You are all right.... The movie selling industry is completely F&%$#*d, There is day light robbery going on were sales agents and distributors should be going to jail..
The facts are simple... The studios or distributors IF! they think your film is good, may give you your money back... but will own all the best territories for ever... But you must have key elements and many boxes ticked before thats a reality.
You must have a name actor in it, it must have a commercial appeai. (forget about some adaption of a love story or book you read when you were 16... It must do well in the film shows... Sundance etc..
If you dont have any of these ticked, then consider yourself screwed.
NOTE: DO NOT LOOK AT BLAIR WITCH OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY as a model.. they are anomalies. These are like 1 in 5000... and are done!
At the end of the day, making the movie is the easy bit... selling the thing is the hard bit. Sales agents and distributors know how desperate you are and will offer you hardly anything for full buy out. They have thousands of films at there disposal for next to nothing. The market is flooded, you didnt thing that cheap digital cameras and FCP was not going to kill the market.
2000 feature film submissions in the last Sundance and Canne. Does the word LOTTO ring any bells...
The odds of making a film are slim, selling that film is even slimmer, being ripped off by distributers, absolutely you will. Getting your money back... if your very very very lucky. Making profit if it does really well... you wont see anything of it. not a single cent. The studio or distributor will tell you how it made nothing after costs... FACT.
Here is a typical scenario that happens quite frequently..
Your film. 1,000,000 to make.
You sell it for 1,000,000 (very rare) and manage to get a cut of the profits of 5% once the studio gets there investment back.. Rembering that there investment is not just the 1,000,000 they paid for your film, but also the 5 to 10 in P&A +++++
Just say your movie makes 20 million at the box office / DVD / Web sales etc..... WOW!!!! awesome !!! (50 tp 60% goes to the cinema owners) leaving 10 mil..
Sales agents fees, distribution costs and fees, Prints and advertising, etc etc etc.... costs at least 8 to 10 million (Thats what they will tell you, remember there creative accounting), Tax man steps in..
Leaving you a profit margin of 0...
This scenario happens every single day... I shit you not. I've seen this happen to countless film makers. They all tell the same exact story.
I'm sick of talking to the lying cheating bastards... I'm about to kill my movie aspirations because of the conversations I've had with them all lately. I think making films for a living is almost dead for most indie film makers.
These days you just make movie for fun....
Thank god for TV commercials is all I can say.