About Jerome Courshon

Film Producer & Distribution Expert Jerome Courshon knows the ‘game’ of distribution as a Producer in the trenches. From his film festival journeys to self-releasing his first movie into theaters to securing distribution with Warner Bros., Courshon has faced innumerable obstacles. And it’s this real world “what works, what doesn’t” approach that he is able to share with fellow filmmakers to help them attain success. For over the past 6 years, Courshon has assisted hundreds of Producers & Directors with achieving real distribution through his classes, speaking engagements and consultations.

DVD Distribution

DVD Distribution is still one of the important markets for generating revenues for your film. Some love to proclaim that “DVD is dying” or “DVD is dead” — and that moviemakers shouldn’t even bother with DVD distribution. But this simply isn’t true. (Please note that in my posting here, when I say “DVD,” I’m speaking about both DVD and Blu-ray.)

The slide in consumer demand for packaged media has mostly leveled off. In fact, preliminary numbers are showing sales of physical product higher this year than in 2011. The fact is, the studios don’t want to see DVD dead — because it is such a HUGE revenue generator for them — and services like UltraViolet are bridging the user gap between the packaged media world and the digital delivery world.

So DVD distribution is still alive and profitable, although it has become less of a “cookie cutter” market, where any DVD distributor could in the past comfortably rely upon consistent revenues from any title. That’s not a given now, and how well a movie or documentary does depends upon a number of factors.

Certainly with less brick & mortar stores that rent DVDs, this has impacted the market. While the immense growth of Redbox and their kiosks has offset some of the rental decline, there are only a limited number of slots in those kiosks, unlike the endless wall of new releases at the local Blockbuster. However, Blu-ray sell-through continues to climb, which partly offsets the losses in the rental market.

So when you’re looking for DVD distribution, one major question you should be asking a potential distributor who’s interested in your film is, “What is your success rate at getting movies you pick up into Redbox?” “What is your success rate at getting movies into Walmart, Target and Best Buy?” And, “What are the prospects for my film?” If you’ve made an independent film, Redbox is NOT out of the question for you. But, there are only a limited number of slots in the Redbox kiosks for indie films.

This may be obvious to some, but one reason that DVD distribution is an important market, is because the profit margins are higher for a movie that is packaged, versus a digital file. There’s a higher perceived value for a DVD or Blu-ray, and thus a higher price point. One cannot sell a VOD viewing of a new release for $15 or $20 (with some exceptions), but you can for a DVD or Blu-ray.

Another factor is that there is still a sizable percentage of the U.S. that either: a) still does not have high-speed internet; or b) does not have their television connected to the internet. For these people, DVDs are still very important. And if people are relaxing at home and decide to watch a movie, they generally prefer to watch it on their high-def televisions rather than watching it on their iPad or other portable, connected device. (While some of you may be tech savvy enough to have connected your television to the internet long ago, most Americans are not, and it takes years for a large percentage to “migrate” to the new ways.)

A note about DVD distributors. When you’re about to make a deal with one, you should know that many of them currently are asking for most domestic (U.S.) rights to your film. They not only want the DVD distribution rights, but also VOD, television, and internet. My general advice is this: If they want all of these rights, then there better be a respectable monetary advance. If there isn’t, then I’m not giving them all these rights. Some I will hold back and not allow to be included in the deal. (For more about this, attend my live class or get my 3-Day Program on Film Distribution.)

Right now, there are over 67,000 physical outlets for DVD & Blu-ray. This includes both rental stores, kiosks and sell-through locations. Plus, there are all the online stores for DVD. So… I’m not trying to sell you a pipe dream about DVD distribution. Just recognize that this market still has real strength, and earning significant revenues is still possible. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the film excerpt on Home Video, from my 3-Day Program here: http://www.Distribution.LA/Film.html

Digital Distribution

One of the most crucial ingredients for success for any Film Producer or Director, is being aware of the many markets available for their film when it comes time to sell it. One important market is the online (internet) platforms for movies and documentaries.

Frequently referred to as Digital Distribution, the delivery methods of your content to customers online include VOD (Video-on-Demand), streaming video, download-to-watch, and download-to-own. As this is one of the fast growing methods of movie distribution, it behooves the Film Producer or Director to be knowledgeable about what it takes. And while this is only one viable market, one can’t ignore that Digital Distribution is the future that has now arrived. Here’s a few points you should know, when you’re ready to exploit this market:

1) Cut out as many middlemen as possible with Digital Distribution

As I discuss in my classes and in my 3-Day Distribution Program, you do not need a “producer representative” to do Digital Distribution for you. So that’s at least one middleman cut from the profits. However, you may need to utilize an “Aggregator,” depending upon which platforms you want to utilize. An Aggregator is one who acquires content for various digital platforms, and this is not the same as a producer representative.

The larger and more well-known a platform is, the more likely an Aggregator is needed. But you do not (should not) pay any upfront money to any Aggregator, to handle your film for Digital Distribution. Of course, there are hundreds of smaller platforms where you can interface directly yourself — no Aggregator needed — to get your movie or documentary on those sites.

If you do choose to utilize an Aggregator, be sure you check up on them, and be clear about what rights you are granting in any agreement, before signing it.

2) Don’t underestimate the “Art” in Digital Distribution

Another important issue is your Key Art, also known as your movie poster. This needs to excellent, because it’s the first thing your potential customer sees when deciding what they want to watch or buy online. Not just “okay,” not “decent,” not “adequate,” but “kick ass.” If you had a unit photographer on set during your film production, this is most helpful in building visual assets you will need to sell your film. There are remarkable statistics that distributors, movie studios and veteran filmmakers all know: The better your movie poster, the better your sales will be, not only in the packaged media arena (DVDs & Blu-rays) but in the Digital Distribution arena as well.

3) When entering the Digital Distribution market, think of your Audience

Consider your audience for your film. Where are they likely to window shop? If someone is specifically looking for your movie or documentary, of course all they have to do is use Google to find you. But if they don’t know about your film, how will they find you?

This is where being on the major platforms is really important, or at least being on the prominent platforms that your audience frequents. Frankly, I recommend being on all the major platforms, but if there are some sites that really cater to your type of film, be sure to get on those sites as well.

Digital Distribution isn’t brain surgery, but this arena has shifted more over the past 1-2 years than any other market for your film. Staying on top of all the developments can be time consuming and impossible for most Producers & Directors. So here’s my last tip: Any major or significant developments in the Digital Distribution market are posted on my Film Distribution page at Facebook. Follow this, and you shouldn’t miss any major news: http://www.facebook.com/FilmDistribution