Distribution: Leveling Up a Contract

    It’s hard to know what the right story is. One of my major issues as a creative is that I think everything I write is awesome. I know this isn’t true, but it’s how I feel. It’s what gives me hope to keep going despite the work, despite the inevitable failures and set-backs.

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    I was at a party with my wife Memi and her friends. One of Memi’s friends was working as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital and she asked, “Why is it that the people who hear voices only hear negative things?” 

    I didn’t have an answer. I kept asking that question of myself for the next several years.

    While riding to a job with my brother Paul, I asked him what he thought. He said, “Because the people who hear voices that tell them good things don’t have problems that get them hospitalized. They’re CEOs and entrepreneurs.” It was a strange shift for me to make.

    Paul’s comment quickly got me thinking, How many of us hear voices? Maybe that’s the thing that makes me think all my work is awesome. As I write and send out my work to early readers, it’s something I have to guard against because, while thinking I’m awesome feels good, it’s not universally true. Worse than that, it limits my ability to accept valuable and insightful notes that might make my stories even better.

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    I’ve spent the last few days rebuilding BXI’s website. It’s not procrastinating in the traditional sense. It’s something that needs to be done. I’ve decided that if I’m going to be as successful as I hope I am, that I don’t want to be running commerce directly from my site. I can’t handle the kinds of hacks that will inevitably come. I don’t want to manage all the logistics.

    Since I’m not selling things, the function of the site changed from commerce to information. I think it’s design should reflect that new intention. So, I rebuilt it to look more like a blog that has all the various posts and creative works I’m currently working on.

    I also switched from Squarespace back to my earlier hosting company Dreamhost. I don’t have anything against Squarespace. In fact, every interaction I’ve had with them was amazing. I’m not sure Dreamhost could have handled the 232k hits I got on July 14th, when I premiered ALGORITHM.

    Squarespace costs more than Dreamhost. I’m not rich and so price is always a factor in my choices. I needed it for a time, but that time has passed.

    There are some other issues I have with Squarespace. It’s not designed to host a movie company. They have a max upload size for files of 250MB. ALGORITHM, at its smallest size is 4GB or 16x the max allowable size.

    Another issue with Squarespace is that they don’t do email hosting. Dreamhost doesn’t either, but when I signed up at Dreamhost, they had a deal with Google that gave me unlimited email addresses with Google, which seems to have grandfathered me in, despite the fact that Google now charged $5/user/month. Again, I don’t have money for that.

    The final factor was in the design for the site. Squarespace has some beautiful designed sites, but very limited flexibility in what they can do, how they can be changed. Dreamhost is a hosting site. I can upload any site I want. I chose Wordpress because it’s easy, constantly updated, and incredibly flexible in its design.

    The main drawback in switching from Squarespace to Dreamhost is that Squarespace is blindingly fast! While I had my site with them, it loaded much, much faster than Dreamhost. I guess you get what you pay for.

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    I’m working on “Drought”. Jezebel’s story is slowly revealing itself to me as I think about it. It might happen a lot faster if I attacked it directly, but I still need rest to recover from how completely I burnt myself out with ALGORITHM. Still, I should be taking notes. It’s not that I’m afraid the story that is clear to me now will fade, but by writing it down, my brain can stop storing that section and start creating another.

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    I’m still working on “Beta.” My fried Earl Newton loved the story.  Anne-Marie, my sister-in-law, loved the idea the moment I explained it to her. They are the only people I’ve pitched the story to. I like the idea of “Beta” and I’ve got a really vague outline for what could be 3 seasons of the show, each with a very unique plot and no filler. 

    I hate filler. Filler is what I call an episode of a show that’s sole purpose is to fill an episode quota without actually driving the plot/characters/story forward. I will never allow anything I write to have any filler in it. If it’s filler, it gets cut. I have strong feelings on this, in case it isn’t clear.

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    I dropped off my Glidecam and Smooth Shooter with Phil Matarrese last night. He wanted to borrow it for a short film he’s going to be shooting in a few weeks. I told him, “If you know anyone who wants to buy it, let me know.” 

    He asked, “How much?”

    “$1,300, for you. For anyone else, $1,400, and you keep $100.”

    He said, “If I can get it working and it does what I want, I might want it.”

    Again, I’m not rich and $1,300 is a lot of money to me. It would be nice to have a little bit of a financial buffer for my company.

    I have a friend called Trooper. He was a TV/Film major in college. He is also a pretty good photographer. I had some of his photos up in my apartment while he traveled the world. He said he knew someone who might want to buy my Canon 5D Mark 3, and some other gear. It cost me $8,000 when I bought it and it worked great for ALGORITHM. However, since then other stuff has come out that does what I want better than the 5D Mk3, which is really designed to be a still camera. It’s an amazing still camera.

    Anyway, all that $8k worth of gear is now going for $5.8k. I told Trooper I’d sell it all for $5k. Again, I’m not rich. Again, financial buffer makes me feel like I have a little bit more room to be creative.

    Also, since I really want to transition from a strictly do-it-yourself kinda guy to working with a team of people who are really good at their specialties. Good people should be paid for what they’re good at. That means, in order to keep working, I need money. 

    It also means I’m getting out of the gear business.

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    Before I can distribute ALGORITHM, I need to do one more color-pass, to make it look more like Satsuki’s take. So, starting next week, that’s what I’ll be doing.

    On the ALGORITHM front, Kenji, the distributor who is trying to get ALGORITHM distributed contacted me. He has someone who wants to distribute it. They’re raising financing for it because distribution, like everything else in this industry, costs money. Kenji told me that they were 70% financed. That felt pretty good.

    The deal’s still not a sure thing because the financing isn’t in. Even when it comes in, they’ve got to write a contract which I approve. I have a criteria list ordered based on how flexible I am. I sent that list to Kenji, just so he knows he’s not wasting his time. I’ve been meaning to post it somewhere and here’s as good as anywhere else:

 

NON-NEGOTIABLE

1. I am not selling ALGORITHM. I am licensing its distribution. I retain 100% ownership.

2. The license is for a term no longer than 7 years.

3. Profit-deductible spending must be capped (at a number we negotiate as reasonable).

4. The license does not auto-renew and may, at my discretion, be renegotiated at the end of the term of the contract.

5. Quarterly royalty statements must be delivered. There is a 1 month grace period, after which all rights revert back to me.

6. Quarterly payments must be delivered. There is a 1 month grace period, after which all rights revert back to me.

7. This is not for sequel or derivative rights. I retain all derivative rights, including any merchandizing.

8. The movie cannot be recut or edited for any reason. I have final cut.

9. Any licensing rights are not transferable without my written consent.

10. Should the distribution company become financially insolvent, or file for bankruptcy, all rights revert back to me.

11. No one can be sued or arrested for sharing ALGORITHM in any form, so long as nothing of value is received in exchange. 

12. All contracts with sales-agents for any territories, or foreign distributors must also sign a contract containing the points listed above.

13. Distribution of ALGORITHM must take place within a specified (negotiated) time period. Failure to distribute ALGORITHM within the specified time will result in all rights reverting back to me.

14. Any contractual dispute must take place in the jurisdiction of the Orange County California Court and not with a mediator.

 

NEGOTIABLE

1. Upfront payment for rights.

2. Backend payments for rights.

 

    Feel free to copy and past those contract points into anything you create, if you feel they’re at all useful to you. I don’t like contracts because they immediately imply distrust. But, I hate lies and cheating and Hollywood has a lot of both. It’s better to be wise and protected up front. Besides, some people work better with boundaries.