Entertainment Lawyer Q&A: What to Do Before Attending a Film Market

Welcome to this week's Entertainment Lawyer Q&A, published by The Film & Television Law Quarterly and the entertainment law firm of BLAKE & WANG P.A. Each week an entertainment lawyer will respond to reader questions and publish the best discussions.

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Question: Dear Sir, I have a completed feature film and I would like to know what I need before I attend a film market? 

Answer by Brandon Blake, Entertainment Attorney:

Having worked with feature filmmakers for more than 13 years, I know that perhaps the busiest time is during post-production as a producer begins to think about the successful distribution of the project.

Typically the producer and director will be focused on getting the picture editing just right while the audio is second, the legal contracts are somewhere in the back of the producer's mind, and the promotional materials end up only lightly considered. So I want to bring up a range of things that filmmakers should consider as they are completing the film, which touch on both legal issues and also film sales issues.

Most producers have a general idea about the need for contracts, copyrights and trademarks. I will not cover this ground too much in this article, although anyone interested in additional articles about film contracts as well as the film distribution agreement can visit my firm's website at www.blakewang.com.

Entertainment legal should be handled during the production, since it is much easier to get actors and writers to sign off on agreements before they start work. At some point everyone that participates in the production will need to sign a contract, if the project is going to get a commercial release. That is because distributors require E&O insurance (errors and omissions insurance), and before the insurance company will agree to cover a film the insurer will require that all production legal has been completed.

When it comes to film sales, I routinely attend film markets around the world, including the Cannes Film Festival, AFM, Sundance, Hong Kong FILMART and this October I will also attend the Busan International Film Festival (formerly Pusan), the largest film market in Asia. When I represent finished feature films, I am often surprised how many experienced producers spend a tremendous amount of time editing the images, without as much attention to either audio or marketing and promotions. The good news is that every film can get attention from buyers if the following materials are put together before the markets.

In my experience, more films get passes because of deficient audio than almost any other technical problem. Sound editing, sound design and audio mastering are all critical to successfully distributing a film. Moreover, often the sound elements are what cause needless additional distribution expenses if it is left to the distributor to fix.

The promotional materials are also key. Trailers are important, although many distributors will want to create their own, but the website, stills and yes, the poster are all crucial. The fact is that without an excellent website and poster, distributors will pass on the project without even reviewing it. The initial sell of a feature film comes from the poster and one-sheet, with the website and trailer being the tools to get the buyer interested enough to invest 90 minutes in the film.

With the right promotional materials and of course the proper legal paperwork and documentation for the chain-of-title, every film can get noticed by buyers. I have been representing feature films for over 13 years with the law firm of BLAKE & WANG P.A. (www.blakewang.com). Feel free to contact us for a quote.

- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Attorney

About the Editor:
Brandon A. Blake is an entertainment lawyer and producer who works with Academy Award winning actors, directors and filmmakers. A complete biography is available online.

About the Entertainment Lawyer Q&A:
The Entertainment Lawyer Q&A does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is the information treated as confidential. Responses to selected questions will be made public and shared with our subscribers. All entertainment law information is informational in nature and is not intended to be acted on without entertainment lawyer counsel.