Wolfe Video has distributed LGBT films for over 20 years, and they put together a list of excellent tips for indie filmmakers. This is an abbreviated version of their 16 tips.
1. Pick a target audience and don’t worry about getting niched as a “gay” movie. In fact, an LGBT theme can make your film stand out.
2. Script: take the time to get it right with readings, feedback, rewrites, etc. Make an accurate dialog list when it’s done for foreign sales.
3. Chain of title: before production, get a letter from the original author granting story rights.
4. Art and photos: take good cast photos during production, even if it means a filming break. Actors may not be available after and pulled stills rarely look good.
5. Music: use what you can afford, and watch out for “film festival only” rights. If it gets picked up, you will have to pay lots to keep it or replace it. Create a music cue sheet (required for TV and foreign sales)
6. Screen Actors Guild: Make sure your SAG agreement is pre-negotiated. A big SAG commitment could cost you distribution.
7. Talk with talent (especially name talent) about availability for doing press for the film.
8. Crew makes the film. Be gracious and grateful (even under pressure), so they will want to work with you again.
9. Distribution: budget and expectations must be in line with the opportunities. You need to build a relationship with your distributor.
10. Deals: a gross deal means you get a percentage of every dollar the film makes. Net deals means the distributor deducts expenses.
11. Contracts: read and understand every word of the contract. Get a lawyer or two to look it over. Ask questions.
12. Publicity: unless you are guaranteed theatrical release, do PR for the festival circuit. This will increase likelihood of distribution and theatrical releases.
13. Local media: go directly to local media when coming to a festival. Festival PR is helpful, but they have many films to handle.
14. Theatrical releases are not always the best option money-wise. You may be able to get more traction in other ways, since studio independents are difficult to compete with.
15. DVD: Quality varies. Pick the best you can afford, and plan on things like extras if you have a following. Make the extras worth watching, though.
16. Distributor: Self-distributing is hard and has hidden costs. An established distributor has connections and recognition that can get you better deals.