Friday, May 21, 2010


Does anyone out there have any positive stories about distributors?



Even one?

No. No, I didn't think so. It's funny - I thought it was just the distribution company our show was with. I thought we went with a pack of monkeys and all those other distributors were great. After all, many distributors have great visibility in the business. They must all be great while we were lumbered with idiots.

Turns out everyone feels the same.

People on big shows with high-profile distributors have nothing but horror stories about how their show has been treated. Everyone feeling they went with the wrong distributor. And that's a real problem.

You see, when a show is made (as ours is now), it falls to the distributor to sell the show, usually internationally. They have to find the best platforms for the show, try to hype it up as much as they can, get it the best time slots from broadcasters. They have to find licensing deals, build what they would call a brand. Get books into shops. Toys if people want them. That sort of thing. Take the raw materials that are the show itself and get it out there.

Handing a show over to a distributor is like handing your child over... an abusive coke addict who barely knows or cares that your child exists.

Things I have seen from distributors that bug the living shit out of me:

- Not actually getting to know the show. Like, not even watching the goddam episodes. How can you possibly expect to sell something if you don't know what it is?!

- Trying to tell the show makers who live with the show every single day what the show is or should be, even though they don't know the show, as in the previous point.

- Not talking to other people within their company. Seriously - do you guys spend so much time glued to your Blackberries that you can't even talk to somebody in the next room? Stop asking for the same shit all the time when the people in your office already have it.

- Not forming any sort of strategy. Probably as a result of the previous point, distributors routinely wander around aimlessly until those few minutes a month they decide they should do something. Without the preparation and resources, they achieve nothing.

- Spending more time coming up with reasons why things won't work or can't happen than actually trying to find out what you can do. We've made a show. That's an uphill struggle. We know all about how difficult things can be. We don't care. What you can't do isn't worth shit to us. Go do something.

The list goes on and on...

How most of these people keep their jobs is absolutely beyond me. Actually, some distributors have a fairly high rate of staff turnover so maybe they don't. And of course, because they don't actually ever communicate with people in their own company, every time someone leaves it is like starting from scratch. The new person will be sure to tell us just what great things they've worked on. But that silence when we ask them a question about our show tells us so much more.

In a way, I suppose it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who ended up with a fuckwit for a distributor.

Oh and if any distributor comes across this, you know I don't mean you, right? It's those other distributors...


susan said...

You lost me on this one Bitter, my experiences in LA were on a diff side of the movie industry.

Strange, the gal in the picture looks a lot like me when I am in work clothes. ;-) And on a Monday. Before coffee.

Have a wonderful weekend. To you and your readers.

Niffiwan said...

How much do those Youtube ads pay, if you opt into them?

Just a thought... I wonder if self-distribution will become more viable some day.

A lot of Russian animation directors intentionally put their films online (openly or secretly) because very few people see them otherwise, and they don't get any money anyway.

Things have got to be better than that in the West.

Bitter Animator said...

I'm not sure how much the YouTube ads pay. I got the impression it was next to nothing but I guess, if you have a huge hit, it all adds up.

There definitely has to be a change in the model as it is right now. I think distributors are soon going to find themselves redundant, clinging to outdated business models while the rest of the planet jumps ship.

The problem seems to be that nobody has found any kind of alternative sustainable business model. Nobody knows what they should be jumping ship to.

It's not just Russian directors who put their films online. I've leaked some of my own earlier work too (nobody else was getting it out there) just to at least give some people the chance to see it.

That's great but it doesn't pay the bills. It means animation will become little more than a hobby. And, when it comes to children's television (which I consider to be of huge importance), it's the old cliche of - if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. If you don't pay at all, what do you get? I don't know. Slugs?

Unfortunately those actually trying to make money (and sometimes succeeding) are usually fairly shady characters who have no interest in the wellfare of their audience. Like that guy who did that video that's over Cartoon Brew. The one so bizarre that half of the readers (including me) thought it would turn out to be a joke as they watched it.

But right now, over here, the distributors are the ones supposed to get shows out there and even the biggest (and supposedly best) seem to be run by idiots.

Red Pill Junkie said...

"Unfortunately those actually trying to make money (and sometimes succeeding) are usually fairly shady characters who have no interest in the wellfare of their audience. Like that guy who did that video that's over Cartoon Brew. The one so bizarre that half of the readers (including me) thought it would turn out to be a joke as they watched it."

Man, that was SO bizarre. I couldn't believe a man could talk about wanting to exploit kids' dreams in order to make money with such a straight face. It was a like the reincarnation of Göering or something like that...

Here's an idea —from a complete layman in the business: Instead of Youtube as a distributor channel, why not going for something like Xbox Live?

Bitter Animator said...

That would definitely be a good idea for certain projects. The difficulty for me is that my area of expertise is in shows for younger children. Children young enough that they aren't on 360s and many of them aren't even ready to use the internet yet.

So the distribution models that work for adults don't work because young children don't actively go looking for their own shows. Their parents do it. Or, more often, they stick on Nick Jr. and walk away. So, even though the current business model doesn't really work, the old systems of needing broadcasters to show the hell out of your show are still required.

Unless there's some other way of getting parents to really make active choices in what their children are watching.