Delivering Your Film (Part I)

Thumb Sometimes filmmaking is about boxes

You've finished your film. You've landed a distribution deal. Now here's the fun part. The distributor wants your deliverables before writing you a check. What?

Deliverables refers to the laundry list of items that you're supposed to hand over to your distributor(s).  What's on the list varies depending on the distributor and the rights (theatrical, DVD, VOD, streaming) being licensed.  But you'll have to cough up these items in a short timeframe - usually 30 to 60 days - or the deal could be scotched.  And you'll have to pay for them.  Or most of them, anyway - but don't count on a distributor giving you money for this stuff.

So, what can you expect on this list?  At least:

Master: This could be the DI film negative, DCP sequence, HDCAM-SR or Quicktime file on a drive.

PAL Master: For international distribution.

SD Master: Standard-Def (usually DigiBeta) tape or uncompressed QuickTime.  Still used for making DVD and SD broadcast masters.

Textless titles:  The title sequences without the text (so foreign distributors can place the title in the correct language)

Credits list: for both the front and end credits.

Sound Masters: the final bounce files from the mixing session (the Dolby 5.1 and Stereo versions).  Possibly the ProTools session files as well.

Music Masters: Hi-end WAV files (16-bit or 24-bit uncompressed 48KHz).

M&E Mix: This is for foreign territories.  This is a mix that contains the music and effects but without the dialog.  This is a very expensive item, because you'll have to foley any sounds OTHER than dialog (clothing, footsteps, etc.) that are still on the dialog track.

Corporate Paperwork: the certificate of incorporation of your production company, copies of the operating and shareholder agreements, and any legal agreement between the producers (like a joint venture agreement)

Music paperwork: licensing agreements, composer agreement, copyright, and a music cue sheet (a list of the individual songs/soundtrack elements, along with their start/stop timecode and duration)

Chain of title: the copyright form, the option or screenwriter's agreement

Script: The final script (as-edited and mixed), as well as the dialogue list (so they can write subtitles)

DVD Menu Elements: The menu JPGs or video, DVD project files, music, etc. that comprise the DVD menus

Electronic Press Kit: Behind-the-scenes clips, interviews, articles, bios, photos

Artwork: The one-sheet, DVD artwork, postcards.  You'll need to provide both print and web versions.  You may need to provide layered Photoshop originals as well as TIFFs (so they can rework your artwork if necessary)

Trailer: greenband-compatible (no swearing or nudity), usually in several formats/frame sizes.

Contracts: crew, cast, extras, vendors, locations, union/guild signatory paperwork.  Some distributors just want to know you have this stuff but need actual copies.

E&O Insurance: Errors and Omissions insurance.  This protects the producers, distributors, and agents from lawsuits arising from libel, music clearance issues, or a host of other possible problems.  Like most insurance, if you actually need it you probably can't get it (for example, if you defame a real person in your fictional story).  Distributors (usually) carry their own insurance, but their coverage doesn't extend to you. 

This is a huge list, and not by any means exhaustive.  It's pretty much impossible to determine ahead of time exactly what a prospective distributor will want, so you have two strategies to keep yourself from getting screwed: stay organized so you don't lose track of the above items; and budget for the most likely deliverables.

In the next blog post, we'll go into more detail about how to get your deliverables together ahead of time.