What does a distribution executive do?
Distribution executives get films into cinemas and TV dramas onto TV screens and onto other streaming platforms like Amazon or Netflix.
In film, distribution executives go to film markets where they look at films and acquire them from production companies or sales agents. They negotiate for the rights to release them. These deals cover a set period of time and include agreements about promotion, classification of the film and any edits allowed. Distribution executives then pitch the film to exhibitors (usually cinemas). They deliver the film materials to them and they plan the release, including how to market the film, targeting the film’s core audience to bring in the most profit. How well a film does when it first opens in the cinema has a big impact on the rest of its release cycle.
In TV drama, distributors play a slightly different role. Big budget dramas are usually financed by a combination of TV channels and distribution companies. The distribution company will advance money for the production of the drama against the right to sell broadcast rights in the programme for a set time period in specific countries. They might also be responsible for any merchandising or publishing spinoffs. Distribution executives are often essential to the financing of the TV drama in development (prior to production) and can also play an important part in helping form the content of new dramas.
Learning or knowing different languages and a desire to travel are advantages when considering a career in distribution.
What’s a distribution executive good at?
- Watching film: have a passion for and wide knowledge of the industry, critically analyse scripts and production packages, know film festivals and how they work
- Market knowledge: identify and understand the core audience for a film, know how to excite them, research box office and viewing figures, be aware of cultural trends including past statistics, predict what will be successful
- Industry knowledge: have an in-depth understanding of the film and TV drama industry, including the production process, how to turn talent into commercial success, convert master materials from film makers into exhibition formats
- Negotiation: be good at selling, execute deals on an international and global level, understand contractual agreements
- Finance: manage a budget and handle accounts, be very well organised
- Networking: communicate well with a wide range of people in the film industry