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netribution > features > interview with pamela casey > page two
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There's another short film distribution company that I've spoken to that maintains that it's mainly comedy that sells. What's your take on that?
Comedy definitely sells best – across the board, in all markets, in all territories. But there is still an emphasis on high production values. Romantic comedies also sell well, as do sci-fi films and PG type films which will appeal to a broad audience. With the mobile market there'll be a great need for even shorter stuff, one to two minutes long and there it will definitely be comedy that will work best.

And how fast is the mobile market growing?
Well you have to wait for the technology to catch up first and also the mindset, you don't think of your phone as somewhere to watch a film yet. The idea is that as more and more devices are created that can carry that sort of information it will feel a lot easier. We think that although it is slow moving at the moment it will be a huge market but, realistically, not for another couple of years.

Now in terms of rates, can you give us a couple of examples of how a film is sold, to what market, why and how much does the filmmaker get?
The range of revenue that a short film can bring in varies enormously. Shorts can make anywhere from $0 to $10,000 over a 5 year license period, but most films don’t necessarily make this much. It usually depends on how broad the film’s appeal is. One of our highest grossing films has made around $40,000 because of some very high profile sales. As our distribution deals are on a revenue share basis, the filmmaker would then receive a percentage of any sales we make. Our percentages are fixed (ie the same for every filmmaker) but are different for different outlets. This is because the overheads are different for different outlets. For example, the costs of making a sale to television are different from doing a sale to video.

Is five years a standard length of contract?
Generally, our distribution agreements run up to 7 years, but we can be flexible. We ask for such a long term in order that we can fully take advantage of sales opportunities for a film. License periods for sales vary so much, from a one or three month period for an airline sale to maybe two or three years for a television sale.

Are you OK with filmmakers representing their film in certain territories?
Yes we can be flexible, but we really encourage filmmakers to go with us for worldwide distribution because we have firm relationships with short film buyers and we understand the market so well. We attend all the major markets, conferences and festivals and have spent 2 years building up a very successful international sales infrastructure. That's really the whole point of going with a distributor, as we have relationships with buyers, we know who to pitch your film to, we know which buyers are looking for what types of films. We might also have the advantage of being able to include a film in a package to a buyer where maybe they wouldn’t have bought it individually. Another way we differ from other distributors though is that have found new ways of generating revenue for our shorts, for example through sponsorship deals with VW or Ford or Intel. Companies who are not in the entertainment business are now doing content deals with Atom. It's just another opportunity for your films to get seen and to make a bit more money than by going with a distributor who only focuses on traditional sales to television or airlines.

What can a filmmaker expect from you initially? Do you work on a no win -no fee basis?
We usually pay an advance on signing, which we see as a sort of minimum guarantee of what we think the film will make. Once the advance has been recouped, we split the revenue with the filmmaker according to the percentages we’ve agreed.

How many films do you have in your catalogue?
We have about 1500 films in our catalogue, about 700 of these are online. On the site, we obviously want to make sure the films are getting watched so we often create different spotlights to give them a better profile.

Now with Atom being bought out by Shockwave, what changes can we expect to see, apart from moving the head office from Seattle to San Francisco?
Shockwave are a lot bigger than us so it came across in the press that we were acquired but really it more of a merger. The two companies compliment each other very well. We merged with a competitor company but with a completely different business model. Ours is based on a traditional distribution model where we acquire films and sell them on, but Shockwave didn't have a syndication business, their whole business was their website. They've brought a whole new host of content to our catalogue so we have a lot more to offer our buyers and our online audience. They didn't have a syndication model and as we do through our sales team so it was a really compatible merger. What’s also great is that our new company’s management is still being headed up by the Atom team so our MD and our CEO are integrated into the new company.

Has the mission statement changed since that merger?
No it hasn't, we are still the leading providers of short form entertainment but it just means that we have a to more to offer our viewers and clients now. It's also quite exciting because it has boosted the exposure of the films. Our monthly traffic was about one and a half million unique visitors per month whereas Shockwave's was about ten million. Combine that and it means a lot more exposure for our filmmakers, which is a great thing.


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