How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Distribution

I attended a Distribution seminar tonight in Hollywood.  Some of you may be asking why I would take valuable time out of pre-production (and my hopping social life!) to go learn about something as far in the future as distribution.  I mean we haven't even made the movie yet, why should we worry about who's going to distribute it?  Honestly, producing an independent movie is a three step process.  Getting the money, making the movie (which is in itself a three step process), then distributing the movie.  You must pay as much attention to the third step as the other two, if not more so!

What seperates movies that get distribution from ones that don't?  Being good?  That is absolutely an important factor, but not the only one. There are plenty of quality films that don't find distribution, and vice versa.  So what are you supposed to do about it?  How can you make sure this thing you sweated over for years gets seen by as many as people as possible?  A lot of filmmakers practice the "scattershot" method, trying a little of this and a little of that to try and find distribution.  This might work, but having a plan ahead of time is the most efficient way to get the best distribution possible.  That way everything you do during all stages of making your film is focused on the same goal.

Before you even start, think about what the script has going for it.  What genre is it?  Certain genres (horror, action) fare better than others (comedy, drama) both in the US and especially overseas. Think about it, how easy is it to translate a movie with less dialogue and more action to another language?  Easier than a heavy politcal drama or complicated coming of age story.  And comedy, especially of the non- physical kind?  Who's to say the whole world shares your sense of humor?

Another thing to look at is who is in your cast.  Everybody can (and SHOULD) find talented actors to bring your script to life.  However, if you can get anyone even remotely famous into your project, it will help tremendously when it comes to selling your film.  It helps reassure the distributors that the audience will want to watch/pay for your movie (and in turn, make them money).  Again, a good script is important here, because on a low-budget film, having quality parts for actors to play will help convince them to do the movie.

Finally, figure out who your audience is and target your plan towards them.  Horror films come with a certain type of fan, Sci-Fi another.  Figure out where those fans are and let them know about your movie, even before it comes out!  Get them excited about what you are doing and that fanbase will help you get distribution. If you can combine different types of audiences together, even better.  In the studio world they call these groups "quadrants", but it works for independent films too.  Hit as many as you can, and you will be successful.

Love in the Time of Monsters started out as a great script.  We are well on our way to making a great film.  My job as producer is to make sure as many people see LiToM as possible, and in turn, my investors are paid back.  If I don't think about distribution now, I'm doing a disservice to everyone working so hard to make it the best horror/comedy/sci-fi/romance/thriller moviegoers have ever seen.  (See what I did there? Quadrants people! :-D)

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