Film School Friday – What do I need to know about film distribution?

Film Distribution Episode Summary

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about film distribution, things to consider when you start looking for a deal, and Bill’s own experiences with film distribution.

Film Distribution Episode Notes

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about film distribution, things to consider when you start looking for a deal, and Bill’s own experiences with film distribution.

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Distribution Transcript

Corey Allen  00:04

Welcome to film school Friday. I’m Corey,

Bill Cornelius  00:07

I’m Bill and together we host the infocus podcast film school Friday bonus episodes. How do you like I’ve put a little spin on it.

Corey Allen  00:17

bonus episode

Bill Cornelius  00:18

they are they not?

Corey Allen  00:19

They are technically Yeah, they definitely are filter sounds cool Friday is our special weekly episode where we try to pass along all of our knowledge, wisdom and experience to you. Whether or not you use it as totally up to you

Bill Cornelius  00:35

for what it’s worth, or what it’s

Corey Allen  00:36

worth. In this week’s episode, Bill, I would love to talk about distribution and what it is what it means, like, do I need it? How do I get it? I don’t know.

Bill Cornelius  00:48

Yeah. So what’s funny is this is our first film school Friday, where you didn’t have the intro of where bill talks about the knowledge he retained from film school, funnily enough, because they didn’t really teach us a lot about distribution, specifically in film school. What a bummer.

Yeah, it is a bummer. So because that’s, that’s like a really big important thing that’s, that’s missed. And I get that, you know, you want to focus on the craft itself, which is a whole nother can of worms that has enormous content to teach on. But distribution, the business side of things.

This, this is when it gets a little scary for a lot of filmmakers, and just creatives in general distribution. We’ve alluded to it a few times on the show, it’s it’s what’s basically, you know, the, quote, golden ticket, the thing that that people are after, when it comes to film.

It’s the deal that you make to actually get your work out to the world to get it on Netflix, get it in movie theaters, you know, prior to it being dominated by Marvel, you know, like, get it on TV, get it wherever it might be, when it’s picked up by a large company that has the ability to push it out to the masses, and actually make you some money. That’s distribution. A lot of people liken it to a record deal in the music industry. Except without a lot of the trappings of a record deal. Even though there are plenty of trappings on its own.

Corey Allen  02:24

Because I feel like with a record deal, at least like that, there’s usually like some development deal and some investment. And that record label is paying for some ongoing work and probably multiple pieces versus what I know of distribution, potentially. Especially like as an indie filmmaker, or if you’re self financing, you have funded the project from start to finish. And now you’re looking to recoup some of that through that sale.

Bill Cornelius  02:51

That’s correct. So distribution is basically your gateway to get your film out to the world and make some money off of it. You You hope, and this is what we’re going to get into with distribution is it it’s, it’s a, it’s a difficult journey distribution. And it can be very intimidating, very frightening. If you’re a creative working in film, a lot of us are not the most business minded people.

That’s just how it is every now and then you’ll have a filmmaker who’s incredibly savvy in business, and those are the folks you want to cozy up to quite honestly. But like that, that side of things can be really scary. distribution, it’s definitely when you get an offer. It’s really exciting, especially if it’s your first distribution offer you’ve ever gotten. Yep. Because it’s like, oh my gosh, you know, XYZ company has taken notice of my film and they want to get it out there. That’s amazing.

I’ve done something that’s impactful enough for high quality enough to, to be sold to be viable in the market. Wow. That’s amazing. It’s like a really good validation of your commitment to that project, too. Yeah. And that’s, and I would say, you know, that that’s a sign of success. But with that comes this business side that that not everybody’s prepared for right? And when you’re young and when you’re up and coming filmmaker and you get a deal like that it’s easy to jump right in and be like yes, please sign me up.

A lot of distributors out there, you know that their job is to get you to sign gets you to sign with their company. And so they will they’ll talk you up they’ll talk to your film up, you know, they’ll say you know this film I think this film has a lot of potential it could change the world you know, like the don’t get real over the top about it and make you feel really good. Yeah. But that’s their job.

They’re trying to get you to sign and you got to be careful about that. And fortunately for me and my distribution experience, I had heard a A decade or more years worth of horror stories before I even got my first distribution offer, so I was ready. So when I started having the meetings with folks, these are people like in New York and LA and elsewhere, you know, their story, they, they talk you up, they’re very kind, they say your film can change the world, it really moved me etc, etc.

You have usually have a really great, really positive conversation with a distributor. And it’s, you know, I don’t want to say it’s coercion, but it’s their way of saying, you know, sign with us, right? We want your business. And so then they give you a contract. And this is where it gets, you know, dicey. You want to look over that contract. Every bit of it, find a lawyer, they don’t even have to be an entertainment lawyer.

That’s preferable. But you know, I got my cousin who’s a lawyer that does like, property stuff to look at it, but but he’s got to leave. He can see con, he knows contracts. So

Corey Allen  05:57

as a lawyer like it’s, yeah, it’s very specific. But there’s also enough generality that any good lawyer can look at that and say, no, it’s probably not in your best interest.

Bill Cornelius  06:08

Right? Do not, do not get too excited about your distribution offer, please, please, please, don’t get too excited. look it over, tell the distributor, they’ll wait for you. They will, they will wait for you because they want your signature. Tell them say, look, I need to set aside some time I need to talk to my lawyer. They don’t mind you saying that, that shows that you’re you’re savvy, if you’re serious?

Yeah, you’re taking it seriously. Take some time out, go through that thing thoroughly. because let me tell you, there’s a lot of things hidden in distribution contracts that can lock your film up indefinitely. Or, in some cases, just cheat you out of your money for lack of a better phrase, like just, you know, there’s some bad deals out there. And a producer who’s who’s passed away. In the last few years, Tim vana steak recipes. He had a lot of experience with distribution.

And he helped me a lot when hear me now had a bunch of offers. And he had, you know, some great advice about not getting screwed over that was very blunt and very to the point. But he took the time to not only you know, was my cousin looking at these contracts, but so was he, yeah, I’d sent them to him. And I’d be like, what does this look like to you? And he was very blunt with me. He was like, Look, this one’s gonna screw you really hard. Yeah, this is not good.

This is not a good contract. And it’s a bummer. You know, when you’re a first timer and you’ve got an offer for the first time. It kind of sucks to hear that maybe the contract that’s being offered to you is not a good one. Yeah. Because then that means you have to pass and go back to the drawing board, and am I gonna get another distribution offer, but you know, better to pass on something that’s bad, then, you know, have your film indefinitely locked away in a vault, to never make money or see the light of day?

Because a lot of times, you know, us coming from the indie world. We’re used to self distributing, right? We’re used to self marketing. When you sign certain contracts, sometimes That’s out of the question. Yeah, once you sign it, your baby is not your baby anymore. It’s this company’s baby. Yeah. And you can get into legal trouble for showing off your own film. So that’s crazy. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

But I understand. Yeah. So that’s another thing you got to look out for with these contracts. There are people, we had a contract that came our way for hear me now, that in the very fine print that we didn’t see. But our lawyer saw was that if we had signed the film over to them, they would have to release it within a 10 year period. Which means they could hold it for nine years.

Wow. I mean, you know, like, especially if it’s something that’s very topical and very of the time, right, your film is gonna be outdated by the time they put it out. And you’ve moved on, you know, 10 years is a long time. And so that’s why we passed on that one. Because why would we do that? Good choice. Yeah, great choice. And yeah, we had another contractor. It was like sign, sign your film over and we’ll put it on our website. But that’s all we can promise for you. Like really, really like, kind of a lowball a strange offer.

Corey Allen  09:29

Might as well just put it on YouTube.

Bill Cornelius  09:31

Yeah, exactly. So there’s just a lot of stuff out there and you got to be careful but you do you do. Like it’s not all bad. I’m talking a lot of doom and gloom about distribution and I think it’s important for people to realize that it’s it’s hairy but we we very fortunately for hear me now got a very good distributor and I’ll give them a shout out Green Planet films, Suzanne Harley, just amazing person to work with. We got a really great deal with them.

I’m not going to go into The details of it. But you know, everything was solid. Zack Adams who was producer on the film had worked with them before. So we had some, there was some prior experience on our team with this distributor. And they’ve been great been great to work with easy going put the film out as soon as they could, you know, that was part of the contract.

Yeah, you just you have to look for those things, you have to talk to these people. And as a creative, you know, it may be uncomfortable to do business. But, you know, you got to put a poker face on you have to do you have to do business? If If distribution is something you’re looking for, you know, fake your way through it if you have to. But yeah, some of that some of these distributors can be like sharks in the water.

And if you show yourself to be competent, and know what you’re talking about, and know what you’re after, you know, you can, you can do okay. But, but you’re not going to hold on to 100% of your film, when you do distribution. That’s another thing that you have to understand.

Corey Allen  10:58

Is, is self distribution still a possibility these days?

Bill Cornelius  11:04

It’s very difficult. Yeah. Especially since the market is so saturated with creators. That’s the main thing. Yeah. Like everybody can create. Now, there’s so much gear that’s accessible to everybody. There’s so much content out there, just on YouTube alone, you are in a enormous ocean with a lot of content.

Corey Allen  11:24

So finding finding a good distributors. I mean, basically, they’re, they’re using their network their contacts, as long as they believe your film, or your project has some relevance to the world. Yeah. And they think they can make a buck off of it. And they’re gonna do everything they can to get it into that distribution agreement with all of their contacts, right?

Bill Cornelius  11:47

That’s right. And that’s, these are the people that can get you on amazon prime, and on Netflix and on Hulu, and, you know, for hear me now it’s like canopy and libraries and schools around the country. And yeah, and those types of things. So the regular indie filmmaker can’t do that. That’s, that’s too much. That’s a big lift, you don’t have those kinds of contacts. Those are business people working with business people. Right? So you need to it’s it’s shaking a hand with a business person to get that network and get your film out.

Corey Allen  12:23

Right. There’s not just like an upload button on Hulu. No. But what if there was,

Bill Cornelius  12:30

it would be like YouTube incredibly saturated, and nobody would ever, you know, stuff that breaks through would be hard to break through.

Corey Allen  12:38

Yeah. It would still be cool. For some of us if there was an upload.

Bill Cornelius  12:44

It would be cool at first. Yeah. And then you’re right, it would then it would get saturated would be YouTube real fast. Yeah. So distribution. Is it good? Yes. It’s amazing, it’s a privilege, it’s an honor. But you must exercise caution. Please, please, please. exercise caution.

Corey Allen  13:02

Yeah. Really good. Really good advice there. Yeah. Awesome. I appreciate it. Really good. Really good insight around distribution this week. Thank you. No problem. hope

Bill Cornelius  13:12

it’s helpful.

Corey Allen  13:13

I hope it was to

Bill Cornelius  13:14

seek it out, folks. Yeah, you

Corey Allen  13:16

can do it. You can do it. Awesome. All right. Well, check us out on Instagram at @infocuspod or online at And if you liked what you heard today, go ahead and subscribe. And if you’re on Apple podcast, please leave us a rating. It would help us out a ton. And until next time,

Bill Cornelius  13:35

feed your crew.

Corey Allen  13:41

We should do feed your crew mirch.

Bill Cornelius  13:43

We should. We should. Let’s do it. Tony might put put a pineapple pizza on the show. Get out of here.

Corey Allen  13:52

I’m turning your mic off.