Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The website - run by the Film Distributors' Association - contains useful info on the process of film distribution in the UK (the stage after production, involving marketing and negotiating with exhibitors to gain theatrical (and, later, DVD, pay-TV, premium channels and free-to-air screening) release. They publish a pdf guide on this.

This doc briefly summarises some key points on distribution.

Some key points:
  • look closely at the issue of distribution; the doc above gives a brief summary of this, with links for further reading; I'll add to this if I get time (distribution co's pay a flat fee and/or a % of potential profits for the rights to sell a production co's film to exhibitors - cinema, TV, DVD etc. Distributors pay for the marketing of a film, not the production co - tho' WT are unusual as they insist in being involved in the marketing campaign - use BJDiary as a case study, but also ref Love Actually)
  • do focus your answer on the case study of WT, but put this into context with reference to Warp Film/X as a more typical Brit production co (working on much smaller budgets than even WT's 'Indie' arm, WT2; social realist films; genre films 'with a twist'; working with Optimum Releasing and Film4/C4 for distribution; tho WT was sim to Warp when it started out) AND some specific comparison too to a Hollywood producer (use Universal, obviously part of the NBC-Universal conglomerate)
  • how do these sometimes giant corporations go about targeting an audience? Marketing is key to this (BJD cleverly taps into a wide aud thru its soundtrack etc), but so is the use of stars (Richard Dyer's star system), setting/accent (focus on white, S.Eng, m-class?), and the trend of hybrid genres (rom-COMs reach out to males thru comedy aspect; LActually makes this explicit with its 'ironic' sexist music vid with Bill Nighy, a parody of Robert Palmer's 1980s 'Addicted to Love' music video. For a company like Warp X, use of stars generally won't be an option; they focus on working within familiar genres - eg the slasher Donkey Punch taps into the wide fanbase of horror/slasher movies, featuring a 'final girl' - a tough, resourceful female character who overcomes the typically male killer - to reach out to a female audience for this primarily male genre
  • British and Indie production companies will typically begin initial development then try to sign advance distribution deals that will in effect finance the production. WT used this strategy very successfully to build the company in its earliest days, before the tie-ups with first PolyGram then NBC-Universal. Slumdog Millionaire failed to win any financial backing in the US initially, British companies Celador and FilmFour stumping up most of the initial development funding, but did manage to get the last $5m of its budget by pre-selling distribution rights to to Warner (having rejected a $2m bid from Fox Searchlight - see wiki)
  • this route to funding a production is becoming more difficult, with distributors increasingly reluctant - or simply unable - to make payments in advance of production being completed (see Gdn article)

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