We Spoke to Dozens of Independent Film Distributors; This Is What They Want in a Project

Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. © 2017 Sundance Institute | Stephen Speckman

By Liz Manashil &
Rebecca Green

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in January 2019, and a few updates have since been made to reflect changing distributor names and offerings.

I’m a writer/director, but because I’m in the micro-budget indie feature world, I take on a lot of producing duties as well. As with a lot of my colleagues, I looked at all the films that had inspired me and assumed a lot regarding how they got out into the world. I assumed there were a lot of rules; I assumed that there was a right and wrong way to approach a distributor. I assumed there was a set way a film was released into the world—and for a long time, that was the case.

However, now that I’m a working filmmaker who is able to better see how the system works (through my job at the Sundance Institute), I’m realizing how tremendously chaotic and confusing the distribution marketplace is, and as the manager of the Creative Distribution Initiative, I am witness to filmmakers disrupting and dismantling the traditional distribution model every day.

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In talking shop with producer Rebecca Green (It Follows; I’ll See You in My Dreams) of DEAR PRODUCER, we discussed how there is nowhere for filmmakers to go to learn the protocol for selling your film. No one tells you who is supposed to reach out to whom—do you call the distributors or do they call you?

For example, the distribution deal for my first feature came out of a kind yet informal email exchange with someone from The Orchard, but is that typical? What if you don’t know anyone at The Orchard (now known as 1091)? At the end of our chat, Green suggested we join forces and create a distribution resource for filmmakers that could help break down the walls between artists and gatekeepers.

What follows is a breakdown of the distributors who were willing to participate and be transparent in giving an inside look at their process. We reached out to more companies than are listed here: some declined to respond (noted at the end of the article), some responded enthusiastically but never provided answers, and others (I’m assuming) were being somewhat restrained by their PR departments. All distributors are welcome on this list regardless of size or release model; if you are a distributor who would like to be added to this resource, please let us know.

I must admit that I was surprised by the findings of the conversations I had with distributors, so in addition to the tangible information, I want to provide these takeaways (feel free to come back to this after you read through the distributors responses).


1) Term lengths are still astronomically high.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the typical term length for most distributors is 10-15 years. At a time where we can barely predict what will be the most successful distribution model six months ahead of time, why are independent storytellers acquiescing to giving away our rights for so long?

2) Distributors did not admit the influence of social media in their acquisitions.

As someone who manages the Creative Distribution Fellowship at the Sundance Institute, I’m aware that social media presence is really important. It implies that the filmmaker has taken the time to build a foundation of an audience from which a distributor (or themselves in scenarios of creative distribution) can build upon. It seems very clear to me that a distribution company would want to target an audience that is at least already partly built, but the answers below imply otherwise.

3) Shocked by lack of discovery.

Too often distributors are dependent on the curatorial powers and prowess of certain signature festivals without looking to regional festivals. You’ll see a lot of the usual suspects in the festivals that are mentioned below—it would be great to expand this list so that more films are being exposed to distributors. Please also note that distributors were interviewed before the Los Angeles Film Festival decided to close its doors. I wonder who will take its place?

4) The majority of rights taken, territories focused on, and distribution strategies are similar across the board.

I’d love to see more distributors take a chance on innovation. Very often distributors will take as many rights that they can get (though mainly domestic territories noted below) and will not have the resources to be super customized in how they release their titles. Additionally, (there are exceptions) there doesn’t seem to be enough direct communication between artist and distributor. It would be great for the two forces to truly line up for each film’s release so that marketing and release strategy align with the filmmaker’s goals as well as their aesthetics.

5) There are still no open doors.

The majority of people I talked to expressed reticence at looking at cold submissions. Sure, there’s an influx of content, but to be reliant on recommendations, agencies, and festivals is shortsighted. There are a lot of great movies out there looking for homes. I’ve even had distributors admit to me they are not watching the full duration of the films they receive. There is too much valuable substantive content for just a few festivals to properly curate and exhibit all of the quality work in the world. If distributors take chances on more festivals, they’re contributing to communities who could really benefit, and could have access to new quality and unsupported storytellers for them to consider.

Regardless of my takeaways, let this document inspire you to get your work out into the world. Abide by how each company wants to be approached and approach them respectfully.



HISTORY: The Orchard started as a music company in 1997, and in 2014, the film side broke off and started acquiring for theatrical. In 2019, the film side was rebranded as 1091 Media.

FILMS PER YEAR: “We acquire between 8–10 theatrical slate titles a year and roughly 30 additional titles that will receive various forms of alternate release (e.g., day-and-date, limited theatrical, digital, and ancillary only, etc.)”

RIGHTS: “All of our deals vary in terms of what rights we take and which territories we release in. We do all-rights deals, digital/ancillary rights only deals, and everything in between. As for territories, we’re always taking at least U.S. rights, and ideally all of North America, but we also take WW rights, rights in English-speaking territories, etc.”

TERM: ”Usually between 7–12 years.“

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We’re looking for unique voices and viewpoints, innovative filmmaking, inspiring storytelling—films that we’re excited to work on and filmmakers that we’re eager to collaborate with. We work with established auteurs as often as up-and-coming filmmakers, and we’re always looking to expand our brand and push ourselves to release content that energizes and impassions audiences.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Depends on the film, but generally speaking they can factor into the overall equation. Healthy, organic social engagement from a cast can be a major marketing boon and a reliable means to communicate with and excite audiences about an upcoming release, but there are myriad other factors that determine whether or not we acquire a film.”

FESTIVALS: “We cast a fairly wide net when looking for content, so beyond the major North American and European film festivals, we have team members traveling to top-tier regional festivals like Seattle, Chicago, Hamptons, etc. Genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Fantasia always consistently exhibit exciting content that we’re eager to get our eyes on, and markets like AFM and IFP are great opportunities for us to get in early with projects still in their development stages.”

EMPLOYEES: “On the film side, there are about 20 of us in Los Angeles and about the same in New York.”

SUBMISSIONS: “We do take blind submissions, although the majority of the films we consider come to us via relationships, sales agents, agencies, and producers.”

RECENT PROJECTS: Midnight Family, Isle of Snow, Dark Matter


HISTORY: Founded around 2000

TITLES PER YEAR: “We have an unusual model in that we don’t actually acquire most of the films we work on, but rather we do all the work of traditional marketing and distribution companies without a transfer of rights. So if you include these “service” deals with our more traditional acquisitions, we’ll do 15 to 20 a year.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “We are theatrically oriented and never release films exclusively on digital platforms.”

RIGHTS: “Each deal is different. With service deals, it’s typically just theatrical; on acquisitions it’s usually all rights North America. But we’ve also released a few films globally. For instance, we had Pearl Jam’s Let’s Play Two in 30 countries in 8 languages.”

TERM: 10–15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We describe our films as ‘tribal’ in that they all have pre-existing audiences—fans of a band, supporters of a cause, etc.—and our job is to identify them, inform them, and activate them.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Numbers can be deceptive. We look for an engaged, motivated fan base. Sometimes the smaller it is, the more motivated it is.”

FESTIVALS: “We generally attend Sundance, Toronto, and SXSW, but we rarely acquire films at festivals. We’re not given to bidding wars.”

EMPLOYEES: “Just enough.”

SUBMISSIONS: ”We’re pretty open to considering anything that might fit our model.”

RECENT TITLES: Family in Transition, Under the Wire, Jane


HISTORY: Founded by Andrew Karpen in 2014

TITLES PER YEAR: “We release between 6 and 10 films a year, some finished, some at the script stage. We try to remain flexible and do not have a set number of slots to fill each year.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “Every Bleecker Street release are theatrical releases, usually following a platform to wide distribution pattern. We feel really passionate about bringing audiences to theaters nationwide and have never released films on day and date or solely on digital.”

RIGHTS: “We buy all rights.”

TERM: “We do not share.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “First and foremost, we look for great filmmaking, performances and want to support a director’s vision. Since all our releases are in theaters, we really focus on acquiring films we believe have a core audience that goes to cinemas and can act as ambassadors for the film.”

CAST: “Some cast is important but not necessarily a deal breaker if the film resonates with audiences and has positive reviews. Each film has a different profile and we keep an open mind.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Social media numbers have an impact on potential marketing and distribution strategies so we take that data into consideration.”

FESTIVALS: “We always attend Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes and TIFF, peppered in with some smaller festivals from time to time.”


SUBMISSIONS: “We do not accept blind submissions but are happy to review agency submissions or recommendations through our relationships or partners.”

RECENT TITLES: Save Yourselves!, The Assistant, and Dream Horse


HISTORY: Founded in 2009


TYPES OF RELEASES: Around half include either a day-and-date or theatrical release. The remaining are digital, DVD, and TV deals.

RIGHTS: “We take all rights with a focus on North America. We have worldwide rights on 100 or so films. We also have an international sales division.”

TERM: 10–20 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “First, we look to see if there’s an audience for the film. We also look for elevated titles, genre, and LGBTQ+ focused titles. It’s very easy to get on the festival juice and get caught up in the moment. But, outside of the festival, will the film have the same appeal? When looking at titles, we almost always have a phone call with the producer/director. We like to hear their vision. This is a marriage, we want to make sure it’s a good marriage.”

CAST: “It depends. For horror, it’s not important. For LGBTQ+, it depends on what type of film it is. For our major festival acquisitions, it’s somewhat important. For foreign language, it’s not necessary to have a big cast. Festival laurels speak volumes there. Having name cast is nice to have, but not necessary.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It’s the psychographic that matters, not the demographic. We’ve had films with high social media numbers that have underperformed and ones with low numbers that did phenomenally well. Same for critical reviews—even some of the best reviewed films don’t always translate to box office and general monetization.”

FESTIVALS: “We go to Tribeca, SXSW, Cannes, TIFF, AFM, and and a host of other festivals we get invited to attend.”


SUBMISSIONS: “We’re really open. We work with the agencies, we work with sales companies, we work with submissions coming in. Basically any which way someone can reach us, we’re fine.”

RECENT TITLES: Kill the Monsters, Train Ride, The Sharks, By Daysend, 15 Years


HISTORY: Founded in 2008 by Charles S. Cohen

TITLES PER YEAR: “Approximately 10 new films a year, and our library total changes per year.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “We’re an old-fashioned traditional windows company that believes in theatrical. Pretty much everything goes theatrical. Not a day-and-date company.”

RIGHTS: “Generally North America; sometimes just the U.S.”

TERM: “Usually 15 (to be negotiated).”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “The film needs to be of a very high caliber and have awards potential. Also, CMG is director driven.”

CAST: “It’s important but not crucial. We’re more quality and director driven, but definitely not going to say no to cast.”

FESTIVALS: Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca


SUBMISSIONS: “Generally has to be a personal referral from an agent, foreign sales company, producer, or someone we know.”

RECENT TITLES: The Great Buster: A Celebration, Four Sisters- Shoah, Faces Places, The Insult


HISTORY: “Entertainment One was founded in 1973 as a music distributor but entered into the film business in 2003 after the acquisitions of Alliance Films in Canada.”

TITLES PER YEAR: “In the domestic space, via our Momentum Pictures label, we acquire anywhere from 15–25 movies a year on average.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “I’d say roughly half of these are theatrical, specifically day-and-date, which is our model in the U.S. This is separate from our international territory acquisitions, which are predominantly focused on wider theatrical releases.”

RIGHTS: “We are an all-rights distributor. Multi-territory acquisitions are very case-by-case. In the U.S. via Momentum, we typically look for domestic rights and sometimes Canadian if it’s a North American play. Our model in the domestic space does vary quite a bit from our global strategy so these are typically separate acquisitions if we are releasing in the U.S.”

TERM: Between 15–20

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “In the domestic space, something we think can really find audiences in a multitude of ways. Obviously much of the conversation nowadays is focused on new forms of distribution and consumer viewing habits.

“We’re looking for material that can have life on digital, VOD, SVOD, AVOD is very important to us because it’s harder than ever to capture audience’s attention. When we look at our global footprint in our international territories, we tend to partner with wide U.S. distributors whose U.S. releases can really push international box office numbers in a meaningful way. Also, as a global company, stories that feel universal and aren’t domestic in nature are always vital to us.

“Obviously much of the conversation nowadays is focused on new forms of distribution and consumer viewing habits. Looking for material that can have life on digital, VOD, SVOD, AVOD is very important to us because it’s harder to capture an audience’s attention than ever.”

CAST: “Cast is very important, especially in the home entertainment markets. We believe theatrically there are examples of films that have crossed-over and really found a wide audience that didn’t necessarily have large cast names. However, for releases that are more focused on non-theatrical windows and don’t have that wide U.S. release, cast can be a big benefit in capturing audience’s attention at home.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It depends. There are certain talent that really have a massive social media following that has proven to transact. But for a large portion of social media users, being able to consume someone’s content for free is a very different buying habit than purchasing their content for a premium.”

FESTIVALS: “The major festivals—Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto, AFM—are all attended with an eye toward acquisition. It just varies market to market on which ones are buyers or sellers markets. The participation of new players whether it be in the theatrical or SVOD space have tended to play a large role in how robust each market is over the past few years. Especially reflected in the price of certain acquisitions.”

SUBMISSIONS: “Typically through agencies. If we have prior relationships with filmmakers or producers, of course. Referrals, recommendations. We watch a lot of films. We read a lot. It’s also our job to use our network and be aware of emerging talent and new voices. But it’s difficult to accept unsolicited material because there’s little way to manage that once you do.”

RECENT TITLES: Escape from Pretoria, I Think We’re Alone Now, Sorry to Bother You


HISTORY: Founded in 2010

TITLES PER YEAR: “We acquire approximately two dozen new releases per year, but only a fraction of those receive a theatrical release.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “The majority are straight to digital as theatrical releases are risky, expensive propositions. We have also found success in doing fewer theatrical releases with large P&A commitments in order to maximize the creative on the campaign and the film’s box office prospects. Digital releases have demonstrated the power of going direct to consumer through efficient digital marketing strategies.”

RIGHTS: “All rights. Typically North America, but recently have been acquiring multi-territory as our distribution reach has become more international.”

TERM: “We keep this confidential, but it’s usually subject to the amount we are investing in a title.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We like to champion uniqueness, identify films with built-in audiences, and also consider whether we, FilmRise, are a good match for the producer(s)’s goals.”

CAST: “It’s important for us, but the subject matter and genre also play a significant role.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It’s an interesting metric, but a compelling story is the main driver.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlinale, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, TIFF, Fantastic Fest, Doc NYC, AFM

EMPLOYEES: “Over 60 and continuing to grow.”

SUBMISSIONS: “Blind submissions are perfectly acceptable. And we don’t mind persistence in following up, as we get so many submissions regularly.”

RECENT TITLES: Driveways, The Cat and the Moon, Nighthawks, Sprinter, Wildland


HISTORY: Formed in August 2010

TITLES PER YEAR: Averaging 60–80 titles a year.

TYPES OF RELEASES: “Two theatrical/VOD day and date titles a month. Four to five DVD/VOD titles a month. We also offer the option to filmmakers of doing a service deal with us, where the filmmaker pays the distribution and marketing expenses for their film.”

RIGHTS: Worldwide rights

TERM: 10–15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “For our theatrical/VOD day-and-date titles we look for films with name cast and all genres. We like to see films that have a cast with a large social media following. On our straight to VOD titles, we are open to any genre with or without name cast.”

CAST: “Important, especially for dramas, but certain genres like action, comedy, and horror can also do well without a name cast.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Yes, very much so. We take a look at the social media accounts not only for the film itself, but each cast member of the film. A bulk of marketing for our films is done through social media. We tell filmmakers to launch their social media for the film as soon as production starts, so by the time they are looking for distribution, they have a built in fan base already.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, Cannes, TIFF, Dances With Films, AFM


SUBMISSIONS: “Filmmakers are open to submit their film directly to us via our website.”

RECENT TITLES: Better Start Running, Danger One, Age of Summer, Breaking & Exiting, Bernard & Huey, Carter & June, Demon House, Hondros, The Bachelors


HISTORY: “GDE started its production company in 2014 and successfully launched its distribution arm in 2017 with such films as Academy Award–nominated Loving Vincent, Journey’s End, and All Nighter, among others. In 2018, GDE launched its genre division Cranked Up Films, which specializes in high-concept horror, grounded sci-fi, psychological thrillers, and speculative fiction.”

TITLES PER YEAR: 7–12 films

TYPES OF RELEASES: “Every GDE release has some sort of theatrical component. We specialize in limited platform releases in addition to day-and-date releases. No titles are direct digital releases.”

RIGHTS: “World with a focus on U.S./North America.”

FESTIVALS: SXSW, Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, Cannes, AFM, Fantastic Fest, Fantasia


SUBMISSIONS: “GD prefers reach-outs through agencies, but it’s not averse to getting referrals through friends and word of mouth. If you don’t have representation, feel free to reach out to GDE directly.”

RECENT TITLES: Firecrackers, Extra Ordinary., This Changes Everything, After Midnight,


HISTORY: Founded in 2006 by Nolan Gallagher


TYPES OF RELEASES: “Gravitas theatrically releases three films every month on over 100 transactional platforms at debut, including our cable, satellite, and digital partners, as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.”

RIGHTS: “We take on worldwide rights for a number of our films, as we have a dedicated foreign-sales team.”

TERM: 10–15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Gravitas looks at the quality of the film, the cast, whether it is timely, and whether there is a clear or established audience for the film or documentary. Having released thousands of films, we have a very good sense of what type of films and docs work overall as well as for our specific VOD and home-video clients.”

CAST: “It’s very important. Name cast is what many of our VOD and home-video clients are predominantly looking for. Strong cast helps films stand out in a very crowded marketplace.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Absolutely. We love working with filmmakers who have nurtured and continue to grow a built-in audience for their films. A strong and engaged social following puts a film on the path to success, particularly in the transactional VOD window.”

FESTIVALS: “Gravitas attends all of the major film festivals and foreign markets, such as Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, TIFF, Hot Docs, Austin, Cleveland, Chicago, AFM, and MipCom.”


SUBMISSIONS: “We work with all of the agencies, but we also have built up a great network of filmmakers and producers over the past 12 years from releasing thousands of films. We are working on some filmmakers’ fourth or fifth films. Gravitas’ filmmakers and producers have been great advocates for Gravitas in the industry and have referred many of their friends and colleagues to us. We also take filmmaker submissions on our website.”

RECENT TITLES: Ana, Limerence, Drag Kids, Another Version of You, Hiro’s Table


HISTORY: Since 2017


TYPES OF RELEASES: “All of Greenwich’s films get a theatrical release. Exhibitors are important partners and we prioritize theatrical so most of our films have a traditional 90-day window. However, we want the right release strategy for each film and are excited to have a few day-and-date films on our schedule.
RIGHTS: We usually acquire all rights for North America.”

TERM: Typically 15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We’re primarily looking for films that can work theatrically, but are open to narrative features, documentaries, and foreign language films across genres. Also, do we love the film? Releasing a film properly takes a lot of time and energy so we want to be passionate about the film. Is the filmmaking exceptional? Positive reviews and word-of-mouth are critical for independent films to succeed. Is there an identifiable audience and can we effectively position the film so they’ll go see it. This core audience should become the film’s evangelists. Are we on the same page as the filmmaker? We are a collaborative company and welcome a director’s input, but we need a shared vision even as the release strategy may evolve

CAST: “Recognizable, talented actors are valuable, but the quality of the film is most important.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Social media is a helpful tool for reaching an audience so it’s great if the film, filmmaker and/or cast already have a social media footprint.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, AFM, and DOC NYC.

SUBMISSIONS: “We don’t accept blind submissions, but we watch everything sent from sales reps or industry connections.”

RECENT TITLES: Deerskin, Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy, Desert One, Human Nature, The Booksellers


HISTORY: Formed in early 2016


TYPES OF RELEASES: “Around five will be traditional theatrical releases with the rest being day-and-date or small theatrical or digital only.”

RIGHTS: “Ideally we take all rights worldwide, but up for discussion if not all territories all available.”

TERM: 5–15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We’re typically looking for content that’s younger skewing—young, loud, irreverent, and culturally relevant. We typically look to acquire specific genres—horror and thriller/sci-fi/comedy/rom com/music oriented films. Open to other films if there’s an interesting and unique vision. We really like working with first and second time filmmakers supporting them and building those relationships.”

CAST: “It helps but really we’re looking for more unique voices/visions from the director side of things than major cast. Building relationships with writers, directors, and creative producers in some ways is more important.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “We look at it but it’s not a deal breaker if there is not a significant online presence already. If we can see the producers have engaged an audience already we will give the title meaningful consideration.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Hot Docs, Toronto, Fantastic Fest, Fantasia, IDFA

EMPLOYEES: Around 60

SUBMISSIONS: “We do consider ourselves an open door and filmmakers associated with Sundance should definitely feel free to reach out. Present stuff to us as a package in an email with as much information as possible: (script/deck/visuals/info about your budget and team, estimated completion dates if looking for funding). For the general public, we have a general email address on our website, which is the best way to get in touch with us.”

RECENT TITLES: Sea Fever, Survive, Her Smell


HISTORY: Since 2000.

TITLES PER YEAR: Approximately 40 films across our three labels: IFC Films, Sundance Selects, and IFC Midnight.

TYPE OF RELEASE: “100% of our titles get theatrical releases. The breakdown between day-and-date and traditional releases fluctuate from year to year.”

RIGHTS: “We take all rights in the U.S. and Canada.”

TERM: “The term is dependent on the deal, but we typically take anywhere between 15 to 20 years.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We cast a pretty wide net when it comes to the content we acquire as we are actively programming for three distinct labels with different brand identities. IFC Films is predominantly English language, cast-driven narratives; our Sundance Selects label focuses on documentaries and foreign language titles; and IFC Midnight is a genre label. The scope of our brands as well as our ability to release films in a variety of ways has given us the flexibility to not only provide a platform for new, emerging voices, but to also be a home for internationally acclaimed and established directors.”

CAST: “We’ll always be looking for films that have strong marketing angles and known stars contribute to a film’s economic prospects. With that said, it’s not the only thing we’re considering when evaluating a film.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It’s not a huge consideration for us, but our attention to social media numbers likely depends on the film and its target demographic.”

FESTIVALS: Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, SXSW, Tribeca

How many employees do you have? 30

SUBMISSIONS: “98% of the films we acquire are done so through agencies, so the best way for a filmmaker or producer to submit a film for consideration is through a sales agent. We accept submissions from filmmakers and producers as well, but on a case-by-case basis.”

RECENT TITLES: Swallow, How to Build a Girl, Knives and Skin, Greener Grass


HISTORY: Founded in TK


TYPES OF RELEASES: 35% theatrical

RIGHTS: “‘All rights worldwide’ is our preference, but we often consider just doing domestic.”

TERM: “All of our contracts are for three years, which renew automatically, unless the filmmaker terminates.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Great story, great acting, great production value.”

CAST: “Nice if we can get it, but our most successful films do not have ‘names.’”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It helps, but more important is the filmmakers willingness to learn about using social media.”

FESTIVALS: “95% of our acquisitions come from referrals from other filmmakers or people who have listened to our podcasts.”

EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time, 3 part-time

SUBMISSIONS: “Anyone can submit through our website.”


HISTORY: “Juno Films launched in September 2017. Co-founder Elizabeth Sheldon was former COO at Bond Strategy & Influence, and prior to that, SVP at Kino Lorber. Juno has a catalog of over 100 films.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “We acquire six to eight films for North American theatrical release and 20–30 for all rights, worldwide distribution with a focus on broadcast and digital sales by region.”

TERM: 7–12 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We acquire films that bring a new perspective and new voices to audiences with an emphasis on aesthetics. We prioritize cinematic films, especially for our theatrical releases, as opposed to journalistic docs or action films. We like to acquire films before their festival premiere in order to work with filmmakers to shape an effective festival strategy.”

RIGHTS: “We ask for all rights, all territories if available. That way we can launch in the U.S. and build critical attention and then work our way out to Europe, Asia and Latin America. However, if only North American rights are available, we can work with that as well.”

CAST: “We like good looking cast but are not focused on star power.”

FESTIVALS: “We like Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlinale, SXSW, CPH DOX, Cannes, TIFF, Seattle and IDFA. Our films have been programmed at all of the above with the exception of Sundance and Cannes.”

EMPLOYEES: “We are a lean machine of three.”

SUBMISSIONS: “We like friendly agents but also like very much to work directly with filmmakers, whom we consider our primary partner. Most filmmakers submit to us directly or are referred to us and we sort through the submissions. We also work closely with agents, especially in Europe. We like to find the hidden gems.”

RECENT TITLES: What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, Radium Girls, The Vasulka Effect, Subira


HISTORY: “We’ve been around in our current form for about 10 years. Before that, we were Kino International, which was founded in the late ’70s and acquired by Lorber Films in 2009.”

TITLES PER YEAR: 300–400 titles each year.

TYPE OF RELEASES: “Theatrical/non-theatrical: around 30. Digital, educational, and home entertainment (packaged media): 300–350.”

RIGHTS: “All rights for most, usually U.S. and Canada, or U.S. only if Canada is not available. We also occasionally acquire worldwide rights.”

TERM: 10–15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “First and foremost, we look for quality and relevance to core audiences, be they arthouse aficionados for narratives or core interest groups for documentaries.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “While the number of followers a film’s social media accounts have is not a primary factor for our acquisitions, in the case of documentaries and targeting a core interest group, we do use it as an indicator of the size of that audience.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, HotDocs, Locarno, Toronto, AFI, IDFA (for films); MIPTV, MIPCOM, NATPE (for digital and TV)


SUBMISSIONS: “Mostly through leading sales agents.”

RECENT TITLES: Identifying Features, After Parkland, Bacurau, Beanpole, Young Ahmed


HISTORY: Founded in 2001


TYPES OF RELEASES: “The vast majority are traditional theatrical or collapsed window with theatrical. The release plan is decided title by title, there is no quota for windowing.”

RIGHTS: “We acquire all rights when available for U.S., North America, or worldwide, depending on the title. Our sales division, Magnolia Pictures International, also takes on titles that Magnolia may not be distributing domestically.”

TERM: 15–20 years; occasionally in perpetuity

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We have a remarkably eclectic slate spanning all genres. Generally, beyond strength of storytelling and filmmaking, we’re always looking for unique voices.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It’s all taken into account, there is no one factor that outweighs others.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlinale/EFM, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto, Fantastic Fest, Hamptons, AFM

EMPLOYEES: 35, including Magnolia Home Entertainment

SUBMISSIONS: “We work with all of the sales agencies and while we don’t have the bandwidth to consider all unsolicited submissions, we do our best to review everything that comes our way.”

RECENT TITLES: Once Were Brothers, Little Joe, Buffaloed, The Whistlers, Cunningham


HISTORY: Founded in 2007


TYPES OF RELEASES: About 6–10 theatrical; 4–8 digital only

RIGHTS: “We prefer to acquire all rights for the U.S., but have been known to acquire split rights for some projects as well as additional territories such as Canada.”

TERM: Typically 10–15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Music Box Films is dedicated to curating a diverse repertoire of films and television from around the world. In partnership with the iconic Music Box Theatre, Chicago’s premier independent cinema, it is our mission to engage audiences with exciting alternatives to mainstream entertainment. Among the things we look for in an acquisition prospect is an identifiable audience that we are confident we can reach and motivate through a creative and cost-effective marketing campaign. Other factors we consider are originality, critical reaction, festival history, and our passion to share the artist’s vision with an appreciative audience.”

CAST: “Cast and above-the-line talent are factors we consider, but because we release many foreign films, we don’t limit ourselves to American names.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Yes, a robust social media presence and an engaged online community are factors we consider.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, SXSW, Toronto


SUBMISSIONS: “We don’t encourage unsolicited submissions. Instead, we pay careful attention to films programmed in major festivals as well as those represented by sales agents we trust.”

RECENT TITLES: Meru, The Innocents, Monsieur Lazhar, A Quiet Passion, Transit, Memoir of War.


HISTORY: Founded in 2017

TITLES PER YEAR: “Ten is our target number, but rules are meant to be broken.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “We approach everything we do from a ‘theatrical first’ standpoint. That’s not to say that everything will have a traditional window. It’s to say that the first question we ask ourselves is: What’s the best way to maximize the theatrical distribution of this film? It’s still the best way to see movies and we’re committed to living in a world where people leave their house every once in a while. Having said that, we are also big believers in innovation and flexibility. With only 10 films on our slate, we can tackle each one individually to customize the best strategy for that film.”

RIGHTS: “We’re a one-stop-shop for North America and will pursue other territories on a case-by-case basis.”

TERM: “An important part of the model for any one-stop-shop, all rights distribution company is to create a library with long term value. So we generally license films for 20+ years.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We’re totally agnostic to things like budget, scale of release, genre, and language. If I can describe it to a room full of non-film industry people and it generates conversation, that’s a good start.”

CAST: “From a theatrical standpoint, it’s only one of many things that can be a draw. The minute you limit yourself to one of these things, you’re being myopic. But for ancillary reasons, it’s important for determining value.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “They might help push us in one direction or another if we’re on the fence, but it’s rarely the reason we want to do something. If we love something, we will build the social media numbers.”

FESTIVALS: “Sundance, Toronto, Cannes and Berlin are the big four. We’ve also bought movies out of SXSW and Tribeca. And we scour festival lineups all over the world for hidden gems and directors who we might want to work with.”


SUBISSIONS: “We mostly take submissions through agencies and filmmakers who we know, but a brief and compelling email can go a long way.”

RECENT TITLES: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Lodge, Parasite, Clemency, Wild Rose


HISTORY: Founded in 2008


TYPES OF RELEASES: “We try to bring all films out theatrically in some way.”

RIGHTS: North America and U.S. territories

TERM: “The average term length is around 10 to 15 years with all rights.”


SUBMISSIONS: “Technically we do not accept unsolicited films (should come through a trusted source or sales agent), but that rule may be bent depending on circumstances.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto, True/False, Telluride, and a handful of others

RECENT TITLES: VHYes, Summer 1993, Saint Frances, Run This Town


HISTORY: Founded in 1998


TYPES OF RELEASES: “Around 60 are digital/DVD/home video and education with four to six theatrical titles.”

TERM: 1–5 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Documentaries that have repeat viewing value/titles that will be watched multiple times (health and nutrition, lifestyle films). For fiction films, it’s always easier to take on films with great star power, major festival buzz, and high exposure, but at the end of the day, as simple as it sounds, we are just looking for well told stories that will educate and entertain. Stories that audiences will go out of their way to see and discuss with their friends at the water cooler the next morning.”

FESTIVALS: Cannes, TIFF, Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Fantastic Fest, IDFA, Hot Docs, Sheffield Doc Fest, DOC NYC, and more

SOCIAL MEDIA: “100%. It’s hard to fake good social media engagement these days. We have released well over 700 films and know all the tricks. If your social media is just filled with mindless promotion of the umpteenth festival you were in and all your great achievements, it’s more or less a yawn to look any further. On the other hand, if you have a social account with thousands of followers where you incite discussion over your film and use it as a tool to help your followers understand the content as well as give them exclusive sneak peaks at HOW you were successful in creating it, and it’s obvious that these followers’ lives are enriched by viewing your social media posts, then we’re VERY interested in chatting further about partnering on your project.”


RECENT TITLES: Becoming Nobody, Afterward, Tre Maison Dasan, Toxic Beauty


HISTORY: Founded in late 2017

TITLES PER YEAR: “We hope to average around 10 titles per year for the first few years, then scale up, as needed.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “All digital and physical, for now. We are currently making inroads to theatrical partners for future releases.”

RIGHTS: “All rights, but willing to look at specific cases, if certain rights aren’t available.”

TERM: 7 years, but negotiable

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We have two criteria for acquiring a film: 1) we feel the film is of high enough quality, which includes production value, directing, performance and above all storytelling, and 2) we feel we can help the filmmaker recoup what they spent to make the film. We are interested in longterm partnerships, and the success of our filmmakers is as important to us as our success.”

CAST: “Always helps, but just one piece of the puzzle. Quality, execution, a terrific edit and many other factors can compensate for lack of cast. The bar is higher than ever, but no single element guarantees success, including cast.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “Social media should always be a part of any release, but we are skeptical of it, frankly, as either a determiner of strategy or a predictor of returns. Besides the question of reliability of the numbers and the difficulty on some platforms of actually reaching those numbers of fans who supposedly have engaged, the big question is whether that group constitutes an ‘audience’ as we define it, ie. real people who will actually pay for content. So for now, for us, social media numbers are an interesting X factor that does not impact our decision making but might guide some decisions during release, depending on the specific content, the specific platforms and specific numbers.”

FESTIVALS: “We attend Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, TIFF and many regional festivals in Southern California, such as Newport Beach, as well as pure markets, such as AFM, Filmart, and Ventana Sur. We believe festivals are terrific places to both acquire films and to meet filmmakers.”


SUBMISSIONS: “Filmmakers can email, call, or find us at any of the festivals and markets we attend. We’re open to unsolicited submissions.”


HISTORY: 14 years

TITLES PER YEAR: “We release 10 to 12 theatrical features a year.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “We broke new ground in the day-and-date model with Margin Call (2011) and Arbitrage (2012), and are always interested in finding a new model for day and date that works in today’s market. However, we’re a theatrical releasing company, and finding success at the box office is always our first priority.”

RIGHTS: “Every deal is different, but in the majority of our deals we are seeking North American rights.”

TERM: “Every deal is different.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “A film that speaks to us on multiple levels. We are seeking artistic and commercially minded acquisitions with a strong point of view. We must feel like we can identify the audience for a film and have confidence that we know how to reach that audience. Positive reviews are also important for us, or films we anticipate will be critically embraced.”

CAST: “It’s quite important for our theatrical business to have a cast with strong marquee value, although we are also open to other elements that will draw audiences. For example, has stellar reviews or is groundbreaking in some other meaningful way, we may be willing to engage.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It’s great to know that there is a social media footprint, but it’s not an essential part of our acquisitions strategy.”

FESTIVALS: “We cover all the major festivals and markets, although we’re open to screening quality films presented by established representatives at any time.”

EMPLOYEES: “We’re a boutique company with over 20 employees.”

SUBMISSIONS: “We unfortunately don’t take cold submissions; we prefer to work with established producers/filmmakers reps.”

RECENT TITLES: Judy, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Hope Gap, The Last Full Measure


HISTORY: Founded in 1997.


RIGHTS: “Usually we acquire all rights with a focus on North American distribution, but also acquire world rights and select territories.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We are looking for a number of factors when we acquire a film… First and foremost, we look to find films that we feel have an audience that we can reach. But we also like to work with burgeoning talent and on films that we feel have a strong voice.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “We certainly take notice of social media, but it is not the only determining factor.”

SUBMISSIONS: “We’re tracking films year round for completed films we can screen. We will take blind submissions.”

FESTIVALS: “We look at all festivals.”

RECENT TITLES: To the Stars, Fisherman’s Friends


HISTORY: “The distribution arm of Seed&Spark was founded in 2012. A stronger focus an effort was put on the streaming side in 2017.”

TITLES PER YEAR: “Our current rate is about 100 to 120 acquisitions per year (shorts, features, and series) with an aim to increase that in 2019.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “Currently we are strictly an SVOD platform releasing films digitally.”

RIGHTS: “We are non-exclusive and we do not take any rights from filmmakers. We can geo-block our releases where necessary but otherwise our titles are available worldwide on SVOD.”

TERM: “Our agreement is for two years with an automatic renewal for an additional year. We also provide an option for the filmmaker to terminate the agreement after six months.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Production value: Shot well on a good camera, sound has been mixed well, color correction has been done, writing is nuanced, etc.

“Compelling and interesting story: avoid tropes; Is the story unique? Have we seen this before? Are you engaged from beginning to end?

“Inclusion on and/or off screen: We’re looking for inclusive representation, which can mean anything from ethnicity to sexuality, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geographic, culture, language, etc.

“The three whys: Why this story? Why now? Why is this person the right one to tell it?”

CAST: “As we’re a young platform looking to gain subscribers, titles that have recognizable talent do help us with that. However, it’s not a requirement in our acquisitions process by any means.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: ‘Social media certainly helps, yes. New releases do better on our platform when the filmmaker has a large social media following, aka a pre-built audience.”

FESTIVALS: “Since we operate on a rev-share model offering no minimum guarantees, we tend to focus on the smaller, more regional festivals for acquisitions. That said, we have a number of titles that played Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, and SXSW.”

EMPLOYEES: “We have 12 employees. Most of us are based in Los Angeles, with others based in New York, Atlanta, and Seattle.”

SUBMISSIONS: “We love blind submissions. You can either submit via our website or by emailing distribution@seedandspark.com.”

RECENT TITLES: She’s Not Funny, Late Blossom Blues, Piscina , F*ck Yes


TITLES PER YEAR: 12–15 new films, plus hundreds of library titles

RIGHTS: “We’re always looking for a broad array of rights. For new titles we take all rights for North America. For library titles, we license from independent rights holders and studios. Broad rights always preferred.”

TERM: 10–20 years

FESTIVALS: TIFF, Cannes, Berlin, AFM, Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, MIPCOM; sometimes Fantastic Fest


WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Cast-driven genres such as sci-fi, horror, action, thriller, and kids/family.”

RECENT TITLES: I Am Fear, Camp Cold Brook, Swift, Rabid


HISTORY: Founded in 1992


TYPES OF RELEASES: “Sony Pictures Classics releases all of their films theatrically first, followed by distribution in the other media and other platforms (home entertainment/VOD, digital streaming, television, etc.).”

RIGHTS: “All rights worldwide or in multiple international territories in addition to North America.”

TERM: “It varies.”

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “Films that are dynamic enough in their storytelling, cinematic quality, execution, and performances to draw people to see them in commercial movie theaters; films that reflect the culture in which we’re living and generate conversation among critics, journalists, and opinion makers, in addition to general audiences.”

CAST: “Just one of many variables in our decision making.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “It’s important to pay attention to them.”

FESTIVALS: Cannes, Toronto, Sundance


SUBMISSIONS: “Sony Classics does not accept unsolicited submissions, so projects that come to us from sources with whom we don’t have preexisting relationships should be through referrals from producers, filmmakers, sales agents, and talent agencies.”

RECENT TITLES: The Climb, Charm City Kings, The Last Vermeer, The Burnt Orange Heresy


HISTORY: Founded in 1989

TITLES PER YEAR: 12–16 new titles per year. “Occasionally we’ve done the notable rerelease/reissue with films such as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, The Graduate, Contempt, and Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “Each title gets a theatrical launch, and we handle all rights on all platforms. Each title gets a physical launch (DVD/Blu-ray), and we do all servicing/encoding/QCing in house.”

TERM: 15 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We look for festival pedigree, critical hits, and foreign films. We’re known for foreign films but also have taken on American indie titles such as Spa Night, Puccini for Beginners, The Dying Gaul, Lovesong, and Transfiguration. Regarding American vs. international title acquisition, you never know what is in the marketplace and what film will appeal to us.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “No, it’s really about the quality of the film and how we respond to it.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Toronto


SUBMISSIONS: “It’s always better when it comes through a filter of seeing a film at a festival, but it always is nice when a filmmaker of note is recommending another filmmaker’s project that we should see. If it comes with a recommendation of someone to help get my attention, we’ll definitely check it out.”

RECENT TITLES: Adam, On a Magical Night, My Name Is Sara


HISTORY: Founded in 2012

RIGHTS: “All rights; usually just North America.”


CAST: “For our model, yes, though genre films such as horror don’t necessarily need it if execution is solid.”


FESTIVALS: Toronto, Fantastic Fest, AFM, Sundance, Berlinale, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes


SUBMISSIONS: ”All manners—however we can.”

RECENT TITLES: The Kindness of Strangers, She’s Missing, Waiting for Anya, Can You Keep a Secret?


HISTORY: Founded in 2003


TYPES OF RELEASES: 40% theatrical; 60% digital releases.

RIGHTS: “All rights if we can get them. Territories depends on the film.”

TERM: 5–10 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “If it can make money first; the message second.”


FESTIVALS: AFM, Berlin, Cannes


SUBMISSIONS: “Direct contact is best. We look at anything that is sent to us.”


HISTORY: Vision Films was founded by Lise Romanoff in 1990.


“Vision Films releases 2-4 films a month across theatrical, VOD, DVD, and television platforms. We keep our costs down
to a minimum, provide full disclosure, provide a 24/7 real time producer
reporting portal so you can see the statements from the platforms and
agreements from licensees, and we work very, very hard to maximize
revenue on each film we release.”

manage all windows and decide what is best for the long run of the film
between a possible limited Theatrical release depending on the film, and
the premium Cable VOD, Digital TVOD, SVOD, Pay TV, Cable TV and Free
TV, and physical DVD sales. For VOD we are direct with all the
Transactional VOD Platforms such as iNDemand (Comcast, Cox, Spectrum,
BrightHouse), Vubiquity (Verizon, Mediacom, Suddenlink and more), Dish,
and DirecTV, iTUNES, Playstation, Xbox, Amazon, Vimeo, Google Play,
FandangoNow, Vudu, and more. In Canada, for Cable TVOD, we are on Shaw,
Rogers, Bell and Telus. Plus we license all the Subscription VOD
Platforms such as Netflix, the Peacock, AppleTV, Hulu, Amazon Prime. And
we license TV broadcasters such as HBO, AMC, Lifetime, Hallmark, and
UPTV. Internationally, we divide the world into regions: I handle
English world (USA/Canada, Aus/NZ, UK/Eire, Africa) and France and
Italy. Robby and Almira handle the rest of Europe, all Eastern Europe,
all Latin America and Asia.”

TERM: 5–10 years

“For feature films, we look for action, family, rom-coms, female-driven thrillers, true stories, faith films, sci-fi films,
and intelligent horror. For documentaries, we look for biographies of
iconic or legendary figures, and timeless stories of human

CAST: “A least one recognizable cast member helps films stand out.”

“We manage the national or international PR and marketing
campaign, and we work closely with producers and the talent of each film
to maximize the effectiveness of their own social media. We keep the
filmmakers informed and involved every step along the way during the

FESTIVALS: “We attend seven sales markets a
year, all of the film, TV, and specialty markets: Toronto,
MIPCOM, AFM, Natpe, Berlin, HK
FIlmart, MIPTV, and the Cannes Film Festival. We
also attend some of the better-known film festivals and take sales
trips during the year. All the marketing costs gets amortized between domestic and international, so no double costs.”

SUBMISSIONS: We take submissions via email to lise@visionfilms.net.
RECENT TITLES: Solar Impact, Hope Ranch, Saving Santaland, Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art, Teslafy Me, One More Orbit


HISTORY: Founded in 1991

TITLES PER YEAR: “We acquire around 25 to. 30 titles a year for theatrical or day-and-date VOD release, sometimes a few more for direct to video.”

TYPES OF RELEASES: “Of these, 15 to 20 are Chinese or Korean day-and-date titles, but not day-and-date in the VOD sense, but day-and-date with the release in China or Korea. Of the remainder, 4 to 6 are traditional theatrical titles, and 2 to 4 are day-and-date VOD and theatrical titles. There are some smaller direct-to-video titles.”

RIGHTS: “We take all rights. Depending on the title, while generally we take North America, we also take English-speaking territories (UK, Australia, New Zealand), and select European and Latin America territories.”

TERM: 15–20 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: “We’re looking for titles that come with a hook we can use in marketing the film, be it name cast, critical acclaim/festival credibility, or just a strong angle from which we can generate interest. Our core audience is younger, so we do look for films that skew a bit younger. We love genre films, but we regularly pick films up outside of that space—really, at the end of the day, we’re looking for a great movie.”

CAST: “It helps, but it’s not required.”

SOCIAL MEDIA: “A little bit, but the film itself of course speaks far louder. A ton of social media followers won’t fix a bad film, and a lack thereof won’t kill a good one.”

FESTIVALS: Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, SXSW, Fantastic Fest, Busan, AFM, Hong Kong, and select key regional festivals

EMPLOYEES: 15 plus our warehouse staff

SUBMISSIONS: “We prefer to work through agencies, trusted programmer friends, or producer’s reps.”

RECENT TITLES: First Love, Enter the Fat Dragon, House of Hummingbird, Better Days, Little Q


HISTORY: Founded in 1985


RIGHTS: All rights worldwide

TERM: 10–12 years

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR: LGBTQ+ content exclusively

CAST: ”Not important, but it helps”


FESTIVALS: Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, TIFF, Frameline, Outfest—any LGBTQ+ film festival

SUBMISSIONS: “We take blind submissions and work through agencies. Ongoing work from existing filmmakers.”

RECENT TITLES: 1985, Retablo, Anchor and Hope, Mario, Hard Paint

*Declined to Participate: A24, Amazon, Netflix, Orion, Sony Worldwide

*Contacted but No Response: CNN Films, Focus Features, HBO, Lionsgate


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