Preparing a Film for Release

Ok, we have time for one more mailbag question today: “What checks do I need to go through before I show a movie publicly or release it for sale?”

Well, you should write checks to all your marketing and advertising people, and probably a check to me as a consultant… just kidding. This is not an area that I am particularly familiar with, because it is fairly specialized. This is something that an entertainment lawyer would be more help on. I’ll assume that if you are signing a feature film on distribution contracts, you already have a lawyer handling double-jointed clauses and such, so I’ll aim this more at the short film festival preparation type of legwork. You’re getting ready to sell the film, and you need to make sure that all of your legal issues are in order.

A good way of making sure that you’ve covered everything is to make sure that you have a good press kit. Make a website for the film that has your EPK (electronic press kit) on it. This will include contact numbers for yourselves, synopsis of the film, production stills (with links to hi-rez printable pics), the format, ratio and sound of the film, the credits of the film, short bio/filmography of the main creators, what festivals it has been to already and which awards it has won, and possibly some production notes and maybe even cue or export script, which has a list of all the music clips or other non-original materials.

You will also need to have (and be able to supply to potential buyers) the appropriate licences and permissions for any non-original materials that are in your film. If you have hired your lead actors (SAG or otherwise), keep your contracts with them handy. If your actors are volunteers, make sure they sign some sort of release that says that they know they’ve been filmed and relinquish rights to their filmed image, etc. If you’ve used any recognizable places as sets, you should have releases from their owners (technically not legally required, but distributors want to make very sure that they can’t get sued).

You should also think about being able to supply a version of the film with just an M&E (music and effects) track, for foreign buyers who want to re-dub vocals without re-mixing the entire soundtrack. Once you have all of these elements together, you are prepared to meet the demands of almost anyone who who would like to show or purchase your film. Everything else is simply a matter of being above reproach in your contracts and payments, the material that you have purchased to use, and the manner in which you represent your film to sell it.