There are a few things you should know regarding commercial distribution of the film you made while at AFI:
What do I do if a company asks to see my film?
You as alumni are free to send screeners and/or otherwise try to attract potential licensors and/or third party distributors for any form of commercial exhibition for the films you made at AFI, but you are not able to negotiate or agree to any terms. Once you have made initial contact, you simply need to forward the information of the interested party to AFI's Executive Vice Dean Joe Petricca's office, to the attention of Patty West and they will negotiate on AFI's behalf regarding your title.
When does distribution start for my film?
AFI protects an 18 month window for you to fully enjoy the festival circuit. If you want to start distribution early, you simply need to send a letter stating this to AFI's Executive Vice Dean Joe Petricca. The letter must be signed by your full creative team (or, for DWW, by the director) after which your title can be delivered. Otherwise, AFI titles are considered available for distribution 18 months after their completion date.
What about film festivals?
Film festival submissions during this 18-month window are entirely up to the filmmakers. Any costs for submission fees are borne by you and, likewise, you may keep any prize money that comes with winning a festival award. Be careful of festival submission forms that assume agreement to other exhibition terms, especially with respect to prizes! Please know that Internet exhibition falls under the same rules as any other form of exhibition and, should you have a company or festival wanting to show your film online (or otherwise), they must contact Joe's office to negotiate any airing.
What are the details of my distribution deal with AFI?
AFI retains copyright of all films made at the Conservatory and DWW; however, you as the filmmaker are a profit participant. For every dollar received by AFI on behalf of any given title, AFI pays out 50% to your SAG deferrals (plus residuals, if any). The remaining money is split evenly between AFI and the point person from the creative team, as per your Fellows Agreement (or, for DWW, to the director). Even after the actors are 100% paid their deferred salaries, SAG residuals still apply. At that point, the filmmaker share is increased to 50% of gross money received by AFI, after any residuals are paid.
Is there anything else I should know?
Contractually, AFI sends semi-annual reports to SAG 60 days after the end of any given June and December, along with any funds due for that period. Shortly thereafter, AFI finance sends out the filmmaker share as well. However, these reports and funds regarding license deals often arrive long after a deal has been made, most likely after the film has aired. It is a good idea, then, to check in periodically with Joe's office to see if there has been any "action" on your title. If you don't actively ask about your movie's progress, you may not find out about any activity until it is too late for you to promote your film. Also, if you have any information that might help your film in the marketplace (significant awards or festival screenings, your actors having gone on to star in a big upcoming release, etc.), please e-mail that to Joe's office as well.