lives in the probability of turning a profit and the simplicity in its exploitation. To put it simply, distributors are looking for easy money.
From the day you start down the path of making a film, you should consider how you can make it easy for a distributor to exploit your film. Here are a few ways to do that:
Make sure to keep all of your documentation in one place.
Have cast sign all appropriate contracts and waivers.
Secure the licenses for music and any footage used.
Make your content for a specific, well-defined audience.
Find a QC checklist and start following it on day one!
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