Independent film Makers Beware Bad Deals with Film Distributors.

As the owner of a video and film post production quality control facility I frequently get calls from independent film makers who need a Quality Control Report for their films. When I talk to them I ask some questions such as will the QC be done of file (such as quicktime, or avid) or tape? (such as HDCAM SR) What is the run time of the feature, and what kind of audio configuration (Stereo Comp tracks, 5.1, M&E etc.) will it have. These are questions that I need to have in order to quote a price.
OK so I have all the information that I need and calculate the price of the QC and tell the film maker, they are very happy with the price as we have the best prices in town, (as well as the fastest turnaround time in the industry) the director, or producer or whomever I am talking to tells me they will be sending over the material to start the work.
Then I get a call back usually the next day telling me that my company cannot do the work because the distribution company that they signed up with will only allow “their vendors” to do the QC, the film maker is now upset because he found out that the company that they will now have to use charges more than twice as much money as we were going to charge them, and they have no choice but to pay as they have signed a deal that they cannot get out of.
But the trouble doesn’t end there, after the film maker waits at least one week to get his QC done (our company has a 1-2 day turnaround) the report comes back, it is several pages long listing many problems that the movie is “rejected” for. All of these problems must be fixed before the QC report can be changed to approved. The problem is that many of these “problems” that must be fixed are not really rejectable but subjective issues that could have been left as is.
Now the film maker has to spend several thousand more dollars to “fix” all these problems usually with the same company that did the report. I have had film makers come back to me with their rejected reports and asked me for a second opinion. When I tell them that most of the things their movie was rejected for were really OK they are stuck and have to spend the money anyway. Often what ends up happening is that the film maker ends up spending all the money they got on the distribution deal on the post work and ends up giving up his movie for free. That is not right after you spent years of your life on your movie.
My advice to film makers when they sign a distribution deal is to make sure that you are free to do your post work where you want, and not where the distributor wants you to. This will save a lot of money, time and hassles. Shop around and you will find a wide array of prices and services, you can figure out what the best deal for you is, which will make your life a lot easier. Good Luck.