Nine Favorite Cop-Outs of Film Distributors

Excuses, excuses

With all the woes I had finding a distributor for my first feature Foreign Correspondents, I thought I'd share some of the many excuses distributors will give you as you try to sell your film and/or screenplay. Remember, of course, that 99% of the people you meet in this industru have absolutely no power, so these underlings come up with one of the following ways to say "No" because their bosses simply won't allow them to say "Yes". But keep your chin up: even the most successful films have been rejected by some idiot somewhere along the line.

  1. "We like it, but we can't sell it." Very often heard. Call me naive, but I believe if someone likes a film, they can sell it.
  2. "It would have to fight to find an audience." Unlike every other film ever made?
  3. "It's not for us." Vague and cold, but at least it's direct.
  4. "It's not what we're looking for at this time." If you have a red-hot actor in the lead, or have won huge acclaim at Sundance, then watch how quickly your film is what they're looking for at this time.
  5. "It would be a tough sell." The person saying this has probably never "sold" anything, ever.
  6. "We changed policy and now we're not distributing anything we don't produce ourselves." My producer and I heard this line a lot. This is the pattern: for several months they will avoid your calls, and when you finally get ahold of them, they drop this surprise news in your lap. A very wimpy cop-out.
  7. "We changed policy and now we don't handle those kinds of films anymore." See above.
  8. "We don't handle films with that low a budget." These people want you to believe that if you had made the exact same film for $5 million, then somehow they would be interested. We got this one a lot as we were trying to raise advance funds from distributors before filming. There's a twisted sort of logic here: If you had a lot of money, you'd be able to afford an A-list star, which makes your film easier to market. Unfortunately, telling the distributors "Okay, we'll make this film for $5 million!" doesn't seem to work.
  9. "Those aren't the sorts of names we usually sell to our audience." Again, the magic of the marketable name. Just what audience are they referring to? One distributor turned us down because we didn't have "popular names" like the stars of one of their other films: Steve Railsback and Marc Singer – the guy from Barb Wire and the guy from The Beast Master, respectively.