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!