Why a non-profit?
Our decision to work as a non-profit evolved out of our ongoing commitment to offering low fee and service-based distribution in an industry whose standard is to take rights that extend for a long period of time and then not effectively utilize them on behalf of the filmmaker. We feel that a non-profit not only calls attention to this business practice and sends a message to the industry but also augments our capabilities by allowing us to make use of grants, sponsorship and broader media and marketing capabilities on behalf of independent cinema that would not have been available to us as a for-profit entity. Moreover, not working with typical studio films allows us to focus on art house and indie cinema and use monies we raise in service of those films. Grants have traditionally been awarded to making films but we believe there is an equally great cause in helping films find their underserved audiences. In this way, we hope to be a service for Americans at large, and for the rest of the world as well.
If a filmmaker doesn’t get an all-rights distribution offer from a traditional distributor, how can TFC help?
TFC can facilitate distribution in every category, either directly (in-house) or via its partners. A film that did not get an all rights 7-figure deal at a festival can still be distributed in all media or close to all media thereafter by having a DIY theatrical or combination of theatrical/non-theatrical that includes organizational, college, educational, and other public exhibition. Then hopefully a broadcast sale, but if not, then Cable VOD, and then finally home video and of course direct digital distribution.
Is TFC competitive with traditional for-profit distributors?
TFC never discourages filmmakers from doing traditional distribution. In fact, TFC has already encouraged several of its filmmakers to take distribution offers rather than be distributed directly via TFC. Because part of our consultation includes factoring in marketing commitments and overall distribution strategies for the films as well as potential upsides and risks. But TFC can also negotiate on behalf of filmmakers for the best distribution deal possible. We have a better negotiation position on filmmakers’ behalf because we can distribute directly on the digital side, and we are especially scrutinizing of distributions that are not direct with key revenue generating platforms. Different films have different commercial potentials and funds allocated to their respective releases and TFC analyzes each on a case-by-case basis. We are committed to the best results for a film, not for our organization. And in order to ensure our mission is maintained and practiced, TFC will also offer flat-fee aggregation instead of commission based aggregation and allocate funds from grants and sponsorship toward distribution.
What does it mean to not take a film’s rights?
Most distribution contracts actually transfer rights between filmmaker and distributor or aggregator. In the case of The Film Collaborative, we don’t take your rights. The contractual arrangement that we engage in with a filmmaker gives us the power to represent those rights, because when TFC is doing direct distribution to digital platforms, for example, it needs the legal right to do so, but not to own them outright. In the case of licensing the film to a Broadcaster or a traditional distributor, that buyer will in fact ask for rights and the filmmaker will then be transferring rights for a term, and TFC will engage in making that happen, but it gets filmmaker’s approval on every deal and transaction in advance and a filmmaker can cancel any time.
What happens if a filmmaker wants to cancel working with TFC?
TFC allows filmmakers to cancel working with TFC with just 30–90 days notice, depending on how long it would take to get a film off specific platforms. TFC does, however, have to respect the business practices and size of the platforms it works with and honor the length of time it may take those platforms to remove a title. And of course TFC would not be able to undo any deliberate torrent distribution monetization once it’s started.
How is TFC different from other digital aggregators?
- A filmmaker can cancel as long as there is proper notice.
- TFC does not take rights but rather represents them.
- TFC will take either a flat fee or a commission—but no matter which the filmmaker chooses, the costs will always be better than what they get from typical aggregators.
How does TFC make money?
- Membership dues
- Service Fees
- A volume of films that is both manageable and sustaining of TFC, which also in turn must maintain low overhead. TFC is committed to making public its revenue and expenses and all allocations.