Marketing Minushi

Since the Minushi DVD release I’ve gotten some questions about the hows and whys of going with the self-publishing route. So I thought I’d give some background on what went on last year as I shopped Minushi around for the best distribution solution.

To completely over-simplify; there seem to be three tiers of media distribution: The biggies, the indies and the scroungers. Essentially three levels of middle men between you, the filmmaker and your audience. And I’m talking about DVD/TV distributors/sales agents here, not theatrical distributors whom I didn’t even bother considering for Minushi.

So what I did was I prepared a Demo DVD of as much of Minushi as I had finished at the time (including a snappy trailer (no more than two minutes long)) and a little package to send out to as many of these distributors as I thought would be interested. Some companies are pretty genre specific, others are open to almost anything - do your homework, it’ll save you time and money.

Now the biggies are generally protected by a fortress of incommunicado. You’ll be lucky to ever get a name or number or email address out of them and even if you do those execs are likely protected by their legal department’s force-field of no-unsolicited material. And the only people able to surmount these defenses are called “agents” - and if you had one, you wouldn’t be wasting your time reading this.

On the other end of the spectrum are the scroungers. Unlike the impenetrable biggies the scroungers seem like a dream come true - at first. They LOVE your movie, they can’t wait to add it to their roster, they’re sending you papers right away! Too good to be true. Here’s why: I discovered in my research (did I mention that research can save you a lot of time and money? Add pain and aggravation to that list) that there’s a real racket being run by some of these lowest tier distributors. It involves what are called film markets. Markets are basically trade shows for distributors and like any trade show they cost money to attend. If you’re not careful with the contract you sign with your distributor (and contracts are a whole other post - or even website - altogether) then you may wind up turning any profit your film may see over to your distributor’s hotel, restaurant, air-travel, (and so on) expenses. When you hear about filmmakers who have a movie in stores but they’ve never seen a dime for their efforts, I’ll bet this is why. Scrounging distributors who take on as many low-level titles as they can get to use what meager profits those titles will bring in to sell the couple higher-level titles they’ve got in their roster. At least - that’s what the word on the street is.

The indies are the tier sandwiched in between these two worlds and I have to admit they were a pretty receptive bunch. These are smaller distribution companies (you’ll see their names printed on the backs of indie movies in your local video store) who generally will have contact information readily available on their websites. I had a pretty good success rate at getting my Minushi Demo screened by these indies. And I don’t mind sharing that most of them passed on it. You have to keep in mind when your film gets rejected, this isn’t because it’s a bad film - Minushi has, after all, thousands of fans online and that’s all the proof I need. Reasons a distributor will pass on a movie can be wide ranging (not the right fit; concerns over marketing; they already have a movie about giant alien robots) but those reasons have more to do with the distributor than they do with the movie. None the less I did enter negotiations with a handful of these indies.

Now I’m not a lawyer, and if you can afford this kind of perk then it’s probably a good idea to get one if you’re actually talking to a distributor. That said - there’s a lot of information about this kind of stuff out there and I’ve been dealing with distribution contracts of one kind or another for years and bottom line: If something doesn’t feel right then it’s probably wrong.

In the end the offers being made for Minushi just didn’t feel right. They felt to restrictive and I really just wanted to make sure my film got out there and didn’t get shelved: Just because you sign with a distributor, does NOT mean your movie is ever going to get distributed; but it might mean it’s suddenly locked away by one company even if another one (a better one) comes along later.

And besides the industry is facing such an upheval right now that it’s anybody’s bet what’s going to happen next as far as distribution and media goes - and wouldn’t you rather have all your rights intact to see what does happen next? I would. And I did. And along came DVD on demand. A solution that allowed me to get my film out and available online where it found its audience in the first place.

But yeah, all that said, if one of the biggies ever does call I’ll probably sell out faster than a Police reunion concert.

T

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