In the world of filmmaking, you occasionally come across bad people. There is a lot of talk in filmmaking circles about predatory distributors who look to rip filmmakers off. But that is not at all what Shaked Berenson and his team are about.
They’re the good guys, they’re honest and give filmmakers access to every sale, and they work in partnership with filmmakers to distribute and market their films.
He studied business at UCLA and founded Epic Pictures. He then worked as a producer, started working in distribution, bought and sold Dread Central (merged with Epic Pictures) and was on the board for IFTA (Independent Film and TV Alliance).
With over 13 years of experience in the film industry, he has learnt a lot about production, distribution and financing films.
“It’s a very exciting time. You go to sleep in the evening, and by the time you wake up, the industry is completely different.”
“The Money is in Sales”
Shaked says that the best situation to be in is “when you’re able to make money and also to make relationships.” Once you’ve started talking about what is needed, “you start understanding the value of specific genres, of cast, directors. Understanding that cyclicality is very important.”
Films often take about four years to make, but the movie release doesn’t always happen straight away. “You need to give people time to review, consider if you need to do a festival run, you need to prep the marketing, you need to do PR. You can’t just say ‘Oh, we released the trailer.’”
“A lot of filmmakers make this mistake. They get into a festival and then they release their poster, they release a trailer, they send screeners to everybody; and they’ve already kind of botched their own film.”
He explains the reason why you should use a professional distributor, using an analogy. If you’re very ill you don’t just go to the pharmacy and get medicine and start taking it. “You need to ask the doctor, go to a professional.” The same with film, regardless of how many films you’ve made. You need to go to the experts.
Shaked likes to work closely with the filmmakers because they have “the most intimate knowledge of the movie.”
“As an independent filmmaker, you don’t have a lot of ammunition. You have basically seven bullets.” If you’ve released the trailer, the poster and shown at festivals before bringing someone like Shaked in, it makes it a lot more difficult to make money for the film.
“I highly suggest, no matter what genre it is, that you find the right sales agent or the right distributors, to talk with early, and really try to focus on the five or six that are the right fit, as opposed to going to AFM or knocking on doors and just giving a DVD to everybody.”
Tips for Distribution
- Companies can be opportunistic, so “you want a company that’s focused, a company like A24, that know exactly what they’re doing.”
- Where to find distributors? Most companies have acquisition people. It is important to “make sure to research what they’ve done in the past. Speak with people who’ve worked with them before. Go onto IMDb, click on the company, scroll down to three years. Don’t do it for the one from yesterday because they don’t know yet. Go for two to three years ago.” Talk to other filmmakers about their experience of using a specific distributor.
- Ask Yes or No questions. “When you ask an open-ended question, you get an open-ended answer.”
How should a filmmaker Contact a Distributor?
A distributor or sales agent wants as much information as possible. “it’s almost like a first date or like swiping and liking people from the trailer.” They will know if they like you and your style from that initial introduction to your film.
Shaked says that you should send the trailer, a poster, the cast and crew information. Don’t send a screener. “I would highly recommend, not sending the link, unless somebody says they’re interested.”
If you’d like to hear more of Shaked’s invaluable tips for distribution and film sales, make sure that you listen to our podcast, below.