Industry Q&A: Distribution by David Cornwall –

Direct from those in the industry, receive first hand advice.

David Cornwall - Scorpion TV
David Cornwall - Scorpion TV

David Cornwall

Sales Director

Scorpion TV


 David Cornwall (Former Zodiak Entertainment executive) has launched distribution company Scorpion TV with a focus on culturally diverse content.

The company has already secured deals in the UK and US, ahead of its launch to the international market at Mipcom in Cannes next month.

Its burgeoning catalogue includes hour-long factual special Believe: The Barack Obama Story, produced by US company On the Potomac Productions, and Next, This Is My Country Too, produced by London-based Rice N Peas Films, about Australia’s controversial “intervention” laws.

Cornwall, who spent nine years at Zodiak, most recently as a scripted sales executive, said: “With the leader of the free world being of dual heritage there hasn’t been a better time to take a closer look at all the various colours, religions and creeds that make up a modern society and provide content that reflects this. Market research has showed that broadcasters are looking for more culturally diverse content as well as the very best stories to drive audiences to their channels.” 

100 Prints caught up with David to ask him some of the questions you would like answered.

1. What does a distributor do?

A distributor uses his market knowledge and expertise to get the filmmakers product to the right broadcaster at the right time. Not only traditional broadcasters but DVD, mobile and internet buyers. The distributor takes a commission for any sales of the film he makes. A distributor may also be able to raise funds for a programme idea in the early stages.

2.  What should a filmmaker look for when approaching a distributor?

Its difficult to know in advance if a distributor is any good, but you could certainly ask for their track record of sales and check their slate to see if what you have fits into their catalogue. Small distributors have the benefit of being niche and bigger distributors have the benefit of clout in the industry but your title could get lost. The most important thing is that they have a passion for your product.

3.  What should a filmmaker consider when approaching a distributor?

If your content is too niche, it will be difficult to sell internationally. Stories that are unusual and reveal something unknown about a familiar topic have a better chance. Renovation of the Dalston area won’t sell to the international market but a documentary on one man bands might stand a better chance. Broadcasters also hate documentaries that are 65 minutes in length. They should be 52 minutes for a commercial hour or 82 minutes for a 90 minute slot.  Make sure you have all your clearances in place – appearances, interviews, music etc. Make sure you prepare an international master i.e. split audio tracks and textless elements

4. At what stage of production should a filmmaker consider getting a distributor involved?

A distributor should be involved at the earliest stages of production. There can be a difference between the film you want to make and what will actually sell. The most interesting topics can be let down by not being pacy enough or becoming so involved they alienate a foreign audience. A distributor may also be able to raise funds in pre-sales / co-productions if the idea is strong enough and appeals to international buyers.

5.  What are the deal structures available to filmmakers?

It all depends on what you can negotiate but 30% – 40% plus expenses is the industry standard. Distributors can also take on a producer role and try to raise funds for the project. Slightly lower levels of commission are taken in this case.

6.  When can a filmmaker start to make money?

It can take up to 3 months for a distributor to receive funds from a broadcaster and the producer is normally paid any monies owed on a quarterly basis.

7.  How long does it take to get the money from a distributor?

See answer above.


2 Replies to “Industry Q&A: Distribution by David Cornwall –”

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