How To Get Ready For That FIlm Festival

You are in, and now you have all sorts of wonderful problems -- the kind most filmmakers wish they could enjoy.  You know, you have to do all the things you have to do for a film festival.  I have tried to collect the various blog posts I have written or have found written by others that will really prepare you.  There's a lot more to be written.  But this is a good start:

Distribution:

Preparation:

Producers' Rep (aka Sales Rep):

Publicists:

Q&A:

Sales:

Social Media:

IF YOU KNOW OF OTHER REALLY GOOD POSTS TO HELP PEOPLE PREP FOR FESTIVALS, Please share them here!!!

16+ Thoughts On Picking A Producer's Rep

You've made your movie.  You've even applied to some great film festivals, and maybe they've been encouraging.  Now people are calling you, asking to see it, and offering to license it on your behalf.  How do you determine whom to collaborate with?  What questions need to be asked BEFORE you make a deal? The best thing you can ever do is talk to other filmmakers who have worked with the rep -- and not just the ones that the rep recommends.  Make those calls.  The second best thing you can do is to have a face to face meeting with the proposed rep.  The personal approach matters.  Look them in the eye.  Connect.  Have a beer or a cup of coffee.  Ask yourself if you'd like to have dinner with them a year for now.

Now start to ask some questions, ask for some help, and gain a better understanding of both the process and the individual or company you are considering.

  1. A good Producers' Rep will help you understand the process better.  Have them walk you through how they think the deal will go down.  Beware of the seduction but listen to what they reveal about your film and their thoughts on the industry.
  2. Hopefully they will give you insight into difficult situations.  Where might there be conflict?  How will they protect your investors?  What to do if a deal is better for the investors but seems worse for the film or filmmaker?  What are examples of these scenarios?
  3. Can they give your film the attention it needs?  How many other films will they be handling during this market period?  Do these other films enhance or detract buyers' interest in your film?
  4. Good films sell themselves, they say, but can they be helped?  What do the reps suggest the filmmakers do to further enhance the potential of the film to connect with audiences & Buyers  (i.e not with the film, but with other promotional aspects)?
  5. What can They do to further enhance the potential of the film to connect with festival programmers, critics, and buyers?
  6. Are there any deal aspects beyond advances and fees they suggest we pay close attention to?  Why?  There are a boatload of issues to consider and how the Rep portrays these will reveal a great deal.
  7. What other festivals do they think the filmmakers should consider?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of the various film festivals?  Even if they are only repping US, how do they think the filmmakers should use the international festivals.
  8. Are there press agents domestically & abroad they recommend the consider and why?  Can they help get a better deal?
  9. How would they position this film with buyers?  Why?
  10. What do they see as the marketable aspects of the film?
  11. Which distributors do they see as potential buyers for the film?
  12. Who do they see as the best home for the film, and why?
  13. What are their thoughts for a strategy for the film in North America and world wide?
  14. Is this the right size of film for the Rep?  Some are better with big movies, others with small?  Why are they the right fit?
  15. How do they feel about a hybrid approach for distribution, aiming for separate deals for different forms of distribution? Does it make sense for your film?
  16. Do they have any potential conflicts of interest?  For instance, of the Rep does foreign sales in some territories, how do they make that work for films that they sell?  If they also manage some clients and not others, how do they make that work?

This list is by no means exhaustive.  It is just some thoughts to get the ball rolling.  Please give us more suggestions.

 

Sundance Sale Dissection: Septien

Today's guest post is from attorney and sales rep George Rush.  It is part one of two. George handled the sale of Michael Tully's Septian to IFC's Sundance Selects. I have worked as a lawyer or a producer’s rep on hundreds of films over the years, and this experience has made me quite skeptical about the business model for independent producers.  The business is worse than it has been historically, but it is still the same very basic model.  You produce a film, a distributor exploits those rights.  You are good at creating content, they are good at marketing.  Hopefully those two things come together to benefit both parties.

I’m a hyper skeptic of producers essentially acting as their own distributors because generally they aren’t strong in both skill sets, and thus something usually suffers.  So I usually assume a producer is good at producing, and try to leave it at that.

Most of what I work on is low budget films with few if any stars.  Ten years ago, I considered a low budget film under two million dollars.  Today, I consider it under $500,000 and believe if you do something for a larger budget without a truly bankable cast, you are being reckless with your budget.

The distribution business has become tougher and they are paying less for content, and thus budgets go down correspondingly.  So how can you make something quality for under $500K—most people fail at this effort and there is a glut of so so films that just can’t compete with larger budgeted film—they are clearly inferior.  Indeed, most festival films in this budget range will never see the light of day beyond the festivals.  However, I don’t know how, but some people do.  It takes an extremely resourceful producer and director who is willing to take some chances to pull it off.

Enter Michael Tully’s Septien.  I hadn’t met Michael before, but I was somewhat familiar with him from Hammer to Nail.  He called me up and said he had a fucked up film that got into Sundance Midnight section.  As I listened to him, it didn’t sound like a genre film, but something that defied categorization.  He sent me a screener, and I really had no expectation when I popped it in.

I had worked on plenty of fucked up films, but most were weird for the sake of being weird and really didn’t have a life beyond a slender contrarian audience.  So I watched Michael’s film and it was fucked up, but it wasn’t weird for the sake of being weird.  There was something strange, unsettling, and wholly original about it.  I watched it again, and I was sold.  I loved it.

I lack a poker face, so I’ve found that trying to sell a film I didn’t like was pretty clear to the buyers.   I only rep a film if I am actually into it, and I loved this one. So I was in, but the film had challenges.  The first was how to characterize this film in a nutshell and who the audience was.  The film did not fit neatly into box.

I came up with a lot of ways to describe Septien -- but my refernces often veered into more obscure things like Dogtooth and Henry Darger.  Cool things for sure, but not exactly elements that scream big audience.  I also felt like the audience would be cool indie kids and would build buzz from there.  I know distributors have a difficult time reaching audiences under 30.  That audience is accustomed to watching things digitally for free.  Our challenges for the film are the indie audience skews older (my parents love The King’s Speech), and that for a distributor, this film would be as hard to market as it was for me to describe.

What to do?  Check back tomorrow for part two.

For another angle on why 38 Films -- Some dark -- Sold At Sundance 2011, check out Anthony Kaufman's article here.

George Rush is an entertainment attorney and producer’s rep in San Francisco.