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Submitting Your Film to Fanlight
Questions Frequently Asked by Filmmakers
Technical Requirements  ||  Captioning  ||  Contract Terms

Questions Frequently Asked by Filmmakers

Technical Requirements

Richard Kahn: In Our Midst,
Dreams & Dilemmas

What production format(s) do you require?
We have no specific requirements, but hope that all of our producers will be working to the highest technical level that's appropriate to their subject matter — and that their budget allows. The level of quality possible in video today, even for low-budget projects, is vastly higher than a few years ago, and the expectations of viewers are higher as well. Though we still successfully distribute a few programs that were produced in U-Matic or S-VHS, we would certainly not advise using those formats today. On the other hand, the new DV formats are excellent. Remember, though, that format is not the only factor determining video quality; camera and lens quality are also important, as are lighting and, above all, the care and the skill of the director, videographer, and other crew members.

What about sound?
Sound quality is just as important as picture quality, but is often given less attention by producers. We reject far more films because of unacceptable audio quality than because of poor photography. During production, pay as much attention to microphone selection and placement as to camera angles — it will pay off in a better, and more marketable, film.

Jessica Yu, with her Oscar
for Breathing Lessons

Should my soundtrack be in stereo?
Most DVDs today are produced with stereo soundtracks. With regard to VHS, many of our clients are using mono VCRs, so the VHS cassettes we distribute have mono soundtracks. The video master you provide to Fanlight should be clearly labeled to indicate whether it is stereo or mono, and include any other information the lab will need to mix down to mono when making VHS dubs.

What format should the duplicating master be?
Regardless of what format you use for production and editing, you should keep your original edit master in a safe and protected place, and send Fanlight a submaster or duplicating master made from it. The small video formats (DV, HDV, etc.) are not preferred for this purpose because they are not physically durable enough to stand up to repeated runs through laboratory duplicating decks without accumulating unacceptable dropouts and other problems. The standard formats for duplicating masters currently are Digital Betacam or BetacamSP.

What about sending a DVD instead of video master?
The educational market is in transition right now. Most sales are in DVD but we still sell a lot of VHS. We require producers to provide us with both video and DVD masters in order to maximize sales during this transitional period. Since there are a variety of different ways to prepare for DVD mastering, it would be best if you contact us before finalizing your production so that we can discuss the best alternative.

Claire Panke: A Chance to Grow

Do you require closed-captioning?
We require that the films submitted to us be captioned, although we can waive this requirement in some cases. PBS and many other broadcast outlets do now require captioning, and more and more universities and other customers will no longer purchase non-captioned titles. It just makes sense to make your work accessible to the widest possible audience, so captioning should be a regular part of every post-production budget.

Contract Terms

What are your usual contract terms?
We prefer to discuss specific contract terms directly with the producers, when making an offer to distribute their film. In general, though, Fanlight requests a five-year exclusive contract for the educational or non-theatrical market, worldwide. Except for the duplicating masters, we take on all costs of duplication and marketing, and pay competitive royalties quarterly, based on gross receipts.

What if I've submitted the program to Public Television? What if I've already licensed the broadcast or foreign rights?
Broadcast and international rights may be negotiable; our primary interest and our primary focus is on the non-theatrical (or educational) market.

James & Tabitha Mulryan:
The Dark Side of the Moon

Does signing an exclusive contract with Fanlight mean that I can't give copies of the film to my family, friends, and supporters?
Not at all, so long as you're not doing it in a way or to an extent that seriously impacts the potential sales of the film.

How much money will I make?
Almost nobody gets rich making films for educational distribution. It's a small market, and there's a great deal of "product" out there. On the other hand, well conceived and thoughtfully produced films which fill a real audience need can generate substantial revenue for their producers.

So, will you distribute my film about Aliens in the Outback?
Sounds great, but probably not, unless you can show us how it relates to healthcare, mental health, aging, disabilities, or one of the other topics we specialize in. See "What We Look For," above, for more information about the kinds of films we need. Most of our programs are documentaries, a few are narrative, and we're open to animation and experimental forms as well, so long as they fall into our areas of interest. We prefer videos that are 30 minutes or less, as most customers use our titles for teaching, training, or generating discussion, but we will accept films up to an hour long (and have a few that are even longer than that.)

Can I send you my rough cut?
We're very happy to look at works in progress, and may be able to make suggestions that will be helpful to you. We're also willing to comment on treatments or proposals.

I know I'll have other questions, but I can't think of them now...
We'll be glad to discuss this with you at any time, but we can be more helpful and specific if we've seen your film first, so that we have a better idea of its potential audience.

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