Who is doing what in the new world of distribution?
As the world of distribution is changing, with hybrid and DIY distribution gaining ground, also the traditional job roles and responsibilities of distribution professionals are adapting to the change. Some key industry professionals, such as sales agents are having to adapt to the growing popularity of hybrid distribution and split rights deals.
According to Jon Reiss the sales agents are realising that money is in the split rights deals instead of historically popular all rights deals. Following from this, and some sales agents have already done so, the sales agents are beginning to specialise in ancillary markets to accommodate the split rights world. Instead of just selling the film, sales agents are specifying in selling its digital rights, theatrical rights or DVD rights. This means that the filmmaker would have to take several sales agents onboard for each rights category. Or perhaps using a sales agent for one rights category, TVOD for example and doing the rest themselves, further complexifying the distribution process.
New talent is needed to oversee distribution. The biggest problem of the DIY distribution model is that the filmmakers embarking in this process are in fact content creators. Their speciality is in development, production, visuality and storytelling as opposed to marketing, publicity, negotiating business deals, project management and budgeting. And even if producers would be, they are most likely too overwhelmed in tackling the issues related to the production that they simply run out of time to deliver what is needed for a successful distribution and marketing campaign.
Hence the need of new professionals to come in between the filmmakers and audiences. In 2011 Jon Reiss introduced the concept of Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD). He stressed that filmmakers desperately need someone to produce the marketing and distribution and that individual should be brought into the process of filmmaking as soon as possible, overlapping with production, hence that individual should not be the same as producer.
Since the introduction of the new role, some professionals have picked it up, Sally Hodgson being the first UK PMD. Her work involves working somewhere between the filmmaker and distribution taking a creative role in how the film is marketed to its audience and making deals. Also the fact that the Scottish Documentary Institute hired a PMD to look over the distribution of all of their films, speaks for the true emergence of a new breed of professionals to work in the field of DIY and hybrid distribution.
In his post on IndieWire Ted Hope explains that PMDs aren’t merely a for-hire service providers, but collaborators. They are intimate with the production and should speak with an authorial voice. He stresses that community building and audience outreach are very personal endeavours and it requires a tremendous amount of earned trust from the creative heads.
So what does PMDs exactly do? Jon Reiss posted a detailed description of the job role on IndieWire, but to summarise the key areas include…
To identify and research the audience of the film.
Develop a strategy and budget for marketing and distribution that are in conjunction to the principles of the filmmaking team. This should be done as early as possible and be integrated to the film’s business plan.
Assemble and supervise the necessary team to carry out the plan.
Supervise the creation of all promotional content and work with the development of transmedia elements.
Outreach potential distribution partners and marketing partners.
Coordinate and supervise the creation of deliverables.
The list points out that it is almost impossible to expect a traditional crew categories to accomplish or coordinate the work.
With the explosion of films and media out there, along with the disruption of traditional models of distribution, content creators need to market and distribute their own work. It is only natural that they will need a special producer to oversee and orchestrate the process; a special producer who will work hand in hand along the director, writer and film producer throughout the production process, hence the word ‘producer’ of marketing and distribution.
The indie world is nothing close to dead. Filmmaking has become cheaper and cheaper along the years and films are made more and more. For the industry to grow, PMDs are needed to work along indie filmmakers to help make all the effort of filmmaking worth it, by dedicating all their time and effort into pushing the indie gems out to the public so that they can have an impact.
In the next post I will look at a yet another new role, the Impact producer and think how that works in relation to the role of a PMD.
All in all what to learn from this new trend in the field, is that as old models die, new ones are born; new jobs appear to compensate the fall of others. This is just a natural part of an evolving industry like this one.