Producer and distribution expert and former Chicagoan Jerome Courshon tackled the distribution maze when he made his award-winning, 1998 indie God, Sex & Apple Pie, which ultimately led to Warner Bros. distribution and his learning insider information on how filmmakers can score distribution deals.
He’s recently turned his hard-won knowledge into an 18-hour course on 9 DVDs, The Secrets to Distribution: Get Your Movie Distributed Now!
ReelChicago spoke with Courson, a native of Park Forest who moved to California after attending Loyola and says his education in film there was “the school of hard knocks.”
ReelChicago: What was your film distribution start?
Jerome Courshon: When God, Sex was done, it took me four excruciating years to get my first real distribution deal. I didn’t know what I was doing, and filmmakers often don’t: Distribution is business, and most filmmakers don’t get in for the business.
RC: How did your experience then lead to this course?
JC: After I was successful in a limited theatrical release, and some friends finished their films, it was like, “Okay, Jerome buddy, you’ve got to help me out.” So I drew up lists, and they all got distribution deals. They said, “Jerome, you’ve got to get this out there,” and I resisted.
But I tried an evening class in 2006 it was standing room only, more than 60 people. I actually kind of enjoyed it—and that’s how this got started.
RC: So how do indie filmmakers crack the distribution code?
JC: A film sold to distributors is not all that different from how it’s sold to the public. Distributors look at something that comes in their door and make a judgment right on the spot.
Is there a level of professionalism in the poster art, for example? Or does the cover letter hit the key points of marketing the film? That tells them right there if they can make money with it, which is what they’re in business for.
RC: What else could be a turn-off?
JC: I go an email from one guy who wanted help with his film, and the title was some word no American could pronounce. Now think about that: “Have you seen that film … uh … er … I can’t pronounce the title but it’s really good!”
RC: What about all the talk of shifting technologies such as video streaming?
JC: We’ve been talking about this for years now, but it’s not a three- or four-year process at this point. We’re talking about one generation for this to happen. Remember all the talk about “DVD is dying”? Nothing could be further from the truth.
For the studios, DVSs are such a cash cow, their largest revenue generator. There are still more than 60,000 brick-and-mortar outlets that handle DVD in the U.S., from big-box retailers to mom-and-pop stores.
If you get your DVD into half of those, you might be looking at $200,000 in sales at least.
For the next 3 weeks, ReelChicago readers can get a 20% discount on The Secrets to Distribution: Get Your Movie Distributed Now! Click here for additional info and discount.
A former movies editor and reviewer with the Chicago Tribune, Lou Carlozo resides in Chicago.