LA Film Festival Thu 7.3.2014

Distribution Diaries: Supremacy’s Director Shares the Strategy That Got Him the Deal


Supremacy, the intense psychological drama directed by Deon Taylor that screened last month in the LA Muse section of the Los Angeles Film Festival, has been picked up by Well Go USA for US distribution. Shot on 16 mm, the film stars Danny Glover, and  tells the harrowing true story of a white supremacist who, right after being released from prison, kills a police officer and then takes a black family hostage. Here, Taylor shares his Festival strategy and approach to finding distribution.

Taylor concedes that Supremacy is “an unforgiving movie… it’s a very hard film,” and he was very conscious of that when looking for a distributor. “Being an independent filmmaker, you want to have something that actually could possibly have commercial success,” he said, “you want to make a film that, at the end of the day, you can sell.” Taylor took a DIY approach to proving the film’s commercial potential: “One of the first things I did when I made the film was I immediately started working on artwork for the project,” he said, “and as soon as I was in the editing room, I created my own trailer… I wanted the executives to see [that] there is a way to market this movie. It makes sense.”

Then he brought international film sales company The Exchange onto the project. “I brought them on because the initial reaction to the film was, you know, ‘it’s very good, but it’s going to be a hard sell.’ So immediately I wanted to see how it would fare in the foreign market,” he explained. The Exchange took the film to the Cannes market, where it screened for foreign distributors. “No North American buyers were there,” Taylor said, but “we kind of got results back from that, which were that people really liked the movie, people were stunned by what it was. And Brian [O’Shea, CEO of The Exchange] came back and said, ‘you know, there’s going to be a real market for this movie…this is going to work out.’”

Taylor sent the trailer out, but advises other independent filmmakers against circulating screeners. “I did not send any screeners out. I did not send any DVDs out. I did not want to do any of that. I wanted to set a screening up for people to come into the theater to watch the movie early if that’s what they wanted to do. And the reason for that is I wanted them to have the experience of sitting down, turning their phones off, and really focusing on my movie.” This was especially important to Taylor considering the nature of his film: “This is a movie that you have to watch, and if you don’t watch it, you wouldn’t understand it, you wouldn’t get it—quite frankly, you might just turn it off.”

Taylor calls the day he heard he was accepted into Los Angeles Film Festival “one of the happiest days of my life.” He brought on Preferred Content to help him sell the movie, and Taylor and his team were talking to about five companies in the weeks leading up to the Festival. He screened Supremacy for the interested parties, and they agreed to “use the LA Film Festival as a barometer… to see how it does, see how the reactions are to this. I felt the same exact way, because the last thing you want to do is sell the movie and then someone sits on it forever.”

Supremacy screened for a full house at the Festival. “Tyrese came! Katt Williams came!” Taylor enthused, “I went from nobody knowing my movie to standing on a red carpet with my cast and Tyrese.” He says the exposure his film got at the Festival was crucial. “The LA Film Festival did such an incredible job, and this is why I think you have to fight to get your movie into festivals. They took my little movie and, within the course of two weeks, [the industry] knew about my movie.” He also loved the Festival’s location: “This is the Mecca of movies!” he exclaimed, “so people that are in LA, studios that are in LA—you can’t get better positioning for your movie than the LA Film Festival.”

After the positive reception at the screening, Taylor and his team negotiated with Well Go USA, who are aiming for an awards season release, hoping to bring some attention to the astounding performances. “This was perfect,” Taylor says, “because this type of movie was looking for a company that could hold it, nourish it, and release the correct way, and give it that type of respect and energy that it needed so it could actually work.”

Taylor and his team were devoted to their mission of getting Supremacy seen, but ultimately, the film spoke for itself, and there’s no trick to distribution that’s more useful than having a powerful and resonant film that you’re passionate about. “I took a very big risk making this movie,” Taylor said, “and the reason I did that was that I believed in it.”

Mary Sollosi / Intern Blogger