How we sell our films

I was recently asked how we sell our films. I have to admit that it’s not the greatest business model!

When I have an idea I approach my agents with it. If they think that the film will sell then we enter into a distribution agreement for the finished film. I have nothing to do with the marketing side of things. A little like a midwife, I hand over the film as soon as it is born. From then on I get updates every 3 months in the shape of royalty reports.

How well do they do?

Some films do well – others not quite so well. I think our most successful financially was Castro’s Secret Reef which was acquired as a presale by Smithsonian for North America and Nat Geo for the rest of the world. That film was also put forward for an EMMY .

Films also have a long shelf life – quality underwater documentaries do not date quickly and are just as valid many years later as on the day that they are released. So for example, Castro’s Secret Reef has just been relicensed by Smithsonian eight years after its original release.

And who buys them?

I’ve listed below where there has been one major sale to a prestigious international broadcaster. They will acquire rights to various territories for fixed terms, and then there will be sales to other broadcasters for residual territories.  However most films incomes are made up through a number of smaller sales to individual broadcasters. Just one – small – example. Global Whale Shark Mystery sold to individual broadcasters in China, Switzerland, Portugal, Thailand, Sweden, Malaysia, Latvia, UAE, Denmark, Algeria – and Turkish Airlines – before being picked up by the major French Television station Canal Plus.

And Sea’s Strangest Square Mile sold to a total of 33 different broadcasters in different countries – often small sales individually but all adding up! This is when the agents really earn their commissions… A 5 minute contest version of that film was picked up by Washington Post and the last time I checked had over 1.5 million hits.

TITLE                                                                 YEAR OF PRODUCTION                   PRINCIPAL SALE


CAYMANIA                                                                          1991                                             National Geographic   

TREASURES OF COCOS ISLAND                                        1992                                             Discovery USA       

THE ROCK ISLANDS OF PALAU                                         1993                                             Various   

EXPEDITION ALDABRA                                                      1994                                             Various   

SHARK FEEDERS                                                                1997                                              National Geographic

OCEAN OASES – SIX PART SERIES                                    1998                                             National Geographic

CRITTERS TRILOGY    3 x 26 mins                                                         

Critters                                                                                 2000                                          National Geographic

Night Critters                                                                       2000                                         National Geographic

Coral Critters                                                                        2001                                         National Geographic                   

There is also a one hour version of critters

E-MAIL FROM A SHARK                                                         2002                                            Various                                     


2 x 26 minutes and 1 x 1 hour                                            2003                                          Canal Plus France / RAI Italy 

SECRETS OF SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA                                   2004                                           Australian Broadcasting                       

JUNGLE BLUE                                                                         2005                                            Various                      

OCEAN WEIRDOS                                                                   2005                                            Various                      

SECRETS OF THE GIANT SHARKS                                          2008                                            RAI Italy

 KLIN WARA                                                                            2008                                            Various   

 FREAKS OF THE SEA                                                             2009                                            National Geographic              

FILMSTAR FISH                                                                      2010                                            National  Geographic Asia                   

PIRATES IN PARADISE                                                         2012                                              Swedish TV / SBC Seychelles

 SEA’S STRANGEST SQUARE MILE                                      2013                                              NGC International worldwide

THE GLOBAL WHALE SHARK MYSTERY                              2013                                            Canal Plus

CASTRO’S SECRET REEF                                                       2015                                            NGC International / Smithsonian

ISLANDS IN A DESERT SEA                                                  2017                                            France TV

TRUK LAGOON – JAPAN’S PEARL HARBOUR                      2018                                            RAI Italy / Foxtel Australia & NZ

THE LAST TURTLES?                                                             2020                                            Italy, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, China, Thailand, Germany

– with more sales to come!