Getting a film distribution deal is exciting. You sit down and read over the paperwork. You agree to the terms and you sign on the line that is dotted.  You’ve reached a “destination” for your film, and you feel like everything is awesome… That is until you hear that dreaded “D word.”  Delivery.

No matter who you sign with,  you have to “deliver” the film after you make a deal. And make no mistake, this can be a major undertaking. A lot of filmmakers get it wrong and delay the launch of their films. And in a worst-case scenario, some filmmakers find they cannot deliver their films, which totally skunks the distribution deal. To avoid common pitfalls, I find it’s best to start thinking about the delivery of your film before you go into production.

Film QC: Distribution Deliverables

When it comes to deliverables, most distributors will request a Quicktime ProRes 422.  It usually okay to deliver a higher resolution.  You can have ProRes 444 (a 4k film), but you can’t go lower.  Even ProRes 422 LT will be rejected by QC for most video on demand platforms.  The bitrate of ProRes 422 is where you need to be in regards to delivery.

In addition to the motion picture file, you’ll also need the following:

Trailer: Sometimes distributors and sales agents cut their own trailers for the film.  But if you have a trailer that you cut, you need to deliver that trailer in the highest quality format, just like the motion picture.

Poster: For the poster, you will need the format to be PSD, a Photoshop document. That would make it a layered file of the poster. You can’t just give a high res image jpeg of the poster.  It needs to have layers to different sizes can be made for different platforms. Sometimes distributors and sales agents will re-create the poster and artwork. But if you’ve created a poster they can use, you’re in good shape.  Many sales agents and distributors love when you give them usable artwork.

Photo Stills: Getting photos while you’re on set is super helpful. Ideally you want actual stills from a high resolution camera. I’m not talking about behind the scenes stuff.  I’m talking about capturing images of actors while they are in a scene. You want it to look like a frame of the movie. These will ultimately be used for the artwork and promotion of the film. (And yes, if you failed to capture these images, you could possibly pull stills from the motion picture file – but this is not ideal.)

Closed Captions: Closed captions are for people with hearing impairments. Affordable captions can be created quickly on Rev.com. In addition to dialogue, closed captions also describe sounds in each scene. Once complete, Rev will deliver the file in the SCC format. If you needed English subtitles (just the dialogue) Rev can also deliver the file in the SRT format. Once complete, you’ll want to review your captions file for any corrections before you deliver.

Dialogue List: If your film requires full translations for other languages, a lot of times you will need to include a dialogue list.  For example, I’ve had to produce a dialogue list for past deliveries to Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China. The good news is, if you’re using Rev, you can also get a dialogue lists as well.

Music and Effects (M&E) Track: Including an M&E track is something filmmakers miss a lot. An M&E track is simply the music and effects for your film, on a different track than the dialogue.  This could be two separate tracks, consisting of one music track, and one effects track. Or it could be a single track of music and effects.  This is essential for international distribution, especially when the film would need to be dubbed in a different language.

You might argue that subtitles would suffice. But there are countries like Germany and Spain, where audiences do not favor subtitles. As a result, distributors and sales agents for these territories will want dubs. So again, if you have an M&E track, you will open your film to more international sales potential.

E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance: E&O is something that could be a potential cost down the road.  ($3000-6000)  Some distributors will provide it for you, and some won’t.  Some will require it, and some won’t.  It’s an obstacle you’re going to have to face.

With all these delivery elements, it’s best to be on the safe side and be as organized as possible. I suggest you plan for all of this ahead of time. This means you’ll need to factor the cost for delivery elements into your budget. Doing this will put you in much better shape for the eventual delivery. And trust me, distributors and sales agents LOVE when you have a film that’s very simple to deliver. They will be more excited about that movie – And they will appreciate working with you.

If you want to learn how to find sales agents and distributors, here is my training on film distribution.