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Adventures in Self-Releasing: You Need to Know What a Service Deal Is

Adventures in Self-Releasing: You Need to Know What a Service Deal Is

Blog - Adventures in Self-Releasing

I’m still trying to determine whether or not there will be more theatrical stops for The Last Lullaby. I should know more in another week or so.

This week was a big one for Louisiana’s movie industry. The state increased its production tax credit from 25 to 30 percent, once again making Louisiana one of the states with the most aggressive movie tax legislation. I made The Last Lullaby in Louisiana and am really hoping to make my next movie in the state as well, so this is very good news. I’m only about 50 pages into Reed Martin’s The Reel Truth, but I can already say that this is a new must-read for any young independent moviemaker (myself included). It’s a new book and definitely comes at things from a very honest, useful place. Highly, highly recommended.

For a while now, I’ve been saying that the movie industry, more than any other industry I’ve ever seen, has an enormous gap between interest and knowledge. What I mean by this is that almost everyone I meet has a great interest in the movie industry. However, almost no one I meet has any understanding of how the industry really works. In some ways, I hope that’s some of what this blog is doing, bridging that gap a little. One example of this gap is in the concept of the service deal. So, just what is a service deal? Who are the players? And why am I griping about it?

A service deal sits between a traditional distribution deal and self-releasing. In a traditional distribution deal, a distributor usually pays an upfront fee to acquire the rights to the movie. Then the distributor makes all the determinations about how to release it into the marketplace. In a traditional distribution deal, the moviemakers generally have little to no say about the release strategy. In self-releasing, the moviemaker retains 100 percent control over the release strategy. The downside: The moviemaker does it with little or no help and for no money upfront.

Meanwhile, in a service deal, the moviemaker PAYS a company to distribute them (some of the better known service companies are Roadside Attractions, Truly Indie and Freestyle). In turn, the moviemaker maintains a great level of control over the release strategy.

My gripe, though, is this: Although I know service companies can be somewhat selective, I think it’s misleading when a press release announces that a movie has received distribution when really it’s nothing more than a service deal. The public reads this and thinks a distributor just bought another movie. But, in earnest, that’s not really what happened.

More than ever, I think it’s important as moviemakers to educate ourselves about the entire process. And, as I’ve said before, the next time a moviemaker tells you they received distribution, I think it’s really important to immediately say, “Congratulations! That’s fantastic. If you don’t mind, how much did the distributor give you?” Otherwise, we’re all just perpetuating a myth and allowing the gap between interest and knowledge to remain.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors.

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