This is the continuation of a blog post we did last week, if you missed that one CLICK HERE to read it first. I promise this will make a lot more sense if you do that first.
At twenty two was I really ready to go up against a Hollywood distributor? How do you even do that? I thought to myself, "I've become the statistic." I heard of this happening to other filmmakers. But you never know how it feels until it happens to you. Imagine being given a talent by God, that you worked so hard to craft and fine tune. Only for someone to exploit it, then say you can't share it with anyone. This seems to happen a lot in the music industry, but because at that point the musicians are so popular I feel like you hear about it more often. Versus when it happens to filmmakers where they don't have the same popularity or stage to vocalize their abuse. Often times when this happens it destroys the young artist, many of them never make a film again.
I retraced my steps. Did I see red flags? I'm sure I did, just my excitement and blind ambition got the best of me. It wasn't like I was not proud of the success of the film. But the congratulations rolling in like a flood couldn't wash away the cruel intentions of our distributor.
I called them every day, just to be ignored. Sent to voicemail. When I did get them on the line it felt like I was begging for them to have mercy. This was all I had. They didn't care. This went on for a year. Every invoice more wrong than the next. Constantly having to have them corrected. Why didn't we get lawyers involved you ask? Because lawyers cost money and Proof. Wrong invoices aren't enough proof, I found that earlier on, after the first wrong invoice. My lawyer at the time could do nothing.
Look at Sylvester Stallone, he sued Warner Bros. for the same thing and it took24 years for him to do that.
Often times when this happens it destroys the young artist, many of them never make a film again.
Cut down into pieces, fallen on my knees. I prayed for favor. What did this mean for everything we built? I realized I was going to go down in flames. But not without a fight. If it took every ounce of me I was going to make them pay for what they did. I went back to every email, every correspondence. I started creating a timeline. This would turn into my legal documentation to fight them in the future. It was there that I found the red flags. The signs that this distributor had other intentions.
These are the signs of abuse.
Young filmmakers take note because if you run into any of these.
Turn the other way and get the hell out of dodge.
1. They didn't have an office in Hollywood or New York. - These are the two entertainment capitals of the world. If they don't have an office in one of these locations, communication will be difficult.
2. They asked for more than 30 percent. Absolutely never give more than 30 percent of your film away to any distributor.
3. 10 year term on the contract. Films are quiet after 3 years. Never sign a contract for 10 years. So much can happen in 10 years.
4. 60 days to provide an invoice after the end of a quarter. You don't need 60 days to provide receipts.
5. No cap on expenses.
6. You should have approval of any expenses over one thousand dollars.
7. Foggy termination clause. GET OUT! No joke, make sure your termination clause allows you to walk away from the contract at any chance of suspicious activity.
8. If they are hard to get a hold of before you sign the contract, understand they will be even harder to reach after you sign the film over to them.
9. They make guarantees without any facts to support it. You can not guarantee the success of a film without first having buyers, if they don't have buyers already in place and they make guarantees to you. Be aware they are builfing you up for fsailure.
These were all things we noticed but didn't take them as serious as we should have. We should have never let them slide. The only way out of our contract because of the poor termination clause is if they missed their deadlines with their 60 day invoice requirement. Have you ever seen a wound that wont stop bleeding? That's exactly how it felt.
All we could do was keep documenting everything. In 2016 they finally couldn't hide any more money. So therefore they just stopped communicating with us completely. We constantly kept trying to get a hold of them but there was no answer. Then I thought to myself, if they don't communicate with us, then they are in breach of contract. It was in that moment that I realized this was how everything was going to work together for God's plan!
By the end of 2016 we had gone 9 months without hearing from them. No communication, no emails, no nothing. We were due for invoices as well, that they never paid and that were incorrect as well. I looked them up in the news and it would seem that one of the distributors had filed for bankruptcy, which was not a surprise. Another one had been bouncing around from state to state trying to open different offices but never really succeeding because the dark cloud followed him wherever he went. Could you believe he followed me on Facebook this whole time. After I saw that there was nothing left of them, I figured this was our time. In May of 2017, we had brought our lawyers back into the picture.
We gave them the reports, all of the notes we took and explained the whole story of what happened over the past four years. As these were different lawyers than the ones we started with. In shock they couldn't believe how detailed our recollection of the events were and without a doubt said we had a case. They asked us what we wanted to do. Did we want to sue, did we just want to terminate the agreement?
Every day is a fight to get your voice heard.
Honestly you don't know the half of this business. Every day is a fight to get your voice heard. At that point we were all fought out. We just wanted our movie back and the opportunity to show it to people. So we asked our lawyer and she drafted the termination agreement and listed all the facts. She had it sent over to the distribution company, or what was left of them. An assistant responded and it wasn't long before she said that he was out of town and when he returned she would make sure he got it. I waited by my email for days waiting to see if this nightmare was going to finally be over and our film was going to come home. It almost felt like when you were a kid and your parents would leave the light on when you were gone, something you could rely on when you got home. I had the light left on; waiting....
After a couple weeks our lawyer emailed me and said they signed the termination agreement. My signature was never needed more nor was it ever as important. I signed my name on the line and that was it. I don't know why I expected fireworks to go off in the sky; explosions, something. But no nothing. It was silent. But that silence was something, something marvelous. For so long my mind was racing, worried, concerned for my future and the silence was no more worries, nor more fear, that silence was freedom. I got to enjoy peace. It's like I had forgotten what it felt like. It was amazing. It's almost like I was in shock because I'm so used to losing. If I'm being honest. I have perfected the losing face. But this time I won and my baby was coming home.
I learned so much from this situation and honestly believe when it comes to something like this. It can't be taught, you have to live it. I'm telling you guys this story because I know as a young artist we think these big guys have our best interest at heart, they don't. It's called show business for a reason. It's a business and if it can make money it will be exploited for every penny possible and sometimes good people like yourselves are casualties of a very cruel game that Hollywood plays. I hope in reading this you may learn from my mistakes and be better because of them.
So what happened to Broken Roads? Well the best is yet to come. On August 18th it is coming to Amazon Prime, streaming for the whole world to see. Japan, Germany, UK and US will be able to relive the magic and experience the joys like never before. This time, we are partnered directly with Amazon and have full control. Doing this on our own. It's a new chapter in our world and it's bright.