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Reviewed by: The Arrow

Directed by: Jerome Courshon

Jerome Courshon

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What's it about
Secrets of film distribution by Jerome Courshon is a comprehensive DVD collection (15 DVDs in total) that explains a lot of the nitty-gritty of film distribution, geared mainly towards independent filmmakers and trying to shed light in the arcane art of film distribution, a subject often short-changed in the realm of filmmaking literature.
Is it good movie?
By guest reviewer: Christian Viel

As stated above, this collection contains a wealth of information and it is pretty comprehensive. But like all things that want to cover all their bases, you end up with something that talks about everything but does not get very in-depth in any particular segments, with a few exceptions. For a first time filmmaker just getting his or her feet wet in the shark infested waters of distribution, this is a tremendous goldmine of information about how to go about it and what major pitfalls to avoid. For more experienced filmmakers however, there is probably little they do not know or have not experienced first hand already. One the one hand, it might even be a very painful reminder of the harsh paths they may have sometimes undertaken on the elusive road to distribution. On the other, they may avoid some tricks they did not yet know about.

Jerome Courshon, our host, is engaging and very convincing in his presentation. And it is a very good thing since you have almost eighteen hours worth of talking heads to look forward to. While it may sound rebarbative at first, Courshon injects his speech with frequent humor and overall, the video flows surprisingly well, all things considered, despite a few technical flaws. Courshon explores in depth the intricacies of traditional distribution, including festival runs. When it comes to internet distribution, he gives the floor to several guest speakers, including known indie filmmaking gurus, such as Marc Rosenbush and Jon Reiss. While some of the guest speakers are not as engaging as their host, overall they cover a wide range of subjects quite in depth.

So much so in fact that some subjects get perhaps too much coverage to the detriment of others. A few examples: an entire DVD is devoted to theatrical releases. While this is an admirable goal and definitely attainable for some indies, only a minority of independent producers will see this happen in their lifetime. A more realistic avenue for most is the Home Video, PTV, PPV and VOD route. Yet those get bundled in much shorter and smaller chapters. While those avenues will benefit greatly from a theatrical release, it is not a really viable option for films with budgets below one million dollars. And even at that. The market has changed tremendously in recent years and theatrical is no longer as attractive as it once was for indies.

Another example, in the internet marketing seminar, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is completely glossed over. While SEO is not the end all of internet business, it is an intricate and essential part of it. It is complex and like distribution, sometimes a little arcane, but it is necessary! To see it evacuated out of the discussion so quickly whereas a full DVD if not more could be devoted to the subject, feels a little strange. Another aspect that appears to be short-changed is the issue of deliverables, something many filmmakers seem to struggle with, yet it barely gets ten minutes of coverage here.

And there lies the problems I see with these types of documents: Each film is its own island in a way. While several of the tips and techniques described in this course can be applied to any particular film, the end result will never be the same for any of them. And while it never hurts to know about all the intricacies of the art of distribution, without a blueprint specific to your film, it is very hard to guarantee any results. And I think a clear plan of action leading to some predictable results is really what striggling filmmakers are looking for. A guideline is always great. But the basis of a sound plan would be even better.  Unlike many document of its ilk however, this one delivers an honest point-of-view in regards to distribution. The approach may not be for everyone but it is worth the price of admission in terms of the sheer volume of information provided
Video / Audio
Video comes in 1.85:1 widescreen. The presentation and menus are very nice, with a neat little animations. The lighting is really nicely done, in warm tones, something to be expected for a filmmaking product. The only downside is that the camera work is at times a little shoddy, with awkward zooms-in or outs. Overall, the production value is above average.

The sound is impeccable throughout with no major problems. However, the questions from the audience, are hard to hear and it would have been perhaps a good idea to add subtitles to those. However, when it comes to the presenters, the overall sound recording is top notch.
The Extras
There is no real extras on the DVDs themselves, except perhaps for a bonus section at the end of the last DVD.

In each bookcase, there is a collection of photocopied articles related to the topics covered in the DVDs found inside. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of this collection. Most of these articles and informations can be found online on Variety, Moviemaker, Film Threat, etc. While some are informative, the lack of direct connection to the actual DVD content makes it more of less useless for the target market. Most of these talk about higher end indie movies or studio pictures. Not necessarily the type of things that the target market of this collection aims for. While it may be useful to know what the bigger guys are doing, getting things on the road at a lower level is really what the viewer wants.
Last Call
Secrets of Video distribution is an exhaustive and comprehensive guide of the treacherous waters of film distribution. While it is marketed as an intermediate to advanced guide, it will be most helpful to the beginners while serving as a welcome refresher to those more battle-weary filmmakers. Definitely a good value for the price.
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