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THE FILM PRODUCER Page 8

View Spec Screenplays
 Distribution and Advertising 
Once a picture has finally been completed and is ready for the viewing public, the responsibility of selling the film remains. For some reason, distribution of a film has always been a tough area for a producer to effectively participate in. The views of a producer are generally not well received by distributors. The best thing a producer can do in this area is to be honest. Because the producer has been with the film from start to finish, their knowledge of the film is much greater than that of the marketing agent. In this respect, the producer can hopefully offer a more effective sales approach for the market. 

Studios normally have numerous films in the works and gaining support for a film even after it is made may be difficult. Even if it is a wonderful film, if no one hears about it, it will not be successful at the box office. A producer should do whatever they can to get their film marketed correctly. It is very important for a producer to remain involved in the distribution process of the film. The producer is once again the liaison, the middleman between the people who make the film and the people who market and distribute the film.

Major film distributors (a.k.a. the film studios) receive the bulk of the distribution receipts from their films. The studios generally negotiate with exhibition chains (such as AMC or Century theaters) along with independent theaters (privately owned) for a split of all receipts brought in by their films. One of the most common splits for a major motion picture is 90/10, in which the studio gets 90% of the receipts brought in, while the theater receives the remaining 10%. 

Over time the theaters' profits will increase while the studios profits will decrease. In the initial stages of release, theaters will compete with each other for specific films by bidding a split amount and showing duration (# of weeks the picture will be shown at the theater) of the film. Films that are considered major blockbusters will be released in greater quantities and in more theaters across the country on opening weekend to try and bring in the maximum gross possible.
As with everything else, the more active and aggressive the producer is in promoting the advertising the better. 
An area of ever increasing importance for negotiations of a film, and an area in which a producer can become very involved is that of commercial "tie-ins." These tie-ins include everything from t-shirts to toys to books, records, posters, dolls and games. Producer's negotiations with these distributors can help to further increase the profits of a successful film.

For a producer who seeks to assist in the marketing of the film, advertising is one of the most critical components. The more information the producer knows about the process the better. As with everything else, the more active and aggressive the producer is in promoting the advertising the better. From the beginning of the marketing and advertising process, the producer should have in mind what social groups the film will appeal to most. 

He should be very knowledgeable about the film as a whole, and who will bring about the biggest response to it. With all this in mind, the advertising of the film can take on a much more focused approach, which will save both time and money. On the other hand, a producer must try and find a way to cross the lines drawn by all social groups; the more people that go and see the film the better. There is a fine line to walk when determining the advertising that will be most beneficial.

As with all aspects of the film, studios will also try and impose a time deadline on advertising. Unfortunately time deadlines create restraints on the amount of revising that can be done. There have been many instances when advertisers have presented their ads or movie trailers to producers without time to make changes. Producers must try and work with these deadlines and make sure to oversee the work as it is in progress. This way, when the deadline arrives, the advertisement will not need revisions.
Foreign distributors can be of great importance to producers even before a film has gone to production... they will give the producer a cash advance on the film for distribution rights once the film is released.
One last area that a producer must be well aware of is foreign distribution of their films. In recent years, foreign revenues (those theaters outside the United States and Canada) have accounted for greater than 50 percent of the total gross of a film. 

Foreign distributors can be of great importance to producers even before a film has gone to production. In this case, distributors will give the producer a cash advance on the film for distribution rights once the film is released. Distributors can also make advances after the film is produced. In either case, the producer can use this money for financing the film, and the distributor will be reimbursed from the producers' share of the proceeds the movie will bring in.

Foreign distribution is an ever-increasing benefit for the producer. The producer, whether independent or studio-based, should maximize whatever foreign means made available but should make sure to have individual contact with each distributor from each individual country. This may seem like an overwhelming task, but every country will have a different approach to distribution and their profit margin, and therefore should be treated on an individual bases. If done correctly it is possible that foreign distribution could ultimately account for a majority of the films' profits.

Gorham Kindem, writer of The moving image, sums up the role of the producer in a few simple words. He states, "Producers are risk takers, who seize an idea, run with it, and convince others to follow them." Producers are the film industries' building blocks. They can come from anywhere and don't need any particular training to get in the game (other than the ability to socialize well). 

They are always thinking and trying to sell a product, and always looking for that one idea, that one script which strikes a chord. Many producers begin their career as somebody's assistant. Others come from other areas of the industry, such as directing, acting, managing, law, etc. Others start out with simply a dream of being in the industry and money they received from family or another source. 

In any case, to be a producer means you must have confidence, perseverance and a willingness to give your all to the project. The producer is the one who is there before the beginning and after the end.

References

Goldman, William 2000. Which Lie did I Tell?
Kindem, Gorham 1987. The Moving Image. Production Principles and Practices
Lazarus, Paul N 1992. The Film Producer
Linson, Art 1998. Pound of Flesh: Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood
McHugh, Kenna 1999. Breaking into Film
Pink, Sydney 1989. So you want to make movies: My Life as an Independent Film Producer
Random House Inc, NYNY 1999. Movies and Money
Resnik, Gail and Trost, Scott 1996. All you need to know about the Movie and TV Business
Seger, Linda and Whetmore, Edmard Jay 1994. From Script to Screen

FilmMakers recommendations

 

Which Lie did I Tell? by Goldman, William
The Moving Image. Production Principles and Practices by Kindem, Gorham
The Film Producer by Lazarus, Paul N 
Pound of Flesh: Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood by Linson, Art
Breaking into Film : Making Your Career Search a Blockbuster by Kenna McHugh
So you want to make movies: My Life as an Independent Film Producer by Pink, Sydney
Movies and Money by Random House Inc, NYNY

All you need to know about the Movie and TV Business by Resnik, Gail and Trost, Scott

From Script to Screen : The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking by Linda Seger, Edward Jay Whetmore

 

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