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An Insider's Guide to Indie Film Distribution - Book review

Planning distribution early in production is key to a film’s success.

There’s a key phrase in Stacey Parks book The Insider’s Guide To Independent Film Distribution: "For the best distribution options, target your audience early."

Wise words. Few filmmakers I know really think about their target audience. Most are caught up in their passion for the story or the challenges of production. But as Parks explains, the key to good distribution is having a clear idea at the outset who the film is directed at and staying on target with that vision. In order to generate attention, distributors need to know what the hook is so they can frame a strong sales pitch. They can’t do that if you aren’t clear about who that audience is.

Distribution in the film industry is changing at a rapid rate. New technologies present new options and possibilities and close doors on old ones. The financial returns are a fraction of what they used to be. To stay ahead of the game you need to understand the ins and outs of marketing and distribution whether you're looking for a major distributor or doing it on your own.

Early in the book you’ll find a short but concise chapter on budgeting for distribution. Here Parks outlines how much to budget and what you’re going to be spending money on. She also tackles the question, “How much will the film earn?” It’s not easy to project revenues for a film that may not even be in production yet, but Parks outlines ways to assess it and come up with a reasonable answer - key knowledge especially when you’re looking for financial backing in the earliest stages.

“Seven Essential Steps to Creating a Press Kit” by Elliot Grove, the director of the Raindance Film Festival, is included in the book. Grove has seen thousands of press kits and he knows from experience what makes the most effective package; and he shares that knowledge with you. For a seasoned filmmaker, there may be little new here but for the indie filmmaker just starting out, this is invaluable advice.

There are chapters on strategizing film festival applications, what to expect when distributors make an offer, and how to negotiate those offers. The appendix includes sample distribution and sales agreements with explanations, a VOD deliverables list, and a sample release budget. 

Overall this a is short but useful introduction to marketing and distribution for starting out filmmakers working the feature film network. Broader concepts overlap for the short film world, but there’s very little if anything directed specifically to the shorts market. The material is well presented and it’s nice to have case studies by industry professionals intermixed with the author’s own text. 

The book with its suggested online resources is a recommended package for the following areas of study: Filmmaking at the high school and college levels. And it’s a recommended buy for libraries that collect texts on these subjects.