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More Film Distribution and Marketing Tips

More useful information about crewing up and budgeting for your independent movie

This week I will wrap up my tips on crew and budgeting, following last week’s batch of five tips. Next week we’ll get into what I define as live event/theatrical.

Tip 6: Lawyers

A good lawyer who is familiar with split-rights scenarios and the vagaries of new distribution models is essential, although hard to find. If you cannot find one, I suggest using a consultant in tandem with a lawyer. The consultant negotiates, the lawyer goes over the language. Find someone who is open to working in new ways. Lawyers will either work on an hourly fee ($175 and up) or for a percentage of the deal(s) (5 percent to 7 percent). Since the field is changing so rapidly, you may have to train your lawyer regarding certain items that you will demand. One new alternative is the Film Collaborative, a nonprofit entity that can go over your agreements for a very reasonable fee; its staff is very knowledgeable.

Tip 7: Create a Grid of Rights

It is important that you or someone on your team keep track of who has the rights to what. Most lawyers will never have the time to do this for you. You should create a grid and track it, because it can get confusing. Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative, who handles the legal on my deals, has created such a grid for the rights on "Bomb It." She will be posting it on their site soon – so stay tuned.

Tip 8: Web Designers

If you are not a technically oriented person, you need an IT person to set up your website. Chances are, they will know a lot more about search engine optimization (SEO) than you do. Ask them to set up a site that you can regularly modify on your own, so that you are not spending thousands of dollars over the course of your film’s life. If you can get a qualified person to do it for free, great — but you should be able to find someone to set up a simple site for $500 to $2,000. Maintain your relationship with this person so you can ask them to come back from to time to time to tweak your site (like when you want to sell DVDs, merchandise, etc.).

Tip 9: Web Designers, Part 2

Oftentimes the best designer is not the best programmer, and vice versa. You may need two separate people: one for the look of the site (which hopefully is integrated with your key art), another to do the actual programming. If you have to choose to pay one or the other, go for the programmer. It is easier to find good designers for a reasonable rate (i.e., someone needing to build their portfolio) than good programmers.

Tip 10: Budgeting

To conclude two weeks of crew tips, a reminder that it is best to be able to pay these crew people. While sales agents should work on commission, lawyers, web designers, PMDs, etc., most likely will not. You should create a budget that is as detailed as a production budget. In "Think Outside the Box Office" I created such a budget with detailed explanations, using my budget and several others as examples. Raising the money at inception will help avoid potentially costly P&A finance rates and last-in-first-out requirements. If you have a tax rebate due you, don’t bank it — use it as a large portion (or all) of your distribution and marketing budget. Here’s a list of what you will need to include in your budget:

–Distribution crew including those I have discussed and whoever else you need for your specific release: bookers, publicists, community engagement consultants, social media strategists, graphic designers.

–Marketing creative and materials: including trailer, poster/key art, press kit.

–Print and other delivery materials: Various masters, authoring, replication, digital cinema files, etc.

—Media buys from print to Google

–Travel expenses.

–General office supplies – especially shipping.

And anything else your release needs – the above is a very quick summary.

Let me know what you think! Follow me on Twitter (@Jon_Reiss) or visit the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here. I look forward to hearing from you.

Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed filmmaker who has produced and directed three feature films -- most recently "Bomb It" (Tribeca 2007), about graffiti, street art and the battle over visual public space throughout the world. He just published "Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era," the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films. He also consults and speaks about distribution and marketing for film at festivals and forums throughout the world. He has just launched a distribution and marketing tools website for independent filmmakers.