How's Your Dotcom Treating You? Part 1
by Alan and Smithee
Every day, a new Internet distribution company seems to pop up. The shifts
of the new medium are swift and the players involved are constantly in flux.
All the activity has even spawned its own news service, our friends at
EB Insider ("The news source for next-generation entertainment"). We hear
word of multi-million dollar rounds of financing and big names like Steven
Spielberg joining the fray. In the midst of the hullabaloo, there's the
fresh-faced short filmmaker, looking for a home for his baby and not sure
where to go. Two filmmakers, in the midst of the dotcom frenzy, have chosen
to share their thoughts with indieWIRE in a continuing segment called "How's
Your Dotcom Treating You?" To protect their privacy, the filmmakers have
chosen to remain anonymous as they tread the muddy waters of the new dotcom
business, trying to find the best place for their short, the most money and
the widest exposure.
Hey there Alan,
I need your help. Little over a year ago I was sneered at for being a "short
filmmaker" -- I think of Herve Villachaise wearing a beret -- because there
was no market for what I did. Now I come home from a trip to the
grandparents and find my fax machine has given birth to a whole litter.
Contract offers from five, count'em, Internet short film companies. Great,
huh? Problem is, pages of one contract are shuffled with pages of another
contract, and I can't tell which is which. They look the same. Three of
these companies --the pioneering Atomfilms, the strong boutique Mediatrip,
and the well-heeled but untested Pop.com -- are making real pitches for my
films. I have also been contacted by IFilm and Reelshort.com. I know you
signed with Atom, so perhaps you can help me out. The deals are similar: a
small advance against a percentage of both sales and ad revenues. But
where's the cash really going to come from? And more importantly (I think?):
who is going to bring my film to the greatest number of people?
[ed. note: Advances on the aforementioned companies range from $500-$2000.
Money derived from sales for DVD, TV, foreign TV, and theatrical range from
20-40%. Money from advertising sales also ranges significantly, from IFilm's
10% to Mediatrip's 50%. It's also important to distinguish whether the
percentages are coming off the company's gross profits or net profits. The
numbers are also pro-rated against a number of factors, from the number of
films on the site, to the number of hits the particular film gets, to the
length of the film. It's all in the fine print.]
Atomfilms, clearly, is a very well-run, experienced company ("experienced"
seems a ridiculous word when a company is less than two years old, but in
this new industry, it does mean something). Mediatrip is much smaller, less
financed (at least at this moment), but with the clear difference of
offering a small selection of films instead of the hundreds (thousands?)
that clutter Atom. I know there are other quality smaller outfits like
Mediatrip. And Pop.com. . . well, who knows? Spielberg, John Sloss, powerful
people with their egos on the line here mean the company could make a big
splash. But they haven't launched yet, and that big splash could end up just
being a big mess, with my films lost under news items about Matt Damon's
chest wax. Nobody knows. Then there's the massive IFilm, where your film
seems to disappear unless you win their popularity contest. But maybe that's
a good system, letting the public decide?
Do you feel lost at Atom? Did you have any doubts that they were the right
people to hand over your film to? Do you have any regrets? Or are they
handling your films better than you could have imagined?
Eagerly awaiting your response, your shortfilm-dot-comrade,
If only I knew which way was the best way. . . .
Like monogamy in New York, it's hard to commit to exclusivity in such a
fast-changing market. I talked to Atom for nearly a year before I felt
comfortable enough to give them my films.
For me, one of the main issues is whether a company can also offer
"classical" sales and distribution. They ALL want ALL rights, for
EVERYTHING, FOREVER, but what will they do with them? Do they have
connections and experience in the European and World television and
theatrical markets? TV is still the main moneymaker for shorts. And then
there are personal priorities: Is it that you want to make money from your
films? Do you just want the maximum number of people to see them? Do you
want financing to make another short? Or do you want a three-picture deal
from a Hollywood studio?
Since I signed with Atom a few months ago, they have helped in several ways:
they sponsored their filmmakers trips to Sundance, and they have gotten me
quite a lot of press -- including a great article on a respected news
website which, in turn, led to a prime-time TV interview. They are also a
fun bunch of people to hang out with, and they all seem to love their jobs.
On the other hand, I do sometimes get a bit nervous about how fast they are
growing, and fear that my films may never see the light of day, buried under
so many new arrivals. I have yet to hear any news about deals or pending
deals for my films.
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