Real-Time Distribution Case Study, Week 50: In the Works

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This really is a “real-time” case study — figuring it out as we go. There are so many things in the works, so many things I don’t yet know. As much as I’d love to provide an educational how-to andstep-by-step guide, we’re not quite there yet.

Much of distribution is still a black-box. Thankfully, we have partners who have been through this a few times and are guiding me while I’m still learning.

I’ll share a few things we’re in the midst of completing or figuring out (real-time):

MPAA Ratings — The film was rated in the spring, but as part of the rating package, the ratings board also checks all marketing materials. We have to submit for their review: the website, poster, promotional materials, online trailer, and theatrical trailer. The theatrical trailer must include the MPAA trailer tag at the beginning, and the sound mix must have a TASA certification for the trailer to be officially approved by MPAA. The team over there is friendly and helpful, but I’m fumbling my way through this process, having to resubmit materials several times.

Release Date Mix-Up — During the promotional tour last summer, we played in theaters, and some of the box office grosses were reported to industry websites. I reported the release date as May 2, 2019. Now some of the theaters’ ticketing systems are auto-generating the old 2019 date instead of using the distributor’s new 2020 date. I am having to go back and make corrections on multiple platforms. This is an interesting issue as it is tied to technical systems that are set up primarily for large studio releases. I’ll share more once I learn how this resolves!

Social Media — We are starting to ramp up social media with 2–3 posts per week. The official social media campaigns kick-off in the beginning of February with the help of a newly hired social media campaign manager.

Deliverables — Gary is finishing a new master with distributor logos. That master will be used to create a new DCP for the theatres, and it will be sent to our distributor for upload to iTunes, Amazon, etc in preparation for digital pre-order sales end of March. The submission process (including quality control) is a 30 to 60 day process, so our work needs to be completed in the next couple weeks. We were also required to complete an M&E (Music & Effects) audio track for any foreign sales where dubbing is required. We are waiting for that to come back from the audio house before delivering our final master to the foreign distributor. There are so many details when delivering audio & video masters, and we really feel the pressure to get it right before handoff.

Publicity, press — We are expecting a write-up in the trades this week announcing the distribution deal. This is not always a guarantee for an independent film even when having distribution. Our distributor and publicist wrote the release and submitted through their channels, so we’ll see if we are given a one-liner within a list of announcements (most common) or a short paragraph.

Partnerships — We are working on locking in final details of bowling partnerships before announcing near the end of this month. We’ve been in discussions for a couple of months. I am excited about the plans, and we are making great progress, but details always take longer to nail down than hoped.

Outreach — In order to average 300 people in each theater during opening weekend, we will need focused outreach in each of the twenty opening cities. The team is developing fun promotions to engage local businesses and organizations and their patrons.

POS Materials — As theaters are booked, they are sent promotional materials for placement in their lobbies and the trailer for placement before current films. The point-of-sale package includes a standee, postcards, a postcard holder, and two posters.

The Pierce Point Cinema in Amelia, OH is rocking their displays.

For this release, we have the opportunity to work closely with the distributor and the entire team. Often distributors completely take over, and the filmmakers have little say in the release strategy. We are in a unique position to learn and contribute at each step while giving oversight on brand consistency and audience outreach.

More soon as we enter this next phase of press and community engagement!

♡ Annie


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