Another book review from producer Greg Hurd. Enjoy. -JO

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THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO INDEPENDENT FILM DISTRIBUTION by Stacey Parks

We all want it.

Twin Bluetooth headsets, distribution deals coming into both ears – studio execs, video distributors, a couple of U.S. cable networks and a handful of international buyers chatting us up – each clamoring for our film.

But then a horn blares, realty sets in and we’re off through a stale green light driving down the road to distribution, trying to figure out how to get our film noticed, who to send our film to, where to begin the distribution and marketing push.

Sometimes it feels like there’s no map to mark the way.

Stacey Parks has changed that with her The Insider’s Guide to Film Distribution (Focal Press, 2007).

Parks, a former foreign sales agent who currently is a sales executive with BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles, speaks from experience in her The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution.

From her reality check on the state of the independent film market (it’s tough, but keep pushing forward), to production and post-production with publicity geared toward distribution, then on to distribution strategies and getting the deal, including alternative distribution deals, Parks shares what independent filmmakers and producers need to know.

Parks comes across as a trusted mentor as she conveys the broad and complex scope of the distribution and marketing process through her engaging, honest, no-nonsense approach. And her insider status grants the reader a window on the workings behind the distribution scene offered in interviews with producers such as Linda Nelson (Shifted) and Betsy Chasse (What the Bleep Do We Know?), agents like Julie Colbert of the William Morris Agency and indie filmmakers such as Paul Bales, Legion of the Dead.

Parks also offers helpful distribution and marketing case studies including

Continue reading about The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution by Stacey Parks those with PR specialist Alexia Haidos of Double A PR and filmmaker Robert Brinkman (Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party).

Parks offers helpful insights regarding various distribution deal points (e.g., “With a U.S. broadcast deal, typically you will get paid 50 percent upon signature of contracts and verified QC of master, and the other 50 percent on the first date of airing.”)

One area that I would like to see addressed in more depth regards the financials of the independent deal. While Parks gives a nice breakdown of the expenses required to market and distribute a film, I would like to see figures from past movie deals as well as numbers for hypothetical deals in future editions. Another area of keen interest that would benefit from Ms. Parks’ experience would be a case study or two of actual negotiations for the distribution deal.

And, while I would have enjoyed more interviews with publicists and marketing execs as well as with film festival directors, Parks does yeoman’s work in covering the major areas at play in the distribution process.

With exercises at the close of chapters invite readers to begin doing the ground work for distribution, Parks creates for the reader a workbook. Many of these exercises may challenge, such as researching songs you wish to use in your movie by finding out the publishers and record companies and finding out the pricing on DVD rights only, all rights and festival-rights only.

Since I’m currently in post-production on one film and entering the distribution and marketing phase on another, one area I paid special attention to was the distribution agreement’s delivery schedule.

Parks points out some things I knew – companies demand such things as a trailer, bonus materials, a dialogue script, music cues, a Digibeta master or Betacam SP with certified QC (quality check) – but also some things I didn’t know – even though they won’t be needed until distribution actually occurs, an E&O (errors and omissions) insurance certificate and also M&E (music and effects) tracks are mandatory.

I also found Parks’ lists of top-tier foreign sales agencies and boutique agencies very helpful, especially the list company URLs. The book’s appendices on the terminology of distribution agreements, a sample distribution agreement, and film marketing suggestions are also very useful.

Parks’ The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution opens the curtain wide behind which all the levers and gears of distribution appear; it’s simply a bookshelf must for independent filmmakers and producers.

Greg Hurd
Bunker Hill, writer/producer, www.bunkerhillthemovie.com
The Only Good Indian, producer, www.theonlygoodindian.com

PREVIOUS REVIEW FROM GREG HURD: From Reel to Deal by Dov S-S Simens