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Why isn’t your great film being released?

So you have made your brilliant indie film- scrounged, begged and borrowed to shoot it. Your mum made the coffee on set. You persuaded a good actor to take part for hardly any payment. The DOP was a friend, but has  just won several awards at film school. The movie looks wonderful. Then you edited the rushes on your laptop. You’re pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Follow up viewings beyond cast and crew (well they are biased let’s face it), have also brought a warm response.
You always had hoped your film would get a release in a cinema, TV or on video.  Navigating the complex world of distribution you actually manage to get a couple of distributors to view your cinematic baby.  They are enthusiastic about the story, acting and direction, but there is a problem. They expect you as the producer to provide a whole long list of paperwork and materials- none of which you have.  Your film is grounded- no distribution deal. Al this could have been avoided by appropriate planning and production. Remember the movie business is rights centred industry- make sure you are right on the rights you hold!

What kind of delivery materials will they expect you to deliver? 

Film, Sound and Video Elements including text and textless copies of the HD master video (possibly in NTSC and PAL formats and TV and non TV safe aspect ratios) i.e. many copies!

Copies of Music & Effects tracks
Music Cue Sheets
Publicity & Advertising Materials including Trailers, photographs, releases and clearances, Written press kit, Electronic Press Kit
Credit Items such as Titles, Cast & Crew list
Errors & Omissions Insurance
Documents – Chain of Title, Certificate of Nationality, French CNC if applicable, Contracts, Technical Data Sheet, Clip Licenses, Final Production Cost Statement, Dialogue List etc.


So despite managing to get distributors to see a DVD of your epic you discover you can’t get a proper release. Why? You didn’t do a proper budget or factor in the deliverable items and paperwork on rights and clearances required for a mainstream release.  The distributor won’t pay for them to be done. This is not as uncommon an occurrence as you might think- and it is why a lot of indie films can’t be distributed, even with a strong film.
You, not the distributor, will have to provide the “deliverables” - the administration and materials that allow the distributor to service their clients and know that you have all the required rights for them to licence the film, and at this late stage, you for instance, have  discovered  that some of the paperwork you simply won’t be able to get. Good planning would have solved the problem.

You have used an unclearable piece of music in the soundtrack. You should have got it checked before using it in the film and while you can replace the track with something that is clearable (despite the directors weeping noises), that means you will have to do the dub all over again. You have no funds for that and so your film may never see the light of day.

Please note this list above is not definitive – to be sure of covering everything you need you need a proper professional budget that fits the project, and have a comprehensive list of documents that prove you as the production entity actually own all the rights to the script, performances, directing, music and so on that allow the film to be released by protecting the distributor. Next time; more on Chain of title and valid permission documents.

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