View Full Version : First short film and distribution offer! please advise


Misnomer
12-17-2004, 10:22 AM
Hi,

Just joined this forum and was hoping that someone might be able to advise me. I recently had my first film (12mins) screened at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival (phew, quite a mouthful)! Anyway, I have recently been contacted by ITN Distribution in the US (I am in the UK), who have offered me a distribution deal on my film. This would involve me parting with $2500 market expenses and some additional expenses should my film sell. According to ITN they have already had 3 parties interested in my film. However, they need the contract signed asap due to everything kicking of in January.
Basically, what I am asking is if this sounds like a good thing. Of course in paper it does, but as a struggling filmmaker trying to work out funds on my next project $2500 is a lot of money. Is this the norm on Short Film distribution? I am not expecting to really make any money out of short films but haveing a distribution deal is only a good thing and could at least help me on future projects. Sorry for the length of this post but I am in need of some good advice. Thank you in advance.

Rachel

Will Vincent
12-17-2004, 10:32 AM
They want you to pay $2500, plus additional sales expenses? How much are they offering you in return? Something about that just doesn't sound right to me.. but what do I know.

Oh, and by the way.. :welcome: Hope you enjoy your time here.. everyone is friendly and very helpful. :)

Misnomer
12-17-2004, 10:48 AM
Oh dear, this is starting to scare me now. ITN are calling me back this evening to talk about this. I guess I need to find out exactly what the $2500 is for exactly. According to the contract they have e-mailed me it goes
" Expenses: The market expenses (US$2,500) are for NAPTE 2005, CANNES 2005 & AFM 2005. THe US $2,500 covers all the expenses, due upon signing of this contract. There are no additional market expenses".
I just don't know if handing over money is the norm on Short film distribtution! HELP!!!

Thanks for the welcome by the way.

Rachel

Will Vincent
12-17-2004, 10:54 AM
I don't have a lot of experience here.. so I'm not trying to scare you. It's cool that they could get you into cannes though. :D

indietalk
12-17-2004, 11:17 AM
1) That festival is a known **** (I won't use the word scam, since the tend to file lawsuits against those that do).

2) That distribution deal sounds shady.

Google is your best friend ;)

Misnomer
12-17-2004, 11:28 AM
Hi there. This is sounding very crap now! Why is that festival known as a ****? I agree about being in two minds about the distribution deal. Handing over money for my own film etc. Can you tell me anymore about this? You can e-mail me privately if you prefer as I would very much appreciate it.

Rachel

indietalk
12-17-2004, 11:36 AM
It's known within the film community, try a search engine.

What did you pay them, over $400, right?

Misnomer
12-17-2004, 11:43 AM
$300. Did a Google search on them and ITN and they all seem affiliated with the real prestigious festivals! I was more dubious about the distribution deal and Googled ITN and found quite a lot listed for them but nothing negative so that is why I thought I would try a Forum.
What are they know for? Is this just with overseas filmmakers as there were so many films at the festival. I was supposed to go but a slight technical problem as having a baby has stopped me! :(

indietalk
12-17-2004, 11:55 AM
I can only speak for what I've read and heard about the festival, as far as the distribution company, I know nothing. Maybe some members will reply. Good luck!

Misnomer
12-17-2004, 12:01 PM
Thanks for your replies. I will keep on trying to find out about this. Any more info would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.

Rachel

sonnyboo
12-17-2004, 12:20 PM
This would involve me parting with $2500 market expenses and some additional expenses should my film sell.


WHOA NELLY!

If they expect this money up front - then RUN TO THE HILLS! SCAM SCAM SCAM! Unless your short film is a 35mm, never been on the Internet, or broadcast anywhere short - There is no market anywhere that can recoup $2,500 in profit. The only places paying significant money (beyond $1,000) for short films is HBO and SHOWTIME, and they require all rights and won't touch anything with a full website or has been broadcast in anyway and they will not consider any 16mm or DV. This is according to my sales rep at my distributor.

I work with and have signed 11 short films with BIG FILM SHORTS, a distributor in CA, and they do not charge me a dime for anything they do to sell my movie & work on commission only.


Sounds really bad. I can't say for certain, but anyone who wants expenses up front from you has no motivation to sell or lift a finger. IF they only make money if they do their job (meaning if they HAVe teh ability to do any of the thigns they promise), they won't need any $$$. Now, if they want that $2,500 from sales they make on your behalf, then it's okay. If they have people liend up to buy your movie, then they shouldn't need any $$ from you at all and will make their money on the sale commission.

Call BRITSHORTS, a London based distributor of short films (the largest in Europe I believe) and ask if it's normal for them to get $2,500 from filmmakers to cover expenses...

cibao
12-17-2004, 12:26 PM
Thanks for your replies. I will keep on trying to find out about this. Any more info would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.

Rachel

Rachel,

I haven't seen your film, but getting into Cannes is like gold. The thing is I can't put together you paying them $2,500, for them to distribute a "golden" film. That doesn't seem right.

Now I know that major distribution companies pay you up front (many times never reaching that price in the end) so your advance is generally all you'll get. Putting that information together, you spending $2,500 maybe all you'll get. Maybe you should be more agressive and tell them that you'll consider their proposal, but you want them to pay you an advance of the $2,500. So no money changes hands until THEY start making money. Then the first $2,500 of your cut goes to them.

Another thing that bothers me is generally when you pressured to let them know NOW. Here's a contract, sign it now and send it to us because... Those tend to be too good to be true, and too often too good to be true things aren't true at all.

BUT, I don't know anything about the company etc.

As for your missing the screening of your film due to child birth...I'm amazed. You can have a baby anywhere, but the premier screening of your film only happens once!! :) :)

Chris

P.S. Either way that you go, I wish you the best of luck!

clive
12-17-2004, 12:28 PM
Hi Rachel,

The problem with any distribution deal is that the distributors want to make as much money as possible, but without incurring any risks.

I would question what your $2,500 fee is going to do for you in terms of distribution. If it is to enter your film in festivals and then publicise it, these are things you can do yourself, probably cheaper and better. Plus, if they've already got people interested in your film, without the $2,500, what do they need the additional marketing money for?

If they are legitimate, they will completely understand your need to ask lots and lots of questions about how the money is to spent and what you'll get out of it. If they're not legit, they'll try to imply that you need to make a decision right now, or you'll lose the deal. Film business is done year round, the New Year stuff sounds like nonsense.

One more thing, don't sign the contract until a professional media lawyer has read it through. You're UK based, call Richard Finlay of Todds Murray in Edinburgh and ask him for a quote to look the contract over (They are an incredibly good firm of media solictors/lawyers and well worth knowing). Tell the distributor that you can't sign until your solicitor has gone through the contract. My guess is that all of a sudden the deal will disappear.

Good luck

Misnomer
12-17-2004, 12:36 PM
OK. I have been brought way back down to earth with a bang, but this is far better than living in cloud cuckoo land. All of this information and advice as to who to contact and the what questions to ask is very much appreciated. Something did not sit right with me either, but then I am a cynical person!!

As for the baby thing, yes I should have gone to the screening but 1st baby nerves got the better of me. I can only hope my work improves so I get more screenings at more festivals. Thanks.

Rachel :)

directorik
12-17-2004, 12:42 PM
This is actually very simple.

Distributors pay YOU for the rights to distribute. The filmmaker never pays the distributor. Look at it on a financial level - you know THEY do.

Why would ITN work hard to get your short out there? They have already made $2,500. If they use YOUR money to make posters and buy advertising they take the risk of losing some of that money. If they don't - but tell you they are working hard - they lose nothing. Of course they can keep asking you for money - to print more posters, to submit to more festivals, to buy advertising to promote your movie.

They are out nothing.

Imagine if even 2 filmmakers a month fall for this. That's $60,000 a year they make.

If they really have 3 parties already interested in your film then you are in a good position to make deal: tell them you'll take $1,000 up front for all rights.
I am not expecting to really make any money out of short films but haveing a distribution deal is only a good thing and could at least help me on future projects.
You can't lose. You aren't looking to make any money, only to see your film distributed. If they buy all rights and then make $25,000 on your film you won't see any of the money, but you will be able to use the fact that you made a short that earned ITN a lot of money - and that will help you on future projects.

At least ITN will work hard on getting your film out there if THEY are spending money.

Will Vincent
12-17-2004, 01:47 PM
That was what I was thinking.. but didn't want to say anything as I've never had a distrobution deal.. but it doesn't seem like you should have to pay THEM to distribute the film they WANT to distribute FOR YOU.

Kind of like how I shouldn't have had to pay to get copies of my medical records that show they did nothing for me after my accident so I can get a little $$ from the insurance company for having just gone there.. grrr.. damn greedy bastards, all over the place. Rachel, I'd say tell them to take a long walk off a short pier and get to work promoting it yourself. :)

Good luck with whatever you do.

cibao
12-17-2004, 01:49 PM
OK. I have been brought way back down to earth with a bang, but this is far better than living in cloud cuckoo land. All of this information and advice as to who to contact and the what questions to ask is very much appreciated. Something did not sit right with me either, but then I am a cynical person!!

As for the baby thing, yes I should have gone to the screening but 1st baby nerves got the better of me. I can only hope my work improves so I get more screenings at more festivals. Thanks.

Rachel :)

Rachel,

Just to go on record...I was joking about the baby thing!! Your health and comfort are MUCH more important than being at the first screening of your film. You can always make another film and have another screening, but your child is one of a kind!

Congratulations on both the screening AND your new baby!

(I just want to make sure I don't earn the title of the board Grinch!)

Regards,

Chris

Misnomer
12-17-2004, 04:29 PM
Rachel,

Just to go on record...I was joking about the baby thing!! Your health and comfort are MUCH more important than being at the first screening of your film. You can always make another film and have another screening, but your child is one of a kind!

Congratulations on both the screening AND your new baby!

(I just want to make sure I don't earn the title of the board Grinch!)

Regards,

Chris

Don't worry about it Grinch! And thanks. Truth is, I actually haven't had the baby yet! So you are more entitled to think I was a fool. I had the fear of traveling on a plane when pregnant , nobody else could come with me and it would have been my first time to NYC! Yes, I am a wimp, but I am working on it!

Rachel (the wimp)!

NicklausLouis
12-17-2004, 07:38 PM
I thought I was the board Grinch.

Misnomer, sounds like you've already figured this thing out with the help of your friendly neighborhood Indie Talkers, but let me throw something in:

Recheck the email you received from ITN. Make sure they are asking you for the money and not offering it to you. I always make reading mistakes when I get excited, and getting an email about distribution would get me excited. It just sounds silly for a distribution company to ask for money from you, so I am wondering if they aren't offering you the money for a deal.

I'm not saying this is the case, but it's better to be sure.

Poke

cyan
12-18-2004, 09:01 PM
I hope you have not given them any more of your money.

This group's M.O. is to tell you that they "love your film" or "have found distribution for it" or "really want it for the festival" etc., etc. Then, they tell you that in order to include your film in their screening or market or printed materials, you need to send them several hundred dollars. RIGHT AWAY. They need it quickly because they're working against a deadline or spots are filling up or this is a limited time offer. Then, if you hesitate, they will make you feel like an idiot for taking the time to think through the deal.

In the strictest, strictest sense, they are not a scam. They do give you essentially what they offer. If they say that for $300 they will accept you to their festival or give you your money back, that is true. If they say they will take your film to Cannes, AFM or MIFED for $2500, that is true. If they say they will put your poster art onto their festival one-sheet for $500, this is true. This is why people have been sued for calling them a scam. If you challenge them, they can turn around and say "hey, your film was in our festival" or "look at our one-sheet, there's your poster art."

So what's the problem? The problem is, you are paying a ridiculous fee for something that is either much less expensive at every other festival of any stature or paying for something that will deliver absolutely nothing to you.

For example, application fees at most festivals are around $50-$100 (even at the biggies like Sundance, Toronto and Telluride). And those festivals include your film title (and usually a brief description of your film) for FREE. When they accept your film, they promote it because that's how they make money, not off the poor filmmaker who just spent her life's savings to bring her labor of love to the screen, but off the film-loving public who don't have time to sift through the thousands of films and so counts on the screeners at the festivals to do it for them. If you're being asked to pay to have your film included in the program, then you are taking on the burden of the festival's operating costs. (At most festivals, this is called sponsorship and it's done by the likes of Tanqueray and Sony).

In your case, it may be technically true that they will take your film to Cannes or another of the markets and try to sell it. But charging you $2500 for the privilege IS NOT a distribution deal. At least not as people in film distribution know it. Once again, you are being asked to take on their operating expenses. A distribution deal is where someone comes to you and says "hey, I think your film is a winner, I'll give you $XXX for worldwide (or some other limited) rights." The way a sales company (like Miramax or New Line or any number of other, smaller but reputable companies) recoups that $XXX is by turning around and trying to sell it to distributors in various territories. The cummulative revenue should return what they paid you for the rights to sell it plus some money for expenses. What's left is profit. Smart sales companies know how much it costs them to make posters, duplicate prints for screenings and promote a film they just bought. Those are the expenses they have every time they go to a market and recouping those expenses should come from the money they make selling your film. NOT FROM THE MONEY YOU GIVE THEM TO DO SO! Tell them you want some money up front and that you won't pay them anything. See how quickly they try to turn it around on you and make you feel like you don't know the industry. Don't fall for it!

A last point. Like I said, this group technically gives you what they promise. But you have to look at the quality of what they give for your hard earned dollars. Here's an example: The poster at the LA version of their festival had poster art from the 15 or 20 filmmakers who paid the exorbitant fee to be included there. As far as I'm concerned, there is little to no value of having your poster shrunk down to smaller than half a postcard and put, without rhyme or reason, onto a poster full of other posters without any differentiation. The one part of the poster I can tell you stood out? The name of the festival. What paying filmmakers essentially did was cover the costs of having those posters printed without any benefit for doing so.

I'm a filmmaker just like you. I completely understand the temptation to think that anything that will get your film out there is a good thing. But I believe this company is making their money on the backs of the people least able to bear the burden, the filmmaker. They may not "technically" be a scam, but read carefully everything you can about these guys and draw your own conclusions. (Some advice on how to find information on them, don't search under ITN, search for the festival and you'll find some eye-opening accounts).

Sorry for the rant, I just despise sleazy operators. I really wish you the best of luck with your film and hope that you find great success with this project and all your future ones!

Will Vincent
12-19-2004, 02:55 AM
Misnomer: I dunno... if I were pregnant (probably have to be a woman first, but yeah..) and thinking about a Trans-Atlantic flight I think I'd be a bit nervous too.. It is, afterall, a LONG ride.

John Jordan
12-19-2004, 12:08 PM
:rolleyes: dont know a darn thing :weird:



but i could tell you a few storys about the loss of 100.000.00 over such deals

CSNProductions
07-06-2005, 07:21 AM
Well it seems that ITN has driven many filmmakers to this website. I am a new member to this site, and was looking for information about ITN. Today I received an email that they were interested in acquiring my film for distribution. I had never heard of them and wasn't sure how they had heard of me/my film. I'm glad there is a forum/community where filmmakers can gather and share information about things like this to protect and inform one another of what's going on in the industry.

AlexGg
07-06-2005, 08:45 AM
I think to avoid in the future such deals, we must create some special item here: SCAMS where put all cases with companies like this.

CSNProductions
07-06-2005, 08:54 AM
Well, like CYAN stated, they are not a "SCAM" in some sense of the word. Instead of a SCAM list, perhaps we should assign a grade to companies, much like film reviews (A+ to F-), based of course on the opinion of the person dealing with the company. For example, from all that has appeared about the company in question, they may be about a D. Of course we'll need a legend to explain exactly what each letter grade means, but it may be a good alternative to calling someone a SCAM. If we know its a SCAM, F- is the grade automatically :)

Blade_Jones
08-22-2008, 06:14 PM
How much of that $2,500 is he going to pocket as taxable income for himself? Is he going to give you monthly expense reports so that you can be sure that he isn't pocketing that money for himself? Having to PAY a distributor is not the industry norm. You don't have to PAY for DVD distribution deals. I remember a company out of New York that used to charge bands $2,000 to get "set up" for CD distribution. They probably made a lot of money off of desperate bands.

I know of someone who was told by this distributor that she had a distributor in an Asian country that would distribute his movie; She just needed $2,000 (or something like that) for marketing costs or something. He thought it was a really shady situation, probably a scam, and never took her up on her offer.