Finding a distributor - my 2 cents
SO here are a couple of thoughts about my experience finding a distributor... I've been to a lot of seminars and read a lot of books about how to find a distributor, and now that i've gone through the process (admittingly on a micro level with my small little film) i wanted to add my two cents. Getting a distributor for your film is a little like getting into college- just get good grades! There's not a ton of secret strategy involved!
What i mean is that while there are some things you should know that will help, largely successfully landing distribution starts with having a watchable, marketable film. And it should come to no surprise what films are considered marketable- just go to Blockbuster. Romantic comedies generally won't do well unless there are some name stars in them... or if they're a bit on the edgey, raunchy side. Horror films do well in the low budget category. Sometimes all you need is great title like Monsturd or an interesting concept (not necessarily original, in fact most aren't) like Night of the Zombie. Sci-fi films also don't really need named stars in order to do well. Action films arguably don't even need a plot or acting to sell! Let me get off my soap box now, stop talking about shit you already know and focus on Deployment Strategy.
To continue with the getting into college analogy, with good grades a given, there are certain things you should/could do and know about when looking for distribution. Researching the type of films a distributor specializes can help you find a good match or at least a starting point to focus on. Distributors that focus on low budget horror flicks will obviously have a better idea of what to do with your low budget horror flick than a distributor who mainly does art house coming of age movies. With that said though, for me and Deployment Strategy, it was more important that i find a distributor that works with short films over the actual sci-fi genre. You probably already know that distribution avenues like Blockbuster and broadcast (tv/cable channels) are limited to features mainly, but short films now actually have far more options at this time (while probably less lucrative). Mobile devices are all the rage now and the internet is fast becoming a place where shorts can actually generate some income. What I like about IndiePix is that they are selling dvds from their site as well as download-to-own. Later this year, they'll even have films available to rent over streaming video.
The last bit of advice i have- and to me this is the most important - is about the actual contract you get offered. Take a look at it carefully. Some recommend a lawyer which i think is good advice though i didn't bother to get one. Scrutinize the numbers and equations carefully to make sure you're not getting taken for a ride. In business school, we did a case study on the record contract that the all women R&B group, TLC, signed. In the 80s they were huge stars - awesome videos on MTV, they went on tour, CD sales were amazing. But they didn't make any money. Why? Their contract sucked. Their revenue split sucked. And it's the same revenue sharing equation you'll likely get in the beginning so watch out. It's often called, "the standard contract" for indie films and it screws you over by essentially defining your share of the money as whatever is left over after the distributor subtracts all costs that fall under blanket categories like "marketing expenses" or "costs incurred for promotional purposes." So this means that your film can sell millions of dollars in gross revenues, but the distributor will then send it's entire office to Sundance and subtract it from your share of the revenue cuz they'll "market" your film over there. Surely they'll bring up your film once or twice while dining on cavear in the penthouse suite your share is paying for. This is all a bit exaggerated for dramatic effect, but look for this in your "standard contract." TLC should have... but didn't.
IndiePix's contract explicitly said that the marketing and fulfillment costs would be deducted from the IndiePix share. At my request, they even added a line item explicitly stating no deductions would be made from my share of the gross. This is what sealed the deal for me. I had received other distribution proposals that actually used the term, "our standard contract" that were structured exactly like the TCL contract. So watch out!! Hope this helps!