Monday Prescriptions – What’s in the Package?

Good morning, Film Doctor friends. This week’s Monday Prescription is dedicated to those with ready-to-roll projects who are now scouting for sales agents and/or distributors – because we’re going to talk film packaging.

Film Doctor - Film Packaging

Fresh from Berlinale’s European Film Market buzz, the Film Doctor team raise the question of how one attracts the relevant attention to your project. Mind you, here we are talking about projects ready for production – i.e. completed screenplays & finance plans, not concepts & film treatments. Or, even completed films, awaiting release & distribution. So, if you’ve been hitting film markets looking for co-production partners or sales agents who’d take you on, this Monday Prescription is dedicated to you.

We’ve noticed that often filmmakers still make the movie first and then start fighting for distribution and territorial sales. We say you’re better off securing the aforementioned before you shoot even the very first frame of your movie (maybe before you write one page of your script!!)

Why? Quite simple, really.

Firstly, because this is a major deal-breaker if you’re on the hunt for film financing. If you’re the Producer and need to raise the production budget, a distribution contract can do wonders for getting that much needed loan or equity. If you ‘snap up’ a Sales Agent early on, they can also help estimate your project’s market value – hence, help establish the required budget; you don’t want to be shooting/trying to raise the finance for a £10,000,000 film which has an estimated value of £500,00.

Secondly, having the movie pre-sold is a way to ease the inevitable pain of ‘what-do-I-do-with-it-once-the-edit-is-done’ – because you’d have a buyer for your product, who’s going to guarantee its exposure to the audience (although levels of exposure may not be predetermined). Your film to be seen nation/worldwide – isn’t that what you want? 

Now that we’ve established the importance of pre-sales & early distribution deals (of course, the choice of securing sales & distribution after film completion is still a valid one), let’s talk about what you are going to offer ‘the market’. Imagine that you’re a sales person – to get anyone’s interest, you need an appealing package.

Film Doctor - Film Packaging and Sales

The Bare Minimum

You start a film packaging process when you have in place:

    • A concept that pitches mind-blowingly.
    • A completed screenplay that fulfills that concept – not first but twenty-first draft, for which you’re absolutely confident that it reads great.
    • Estimated budget + finance plan – first is how much it is going to cost to make, second, where you plan to get the money from.

You simply cannot take your project to any investor/sales agent/distributor, etc. without these things – no one is going to give you the time of day for ideas, they want to hear/read/see something solid. Once you’ve polished off the ‘basics’ of your film’s package, get going with:


The Total Package 

It is only natural that investors, agents & distributors want to take as little risk and make as much profit as they can. Very rarely, these days, do the distributor and/or sales agent develop the project with you (if you’re not yet established) – more often than not, they’d like to get something ‘ready-to-go’ or, at least, as close to ready as possible. Why? Reassurance. When they see you’ve got a lot going for your project, agents & distibutors will be more likely to believe in it. And trust you – someone who’s gone out of their way to secure x, y & z for their future film, must be serious about it.

Add to your film package check-list the following:

  • Sellable Cast List – you must have cast list, attached or prospective. And this cast list must have ‘market value’, i.e. names that are widely recognisable/have a string of past successes/been in at least 1 box office hit, etc. Do your research: think who you’d like to see as that particular character, who of the current working actors has the range & the look for it, who can attract movie audiences, etc.  Most movies sell on the basis of their leading men & women, so your project’s chances only grow when you’re able to present a solid cast list. If you already have an actor/actress attached, add their deal memo to the ‘package’.  
  • Promotional material – anything that helps people picture the prospective film should be included in your ‘film package’. These things include a promo trailer/teaser with key scenes, storyboards, mock-up film posters (done to highest standards, of course), website, Director’s/Producer’s reels with previous film work, etc.

Don’t be that wannabe that everybody rolls their eyes at at film markets who’s ‘got an idea that could be made into a film’. Yes, ‘the imagining phase’ is one of the most fun and exciting, but this isn’t play time. There’s a lot of serious stuff to do. So get doing it.


‘Monday Prescription’ No.51 – Consider your project’s sales & distribution early on, so that you create an incredibly attractive package that can go far.

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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!


The Film Doctor Team
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