Distribber Bankrupt?

Back when I was first thinking about indie film distribution, I heard about Distribber. It was a well-known aggregator. That is, it was a company that could take an independent film without the power of a full distributor or studio, and ge it placed on outlets like iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and a bunch of other places.

Distribber’s model was that you would pay them several hundred dollars and they would submit your film. If they didn’t get the movie onto the platform, then you got a partial refund. Later they added a maintenance fee for titles, to help pay for the ongoing work to process payment. Because the outlets would pay Distribber, not you. Then Distribber would get around to paying you.

If you could afford the up front fees, this model sounds great to filmmakers. One time payment, and then all the revenue comes to us.

But apparently the model has flaws. Just from the outside, it seems like you need a constant influx of new films to keep the doors open. You would need that new income. If things slow down or something bad happens, this house of card will topple. But a few years ago, no one was worried.

I opted not to use Distribber because I didn’t have the up front cash, and I didn’t know how long it would take to recoup that outlay of funds. I did a few direct deals with outlets, and decided to go with FilmHub to try to get places i cannot go myself. Currently I’m letting them place the movie with TVOD places in the US, and everywhere around the world. FilmHub has no upfront fees (except $1200 with iTunes…) and takes 20% of any revenue generated.

Fast forward to this week. Rumblings and rumors abound about Distribber. Recent leadership changes and lack of communication are alarming some filmmakers. Alex Ferrari from Indie Film Hustle used to be a big proponent of Distribber. This week he came out and basically said he believed they are bankrupt. He received emails from Distrbber staff advising him to try to place fins using other means. And he sad he personally has thousands of dollars tied up with Distribber. They told him any refunds or payments will be handled through a 3rd party company during their “reorganization” which is often legalese for bankruptcy.

To my knowledge, Distribber has not said anything publicly about this.

Distribber’s website is live, but when you try to submit a film you get a message saying they are no longer accepting any new “orders”.

I don’t know how this will shake out. Any film submitted to a platform through Distribber will still be live and, until Distribber removes those titles, filmmakers are stuck. They cannot resubmit or remove the titles themselves. And they likely won’t get paid. At least not any time soon, if at all.

Business is a risk, and bankruptcy stinks for everyone involved.

My advice, such as it is- make deals directly with platforms and outlets as much as you can. It’s more work, but you limit your exposure. I only use aggregates to reach places i can’t on my own.

If indie filmmaking was easy everyone would do it.

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