A question that is coming up a lot lately has to do with this: In today’s distribution landscape where the Producer is in control of his own destiny, does it even make sense anymore to work with a sales agent in the traditional distribution realm?
Now realize I might be a little biased here only because 1) I’m in the throes of the film market circuit (Berlin followed by MIPTV and now on to Cannes), and 2) I used to be a sales agent myself – BUT, I will say that even in today’s climate I can still recommend that Producers hire a sales agent to handle foreign distribution. WHY? Because dealing with distributors outside of your home territory takes ‘old world’ finesse….and by this I mean, you need face time, long standing relationships, and good ol’ fashioned in-person wining and dining in order to make deals happen. I know this sounds very ‘old school’ and conventional, but it’s true — foreign distribution is not hip to new-world 2.0 style deals!
Now the challenge becomes this – as Producers you’ve probably heard nothing but horror stories about sales agents taking Producers’ money, making sales and not reporting them, and even dropping off the face of the earth once you sign with them – but I can assure you there are some decent sales agents out there. You just have to know how to look…..
For example, ALWAYS do your due diligence on a sales agent before signing on the bottom line. That means, researching them on Google, asking around to other Producers on message boards, and contacting other Producers whom they represent to get feedback.
And how do you find a sales agent in the first place? You can research reputable companies in the trades’ listings during AFM for example, or you can access a pre-cleared list in the Film Specific Sales Agency Database , or if you really want hand-holding, you can join my FILM MARKET LAB (which is $500 off until May 1 for all you early birds!)
But any way you slice it, YES a sales agent is still a good idea for Producers who want to explore ALL kinds of distribution for their films (including foreign). Just be sure to carve out the rights you want to retain for yourself (like all domestic rights, direct-to-consumer dvd rights, non-exclusive VOD rights, etc.) – THAT’s the new way of working with sales agents today and still remain in control.
Any thoughts you have on this topic….I’d love to hear them!