Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Eval Q3 Distributor

This post contains:
  • the wording of Eval Q3
  • suggested additional posts/resources
  • links to/details on some past IGS student answers
  • a definition of what distribution is and link to Film Distributors' Association
  • the 10 steps to a perfect, full marks answer
  • an alternative summary
  • suggested resources
  • 2015: I've done another, SHORT, post with a simple guide

What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why?
See also: + franchise research task; The Crazies eg; [ALL egs FROM THIS BLOG ONLY; MANY MORE ON DBHORROR + BRITCINEMA BLOGS]
Make sure you make it clear you know what a distributor is; what they do; and show an appreciation of the difficulty most Indie producers face in getting a distribution deal - most end up straight-to-DVD, never making it to the cinema, as the cost of marketing/creating film prints is so high (and thus risky, especially when not using southern English archetypes). Remember, the film business boils down to 3 areas:
  1. PRODUCTION (most film projects never make it out of 'development hell')
  2. DISTRIBUTION (most UK films fail to attract a distributor willing to take the risk)
  3. EXHIBITION (the vast majority of UK films fail to get a box office release; Hollywood dominates)
Some past examples, then a range of points you can consider...

TOM/GEORGIA: Both worked together so their posts are similar, though Tom uses a podcast while Georgia has a vodcast. Both are clear, and pick out relevant examples (including box office takings + number of screens in the analysis), though both would benefit from adding further examples to show they'd carefully researched a range of options.
DILLON: The presentation is poor (grey text against black background), and there are some inaccuracies. However, the general principle of researching examples and using these to justify the choice of a distributor is followed. Make sure you distinguish between production + distribution companies.
MEGAN: The video included has been taken down, but you can see clear evidence of a good deal of research, with plentiful hyperlinks and some imagery. Needs some detail on what a distributor is/does, as there seems to be as much emphasis on production.
ROAM: Lacks any video, but extensively multimedia nonetheless with plentiful hyperlinks and some imagery. Thorough research, and discusses different sides of the industry, comparing UK Indies and blockbusters; comes up with more than one suitable distributor.
EMMA: Plain text with some imagery, tho' with several hyperlinks; discusses just the one company (Warp), would benefit from considering more possible options before concluding on which to go with.
ROB: Again, no vid, but hyperlinks and imagery; looks at several possibilities and establishes the budget range of his film. Also note: there's a links list for the 7 Eval Qs: believe me, examiners will be grateful if you make it easy for them to find your work!
BECKY: Done as a podcast. There should be some text giving some sense of its content; should be recorded in a quiet place; and mustn't be done as a pair!!! Work together on gathering ideas, images etc by all means, but voice/write your own individual response.

Film Distributors' Association on the business of distribution [DB: emphasis added]
Distribution is the highly competitive business of launching and sustaining films in the market place.

Like other forms of entertainment, the film business is product-driven: the films themselves are the reason why most people buy cinema tickets.

But how do people get to know about the range of films on offer, or coming soon, in the first place? How do they come to feel they want to see particular films and go to the cinema to do so?

UK film distributors alone spend around £300 million a year on bringing new releases to market, and building awareness and interest among audiences. It's a fast-moving, highly competitive, high-stakes business.

Visit FDA's lively microsite to explore the essential life of a film after its production phase. You can watch some  distributors talk about aspects of their jobs, you can check out the challenges involved in releasing a film from scratch, and there's a complete guide for you to download (free) and keep.
Here's a snippet from the LaunchingFilms site, outlining how the process of distribution unfiolds in practical terms (the first 5 points are part of the production process)
In an age when we're all bombarded with media choices, the cinema presents films with a vital shop window. This generic guide to UK distribution focuses on how films are launched in cinemas.

  • Producer/company acquires rights to film a story or treatment
  • Screenplay is developed
  • Production finance and cast and crew are confirmed
  • Principal photography takes place, in studios and/or on agreed locations, followedby some months of post-production, editing and scoring
  • Master print of finished film is delivered to local distributor
  • Distributor determines release strategy and release date
  • Distributor presents the film to exhibitors and negotiates bilateral agreements to have the film shown in cinemas
Try this post too before you go any further:   Also... you may have some very useful info from your franchise research.

All being well you've got the material for this from the lesson on this Q...

  1. Set out your definition/description of what a distributor does, and what role it plays in the film biz. Quotes from books, or sites such as the examples above, are useful for this (more sources = better). 
  2. Briefly discuss how digitisation is changing distribution (see step 10 which overlaps with this): hugely reducing costs (film prints cost £000s each, hard drives are near to zero cost) which, taken with the capacity to use social media + other web sites, potentially opens up distribution opportunities to Indies and self-distribution.
  3. Clearly state your genre, and basic context for your movie (ie, its a micro-budget Indie without any established stars, but perhaps drawing on similarities to a well-known slasher film/franchise?)
  4. Research the top ten biggest films of the past year, decade or other time period and note the most successful distributors. I tried a simple search (its worth briefly noting how you found these, including any search terms used/added to improve results) of '2012 top ten film distributors' and got links such as,, this report on Sony becoming the UK's biggest distributor for 2012 with a 17.9% share of UK box office (look for the Momentum figure in there too)  . Find each on IMDB and note the budget, US + UK box office (final figure, rounded up, eg £5.4m, £103k), and UK distributor. You could do this as a table and upload it via scribd, or add to a vodcast response as titles over a poster of each film in turn. (remember, no box office fig often denotes there was no cinema release; straight-to-DVD or made-for-TV, but try googling, Wikipedia and too)
  5. You could (arguably should) consider the marketing tools created for horror example/s by the distributor you ultimately select: posters, trailers, websites, social networking. You could also create your own poster/s or trailer/s - teaser posters or trailers are comparatively quick and easy to produce, and would potentially look very impressive in the context of your AS coursework.
  6. Come up with an estimated budget for your entire 90-min feature film (base this figure on comparable [low budget Indie] actual UK films). Remember that even a digital camera, handheld 5-day shoot with no lighting rig like Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee cost £48k!
  7. You are effectively a low-budget, Indie filmmaker; which examples are relevant? Do these distributors make money?! Do they manage a US release (few UK films achieve this; indeed, most UK-produced films never attain a cinematic release)? Are there separate distributors for the US, other European countries etc? The answer is generally yes, so detail this, and your answer could include separate distributors for different national markets! If you haven't already, make sure you've got 2 or 3 UK films as examples. You could also look up classic examples of your genre. Did you note any distributor co's from your analyses of openings?
  8. Check the distributor on IMDB: can you find more useful egs which show this company to be a good choice? (ie, have they managed good box office from other films)
  9. Its worth contrasting your choice with a mega-budget example from within your genre, which would effectively be out of your reach: you're showing clear awareness of the difference between Indie and studio production (studio productions are more likely to feature major stars, as they can afford the risk of higher-budgeted box office failures that could bankrupt an Indie producer).
  10. Have you considered/addressed the possibility that your film might fail to find a distributor willing to take the financial risk of marketing your production? (Here's a list of 2012's best unreleased movies to help put this in context!) Have you addressed the rising trend of micro-budget producers sidestepping traditional distribution and theatrical release using online/social media distribution (especially marketing) and exhibition resources (YouTube etc)? This would be a great point to end on: include specific example/s of films primarily available through the likes of YouTube.
Hint: the distributor behind Four Lions, Donkey Punch and many more from Warp X/Warp Films is worth considering.
You might also read this.

As several points above seek to stress: make sure if you use a range of older or American examples that your final answer is specifically a distributor working in the UK market with a track record of Indie releases (if not horror, be clear on why you think they'd still be suitable)

Here's another way to look at this question:
Some further points to consider:
  • yours is an Indie production, so you're looking for a distributor that handles Indie productions!
  • look for 'unsuitable' distributors too, to show a wide awareness of the film biz
    • mega-budget blockbuster distributors + Indie distributors who fail to get a cinema release (no box office data on IMDB was a giveaway, tho' now IMDB seems to have moved UK data onto IMDBPro only) for what become 'straight-to-DVD' films
      • office failures can become hits! This is England and The Shawshank Redemption are a UK and US example of films that failed at the box office but went on to make major money (and still are!) through DVD sales/rental and TV sales (plus streaming) - all forms of exhibition that the distributor tries to set up deals for
      • discuss the strong possibility that a film like yours would struggle to get a distributor!!! can you find stats on what % of UK film productions get distribution deals each year? perhaps find an article discussing a film's struggle to find a distributor?
  • make sure its a distributor with a track record of handling UK Indie films
  • the distributor itself may not be an Indie - if you look at the company that distributes most of Sheffield-based Indie Warp X/Films productions, you'll find they're owned by StudioCanal ... who in turn are a subsidiary of the global conglomerate NBC-Universal (one of the 'big 6', who also own WT!)
  • if you are detailing US examples, just be clear that a given distributor might be used for the US release (which very, very few UK films actually manage)
  • you could also address non-UK European distribution
  • you could also consider the financing of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach's social realist movies, look at how they pre-sell distribution rights to European territories other than the UK to raise the finance to produce the film!
  • has digitisation changed the fundamentals of the movie biz - or at least opened up alternatives to filmmakers with little realistic chance of a theatrical release?
Try these resources:
The Guardian's weekly UK/US box office analysis contains great, specific analysis of distributors and their strategies; producers, distributors list;
BBC guide to film distribution (really good!);
Screenonline guide - also really good, with some very quotable sections;
BFI guide - you really should use this resource, its used by the industry;
Wiki list of distributors by country;
Wiki on what distribution is;
Wiki on the dominant studios - with tables of both the big six (including their subsidiaries) and 'mini-majors';
SSN analysis of rise of the mini-majors;
Statista - graphs of average ticket price in US, UK etc;
Guardian story on a UK distributor;
LeftFilms - an example of a UK Indie distributor - just one of many you can easily find.

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