Monday, September 24, 2012

on distributing a movie

By far the most common question we get asked about the documentary is: when and where can I see it? Our answer has typically been, and still is, something along the lines of: "we don't know, but stay tuned." That's a pretty vague answer, but movie distribution is a long and complicated adventure that we're only just beginning to embark on. For now, I'll keep it simple and touch upon some of the basic steps.

Film festivals are basically carefully curated smorgasbords of independent cinema. You submit your film, and if the festival deems you worthy you screen to their audiences of festival-goers, film fans, critics and other industry movers and shakers. Festivals can often be the best way to start expanding awareness beyond just your friends, family, community and core audience on the Internet. Building greater and greater awareness is a crucial part of the overall gameplan--think of a movie like any new type of product a company wants to launch. You have to get people interested, excited, engaging in conversation, until it all builds to a critical mass that can hopefully crossover into the mainstream.

If your movie plays well at certain festivals, you may start to see interest from buyers in distribution rights. There are all sorts of distribution rights: theatrical, non-theatrical, VOD, television, DVD, educational, and digital rental/download are some of the big ones. These buyers have access to the biggest audiences and specialize in delivering your movie directly to the most interested eyeballs. So for our project, film festivals are the first step. If we sell the movie, the where/when question gets answered in conjunction with the dealmaking. One of our top priorities is making sure that the film is released in a timely manner, and hits a global audience.

Depending on how they perform at festivals, some filmmakers may choose to go on tour! Think of this as an extension to the awareness-building. Here you're taking the movie around the country and playing to audiences most excited about seeing it. Kind of like a band goes on tour for a new album, but instead of filling concert venues with music we'd be filling theaters and conference rooms with an online poker movie. 

This usually comes last if you crush at festivals and sell all your rights for MEGA BUCKS!!!, but depending on how things play out this could happen sooner. Some filmmakers have been conducting interesting experiments in delivering their movies direct-to-fans and cutting out all the middlemen and red tape. The Internet has had a majorly awesome impact on creating and distributing content, and seeing as how Taylor and I are very much cut from the cloth of online poker players, Internet creators and entrepreneurs, we are totally psyched to see what kinds of strategies we can come up with to push the envelope. How could you create a feature length online poker movie and not have a badass online component, amirite?

Anyhow, I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those curious. We may be finishing up work on the movie itself, but there's still a long road ahead. When/where can you see our movie? We don't know yet, but stay tuned!


  1. Hi Jay,

    Can you give us another quick update on the status of the film itself? When do you expect the final cut to be complete?

  2. We have submitted an edit to Sundance, but we're still absorbing feedback, contemplating improvements, and polishing the rough edges. South by Southwest's submission deadline is in mid-November--we're expecting to have a final cut by then. Knock on wood.

  3. I hope the argument of snap call vs mach 5 call gets answered. So far this is my favorite televised poker show/documentary. #2months2million

  4. The platform for content distribution and media buying are changing dramatically.

    what used to be new media divisions are now becoming new media companies. These companies are skipping the line as far as far as content distribution. companies like NBC Media Group or Starz new media (not to be confused with its sister company Starz and NBC the tv channels) are locking up the rights to films docs etc and packaging it through there new media outlets (ituns hulu etc) they even negotiate theater realeses in some cases. they usually set up a marketing platform and and in some (rare) cases produce more episodes or add new content to try land a network deal. These deals usually only happen whith television. These are through agents that package TV. they get whats known as 3-3-10. 3 percent of the license fee, (payable when an episode is produced); 3 percent of the budget of the show, (deferred till the show sees net profits) and 10 percent of the back-end of the show, when it is sold into syndication.

    u have to be an agent to get that deal although these companies offer 10 percent finders fees foranything they buy. They like to deal with media buyers and agents but will deal with anyone who can bring them content.

    Documentaries on avg dont get the biggest deals around b/c they are not as popular

    im a licensed agent but i don't really do this kind of stuff. I love the trailers and have been dc member for years.. GL

  5. Thanks Josh, interesting read!

    @Drake: my favorite TV poker show too!

  6. seems like boom would fit in nicely with "30 for 30"