by Jerome Courshon on Jul 20, 2009
Producers and directors who are
submitting to film festivals with a completed movie, are frequently queried by
Sales Agents and Producer Reps (short for "Producer's
Representative"). Mostly Producer Reps, but some Sales Agents too.
Why does this happen? Once you've
been selected by a particular festival, these reps/agents get a list of films
to be shown, accompanied by contact info on the filmmakers. Then some of you
get calls or emails.
So let's discuss the distinction
between these two types of sales people, as I’ve found many filmmakers don't
understand the difference -- and there is a BIG difference.
"Sales Agents" are those
people who work for (or own) a sales company -- frequently referred to as a
"foreign sales company" -- and this company will work to sell your
movie to the international territories outside the U.S. & Canada. What they
actually do is license your movie to another company from a territory, say, a
German company for Germany, who will then handle it for that territory. And
this is done for as many territories as the sales agent can license to.
"Producer Reps" are those
who will work on selling your movie to a domestic (U.S.) distributor. Some of
them will license the movie right from you and then go sell it to whoever they
can domestically. And some of them will just have a contract with you stating
the percentage they earn when a deal is secured.
Sometimes Producer Reps will also
act as Sales Agents, and vice versa. And over recent years, some Producer Reps
are referring to themselves as Sales Agents. (Those that do this are attempting
to avoid the negative connotations associated with being a Producer Rep.)
Ultimately the vernacular used doesn't matter; what matters is, who is
approaching you and what are they wanting to sell to? The U.S. and
Canadian markets? The markets outside the U.S. & Canada? Or all of the
General rule of thumb: This is not
an absolute, but you don’t want to sign a contract with either one of these
people for the whole World. Sales Agents are not that good at securing domestic
deals (with some exceptions, of course), and most Producer Reps are pointless
for the international territories. All a Producer Rep can do for the
international territories is hook you up with a Sales Agent for this -- which
you can do yourself! It’s not that difficult. Really. It is not difficult if
you have a decent movie or it's the right genre. If you let a Producer Rep hook
you up with a Sales Agent, then you're just giving up another slice of your pie
to another middleman. (Not to confuse you, but the main exception to splitting
up your domestic and international rights will be when a major studio comes
calling, because most will want worldwide rights and won't accept only some of
So it's important to know this
distinction, and important to know who you've been approached by and what they
want to do. You don't want to: a) Contract and lock up rights with someone that
won't do you any good for certain markets; and b) Contract and lock up rights
with someone who will just be a second middleman eating more of your pie.
At some point in your journey, a
Sales Agent is absolutely necessary to get your movie sold into the international
territories. Can you get some overseas markets sold on your own? Yes, it’s
possible but not the easiest thing to do. Overseas buyers tend to rely on the
relationships they have with the Sales Agents they know, and are not inclined
to make one-time deals with unknown filmmakers. This area of the market is one
where relationships actually mean something.
On the other hand, is a Producer Rep
necessary to get your movie sold domestically? Absolutely not, and in fact they
often do more harm than good by shotgunning your movie along with 20 others to
everyone they know. Frequently there's no care or personal attention given --
that many movies require to be successfully sold in the U.S.
Also, relationships mean less here.
Domestic sales are more about the product -- the movie you've made -- and less
about who's selling it. Many Producer Reps would have you believe otherwise,
namedropping companies such as Lions Gate or Miramax that you've heard of to
get you to sign with them. They’ll say “We have relationships with them.” And
while they're promoting their "relationships," I've got some
incredible oceanfront property in Malibu to sell you for $50 an acre!
Jerome Courshon is an award-winning Producer/Writer, whose
critically acclaimed first movie “God, Sex & Apple Pie” was released by
Warner Bros. His challenging journey to achieve meaningful distribution led to
his creating a groundbreaking seminar in 2006, “THE SECRETS TO DISTRIBUTION:
Get Your Movie Distributed Now!”
Since then, Jerome has
assisted hundreds of filmmakers with securing real distribution through his
seminars, speaking engagements, and consultations. He has been profiled in the Los Angeles Times, interviewed on iFilm.com (now Spike.com) and Film Threat,
and has written articles on film distribution for MovieMaker Magazine, Indie
Slate Magazine, and Film Festival
Today among others.
more information on Jerome’s seminar, visit:
http://www.Distribution.LA” Secrets To