EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog originally ran on filmindependent.org in 2013 and remains one of our most-read articles. We’re republishing it here, with minor edits to the original text. Special thanks to author Lee Jameson.
Deliverables can come as an unpleasant surprise for indie filmmakers. When a distributor buys your film for release, they expect more than just an HD master. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by the list of required materials by preparing yourself and your team before you even start shooting.
At a recent Film Independent educational event, our friends from Indieworks, Bridget Briley and Nicole Papincak, joined deliverables expert David Gaynes (Motion Media Services) to break down the list of physical items a distributor will need you to provide. Here are some tips from the experts:
MASTER THE MASTER DELIVERY SCHEDULE
The master delivery schedule is a document that the sales agent presents to the film’s producer (or the production) of what physical materials the production needs to deliver for the distributor. The sales agent and the production then negotiate an agreement on the required deliverables, when they’re due, who will pay for what, etc. Distributors generally want the requested physical materials delivered all at once, so you need to prepare months in advance.
Your deliverables must fit the specific requirements of what the distributor is asking for, as well as be formatted for every level of rights (theatrical, VOD, etc). Not only does this apply to the film, explained Gaynes, but also to the trailer, TV spots, photography, legal documents, etc. – everything that is required to exploit that movie theatrically domestically and throughout the world.
DON’T ASSUME THAT 35MM IS DEAD
For the most part, DCP is replacing 35mm exhibition, but you still need to deliver 35mm prints if you want to have a decent-sized international theatrical release. “Most people think that 35mm is forgotten, but actually it’s not. Not for international distribution. It will probably be gone by the end of next year for the U.S., but in other countries such as Greece, Spain and Turkey, 35mm is mixed with DCP, but 35mm is still used in 60% of the theaters,” according to Gaynes.
PRESERVE THE RAW DIGITAL NEGATIVE
“You start with your final edit of your movie, which exists in 2K or 4K as raw data. This raw data is what we call DPX files, which is what is colored for your theatrical exhibition,” says Gaynes. Then, post houses such as EFILM and Company 3 color correct those files for the director and/or DP for both theatrical and for home entertainment as well. Studios such as Universal and Paramount will ask for those 2K files for archival purposes. “It’s the raw digital negative, in a sense,” he explains. “It has the highest resolution, so if you ever had to go back in, you have the original DPX format.”
UNDERSTAND THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET’S NEEDS
The DCP (Digital Cinema Package) is what is sent out to all of the theaters, usually on a drive. “What we do for international, which is important, is that we generally work out of a centralized lab that does a repackaging of these DCPs,” says Gaynes. “They coordinate with all of the distributors worldwide and take in all of their data. We repackage the original DCP with their subtitles, trailers, etc. For example, we deliver a Dutch DCP to Holland that they can distribute nationally.”
“If you’re a non-English speaking territory, initially we send out a dialog continuity list, which is an exact transcription of what is said in the film and where in the film it’s said. That is then transcribed into different languages in the different territories for subtitles and dubbing. Let’s say it’s French dialogue that needs to be mixed. We supply them with the music and the effects without the English dialogue. Once they have the dubbed version, they send those to the lab and the lab creates the French DCP to distribute. France, Italy, Germany and Spain always want a version to be dubbed. Most other countries just want subtitles.”
DON’T SKIMP ON THE PUBLICITY MATERIALS
Most of the advertising for a film is created by the distributors and the studio. However, some materials still need to come from the production. One example is on-set still photography. “We normally ask for 100-200 photos. The most important thing is that they are all approved by the talent ahead of time,” explains Gaynes. And make sure they are high quality, professional stills, not screengrabs, which often don’t meet the resolution requirements for press outlets. The key art and a trailer are also often requested from the production, as well as a press kit with production notes.
Just be aware that when it comes to the final key art for domestic distribution, says Nicole Papincak, “the producer has zero approval of what we do domestically.” In the U.S., you would never get approval, and it’s a snowball’s chance in Hell that you would even get a consultation about the key art.” Even though you may be attached to your own key art, it’s best to trust the experts who know the markets you’re trying to reach.
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