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Distribution Office Assistant

Distribution companies acquire and place films on cinema screens with the aim of attracting the largest possible audience. Acquisitions, sales and marketing staff are found at international film markets and festivals, developing relationships with sales companies and production companies.

My First Job in Film: How to find a job in film distribution
Stage
1

If coming into the industry with a film degree, take short course on statistical and data analysis. Experience of any office environment would be advantageous, work on your IT and admin skills.

Stage
2

Look for work experience whilst studying or internships, apply for the trainee scheme run by the FDA and Creative Skillset.

Stage
3

Be certain what area of the business you want to proceed in, marketing, acquisitions, sales, delivery. Ensure you are capable of using photoshop and posses the appropriate IT skills.

HOW DO FILM DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES WORK?

Distribution companies are made up of many departments or individuals which, in its most basic form, work in unison to acquire and deliver films to an audience. A distribution company can become involved at any point of the filmmaking process, from concept, draft screenplay, principal photography, post-production or the completed project. Pre-sales of the film generate funding to go toward production costs, and act as added security to other potential investors such as banks, private investors or co-producers - which is why producers seek involvement from a distributor in the initial stages of the project.  

Sourcing films or scripts that will connect with an audience is a subtle art, and as the industry changes so have the outlets and platforms on which viewers access their chosen content. The leading Hollywood studios, Warner Warner Bros, Disney, Fox, Paramount, Universal and Sony, are mostly concerned with the business of financing and distributing films, making studio productions (usually produced by their subsidiary companies) transition from script to screen relatively straightforward. For independent films, distributors such as StudioCanal, Lionsgate, eOne, Pathe and a host of smaller companies provide the best chance for an independent film to make it to the screen, and find a home entertainment outlet.

Distribution companies acquire films from the film markets which run throughout the year. The primary film markets are the AFM (American Film Market). European Film Market or EFM (February. Associated with the Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival) and the Marché du Film (May. Associated with Cannes International Film Festival). Smaller markets operating in Europe focusing on low budget independent films and documentaries (such as CineMart in Rotterdam).

During the film markets, representatives from distribution companies will be negotiating with sales companies who represent the producers of the movie. They negotiate the films ‘rights’, including the right to release the film theatrically (cinema) and ancillary rights such as  DVD, VOD, TV, cable and satellite. On purchasing a film from the markets, a distributor will sign a Deal Memo on the day, which is followed up by a  Long Form Agreement, committing the distribution company to the project. The Long Form Agreement will lay out the terms and conditions including the financial terms. The distributor can either enter into a profit share on the basis of a Minimum Guarantee (often shortened to the MG), where the producer will share in profits achieved over the MG. The other option is to enter a distribution agreement, where the distributor is paid a fixed fee to distribute the film, and the profits (after P and A costs) are given to the producer.

Distributors will research and decide the best time to release the movie in consultation with the sales team and the Marketing Department. During this period the Sales Department of the distribution company will be in negotiation with the UK exhibitors to arrange the theatrical release of the film. The main three exhibitors in the UK are Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, who control over 75% of the market. A film’s run on the big screen is entirely dependent on how well it performs in the first few days of opening. Exhibitors react quickly to the data they are provided with on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, and a change in cinema schedule is rapidly achieved to create the best chance for profit. The UK has around 850 theatres, where more than 4,000 screens are available to audiences. Exhibitors will utilise their screen space to get the most out of the films they're showing, whether that’s multiple showings over two or three screens, 3D projector capability or have the capacity for 4D viewings.

After the window to show the film theatrically has closed, distributors will enact their strategy for a home entertainment release; this can involve reworking the marketing strategy to appeal to other demographics. Home entertainment will encompass TV, DVD and BluRay, VOD services and satellite and cable outlets. Non-home entertainment outlets include cruise ships and in-flight entertainment services. Distributors can hold the rights to an independent film for 7 or more years dependant on the contract. During the time they hold the product they will prepare regular reports documenting the P and A spend and the earning or box office takings to be shared with producers, via the international sales companies who continue to represent the film.

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL POSITIONS WITHIN A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY?

32 established companies in the UK distribute films theatrically; they range from 5 man teams to the larger studios who employ a large staff. Distribution is an exceptionally difficult area of the industry to enter as distribution is small and specialised, you’re going to need to use all available resources and possess a lots of determination to find internships and junior positions. You’re also going to need a backup plan, so think carefully about your aims and objectives. Research other areas of the business, if you have knowledge of sales look at the sales companies; if you’re coming into the industry with a degree in marketing look at production, finance and sales companies as well as distribution - they all require professionals with marketing experience. 

Work experience and internships:

Your CV is going to need to show some experience when looking for paid junior roles, so work experience and internships placements are going to be invaluable to progress your career. Work experience is a maximum of 4 weeks full time or 160 hours part time over three months. You want to be taking these placements whilst studying, don't wait until the first day of the holidays to look for work experience, find placements well in advance of your holiday time. Placements are short term, designed to give an insight into the workings of specific areas of the film industry. Internships should give candidates something to get their teeth into and can be longer running in duration, interns should be paid NMW unless it comes under the banner of student internships. Read the Creative Skillset Guidelines to make sure you understand the difference between them both. 

Continuously check the MFJF jobs board as we have ongoing relationships with UK film distribution companies. Also, check the distribution companies websites themselves. Unlike their American counterparts, the UK representatives of the studios (Disney, Warners, Sony, Paramount, Fox and Universal) do not offer the same quantity of internships and work placement schemes, whilst researching make sure the placement isn’t located in Santa Monica - unless you have your I Visa that is.

FDA Training scheme:

The Film Distribution Association in association with Creative Skillset run a training scheme designed to get successful applicants into work via the scheme and give an applicant an immersive experience in this area of the industry. This scheme is only open once a year, so make sure to sign up to newsletters and keep tabs on their twitter feeds to know when they are advertising. They only take 10-12 entrants each year and the competition is very fierce with over 500 applications for these places. If you’re thinking of applying you're going to need to work on your CV and demonstrate relevant experience wherever possible. They will be looking for candidates with strong business acumen and academic background, who can interpret numeric data and use their analytical skills to determine market trends and patterns - you also need to love films too! Get in touch with the FDA to find out more. 

Office Assistant:

When you are at stage 2-3 of your career plan, look for the role of office assistant. Assistants are equivalent to the position of a runner; they are responsible for answering phones, dealing with correspondence and couriers, office supplies and general office tasks that keep the ship sailing smoothly. 

WHAT ARE THE DEPARTMENTS IN A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY?

Depending on the size of the operation, distribution companies can have many departments. Smaller companies will have one person in charge of each of the following. When looking for placements you should know what each of these departments is responsible for:

  • Acquisitions and rights: Reading scripts, watching films, maintaining a solid knowledge of the market trends and analysing data; acquisitions staff will negotiate with sales companies, producers and production companies to acquire film rights. The work in close collaboration with the legal and Sales Department/people.

  • Legal. In some smaller companies, this can be outsourced to a legal firm, but many have their own in-house teams or person dealing with contractual elements, such as the initial deal with the owners of the film (producer, production company) to contracts with exhibitors and various broadcasters. Most distributors will have someone dedicated to internal business affairs who will deal with IP (intellectual property) and piracy, a hot topic in the distribution business.  This is another complex area, and if you're good with computers and algorithms it can be an interesting career path to pursue.

  • Marketing and publicity: See our marketing guide if you are interested in this area of the industry. There are many different roles within marketing in the film industry but unlike the other business models (film sales, production company, finance), film distribution is continually launching prototypes and the marketing strategies have to reflect that. In distribution the in-house marketing team work across theatrical and/or home entertainment releases, ensuring the correct material on release is provided and used. One of the biggest areas of growth within the marketing arena of distribution is digital marketing. Social media, influencer, content and campaign marketing are creative new weapons in the marketer’s arsenal and a driving factor in any campaign strategy.

  • Creative services: organising, origination, approval and circulation of publicity and marketing materials.

  • Theatrical distribution/partner liaison (separate department in larger companies): Working with the exhibitors and the sales team to ensure all the publicity and marketing are coordinated with the film’s release. 

  • Sales: Members of the different sales teams liaise with exhibitors, broadcasters, VOD, satellite/cable channels and non-home entertainment outlets such as cruise ships and in-flight entertainment providers. A background in sales and a good head for business is required in this department.

  • In-house technical/delivery: Delivery of the films can be outsourced if the company is small, but a larger distributor will have a department to deal with this aspect of the job. Digital files are very complex, a film can potentially be delivered in over 100 different formats. The work of the Delivery Department has radically changed over the past few years. Some distributors have ceased to release 35mm prints opting to provide a digital print instead. Distributors can send a DCP (digital cinema package) on a hard drive, or the film can be sent via a satellite or fibre link. The digital file has to be ingested into the cinema server, giving exhibitors the flexibility to change their schedule and screening logistics with the minimum of fuss.

  • Home entertainment (separate department in larger companies): This includes, DVD and Blu-Ray sales, VOD, Cable and TV strategy and distribution. The home entertainment team add value to DVDs and Blu-Ray by adding extras, games and better image resolution in the case of Blu-Ray. On occasion, the DVD or VOD can be released on the same day, dependent on the production and the aims of the distributors.  

  • TV Department: The TV Department will often be a separate department in larger companies responsible for engaging and liaising with broadcasters on the sale of titles and ensuring they have the correct marketing materials.

WHAT TASKS/RESPONSIBILITIES CAN BE DELEGATED TO JUNIOR MEMBERS OF THE TEAM?

Taking an internship or work experience placement will enable you to ask questions and help out with a variety of tasks, or assist other members of junior staff with theirs. Internships and work experience can mean sitting in on meetings, taking notes, being asked to make the tea/coffee and being given the freedom to ask as many questions as you want. Remember, you are there to learn and get the most of it.

Whilst working as an office assistant some responsibilities may feel menial such as going on the coffee run, some light reception duties or sending out emails, but this is the starting point of your career and everyone has to start somewhere. Members of distribution are quick to assess value and worth, not only of the product they are selling but of the staff they wish to attract. Be astute, ask questions and show how keen you are. Use these tasks as an opportunity to meet people in the office, let others know your ambitions and get yourself known. Depending on the area you're employed, you can be called upon to complete the following:

Reception duties.

Acting as the first point of contact for anyone contacting the companies.

Booking transportation.

Cars for senior members of staff, or flights to the film markets.

Scheduling/diarising meetings.

Keeping the department's schedule, making travel arrangements or arranging food if it's over the lunchtime hours.

Organising couriers and interns.

Your list of daily tasks can grow exponentially, especially around the date of a release or film market. Being able to organise interns to help with the workload will enable you to focus on the most important jobs.

Test audience.

You can be asked to act as a test audience for a film, make notes and present your findings at the end of the screening.

Transcribing.

Which can be anything from an interview to a meeting.

A/V file conversions.

If working in a small company you can be asked to convert files for any publicity material.

Database management.

All companies that hold large amounts of information will have a database that will need updating. If ever unsure about the system be sure to ask another member of staff. Distributors deal with other companies around the globe, keeping an updated database is essential to make sure the distribution team are always meeting with the right people.

Phone calls.

If you're assigned to a senior member of the team or work in sales, they can be on the phone for a large percentage of the day. You may be asked to queue up calls, or take messages.

Script reading.

Some companies will hire script readers to write up a synopsis and a report, sometimes it can be left to the junior members of staff. You will be asked to write up a brief report and assign them a score out of 10.

Competitive release schedules.

Knowing what is being released at what time is crucial information for distributors. They may have a campaign calendar at larger companies which will need maintenance.

Analysis international and domestic box office data.

Such as ROI for marketing promotions and trend analysis. Knowing how to write an analytical report and interpret data will be a large part of the job, which is why distributors will be on the lookout for graduates who have an aptitude for numeric data and analytical skills.

Events prep.

Interns and office assistants will lend a hand when it comes to preparation for international film markets, and any publicity events for the Marketing Departments such as junkets, premieres or on set press days, helping members of marketing schedule and deliver promotional materials.

Running errands.

All junior level roles will be asked to run errands, either collecting or delivering items that cannot be emailed.

Social media.

Distributors use social media to promote themselves and the films that are responsible for. Social media is an effective campaign tool for the marketing team, junior staff can be asked to man the social media platforms each day. 

Delivering posters to cinemas.

Checking the cinemas are correctly displaying them.

Attend any marketing events.

Such as a Sunday morning screening of a children's film to distribute goodie bags before or after the film.

Help organise screenings.

Screenings for journalists and/or film commentators before the film has a national release or screenings for senior exhibitors.


HOW DO I GET A JOB IN DISTRIBUTION?

Work Experience and Internships

How do you find work experience? Good question. MFJF list many opportunities with distributors so keep an eye on the jobs board, at the same time you’re going to need to do some serious work getting your CV out there and talking to people. Get on the phone to distribution companies listed in The Knowledge or the FDA Yearbook (which can be obtained on request from info@fda.uk.net) and find out who decides to offer work experience places, call them and find out how their process works. Do they advertise? Probably not, so you’re going to need to put a voice and personality into that CV if you’re about to send it in cold. If the company do offer work experience, find out how often. Often one placement won’t cut it, so look for as many opportunities as you can to weight your CV towards this area of the industry.

Some work placements and internships can turn into full-time jobs in the future, recommendations are commonplace and companies talk to each other when looking for new staff, which is why making contacts when you are taking these placements is so important. So, if you were with the company for a few weeks as an intern and made an impression, your name can be remembered and passed on. Good proactive and competent people are not forgotten.  

CV

When working on your CV check it through (or ask someone else to) to see it reads well and is correctly formatted. You can use the CV advice and CV builder to help create a CV and covering letter, and you can check your CV against our example CVs to make sure it includes all the relevant information. You’re going to want to keep your CV short and to the point, as many employers will be ‘scanning’ rather than reading, cut out the chaff and try to keep it down to one page. If you're creating a CV for the first time include any voluntary or part time work you may have taken, what skills you have gained and how they would translate to working in distribution and an office environment.

If you are sending in a CV cold always find out who to send your CV to, and address them directly. This can be as simple as picking up the phone to ask who is in charge of recruitment, HR or the department you wish to enter. If applying for a position which requires you to complete an application form do take the time to respond to the questions comprehensively. Consider the reason for the question and answer it appropriately. One or two-word answers will seldom be sufficient!

If you're in stage 2-3 of your career plan and applying for advertised positions outside of MFJF, follow up a week after to check to see they received your CV. If you sent it without there being a job advertised you can be told they will keep your CV for future reference, however, you could get lucky and they might be recruiting that week, or you can make a good impression on the phone. Use your common sense and if they sound busy they probably are, but if you get chatting ask for some advice, or ask to meet for a quick coffee. 

Social media is a great way to find out what companies are up to and keep tabs on when they’re recruiting. Keep an eye on twitter, follow what distribution companies are doing at the markets and look at the films they have acquired. Whilst you are researching companies look at the other areas of the industry where a sales or marketing teams are employed, such as film sales, independent marketing companies and film production companies.

Applying for positions and sending out CVs can be a full-time job in itself. Some people will get lucky, finding work almost instantaneously after graduation. Some may have put in the hours (work experience/internships) whilst they are studying, some people might just be in the right place at the right time. Whatever situation you find yourself in, the resounding advice from professionals working in the film industry is be persistent; persistent and relentless in the pursuit of your chosen career. Keep applying for positions, seeking advice, sending emails, dropping off CVs at company reception desks, and calling in to see if they have any vacancies. Keep the motivation and the faith that at some point you will catch a break, but you must make sure you're giving yourself the best chance possible by continuously thinking of ways to make your CV more attractive. 

Research

Before you do anything else research the company you want to work for, find out what section of distribution they work in; do they distribute mostly children’s films, indies or documentaries? Research their website, find out which films they purchased for their slate and what they have coming up for release. Most companies display their back catalogue of films so study which were successful and which were not. 

It may sound all too obvious but a knowledge of how the film industry works is going to be essential. If called for an interview your potential employers want to know you understand the filmmaking process from script to screen and you’re aware of industry news and events - being well informed is the key to working in distribution. For example, acquisition has to know what films are being bought and sold on the marketplace and will be reading scripts and looking at screenings. The head of sales will know what type of film cinemas will show and when they will show them. What a Picturehouse cinema might be willing to exhibit on a Saturday night can be very different to the listings of a Cineworld at the local multiplex. Marketing will know how to promote different films, the strategic campaign for a thriller, for example, will be very different for that of a children’s films. Being able to proactively broaden your knowledge is going to be essential, here are the magazines and online resources the industry use for information:

Check these websites regularly, you need to be able to demonstrate your eagerness to learn on top of your interest in the industry. Alongside researching and knowing back to front the Film Value Chain, you may also wish to continue your reading to further your understanding of distribution and film production:

Taking time to research your chosen occupation is going to inform what you put on your CV and how you present yourself in your interview. You will also need to know you can answer the basic questions such as:

  • What does a distribution company actually do? 

  • How is a film connected with an audience? 

  • What is the process when taking a film from script to screen? 

  • What is the difference between acquisitions and sales and the Sales Departments in film sales company, production companies and finance companies.

  • When are the film markets on, who goes and which one is best to sell a certain genre of film?

Above all else, if you really want to work in film distribution, you MUST go to the cinema  regularly and engage with films as an audience does. Many cinemas have reduced ticket prices for students, they also have reduced ticket prices on certain days. You can sign up for membership of SHOWFILMFIRST.COM who work with distributors on word-of-mouth screenings. 

Personality and Attitude

If you are living in a big city already (if you're wanting to work in distribution that city will be London) you're going to need a wage to survive whilst you are looking for employment. Ideally, you would have been taking work experience placements whilst at college/university, if not look for internships to build up your CV. In many circumstances these are going to be NMW, so you may find yourself temping or taking part-time work to supplement your income for this first year. Put your office time to good use, become a master at Excel, powerpoint and data filing.

At points it can feel frustrating when you’re not getting the roles you want, keep in mind the advice on being relentless and go back to your CV, think about what you can do to make it better, what experience could you gain in another capacity to start ticking boxes for potential employers. Think about the possible reason your CV is not being chosen for roles, it could be a lack of experience, the way your CV is presented or if you’re sending in generic CVs and covering letters - you should give yourself the best possible chance by tailoring each one to each job role.

Although the industry is incredibly flexible when it comes to changing career, if you’re applying for positions in another area of the industry you will need to be clear why you want to make the change, and give examples of what you have been doing to facilitate the move.

 

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Looking for some advice or have a question on careers in this area? Then please get in touch, we are here to help!

 

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WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK AT A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY?

During your time at a junior level, you will be exposed to strategic planning, partnership development, publicity/promotions, grassroots marketing campaigns, digital/social interaction and more. You should be keen and willing to work long hours when necessary as an office assistant, and proactively assess what you can do to help when it's quiet. Distribution companies have a fluctuating schedule. If they have a full calendar of releases junior members of the team will be busy organising events, sending posters to cinemas and attending preview screenings or press functions to lend a hand. You may need to work longer hours and work weekends for weekend screenings.  If the company hasn’t got a film scheduled that month, there will always be prep for next month, junior members of the team will be sent off to screenings or asked to read scripts to keep them busy.

As a junior member of the team working in a smaller distribution company, you will be mixing with most members of the team; you will also be called upon to lend each of them a hand. So be prepared to be fought over. Try and manage your time the best you can, never say you can’t do something or are too busy. It’s much better to be diplomatic, so let them know you can do it but not until you have finished the task you have been set by another member of the team.

As you enter the world of distribution you may think your colleagues are talking another language, don’t worry you will pick up as time goes on. With the advent of more online platforms, placing a film has become more involved, but this is something you will learn by analysing stats and getting more experience. Above all people will forgive anything if you have the right attitude and proclivity for working hard, it's a small industry and people move around, so a good junior will be noticed and recommended.  

DO I NEED ANY QUALIFICATIONS TO WORK IN FILM DISTRIBUTION?

Most companies will be on the lookout for graduates with relevant degrees, similar to many of the business career paths in the film industry, it's an area where you will benefit from studying. Companies will be looking for graduates with business, marketing, finance or degrees in any of sciences, maths or economics. If you're coming to the workplace with a film degree, the onus will be on you to demonstrate you have the required analytical skills needed to work in distribution. If you have strong A-levels in any of the above subjects, make a feature of them in your CV. Research previous campaigns, read scripts, and if you haven’t had much experience analysing statistics find a course or online tutorial to practice. Your love of film and understanding of the filmmaking process can hold weight, so never shy away from demonstrating this in your applications and covering letters.

WHAT PAPERWORK AND SOFTWARE SHOULD I BE FAMILIAR WITH?

Working within the office environment will require you to have strong administrative skills, especially Excel. You would be at an advantage if you have:

  • A strong knowledge of both Mac and Windows operating systems, with particular attention to excel and powerpoint.

  • In some roles, familiarity with Photoshop and the Adobe Suite software will be an advantage.

  • Being able to collate, store and analyse data using software can become a crucial part of your job.

Look to the trade papers for more information about the industry. Everyone will have their ‘go to’ sites for information, so ask your colleagues what they prefer. To give you a head start check out the industry essentials section for websites we value.

10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR NEW ENTRANTS WHEN WORKING AT A DISTRIBUTION COMPANY.

Learn the process.

Learn how distribution works, each stage, who is involved and what each department brings to the process. Distribution is a multifaceted area of the industry, gain as much understanding of the process before you set foot in the office, it could be a useful buoyancy aid. If you're coming into the industry from a business background, learn about the sector as a whole and where distribution fits into the process of filmmaking.

Coffee run.

The coffee run is a great way to introduce yourself to people and strike up a conversation. It's better to be known as the person who gets the coffee than the person no one knows.

Try and remember everyone's name.

It sounds simple but can be harder to master than you may think, especially when you are introduced to people on your first day. Everyone finds their own way of remembering, try to find yours.

Research and development.

Always keep yourself up to date with industry news, especially how exhibitors are responding to the demands of their customers. The cinema experience is always changing, from the advancement of 4D viewing to the smaller independent cinemas who furnish their screens with home comforts such as armchairs and coffee tables.

Awareness of market trends.

Trying to predict the market can be a fun game to play at the beginning of your career, and a vital skill when you are working at a senior level.

Networking.

At some stage, you will be asked to attend industry events and film festivals with the express purpose of making contacts. If you are a natural networker and socialiser this can be one of your greatest attributes when working in distribution. If you find this side of the job a challenge, watch how your senior colleagues navigate this process and emulate them. You won't find too many wallflowers in this area of the industry, so if you're naturally shy be prepared to be pushed out of your comfort zone.

Develop and utilise your business skills.

Such as negotiation and budgeting. Whilst working in distribution don’t just use the workplace as your source of knowledge. If you feel you could benefit from extra training have a look online and see what's on offer.

Read widely across all genres.

Most distribution offices are inundated with scripts to read for potential acquisitions, being able to read thoroughly and quickly can take some skill, so get into practice now. Ask to read a strong script that the distribution company are considering investing in or buying so you know what they are looking for.

Technical development.

Know about the digital formats that films are shot and released on. Keeping up to date with the technical side of the industry can inform conversations and not leave you overwhelmed.

Know when you should give an opinion and when you shouldn't.

If the company has a bought a film and committed to distributing it then your opinion is not really relevant, unless you love it - people like to hear that. If you're asked to consider a film they're buying then it's ok to submit an honest opinion, but back it up with specific reasons not “I just don’t like war films”. Often people in charge will buy films they don’t necessarily like but are savvy enough to know it’s commercial and will make money. Above all the film industry is like every other industry, it’s a business and people want to make money. 


PHRASES EVERY junior SHOULD KNOW WHEN WORKING IN DISTRIBUTION.

  • Slate. When a company refers to their slate, it's the films they represent at that moment in time.

  • Package. Film sales companies take a pitch package to market when looking for a distribution deal, finance and investment. An attached director and cast with a great script can sell a film to distributors, making the sale executives job significantly easier.

  • Hot film. Before the film market distributors will have been reading scripts and be aware of the packages that are coming to market. A film that is desirable to distributors could be due to a high profile cast who have signed on, a notable director with a great track record, finance already in place or all three. If there is significant 'buzz' attached to the project, distributors can find themselves in a bidding war, which is why fostering good relationships is key for distributors. 

  • Delivery. After the film's completion, the sales company will only ‘deliver’ the film to the distribution companies once all funds have cleared and paperwork has been signed.

  • MG - Minimum Guarantee. The amount paid by the distributor as an initial (non-refundable) advance against the future share of revenues.

  • Payment Terms. When and how the MG will be paid e.g 20% on Deal Memo and 80% on Notice of Availability.

  • Term. How long the distributor will have the rights for.

  • Holdbacks. When a distributor can exploit each media right e.g can release DVD with the US DVD release.

  • Division of Gross Receipts. How revenues from each media are split between the producer and the distributor e.g TV 70% to producer and 30% to the distributor.

  • One Sheet. Sales executives use these at the film markets to sum up a film in a nutshell. An image giving the visual representation of the film is on one side, with a treatment and any secured talent laid out on the other. More often than not these are now digital and can be emailed or viewed on an ipad.

  • Deal memo. Signed by the distributor at the market, to be followed up by the sales executive once they are back in the office. They then send out the Long Form Agreement which is drawn up by the legal team to officially confirm the distributor's involvement. Until the official contract is signed the distributor can still back out at any point. 

  • Production Notes. Supplied by the publicity team on junkets or press releases detailing, cast and crew biographies and a synopsis of the film.

  • Publicity tour. Big budget films will arrange junkets and red carpet events around the globe, where the actors and filmmakers show their support for the film. Even on smaller budgets cast members can be called upon to publicise the film, even after the film’s release.

  • Junket. Journalists will be invited to interview actors and filmmakers, usually at one of the major hotels in London. Interviews are timed by a room timer whose job it is to keep the talent on a tight schedule.

  • Press Screening. Before the film is released members of the press will be allowed access to scheduled screenings, so their reviews will coincide with the opening of the film. The requirements to attend press screenings can be found on the Film Distributors website.

  • EPK. Electronic Press Kit, which contains B-roll, trailers and interviews with cast and crew whilst on location.

  • VOD. Video On Demand, services such as Netflix or Amazon. There are more VOD platforms springing up that focus on documentary and short films.

  • P and A: Print and Advertising budget. 

faq's

What is the industry body for film distribution?

Launching Films is the website for the Film Distributors Association who provide a host of information about the UK’s current and upcoming film releases. They also offer advice to film journalist about the procedures and rules of attending press screenings. Most importantly the FDA provide information about the industry and distribution process in their Distribution Guide. Their board is made up of members of the major distributors in the UK, so their advice is invaluable for those wanting to work in the industry - and those already in the industry.

How much will I earn as an office assistant?

The salary of a junior member of the team will vary depending on which part of the country you are in. An office assistant can earn anywhere between £15,000 and £25,000 depending on the company. Some companies may ask you to complete a 3 to 6 month trial period. Please make sure you're earning enough to cover all your costs for your first six months, especially if you are moving to London for the job. Please make sure you know what the minimum wage is.

Will I be expected to go to film festivals?

Once you are at stage 3 of your career plan, and working at a junior level in distribution, you may be called upon to go to festivals and events. This can be an exciting time in your career as you begin to feel fully immersed in the industry. Remember you are there to work, so keep a clear head and enjoy the after parties.

What is it like working at a festival or market?

Film festivals and markets are often a hectic two weeks of meetings, handshaking and deal making. It’s going to be noisy, packed to the rafters and if it’s your first time at one of the big three you are going to need a map. If you are working for a company who are regular attendees you will most likely have been involved in pre-booking everything; meetings, restaurants, evening drinks, films, events and panel discussions. If you do attend a festival or film market it will most likely be the EFM or Marché du Film.

  The EFM held in Berlin is going to be chilly, actually not just chilly close to freezing. Take a good winter coat and make sure everything is waterproof, turning up to the next meeting drenched is not a great start. If you get a chance to watch some films whilst you are there you are going to be glad of that coat, as the queues can get quite long for the cinema. The EFM spreads itself out over the city so take comfortable shoes as you will be doing a fair bit of walking, but what a city to walk around and spend some time in. 

On the flip side, Cannes will be extremely warm, extremely crowded and held in an extremely compact area. The small town with a population of 75,000 will hold anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 people during peak times of the festival/market. Take everything you would associate with summer, sunscreen, hats and once again equip yourself with a map and a good pair of shoes; if you are feeling very organised a light raincoat. If you get a chance take a step back from the festival to appreciate the beauty of Cannes, it’s a slice of the French riviera that is steeped in history and a glamour of its own that can’t be replicated.

What are the main film markets?

There are many film markets that run throughout the year, the main markets are: 

  • European Film Market or EFM (February. Associated with the Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival). 
  • Marché du Film (May. Associated with Cannes International Film Festival). 
  • American Film Market or AFM (November..USA) 
  • Hong Kong Filmart (March. HK/Asia)

What are the trade papers?
  • Screen International 
  • Variety 
  • Hollywood Reporter 
  • Deadline 
  • Indiewire 

What hours will I be expected to work?

The hours will fluctuate dependent on the release schedule of the company. If working during the festival, it can require you to work longer hours, with lots of work and forward planning, but a great experience and great fun.

Are all the jobs in distribution in London?

If you are looking to pursue a career in distribution you should consider moving to London, all the film sales companies and distributors are there.

thank you's ...

My First Job in Film would like to thank Geraldine Moloney and Fiona Tuohy for sharing their experience and giving up their time to offer advice for this career guide. 

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