Stacey Parks, from Film Specific. A Conference Call

Stacey Parks, founder of Film Specific, conducted a conference call on January 20th, 2010, for people interested in what she calls “Distribution in Reverse”. In essence, this idea is about getting filmmakers to think differently about distribution and opportunities available to them, even before production has begun.

Some ideas from the call, mixed with a bit of Fictionville Media commentary, for your enjoyment:

Pre-selling DVDs

Some filmmakers already have a built-in audience. Whether it’s the cult following you have built over twenty years of filmmaking or the niche subject matter of the film, there are people out there who will pay for a film that hasn’t even started production. No joke. If you don’t already have that giant email list to pull from, the challenge is getting out there and finding the people who love the idea that your next film is about the history of noodle dishes in Queens, NY. Once a significant amount of funds have been raised, plan to deposit those hard earnings into an escrow account for use when actualizing your distribution plan.

Partnering with Organizations

One way to expand your reach is to partner with organizations that have mission statements aligned with the subject matter in your film. Collecting email addresses one by one is a grueling and time consuming task. Why not find an organization that already has a 10,000 person email list and collaborate with the organization to find mutual benefits in promoting your film?

“Organization” can mean a nonprofit, business, government agency, or some hybrid company. Think broadly about this. For example, if your film is about the evolution of noodle dishes in Queens, NY, it is possible to work with a grassroots nonprofit, a noodle company, or a City Council representative from Queens. Stacey mentioned “digital partners”, such as Youtube or BitTorrent, who are capable of doing big mailings. Creative scenarios can make these kinds of partnerships mutually beneficial.

Some approaches include:

-Private pre-screenings of the film
-Exclusive events with special guests associated with the film
-Sharing the screenplay with donors and getting them involved through taking comments, reactions, and ideas
-Splitting revenue

These may not appeal to you, but perhaps it provides a sense of what is possible.

Attending Markets

So maybe you don’t feel like going to a market such as Cannes, Berlinale, or AFCI. It’s expensive, you don’t know anyone, and it seems like a hassle. But let’s try and see if we can think of some advantages. For one, it’s a place to build the relationships that can be crucial to getting your film out into the world. It’s a place where sales agents and filmmakers are a plenty, and you may just find that one person that makes the difference. Secondly, you will get a sense of how other films are faring and be able to take those results and apply it to your film. (You can also read the trades, but physically being there might give you an extra layer of insight).

Approaching Investors

If you have someone investing $25K into your film, they may want more than a little assurance that they will make some money back. Do your research and make realistic predictions on the success of your film, relative to films similar to yours. Who knows, your film may be exponentially more successful, or simply tank, but the important thing is that you have some sense of what to expect. Make it clear that it is possible for the investors to make profit off of your film. For example, based on your 2,000 fans on Facebook, 350 Twitter followers, and 1,000 person mailing list, with whom you interact with once per week, you will receive a 30% response rate and raise X amount of money. The better you specify your strategy, the better.

The recorded session can be found here: