What Do You Need to Open a Movie? a Post-Distribution Deal Checklist

So you made your film, screened it at a ton of festivals to rave reviews, and netted a theatrical distribution deal. Happy ending, right?

Not so much, as many an exhausted filmmaker has discovered. Distributors need deliverables, and that means you need to fork out some extra cash—yes, even with the finish line so close you can almost touch it. The makers of comedic documentary Meet the Patels found that out the hard way after their film was picked up by Alchemy, and now they’re crowdfunding to get it across those last few yards this August. We asked them to list out their remaining financial hurdles, cautionary tale-style.

For most first-time filmmakers, the goal is to get distribution, and then you pass out on the couch for approximately a year, after which you tour the country apologizing to friends and family for the decade of your disappearance. Um, so add one more year to that… and a Kickstarter campaign. Here’s our story.

Meet the Patels, about Ravi Patel’s attempts to negotiate between the demands of his parents and his future wife, started as a funny and totally embarrassing family vacation video that PBS eventually came on to produce and distribute. After six years, we finished the film, but the festivals rejected it. So for two more years we edited the film some more… and got rejected some more. Finally, through the brave efforts of Hot Docs, LA Film Festival, and Traverse City Film Festival, Meet the Patels was put in front of audiences and proved to be a festival hit, selling out at festivals around the country for a year. That’s when we signed with UTA and picked up a theatrical distribution deal. Hurray!…

…OK, now time for us get back to work. For any filmmaker who wants to know what to expect after you find a distributor, here is a quick idea of the costs we are facing, and why we have a Kickstarter campaign going right now.

1. Finishing Costs

In our distribution deal, we received no money upfront. We love our deal and our distributor, and we’re excited they are putting a ton of money and energy and creativity into the marketing and the release of our film, which is why we took it. At the same time, though, we have to deliver the film to the distributor in several formats, with adjusted credits and associated finishing costs. Our funding from PBS and our other long-time support was depleted from so many years of shooting, editing, re-editing, creating animation, buying music, and all the creative elements that were critical to the quality of the film…

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