Over the past decade the independent film industry has grown and is now considered a staple in the film industry as a whole. Many filmmakers find more artistic freedom in this side of the industry. They are not bound by a studio s politically correct and profit driven decisions, although recently production companies have been heading in that direction. By raising the money for the picture on their own the filmmakers give themselves artistic control over the film and have to answer to no one.
The one problem many independents face however is once they ve completed their film it needs to be distributed. That s where a distribution and releasing company comes in. Film festivals have become a major marketplace for independent filmmakers. There are many festivals throughout the year but there are only handfuls that are known to launch many careers.
These include The Sundance festival, Toronto, Cannes, etc. Months before the festivals begin, a filmmaker must submit his / her film to be viewed and then hopefully entered into competition. There are hundreds of films entered but only a handful make into competition for awards. At the festivals, distributors from all over come to view the films in competition and depending on their liking they may sign a deal. Or two.
If the filmmaker can afford he / she would set up a screening for distributors to come and view the film. These screenings take place at different locations throughout New York City in small theatres specially made for a small crowd. At the screenings, the attendance may be a full house or just a single person depending on the buzz of the movie or even availability of the distributors. In addition to or instead of the screening the filmmakers may send out a cassette for the distributor to view. If the movie matches the criteria the company has set for their type of film they may ask for a cassette to view it again and be able to dissect it more easily If the film turns out to be to the overall liking of the company they will set up a meeting with the filmmaker to discuss the rights that are available for the film.
The rights of the film may include domestic distribution, foreign distribution, video, and television rights. It is important to note that one distribution firm may not own all the rights to a picture. For example, a film that is currently being released by Lions Gate is Monument Ave. Lions Gate has the distribution rights for the film in North America and internationally. Miramax at a recent film festival purchased the video rights and the television rights. If the film is acquired the promotional phase begins.
Professional posters will be made for the film. In some companies they have a department within the company that creates the poster but for most of the firms an outside supplier handles the poster. Once the film is acquired, whether it is through a festival or through a screening, the company may decide to enter it in other more prestigious festivals so the film will gain some publicity and maybe even some notoriety. During the whole promotional phase of the film the company is making cassettes of the film and trailers for the film to be distributed to the theatres when the film is released. The purpose of the cassettes, which are called screeners, is that the theatre owner may want to view the film to determine whether or not to show it.
In addition the screeners are sent to the press so they may give their critique on it. During the promotional phase the company will set up it s own screening throughout the country in the different markets that it deals with. The company usually has different publicists in every market or may have one publicist that covers a few different markets. These publicists assist the company in many different ways. For example, when the company is setting up a screening in that town or city the publ 89 cist will deal with the theatres and the prices that go along with it. When the company chooses to open the film in a particular, market it can show the film in a few different ways.
The two major ways are promotional screenings and press screenings. The press screenings as in the name, are for the press to view the film and review it for the local publications. As said above some publications request a screener in addition to the screening or in some cases in a market where there is no press screening. In addition to the press screening a city may have promotional screening to promote the movie. This screening usually may have some of the actors present and / or the director. Included with a promotional screening may be a P.
A. tour. This is a personal appearance tour of the actors and / or director throughout that city. The expenses for the tour usually include travel and lodge for the actor or whoever is appearing, transportation, etc. The actor may do an interview with local press, appear on a local show or on the local radio show. When a local publication is doing a review of the film they tend to require some photos from the film which come in either stills (black+white or color) or color slides.
These usually come in a package along with other items. These include a press kit and a flyer. The press kit is a summary of the movie, history of the main actors and the director, list of all the crew and some press contact numbers. The flyer is a review of the movie, usually a positive one from a major newspaper or magazine, such as The New York Times or Time, for example. The company tends to deal with theatres it has dealt with in the past when it comes time to decide wher to show the film. In many cases though, a theatre will contact the company and request to show the film.
When it comes time to release the film in the theatres, there is a lot of preparation that needs to be taken care of. First of all, the trailers and press kits should have been sent out to the respective theatres. The trailers should be shown in the theatres before the movie is due out and in some cases the theatres play the trailer while the film is already playing. A major studio may have the money to be able to send each theatre their own trailer but an independent distributor usually has the theatre send the trailer back so it can be used for another theatre. The theatre is also sent a poster or several posters for additional advertisement of the movie.
When it comes time to view the film a print of the movie is sent out to the theatre. As in the case with the trailers there are not prints for every theatre and some prints are used again for later releases. The prints themselves are very expensive. There is an entire department devoted to the shipment of the prints to the correct theatres. It is crucial to the opening that the print arrive on time and to the correct theater or else, what is the theatre going to show When the film opens in the theatre the grosses for that weekend are determined on prediction basis.
These are called flash grosses. These are what the distributor and the theatre predict will happen and the are the basic numbers the theatre gives the distributor regarding the attendance and ticket sales. Soon after that the theatre sends the distributor a copy of the exact numbers and also included the percentage the theatre is taking for the film. The percentage the theatre gets is a percentage of the overall gross and can range from either 30% to 50% and may even be higher or lower. Now in the case of adverting in the local publications for the film the distributor may choose to only advertise for one week in certain areas and for six weeks in another. The reason for this is because of the price of the ad space in the paper.
For example, in The New York Times a full double page ad can cost up to $170, 000 dollars. Even a small ad of 2 inches by 2 inches can cost $20, 000 dollars. In this case there may be an exception because it may pay to spend the money in New York because of the large market it provides. In another newspaper, in areas not as largely populated as New York it may not pay to keep this ad for so long. When the company acquires the film, in addition to distributing the film they represent the film. It is their duty to act as a public relations officer for the film.
One thing that they do is collect all the press that is written up about the film, positive or negative. Some of the articles written may be a copy of a previous review since the newspaper may have used a wire service to acquire the article from a larger publication rather than write up a review on it s own. These reviews are collected and are assembled in different sections. The sections are National Monthly, Nat l Weekly, Nat l Daily, NY Weekly, NY Daily, LA Weekly, LA Daily, Regional Weekly, Regional Daily (Regional meaning anything other than NY and LA. ), Trades (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, etc. ) and electronic media (the internet).
These reviews are filed for later use and in some cases a few binders are created to give to the director or an actor from the film. In addition to the screener cassettes the company usually has 3. 5-inch beta cassettes and + inch cassettes of clips from the movie for use on the local television stations. Throughout this entire process the company has been keeping track of each and every theatre that is showing the film. All the information is kept in the theatre files. These files contain every piece of information regarding the showing of that film in that theatre.
For instance, the number of trailers sent o that theatre in the case that those trailers are needs for a different theatre. The number of posters sent to that theatre, the dates the film is playing in the theatre and also the theatre address and person to contact for that theatre. After the film has been playing for a little bit the theatre sends a check back to the company for the amount it cost to rent the film and for the amount the distributor is due from the grosses of that film. These checks are inserted ion the theatre files as well. A regular moviegoer has no idea what steps are taken so the film he is watching gets to the theatre he is in.
It is very important that people understand that there is a lot of effort involved in acquiring the movie, getting it to the theatre on time and even making sure the market it s being shown in has prior knowledge of it s arrival. After all, if you didn t know a movie was playing in your town how would you know to go see it. When most people think of the film industry, they think of movie sets, actors, lights, everything that goes on behind the scenes. They don t think of the shipment of the film, the booking of the theatre, etc. This side of the industry may not be as lucrative as the production side where the actors may receive a tremendous salary or the director may be paid a lot but it definitely is just as important. Some might that it s not because if the movie wasn t made there would be nothing to distribute but the saying can go both ways.
If the movie is made and there s no one to distribute it, no one is going to see it. Although it was stated in the introductory paragraph, it is important that one point be stated over again. The independent film industry relies heavily on the distribution firms. It is hard to realize this if you are not a part of it. Many people think that once they ve made their film that it s only uphill from there but they don t understand that they are one dot in a much larger picture. They may be artistic and want to show people their view of life but no ones goin to care if they have n way to see it..