Distributors aren’t out to get us. It’s just that our revenue models are in conflict.
I am grateful to have worked with great distributors and overall had very good experiences. But I’ve always been aware of the mismatch, and am now seeing it from the other side as I release films on Theatrical-At-Home.
Distribution is built on the misleading “hopeful” concept that:
I only make money when you make money — or in film terms: distributors only make money when the filmmaker makes money.
True. Sort of.
This equation ignores what is most important: profit and incentive.
A distributor becomes profitable before the filmmaker, usually way before, eons before. And this makes all the difference.
Distributors run successful, sustainable businesses with small profits off of many films.
This is ok. This is a legitimate business model used by millions of businesses in hundreds of industries. It does not ultimately serve filmmakers.
Incentives, motives, risk-tolerance, and the profit-curves of distributors and filmmakers do not match well enough to support the “you make money, we make money” foundational concept. Instead, it crumbles.
I know distributors who are starting to look at this and change the models. Yes, some may be corrupt or have questionable accounting, but usually they do not want to or intend to be the bad guys they are made out to be. We are both affilicted with the same challenge: even with a pretty glossy top coat on our partnership, our businesses are fundamentally in conflict.