Sunday, 2 November 2014

Yr3 Week 3 (Wed 22 Oct - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Distribution)

Today's seminar was focused on one of the most critical elements when handling a film post post-post production: finding distributors, who will ensure your film gets into, among many others, theatres/on DVD/on streaming services & V.O.D./into festivals/TV or even for Educational uses. Of course, before that, one needs a Sales Agent, which was touched on last week, whose job it is to seek distributors internationally and make the necessary dealings, which can involve multiple entities as distributors are regionally confined mainly (save for the big Hollywood studios, most are country-specific i.e. Metrodome is British, Studiocanal is European, Toho is Japanese etc.

The model for how business is handled is Filmmaker>Distributor and then either Audiences or Cinemas, so there exists the option for level of directness to your product. However, more important and detailed than that is the actual methodology, broken into four key steps: 1) Acquisition (self explanatory), 2) Strategy (planning the release), 3) Creativity (how will you sell/market the film) and 4) Accountability (reporting to rights holders on how the whole affair turns out). Negotiation is usually in the 70/30, 60/40 realm, in favour to the filmmaker.

Another important element discussed was understanding the market, and playing up to them to ensure the maximum amount of people see your film. To illustrate, we watched both the domestic and international trailers for the Saudi Arabian film Wadja (2013), a story about a young girl who wants a bike. Both endorsed the feel-good, underdog quality of the film, but there were a few interesting differences; the international trailer played more of the novelty aspect, like pointing that this is Saudi Arabia's first film given their strict policy on entertainment, how many festivals and awards it picked up, it was very much designed to make it more of an 'event' film, much like say, The Artist (2011) for being a new silent film. The domestic trailer however, made it more intimate and personal. Sure, you had some critic quotes, but no the high profile pedigree compared to the endorsements of the international trailer, and there was also an emphasis on the proper pronunciation of the film's title, probably to help facilitate word of mouth among friends and relatives.

Indeed, that brings us to another important piece of the puzzle: understanding audience. One of the easy ways to do this is of course, looking at box office figures, which was also mentioned last time through people like Charles Gant or Film Time Machine. Also useful are exit polls, which are directly from the audience, dealing with screen venues and their profits, and can be found through places like the BFI. On a related note to that, now audiences can even have a more direct say in what they see, as now some cinemas offer the ability to have organized screenings for specific films based on audience demand. This can arranged through sites like An interesting little tidbit I'd figure Id throw in to further illustrate the audience's level of power in what cinema can do/show.

And well, that was that. This session served more as a reminder/refresher on the nature of distribution and the audience's abilities/importance, and how it is a much bigger field than often given credit for when discussing the entire shebang of filmmaking. This is a much bigger game than just selling it to 'some guy' and then he does the rest, and the importance of strategy and a good sales agent is invaluably to ensure maximum exposure for both the film and you so that you may gain resources/kickbacks for next time and make a name for yourself out there in the proper circles.
Today's company of choice is CineVue: Essentially a news and review site, CineVue was started back in April 2010, and has devoted itself to highlighting British releases for a larger audience, most recently with musical drama Northern Soul and the new Mike Leigh biopic Mr. Turner, being heavily featured. They are a mix of reviews as well as news on the latest hub-bubs in both the international and the UK film world, including the newest interviews, announcements, film festivals (including Toronto) and competitions.

I can see why a site like this would be important. After all, such an attention to smaller films for a large readerbase of potential viewers and patrons would be invaluable for a first time filmmaker to really get a name, as well as a regular future audience, for him or herself.

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