As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Crawford Appleby, a former Director of Marketing & Distribution for Senator Entertainment.
He was responsible for “managing all film delivery for each and every rights deal which was negotiated for each picture on our slate. That means if we sold all home video & cable rights of Film X to Studio A, then I was responsible for negotiating the terms of the delivery schedule and (once those terms were agreed upon) I had to coordinate the physical deliver of Film X to Studio A. That means anything from actual film reels, to actor agreements, to MPAA ratings, to raw sound, to marketing materials, etc. I was also involved in the marketing plans for each of our films, although that was primarily the responsibility of my superiors.”
HBAD: How did you get your start?
CA: I got my start 4 years ago when I was still in college. I knew for a long time that I loved films and I wanted to be involved in their creation. When I was a senior at Boston University, I took advantage of their LA Program, where you live in Los Angeles for a whole semester. I took courses at night and had internships during the day. One of those internships was at a company called Identity Films, which was Seann William Scott's first look deal with Universal, and after I graduated from BU I was asked to come back and be the assistant to the producer there.
After 3 months that company shuttered and the producer went over to Reveille Productions (formerly Ben Silverman's TV production company) to start a new film division and took me with him. I worked there for almost 2 years before Universal dropped the first look deal and Ben sold the company to Liz Murdoch, and the film division disappeared. By that time I had decided that producing films was not for me after all, and wanted to get into independent distribution. I stayed at Reveille for a month working in their legal/sales department, and then I landed a job at Senator as the assistant to the VP of Distribution.
Luckily for me, my boss was really cool and she let me be really involved in her work and I learned a lot about distribution. After 9 months my boss left the company and I was promoted to Director, because they needed someone to manage the plethora of delivery deals that existed for their slate. I did that job for about 5 months before I left to pursue entertainment law.
HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?
CA: The most difficult challenges I have encountered on my career path were, early on, maintaining a personal life. When I worked at Reveille, the film division consisted of myself, my boss and about 30 projects in development, which means we were both wearing several hats. I was like an executive assistant/story editor/personal assistant. I got to the office at 8am, left between 8 and 10pm and usually did a half day on Saturday. Then I spent most of my Sunday either seeing films or reading scripts. That left very little time for things like doing laundry, washing my car, going to the gym, etc. Since I wanted to stay social, I would go out on Friday and Saturday, attending anywhere from 1 to 3 parties a night. So in other words, for the first 2 years I was out here I was increasingly out of shape, usually unshaven, driving a dirty car, exhausted, and had no real concept of anything happening outside of Hollywood. If, for example, my car had to go to the shop it was a HUGE problem because I had no time to deal with it. When I got my job at Senator I worked more of a 9 to 5 schedule, so my personal life came back again.
HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into distribution?
CA: I actually wrote an article on getting your start in Hollywood, which you can read here. If someone is interested in working in film distribution, you should get some assistant experience (see the article) and then become an assistant to a film distribution executive at a studio or more boutique distribution company. Keep in mind that some smaller distribution companies have a limited mandate (e.g. gay & lesbian cinema, documentaries, etc) so pay careful attention to their past releases when considering where to work. If you don't like a certain type of film, the company you are applying for may or may not work in that realm.