So, your film’s completed and you want someone to help shepherd it out into the world, to fame, fortune and acclaim. How do you find a film sales agent? First, do some research.
Film Export UK has a list of UK film sales agents on their website. IFTA, the Independent Film and Television Alliance in the US, have a list of their members here, which includes sales agents, distributors and financiers.
Cinando, the online industry database for film distribution and the bible for all things film distribution allows you to search for sales agents by country and market attendance.
As I write this, there are 682 companies listed as film sales agents as their main activity, and 1330 companies who include being a film sales agent as part of their wider activities, which commonly includes production and distribution.
Screen International puts together the Screen International Product Guide as part of their dailies for the major film markets, with a list of film sales agent companies attending the market and the films they’re representing.
Next, go through the sales agents’ websites. Take a look at the films in their line up. Think about who would be a good fit for you, if they’re represented a similar film recently. If you’ve made a low budget comedy horror, there’s not much point approaching a sales agent whose line up is all art house or high-end drama.
Make yourself a handy spreadsheet of the sales agents you want to approach, with company name, the relevant person to approach which would usually be the director of sales and acquisition, email address and phone number.
You’re going to send a short and polite email. Something like this:
Subject: FILM TITLE – Seeking international sales representation.
Dear X, I hope this email finds you well. I’m looking for a sales agent to represent our completed feature film, TITLE. It’s a GENRE (e.g. thriller, drama, action, comedy, horror, family, animation, sci fi) film, about DESCRIPTION OF FILM PLOT IN ONE SENTENCE. (And I really mean one sentence).
It can be described as WELL KNOWN FILM meets ANOTHER WELL KNOWN FILM.
The next paragraph you should edit as it applies to your film. If your film has well known cast, your next sentence is: It stars NAME OF RECOGNISABLE ACTORS HERE (Recognisable means someone who’s going have commercial value. It doesn’t mean unknowns. These have to be names that make your film more marketable. After each actor’s name, you should include their notable credits e.g. Keira Knightley ( Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement, Anna Karenina))
If your film doesn’t have big name cast, don’t worry.Your sentence should be: It was directed by X, written by X and produced by X. (If your director, writer or producer has any notable credits, you should name them here e.g. past feature TITLE was nominated at major festival, script was shortlisted on The Black List, Screen International Rising Star of Tomorrow. If the film has won or been shortlisted for any festivals, you should also list that here.)
Here’s the trailer for the film: TRAILER LINK HERE A full length screener is available on request. The run time is X minutes.
All rights (or whichever rights are available depending if you’ve negotiated any distribution deals) are available for the film.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
PRODUCTION COMPANY WEBSITE
LINK TO FILM WEBSITE/IMDB PROFILE
LINK TO TRAILER
Remember, short, to the point, and polite. 200 words, more or less. If you have good poster artwork, you can send that too.
What you’re doing here is presenting the key facts about your film, much in the same way a sales agent would do to a distributor.
What kind of film is it? Who’s in it? What have you as a filmmaker done before which gives confidence in the film – hence the past credit and awards. Have people in the industry recognised your film – festival selection and awards? It’s not enough for your mum and your friends to love it.
Why do you only send a trailer? Sales agents don’t have time to watch a full length screener of a film unless it’s something they’re interested in picking up. From a trailer, we can immediately see the production value of the film, the mood and tone, quality of directing and acting, how effectively you can tell a story. Your trailer is your calling card and it’s worth spending time on it to get it right. You only get one shot at pitching your film.
You’re then going to note down in your handy spreadsheet when you sent your email and set a reminder to follow up in one week. Be aware that if you approach a sales agent when they’re at a film market, or in the run up to a film market, it will take them longer to get back to you because they’re busy working on getting meetings for the market and closing distribution deals for their existing line up.
Be patient. If you haven’t heard anything after a week, you can send another email, asking if they’ve had chance to look at your trailer and if they need any more information. If there’s no response, it’s permissible to follow up one last time one week later, but if you don’t get a response, that’s probably a pass on your film.
If a sales agent is interested, they’ll ask to see a screener of the film. You should have a password protected Vimeo link to the full film, which gives them flexibility to send it to any colleagues who might need to watch it. Don’t forget to include the password in your email. That’s where the fun starts.
Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Hit me up in the comments.
Picture Credit: Toy Story