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About this book

This book is about the business of distribution, around which the international film business revolves. Considering sales agents and distributors as primary gatekeepers, the book examines the networks in which they operate, how they operate, how their practices have evolved, and the power and control they exert over the business of independent film distribution. Critically, it also considers how they are affected by the powerful influence of Netflix and Amazon in the online era. At a time of disruption and change to traditional business models and industry professions, Roderik Smits argues that gatekeepers remain equally – if not more – crucial to the distribution and circulation of films in international markets.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Film Distribution and the Role of Gatekeepers

Abstract
Distribution is the point where important decisions about films are made, where gatekeepers negotiate access to international markets and where they exert power and control over the sort of access given to specific films. This chapter draws on discussions in Film, Media and Culture Studies to explain why it is important to understand film distribution as a process of gatekeeping.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 11. Conclusion

Abstract
I draw together the threads of various chapters to demonstrate how gatekeepers collectively exert power and control over the process of regulating access for films. I also reflect on the evolving nature of the business of film distribution, particularly in relation to notions of disruption and dis-intermediation processes, and I argue for further research about the implications of online forms of access, power and control through VOD platforms.
Roderik Smits

Part I

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. The Historical Development of Film Sales Markets

Abstract
This chapter provides a historical account of the film distribution business through the analysis of sales markets. It surveys the development of sales markets from the 1960s onwards to analyse how such events have contributed to the construction of a business environment for the sales and distribution community. The chapter also involves a consideration of how the development of sales markets can be understood in analytical terms, and, as such, will be discussed in relation to the concept of field configuring events.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 3. The Film Sales Process at the European Film Market

Abstract
The focus in this chapter shifts to one of the key sales markets: the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin. The main purpose is to analyse the film sales process of sales agents within sales markets. First, I analyse how sales agents position themselves within the EFM, since they work from different types of stands and offices. Second, I analyse how they make use of film screenings to introduce and promote films to distributors. In analytical terms, this chapter draws on discussions about processes of value creation within sales markets and competitive events in other fields of cultural activity. I demonstrate that sales markets exert an important influence over gatekeeping by creating social and cultural hierarchies that impact on value creation processes.
Roderik Smits

Part II

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Analysing Sales Agents as Gatekeepers

Abstract
Chapter 4 provides insight on discussions around cultural gatekeepers to develop an analysis of sales agents in the film industry. I discuss the sorts of roles and business functions that sales agents perform, the types of companies of which the sales community is made up, and the political influences of trade associations, funding bodies and other film agencies.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 5. Sales Agents and Their Gatekeeping Functions

Abstract
I further expand my analysis of sales agents in this chapter, where the focus is more specifically on the ways they organise the metaphorical process of opening and closing the gates, and how they introduce and promote films to international distributors. By analysing the involvement of sales agents with films such as The King’s Speech (2010), Oh Boy (2012) and Ida (2013), I demonstrate that gatekeeping is a complex process that requires more than just acquiring and selling films.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 6. The Gatekeeper Role of Distributors in the Dutch Market

Abstract
This chapter addresses the role of film distributors in the Dutch market to demonstrate how they work together with sales agents to acquire films in the global marketplace. I focus on acquisition decisions of different types of distributors to analyse their relationships with sales agents. In particular, I analyse how factors such as reputation and status, taste preferences and networking arrangements work together as important influences in their decision-making process about films. This analysis also sheds light on the concept of gatekeeping networks.
Roderik Smits

Part III

Frontmatter

Chapter 7. VOD Platforms in the Era of Online Availability

Abstract
I establish an understanding of the emerging field of online distribution in this chapter. The development of the online market represents a dramatic change from scarcity of content to abundance of content. I focus on various types of VOD platform providers in the marketplace to analyse how they enable distribution for a greater range of films. Such new online opportunities for films will be discussed in relation to notions of cultural democratisation, market fragmentation and long tail economics.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 8. The Powerful Influence of Netflix and Amazon Studios

Abstract
The powerful influence of Netflix and Amazon in the distribution business will be addressed in this chapter. In recent years, they expanded their business operations and rebranded from VOD platform providers to fully integrated studios with production and distribution departments. I will draw comparisons between the strategies of Netflix and Amazon and analyse how they associate with the concepts of digital disruption and dis-intermediation.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 9. Changing Circumstances of Gatekeepers

Abstract
This chapter takes the analysis of Chap. 8 further to explore how circumstances of gatekeepers such as sales agents and distributors are changing, and how they are responding to those changes. In addition, I will demonstrate that a new type of gatekeeper has appeared in the distribution business, so-called content aggregators, who enable access for films to VOD platforms. Through a discussion of these various types of gatekeepers, I put several limitations on claims of digital disruption and dis-intermediation.
Roderik Smits

Chapter 10. Experiments with Direct Distribution in the UK

Abstract
The focus in this chapter shifts to the perspective of small-scale, stand-alone producers in the UK, who are experiencing serious difficulties in terms of generating sufficient value for small-scale, low-budget films through conventional distribution arrangements and release strategies. I demonstrate that distributors are experimenting with day-and-date strategies, whereby films are simultaneously released in cinemas and online. I also demonstrate that some producers are experimenting with an alternative distribution approach, ‘direct distribution’, whereby they retain more control over distribution rights and work with distribution consultants rather than distributors to organise the distribution process. I compare such arrangements with conventional distribution arrangements in order to analyse the involvement of gatekeepers. Against claims of dis-intermediation, I argue that the involvement of gatekeepers remains critical to organise distribution.
Roderik Smits

Backmatter

Additional information