Distributor FAQ: Porchlight Entertainment

What is PorchLight Entertainment?
PorchLight is an independent distributor of films and television. We focus solely on programs that promote positive values and/or are family-friendly.

PorchLight also produces and co-produces films and series, and currently produces two animated series that air on PBS: Jay Jay the Jetplane and Adventures From the Book of Virtues.

Best known title in PorchLight’s collection:
Treehouse Hostage, starring Jim Varney, released by Trimark in the U.S., and aired on the Disney Channel.

How, when, and why did PorchLight come into being?
It was founded in 1995 by Bruce Johnson, former executive VP at Hanna-Barbera to promote positive family values through entertainment.

Describe the distribution arm of PorchLight:
Founded by Michael Jacobs over four years ago, the distribution arm is mainly focused on the television world. We are the largest independent distributor of films and programs suitable for families. We sell to every major broadcaster in the world. Some of our product goes theatrically, but most features are in the $1-4 million budget range, so they play well as TV movies. We are young and aggressive and enjoy the challenge of working in a business dominated by the studios.

Driving philosophy behind PorchLight Entertainment:
We want to build the most trusted name in family entertainment.

How would you define family-friendly entertainment in 2001?
It still comes down to whether a family can watch the film together. Will you be embarrassed watching this with your kids? Will your kids be embarrassed watching it with you? Does it promote morals that you agree with? Community standards and morals are always changing, and entertainment obviously changes with it. We think the best family-friendly entertainment is the kind that entertains without degrading the positive human values we believe in.

Who is PorchLight?
Bruce Johnson (president), William Baumann (exec. VP, CFO & COO), Michael Jacobs (sr. VP worldwide sales), Zac Reeder (head of acquisitions), Joe Broido (executive/filmed entertainment), Fred Schaefer (VP & producer, children’s programs), Stefanie Friedman (VP licensing & merchandising).

Total number of employees:
25.

How many works are in your collection?
PorchLight sells all rights worldwide to a catalog of over 50 feature films and 500 half hours of series programming.

Titles and filmmakers you distribute:
The Opponent by Eugene Jarecki; Shiloh 2 by Sandy Tung; Durango Kids by Ashton Root; John John in the Sky by Jefferson Davis; Ricochet River by Deborah del Prete; Scrapbook by Kurt Kuenne; All of It by Jody Podolsky; The Outfitters by Reverge Anselmo; Bored Silly by Bob Shallcross; and Wild Grizzly by Sean McNamara.

What drives you to acquire the films you do?
We love films and that is what drives us. We enjoy seeing films, making films, appreciate good films, and like being able to shape the future of a growing company like PorchLight.

Describe your co-production or co-financing of projects:
We are open to co-productions and co-financing. We usually have a combination of pre-sales and equity investment to get projects funded. Many of the films we produce are co-productions.

Where do PorchLight titles generally show?
On television mostly. In the U.S., our films can be seen on the Disney Channel, HBO, Showtime, Fox-Family Channel, USA Network, Starz-Encore, BET, Lifetime, and others. Some also have limited, regional theatrical releases.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
Find out where it fits, what are the likely time slots it will air with what broadcaster, and make sure the marketing and promotions for the title position it as such.

How do you publicize your releases?
We market directly to the film and TV buyers in each territory, so we usually stick to the trades. We also use our Web site and other new technologies to promote and create buzz for our product.

Where do you find your titles and how should filmmakers approach you for consideration?
We go to many festivals, including Sundance, Toronto, IFFM, Heartland, Montreal, Banff TV Fest, Cannes, SXSW, and Cinequest (San Jose). We also scour the smaller festivals for hidden gems— ones like Dances with Films, Marco Island, Temecula, and others have yielded nice films for us.

Biggest change at PorchLight in recent years:
Declining markets for daytime television product.

Most important issue facing PorchLight today:
Fighting for slots with broadcasters who are bombarded with studio product.

Where will PorchLight be 10 years from now?
Riding a wave of billions of dollars in merchandising from Jay Jay the Jetplane, releasing films theatrically, working with independent filmmakers who believe in the power of film and TV to change the world.

You knew PorchLight had made it as a company when…?
We did???

Other distributors you admire and why:
Disney because they have such an amazing range of products and services, and a commitment to quality.

The best film you’ve seen lately was…?
Memento, at Sundance. It was so fresh and fun. I felt like I did the first time I saw Blair Witch.

The difference between PorchLight and other distributors of independent films is…?
…that we’re large enough to use our connections to effectively move product, and small enough to give personal attention to each film and filmmaker.

If you could only give independent filmmakers one bit of advice, what would it be?
Please stop doing your final film-to-video (telecine) transfer in the letterbox format! We need full-frame masters for almost every buyer we deal with. This advice will save you $10,000. (Donate some of the savings to charity, okay?)

Upcoming titles to watch for:
Fangs, Wind River, and Trapped.

Famous last words:
Don’t make a film that only appeals to your family unless you only want your family to buy it. If you want to make your money back, research the marketplace and talk to guys like us first!

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