Unless your goal is to merely make movies that are popular on Youtube or Vimeo, you’ve probably thought about how to sell your film. Moreover, if you’re interested in making a living as movie producer, then distribution is probably on the forefront your mind.
Recently, I had a chance to take a class on distribution taught by Pejman Partiyeli founder and President of +Entertainment, presented by The Industry Workshops. At this workshop, Partiyeli broke down why it is so important to not only define the genre of your project, but to ensure you fulfill the expectations of the genre as well.
Just Like Selling A House
There are certain features on a house that will make it much more attractive to buyers. Features like solar panels, granite counter tops, hardwood floors and of course location are key. What’s attractive to buyers changes on a regular basis. So before a developer builds a house he should talk to someone who sells houses, IE a real-estate agent. Think of a film distribution company as a real estate agency for films. Your movie is the house itself, the genre is your neighborhood, the characters your granite counter tops, etc.
Thinking About Distribution
According to Partiyeli, distribution should not be an after thought, but should be your first thought. This means making sure you understand what’s currently selling. The film market is constantly changing, and the best way to make sure you’re making a movie that’s salable is to talk to a sales agent or distribution company first, even before you start writing a script.
A sales agent can advise you on what you should include in your project to help ensure it will have what buyers want. A sales agent with a distribution company can take a look at your synopses. Once they’ve seen it they can advise you as to what you should include or exclude from the script.
Genre, Genre, Genre
Wikipedia defines film genre as “the method based on similarities in the narrative elements from which films are constructed”. Genre can also be considered your film’s feature set, or at least it should be. The basic genres currently are Action, Comedy, Crime, Historical, Horror, Musicals, Science Fiction, War and Westerns. Each genre has a certain set of expectations that must be met in order to qualify it as said genre.
For instance, a horror film should attempt to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm and invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying finale. If a film doesn’t have at some or all of those elements, it is not a horror film. Beyond classifying a film as horror, you can classify it with a variety of subgenres that have developed over the years, as distributors now look for not only the genre but the sub-genre to classify the film. In the case of horror, they include (but not limited to): paranormal, slasher, creature feature, torture, demons, sci-fi horror, etc. For a great look at films by subgenre, check out instantwatcher.com.
Something to Compare It to
Another key compnent to have are two well known, successful films to compare your movie to. So if I was doing a paranormal horror film, I might say it’s like “The Conjuring” meets “Carrie”. Be careful about this because you don’t want to compare it to a picture that’s wasn’t financially successful. Even if you’re comparison is to an Oscar winning movie, many times award winners or art house films don’t even break even. Do some homework on budget versus returns and find one that closely compares to a film you’re producing.
You’ll also want to choose films that are recent. You don’t want to make a comparison to a film that is fifty years old. Even if its profits were high back then, it doesn’t lend credibility if the person you’re pitching to has never heard of it.
Finally, keep it real. Don’t compare you movie to films just because they’re successful if they are way out of the scope of what you’re trying to produce. Example: don’t say you’re making a picture like “The Avengers” when in truth its more like “Reservoir Dogs”.
The more specific you can define your film’s genre and sub-genre the easier it will be to sell. However, you must ensure that you have all of the genre defining characteristics in place. If you say you’re making a paranormal horror film, we better see some ghosts or poltergeists somewhere during the course of the picture. Additionally, the further in advance you consider genre, the easier it is to make any changes you need to guarantee you make a movie someone wants to buy.