Film Distro

You may be done shooting and editing, but your work is hardly over. Finished films don’t sell themselves. Time to get down to business.


You insure your health, your car, and your apartment—don’t forget your production also needs safeguarding. Almost always a prerequisite for distribution deals, Errors and Omission (E&O) Insurance protects filmmakers against lawsuits for a wide range of issues like slander, libel, copyright infringement, and the unauthorized use of titles, formats, and characters. If your film is a huge success and someone accuses you of stealing their script, images or other IP, an E&O policy will cover your legal fees, as well as costs owed if the verdict doesn’t go your way.

A distribution deal is an agreement between a filmmaker (the director, producer or related LLC) and an organization (the distributor) that will get your film seen—at festivals, through streaming services, in theaters, or online—and market it. Distributors can be small non-profits or huge distribution arms of major Hollywood studios; regardless of their size, they’ll assess your film’s value and its potential for success. You may disagree with these assessments and will likely want a lawyer to help you navigate and improve deal terms.

Held all over the world, film festivals are (usually) annual events where independent filmmakers showcase their work, getting it in front of live audiences and professional critics. Their scope may vary, but most festivals have open submission policies—previous credentials are not required for festival admittance.

When filmmakers (directors, producers or the related LLC) and distributors decide to work together, they need a formal distribution rights acquisition agreement that outlines their partnership. Agreements can be reached before, during, or post production and will outline key terms—if, for example, filmmakers will receive advanced revenue (and how much) and how to repay investors.

A key component of distribution agreements, copyright assignment clarifies whether a copyrighted product—in this case your film—is being sold or licensed for a set period of time. Distributors need a copyright assignment before they can do anything with your film.

Even before the COVID-19 lockdowns prevented old fashioned moviegoing, online streaming platforms (think Netflix, Hulu) were big business. With hundreds of millions of subscribers these video on demand (VOD) companies are looking to buy. Filmmakers interested in exploring online distribution will also need legal counsel to understand contract terms and requirements.

* No attorney-client relationship has been created by your access to this website. This website does not provide legal advice and the Filmmakers Legal Clinic is not acting as your attorney.