The Big “D” of Distribution: Deliverables

Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Megan Elias

Setting out to make my first indie feature film The Watchman’s Canoe, very little did I understand about deliverables. I figured, as long as we had an electronic press kit, trailer, key art, DCP (Digital Cinema Package) of the film, and an .MOV version that we would be ready to roll forward with most distribution companies.

With such a small budget, we decided to use an aggregator to self-distribute. We used Quiver, but there are multiple to choose from. Be sure to read their reviews before signing on. The process was painless. But, the challenge with self-distribution is there needs to be pointers to your film. If there are none, the film will get lost in an endless sea of content on Amazon and iTunes, which is what happened to our film. 

A shot from behind the scenes of The Watchman’s Canoe

After almost a year of being available on the two platforms, Amazon and iTuneswhich we uploaded through QuiverThe Watchman’s canoe was finally approached for distribution. The initial contact for international distribution came from Spain, from a women’s team called Moonrise Pictures. Shortly after, we had multiple distributors contact us for deals. We went with a  distribution company based in the United States for international distribution and a separate company for domestic distribution (USA/Canada and Ireland). 

This required loads of time, going back and forth with lawyers and the distribution companies to come to an agreed deal, pulling the film down from Amazon Video and iTunes and finally completing the list of deliverables they required. 

This list of deliverables is where this story really begins. Talk about overwhelming. D-E-L-I-V-E-R-A-B-L-E-S! This word lead me to so many questions, “You need me to give you what and do I even have that anywhere?”

While each company has different requirements, had we had any idea about some of these requirements, we would have created them using our editing assistants while in post. This is what I would strongly recommend to fellow filmmakers, as doing all of this now, over a year after finishing post has put us in a pinch. The list of deliverables also forces you to be beyond organized: have multiple hard drives with each delivery item listed below as a separate file. Make sure your producer and editor also have a copies. In order to have these items, you have to obtain them from that department head upon completion of the project, which unfortunately, I had not done. It became complicated to go back and request these items from the department heads (many had to “dig” to find them). Again, make sure you get the deliverables from them before they complete their jobs. 

Do yourself a favor and memorize these deliverables. You will be so glad you did. Make sure that all department heads on your crew are aware of exactly what will be expected to be handed in to you in post. Here is a standard list of minimal deliverables received from two different distribution companies: 

A still from The Watchman’s Canoe

Minimal delivery shall be:

  1. Mac-formatted hard drive (USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt preferred) with 1080p 23.98 HD or better version of feature in ProRes 422 or DNxHD (HQ or better) format with composite stereo composite sound mix
  2. Separate stereo music & effects (M&E) sound mix in AIFF or WAV format (16-bit, 48k or higher).
  3. Preferred audio delivery also includes 5.1 surround composite plus 5.1 surround music & effects (M&E) in CAF format, or each surround channel in AIFF or WAV format. In lieu of 5.1 surround mix, stereo stem tracks (separate dialogue, ambience, effects, and music pairs) should be provided, if available.
  4. Trailer of said feature in all of the same formats as listed above
  5. Closed Captions. Quiver did this for us at an extra charge. There are only a few closed captions companies that are “accepted” by Amazon and iTunes, so make sure to use only them, or you will pay for it twice!
  6. Trailer dialogue list with time code
  7. Photoshop format Key Art, Poster, etc.
  8. 20-30 Stills and behind-the-scenes photography
  9. English Synopsis
  10. Music Cue Sheet with time code
  11. Press Kit
  12. Final Approved Shooting Script
  13. Dialogue Continuity Script. It costs approximately $250. The distribution company usually handles it but they may charge you.
  14. Subtitle List, which is a list of all the text that appears on screen except the credits.
  15. Legal Credit Blocks. This is the listing giving credit to the cast and crew that made the film. 16. Main and End Title Credits. They should be in a Word document exactly as they appear on screen.
  16. Credit Obligations or waivers stating no obligations. With well known actors, for example, their contract stipulates where their credit will appear in the film, so you have to supply that contract to the distribution company if you have such actors.
  17. Logos (Tiff, PSD, PNG or JPEG.) You must have the Photoshop version so the distribution company can add their logo.
  18. An Errors and Omissions insurance certificate naming the distributor and its subsidiaries and affiliates as “Additional Insured.” Many distribution companies will add you to their policy, however you can add them to yours. Either way, E&O is a MUST HAVE.
  19. Quality Check Report from a third party approved lab. This is required by all platforms, including Amazon and iTunes. Uploading your film for self distribution required this, and is usually done in-house. Distribution companies usually take care of this for the film.
  20. Full and complete Chain-of-Title. Linking agreements from screenplay to production company to distributor plus music, cast, and crew agreements.
  21. Copyright Certificate from U.S. Copyright Office of screenplay and motion picture or proof of filing.
  22. Title Search Report – A report showing any possible trademark conflicts with the title of the film. The cost for this is approximately $400.  The cost is usually included in your E&O, our lawyer copyrighted our script and title before we went into pre-pro.

Behind the scenes of The Watchman’s Canoe

Several of the lists required have to be listed by timecode, which takes loads of time. The first is the dialogue list, which is headed by timecode, character name, and dialogue broken down by acts from the beginning of the film through end of picture. You can imagine the amount of time it takes to create this document.

The second list is the music cue sheet. This sheet is headlined with sequence number, cue title (song/track name), usage (BI = background instrumental, BV = Background vocal, MT = main title theme, etc.), time in and time out, duration, role, composer/writer, publisher, PRO affiliation, percentage of shares. Again, a very intense and timely sheet to put together. This would hopefully be done by sound design or by the editing team. 

It was my goal to share this information, so that the scramble, stress, and overwhelming feeling I had pulling some of these deliverables together doesn’t happen to any of you. Be prepared upfront and make sure all department heads are aware of the deliverables they are responsible for. You will be happy you did. 

Learn more about The Watchman’s Canoe on the film’s website and IMDb.