1. Always research the agency and distribution company you want to work with. There’s a lot of cowboys in this industry, and you don’t want to be a victim of one of them.
2. Before you start negotiating with either the sales agent or a distribution company, you should check what films they have successfully represented and what type of marketing and the promotional campaign they run for those films.
3. Both sales agents and the distributors may have hidden marketing, and promotional costs or representation/packaging costs (packaging is an umbrella word for so many different services, so watch out for that) added to your bill. This way, the sales agents and distributors often try to offset their general expenses.
4. Well established companies will not try to trick you into signing a dodgy deal. It’s the aforementioned cowboys you need to be aware of and always have someone else (preferably a lawyer) check the contract for you. If something in the agreement doesn’t feel right or there is something you don’t understand, ask for clarification.
5. If the sales agent or a distributor will ask for exclusive rights for all territories, you may ask for a larger upfront payment.
6. I always keep away from sales agents and distributors who want me to pay for their services upfront. For instance, they may ask filmmakers to pay for packaging or for taking the film around the world to different film markets. I would never do it. This money can be better spent, invested in marketing and promotion to build a niche audience for the film or the filmmaker.
7. Ask the sales agent or a distribution company what their plan for selling your film is. What are they going to do to make sure they find a buyer? If they are too vague, most likely their only plan will be to try to sell your film in a bundle.
8. Before you sign your deal, ask if the distributor is offering to pay marketing and promotional costs.
9. Before you sign a deal with a distributor, make sure they really distribute films across different territories, not only act as an aggregator company that prepares files for VOD platforms, while charging the filmmaker for that job plus charging an extra % of all the sales you make on the VOD platforms, without doing much work for you and your film.