Film Courage: Advice to first-time/second-time filmmakers on seeking a distribution deal and then actually committing to it?
Jay Silverman, photographer and director of OFF THE MENU: It’s a tough question for me because every time you make a deal you learn about new deals. I’ll give you an illustration, when we made my first movie we didn’t have people knocking on my door to distribute my movie, we had sales reps. I never knew what that was but there are a lot of companies in L.A. and in Hollywood that are sales reps (the rep movies) and they take your movie to Netflix and they take your movie to Fox and they make deals. I totally believe in that scenario. It never even occurred to me that my next movie would be good enough for someone to want to distribute it.
Of course, there is no money exchanged. You have to wait to get the movie distributed and then eventually make your money back. If you’re lucky enough to hypothetically wake up in the morning at Sundance and someone buys your movie to distribute it they might say say we’ll give you X dollars not to mention that after advertising dollars are spent we’ll give you 50 cents on the dollar (whatever it might be).
I did not have that luxury but I did have the luxury this time of getting a reputable distribution company and taking it up a notch, so each time I learn more.
But distribution (and I’m saying this redundantly because I said it before) is an ever-changing medium and I’m learning right as we speak that filmmakers are expected to do things that have nothing to do with filmmaking and that is if you really want to succeed with your movie social media has to be played, you have to market yourself, you have to do interviews like this.
“Every time you make a deal, you learn about new deals…”
I’m really grateful but I’m not a social media guy, you have to learn how to do that. It’s fascinating because I have a number of people on my Facebook that are filmmakers and every once in awhile I see a filmmaker promoting their movie and I’m empathetic because it requires just an inordinate amount of collective collaboration with the distributor to succeed because the distributor who picked up my movie puts out four movies a month. That’s 48 movies a year. That’s a lot of movies for a small company.
And one of the ones I passed on has 30 to 40 movies a month. And there is to the volume aspect so I thought that the one that I picked was more desirable because they would give it more energy and more time and I don’t have a regret for that.
But here again speaking from first time experience. I met a gentleman just last week who is doing our social media and he’s also a director. Smart, young guy and if I was able to tell him what I learned now on his first movie he would have done something differently. And it’s not like he made a horrific mistake but he ultimately took his movie off the market and there are other ways to do it. No different from the woman who told me on my last movie wasn’t ever exploited on social media. The content matter itself should have been an easy pitch but we didn’t do it. So is it a missed opportunity? No really because the source material is timeless. It’s happening everyday and it still continues to happen.
But this movie that I just finished comes out basically a week before Valentine’s Day. It’s no accident, it’s a romantic comedy (I like that idea). It helps take the movie to a noticeable level. Otherwise you are just going to get in the mush.
There’s a great story in the trades about Netflix buying movies at Sundance last year (not this year, last year). It’s written by empathetic filmmakers who said here is a movie that everybody knows the title, everybody would like to see it, it was on Netflix for one week and on the first page and then it just disappeared. So you have to really know a lot about the movie, properly spell it and source it.
I went last night on Amazon to see if my movie was up for sale because it just came out, it required me to go through some closed doors just to get there. I’m talking about searching for it because when I typed in the name it didn’t pop right up.
And there is a whole other subject, naming your movie. I think distributors would prefer you name your movie A, B, C, D because it’s closer to the beginning of the alphabet. Perhaps not now because everybody now is searching for their films and you just type it in.
Analytics play a role now. You go on to Netflix or on Amazon and you’re trending with romantic comedies, they’ll suggest my movie hopefully. So that is a plus to them for making money and a plus to the distributor who is making money.
But all that stuff never existed, I mean the format of Netflix and Amazon have changed three times in the last month meaning like right now if you click on a movie on Amazon, a trailer pops up and Netflix, too. The trailer for anything you’re watching (a TV show or whatever), while you’re still searching it’s playing a commercial. That’s all new innovative technology and it helps the filmmaker. To me what’s really critical is if you know about a filmmaker (like me) talking about what I experienced and try to avoid that with your own experience.
Maybe my movie would be called Come And Eat The Food? C rather than M. Or maybe it doesn’t matter?
Question For The Viewers: What advice do you have for first-time filmmakers on distribution?
WATCH OFF THE MENU
MORE VIDEOS WITH JAY SILVERMAN
About OFF THE MENU (description from OffTheMenuMovie.com):
Romantic Comedy An unlikely heir to a Mexican fast-food empire goes ‘cuisine’ hunting for the next culinary big thing, and finds himself in a small, dusty New Mexican town where foodies come from all over to salivate over the culinary treats of a local, authentic, and feisty female chef.