/Independent Distribution

Independent Distribution


Distribution agreement


There is a multitude of Independent Film Distribution Agreements that an Independent Filmmaker can make with the Distributor or Distributors. Each has an advantage, and each has a disadvantage. The Independent filmmaker may not have a choice of Independent Movie Distribution Contracts as he may be forced to take what he gets. But the best Independent Films can have a smorgasbord of Independent Movie Contracts offered to him and he is limited only in his knowledge of the contracts. Espresso Films offers expertise to these Independent Film production companies and can offer great consultation.

The first Independent Film Distribution Agreement I will talk about is the Negative pickup. This is where the distribution company agrees to reimburse a fixed dollar amount for the rights to complete distribution. The distribution company is normally a studio which is equipped to distribute to all venues. This type of arrangement provides a rather complicated and challenging Independent film financing arrangement because the Distribution agreement provides no money toward the production, forcing the producer to get all financing and completion bonds before the Independent film is shot.

If the independent film production is a co-production between two different countries, then this interesting distribution agreement can be used. The countries must have a treaty in place and each country must have film production favors allowable for making films in that country. Hence, since the film is co-owned by each country’s independent film production company, the film is entitled to full benefits with both countries.

On an Independent Film Presale contract, a foreign film distributor will make a financial agreement to pay a certain dollar amount for an independent film prior to it being in the can. The agreement can go back as far as before independent film production begins based upon the marquee film actors, film actresses, movie directors being signed and in place. Usually, the independent film presale contract includes revenue to the Independent Filmmaker from the Foreign Film Distributor upon the country receiving the film and in addition, if the film does well, the distributor will agree to compensate further.

An Independent film production company may go the independent movie distribution route of Sales Agent. This arrangement is a commission only compensation of an independent film distributor where the distributor gets a percentage of what he sells only. The sales agent does not receive a salary or an hourly wage from the Independent Film production company. This arrangement can be awfully close to a licensing arrangement if the sales agent’s arrangement gives him the authority to operate as the only selling entity associated with the movie.

An Independent film production company may go the independent movie distribution route of Sales Agent. This arrangement is a commission only compensation of an independent film distributor where the distributor gets a percentage of what he sells only. The sales agent does not receive a salary or an hourly wage from the Independent Film production company. This arrangement can be awfully close to a licensing arrangement if the sales agent’s arrangement gives him the authority to operate as the only selling entity associated with the movie.

An Output Agreement is a contract that allows a distribution entity the right to distribute a slate of Independent movies created by an Independent Film Production Company.

Now, the best of the best, a PFD contract for those Independent Movie Production companies that are lucky enough to get it. The acronym stands for (Production/Finance/Distribution) This is when a film studio, which has a major movie distribution arm, hires an Independent film production company to distribute its films. I say that this is a dream spot to be in unless you are the dedicated Independent film director who loves his artistic creation authority, he gets from directing his normally no rules film campaign. This type of independent film production is under complete control of the studio as other studio-produced films. The owners of the Independent film production company see this film as no-risk profit to stick in their pockets.

Then there are the split rights deals. This distribution agreement is the worst of the worst for Independent film companies but may be the only avenue they have. This is when a distributor will pick the best of the best territories and then choose only the rights in those territories that are the most profitable, leaving the independent film producer with the leftovers to liquidate with a much more difficult deal.

Written By billy LAx

Traditional Distribution

Back before the film distribution world’s digital revolution, before the early part of the millennium, Independent film and movie distribution started with the Film Festivals and the Film Markets. At that time, independent filmmakers on limited budgets which were most of us could partake in what we considered the biggest event of the year, the AFM (American Film Market) in Santa Monica. It was our true thriller that motivated us to keep going.

It was exciting to seeing the wheeling and dealing of the Independent films, the excitement of the independent film producers and independent movie directors and “B” actors and actresses trying to sell the independent films that they have created or trying to make an independent film production deal for their next film. Independent Film Distribution was like the wild west with no rules, either from the US securities laws or from the laws of truth and integrity.

movie frame

Hollywood distribution

Hollywood film distribution parties were on every corner, fake film financiers and producers were not only on every corner but between the corners bragging about their millions they represented to throw at independent films with little or no professional packaging skills, or their screenplay that every major actor in Hollywood has read and loved but won’t sign the commitment letter unless money is in place, or independent movie distribution agreements that are on the verge of being signed but need a little more time even though the same independent film distribution agreement was shot-gunned out from the last five years. Film brokers, in their pants that were too short with white socks and old shoes with holes in them, frequented Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice trying to get their deal consummated so they could get a commission. Holding out for their 10% and the others in the line of commissions getting 10% themselves.

Yes, those were the good old days of film deals and film markets and film festivals and independent film distribution. I will say this, I have spent hours laughing with invigorating conversations with film friends I think are on the rational side about what we find to be Hollywood film crazies, the eccentrics, the misfits and the pre-penitentiary crowd. How I loved them for giving me some amazing Hollywood film distribution stories.

90’s movies

Independent Movie Distribution today has changed dramatically from the 90s. Heck Independent Movie distribution has changed drastically from 2010. Heck Independent movie distribution has changed drastically from 2015. Shall we go one level more and say that the pandemic has made the most dramatic change of all in independent movie distribution? Back in the 90s, it started with the independent film festivals like Cannes International Film Festival. During the 90s, the festival and markets like the AFM (American Film Market) created a major business with “B” movies, more so than independent Art House movies. These independent “B” movies were about sex and violence. Mostly visual movies with a host of independent “B” movie actors that frequented the festivals and markets. These independent movies were aimed at the foreign markets for most of their revenue due to the lack of movie sophistication of what was called “third world film and movie audiences” and the requirement for movie voice-overs or subtitles do to the language differentials. The 90s and before were the pre-sales distribution agreement dream. Low budget movies with “B” talent could easily get a pre-sale independent film contract to finance their films as well as blockbuster DVD and US Television Sales agreements. Most did not warrant a theatrical release.

Art House films

Art House films were considered a throwaway of independent production money, at least here in the US. The Playboy channel was just being developed and Showtime series brought easy but low margin profit to producers with $200,000 to $300,000 independent film budgets. These were considered film projects because they were done on 16mm film as opposed to video. These independent movies were of bad quality, but they were bought up quick if the sex and violence was up to par.

In some ways, Hollywood was a lot easier than, a lot more laughs and full of challenges that are not present today. But today, independent film distribution and the business of Hollywood Independent films are much more legitimate, leaving a better career for those that have worked hard in school and are serious about independent film making. The film distribution channels are way more complicated in today’s Hollywood distribution business and the expertise of Hollywood film distribution is way more specialized. Gone is most of the two-cent brokers replaced by professional Film financiers. I guess it is a personal preference of which movie world you prefer. I will leave the choice to you.

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” Espresso Films Digital Film Distribution will create an online environment strategy that is complex but thorough and will take a small amount of time from the indie filmmaker whose hands are full with the conventional indie movie distribution issues that require a huge amount of time.”



Distribution of Indie Films

Normally, Indie films are showcased at the indie Film Markets such as the AFM (American Film Market in Santa Monica) or Cannes in France before they are released. At these indie markets, deals between distributors and the indie filmmakers often take place. The purpose of the indie Markets and indie Festivals is twofold aside from cutting a deal, it also causes industry exposure or “buzz” to increase the value of the film Not only does the indie filmmaker use the film festival’s as a way to get his indie movie film’s notoriety out and cut a deal, but he is also trying to build his indie movie distribution name for future indie film distribution deals. As the indie filmmaker who has a talent for making commercially viable films that sell to the indie film venues gets more fame and a bigger filmmaking name, he because more in sync with the indie film distribution channels and the indie movie distributors who buy his indie movie. Thus, the Hollywood Indie film world follows the model of the rich indie movie filmmakers get richer and the poor indie filmmakers get poorer.

If you are accepted to the film festival, it is important to make an online strategy to promote your film. It is well advised to use a dedicated Indie Film Digital Marketer such as billy LAx and Espresso Films who has the expertise and online social media presence to exploit your new indie movie to maximize your exposure and revenue. Espresso Films has a vast social media network and has a dedicated movie audience traffic to its websites that can get exposure and marketing data for the indie filmmaker. billy LAx will take personal care of your film’s all-important online strategy and online indie film marketing data, giving you personalized Espresso Film service for your hard-fought-for an indie movie success story. Espresso Films will also consult on indie film distribution issues that are outside of its scope with a full network of film contacts to aide and assist its indie filmmaker customers.

Also, upon a notable indie film festival such as Venice Film Festival, accepting your indie movie, it is necessary to submit your film to conventional film dedicated public relations firms to start your uphill climb to that lucrative all-inclusive indie film distribution to the conventual film distribution venues. In actuality, most likely the indie movie producer has involved an indie film public relations expert or company since the production phase, however, the real indie film public relations starts after the indie film has been accepted by a film festival for showcasing.

The Indie film public relations firm will design the correct strategy to get your film recognized in the media. It is important to know, that all the film’s promotional material, rather it be trailers or posters or videos or artwork does not go universally in all media. This is the reason only dedicated, recognized, and sophisticated independent film public relations firms should be chosen. With the right independent movie public relations firm, the indie filmmakers hard-fought battles producing that successful indie film will be rewarded to the maximum extent. We at Espresso Films have personal relationships with the very best of the indie’s public relation firms and can make an independent film public relation firm recommendation.

Most indie films do not get a distribution deal nor are showcased at the major indie film festivals such as Cannes in France or indie film markets such as the American Film Market. I once meant an actor whose family had invested into making his complete film only to be sadly disappointed that he could not find a penny of profit. I will say this, he has talked about his film, proudly showing it to whoever he got to look at it, for 30 years. But the truth to the matter is the indie filmmakers who manage to finish their project, especially if it is a Short, will most likely never see a penny of reward, outside of YouTube.

Lighting is another huge element in cinematography.  The Director of Photography or the cinematographer will design the lighting plan and give it to the Gaffer to incorporate into the production set.

It is wise if you are an indie movie producer or indie director that is making your first feature film or short on a low budget, depending on the storyline because your indie film production budget is low, that you should be into indie filmmaking for the long run, requiring two or three successive indie movie productions under your belt before you can start making a profit in the indie movie-making world. If you can hold out this long, and if you have talent, the indie film distribution deals will start to flow and you will start getting your personal indie film branding out.

Independent Distributors

Marketing of an Independent Film is done through Independent Film Distribution Companies. In the world of Independent Films, Independent Movie Distribution Companies are separate from Independent Film Production Companies. This makes financing of the film as well as each part of the film, much more challenging for the engaged Independent Film producer. As a studio, having the entire lifecycle of the film, from conception to distribution and ownership of the film rights, a much easier process without the “catch 22s” on each corner of the film production and film distribution processes. However, for the independent film producer to achieve his independence from the studio executives, he must employ one way or another, an independent film distributor to market his film.

In the new world of distribution, here in 2020, it is of ultimate importance for an independent filmmaker to create an online social media presence. If an independent film distributor does not look at the independent film they are considering in acquisition, then the independent filmmaker should be skeptical of the value the independent film distributor is bringing to the board. If the Independent Movie Director or the Independent Movie Producer does not have a dedicated Film orientated social media presence or a dedicated social media movie presence, then he should talk to billy LAx at Espresso Films and let billy LAx help him build one. For the independent filmmaker to have a dedicated film audience through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, means the independent movie distribution company has a network basis to start his independent film marketing campaign.

An independent film artist, before choosing an independent film distributor, should assure the independent movie distributor has a history of direct communication and alignment with the independent film artist’s that he has previously distributed for. This alignment is important as the independent film artist should be building his future branding and independent film distribution competency. An independent movie distributor will contract a term limit for their independent film marketing campaign. It can be as low as 5 years and as high as fifteen years. An independent film artist should consider carefully before allowing a distributor 15 years of exclusion on his film rights.

Before an indie Film artist chooses an indie film distributor, he should examine the distributor’s Independent film marketing campaign to the independent film festivals and independent film markets. Most all indie film distributors will include market plans to the large Film Festivals such as Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the American Film Market in Santa Monica, or Cannes International Film Festival in France, however, getting the film out to regional independent film festivals can be important to the revenue and the indie film artist’s brand. Especially, for the independent micro-budget films that are better suited for the regional film festivals.

To often independent film distribution companies are superficial in their selection of indie films to distribute. They view half the movie and do not investigate the background of the artist finding the deep secret storytellers that can bring that independent distribution company to the head of the pack. Film Amateurs can be as important as up and coming indie film directors and gold nuggets can be found by thorough talent searches.

A good solid independent Film Distributor like Orchard will acquire under traditional acquisition 5 to 10 movie titles annually. However, Orchard works as a marketing and distribution movie-consultant for some independent film companies so under that model film rights are licensed or transferred to Orchard. If you include these films the company acts on behalf of the film company while the film company maintains all rights, then Orchard does 10 to 15 movie titles a year. Most of Orchards considerations to be the independent film distributor come from referrals within the Hollywood World of Independent film producers however they are not opposed to considering a non-referred independent movie. As an indie film distributor, Orchard offers its indie filmmaker client’s full transparency so they can view the independent film’s sales channels in real-time through Orchards online distributor’s dashboard. The software also delivers the indie movie it distributes as a independent film distributor by the indie film’s distribution timeline or the independent films lifecycle. It shows when the filmmaker starts to make money and keeps the indie film artist in the loop. It also has a projected revenue or pro forma data.

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