Continuing the discussion from An Evening With Lew Horwitz, Part 2, let’s talk about sales agents.
Lew advises that you need to get a sales agent. Don’t sell your film yourself!
Wait just a minute. Isn’t that opposite of the advice that Sandra Schulberg gave a couple of months ago in a class that I took? Yes it is.
I have a rule when it comes to getting advice or learning something new and it’s this: Get several opinions. Don’t just accept the opinion of the first person to come along, because, as noted above, even the experts don’t always agree. This rule applies to more than just the film industry. It can be applied to just about everything in life. And when you come across a different opinion, dig deeper, get more information, and then make up your own mind. You’ll find that you’ll make better and more informed decisions.
So why does Lew think a sales agent is so vital?
- According to him, without an agent, nobody will talk to you. By nobody, I’m assuming he means banks and distributors.
- A sales agent will give you an estimate of every territory’s value for your film. That’s important to know because, according to him, you need to keep the budget of your film to the value of the estimates. Don’t bluff yourself, he warns. Be realistic with your budget.
As much as Lew recommends that you hire a sales agent, he also warns not to trust them. “Love them, but don’t trust them,” he says. So how can you protect yourself from your own sales agent?
- Don’t let your film get packaged with other films. You don’t want cross-collateralization because if the other films don’t make any money and your film does, you’ll be sharing your profits with the filmmakers whose films weren’t profitable. Not a good thing.
- Give your sales agent some leeway to make deals without having to get your approval every time, but be sure to state in the contract with your agent that they cannot license your film for less than X % of his estimate without your express permission.
- Make sure you see the quarterly reports.
- Make sure the bank knows about your deal with your sales agent. You can do this by sending the bank a letter detailing the agreement conditions and asking them to uphold those conditions. Your sales agent might not be scared of you, but he/she won’t mess with the bank.
- Hire the best attorneys. Make sure they have a lot of experience with independent films.
The jury is still out for me as to whether getting a sales agent is the best route to go. Lew insists that it is, but, obviously, Sandra Schulberg has been able to sell her films without one. I’m definitely going to have to look into this further before deciding which route is the best one for me to take.
Coming in part four I’ll talk about what Lew has to say about bonds and banks.
Ah, the complexities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! It’s always fun trying to balance the opinions of experts who don’t agree. Good luck in your quest!