IFH 345: Distribber Bankrupt? How to Protect Yourself



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In this episode, I update filmmakers on the emergency situation going on with the film aggregator Distribber. In last weeks episode, I spoke a bit about what is going on with this company. After that show I kept getting emails, messages, and tweets of filmmakers telling me their horror stories of no one return email, no people picking up calls, nonpayments for months and so on. I’m in the same situation with my film This is Meg.

I decided to dig deep into the problem and find out what the hell is going on. I breakdown everything I know about what is happening and give you a few ways to protect yourself and your film.

Also, their website www.distribber.com is still live but DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR FILM. They would just be taking money and not providing a service. Take a listen. I hope this helps!

Alex Ferrari 2:02
Alright guys, so today on the show, I'm going to be talking about and giving you guys an update on this distributed debacle of what's going on with the stripper and and this aggregator in general. I know a lot of you out there are with distributor or have put your films up with distributor over the years, they've been around for a while, and they've been around for a long time. I also promoted them fairly heavily A few years ago, because they did really good by me with my film. This is mag. As I stated in last week's episode, the company that I was promoting, and the company that I was such a fan of is no longer there. The people that were there that were my friends and people I knew are gone now. And that company is not the same company that is working today. And I use the term working very loosely, as I'm going to explain. I've been getting a ton of tweets, messages, instant messages, emails, and even a few phone calls from friends and colleagues asking me what the hell is going on with the stripper? What's going on, basically, is that these poor filmmakers have been calling and trying to leave messages and trying to get emails, you know, responded to. And there is basically been just radio silence. It's been dead, no one has been hitting anybody back and everyone's pissed. Last, and they haven't been paid in months, if not, sometimes over a year. And there's just been a lot of just shady stuff going on. And I'm in the same boat as you guys are. I was I wasn't able to get ahold of anybody for a little while in regards to what was going on, you know, with my movie. This is Meg and some other films I was working on with some other consulting clients I was working with. And I was starting to get really upset. And I finally heard back from somebody there, Michael, that is a president there. And basically, this is what the first level of updates that I've discovered. I've actually gone deeper into this than just this email. But I've been doing research and talking to different people in and around the organization finding out what truly is going on. So that's why I am here today. What I was told is basically, they I you know, I submitted a couple films to for my clients there and it had been months before I had heard anything back and the movies were still not up on the platform, but they were still charging me monthly, which was quite nice of them. And they just basically said Listen, I'm sorry, but you should probably go with someone else now. And I'm like what what do you mean? Go with someone else like, yeah, you should probably go with someone else, because we're not able to give you an exact date for when these films are going to go up, and I was just really perturbed, really angry. And I'm like, you guys have been charging me this and that. And basically, they said, any refunds that you want or any words on payment, you will have to go to a company that we have contracted to help us reorganize our finances. I want you to let that seep in there for a second. So I was very angry at this, obviously, because I'm, you know, I've literally was 1000s of dollars that I had already invested. Not to mention, this is Meg, which I haven't been paid for in probably a year of any residual payments that I'm owed by them. And I couldn't get anybody on the phone, no one. So after doing more and more research, this is what I've discovered, the distributor offices in LA are closed, nobody is there, they have been gone from those offices for weeks, if not months. Another source that I talked to, that's close to the situation, basically told me that they have little money left in the company, very little money left. And that's bad news for all of us who are owed money refunds or back payments. So if you are owed payments, a refund or any kind of money, I have no idea if those will ever come, I can't tell you if they will, or they won't. They're trying to reorganize, and they're trying to fix this situation, this process, but that what they're going through is a result of extreme mismanagement at the highest levels of this company. It was a flawed business plan to begin with. And we'll talk a little bit more about business, the business plan of aggregators, in general, in a little bit, but this is extreme Miss corporate mismanagement, just just idiots running, you know, the ship, basically, doing the best they can, I guess, given this, this the the scope of what the business plan that they laid out was, but it's just horrible mismanagement. Now, there are still a few people working for the company, there's a skeleton crew working remotely. So that's why every once in a while you will get an email back if you go to support if you email support at distributor Comm. But most of its radio silence right now because they really don't have any answers for you guys. That's how bad this is. That is how bad the situation is that the people who are working for the company, at this point, don't know what's going on, don't have any idea how this is going to end. And that is not good for us, the filmmakers who have put our movies in there. And this is not just a couple 100 movies, we're talking about 1000s of titles that they've aggregated over the course of the last five, eight years, however long they've been around, they've been around for a while. So all of those films have been sitting there, and they've been gathering money and taking payments in over those years and tracking all that information. And paying out people out reporting people out. You know, I want to talk a little bit about this whole the whole business model of aggregators. In general, when aggregators came out, it is, you know, it was far it was kind of marketed as the, oh, the saviors of self distribution, and you can control it and kill the middleman and, and, you know, you go directly to the, to the platforms, and you just pay a fee upfront, and they'll put it up there for you. And then you can just, you know, get all the money back. And that did work. A lot of times, you know, I've had many guests on the show, like range 15. And they did $3 million in, in sales off of iTunes and Amazon alone. And I had a lot of success with my movie, this is mag, you know, I got a Hulu deal through them. And I was able to sell my film on all the major platforms and generated some nice revenue from my film. So the model did work. But the problem is, does that business model in general work for the company? You know, if you charge somebody an upfront fee, and then you don't charge them ever again, or take something very small on the back end, as far as a percentage of it is that because that was their big selling point was, oh no, we don't take any money off of this. You know, the money goes directly to you. We just pay you Just charge you this up one upfront fee, then it changed to like, well, if you want to maintain it, you're gonna have to pay, you know, a couple 100 bucks a year for us to just maintain your account open, which was fair and made sense. But even with that, the business model just didn't seem to work, you needed an immense amount of filmmakers coming in more and more films coming in paying those high upfront fees to keep the business running. And, and that's an unsustainable business model. So I don't know what the business models are for other aggregators out there, there are probably 1012 other aggregators out there, if not, more or less, something like that. And I don't know what those business models are. But I want you to understand very clearly, what you're getting into when you're doing an aggregator there are things that are not talked about and not marketed about, which is this one, once you put up your film on Amazon, or iTunes, through an aggregator, and you, let's say you keep it there for three or four years, all the reviews, all the comments, all the ratings, all of that stuff is through this one uploading, or one placement. If for whatever reason, you want to pull that movie down off of those platforms to give it to a distributor, or go with another aggregator or do something along those lines, you lose all your ratings, you lose all your reviews. So keep that in mind. That's something that a lot of filmmakers don't really realize. And you know, how I don't know how feasible This is that you're going to put your film up on an on a platform through a company and then hope and pray that that company is going to be around for the next five or 10 years, or 20 years, or whatever the lifespan of your movie is, you know, this is this is a larger conversation for Maybe another time, but you know, you're essentially trusting that a company is going to pay you what you're owed. And that goes for distributors as well. When you sign a deal with a distributor, you are trusting a stranger with your baby, basically, and you're trusting that they're going to do good by you. And are there really good distributors out there who are honest and really moral? In the end? They really do care about filmmakers? Absolutely. There are I know of a few of them myself. Are there a lot of them out there who are absolutely predatory, and are literally out to rip you off? Oh, my god, yes. Are aggregators now being tossed into that same bucket? Well, I don't know. You know, when you're sold the idea of putting your movie up through an aggregator and you're going to spend 15 $100, or $3,000 or more, to get your film put up on those platforms, you need to ask yourself the question, am I going to even generate this much money through the platforms that I'm trying to upload, like just on an ROI or return on investment? If I'm going to spend $3,000, to put my films up on these platforms? Will these platforms even return my investment of just putting my movie up there, let alone trying to recoup money from your movie, in your budget? These are questions you really need to ask yourself, if you're going to go with an aggregator, I did a few I'm gonna put it in the show notes. But I did an episode while ago in regards to self distribution, versus traditional distribution, the raw truth. And there we do discuss a lot of these issues. And, and things to think about because the marketing for aggregators is fantastic. You know, it makes them look like the lesser of the two evils when working with a distributor, because distributors and film distributors in general have such a horrible reputation. And rightly so because there is a lot of crooks, a lot of thieves, a lot of snakes, a lot of sharks out in that world without question, but they position themselves as Oh, well. We're the option if you still want to get up on iTunes and Amazon, then we can do it for you. And the bottom line is, the truth is that you can put your movie up on Amazon by yourself. As of right now, how long is that going to last? I don't know. But as of right now, you can upload directly to Amazon without having to deal with an aggregator at all, at all. And to be honest with you iTunes, you know, as of as of this recording, iTunes or Apple TV, is a T VOD platform is a transactional video on demand where you can rent or buy. The problem is, most people nowadays aren't renting and buying digital movies. It's not what it was before. Ask yourself the question. When was the last time you rented a movie When was the last time you bought a movie digitally? And if you bought one, how many do you buy a month? or rent a month? You know, that's a question you have to ask yourself. Most people are just looking for it for free on amazon prime. Most people are looking for it for free on Netflix, or Hulu, or whatever streaming service they happen to have. This is something that aggregators aren't going to tell you. Do you really need to submit to iTunes? Would Amazon be enough? And should you go to S VOD, or T VOD. Because a lot of people like oh, I don't want to give it away for free on prime. But you know what, that's where the money is guys. hate to tell you. That's where a lot of the money is. So it all depends. It's a case by case basis, but I'm just kind of just kind of riffing here on, you know, what you can do in general. So let's get back to the stripper guys. And what we can do with this. If you're waiting for money, refunds, back payments, anything like that. As of right now, it doesn't look good, guys. I'm in the same boat as you are. I'm owed money as well. I'm actually owed 1000s of dollars. So I feel you trust me, I feel you. But I think the minimum you should do is demand that your movie get removed from all those platforms a sap. So if you do reach out to them, and someone happens to get back to you try to get your movie removed from all the platforms as soon as humanly possible. Because that way, at least you have the control back in your hands. Because I hate to tell you this, this is one little other secret that they don't tell you is once that aggregator puts your movie up on Amazon, you can't put it up again through another company, or distributor without Amazon pulling down, or distributor pulling down the movie on their end, because Amazon's not going to pull it down for you. They're not going to get involved, the aggregator has to pull the movie down first, before you can re upload it again. So basically, you're in limbo until distributor decides to pull your movie down. So I would demand you get your movie removed as soon as possible that doesn't cost money, it cost them time. And hopefully, they have some sort of manpower to be able to start pulling, pulling these things down. But you need to get your movie back from these guys. At this point, that is probably priority number one, getting your money and all that stuff. That's part of the price priority number two, because it's going to take a lot longer for that to work out because there's just still reorganizing, they're still trying to figure it out, the company that they're that they hired, is still just trying to get their head wrapped around the crap that they have to deal with. In all the mismanagement of this company. is it's just this guy's it's just sucks. It sucks for everybody. And it pisses me off to I can't even tell you, you know, am I concerned about my money? Yeah, but I'm just more concerned about all the 1000s of independent filmmakers that trusted this company to do right by them. And they failed. They failed. Without question, they just failed. And it pisses me off. Because independent filmmakers are probably one of the more vulnerable groups out there, especially in this business, you know that they get taken advantage of left and right. And this is just another lesson for all of us to learn. And look, guys, I've been in this business for 25 years, I've never heard of an aggregator going under, this is a brand new thing, let alone an aggregator as big as distributor. So, again, maybe they'll come back, I doubt it with all the bad press that they're gonna get. I think that brand is pretty much dead. And at this point is just, you know, we're trying to get whatever we can get. So I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news guys. I did. I spent a lot of yesterday and the day before just reaching out to my contacts and doing research and trying to figure out what the hell was going on. And as the information came in, I realized that I needed to do this podcast for all of you out there who are with disturber with an aggregator in general to really think and make sure everything's on the up and up and to, to inform you guys on what's really going on. And guys, if you guys are with an aggregator with any of the other ones, I'm not going to mention them. But if you're with any of the other aggregators, a couple of clues that you should really look into if this is happening, to be aware of, if they're late on payments, if you've got to hound them to get paid, if you've got bad reporting or you can't get anybody on the phone, or on an email response in a prompt manner. These are all signs bad signs that you really need to think about your relationship with this company. I want you guys to be protected. I want you guys to be safe with your movies. You know, there's, I'm god, I'm just so pissed off about this. It just it hits me to the core man, I am really, really angry. If you want to get links to those episodes I talked about earlier. And anything else I spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/345. I really do hope that this episode has helped you guys. And if you are an ex employee, or somebody close to the situation and you have new information, please just hit me up my email is [email protected]. It'll get right to me. And let me know if you hear anything. And that goes for the tribe as well. If you hear any rumblings or you, you know, tell me what your experiences are like, Hey, I got I got an email from this, they're telling me this or this or that let us know I want the community to really be behind this, I want the community to, to help each other because, you know, I know a lot of you guys out there are feeling like you're alone on an island somewhere. And there's, if it wasn't for social media, you wouldn't have anyone to talk to about this. And I'm hoping that this will be a beacon of some sort of light of information and hope. And I'm also doing something else guys, I'm going to create a Facebook group specifically for distributor, complaints, stories, anything that you guys can talk about and help each other out. I'm going to put a link to it in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/345. in that group, we will discuss an update everybody about what's going on with the stripper keep the community updated. And please, I want the tribe to contribute to that that group because I want as much information about this as possible. This is a serious thing, guys. We're talking about 1000s of films, and possibly 10s of 1000s of films and 1000s of filmmakers who are going to be affected by this by this horrible situation. And, you know, guys, I mean, this is this is one of the reasons why I opened up filmtrepreneur, I really want to create other ways of making money with my films. I want filmmakers to start thinking about other ways of making money with their films, that is not this traditional BS. You know, this this legacy film distribution model, or dealing with aggregators and hoping that they're gonna pay you at this point. Now you're like, maybe they'll pay me maybe they won't. Are they the lesser of the two evils between film distributors? I don't know at this point. But that's why I want to create other revenue streams from your film that you can actually create and control that is not dependent on a middleman, it's not dependent on somebody else. Somebody else's goodwill to even just pay you if they feel like it. It's ridiculous. Ah, God. Sorry. I'm just upset guys. You can hear it in my voice. I just hope I can be of service to you guys and be service to the community and to filmmakers who maybe not even know who I am. I've never heard of me, but have a deal. I have a problem with distributor, I hope this helps them as well. So I do ask you one thing to do, please, share, retweet, send it to every filmmaker, you know, send this episode out to send it to everybody that you know, that's a filmmaker. So they are aware of this. And just so you know, guys, their website is still live. And they apparently are still accepting films, which is, I can't even begin to talk about that. I mean, this is ridiculous. So please warn everybody you can stay away from this company. And stay away from their website. And please ask you if you can, anything you see regarding this problem, this emergency situation, please share any post podcast videos, anything I put up regarding this. Share it with every filmmaker, you know to make sure that nobody else gets taken by this company. And thanks for listening guys. And, you know, we will get through this. You know, we will get through this. It sucks. Trust me, it sucks. But it's part of the shrapnel that we're gonna have to take moving forward on this path call filmmaking. But we will do everything and we can help each other and get through this together. Alright guys, thanks again. As always, keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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