New Ways to Distribute

13th April 2007 by Maura McHugh

There’s an interesting article up on Variety about how the struggles for independent producers/directors to obtain a fair deal–or any deal at all–for the distribution of their films might become easier in the future thanks to online innovations.

The piece focuses on producer Linda Nelson, who wanted to find distribution for her very low-budget film, Shifted.

“We knew we didn’t have the quality to stand up to a theatrical release,” Nelson says. “But we got five offers from DVD distributors.” Nelson, however, was shocked by the deal terms, which were typical: No advance without a star or a decent budget. No piece of the backend. The distributor hangs on to its rights for seven to 10 years. And when they sell the DVD on the Internet via Amazon or Netflix, the distrib takes 25% of the gross and subtracts all expenses, including replicating and supplying DVDs and marketing. (Netflix won’t take any films without a distributor.)

Nelson was amazed, too, by the distributors’ lack of accountability. “They send quarterly reports by country,” she says, “But they don’t tell you how many units they sold. They don’t keep track by film. They don’t have systems or bookkeeping capabilities. There’s no such thing as making money. What you get upfront is what you are going to see.”

But this situation won’t last much longer, Nelson predicts. “Everything is changing,” she says. Any neophyte filmmaker faces a huge puzzle when it comes to selling theatrical, TV and video rights around the world. But it’s nothing the right software can’t solve.

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