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January 26, 2024 | Entertainment

Should You Hire a Film Sales Agent?

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Author(s)
Carlianna Dengel

Associate Attorney

Jari Wilson

Associate Attorney

In order to gain an audience, films are distributed across the world.  Films that are backed by a major studio do not have to worry about finding distributors, but what about independent films?  This is where a film sales agent can be beneficial. 

What is a Film Sales Agent? 

A film sales agent acts as the intermediary between an independent film producer and distributors.  Film sales agents use their relationships with distributors to negotiate distribution deals on behalf of these independent filmmakers.  The goal is to find distributors in as many territories or platforms as possible, to put the film in front of as many eyes as possible.

Most film sales agents will take a commission of the film’s proceeds as their compensation.  Some film sales agents may also charge recoupable expenses, which means that the film’s proceeds will first be used to pay back those expenses before producers and other members of the filmmaking team receive their box office profits. 

Responsibilities of Film Sales Agent 

The main responsibility of a film sales agent is to create distribution deals for independent films.  Additionally, a film sales agent may touch upon several other stages of the film’s lifecycle:

  • If brought in early enough, a film sales agent may participate in financing the film;
  • Sales agents generally attend the major film festivals in order to meet key distributors;
  • They can also create a film’s international marketing campaign, in order to confirm that the marketing materials fit the needs of different territories, and
  • A film sales agent provides international distributors with the film’s materials, including publicity materials, the digital cinema playback masters, and legal documentation.

Ultimately, a film sales agent will need to work closely with the film’s producers to best represent them in these distribution deals.  

Hiring a Film Sales Agent 

Ideally, a film sales agent should be hired early in the production process, so the agent can understand the film and determine how best to market it to distributors.  While there is no exact timeline on when a film sales agent needs to be hired, employing one after your indie film has already screened at festivals may be too late because the agent has missed out on the real-time chance to capitalize on the film’s buzz.

Because film sales agents will have access to confidential information related to the film and are working on behalf of the film and its producers, filmmakers should be sure to have strong agreements in place with their film sales agents.  These agreements should be signed and implemented as soon as the film sales agent is hired in order to best protect the production. 

Conclusion 

When it comes to locking in distributors for an indie film, working with a film sales agent can make all the difference.  However, independent filmmakers need to be sure that when they engage with a film sales agent, they agree to favorable terms.  An experienced entertainment attorney can ensure that agreements between filmmakers and film sales agents are fair and reasonable.  Contact a member of our team to learn more.

 

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
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