Tom Quinn's feature The New Year Parade took the Grand Jury prize at Slamdance in January. His writeup of some of the more challenging aspects of the experience should be required reading for any filmmaker making the festival rounds. While not everyone makes a film good enough to take top honors at Slamdance, the positive attitude and level-headedness Quinn exhibits are an example that anyone can emulate.
I had several meetings, including a breakfast with a respected distributor. What I learned over the course of this half hour was how quickly you can begin to second guess yourself, even when a deal is obviously wrong for you. The executives were very nice and offered a standard deal: Full rights for seven years, no advance, 60/40 split on the back end. For this I would get 1 or 2 day theatrical in a major market, possibly NY, and all other outlets (DVD, broadcast, VOD) were contingent on performance and reviews. Upon pressing, I found that this distributor did not have set theaters in place, nor did they have set avenues for the other markets. The rationale was that a screening in NY could get me major reviews, maybe Variety, and that by signing a deal in Park City I would raise my exposure – all true.
While this is a standard deal, I feel things are changing where we don’t necessarily have to take the 'standard.' Because I did not spend beyond my means before Slamdance I am free to find the right deal for me. Fortunately, other distributors were already knocking. Even better, by the end of the week we had all three of the components of the deal: A ton of press due to the grand jury prize, a glowing Variety review, and a screening of the winning films at the IFC Center in NYC.
I like the fact that Quinn didn't immediately jump for the first offer extended, especially since it was (as he says) the standard draconian deal by which very, very few filmmakers ever get paid -- especially since the home video release is contingent upon a decent performance on one weekend's worth of box office receipts.