Today’s post is an ode to data and research.

I was having coffee with a distributor friend last week. One of the things that came up was that we find it hard to wrap our heads around the fact that filmmakers often do so little research into the market before they make their movie.

They leap right in. They pour two years of blood, sweat, tears and money into their films and only  start to think about marketing, distribution and commerciality when it’s finished. Which for some films is sadly too late.

I get passion, but I’m also about pragmatism. Before you start development, do some research. Treat film like any other business. Take some time to see what’s succeeding, what’s struggling, what’s in demand. Yes, it’s an art and a creative process, but it’s also a commercial one.

Content might be king, but data can make sure you’re making the right content that will have an audience.

Compare like for like – films in the same budget range and genre. There’s no point including the numbers for a star studded studio smash to your low budget indie film in your investment plan. Choose films released in the past 18 months for comparison. The market has already changed dramatically from even 3 years ago. Talk to some sales agents. Get sales estimates. Talk to other filmmakers. Ask them about distribution.

Think about these questions.  Who’s your audience? How have similar films performed? What platforms would your film be successful on? Who should be on the shortlist for viable commercial cast? What return are films getting compared to their budget?

Stack the odds in your favour from the start. Here are some sites that can help you start answering those questions. Some are paid, some are free, all are worth looking into.

Cinando

The bible for film distribution. Cinando evolved from Cannes Marche du Film market and gives you access to distributors and sales agents around the world. Nearly every credible distribution company in the world will have a presence in Cinando, detailing their staff and contact information. Cinando also generates lists of which sales agents and distributors are attending the major markets if you looking to set up a meeting in person.

You can go through sales agents’ line ups which will give you a picture of the kind of films that are in demand and commercially viable. If you decide you want to handle distribution yourself, you can search for distributors by country and see who you want to pick up the phone to and pitch.

You get free membership for a year if you had a pass for Marche du Film. Otherwise you can apply for access. They can be stringent on who they let in. If you’re a producer, you need IMDB credits for past projects.

Box Office Mojo

Free, Box Office Mojo can show you which way the wind is blowing, with access to domestic, international and worldwide gross box office figures. It’s focused on theatrical titles, but it can a great snapshot of the big picture for the global film landscape.

Rentrak

Looking for more detail on theatrical release numbers, or you want to drill down to find numbers for DVD sales to leading VOD releases? Rentrak has everything you need and more. It’s the data source of choice for studios, TV networks and advertisers.

IMDB Pro

Well worth the membership, IMDB Pro often has film budgets, box office performance, lists of the distributors and sales agents for films.

BFI

Showing my UK bias here, the BFI is a great source of information on the British film industry. The statistical yearbook gives a fantastic overview of the performance of British films in the UK and overseas and a breakdown of how they’re performing by genre and budget. They also publish case studies on distribution to help distributors and film makers understand how to market and distribute their films more effectively and every week, they publish the UK weekend box office figure.

British Video Association

On the commercial side, the BVA is an invaluable resource. Want to know how a film performed? You can plug in their titles and search to see how many DVDs it sold every year since its release. This is how you find out the market demand for your film. Their annual yearbook gives invaluable insight on market behaviour and trends. For example, from their description of the 2014 yearbook:

“More people buy a physical video than subscribe to Sky or Netflix combined:  More than 22 million people bought a video disc in 2013, whilst 10.5 million households subscribed to Sky and 3.3 million subscribed to a Video-on-Demand service, proving the continued popularity of Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. In fact 73% of the total £2.24 billion video market remains in a physical rather than a digital format.

Consumers still prefer to own than rent: There is still something very special about owning a title on video, with 70% of consumers paying to keep and just 30% renting. And owning a disc rather than having a digital download firmly remains the most popular form of keeping a video to watch again and again, with 92% of spending in the physical world and just 8% in the digital world.

Blu-ray Disc continues to grow: Sales of Blu-ray Discs grew 10% in 2013 as consumers continued their love affair with watching video in HD.”

The Trades

Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily and Indiewire should all be on your daily reading list. Start track the distribution deals. Who’s buying what? Which actors are hot and are being packaged by the studios and the super indies. Follow the analysis and trends on genres and distribution.

Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Hit me up in the comments.

Photo credit: The Social Network

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