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Sales Agents in film industry.
For the purposes of this article we are just going to talk about the shorts sales agents. A sales agent is an individual or a company who will try to sell your film to as many networks across the globe as possible.
You are most likely to meet a sales agent at the various film festivals. However it should be noted that you will probably meet the most experienced sales agents, and a greater number, at the most prestigious film festivals. The sales agents’ task is to look for saleable shorts for their catalogue.
If you are going to the festival yourself, you must ensure that all of the attending sales agents are aware of your film. (Get the Delegate Guide from the festival office to check the sales agents that will be attending the festival.)
You can either contact the sales agents yourself or hope that your film is so fantastic that the sales agents will contact you with a proposition to represent your film. Of course the second option is much better and preferred. Remember, sales agents don’t send films to film festivals since there is no money for them to be made at the festivals.
The sales agents will try to sell your film to: TV stations, TV cable companies, Internet, DVD distributors. They will licence your film from you and sub-licence to the media or distributors under international copyright law using three basic variables:
1. TIME – how long do you licence the film for or how many screenings are allowed during the license period.
2. TERRITORY – what countries are covered by the license.
3. MEDIA – what media are included (theatrical, television, DVD, Internet, etc…)
Don’t be surprised if the sales agents ask for exclusive rights to your film as this is normal practice.
However do try to negotiate the non-exclusive rights to the DVD and web content with your sales agent. The reason for this is that you will need it in the event that the Film Festival approaches you or if you want to sell your own DVD or create a website for your short to be watched online (this way you may get donations from people or even be able to charge them for watching your short.)
Obviously you have to remember that sales agents don’t do charity work. They usually charge something between 35%-50% of each sale amount which is quite a lot. Often they can also charge you for: attending film festivals or film markets, wining and dining (tricky one), DVD copies etc.
Will you see some revenue from your short? You may but it’s not likely going to be much. Even with the online systems short films don’t make a lot of money because there are too many fantastic shorts around available free of charge.
Besides we all know that shorts are mostly not being made to make money only to get experience and to build your show reel. So once you finally have a feature film that you are working on, you can prove to your investors that you have done something in the past and you can tell a story in sequence.
While choosing sales agents you should research this person, or company, really well to see: What films they are representing or have represented in the past and how successful they have been with previous shorts?
Before you sign a contract you also need to check how much (in percentage) revenue you will be receiving and when? How often the sales agents will be sending you the account statements?
It’s also not a bad idea to contact the producers/directors from the sales agents’ catalogue and ask them about their experience with the particular sales agent or company. Of course you can not rely entirely on such opinions because there are always some likes and dislikes when it comes to relationships between people.
And remember, if you don’t like the contract, negotiate and if it is not negotiable for the other party, retreat. If you know nothing about contracts, ask for advice from someone who knows something about them, before you sign anything. It may seem obvious, and in fact it is, but it’s critical that you not sign anything that you don’t fully understand, however there are many people who forget this simple fact and regret it very quickly. Remember ‘err in haste, repent at leisure’.
You are probably not going to make vast amounts of money from your short. However it is always nice to have someone professional who is trying to reach out to the audiences for your film in a way you would be unable to do it yourself. It may also pay off in the future because your name will be less anonymous to the world.
SHORT LIST OF SALES AGENTS
Atom Films – www.atomfilms.com
Big Film Shorts – www.bigfilmshorts.com
La Big Family – www.labigfamily.com
British Film Institute – www.bfi.org.uk
Dazzle Films – www.dazzlefilms.co.uk
Future Shorts – www.futureshorts.com
Microcinema International – www.microcinema.com
Network Ireland Television – www.network-irl-tv.com
OneDotZero – www.onedotzero.com
Shorts International – www.shortsinternational.com
SND Films – www.sndfilms.com
The article is based on Nigel R. Smith’s book “You’ve got it made. Short film distribution guide”.
To download the book click here.
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