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April 11, 2006


Sujewa Ekanayake

I think that same Filmmaker Mag blog post re: 4/10 Distro panel said that all 3 films discussed went w/out an advance???!!!! from the distribution company when the filmmakers signed w/ the companies.

Sounds pretty crazy to me. Who knows where the truth lies. I would never sign over my film to a theatrical distribution company w/ out an advance 'cause films can be made to look like they never made any money, on paper (actually, I would never sign a distribution deal period come to think of it, I think, since DIY distro totally rules! :).

Nice summary of the Caveh/Cuban conflict AJ.

Sujewa "high on DIY cool-aid" Ekanayake

AJ Schnack

Actually, Sujewa, not taking an advance can often be a benefit for filmmakers. Sure, an advance can sometimes be a way of getting some much-needed cash to tide you over as you continue working the release or you can pay back some of your deferals, but often the advance is the only $ you ever see. The flipside, not taking an advance, but instead negotiating a direct percentage of all monies, is becoming more common and, at least to my mind, is a preferable way of doing business.

I don't know the situation with the three filmmakers at the IFP panel, but perhaps they made this kind of deal with their theatrical distributor.

Another possibility is that a deal was made for theatrical while the filmmaker held onto other rights - such as DVD, etc. In this case, the theatrical might just be thought of as an advertising campaign and it would make perfect sense to not look for an advance.


Sujewa "El Corazon" Ekanayake

The AJ is wise.

Yeah,who knows exactly what the deal was between each filmmaker & each distributor.

Definitely a good idea to secure some or many ways to make money back from the movie. And like you said, the filmmakers mentioned could have done that, even w/ out an advance.



Or,maybe not, maybe some of the filmmakers will not be coming up ahead $s wise, even w/ signing w/ a distributor (specially since there was no advance), from today's indieWIRE article about the IFP panel discussion on distro:

"In the case of all three films, each has secured a theatrical distribution deal, but none received money up front and it looks unlikely that any will break even financially. Susan Leber explained that in the case of "Down to the Bone," a critically acclaimed narrative indie made for $500,000 and starring Vera Farmiga, the "Bone" team partnered with the upstart Laemmle/Zeller Films but had to actually put in additional money for the costs of releasing their film in theaters. The film was selected as one of the best undistributed films of the year by indieWIRE and Farmiga's performance was recognized as one of the best of the year, nabbing Spirit Awards acclaim and notices from film critics groups. Leber explained that a pending DVD deal with Netflix would bring them some cash up front."We will never make our money back," she admitted candidly."

I'll post the URL to the article in a minute.

But $s aside, it is also a plus fora filmmaker's career to have distribution, period.



Here's the URL to the indieWIRE article Mr.AJ:


AJ Schnack

what you mention - filmmakers having to contribute toward their own distribution - also happens. sometimes, again, it is because one figures that the theatrical exposure (with reviews, name recognition and in Down to the Bone's case - awards) will benefit the film's later life, as well as the career of the filmmaker. they're taking a calculated risk - thinking, i've already gone this far, and some distributor will put it out if I pay for prints or for part of the advertising or what have you.

i think the thing that this points out is that there is no one way to do things, similar to our other conversations about distribution. even looking at the ideas of cuban and sehring v. bernard you can see a dichotomy of opinion. who's right? maybe there is room for both to be right.


I think there's definitely room for both to be right.

Excellent analysis of the situation, AJ. You can't blame Caveh and IFC for playing up their put-upon status so much - it's drumming up some excellent publicity! I think the fault lies with Landmark and Cuban, without a doubt, but I also don't think that fault is all that substantial in this particular instance.

Say Greg Pak, when releasing Robot Stories last year, had also decided to release it on DVD and cable at the same time, and Landmark pulled the plug on him. That would have been a travesty, because he was doing it all himself, with his own money. In this case, as you point out, IFC and Landmark are both corporations, both are doing many great things for indie film, and while it's really unfortunate that Caveh's film has to bear the brunt of this corporate fallout, it's a.) perhaps to be expected and b.) not changing the fact that the film has distribution. Sex Addict still opened. People are still going to be able to see it (and I can't wait until it opens in Dallas, incidentally ,so I can at long last watch it myself).


Hey Mr. Dvd,

Re: "Say Greg Pak, when releasing Robot Stories last year, had also decided to release it on DVD and cable at the same time, and Landmark pulled the plug on him. That would have been a travesty, because he was doing it all himself,..."

If that happened to Robot Stories, it would still have been fine. Like Sex Addict, Robot Stories did well at fests & had many supporters, if one theater or a chain canceled it, another one would have picked it up, as Elmwood picked up Sex Addict when the Berkeley Landmark theater decided not to go ahead w/ the booked & advertised opening.

Also, in the Sex Addict case, IFC probably decided not to take Landmark to court because the two companies are intertwined on several projects (as I've read in articles), so they decided to let Caveh protest Landmark's move & not do much else about it in order not to make Landmark mad, since IFC needs Landmark in the future, I think, as far as I can tell.

If a DIY distributor who has signed a booking or rental agreement w/ a theater & finds herself being cheated by the theater, she can take the matter to a third party - the state, perhaps a law suit, to resolve the issue, since most likely the DIY distributor & the theater does not have long term business interests that would make it difficult for the distributor to take legal action against a breach of contract by the theater.

DIY distro is the simplest way to go, w/ the least Hollywood BS, I think, at least that's how it looks to me. Also, Greg Pak had a small staff to help him, as any DIY distributor or any distributor for that matter can set up for themselves for a given distribution project.

And ultimately this may be a perception thing, I am a 100% believer in the awesome abilities of the DIY method, it has worked well for me for years, and for several artists that I admire. But most indie filmmaker observers who do not have a close relationship w/ the DIY process, may feel more comfortable partnering or signing up w/ an Indiewood company, and that's totally cool, as long as the job gets done well.

Good ideas all around.

- Sujewa


Dear AJ,

First of all, I really liked your Gigantic film.

Second of all, you make some oddly hypothetical assumptions about what I did and did not know which you could have easily determined for yourself by contacting me. I'm not that hard to find. You write:

"Was he told that his decision to sign on for this program (his film had already been self-distributed to indie houses around the country) would prevent his film from being booked at nearly all the national film chains (all of whom refuse to screen IFC or HDNet's day-and-date releases)?

If Zahedi knew this and agreed to proceed with the program anyway, he was necessarily signing onto an extremely limited theatrical distribution scenario, perhaps because he felt his best venue was pay-per-view. In other words, he knew that most theaters in the country would refuse to show his film. From what I can tell, there is no evidence that he was unaware of this situation."

Well, that's simply not true. No one told me that "most theaters in the country would refuse to show" the film. I have no idea why you would assume that I would have known that. The fact that there was no evidence to the contrary? But there was no evidence either way, and you never bothered to ask me.

You also write the following:

"Perhaps it was a more recent post, a fairly dubious claim that MySpace had censored the film by refusing to run a banner ad for it, that made me start to question the line between standing up for yourself and milking it for all it's worth. The notion that MySpace, with its audience of teenagers, is an appropriate home for the film's advertising - Filmmaker Magazine rave or no - strikes as an absurd argument."

What is dubious about my claim? MySpace posts all of Filmmakers picks of the week. The only one they have ever censored is my film. I, personally, find it absurd that my film would be banned as a Filmmaker Magazine pick of the week simply because of its title.

And MySpace isn't only for teenagers. It's for anyone. There are plenty of people in their twenties and, yes, even their thirties who frequent myspace.

Like I said, I liked your Gigantic film, and you're obviously a very thoughtful person, but it's rather distressing to see oneself erroneously criticized based on false assumptions and no attempt whatsoever to ascertain the facts.

AJ Schnack

Dear Caveh,
Thanks for writing. I have reprinted your note in full in another post and respond in kind there.

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