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.


This article is part of an ongoing series of articles solely about distribution.  A lot of filmmakers are confused about the realities of distribution, and rightly so.  I’ve been making and selling movies internationally for over a decade, and I’m still learning about all the secrets and tricks The Industry hides from us.  Part of the problem is that no one shares this information with each other, both the good and bad, so I’m making it my mission to do so.  Openly, honestly, and hopefully clearly.

When your film is ready for release, there are a variety of ways to get it out into the world.  There are aggregators and sales reps, producer’s reps and distributors, foreign sales agents and a variety of “middle men” who can help you.

Today we’re going to talk about the differences between a Distributor and an Aggregator.

A Distributor is a person (or company) that takes your movie and gets it out to retailers like Blockbuster, RedBox, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, cable and satellite, on-demand, and other VOD platforms.  Aggregators are the people (or companies) who Distributors use to assist them.

Filmmakers have caught on, and now more and more are approaching Aggregators directly instead of using a Distributor.  And it makes sense.  Aggregators will keep their commissions and marketing expenses before paying dues to the Distributor, who in turn will keep their commissions and marketing expenses, before paying their dues to you (or before paying their dues to your Sales Agent, who in turn will deduct their commissions and marketing expenses, before paying you).  So why not cut out all the middle men and hire an Aggregator from the get go?

It isn’t that easy.  In fact, it becomes even more complicated.

If it were easy for filmmakers to get their films to an Aggregator directly, half The Industry would be out of a job.  Distributors would become obsolete.  This will be the eventual outcome, but in the meantime, Distributors everywhere are trying to hold on to their jobs.  So, naturally, Distributors are making it appealing (financially or otherwise) for Aggregators to work with them, instead of you and me.  Today, Aggregators aren’t set up for one-on-one relationships with filmmakers.  As technology advances and makes it possible for more films to be made, the strain will continue to weigh on Aggregators who don’t morph their company structures to suit.

Any musician can post their music to iTunes and sell directly to their fan base.  As of today, iTunes is not open for any filmmaker to upload their movies.  Right now filmmakers must use an iTunes approved Aggregator in order to upload their movies.  There is a question of bandwith, naturally, but in a few years that won’t be a concern.  My hunch is that the moment iTunes opens its doors to filmmakers, directly, as they did with musicians directly, that is the end of the Distributor and potentially the end of the Aggregator.

If Aggregators are to survive, they’ll need to morph into a kind of Distributor, which essentially, brings an entirely new dilemma.  Then there are the Aggregators out there who will take on any project, no matter what it is, for a fee.

I make movies for my audiences.  I do not make them to appeal to Industry executives, Distributors or Aggregators.  And I’m not going to waste money paying an Aggregator to do something today I’ll be able to do without them tomorrow.

If an Aggregator or Distributor tells you there isn’t a market for one of your films because they didn’t like the acting—or whatever excuse they’ll use if they didn’t like it or understand it—ignore them.  Get your movie out there anyway you can.  There are VOD platforms you can get on besides iTunes.  And when the day comes these VOD platforms are open to filmmakers directly, you won’t need to worry about an Aggregator or Distributor every again.  You’ll be able to provide your product directly to your audience.  Just like the music industry.

Our fan bases and audiences around the world don’t care who releases our movies, or what companies have been involved in getting our movies to their desktop, TV or iPad.  Our audiences just care that they can watch whatever they wish… in whatever form they want.