If distributing your film is your goal, producing it around effective contracts should be your objective.
Independent filmmakers often make the mistake of waiting to think about film distribution until after they’ve finished their films. The consequence is that a distribution deal becomes much likely. Just as financing your film by crowdfunding means building an audience before starting the campaign, attracting distributors for your film means building your production with a sound structure on a marketable foundation. Understanding the intended audience, the channels and communications that will reach and excite them about the film, and the business aspects underlying a balanced production are the steps to doing that.
This post will focus briefly on one critical business aspect: understanding the contracts that will control everything from acquiring literary property to assuring uncapped distributor expenses don’t leave you with zero. A production with documented agreements to secure creative rights, govern talent and crew relations, synch music, permit filming, provide for financing through product placement, and control the myriad other legal issues surrounding pre- and post-production is a production that is likely well on its way toward a distribution deal.
A quick Internet search for film contracts will turn up a dizzying array of fill-in-the-blank forms promising easy solutions to the often complex legal issues behind those production components. But relying on such forms without knowing what they mean risks never being able to finish or show your film if you complete it at best and litigation and damages at worst. A contract is much more than a piece of paper. It is a legally binding agreement that may have significant consequences if broken.
While an agreement’s words may seem subject to only one interpretation, contract terms and clauses do not always mean what you might expect or what you intended. Before signing, and even better before negotiating production agreements, develop a relationship with an entertainment law attorney who can demystify them for you and negotiate their points to help realize your goals for your film. The best time to start is before production even begins, typically by working with your lawyer to form a legal entity to produce the film.
A film production built on such a solid legal structure is one with greater appeal to distributors because it avoids legal complications that can prevent its release or negatively impact its profitability. Combined with audience awareness and effective marketing, it is also one with a greater chance of obtaining successful distribution. If you have questions about production and distribution agreements for independent film or any other legal aspect of indie filmmaking, please contact the firm.