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March 11 at 8:20am

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

By Ted Hope

Today we have a guest post from Mynette Louie and Tze Chun, the producer director team behind CHILDREN OF INVENTION.  The film opens this weekend in New York and their whole journey through DIY/DIWO distribution has been fascinating to watch and a learning experience for us all.  They have been truly brave and really generous sharing a lot of information along the way.  I really love this film and truly admire both of them.  Please support their film.

Tomorrow they will share their Top 10 Reasons Why They Are Glad They Turned Down The Distribution Offers They Received.  Stay Tuned.

Top 10 (alright, 11) Reasons Why We Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

1.    Couldn’t get straight answers about revenue projections, accounting and recoupment. Why this is bad is self-explanatory.

2.    Term was too long. Yes, it’s a lot of time and hard work to self-distribute, but we could always choose not to exploit some distribution channel if we figure it’s not worth it. We can’t, however, choose to get out of a 10 to 25-year deal. And if we did a 25-year deal, we’d probably be in old-person diapers by the time the rights revert to us.  And that’s just sad to think about.

3. Revenue share was too small. We know that specialty distributors have it tough too, and respect what they do (more than ever now that we’ve been through it) but revenue splits still have to be mutually beneficial for the filmmaker and the distributor.  With the state of things being so uncertain, it’s tough to figure out the fairest deal, but one thing’s for sure: if you can no longer offer an advance, then the other terms have got to give to make up for that.  A distribution deal today is a partnership, not a hand-off.

4.    Delivery requirements were onerous and costly. Some of the tape formats made us think they were distributing the film back in the 1980s.  We may as well have been burning Laserdiscs.

5.    Distributor was overloaded with other films. We didn’t want to be sitting on a shelf indefinitely or helplessly harassing our distributor to pay attention to us.

6.    Couldn’t get straight answers about marketing plans. Suspected that they had no marketing plan.

7.    Wanted more control over how our film was marketed. In our DIY mode, the approval process for our marketing materials is literally the two of us, director and producer, exchanging a few emails. Tze does all the graphic design and Mynette does all the web design.  Yes, it’s more work for us, but you really can’t beat the speed and efficiency of this model.

8.  We’d already done most of the hard work ourselves by the time people came to us with weak distribution offers. No thanks.

9.    Other filmmakers warned us not to do business with them. Warning to distributors: We all talk to each other.

10.  Distributor misspelled the name of the movie in their inquiry e-mail. Okay, we didn’t turn down the deal because of this, but it didn’t help.

11.  Distributor used the phrase “T&A” in conversation. Don’t do that, even if you’re talking to a guy.

Please support the NYC theatrical premiere of CHILDREN OF INVENTION and WHITE ON RICE on March 12! The films will run March 12-18 at the BIG Cinemas Manhattan (formerly the ImaginAsian), 239 E 59th St (bt 2nd/3rd Aves). CHILDREN OF INVENTION is also making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere on March 12, and will run March 12-17 at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St (bt E 2nd/E 3rd Sts). Buy tickets and get more info here.

Finally, join the CHILDREN OF INVENTION Facebook group and follow @InventionFilm and producer @mynette on Twitter!

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46 Comments

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  1. Nathan Erann / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    All good reasons and all too familiar.

    One reason we walked away from a deal is that we wanted to sign off on recoupable costs that exceeded a threshold. the distrib wouldn’t go for it.

  2. Michelle Mower / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    You guys are my heroes! I’ve heard really great things about your film. We’d be happy to help you set-up a screening in Houston @ Rice U. Feel free to email me.

  3. Michael Lynch / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    Very cool to read this. I produced 3 short films that I took to Clermont Ferrand Film Market and had a very interesting time dealing with Distributers and Buyers.

    Similar to what’s said above, some places just don’t care about your film. Occasionaly you meet one that loves your film talks to you about why they love it and that they want to push your film.

    Maybe the DIY model is best for us up and comers?

  4. Erin D. / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing it. I’d love to see #8 elaborated on a bit.

    Good luck with the film!

  5. Tze / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    Hey Erin D.

    Check out our follow up post tomorrow, which will detail what work we did for our DIY/DIWO distribution.

    Thanks!

  6. Elizabeth Strickler / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    We would love for you all to screen your film and come and discuss your self distribution with our faculty/students/community at large. We are starting a masters program entitled Commerce and Creativity and you all would be great speakers. Please contact me – eli@gsu.edu

  7. Susan W. / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    I put in a “Demand” request to have ‘Children of Invention’ screened in my home town-looking forward to seeing it:)

  8. Floyd McMasters / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    Thank you for posting this. My short film is getting distributed online by a reputable company and we’ve encountered most of these problems even before the film has been released. We are now in a position where we have to constantly remind them of our movies existence and do most, if not all, of the promotion ourselves. For the moment we’ve accepted our fate, which is bearable for a short, not so much with a feature.

    Trust your gut, people….

  9. Mohsen Reza / Mar 11 at 8:20am

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  10. Mynette / Mar 11 at 8:20am

    Read Part 2:
    Why They Are Glad They Went DIY
    http://bit.ly/aYYzmJ

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