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Distribution Options

Presumably when you’ve completed the project, your goal is to have someone beyond Mom, Dad and your friends see it – if they’re also the primary financiers, they feel the same way. Now is not the time to stop being honest with yourself. Have a realistic idea of what you’re looking for in distribution. Do you want the type of distribution that includes a series of flattering profiles followed by a glowing review in the New York Times? Or are you okay with people streaming it on a bunch of different devices while simultaneously playing Candy Crush and chatting with friends? Whatever the answer is, understand that no one is going to fight for this on your behalf…and it’s always better to fight smart.


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In an ideal world, you probably would want to have a proper distributor: studio for film, network for television and maybe one of the big three (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) for web. However, traditional commercial distribution comes with lots of rules and conventional wisdoms. Sure, you get a sense of legitimacy, really good money (if you ever get paid), a launching pad for a career…but also very little control and a lot of bureaucracy.

Topics Covered in Traditional Commercial Distribution:

  • Fishing Where The Sharks Are
  • Terms to Understand | Advance, Back-End, Distribution Fee, P&A, Rights and Territories, Term, Ancillary

Nowadays almost every kind of distribution is no longer traditional, meaning it falls into one of these categories. The least innovative version involves selling a project to individual companies for distribution on different formats. At the other extreme are the projects that have found their audiences in outside-the-box ways: free screenings, social network distribution, selling DVD’s out of the back of vans, copies gone viral. Yes, non-traditional distribution is a ton of work and much harder to explain to grandma, but it offers much more control and may even result in just as much money once you’ve cut out all the middle-men.

Topics Covered in Self Distribution:

  • OTT, VOD, WTF? New Formats and Aggregators
  • Licensing Agreements
  • Self | Hybrid Distribution Tools

Whether you’re hoping Universal puts its full weight behind your project or you’re just happy to upload it to YouTube, being prepared will give you more leverage. Think back to your vision for this project, as well as all the work you’ve put in to get to this point. What is the minimum you need to consider this thing a success? Money, control, artistic integrity, etc. – knowing what’s most important to you will guide your next steps.

Topics Covered in Preparation:

  • Involvement
  • Control
  • Money

During production, delivery probably means the best meal you can afford. In distribution, it refers to what materials and versions of the project the distributor needs from you. As simple as it sounds, this can actually become the bane of your existence. Distributors can get super nitpicky, and “deliverables” are expensive to create – not to mention the fact that your money from the distributors is usually contingent on completing that delivery you can’t afford without their cash.

Topics Covered in Delivery:

  • Formats
  • Trailers
  • Trailers
  • Lock & Answer Print
  • Budgeting

Ok, you probably replace light bulbs when they burn out, but would you try to rewire the electrical circuits in your own home? Unless you don’t mind a few thousand volts running through your body, probably not. The same holds true for the work involved with distributing your project. Save yourself some headaches and take note of this advice…

Topics Covered in DIY vs. Experts:

  • Festivals and Conventions
  • Dealing with the Sharks
  • Theatrical & Network vs. the Web

So what happens if your project actually makes money? Bet you didn’t see that one coming! In all seriousness, congratulations. The reality is that so many artists are prepared not to make any money that they forget to have some structure in place in case they do. You don’t have to run out and hire Goldman Sachs to be your financial strategist, but a few simple steps can make a big difference when your project makes it rain dollar bills.

Topics Covered in What To Do If Your Project Starts Making Money:

  • LLC
  • Calendar
  • “The Waterfall”
  • Financial Advisors
  • Theatrical & Network vs. the Web


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The Business of Media Distribution: Monetizing Film, TV, and Video Content in an Online World

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Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the digital Future of Film and Television

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