Updated: Nov 24, 2019
So, you did it! you have finished your short, feature or documentary and sent it to film festivals.
After a festival screening, a seemingly eager sales rep comes snapping at your heels, and tries to feel you out to see what kind of filmmaker you really are: a talented amateur or a true professional.
First thing they usually want to know (at least in my experience), BEFORE they talk about money, is whether or not you can stand up to the plate and deliver. By that I mean: a sales rep or distributor will want to know if you can deliver the ‘deliverables.’ The reason is simple and sad at the same time, but all too common… Simply put, most so-called filmmakers can’t deliver and this is why it is forefront on their minds.
Lets take a closer look. Below are some great tips from a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival. Make sure you ALWAYS speak to your sales agent and/or lawyer as terms and conditions certainly do change over time. But this by enlarge is the list we go by at VineHill Entertainment for submitting to mainstream distributors.
A. Essential Delivery Materials
There are some basic things a filmmaker needs to supply in his or her film package that are pretty obvious in some cases, but also overlooked all too often with creators looking for their first deal. You will gain some great points with distributors and agents alike as you’ll save the rep and distributor time and money, and earn yourself some HUGE filmmaker brownie points at the same time.
1. Feature film on HDCam or digital file – Original aspect ratio – Native frame rate – 5.1 mix – Trailer – Additional versions: Clean output (no titles), with the DME or the Dialog, Music, Effects master track 2. Key art/Poster art 300 dpi Bonus points: separated art layers
3. Audio output: Channel 1: 5.1 track: Left Channel 2: 5.1 track: Right Channel 3: 5.1 track: Center Channel 4: 5.1 track: LFE Channel 5: 5.1 track: Left Surround Channel 6: 5.1 track: Right Surround Channels 7+8: Full Mix Stereo L&R Channels 9+10: M&E Stereo L&R
– 4×3 pan and scan – does provide additional flexibility for certain outlets, although most now will accept the film letterboxed within a 4×3 frame – Audio Commentary – standard for DVD release, easy enough to do on your own – Closed Captions & Subtitles – you will increase the value of a non-English language film many times over to an non-English speaking distributor – Good production stills and footage is the hallmark of a marketing savvy filmmaker – Social media outlets & web presence (built-in marketing platforms and hooks) – Pre-organized binder of all clearances, releases and music licensing information.
I use a dropbox with all materials meaning I can easily send a secure link to an interested distributor.
B. Delivery Material Checklist
A good habit (and one I tell everyone I represent) is to plan your delivery schedule at the very start of the filmmaking process. Ideally, one would assign one person the responsibility of collecting all the appropriate materials.
Pre-production – Check into available grants in case you need more money – Assess viability of crowd funding campaign and initiate if appropriate – Commence building social media infrastructure [Read: Social Media for The Complete, Absolute and Total Doofy] – Consider what pre-production material might be useful as DVD extras. For example audition tapes, storyboards, script meetings – Talent agreements need to be negotiated and firmly in place
Production Capture behind the scenes footage Get good production stills Get a video blog going Collect material for your EPK
Editing Set up your project for ease of output for audio channels during assembly of feature and trailer: a) Narration b) DME c) Music Save and organize for future use: a) Outtakes/deleted scenes b) Alternative Endings Confirm all legal materials are in progress or finalized before you finish the edit: a) All talent agreements (promotion & appearances, approval, likeness and image grants) b) Music cue sheet (with prioritized notes about out-of-content usage)
Post-edit Press Kit and Marketing Handout Preparation: a) Press clippings b) Premiere footage c) Trailer d) EPK e) Promotional Clips f) Continued social media presence
DVD Extras Creation audio commentary a) Interview footage b) Casting tapes/story boards/notes on napkins c) Audio Commentaries Distribution Preparation a) Transcript b) Closed captioning
Delivery Folder Structure
When you option, license (or ‘sell’) your film you will need to supply a list of legal documents and paperwork to the distributor. These will include:
Archival Clip Licenses Cast and Crew Restrictions Certificate of Authorship Certificate of Origin Chain of Title Credit Items E&O Literary Materials MPAA Documentation Music Other Agreements
Now, don’t let this lengthy list overwhelm you. It’s all part of the joy of filmmaking and content creating. Remember, to get really good at anything in life, sometimes you need to do what you don’t like doing. Well, that’s what my wife says anyways.
Until next time!