Reel Opportunities

Distribution Executive

Also known as: Distribution Manager, Distribution Director

What does a Distribution Executive do?

Distribution Executives get films and tv shows in front of an audience in any and all ways that are appropriate, including movie theaters, broadcast and cable channels, and streaming platforms.

In film, Distribution Executives go to film markets where they look at films and acquire them from production companies or Sales Agents. They negotiate for the rights to release them. These deals cover a set period of time (“window”), and a specific territory or territories, and include agreements about promotion, classification of the film and any edits allowed. Distribution Executives then pitch the film to exhibitors (usually theaters). They deliver the film materials to them and they plan the release, including how to market the film, targeting the film’s core audience to bring in the most profit. How well a film does when it first opens in the theater has a big impact on the rest of its release cycle.

In TV, Distributors play a slightly different role. Big budget dramas are usually financed by a combination of TV channels and distribution companies. The distribution company will advance money for the production of the drama against the right to sell broadcast rights in the programme for a set time period in specific countries. They might also be responsible for any merchandising or publishing spinoffs. Distribution Executives are often essential to the financing of the show in development (prior to production) and can also play an important part in helping form the content of new dramas.

Learning or knowing different languages and a desire to travel are advantages when considering a career in distribution.

What's a Distribution Executive good at?
  • Watching films

    Have a passion for and wide knowledge of the industry, critically analyze scripts and production packages, know film festivals and how they work

  • Market knowledge

    Identify and understand the core audience for a film, know how to excite them, research box office and viewing figures, be aware of cultural trends including past statistics, predict what will be successful

  • Industry knowledge

    Have an in-depth understanding of the film and TV drama industry, including the production process, how to turn talent into commercial success, convert master materials from filmmakers into exhibition formats

  • Negotiation

    Be good at selling, execute deals on an international and global level, understand contractual agreements

  • Finance

    Manage a budget and handle accounts, be very well organized

  • Networking

    Communicate well with a wide range of people in the film industry

Who does a Distribution Executive work with?

Distribution Executives acquire films from Producers, studios or Sales Agents and then work with exhibitors to get the film out to audiences.

How do I become a Distribution Executive?

Distribution Executives often begin their careers in business or marketing so a good route into this role is as a Marketing Assistant. You might also get there through training in film production. Whether your background lies mostly in the production or business side of the industry, you need to demonstrate a strong understanding of both.

Here are some more tips:

Get a degree: A degree in business, marketing, or finance would equip you well for this role. Or you might want to study film production as a route.

Start your own channel: Set up a review blogging site or content channel. This is the marketing version of having a portfolio. You can send a link with your resume to show your writing and online skills, and, equally importantly, your interest in film and TV drama.

Look outside the industry: Consider any advertising or marketing roles in any industry, as experience in these will be helpful in getting into film later. Marketing agencies may have more roles available than film companies and often the technical marketing approaches and techniques you will learn will be the same as the ones used in film marketing. Experience as a journalist or a press officer will be useful for the publicity side of the job.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

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