The Wamego Trilogy

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its initial release, I am making the WAMEGO TRILOGY available for FREE on Vimeo.  Spread the word and share these documentaries with every filmmaker (aspiring or professional) you know.

“Dreams are made of this stuff… Missing here are power-lunches and power-trips. Which is a breath of that fresh Kansas air.” – AFTERTASTE MAGAZINE

“Perfect! If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, you’d be a complete fool not to watch all the docs in this trilogy… There’s a lesson to be learned from the Baldersons.”

“Hollywood should be jealous.” – ICON MAGAZINE

“Literally thousands of miles away from the world of red carpets, cocaine nose-jobs and botoxed to the bone, anorexic 40-year-old women pretending to be 21, Wamego is a world full of cinematic dreams and devoid of pretension.”

“Steve Balderson’s approach to his work is not just a breath of fresh air – it is a gale-force wind that just may huff and puff and blow that famous Hollywood sign down right before the film industry’s eyes.”

“A constant reminder to never give up or give in…”

“WAMEGO is a testament to the hard work ethic of the Midwest. It proves that with determination, anything is possible – even making a feature film by yourself, in the middle of nowhere!”

“What was ‘Lost in La Mancha’ could easily be ‘Found in Wamego’ … A warmfelt, honest lesson how to realize your dream without sharing a bed with the devil.”

“Balderson serves a fat slice of humble pie to his Hollywood peers. A reality-check to inspire indie artists worldwide!”

“Those who have filmmaking ambitions of their own will get a little more…”

“WAMEGO will have a league of moviemakers clicking their heels to be transported to the Kansan, Do-It-Yourself state of mind.”

“It’s fascinating, entertaining, inspiring.”

“The documentary, more than any other movie-in-process film, actually demonstrates how to make a movie. It’s not a tedious and silly art school exercise, but a deep look into the thinking, perspective and determination that a filmmaker has to have in order to get a vision on the screen. Wamego is good story telling… A rich tale with fully developed characters, a well-developed plot and layers of conflict… Wamego is recommended viewing… Shows those professionals from LA how things should be done.”


If someone hates your movie, it’s a blessing.  Here’s how to tell.

If you love it or hate it, you have a strong emotion.  Most people believe they exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, in a line like this:


But the truth is, that the emotions for LOVE and HATE exist very close together.  It takes very similar amount of effort to feel one or the other.  The complete opposite of that feeling is indifference.  Nothingness.  So, the reality is, this is what the spectrum looks like:


So the next time you get a review and someone’s bashing your movie because they absolutely HATE it, give yourself a pat on the back.  Because that person has no idea how much emotion you caused them to feel, and how that alone is an accomplishment.

Embrace the haters.  Because you know that the only real bad review is when someone has no emotion at all.


I think it is totally illogical the way movies are sold nowadays.  Sales Agents really need to figure out a new way to do business or soon, what with the coming of VOD into the everyday consumer routine, they will all be out of a job.

When one goes to sell or buy a house, there is a very clear asking price to begin negotiations.  I think movies should be treated the same way.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to mega studio super budget movies that are all done in-house and have nothing to do with the rest of the world.  I’m talking about independently made films looking for distribution.

Say you’ve made a movie for $75,000.  I think it’s best to just say it.  If you try to make it sound like your movie is worth $500,000 you’ll look foolish.  Likewise, if a typical three-bedroom house in Kansas costs one thing and you’re asking five times that, you are likely not going to sell your house.

Of course there are dumb shits in the world who will pay for something that costs more than its worth.  But even though it seems those types have the run of the place, they really are quite rare.  So I suggest finding out what your movie is worth on a realistic level and just tell people that’s what you want for it.

If you say you want $75,000 for worldwide rights, expect an offer for anywhere $50,000 or even lower.  If your selling worldwide rights, that would be the end of the deal.  No royalties, nothing else.  There is a lot of greed out there, naturally, so people would rather “lease” their movie, or “rent it” like they would a residential property.  But, I say, just sell the damn thing and move on.

Of course, location has a lot to do with selling a house.  For instance, a $300,000 house in Kansas would be worth about $3.2million in Los Angeles, or five times that based on square footage in New York City.

Think about your movie in terms of genre and star power.  If you have Julia Roberts in your movie, you’ll likely be able to ask $3.2million for it even if it only cost $200,000 to make.  Do you have a Victorian mansion, or a two-story duplex, or a mid-century modern ranch-style?  Is the home you’re selling sit in a desirable neighborhood, or is it on the wrong side of the tracks?  Is it a horror comedy, coming of age drama, or musical?

You can try and disguise your movie all you want, but at the end of the day, it might help you to understand your movie from a realistic perspective.  Bring in someone to evaluate the worth of your film, and strategize the best way to get it out there.

If you’ve made a movie for $75,000 it might serve you better to release it yourself.  For that amount you only have to sell 4,000 DVDs or VOD purchases.  That isn’t a huge ordeal.  But, on the flip-side, if you’ve made a movie for $300,000 you’ll have to sell 15,000 DVDs or VOD purchases.  While that’s not out of the question, it’s a lot easier to sell less.  So keep your costs as low as possible.  Or remember that if you’re selling a home, it’s best to get as much as you can and then move to a town where you can get a lot more for less.

Tale of the Emerald Digger

“What gorgeous gem did you bring me?” Asks the Jeweler.

“It’s exquisite,” says the digger, “It’s the most beautiful stone in the world.  You’ll never stop thinking about it.  You’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Oh, let me see it! I can’t wait!”

“Here it is,” he says as he unwraps the emerald from a cloth.

“Oh.  It’s…. It’s…. GREEN.”

“Well, yes, it’s an emerald.”

“But nobody has an emerald!  Nobody wants an emerald.  People love diamonds.  They’re used to seeing diamonds.  They’ve never seen this before.”

“Yes, that’s what I said – You’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Well… I can’t take it.  Nobody will buy this from me.”

“Why not?”

“Well it’s cut different.  It’s square.  It’s green.  It’s obviously not finished.”

“How would it be perfect for you?”

“Well, it’d be perfect if it’s round, or marquee shaped, and cut this way, and, well, clear…”

“Oh, you mean – like a diamond?”


The man with the most exquisite emerald has a choice: Sell the emerald to the diamond buyer for next to nothing – or go to the emerald specialty house.

The digger goes across town to the Jeweler who specializes in emeralds.

“What gorgeous gem did you bring me?” Asks the Jeweler.

“It’s exquisite,” says the digger, “It’s the most beautiful stone in the world.  You’ll never stop thinking about it.  You’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Oh, let me see it!  I can’t wait!”

“Here it is,” he says, unwrapping the emerald from a cloth.

“Oh.  It’s…. It’s…. TOO BIG.”

“Well, yes, it’s the largest emerald on earth.  It would make a great necklace.”

“But nobody has an emerald this big!  Nobody wants an emerald necklace.  People love really small and short emeralds.  They love emerald earrings.  They’ve never seen this before.”

“Yes that’s what I said – You’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Well… I can’t take it.  Nobody will buy this from me.”

“Why not?”

“Well it’s too big, and too heavy.  It’s obviously not finished.”

“How would it be perfect for you?”

“Well, it’d be perfect if it was small, tiny even, and cut this way, and, well, not so large…”

“Oh, you mean – like earrings?”


So the digger takes a good look at his emerald.  It probably once belonged to the Pharaohs of Egypt.  It is the largest most amazing emerald the world has ever seen – or will ever see.  But he’s grown tired of walking all over town.  He’s getting hungry and worn-out.  He needs the money to pay for dinner.  So he goes home to think it over.

Late that night, the distraught digger goes deep into the middle of town to have a secret meeting with an old jewelry cutter.  The digger has one last look at the emerald, admiring its magnificence.  And he hands it over.  The emerald is cut in half, and half again, ending up in dozens of smaller, tiny pieces – cut exactly like the jeweler mentioned.

The next day, the digger returns to the emerald specialty Jeweler.

“What gorgeous gem did you bring me?” Asks the Jeweler.

“It’s exquisite,” says the digger, “It’s exactly what you want.  You’ve seen this every day. There’s nothing shocking here.  It’s usual, typical.  Traditional.”

“Oh, let me see it!  I can’t wait!”

“Here it is,” he says as he unwraps the cloth and dozens and dozens of tiny emeralds spill out into a lovely green pile.

“Oh.  They’re… They’re so small… No, this isn’t at all what I had in mind.”

“Well, but you said people want earrings.  You said people want short and small emeralds.”

“Yes, but we’re going out of business.  The diamond jeweler down the street has been taking all our clients.  Everyone wants a diamond.  So we’re getting rid of our inventory and stocking up on diamonds.  Do you have any diamonds to sell me?”

“No.  I’m an emerald digger.  I hunt for emeralds.”

“Well… I can’t take it.  Nobody will buy this from me.”

“I see.”

“Come back to see me when you’ve got a diamond.  Or better yet – where is that huge emerald you brought in the other day?”

“Well, I cut it up, to make it perfect for you, so you’d buy it.”

“You idiot!  You idiot!  You didn’t cut up that big emerald to make these smaller stones!  Did you?  We just got a call from the finest museum in the world.  They want to pay big bucks for an emerald like that one.  Because emeralds are going extinct!  It was one of the last remaining on earth!  What with all this diamond craze happening, it would’ve been the finest emerald anybody ever saw!  Oh, that’s too bad.  What a pity.  We really could have made a splash with that one.”

The End.


When it comes to design, there are no rules.  But there is such a thing as bad taste.  Bad taste on purpose can be a great way to communicate your product—especially if it’s a campy satire.  But if you’ve made a gothic horror or character drama, you don’t want to have crappy looking artwork.

There’s a tendency in the movie business to create Key Art that looks like the latest hit.  There’s also a tendency in the movie business to create Key Art that is totally misleading, just so that company can make a buck when the film is released.

My film FIRECRACKER could be cataloged as a Gothic horror.  But it is far from a horror film.  But the distribution company had the idea of marketing it as a horror film, with blood dripping off the letters and so forth.  That was a horrible idea.  I fought them, and got them to release the film with the Key Art I had designed, which communicated more honestly about the atmosphere and tone of the film.

My film CASSEROLE CLUB could be cataloged as a drama, or character study.  It has some campy moments (it takes place in 1969, so the costumes and art direction lend itself to looking campy even if the subject matter isn’t funny at all), and might have some sexual situations, but there really isn’t anything “sexy” about it.  The distributors for that film wanted to market the film as a “sexy” and titillating soft-core exposé.  I thought that would be a horrible mistake as well because the people expecting to see a sexy and soft-core movie would be totally disappointed.  But why did they want to market it that way?  Because sex sells.  That’s why.

My thinking is: if you want me to make and then sell you “Babes & Bikini Bingo: Summer Camp” or “Haunted Carnival, Part 3” I’m happy to do so, but don’t do something dishonest by marketing a movie that isn’t the movie.

When you design your movie poster, it’s important to remember that although different fonts can sometimes look cool, they do not look cool when you place them all together at the same time.  I always cringe when I see a design that features more than two or three different fonts.  It’s a dead giveaway that the designer just discovered Photoshop when you get the sense they had an urge to use EVERY font they could find.

I try and keep fonts simple and usually only use two.  One font is used for the main title, and another for actors names, blurbs, and other copy.  I try and make sure that the font I use for the main title is not used anywhere else in the design.  Using it more than once diminishes the impact of the main title.  So I always find a complementary font to use for everything else.  Remember: less is more.

With regards to the image or visual art, think about a memorable moment in the film and use it.  Before someone sees your movie, they don’t know what that image means, but after they see your movie, next time they see the artwork, it’ll remind them of your movie.  I try and avoid showing something if it’s giving too much away.  Like, if your movie is a murder mystery you probably wouldn’t want to show the killer on the cover holding a knife, because it would ruin the viewing experience.  But maybe if you wanted to throw off the viewer, you would show each character holding a weapon—then the viewer won’t know whodunit.

Saul Bass was a great designer of movie posters.  You might want to look him up.  His designs were far from the traditional Key Art you see today.  But, in this world of the Black Market Punk Rock Film Distribution, Key Art that is actual Artwork might be the perfect idea.


Opinions of your film will run all over the place.  You’ll see.  It is important to remember that a person’s opinion isn’t actually communicating to you about your movie, but rather, that person is sharing something about their personal inner self.

If the acting in your film is fantastic, and someone tells you that the acting is horrible, what they’re really telling you is why they didn’t connect to it, or that there’s something about their lives which kept them from liking it.  Maybe it hit too close to home?  Maybe they have a similar history to those characters and those old emotions, buried so deep they can’t even see them anymore, are coming to the surface subconsciously and preventing them from letting those feelings escape.  So they hate the acting.

One person will say they hate the music while another will say they love it.  One person will say the flow of the movie is trance like, while another will say it’s jarring.  One person will say that the writing seems forced, while others will say it feels genuine.

There will be sales agents who say these things too.  It’s pretty common for Hollywood in general to always find something about your movie they hate.  You’ll see.  There will be distribution companies, reps, film festivals, anybody and everybody, who will insist their ideas and opinions are fact—and the funny thing is—they will all contradict each other.

That happens every time I get ready to sell a film or promote it at festivals.  Every time.  And it will likely happen every time for you, too.  So my advice is to somehow learn how to let it bounce off of you.  Keep going.  There will be someone, somewhere, who loves it.  Prepare yourself for an endless barrage of rejection one after the next.  Eventually it’ll all work out.  Keep going until the movie is shared publicly with as many people as possible.

You’ll learn that after gathering everyone’s opinions, you’ll be surprised to see that every element in the entire film will be loved at least once, and also, hated at least once.  For every person who likes this, there will be another who hates the same thing and loves something else, which was hated by the other guy.  This is just how life works.

Learning all that has helped me identify when a project becomes true to my vision and perfect for me.  And that is all I can do.  That’s all anyone can do.

When I share rough cuts of my films with professional editors in Los Angeles and NYC, and other filmmakers, and well-known actors who have worked with some of the greatest directors of our time, their opinions don’t change my own perspective.  I share it with them out of curiosity.  Some people need to hear other people’s points of views in order to help define their own.  I’m not like that.  It could be because I’m more visual, instead of verbal or auditory.  I’m pretty sure it’s all about how the brain works and how each person processes information.

The people who need to hear what other people think so they know what to think are usually the types who hear something negative and try to “fix” it.  But, if they did that every time a new opinion came in, there would be nothing left.  It would be a big black void with some credits playing.  Although, even that could end up gone if someone else didn’t like the font.

Of course, I’m always fascinated in hearing other people’s perspectives of any movie I make.  I’m so proud of a film when I complete it, of course it feels good to feel the pats on the back.  It’s exactly like being a parent.  When your kid makes a good grade or wins a contest, it feels good.  And, likewise, when that kid is bullied, it hurts.  But bullies are out there, and there’s nothing we can do about it as parents.

I’m also aware that, like food, some people may not like the way it tastes.  That’s okay.  Critiques don’t teach me how to be truer to my vision.  They only teach me how to better appeal to the critic.  If I’ve made a risotto with white truffles, and the person eating it doesn’t like Italian food, there’s no way I’ll win them over.  If my objective is to win that person over, I’ll have to make what they like.

If my objective is to have the best Italian restaurant on the block, I need to focus on making the best Italian I can and be true to my vision, instead of worrying about the people who don’t like Italian and would rather eat Chinese.  And, likewise, if my intention is to create a New Wave Italian, classic Italian purists might not like it.

Be true to your own perspective.  And, keep going.


Over the years, as I’ve worked on different projects, and gained more knowledge, and experience, I’ve learned a great deal about perspective and how movies impact people.  I’ve also learned a lot about how writers, actors, and other creative people feel about things.

Once, I finished a feature with a certain leading actor who was simply riveting in his role.  But his perspective was different.  He thought his performance was horrible, and that he just sucked.  I was flabbergasted because his performance was so well done, I didn’t understand why he couldn’t see it.

I learned that his own internal feelings were affecting his ability to see the situation from way up in a hot air balloon, looking down.  And, it wasn’t until the accolades started coming in that he began to understand that he did a good job.  He even won a few awards.  Still, though, there’s an internal struggle that keeps him from appreciating what he did.  And I suspect he’ll carry that with him for many years, until he’s able to one day see what he did, and know what he did.

It’s the not-knowing that causes the greatest hurt inside.  For that leading actor, he wasn’t experienced enough to know what he saw.  So in that not knowing, his fears crept up and lingered.  On the flip-side, the experienced actors in that same movie knew what they saw, both in their own performances and also in that leading actor’s.  They assured him he was fantastic yet he didn’t really believe them.  Why?  My hunch is that he didn’t believe in his own perspective enough to trust theirs.  Or mine.  And so he remained in that self-doubt, and self-unknowing.

I sent the guy a note explaining to him that his performance was incredible.  He performed exactly how I wanted and directed him to do.  By telling me he thought his acting sucked, he was also telling me that he didn’t respect my vision and that he didn’t trust my perspective.

I told him that I understood he didn’t like, or didn’t understand, his performance, but that when he disagrees with my assessment that he did exactly what I wanted him to do, director to actor, it is incredibly insulting.  He apologized and told me he didn’t want me to take it that way, but it was too late.  He’d already said it.

It was his first time at the Rodeo.  I knew that, and I know that he probably won’t fully begin to understand the perspective of what a movie is until he’s done several more.  But, his fear that gripped him over the first one is probably a reason why he hasn’t done any others.

When I first started making movies I hadn’t fully grasped what it meant to hear the influx of opinions after I’d finished a movie.  It gave me a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress.  Until I learned that there was nothing I could do about how other people perceived things.  What I needed to do, instead, was stay true to my own perspective.  And by staying true to my eyes, my perspective and in my clarity, I have been able to build a confidence that it essential for any artist.

A film is a work of art.  And, like art, there will be people who love it and people who hate it and people who walk past it on the wall and feel nothing about it at all.

Be true to your own perspective.  And, keep going.

SELLING YOUR MOVIE: The First Rule (Part 2 of 2)

You’ll want to read Part 1 if you missed it.

Say you’ve shown a sales agent (lets call him Bill) your movie and he says, “I loved Act 2 & 3, so great I cried, but Act 1 is boring.”  Remember the First Rule and ask yourself, “What does that really mean?”  Meaning: What does that say about Bill? (Remember to always turn the question around and think about it with the First Rule in mind.)

Did he watch the film late at night?  Early on a Saturday morning.  Was he drunk or hung over?  Was he tired?  Was he awake?  Was he hungry?  Did he feel Act 1 was boring because he didn’t realize what the tone of the movie was?  Was it because he hadn’t seen the press kit?  Or perhaps it was because he simply didn’t care about character development and wanted it to start with a bang like Dark Knight.  Any of those situations are plausible.

Bill probably doesn’t understand that one of the reasons he loved Act 2 & 3 so much was because of Act 1.  If one starts watching a movie in Act 2, there is no kind of care for the characters and no emotional connection to them.  Which then would make Act 2 & 3 not work.  Unless you’re making Batman.

Perhaps Bill is incapable of getting to know someone, which would indicate that he would want to jump right into sex without even going on a date to test the person out.  (Yes, by using the First Rule, it’s possible to learn a lot about a person).

When someone comes back with feedback or notes, listen to them, kindly say, “that’s something to consider” and then immediately switch the topic to:

“So all that aside, who are the companies buying these types of movies?  Remember Wellspring?  They would’ve loved to release this movie.  Who are the other companies out there like Wellspring today?”

That’ll distract them, and pull them into what you need them for.  Now they’re giving you a list of companies like Wellspring! (Which should be written down in case you need to approach them on our own).

You do not need Bill’s advice on how to make a movie (though he will disagree).  You need his advice on how to find the right buyers and get into the right festivals.  Remember that.

Always remember to stay on topic when people like Bill offer feedback.  By saying “that’s something to consider” it puts the topic to rest and allows the rest of the conversation to continue.

Maybe a question like, “Do you think it’s important to find a buyer before a festival premiere?  Cassian Elwes told a friend of Steve Balderson’s the other day on the phone, that with social media as it is today it might be important to find a buyer before it’s ever screened publicly.  But how do you get a buyer without anyone seeing it?”

Move them away from “notes and feedback” and into the other.  Keep them engaged.  Keep them giving you what you want.

If they refuse to engage in any conversation beyond notes and feedback, tell them you have other interested parties and thank them for their time.

If Bill passes, simply smile and say thank you and hang up.  Then call the next sales agent on the list.  And repeat the process until one of them says yes.

As you continue your path, you’ll be inundated with everyone’s two cents on what he or she would do better, what they love, and what they would change.  But keep in mind, that unless that person is writing you a big fat check, or sending the jet to fly you to a screening, none of their feedback really matters at the end of the day.

And if they are sending the jet?  Tell them you’ll be happy to change something about your movie.  But my advice is to not do anything of the sort without a legal agreement in place.

That way, if they fail to deliver, you can get rid of them and revert to the movie to it’s original cut and move on to the next person.


I loved YouTube.  I really did.  It was always there for me, during thick and thin, and never once raised his voice.  But now, the bastard is beginning to piss me off.

Back in 2006 or 2007, I was invited by one of the founders or higher-ups at YouTube to become one of the first YouTube Partners.  As a YouTube Partner, I was suddenly able to post videos of unlimited length, and I was also able to monetize my videos by allowing advertising in them.  This was a fantastic opportunity, and I would receive checks from Google every now and again.

Then I was invited to showcase the feature-length documentary about me called “Wamego: Making Movies Anywhere” as one of the first YouTube Spotlight videos.  One of the founders or higher-ups was a fan of mine, and loved the doc, and was excited to share it.  I was a great and historical honor.

Life with YouTube went along fine until I realized a lot of other filmmakers were signing up with official channels and their brands were being used to name the channel.  When I signed up with YouTube, it had just started, so I used an email address I only engaged for online Christmas shopping.  So the name of my channel was called “pipistrello2004.”  There wasn’t an option to call it “Dikenga Films” at the time.

I contacted the Head Honcho YouTube guy who invited me to become a Partner and for the video Spotlight honor and he told me that there was no way I could just change the name of my channel.  That if I wanted to set up a new channel, I’d have to re-upload all my videos, lose the view count numbers, and all that.  I was bummed.  But, I decided to just keep the pipistrello2004 name as the Channel name and figured no one really cares anyway.

Life went on, new movies were made, new videos were uploaded, and then YouTube started fiddling around with Google, and then suddenly the whole site was different.  Google Adsense, links, emails, channels, names, networks, blah blah blah.  It was enough to confuse anyone, so I just stayed out of it.  (Sometimes its best to let your significant other just act like a brat so you can get on with dinner).

Recently, I realized that the Google checks had stopped coming.  And the other day, I noticed that some of my videos were not being monetized.  I went to the Video Manager, clicked “Claiming Options” (so I could claim copyright for my videos), and then selected the go-ahead for monetization.  And when I clicked “Save” I got a Server Error.  So my recent videos were not able to be copyright claimed or monetized.  Even though all my earlier videos from 2006-2008 were being monetized.

I went to my gmail account to search my history in order to locate the Head Honcho YouTube guy’s email address.  Then I noticed that YouTube’s owner, Google, for some reason, limits email history, and because I have so many messages going in/out each year, my gmail database does not go back far enough.  So I was unable to locate Head Honcho’s email address, which is why I can’t remember his name.

You might figure, as I did, that I could just call up YouTube customer service and tell them my issue and find a solution.  Well, guess again.  Being a special YouTube Partner might sound special, but it clearly doesn’t mean anything.

There is no such thing as YouTube customer service.  Not even for the Partners.  One has to post public messages on the help boards, or weed through endless, and totally worthless FAQ lists on the help pages.  And yes, while I can see that there is such a thing as a Frequently Asked Question, I’m pretty sure that my question isn’t frequent.  How often does YouTube get a question or concern from one of the original YouTube Partners who was able to monetize their videos BEFORE anyone else was able to?

I’ve tweeted @YouTube, and posted dozens of things to the Help Boards, and while certain people have been extremely nice – none of them work at YouTube and they can’t actually help me.

EVERY major company has a customer service phone line.  Well, EVERY company except YouTube and the stupid IMDB, which is owned by Amazon.

So it is with great sadness, I’m thinking about aborting YouTube all together and moving in with Vimeo, who has been very kind to me thus far.  I can post videos on Vimeo on demand and charge for them (brilliant!) and also there’s a thing called a “Tip Jar” that allows fans to donate something small to show their gratitude.  Plus, videos on Vimeo just look better.  She’s a real peach.

In this world of the new Black Market distribution of all things entertainment, I feel abandoned and betrayed by YouTube.  Perhaps one day I’ll get an email from a human being at YouTube who can help me.  But, until then, I’ll just be thankful I don’t work there.  Can you imagine how miserable the internal bureaucracy is in a conglomerate like that when its customers are going through it too?


When your film is complete and you sell it to a sales agent or distribution, you will need to deliver them a shit load of things—some of which are important and some of which are unnecessary.   They call these things “Deliverables.”  This is an article geared towards first-time filmmakers, but there are some tips here for veterans as well.

Years ago we filmmakers had to had to gather up and deliver twice the amount of crap we need to today, a lot of which cost thousands of dollars to produce.  Sometimes this made our projects go over-budget, into debt, and we had to borrow money to pay for them.  There wasn’t a way out of it, because if we wanted our films distributed, we needed to cough up all the deliverables they asked for.  Well, that isn’t totally true.  Sometimes a distributor will ask you for something that truly they do not need until they make a sale.

Let’s say your sound mixer didn’t do an M&E (separate tracks for music and effects, which makes it possible to dub dialogue in various languages overseas).  If you’re a newbie (like we all were at one point), you might panic (like I did) and spend several thousand dollars on creating an M&E simply because they ask for it on the list of Deliverables.  My advice is to save the money.  Tell your sales agent or distributor that you’re happy to pay for an M&E when the time comes, so long as the sale will cover the cost of making it.

If a distributor in Europe wants to buy the rights to your film for release in Germany, say, and they want an M&E so they can dub the film in German, make sure the sale of those rights exceed the cost of making an M&E.  Or, tell them they’ll have to release it with subtitles (which might make them reject the deal and not buy your movie).  It’s a risk, but in my experience, I’ve never had a deal not go through under these circumstances.

Likewise, when a distributor asks me for “Textless” movie or trailer files, I say NO.  That means they can change the title.  And if they do want to change your title, chances are it’ll be changed to something pretty lame and embarrassing.

Other Deliverables are: photocopies or scans of actor’s agreements, contracts with crew, copies of music and score licenses, time code charts of music cues, dialogue transcripts (of spoken dialogue, not what was written in your script), proof of copyright, stills, behind the scenes footage, and lots of other stuff.  I get why they want all this information, but gathering it takes time.  My advice is to gather it along the way so that when it comes time to deliver your Deliverables, you’ll have everything ready.

Never be afraid of saying you don’t want to deliver something.  If they ask for unmixed sound files, for instance, I never give it to them.  Because then they’ll have the actual sound files to certain effects and sound design that was created specifically for your project.  One of my favorite sound designers, Paul N. J. Ottosson, did the design and mix for several of my films.  He won the Oscar for Sound Design he did for THE HURT LOCKER.  When it was time to deliver Deliverables for my movies Paul worked on, there was no way I was going to share his secrets.  It just felt totally wrong to me.  So in my agreement with the distributor, I simply took a black marker and crossed out those items on the Deliverables list.  You can do this too.  Worst-case scenario is they come back and tell you it’s a “must” or else they won’t buy your movie.  My hunch is they won’t care.  I never had a problem with that.

Here is a list of Deliverables taken from one of my distribution deals.



If the Motion Picture is non-English language and an English subtitled version is delivered, a separate master with no subtitles must also be delivered in each of the following categories.

COMPANY shall perform one quality control check of each delivered master at Producer’s expense – if the QC report is not from the following labs: Visual Data, Fotokem, ElectroFilms

Digibetas should be direct down-convert of the approved HD master; otherwise, QC report is required for each tape master.

If the material does not pass the QC check, the Licensor must repair the submitted material so that it does pass QC, or Distributor has the option to terminate the foregoing Agreement or withhold payment for rectification.

1. Program Video Masters: Required delivery of original version (theatrical version if Motion Picture had a theatrical release):

(a) Firewire 800 or USB3 Hard Drive of final QC’d HD Feature Film, textless background and trailer. 1920×1080 23.98 ProRes HQ self-contained Quicktime file with correct audio configuration embedded (with M&E tracks and 5.1 sound).  Textless background and M&E should apply to Trailer as well.

(b) Bonus Material and Electronic Press Kit (EPK): all bonus footage for DVD release, such as deleted scenes, outtakes, director’s commentary, interviews, “making of” footage, etc.

If EPK is available, it should be no longer than 5 minutes, must have separate M&E (for dubbing), for worldwide use in all media, with waivers from the persons interviewed in form satisfactory to Distributor’s legal requirement.

(c) Check Disks: One (1) for NTSC and for PAL: DVD with visual time code output directly from the masters.

(d) DVD master: Three (3) NTSC DVD master, MPEG-2, 720×480 main program only without test pattern, count, menu, encryption, or extra material. With one original language only (no multiple language tracks). If the program is in language other than English, it should have English subtitle, burned in with MPEG-2 video track (TS file). It should start playing once hit play. Audio code should be AC-3, Stereo 192 Kilobits/second CBR.

Textless Title Backgrounds: Textless material shall be provided 60 seconds after program for all masters for all parts of the program which contain electronically or photo-chemically generated written information. This material shall include (without limitation) any fades, dissolves, blow-ups, hold-frames, or multiple exposures found in the original texted version. Textless background from the body of the program must include 5 frame handles on both sides of the cut and scene to scene color correction must be applied.

Trailer: Trailer, 16X9, 1.78, Title Safe for 4×3 shall be provided :60 seconds after program and program texless title backgrounds on all masters. Scene-To-Scene Color Corrected Direct Video

Transfer Master of the Trailer for the Motion Picture. Trailer shall not contain any self-promotional language (i.e. release date, visit myspace page, Buy DVD at…, etc.). Textless Trailer Background materials shall be “attached” to the tail end of Trailer, appropriately slated, and shall be located one minute after the conclusion of the trailer. Audio shall be configured as follows:
Ch 1 Stereo Mix Left
Ch 2 Stereo Mix Right
Ch 3 Music & Effect Left
Ch 4 Music & Effect Right

B. 100% PASS CERTIFIED QC REPORT: QC Report of the master(s) delivered to  should be completed by certified labs including VisualData, ElektroFilm or FOTOKEM.


1. Color Stills and Photographs: At least Fifty (50) high-res (300 DPI) JPEG images on Disk. The images shall provide comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the production of the Motion Picture, including different scenes, single and combination shots of the director, principal actors and behind the scenes coverage. Producer shall deliver a statement by Producer that all such photographs and transparencies have been approved by all individuals with approval rights regarding such photographs and transparencies.

All photographs shall be suitable for reproduction for advertising and publicity purposes and shall be cleared for use in all markets, all media in perpetuity, or at least for the Term of the foregoing Agreement.

2. Key Art: Delivery of high-resolution (300 DPI), layered key art on Disk or FTP site.

3. DVD Packaging: If the Motion Picture has had a US DVD release, delivery of a minimum of 20 copies of the DVD packaging for the Motion Picture, plus layered artwork for the DVD cover.

4. Flyer Artwork: Delivery of any flyer artwork that has been created if different from #2 above, including textless transparency, DVD, photostat of title treatment and any additional text if different from #2 above, and access to additional images and backgrounds used on the flyer.

5. Presskit: Delivery of a complete presskit, both printed and electronically, including synopsis, biographies of key cast and crew, press releases and press clippings.

6. Final Continuity Script/Spotting List: Final, complete, verbatim continuity script of the Motion Picture in EXCEL or WORD format. The final continuity script should be an accurate transcription of the Motion Picture master with corresponding running time code referencing specific photographic action, characters and transcribed audio.

7. Screeners: (30) Region-free DVD-R [minus-R] screeners with “SCREENING PURPOSE ONLY” or Visible timecode burnt onto screeners. Please, no contact information. Provide in a spindle without label.

8. Digital Trailer: 60-90 seconds Uncompressed QuickTime or Pro ResM, 16×9, Title-safe 4×3, 720×480 resolution. Sound level should be at 0.db and not overmodulated. Also provide downsized Web resolution H264 Quicktime file 320X240.


1. Final Main & End Screen Credits: One (1) complete typewritten copy of the final main and end credits of the Picture as they appear on the original negative together with original art work and photographic units used to manufacture the titles, and electronically as e-mail attachment. (Microsoft Word Format)

2. Credit Block: One (1) complete typewritten copy of the credit block that will appear on poster or on back of DVD cover, and electronically as e-mail attachment (Microsoft Word Format)

3. SAG and/or Any Union Releases

E. LEGAL DOCUMENTS (Deliver Electronically)

1. Certified Statement with Synopsis: One (1) complete typewritten copy on  approved form ONLY including important information about the films (including Picture title, year of production, genre, original language, director, MPAA rating (if available), name of production , synopsis, etc.) and Restrictions on photo, dubbing, subtitling, distribution, and Paid Ad Credit and contractual requirement.

2. Music Cue Sheets: One (1) copy of the music cue sheet for the Motion Pictures and (1) copy of the Trailer(s) on COMPANY’s approved form ONLY showing the particulars of all music synchronized with the Motion Picture (and the Trailer(s)) as follows: title of each composition, composer(s) (i.e., words and music), publisher, copyright owner, percentage of residual, composer(s) performing rights society affiliations (ASCAP or BMI), how used (visual or background, instrumental and/or vocal), and film footage and running time of each music cue. If pre-existing master recordings are used in the soundtrack, include the name(s) of performer(s) (if applicable) and name(s) of record album(s) and cut(s) used. Music Cue Sheets should be delivered electronically.

3. Music Licenses: One (1) copy of each music synchronization, performance, and mechanical license covering each musical composition embodied in the Motion Picture/Trailer(s) and which musical composition is not in the public domain, and evidence of payment in full. Required for all songs in Music Cue Sheet.

4. Composer Agreement: Delivery of one (1) copy of the fully executed composer agreement. For the original music in the Motion Picture, the composer agreement must convey to the Licensor the right to use the music, lyrics or recordings, as applicable, in the Motion Picture, in whole or in part, in all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe in perpetuity without payment of any further compensation for the grant of such rights and shall include the right to use the music, lyrics or recordings, as applicable, in connection with the advertising, promotion and publicity of the Motion Picture, in all media now known or hereafter devised, in or out of context of the Motion Picture, subject only to payment of fees to applicable performing rights societies

5. Copies of Acquired Footage/Stills Licenses: Copies of all stock footage/stills licenses, if any, and evidence of payment.

6. Chain-of-Title

(a) Rights Agreements: Clearly legible copies of all contracts, options, option payments, assignments, licenses, quitclaims, certificates of authorship, written permissions, powers of attorney and other written documents relating to the acquisition of all rights (and reflecting a complete chain of title) in connection with the Motion Picture indicating how Licensor came to own the rights in such Picture. IF the name of copyright owner of the picture is different from one that signs agreement with , an authorization letter or transfer letter is required.

(b) Copyright Registration: Copyright certificate of (1) Motion Picture and (2) Screenplay duly stamped by the applicable Copyright Office; provided, however, that if the stamped registration statement has not yet been received by Licensor, Licensor shall deliver a copy of the application for copyright registration of the Motion Picture together with copies of Licensor’s letters of transit, and proof of receipt by the Copyright Office, and proof of payment of all requisite fees.

7. Certificates of Origin: At least six (6) executed and notarized originals of the Motion Picture’s Certificate of Origin in the form attached hereto.


The following items may become requirements, but are not required in the initial “Basic Delivery Materials.”  reserves the right to request from the Producer at a later date if needed.

Producer shall provide within reasonable timeframe, at Producer’s costs, to fulfill its delivery obligation.

1. One (1) 16×9 PAL, 1.33 Digital Betacam full frame videotape master down converted from the Hi Definition 16×9 1:78 master with English stereo mix on Channels 1 & 2 and stereo music and effects on Channels 3 & 4. The PAL master videotape must contain continuous EBU time code with VITC on lines 19 and 21. All blacks must be pulled up and scene to scene color correction must be applied. Textless material must be included in accordance with section C. 2. below.

2. One (1) 16×9, 1.33 NTSC Digital Betacam full frame videotape master down converted from the Hi Definition 16×9 1:78 with English stereo mix on Channels 1 & 2 and stereo music and effects on Channels 3 & 4. The NTSC master videotape must contain continuous SMPTE dropframe time code with VITC on lines 12 and 14. All blacks must be pulled up and scene to scene color correction must be applied. Textless material must be included in accordance with section

C. 1.

3. Close Caption Master(s) or .cap file. This item is required BY LAW for US distribution

4. Copyright and Title Reports:

a. A title report from Dennis Angel or Thomson & Thomson – accepted clearance  confirming the availability of the title of the Motion Picture for exploitation in all media, dated no more than three (3) months prior to the date of the attached Agreement, or a copy of the title report submitted to the E&O insurance carrier.

b. A Copyright Research report from Dennis Angel or Thomson & Thomson consistent with Licensor’s representations, warranties and agreements contained in the Agreement and dated no more than three (3) months prior to the date of the distribution Agreement.

5. E&O Insurance Certificate: A Certificate of Insurance in form and substance acceptable to Distributor’s insurance carrier, naming COMPANY and their respective subsidiaries and affiliates, and each of their officers, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, attorneys and employees as additional insured and loss payees and evidencing Licensor’s policy of “Errors and Omissions Insurance” in respect of the Motion Picture, which insurance conforms in all respects to the following requirements:

Coverage not less than $3,000,000 for each claim and $5,000,000 aggregate for all claims (with no material exclusions and a policy deductible no greater than $25,000) and shall be maintained at all times during the License Term (but at a minimum of three (3) years). At Distributor’s request, the insurance carrier will at no additional cost include any other person(s) designated by Distributor as additional named insured and issue to such person(s) a separate Certificate of Insurance evidencing the foregoing Errors and Omissions Insurance coverage. Licensor’s Errors and Omissions Insurance policy may not be modified, revised, or canceled without twenty (20) business day’s prior written notice to Distributor.

6. MPAA Rating Certification: A paid rating certificate from the Motion Picture Code and Rating Administration of America (if US rights are included and if the Motion Picture is the type of picture that is customarily rated).