Distributor FAQ: Facets Multi-Media

What is Facets?
Facets Multi-Media is an arts organization based in Chicago, Illinois. We also have the world’s largest and most unique collection of foreign, classic American, independent, experimental, documentary, cult, fine arts, and children’s videos and DVD’s. The Facets collection represents over fifty thousand individual titles.

In addition we also do Facets Cinematheque, an important Chicago venue for the exhibition of independent cinema, the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, and exclusive theatrical and video distribution lines. A selected number of films exclusively acquired for the Facets Video collection are also released theatrically and in television markets.

When and why was Facets created?
Facets was created in 1975 by Nicole Dreiske and myself as a film exhibition center for international and American art films, alternative children’s films, and as a center for the development and performance of experimental theater.

The mission of Facets is…?
To develop and find new audiences for important films which are left outside either the commercial or even the mainstream art film circuits. We try to do this at every level—exhibition, distribution, and most importantly, media education for adults and for children.

What types of films do you seek?
Great films that fall through the cracks. Our approach has always been curatorial, in the sense that we are always distressed about the hundreds and thousands of films that are unavailable in any form and should be, deserve to be, and need to be [available]. It doesn’t need to be new or made yesterday.

For us it could be a small, quirky, and totally original documentary, or the work of Georges Melies. For example, the history and legacy of the American independent film movement, from the fifties, sixties, and seventies, are an area of great concern. All of this work should be on DVD.

Where and how do you find them?
All of the major markets, but very often from filmmakers and friends of filmmakers and friends of friends of filmmakers.

How does Facets cater to experimental filmmakers?
We’ve invested considerable resources in bringing the work of many of the key figures of American experimental film to the home video market, including James Broughton, Barbara Hammer, Scott Bartlett, Larry Jordan, and Paul Glabicki, to name a few. This has expanded to include the work of artists in video as well as feature filmmakers.

While finding them is not difficult, marketing is a challenge. American experimental mediamakers have to be placed on the same footing, the same level playing field, as independent feature filmmakers. This is what we have attempted to do in giving experimental makers such a full voice in the context of Facets’ catalogs and broad-based marketing efforts.

Explain your video distribution lines.
Facets Video hosts three exclusive video lines: Accent Cinema, a world cinema label that has particular strengths in Europe; Cinemateca, a Spanish world cinema label that features films from Spain and Latin America; the Facets Video label, a world cinema label that has particular strengths in Middle Europe, the Middle East, and American independents. Additionally, Facets frequently undertakes exclusive distribution for other independent labels.

How many films do you acquire per year?
Between twelve to eighteen films annually for exclusive release on the Facets label; another twenty for exclusive distribution, and four to five thousand new titles every year for nonexclusive distribution.

How do you work with the filmmakers when preparing their films for release?
This is always a collaborative process, and just how easy or difficult it is depends to a great degree on how much preparation the filmmaker has done in having a film ready for release. This means quality masters and adequate publicity materials, because if we have these then it’s less time to dig for them and it allows us to concentrate on the job of distribution and marketing.

At what stage should filmmakers approach you with a film?
When the film is completely finished. That way we know exactly what we’re dealing with.

How should filmmakers approach you with their projects?
The best way is just to send a letter with a description/background of the film.

What advice can you give filmmakers seeking distribution?
It’s important to find the right distributor which, more than money, means the best fit. Distributors all have their strengths and weaknesses, and most of them are upfront and honest in admitting these. When facing such rejection, accept it as what it is—an admission of the capabilities of that particular distributor. For us, for example, it is very difficult to distribute independent features which aim at a broad, middle-brow audience, and which emulate Hollywood films or television. There are other distributors perfectly capable of moving these films into the marketplace.

What are some issues Facets faces as an independent distributor at the present time?
It is a huge, fragmented marketplace, and make no mistake about it, the major studios and media conglomerates want to own it all. Establishing and finding a home and audiences for challenging films is not for the faint of heart, and we are blessed in the US with hundreds of courageous and brave souls committed to fighting the good fight for independent and art films. The biggest challenge for them, and for us, will be connecting to the youngest generation.

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