Starting the film sales process…

DerryOBrien We are now in the process of attaching a distributor to Gone Fishing. I am under no illusions, we are not going to get rich of this film, and any money we do make will get ploughed back into more PR, and repaying a few ‘loans and debts’ that we have acquired (on the understanding that if we could not repay, that was OK). What we are looking for is a dynamic distributor who will drive PR, and who has a proven track record. Several companies have stood out from the crowd, and we intend seeing them all.

One such company is called Network Ireland, and Derry O’Brien (pictured) who runs it, has come highly recommended by Toni Powell, who runs the Heart of Gold Film Festival in Australia. I hold Toni and her opinion in very high regard, and so this recommendation carries a great deal of weight. In the coming weeks we will carry out our due diligence and contact film makers whose films have been with Derry for some time, and ask key questions like… Do they return calls? Do you get regular and accurate sales statements? If revenues are due, do you get that money promptly? Do you feel they are doing everything they can (within reason of course) to get your film exposed and sold? Do you feel they are a good partner to your efforts too?

I will report on what we find. For now though, Derry has been good enough to share his top ten Do’s and Don’ts with us all… Here they are…



1. Do make sure you have all actors and artists clearances for your film/book/short story rights from the author/publisher before you undertake your production.

2. Do make an M&E track when you are doing the initial sound mixing in the studio – otherwise it can be very expensive to do it later.

3. Do make a digi master of your short.   This gives you the ultimate in flexibility for broadcast purposes.

4. Do ensure that you shoot an adequate selection of stills of the film’s leading characters etc. during filming.   Shots of the director/cameraman etc. are great for the scrap album but not necessarily of relevance to the broadcaster.

5. Do produce a full, time-coded script in English as this will be essential if overseas sales are made.

6. Do produce a full credit list and filmographies of the principal production team involved in your shoot.

7. Do produce a music cue sheet, listing the title and duration of all music-commissioned library, or commercial-list copyright holders, production company, composer and arrangers.

8. Do show your prospective agent a rough cut of your film if possible for his feedback.

9. Collaborate with your agent regarding targeting appropriate festivals.   Keep him/her posted on any festival acceptances or publicity that could help him to sell your short.

10. Do be patient with your distributor/agent.   Selling shorts takes time, (sometimes as long as 18 months) no matter now good they are.   A festival hit can sometimes be a slower seller than expected.


1. Do not indulge yourself in making a “home movie” nobody but friends and family will want to see, if you are serious about attracting international interest in your film.

2. Do not use commercial music in your shorts unless it is absolutely essential.   If you must use some commercial music, explore the availability of alternative versions or record your own.

3. Do not sync commercial music to your film before exploring the cost with the relevant music publisher(s).   Once it is a fait accomplait you have no bargaining power and these guys always know that.

4. Do not make a “mini-epic” instead of a short film – for broadcasters it must be under 30 minutes – preferably under 17 minutes to have the best shot of international sales.

5. Do not use up your publicity or marketing and promotion budget in production.

6. Do not expect your film to sell itself.   Work the festival circuit in conjunction with your agent and get it exposed to buyers and festival directors.   Start with the major local festivals and try to build on this exposure.   If your film fits a particular niche, i.e. comedy, horror, fantasy, children’s – find appropriate film festivals in which to enter it.

7. Do not expect to get rich or make your fortune from a short film – no matter now good it is. (Your agent won’t!)

8. Do not try to second guess a buyer.   Many of their programme acquisition decisions come down to personal taste.   Worse still, some are even decided in committees.

9. Do not underestimate the potential of your film – let the market judge it.

10. Do not give your distributor a hard time.   He is as keen to sell your film as you are.

You can contact Derry at Network Ireland here…

UPDATE – I just got this recommendation from another film maker, always good to get when dealing with sales agents. We are always looking out for long term relationships as that shows integrity. Here’s what we got…

Just to say, I noticed your article on your website and wanted to respond. Derry at NIT has handled all the distribution for our projects [Dogtooth Media] since 2004. He is great! Honest, hard-working, great sense of humour and an excellent salesman with great contacts. We have distributed worldwide, from Canada to Korea with our projects Heavy Metal Jr, St Mathurin’s and How to cope with Rejection. Our director partner of the time Chris Waitt has now progressed to his first feature doc: A Complete History of My Sexual Failures. We trust Derry and his team at NIT to deliver and without any fancy talking… All the best and go with it!
Margaret M Blithe – Film Maker

All good stuff!

Onward and Upward!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author


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