Something wonderful happened a week ago: I received a royalty cheque from Ouat Media, the sales agent/distributor for “Four Dishes“! Owned by Channel Zero Inc., Ouat Media sold the film to their sister cable company, Movieola. (That is, Ouat Media and Movieola are both owned by Canadian broadcaster Channel Zero). It’s not a fortune, but I’m very glad for it! It shall go into funding my next short film.
There is a good side and a bad side to such a situation. First the good; when a distributor has an exhibition arm (in this case of Movieola, it’s cable, VOD, mobile and web), the exhibition arm will be the first place the distributor will attempt to sell the film(s). Surely, the sale will go through. Chances are your film will get sold, seen, and you’ll get some money.
The bad? The distributor can easily cook the numbers, or sell the film(s) at less than desirable (to you, the filmmaker/producer) prices. They have no reason to earn a higher profit as they are under the same owner umbrella. Just a standard price will do. Think of it like MediaCorp Raintree selling the TV rights of one of their films to MediaCorp Channel 5.
What can a filmmaker/producer do to make sure your sales agent/distributor is doing their job? Often, in a distribution agreement, there will be a clause called “Distributor’s right to package”. This is when the distributor wants to have the right to package a number of films together, thus offering a bulk discount to a exhibitor/broadcaster/cablecaster. In this case, a producer must insist that the distributor license the film for no less than a pre-specified minimum sum. Make sure this amount is in writing. This can also be elaborated according to countries and/or territories.