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By Hammad Zaidi | January 10, 2012

Over the last few years, the film industry has seen a rash of online distributors offering non-exclusive contracts to indie filmmakers who crave to have their films shown. These distributors promise commitment-free situations where filmmakers can come and go as they please, making filmmakers feel safer, because they’re in control of their fate. These days filmmakers are like polygamists, as they’re marrying their films to as many online distributors as will tie the knot with them. While such a situation can help your film blanket the net, that blanket may not be as warm and cuddly as you may imagine. Today we’re going to discuss the dangers of distributing your film through non-exclusive entities.

So, without further ado, here we go…

Non-Exclusive Distribution Devalue Your Film
The first thing to remember, about all non-exclusive distribution deals, is that they devalue your film. Nothing says, “I don’t think my film is very good,” like offering it to every online distributor you can find. While adhering to this tactic will technically make it possible for more eyes to find your film online, those eyes won’t find your film to be very special if it’s readily available at every corner of the Internet. Simply put, if Rolls-Royce Phantoms (a $600,000 car) were as common as Ford’s and Chevy’s, nobody would think it’s a big deal to own, drive or be driven in a Rolls. The same rule applies to your film on the Internet. Treat it like it’s something special, and the masses may agree with you. However, if your film gets blasted out everywhere without having a buzz created around it, then it will die an uneventful, buzz-less death.

Non-Exclusive Distribution Should Be Your Last Resort
Since executing non-exclusive distribution deals signal you’re raising the white flag on your project, these deals they should be your very last option. Take a moment and think about how hard you worked on your film. Think of the hours, days, weeks, months and years you spent developing and crafting your film. Now think of the money you spent, and the interest you continue to spend on your credit cards, and ask yourself if you want to throw it all away with distributors who will do nothing more than charge your credit card to plant your film on their site. Obviously, your film deserves better; and so do you.

Non-Exclusive Contracts May Ruin Your Festival Run
Just to be clear, any form of online distribution may damage your film’s ability to qualify to many film festivals. However, while some festivals may honor exclusive online distribution deals as being legitimate, non-exclusive deals will seem like you simply gave your film away to anyone who would take it.

Remember, festivals need to convince their festivalgoers to pay to see the films they program, so you severely deplete your film’s chances of being programmed by offering it online for everyone to see.

Never Sign With Multiple Sales Companies
When dealing with a film sales company, never, under any circumstances, grant your film’s rights to more than one sales company (even if both companies agree to representing your film in a non-exclusive situation). If your competing sales companies accidentally (or not so accidentally) sell your film to two different distributors in the same country, there will be a very ugly lawsuit. Trust me, this is the very last thing you want to happen. It will be ugly, cumbersome and expensive. Besides, making a few extra dollars (if they ever pay you) will not be worth the headache.

Okay, people. That’s what I’ve got for you this week. I thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I’d be honored to borrow them again next Tuesday.

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

The article image is “Binding Contract” via Shutterstock

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