Film sales agents act as a bridge between filmmakers and distributors. They represent independent films (non studio films) and sell them to distributors around the world in exchange for a percentage on the deals they secure.
Sales agents broker and negotiate international distribution deals, manage the marketing of films to distributors, creating trailers, artwork and even suggest title changes if necessary in order to sell the film more effectively. They handle contracts and legal issues, oversee payment, and co-ordinate the delivery of materials to distributors.
Sales agents can also provide sales estimates – projected figures for how much a film will make from distribution deals across territories worldwide, which can be an invaluable guideline for producers when putting together a budget for a film. If you’re a smart producer, you can find out the market value of your movie and build your film budget around it.
Depending on your film and the approach needed for the market, a good sales agent will put together a festival strategy to gain exposure, bring in additional revenue through screening fees and secure distribution.
Some sales agents can raise finance for films through pre-sales, which is an advance from a distributor in exchange for distribution rights to the completed film. That said, pre-sales are becoming less and less common. Distributors are more conservative and risk averse, which is why the majority of pre-sales go to films with big name cast, which provide an marketing angle for distributors and some guarantee of return on their investment.
If your film is high concept, with a great script and well-known director attached, that may also be another route to pre-sales money. There are also sales agents who crossover into executive producing and develop their own projects in-house.
Sales agents bring to the table market knowledge. Working with a sales agent gives your film creditability. They’re the first line in screening for quality and commerciality. If they’re representing your film, it’s because they see there’s potential for it to sell. They have trusted and established relationships with buyers, which ensures your film a higher degree of consideration than you would get with a direct approach.
Sales agents know the best way to market and present your film. They’re at the sales markets meeting buyers, promoting your film and showcasing it to as many distributors as possible.
They know how to negotiate the best return for your film and they have more leverage than you as an independent filmmaker acting alone. They can shield and guide you through any legal issues that might come up, audit distributors to see how your film’s performing and if you’re due more money, and navigate the quagmire that is international taxes and payments.
It’s possible to go it alone and negotiate distribution yourself. You have to decide what’s best for you and your film. You might opt to work with a sales agent, you might choose a hybrid model, retaining some rights for certain territories and platforms and working in partnership with a sales agent on others, or embrace self distribution and reach out to your audience directly.
That said, a good sales agent can be a fantastic asset for your film. They’re on your side, they fight your corner, they want your film to sell to as many territories for as much money as possible and they have the skills, experience, relationships and market knowledge to make that happen.
Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Hit me up in the comments.
Picture Credit – Glengarry Glen Ross. Because coffee is for closers.