Are you about to hand the rights to your first movie to a sales agent, someone who is promising you an amazing return in international sales?
Let me tell you something — forget the sales numbers being quoted for a second unless they are written in the contract as a minimum guarantee (an “MG”). In fact, put the contract down, and do two things first before you even think of signing anything.
Step 1 – go online, and look at their roster of films. Ask yourself – do they actually have films that are financially successful in the international marketplace? Does this sales agent regularly attend the important film markets? If they do, genius.
If they do not meet those criteria, ask yourself as a producer, is this really the best home for my movie, to give my investors the best chance of recouping their investment? Or is it more important to sign something fast, and tell people you got a sales agent? Think about it. Vanity kills producers.
Step 2, and most importantly — Due diligence is mission-critical. Go on IMDB, track down the producers of at least three (3) films that your proposed sales agent represents. Call those producers and ask them if they ever made any money from the movie. This is where you know. THEN — and only then, if everything checks out — THEN get an entertainment lawyer to look at the contract.
There are many amazingly talented and successful sales agents in the film industry, professionals in every sense of the word. But there are also a few who make little to no money for filmmakers, their only focus is taking expenses and maybe up front fees. The list of new filmmakers who have given their films to sales agents without checking everything out, and then go on to make no money from their movie is long.
Bottom line – Treat the sale of a film as you would the sale of any other million dollar investment — with care and by educating yourself about the deal and your proposed business partner. Do not get blinded by the glitter and glam of the film industry, or you will find yourself making crazy business decisions that no rational person would make in any other industry, and you will lose your money, your movie, and maybe even your mind if you care about your film enough.