Distribution : Need Advice on my indie feature distribution offer! by Ross Munro

Ross Munro

Need Advice on my indie feature distribution offer!

Hi! I have a completed micro budget feature ( just under $100,000 budget) and was very recently offered a Proposed Deal by a film distribution company here in Canada. My film has no stars and is a comedy that we are really proud of. However, we don't have a lot of previous experience dealing with distributors so I was hoping some of my more experienced fellow members on here could give your thoughts on the following terms offered: - All Rights, exclusive - Territory: world - Term: 12 years (with renewal option for another 3 additional years) - Distribution fee on gross revenue: 25% Balance to producer: 75% -Expenses: $25,000 US Capped Thanks for all your help!!

Rafael Pinero

12 years is a long time, are you getting an advance?

Debbie Croysdale

If I was in your shoes, I would consult RB to recommend a Stage 32 expert in Distribution,( or another outside source.) I agree with above comments 12 years seems a long stretch, but I'm not an expert, I've been to seminars on the subject and it's still a maze to me.

Gustavo Letelier

If you don't get any advance or guarantee you may end up seeing 0 revenues.

Dorothy A. Atabong

Lawyer.

Rafael Pinero

Ross, with that offer you should really ask for an advance, negotiate... You are giving away all rights.

Debbie Croysdale

Hi I agree with @Dorothy....a lawyer. This situation has not only time and money at stake, but it involves your "baby" by this I mean your pride and work. I would get a specialist entertainment distribution lawyer, even if just for a one off consultation. I went to a weekend seminar on distribution, and realised, there are as many insider best kept secrets aswell as hidden dangers and potholes. It's a world of its own.

Alvin Williams

Taking a position of not wanting an advance can be used to get an advance and favorable terms. If you negotiate the right deal, you will recoup the $100k easily and will generate revenue off your film. Not having stars in a film is not a negative anymore for distributors as long as it is not trying to go to theaters. Quality production, acting and story you can make money. I am basing my comments on not knowing who the distributor is or their track record as it makes a difference on how you want to negotiate certain rights. So the are my comments, but if I had more info I can help you better. 1. All Rights, exclusive (Only give them exclusive rights to Canada. Let them prove themselves Territory: Canada Only (Retail, Canada base SVOD, Television) Do they use a third-party company to sell in other territories. If so, so territories you want to maintain the rights and find a sales person in that territory to represent your film. You make more money this way. Term: 12 years (with renewal option for another 3 additional years) No more than 3 Years with renewal options based on benchmarks. Distribution fee on gross revenue: 20% (Does this fee cover international as well? Does this cover their sales agents) Balance to producer: 80% -Expenses: $25,000 US Capped - ( you need to ask them to give you a break out of what category of expenses that will amount to $25K. They did not pull this number out of the hat. But if you only give them canada then this will be less. Alot of questions such as 1. What are manufacturing charges 2. What is artwork fees 3. What are conversion fees? Email me your trailer and I can give you more information based on the quality of the film. You can find a lawyer who you can pay a flat fee, but make sure you want to do business with the distributor before incurring expense. alvin.awe@gmail.com

Rafael Pinero

Interesting Robin and what kind of offers come from Netflix? Just to get an idea

Alvin Williams

Robin: Great info, but I am standing firm on the point that a "notable cast" is NOT necessary when you are not going after a theatrical release (unless it is a horror or thrasher film) and the quality of your content is excellent. Please note, I am basing this comment on Ross's information; that his film was made for $100K with no stars. My point is, that if his production, script and acting is excellent, he CAN get a deal and $100K is a low amount to recoup and maybe see a profit, if his distribution deal is right and that the distributor has the experience to exploit the title correctly. This is why I can stand firm on my statement regarding Ross's project of not having stars or notable cast: 1. I just sold 10 films into SVOD platforms and licensed five of those to U.S. cable network and 3 into Africa. With a new face cast. 2. There has been such a demand of "stars" on television, SVOD originals and film industry that all outlets are being forced to present titles without a notable cast and it is growing. The talent pool is just not there anymore. Everybody is simply working which is a great thing. 3. Please let me bring to your attention a film called War Room, that did not have a notable cast AT ALL, and is north of $60mm at the box-office. Sony pictures distributed this film and it doesn't have a NOTABLE cast at all. The film makers actually started their model as they produced their, Facing The Giants. Yes there are other factors to this film, of a starving market, but it proves my point that a major or indie studio will pick up a film with NO STARS, based on the quality and also target market. The success of this film has opened more opportunities for films such as this. If I wanted to take the time I can point to other films. Would I advocate producing a series without notable casting even if it is an assemble cast of D- actors, no. I wouldn't even recommend a film maker produce a film before he/she have distribution in place. It is not wise to make a film without distribution because one has created a distressed property. What I am saying is, if the quality of your production, script and acting is excellent, there is a opening and growing market that a production can be licensed, generate revenue to recoup your investment, generate revenue to produce another project, without stars or notable cast. Based on Ross's $100k budget. Your manufacturing cost is accurate but it really doesn't make a difference if the distributor doesn't pass those cost down to the filmmaker in the distribution agreement, a distributor will charge $2.00 and more to generate revenue on the manufacturing cost due to the shrinking market. I've negotiated agreements where distributors are still charging a very high manufacturing cost and will not budge with the foot print to exploit the title, so the film maker will take the deal which makes sense. Finally, you are correct on Netflix, we now take our films to Netflix last because they pay way less and want to amortize the licensing fee over a number of years. Again, you have some great points, but my experience is different based on my comments above. We've launched and are building a business on movies such as Ross's and actually do better when the film has a diverse or African American cast. Which having a diverse cast is another subject. Thanks Alvin

Ross Munro

Hey everybody- here's the trailer for our micro budget Canadian feature "A Legacy of Whining" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnEUlrPdfxg Thanks again for all those who took the time to give us your amazing comments/advice!

Alvin Williams

Robin: I am being more than helpful to filmmakers by being truthful and not getting my information from the press our hear say or assumed news. So the story is complete, it just disproves your position. So I will not entertain the point I have already made to satisfy your deflection of the point. But I will correct you on facts about Sherwwod: 1. Yes the church financed the movie but they spent $20K on producing their first film, WITH NO KNOW ACTORS, sold 300,000 dvds of the first film, then used that revenue to produce other film to included Facing The Giant for $500K. War Room was not financed by the Church. 2. Not sure what television ministry platform you are referring to that is so compelling. What TV platform that is so compelling that they are on? You can buy ads on Faith-based platform forms. Faithbase TV is not considered a top tier platform to sign a deal on. An out reach database, but never TV. This is an industry fact with faithbase film, music, concerts and books. So not sure what millions of dollars studio will value as it is not there. TBN can't even sell their films with any produced films. So you are totally off base on this. I was one of the executives who launched Gospel Music Channel which is now UPTV, so I know hoe hollywood looks at the faithbased market. My point to all filmmakers, REGARDLESS of the genre. If you have a budget, please hire a casting director with relationships to place notable talent in your film and have distribution in place before you produce your film. HOWEVER, in the case of Ross, if you produce a film that is complete with no cast and is of quality there is an OPPORTUNITY for you to have your film distribute with no notable cast and have a chance at recouping your money. If there wasn't an opportunity then the distributor would not have given Ross a distribution agreement. Ross just need to negotiate certain elements of the agreement that will allow him to recoup his investment. Ross has leverage as well, as distribution companies NEED content to stay in business. Distribution agreements are made to keep CASH-FLOW moving by maintaining enough titles for sell-in. On the DVD cost, any distributor who doesn't want to place the filmmakers DVD cost in their agreement has nothing to do with, being a fixed cost, as it has to do with generating revenue by up-charging the filmmaker. They hide this under, return and reserves. How do I know this? We negotiate this out and in our agreements we offer our filmmakers a transparent deal. This way filmmakers can understand their expenses and revenue when they receive their statements and don't have to hire an accountant and or attorney to make sense of their statements. I will debate this with anyone on a public platform. With much more detail and clarity. So we can agree to disagree on certain points. You will not get another response from me. Ross in summary, if you don't have a attorney who understands distribution agreements, their are three we deal with that represent their filmmakers with integrity. PM and I will send you their contacts. Robin I appreciate your point of view. I wish you continued success. Alvin

Debbie Croysdale

Hi Ross your trailer is genuinely funny, I haven't chuckled at comedy since watching Mr Bean.

Jason Buff

For more information about distribution check out our masterclass on November 17th. www.ifamasters.com

Debbie Croysdale

I agree with @Jason. Going to as many seminars as possible will make the Distribution picture clearer. In some situations, there are Precursors to distribution such as Sales Agents. The right sales agent can have the ability to cause "A bidding war" with distributors. (Off course the wrong sales agent could try ripping you off as in all walks of life.). There are many factors in play.

Rafael Pinero

I don't think going to a seminar is going to help Ross right now.

Debbie Croysdale

@Rafael. Seminars Probably wont help if something has already been signed, but any relevant facts are useful, up until the end game in this hardball environment.

Rafael Pinero

Exactly, we're here to help Ross in his situation, a seminar won't help him right now... The advice given by professionals here can help him. If I have a screenwriting problem and I am asking for advice, I wouldn't like anyone to tell me to take a screenwriting seminar to solve my problem.

Debbie Croysdale

@Raphael. I wasn't disrespecting anyone by suggestion of a seminar, off course we are all here to help each other, but there is always the chance of the thread not offering specialist advice, relevant to his particular case. Far from passing the buck, I was saying what I have done in the past, gone out and try to learn all I can on a subject. I didn't even know about bidding wars until my last seminar, and I had already asked a lot of colleagues for advice, and Ross's situation seems pretty complex. I didn't mean, "go somewhere else...." My meaning was..... "don't leave anything to chance."

Myles Shane

Give me an email I'm a sales agent from Canada. myles@hiltz2.com

Ross Munro

Thanks again to all the amazing people on here who offered their heartfelt advice- you guys are the best!

Jason Buff

Hi Ross, I have tried to read as many comments as possible in order to not repeat, but I thought I would give my 2 cents. The main person you need to get in touch with is a Sales Agens like Myles suggested. Comedies can be difficult to sell, mainly because they are very culture dependent. For example, in Japan the sense of humor is different so distribution companies can be a little wary of taking on Comedies unless they have a name. When I suggested our Summit, it wasn't for anything bad. It was because at that moment it was totally free and had tons of information about these specific topics, but I digress. I'm not here to sell anything. The cap expenses looks good. But I wouldn't give all rights to anyone. The first thing you have to ask is, what have you done to promote your film by yourself and get the word out. Do you have key art. Do you have twitter, facebook, pinterest, etc. accounts to start getting interest. The market has completely changed in the last 5 years, and self distribution should be part of your business plan as well. Can you sell your own product on platforms like itunes, amazon, hulu, etc. Have you checked out platforms like distribber, kinonation, seed&spark, etc. Most of the sales agents and successful filmmakers I know have already built up a following long before they go to a distribution company. In fact, I know of a few films that have gotten distribution simply based on their facebook numbers. You want to have at least 20k followers on your film's page. How many views does your trailer have? Sales agents look at all of this stuff. Anyway, I hope this is helpful. I am not an expert but I have spent the past 7 months pretty much talking with distribution experts non stop. There are a lot of people who can give you good advice. I suggest talking with Linda Nelson of Indie Rights. Or Ben Yennie of the Guerilla Rep. They are very happy to give brief consultations and can probably give you a ton of great advice.

Garrett Thierry

Hey, Would love to hear more about your project, contact me or go to www.SebastianTwardosz.com who is a partner with Circus Road Films and we can have a discussion about the vision for your films distribution.

Joe Fiserano

Whatever you do, never agree on net profit, or else you will never see a penny from your movie. Ever.

Sanjay Currie

We completed 2 Indie features for similar budget and unknown cast and spoke a few top distributors and premiere digital platforms in the market. One of our film was acquired and second one Uncommitted we released recently on itunes, Amazon and Google The term of 12 years is too long , recommendation is not to go beyond 12-18 ,months at a maximum. the 75/25 is ok , some are higher(80/20, 90/10) and some are lower(70/30). expenses are around the same or +10/+20K max. You need a attorney to sign off on the paperwork. i personally recommend DIY on itunes/amazon/google, the market has changed so much in the last 5 years that there is slim to none chances of you breaking even that budget with the old distribution methods.All the best!

Royce Allen Dudley

You're tieing up your film for 12 years when 7 years is really its life of return... it's a comedy with an old school indie budget in a no-budget indie era without any recognizable actors ( assuming that's what you mean by no stars ?). First be clear on your goals; is it more important to get this film out there to be seen or is it more important to recoup the money so investors can possibly break even? Once you've answered that to yourself you can look at it from one perspective or the other because they can be very different in approach and can definitely make a difference in who you sign with. There are certain things about the points that are questionable I don't mean they're wrong or scam and without having the entire contract reviewed it's not worth bringing up. See also : lawyer. Your number one concern should be what is the reputation of this distributor? If they have released titles similar to yours you should be contacting the filmmaker for a little off the Record discussion. I'm blown away by how many times I run across filmmakers who never made a penny from their film despite the fact that I can watch it anywhere online and buy it in any major retailer. Sometimes a Netflix or iTunes deal is a great value to a film... You may not make any money off it but it gets your film out there to create awareness for the other platforms where you can make money.

Ross Munro

Thanks everyone for your advice! Really appreciate it!

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