As part of IFP’s Independent Film Week, producer and Submarine Entertainment co-founder Josh Braun (he most recently sold Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” to IFC Films and announced that Submarine will help with the theatrical release of Constance Marks’ documentary “Being Elmo”) spoke with Page Six deputy editor Ian Mohr to give an insider’s perspective on how to attract sales agents (like Submarine) and distributors. We’ve turned Braun’s words into a step-by-step process. Mohr, a former reporter for Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, offered his own advice for getting press for films in Page Six, which we’ve included as a bonus.
Step One: Make a Film People Will Care About
Braun: When I look at a film, it’s largely just my own tastes and what I gravitate towards. I’m evaluating potential. If I respond to this positively, everyone, or at least one buyer will respond to it in the same way. For example, “Bombay Beach,” is an impressionistic, beautiful, amazing story. It didn’t scream huge commercial potential, but it’s a great film, Sometimes that is enough. You can fall back on quality and greatness. There are bigger films — the Diana Vreeland film, for example — that have built in qualities that make it marketable.
Step Two: Know When You’re Ready to Show People Your Film
Sometimes people show us films too early… ‘Catfish’ is an example. When we saw ‘Catfish,’ we just weren’t sure how people would react to the filmmakers’ interaction with the subjects. They showed a totally different cut at Sundance. They came to us too early.
In this world, it really is smart to consider what the state of the project is — maybe it’s gonna get a lot better later. Friends, family, colleagues in the industry, fresh eyes whose opinion you trust — figure out what you have and the best time to submit something.
Step Three: Understand the Film Sales Calendar
When we’re getting ready to go to a big festival like Toronto or Cannes, we’re probably looking for finished films, a rough cut, fine cut, or a finished film that’s going to that festival. Those are the places we sell films that we rep at the greatest volume. That’s where they get the most attention.
Step Four: Give Them Something to Get Their Attention
It can be a trailer, a rough cut, an assembly. At least a five-minute demo reel to give us the sense that there’s something there.
Step Five: Be Prepared for a Variety of Buyer Responses
In this relationship with the filmmaker, I’m saying I believe in this film, and [I’m] saying these are the range of possibilities. I’m always trying to get the best possible deal. We’re incentivized to get the best possible deal. Sometimes [the film goes] to Sundance and has an all-night bidding war, we pop the champagne, and repeat an hour later with another film. Sometimes it’s clear that a film has a great potential for TV but doesn’t have a chance for theatrical. Sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes we’ve had a greater success of carving up the rights.
In the case of “Being Elmo,” our company is involved with the theatrical release. We got a sense of what the offers were (and) the offers were in what I would call a fair range. When we did the math, a separate TV deal, Netflix deal, separate DVD deal, the money coming back to the filmmakers was three times more.”
Step Six: Stay Open to Unorthodox Revenue Streams
We just sold the remake rights to this documentary “Of All the Things,” which will be a Warner Brothers comedy vehicle for Steve Carrell. It’s an interesting case, because the film itself is not selling because the music has a high clearance cost. The remake deal created a lot of interest in the documentary film.
Step Seven: Be Patient. If Your Film is Good, It Will Prevail
When, we went to Toronto in 2008, the buyers literally said ‘If you have docs, that’s not a part of our business plan.’ We always go to fests with features and docs – that year we only went with docs.” (The films, which included the wildly popular “Food, Inc.,” eventually sold and became some of Submarine’s biggest titles.)
Bonus Tip from Ian Mohr on Getting Covered on Page Six:
Mohr: I’ve been trying to get more indie film stuff in Page Six; my background is in the trades. Sometimes people think that we do huge things only. We do quirky New York stories. There was a film from Nicholas Jarecki that got Graydon Carter to do a cameo. We’re looking to do that kind of stuff, because of the blogs, there’s so many places that people go to for information. We’re looking for unique stories.