Foreign agents focus on getting international distribution for your film. They will bear the costs of exposing your film to a large number of buyers across all the international film markets, a very expensive endeavor to undertake on your own. Of course, this money will be made up for in high commissions per sale and recoupable expenses.
You can opt to pursue an international distribution deal yourself, but you will have to cater for shipping costs, high phone bills, travel expenses and film market expenses. The first step would be to build an updated list of foreign DVD companies that purchase independent films. Try looking searching through online message boards for recommendations from other filmmakers. You can also purchase such lists online, but be wary of the fact that they might not be up to date.
The best approach to contact foreign distributors would be:
Foreign buyers can also be tracked during international film markets. By cooperating with other filmmakers, you can pool in to get a booth at the actual market. Registering as a seller at the market also gives you the added benefit of getting the actual buyers’ list, which is an invaluable tool both during and long after the event is over, as it enables you to set up appointments with potential buyers prior to the event. Make sure you have a list of films you are selling, as well as jpeg’s of their cover art. Email this list to potential buyers and include links to the website and trailer for each film. It is also wise to hire an experienced seller to sit with you in your market booth.
Traditional distribution deals have become quite difficult to acquire and you generally shouldn’t submit your film to traditional distributors until you get the leverage of having been accepted at one of the Tier One Film Festivals. Failing that, your approach to traditional distribution companies should be from the top down, starting with the largest. Make sure you separate DVD companies, broadcasters and so on. You also need to identify which distributors would be good for your film by analyzing their slate history, what criteria they use when choosing which films to distribute and whether they’ve had any form of success with your type of film.
If you’re looking for a straight-to-DVD distribution, check out which companies put your type of film. Amazon and your local DVD shop are good places to start. Make a list of these companies and contact their acquisitions executive by email providing your film’s website, trailer and synopsis. Follow up with a phone call after a week.
Broadcasters are another option. Flip through the channels on your TV to find out which ones are airing independent films, and visit their website for submission guidelines.
Although foreign distribution deals don’t bring in the revenue they used to, there are still several deals to be made. If you manage to land an all-rights deal with a U.S. distributor (for instance a mini-major), the company itself will handle the foreign distribution through its network of partnerships with foreign broadcasters and DVD distributors. Those mini-majors such as Lionsgate that don’t belong to a studio, will still facilitate foreign distribution because they are so well respected.
Marketing and distributing an independent film is a very expensive endeavor which is why distributors will want to recoup their expenses (usually anywhere between $10k and $25k) before allowing you to share in the profits. You will be accounted quarterly, biannually or annually in a producers’ report outlining expenses incurred for the period and how close the distributor is to recouping the contractual marketing expenses. Once those are fulfilled, you will start sharing in the profits.Statements are usually issued 30-45 days after the period has ended.