Unquestionably, movies are big business. However, the film landscape is mostly dominated by the large production companies. In this context, it can make it difficult for independent filmmakers to find a way to distribute their movies. Nonetheless, lots of people the world over enjoy seeing independent films. If you are an independent filmmaker who would like to know how to distribute your movies, this article discusses options open to you and issues you need to consider.  

1. Distribute via the Internet

Many independent filmmakers choose to start the journey to distribution by posting their films online. For example, some film festivals are exclusively digital. Filmmakers are undoubtedly interested in the fact that posting their movie online is relatively easy, inexpensive and can give you a potentially international audience. Your film could also be picked up for distribution at a later stage.

However, this method of distribution has significant drawbacks. For a start, you have not distributed your film per se. You have simply put in on a website in the hope that it is later picked up for distribution. It might be; it might not be. In the end, then, it could achieve not a lot.

In addition, you could be inadvertently caught by the fine print on these sites. Their terms of submission often ask for rights over and above those needed to show your film. These can include copyright, exclusive rights and possibly permitted use clauses.  You have zero ability to change any of those terms of submission. You could easily hand over an important right to your work and not even know it. Some sites also allow filmmakers you to click your agreement to a Distribution Agreement up front. In those cases, extreme care is warranted. The chances of even finding the terms of that agreement are usually slight.  

2. Draft a Distribution Agreement with an Agent

If you would like to distribute your films, a better approach would be to make an agreement with a distribution agent. Certainly, this could prove a little more difficult initially. However, it could save you difficulties later on.  

The agreement you would make would give the agent the right to distribute your film.  Typically, the agreement would cover issues like:

  • Where the agent can and would distribute your film;
  • Whether they had an exclusive right to do so;
  • What the agent commits to doing to distribute your film;
  • The term of the distribution agreement;
  • Termination;
  • The agent’s commission;
  • Who pays for costs and expenses; and
  • The overall scope of the agreement.

The agreement is commercial. It will cost you money. However, it will both facilitate the distribution of your film and protect your interests as the filmmaker.

Your agent is likely to have industry knowledge, know-how and experience.  They will also have contacts. In short, they can distribute and market your film to its best advantage. That will enable you to realise the economic potential of your film much more quickly and infinitely more adeptly.

3. Protect Your Interests

To ensure that the agreement you make with your agent is as beneficial to you as possible, you will need independent legal advice. An experienced lawyer can give you unbiased and independent advice. They can explain the agreement to you clearly and the implications of various terms that might not have been apparent to you at first glance. They can also make counter-suggestions during negotiations. Their knowledge and expertise also mean that they know common pitfalls.  Without their assistance, the agreement may prove very costly to you in the long run financially and possibly emotionally. Your films required a lot of effort. You need to respect that by getting legal advice.

Their advice also means that when you sign an agreement with an agent, you will be as informed as possible. No commercial endeavour is risk-free or guaranteed success. Nevertheless, being informed means that you can know that you made the best decision at the time. That can free mental energy better directed towards your next film.

Contact LegalVision’s contract lawyers to assist you. Questions? Call us on 1300 544 755.

Carole Hemingway

Next Steps

If you would like further information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please get in touch using the form on this page.