Sign on the dotted line

So, you've considered all the advice and decided on an Impact Distribution approach. Now you’ve got to ensure you make the right deal (or group of deals) that works for your strategy. Before you sign on the dotted line, consider how your Impact Distribution plan measures up against the following:


Personal Your artistic goals? What you want to gain personally from distribution? How long you want to be involved?
Production What are the financial needs and obligations of the production? Is the whole team aligned to the same Impact Distribution goals? Does the team have the capacity to deliver on the impact distribution plans?
Impact How far does the distribution plan serve your impact goal? How far does the distribution plan serve the needs of relevant movements? How far does the distribution plan rely on your subjects and what are their needs?
Strategic audience How far does the distribution plan allow you to connect with your most strategic audience? How far do you have flexibility and control to share the film as the campaign requires? Does your audience have needs and are they being served by the Impact Distribution plan?




Remember the following to ensure you get the most from the deals you’re going to make:

'Don’t ever negotiate by email. When you are negotiating on the phone, on Skype, or in person, you have access to valuable information, whether it is tone of voice, body language, or a pregnant pause. This additional information will give you a better sense of where the other side is flexible and what their bottom line is, and make it easier to achieve a win-win deal'

Peter Broderick, How Not to Negotiate a Distribution Deal

Have a plan before you start to negotiate

Know what you’re not prepared to budge on - whether that’s direct sales rights, your campaign website or the rights to community screenings. That way, whether you’re working through a sales agent or doing it yourself, you’ll know which parts of the flower you’re not willing to give away.

Equip yourself with the right people to get the deal done

'At Sundance, the high mountain air – combined with jitters, lack of sleep, possibly a hangover – can have a deleterious effect. Counter this by arriving prepared, with 1) a well-thought out distribution strategy, 2) a solid plan to carry out that strategy, and 3) a team to help you. 'I want as many people to see my film as possible' and 'my film belongs in theaters' doesn’t mean much – there’s no strategy there. ‘The distributor will take care of that’ is not a plan. 'How hard can it be for me to do it myself' is not assembling a team'

Brenda Coughlin, Producer, Dirty Wars

Think about working with a negotiator to get the deal signed. This may be a lawyer or it may be a sales agent, it may even be someone in your team. The key thing is to make sure they are an experienced negotiator and are on top of the current trends in the distribution landscape.

Appropriate timing

Does your impact campaign depend on certain timings, for example a major conference, an international governmental meeting or an individual doing something? Can your distributor work to the same schedule? If they are responsible for the film’s marketing, can they work with you to deliver an integrated campaign that amplifies your impact work? Being clear upfront on your intentions can help improve your deal. Co-ordinated strategy and execution are what you’re after.

Most films don’t get signed at festivals but whenever or wherever you take a meeting with a distributor or sales agent (who sells for you to distributors) use this handy checklist to ensure you’re thinking straight before you even think about signing a deal:

How do the deals on offer measure up to your priorities? Tick the boxes to compare:


CONSIDERATIONS DEAL 1 DEAL 2
Your artistic goals?
What you want to gain personally from distribution?
How long you want to be involved?
To the financial needs and obligations of the production?
The team's capacity to deliver on the impact distribution plans?
How far does the distribution plan serve your key impact goal?
How far does the distribution plan serve the needs of relevant movements?
How far does the distribution plan reply on your subjects and are their needs served?
How far does the distribution plan allow you to connect with your most strategic audience?
How far do you have flexibility and control to share the film as the campaign requires?
Does the audience have needs and are they served by the Impact Distribution plan?




And whatever time of day or night you sign, congratulations!

Geek Out: Ideas for further reading


Made byBRITDOC Foundation Made possible by: Ford Foundation - Just Film Bertha Foundation Sundance Institute Knight Foundation