Sales Agents...to have...to have not...
So the modern age of film is moving fast yet of course all the studios want it to stay the same. The usual format is to make a film and then acquire a sales agent. They will then go off and speak to distributors. All sales agents have a fee and this is recouped as soon as the film makes any money. This fee is used by them for marketing. You want this fee to be as low as possible in order to have any kind of hope of seeing any sort of money later down the line.
Once you go to Cannes you realize how many sales agents there actually are. And over my 2 years of being with one I have quickly realized that if your going to go with a middle man it better be someone bloody good or else its not worth it.
So I've been on the sales and distribution journey for 2 years now. If I had known what I know now I would have done a whole lot of things differently. To start with it took a huge amount of effort to obtain a sales agent. It involved going to Cannes Film Festival which is not cheap and getting a whole load of flyers designed and printed and editing an amazing trailer as this really is everything. The trailer, the title, the poster and the synopsis. In fact the best thing you can do is design the poster and marketing material before you even shoot the film. Work backwards. The first thing sales agent and distributors want to do is put your film in a generic box that has recipient address's already attached to it. So its either a horror, thriller, crime film or love story. And if it doesn't fit in a box like mine didn't then they will try and make it.
We have been with our sales agent for 2 years now and they have put very little effort in. It seems us filmmakers have to do most of the work ourself and approach distributors, channels and platforms and then once you have interest you then pass them over to the sales agent who will make the deal and take all the money. Doesn't seem quite fair does it? Yes our sales agent had our poster on their stall in Cannes and AFM and yes people enquired about it but they will never be able to sell your film as well as you can.
As filmmakers we have the product and the sales agent should be working for us as without us they have nothing. However the film industry makes you feel that you are working for them and they are doing you a favor by taking on your project. Its time we creatives got a little savvier eh. If I could back in time firstly I would not have signed with them. And if I had I would make sure that in the contract there was a get out clause.. i.e if they haven't made any sales by x amount of time we can withdraw. And I would have a sale limit on the film so that they can't sell your film for next to nothing. I would not have given them world wide rights either or even signed the damn thing before seeing their sales reports. What is their strategy? Who are they going to approach? What value do they place on the film. They will tell you that its unpredictable and we will make a plan once you sign. Don't believe this. So lot of lessons learnt. Give the contract a very CLOSE read.
Essentially they are middle men that need not be there when we can go straight to the distributor, but we are convinced this is the "correct" route to follow. Well maybe it was 10 years ago but since the digital age we can now connect directly with A LOT of people. Fear of Water was my first film and is a hard sell being a coming-of-age drama and combine that with a very understated level of romance its got a small audience. Therefore for this film it would have been best to make the film while generating social media buzz and release it straight away direct to the audience online. Unfortunately we've wasted over 2 years working with sales and distribution meaning that the time it gets officially released the audience will be much smaller. Yes that tiny buzz generated by tweeting through production and putting pictures out on FB that got so many fans may well have forgotten about the film 2 years later. So yes talk with sales and distribution but dont rush making a decision and watch out for those sales agent that claim they are distributors too. There are a lot of them around!