Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

The Difference Between Packaging and Sales in Film and Television

Packaging and sales are complicated, and the processes differ between television and film projects and depend on who is putting together the package. Writers should have a solid understanding of the packaging and sales ecosystem, however, because the viability of your project and your ultimate paycheck often depend on it.

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We recently interviewed the President of Packaging and Sales at Ramo Law, Tiffany Boyle. As she explained, often, packaging and sales meld together. But again, it depends.

“I would say the difference, [well] sometimes they meld, but packaging tends to be a bit more on the earlier process of putting a project together,” Tiffany began. “So, it can be anything from you’ve got a clean script where you just need to find a producer, all the way to packaging that can include finding your distributor at the end of the line.”

What is Packaging in Film and TV?

In its basic form, packaging is like a DIY meal kit: Inside, you’ll find almost everything you need to make a completed dish. You may be missing some pantry basics like salt and oil, but the stars of the dish are there. In TV and film, that package comprises people and may include actors, producers, a director, and maybe even sales and distribution deals. A package is assembled long before production, and the package may be the factor that determines whether or not a project is made.

“Typically … packaging is at least getting your director, producer, and some talent attached before you can move on to other processes of helping find sales agents, distributors, things like that,” Tiffany explained.

For the most part, not just anyone can put together a package. In film, you may have an agent or an entertainment law firm pull together a packaging deal that includes a script, a director, and a known actor. These packaging experts lean on their wide networks to pull together attractive deals for independent film projects that can then be used to attract financing. But, depending on the project, financing and sales may be part of the package.

In television, it’s usually an agent or agency that’s putting together these kinds of deals, which include a showrunner, writer, and at least one star. Agents stand to profit a lot if they can package more than one of their clients into a deal. They essentially get paid a fee for their packaging service by the studio. That fee usually includes three percent of base license fees per episode, three percent of base license fees if the show is profitable, and up to 10 percent of modified adjusted gross receipts – again, only payable if the show is profitable. If a show is successful, these packaging fees can mean multimillion-dollar payouts for the agency. In exchange for adding a client to a package, that client (writer, actor, director, etc.) doesn’t have to pay their standard 10 percent commission to the agent.

What is Sales in Film and TV?  

Sales agents generally work with a film’s producers to find distributors who will show the film in various markets. Those markets are split between domestic (considered North America for all intents and purposes) and the international market. Different sales companies exist for these two different markets for very good reason: you want someone who understands the market where you’re trying to sell, speaks the language, and has existing relationships.   

But whether or not a project can find distribution in these markets often depends on its content and actors, so early-on packaging details matter. If an actor is tied into a package and that actor has no appeal in China, sales will be harder, if not impossible. So, in many cases, as Tiffany mentioned, it’s vital that all of these factors are considered early on and not as separate processes.

“So, it really can run the gamut,” she said. “Having said that, it will also depend on the content. If it’s IP-based, sometimes that can happen earlier. And obviously, a lot of streamers and studios are coming in earlier if it’s IP-based, too, or if it’s talent that they really care about.”

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In general, it’s best to consider all projects through every lens for a successful outcome because “It is a bit of them jumping in between the packaging and sales and it kind of merging at times,” Tiffany concluded.

Consider all the angles,