Napoleon Dynamite: The Business of the Business

I don’t want to scare off the few readers I have with a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but I happened to stumble across this legal case involving royalty rights on DVD sales owed the producers of film classic Napoleon Dynamite. There’s a ton of numbers to wade through, but if you’re a deal geek like me it was informative to look at the underbelly of the beast.

But if you don’t have the stomach for it, I’ll make it easy. Searchlight, the distribution company that released the DVD, said the producers were owed a mere 10% of the $139 million generated by DVD sales. The producers claimed they were owed 31.66%. After lengthy litigation, it was ruled that the producers were owed 12% – and they lost over a cool $10 mil.

Their downfall wasn’t the deal. It was their lack of attention throughout the pay-out of the deal. So though a lot of us think that making movies is a blast (and it is) – those of us who’s lives depend on it have to remember it’s also a business. Show business.

My takeaway: don’t trust other people to handle the biz side for you. Hire, marry, or be a piranha yourself to protect your work. Even if it’s a small deal, dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Then do it again. Then again. Be a bad-ass out of the gates.

Otherwise, someone else will eat your steak.


Photo Courtesy of Searchlight. 










Author: Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson is Executive Producer at HCFmedia. Can film making change the world? The Short Answer: Yes.