If you are considering doing a theatrical release for your film, one of the things you need to think about first is whether or not to hire a Servicing Company to execute the release for you. A Service Company is effectively a “distributor for hire” in the sense that you can pay them to book your film in theaters around the country. So instead of a distributor paying you for the right to distribute your film, you are paying them a fee to do this for you.
Some people say – well hang on a second — why would I pay a distributor to book my film in theaters? I want distributors to be paying ME! Well yes, of course you do — but as we all know by now, “All Rights” Theatrical deals where the Producer gets paid an advance are few and far between. Those are reserved for Tier 1 Festival winners from Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Cannes, and a few others. In other words, if your film did not make it into one of these TOP festivals, you are unlikely to receive a pay day from a theatrical distributor.
BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART — that doesn’t matter anymore! There are now Servicing Companies who you can hire to theatrically distribute your film in the same way (if not better) than a traditional theatrical distributor would do. The difference is, you need to actually budget for this option from the beginning, because the last thing you want to happen is that you get to the end of the line with your film and you have no money left to hire a servicing company to help you. And what if that does happen? Well I’ve seen a handful of filmmakers succeed in doing it themselves but that means booking, advertising, promoting, and COLLECTING all falls on your shoulders. If it were me, I’d rather hire someone who knows what their doing in this arena and pay them for their expertise (note: most if not all Servicing Companies run by former Distribution executives so they actually DO know what they’re doing!)
Now one of the things I recommend no matter if you choose to book the film yourself or hire a company to release it for you is that you KEEP YOUR EXPENSES LOW. Marketing expenses can make the difference between a ‘loss leader’ and a profitable release. So stick to your guns on this – and start marketing and promoting your film grassroots style from PRE-PRODUCTION so you aren’t starting from ground zero, having to create a big buzz from nothing which can be very expensive.
Fortunately there are so many different formulas now for self-releasing your film and examples abound all over the internet. Films like WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW and OKIE NOODLING paved the way YEARS AGO for the rest of us today by providing a simple road map to follow and inspiration that it’s possible to get your film in theaters even when a traditional theatrical distributor won’t do it for you.
*** I cover the Self Theatrical Release and give a recommended short list of Servicing Companies to do it for you in my newly updated SELF DISTRIBUTION STARTER KIT mini-guide. You can download a copy of this little primer for $29 or get it for free if you join FILM SPECIFIC as a member.
So what do YOU think about doing a self Theatrical Release for your film? I know there are some mixed emotions out there where this is concerned because some people just can’t get past the idea that they have to pay a distributor instead of getting paid. Do you have a successful case study to share of either releasing your film with the help of a Service Company or without one? Please comment below!