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Learn Distribution at Home: Courshon Reveals the Secrets

By Oliver Tuthill

You've worked hard to finish your documentary film--endless hours raising funds to create your masterpiece; then months, if not years, in production; then just as much time and money in post-production. Now you have your film in hand, ready to show to the world. But how do you get it to the marketplace, where it can actually start generating some revenue, and you finally have a chance at recouping your costs?

That's where Los Angeles-based distribution expert Jerome Courshon comes in. He has recently released his new DVD program, The Secrets to Distribution: Get Your Movie Distributed Now!. It offers a tremendous amount of information for someone looking to release a film theatrically, or via VOD, PPV cable, home video, foreign distribution or the Internet--whether through a distributor or by yourself.

"The solution is that there are concrete, specific and proven strategies to achieve distribution for your film," Courshon says. "Unfortunately, most producers and directors don't understand what they are. In many cases, they are lacking the right information to be successful. My job is to provide filmmakers with the information to successfully get their film into the marketplace."

Courshon has paid his dues. A former employee at HBO, he self-released his first movie, God, Sex, & Apple Pie, into theaters and then secured a distribution agreement with Warner Bros. For years, his friends encouraged him to share his knowledge with others, so he began giving seminars on distribution at the Learning Annex in the fall of 2006. In 2007, the seminar expanded to a full day, then two days in 2009. This year, Courshon has taken his now three-day tutorial and has transformed it into a nine-DVD series that covers the gamut of distribution: theatrical, service deal, home video, foreign, digital, Internet and DIY, as well as important elements such as key art,  press kits, film festivals, and deals and contracts.

According to Courshon, roughly 4,500 independent films are produced every year, but fewer than five percent of them secure professional distribution. Many filmmakers believe that if they get their documentary into the Sundance or Toronto Film Festivals, distributors will sign them up and give them a generous advance. The reality is that in these tough economic times--and with the high-tech explosion of film production equipment enabling just about anyone to make their own documentary, the odds are heavily weighed against a filmmaker getting the big break. The business has never been more competitive.

"The filmmaker today, in order to be successful, needs knowledge of the industry and how to promote their film properly in a highly competitive environment," Courshon explains. "Most filmmakers get caught up in the excitement of production and post-production without giving proper consideration to how they will get their film out into the marketplace. Those who do not will usually meet with failure. Many filmmakers finish their film and then spend years paying off their credit cards or the people who loaned them money. The filmmaker needs to approach the venture of documentary filmmaking as a business."

Secrets to Distribution comes in three separate volumes, each holding three DVDs and a workbook that includes numerous distribution contact lists. He does not look favorably on producer's representatives and goes into great detail about why most filmmakers should avoid them.

Courshon arranges his information on the first volume with an offering of Distribution Overview, Your Reality and the Marketplace Realty on his first disc. The second disc is devoted entirely to Theatrical Distribution, and the third to Artwork, Taglines and Press Kits. On the second volume, the first disc covers Film Festival Strategies and DIY Theatrical Distribution; the second disc, Home Video Distribution, Errors & Omission Insurance and Deals & Contracts; and the third, VOD, PPV, Cable Television and Foreign Distribution. Then the last volume's first disc addresses Internet & Digital Distribution with producer/distributor Linda Nelson of Indie Rights, and Internet Distribution Strategies with Alec McNayr, creative director of the social media agency McBeard Media. The second disc focuses on DIY Distribution with filmmaker/Internet marketing expert Marc Rosenbush, and also includes Linda Nelson discussing how to use Facebook for your film. The third and final disc of the program features Alternative Distribution Approaches with filmmaker Jon Reiss, author of the acclaimed guide to DIY distribution, Think Outside the Box Office, and Keys to Film Festival Success with consultant Mitch Levine.

"My program is ideal for the filmmaker to study and learn about distribution before they even go into pre-production," Courshon maintains. "Knowledge is the key, and in my program the information is there for the filmmaker to obtain the knowledge."

The production quality of the program is excellent, although sometimes you cannot make out the questions people in the audience are asking, although when Courshon is answering them, one can figure them out. This three-day distribution school on DVD contains a lot of valuable material. Anyone willing to put in the time, money and effort to understand the distribution business and how to realize success, will benefit from this DVD program.

The Secrets To Distribution: Get Your Movie Distributed Now! is available  through www.Distribution.LA.


Oliver W. Tuthill Jr. is an award-winning independent film writer, composer, producer and director based in Seattle. He is president of Blue Wood Films LLC and its subsidiary, Blue Pony Trail Music, a BMI publishing company.