Angel asked me soon after we met what I wanted to do with the movie once it was made. I said wanted to enter it into film festivals because I hoped that would result in a movie distributor acquiring it and showing it in theaters everywhere. He explained that festivals were not a merit-based process and that I would probably need to know someone on the inside to get an invitation. He also said that distributors would generally take your film and give you little for it—maybe even less than it cost me to make it.
I will tell you more below about my decisions on what to do with the movie, but first let me say that Angel was right on both counts. After I paid hefty entry fees to several festivals (and was rejected by all), I spoke with a woman involved in one New York festival who explained the process. She said there was an initial selection panel, usually comprised of young people with little or no film training, who viewed the first 5 minutes or so of a film to decided whether it would go on to the next stage to be viewed more thoroughly. This first panel would receive instructions such as: “No violence against women.” Or “No kinky sex.” Or whatever.
In the case of RIK, the New York woman told me, there is violence against a woman in the first few minutes of the movie. This, in our current times, is not something most festivals want, she said. And, she continued, even if RIK had made it through the panel selection process, it would be competing with scores of films for one of about 5-10 slots because most of the movies for the festival would have already been chosen by prior arrangement with a studio, a friend, or other inside connection.
Regarding distributors, I learned that their main ploy is to promise a return of a goodly profit minus specified marketing costs. And it is the marketing costs that guarantee that you’ll never see any money. This warning about the never-ending marketing is widely documented on the Internet, but I also learned about it from those who’d experienced it. And, in the one interaction I had with a potential distributor, it was the marketing costs clauses that deterred me from undertaking the deal.
So what did I decide to do with the film? As noted, I entered festivals. This ended up being a negative not only in terms of the financial cost, but also in terms of time lost. I entered the festivals in the spring of 2017 and then had to wait an average of 3 months to hear the result. In the interim, most festivals disallow the film to be shown in theaters to the public or to be otherwise publicly available, such as on a streaming platform like iTunes, or via online DVD/Blu-Ray sales. This meant that I had to wait until mid-October to pursue online streaming and sales. If I had it to do over, knowing what I now know about festivals, I would definitely skip the festival process and go straight to sales.
In October 2016, during the film production, I made the decision not only to enter festivals, but also to do online streaming afterward if no distribution deal were forthcoming. I researched companies that prepare films for online platforms and found Distribber.
The guy who marketed Distribber by phone to me was really good at it. He promised that not only would the company place RIK on 3 platforms of my choice (ITunes, Google, and Amazon), it would do a quick and thorough quality control check first and arrange for both closed captions and subtitles in whatever foreign languages I chose. I would be assigned a manager, who would be available to me whenever I needed to make any technical adjustments or answer any questions. I signed up eagerly after Angel and I had a telephone conference call with him, just to make sure that Angel thought it was a good deal too.
The first signs of problems were when I tried to order subtitles. I kept getting put off, with my Distribber “personal manager” telling me that there were some glitches in getting a bid. Well, those glitches lasted from the day I signed up with Distribber in November 2016 until the day I terminated my contract with them in August 2017. More importantly, I grew weary of trying to get in touch with my manager and not getting clear or prompt answers. I was sorry that I had selected Distribber.
After my experience with Distribber, I started looking for another company to perform the same services. After looking at costs and promises from a few, I chose Juice Worldwide. As soon as I had signed, there were problems. I uploaded the film and audio assets, then began waiting. The quality control check was repeatedly delayed and I was unable to get responses when I tried to contact my project manager. Rather than waste months as I had with Distribber, I terminated with Juice before I even signed the contract.
In late September, 2017 I chose Mojo to get my film onto the streaming platforms. The sales representative was excellent. And, like the other two companies, the follow through by non-sales staff was spotty and slow. Even though the film was supposed to take only 3 to 4 weeks to upload if there were no quality control issues (there weren’t), it took until late November to complete the process.
My assessment is that Mojo was better than the other two because the marketing representative didn’t abandon me. He kept answering emails and addressing issues even though it was not his job. Nevertheless, had I not had the experiences with Distribber and Juice already, I am sure that I would have thrown in the towel with Mojo too. The upshot is that I think the field is wide open for a company that has the experience to upload to platforms efficiently and the managerial capability to exercise good customer care.