Please, please, please don’t try to rush the completion and sale of your film because of the pandemic spreading across the globe. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the moment and think now is the best time to get your unfinished movie into the market so people can buy it. But let me tell you — that’s a huge mistake. Here’s why.
Your Film Won’t Release for 4–5 Months Anyway
The supply chain for independent films is 4–5 months from the time of the sale. Even if you rushed to complete your film and pitched it, the distributor that buys it will need two months to receive the film and pass it through quality control.
Most platforms like cable, iTunes, or Amazon require films to be pitched to them three months before the release so that they can ensure everything with the release goes smoothly. After all, if the film doesn’t play or has artifacts, it looks bad on iTunes, not the filmmaker.
Your Deal Gets Worse the More Eager You Are to Sell
It’s as simple as supply and demand. If a distributor has an influx of films that are rushing to get into the market, they have their pick of the liter.
Every film sale is a negotiation, a topic that is larger than the scope of this article. But to put it simply, you or your sales representative will be trying to get you the best possible deal by giving up some deal terms to try to get others that matter more. If a distributor has a better position than the filmmaker, they can use their leverage to negotiate more favorable terms for their side of the deal. And that means less money for you.
If a distributor has a better position than the filmmaker, they can use their leverage to negotiate more favorable terms.
Acquisition executives are smart. They’ll know what the average price of a film in the market is going to be. If there truly is a bidding war going for a film, they’ll sniff it out faster than a pit boss to a card counter. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve taken a film out and gotten similar offers from multiple distributors.
Most Distributors Have Set Budgets
Just because filmmakers suddenly want to sell their films in droves, doesn’t mean acquisition budgets increase. Distributors normally have a set budget that they can spend on the acquisition of films on a per month or per quarter basis. If they spend half of their budget for the year on films this month, they’re in trouble for the rest of the year.
Their only options are to either increase the number of films they are buying to match the current influx of films and pay those films less, or maintain their current buying strategy and pay filmmakers more.
Which category would you rather be in?
The Studios are Dominating Promotional Placement
With the theatre closures across the globe, the studios are moving into the VOD market like a bully stepping into a sandbox. It’s better for us to pack up our toys and wait for them to get bored.
Take a look at the landing page for your favorite video-on-demand service and you’ll notice a trend, tell me if you can spot it…
The promotional spots are dominated by studio films that were in theatres a week ago or were scheduled for a theatrical release this month. The further we get into this quarantine, the more films are going to come out that were meant to be released in theatres.
Film Marketing Takes Time To Ramp Up
If you look at the marketing rollout for a studio film or a successful indie film, you’ll see that they start 3–4 months ahead of the release. From launching their trailer as far away as six months depending on how big of a release it is.
If you want your film to succeed, you need to take the time to properly market your film. A film that drops on iTunes with no promotion is like a tree falling in the woods. Does anyone actually notice? Probably not until it’s too late.
A film that drops on iTunes with no promotion is like a tree falling in the woods. Does anyone actually notice?
Take time to properly feed and water your marketing strategy and you’ll have a much more lasting film.
I know that it’s tempting to hurry your film’s post-production and get it out into the world. The idea of billions of people sitting at home waiting for your film gets even the most cautious of filmmakers perky. But trust me, do it right and release when you’re ready.
Your audience will be waiting.