On July 1, I have an article coming out in Microfilmmaker Magazine that takes a look at 3 digital streaming players now available to filmmakers; Dynamo Player, Distrify and Flicklaunch. I talked to the founders of each company to bring you the lowdown on how each works, their pricing and how you, as the content owner, get paid. Here’s an excerpt:
Anyone who reads my blog or follows my Facebook page knows I am dedicated to encouraging filmmakers to take control of their own work and bring it to audiences in the most direct way possible. I especially feel this way when it comes to online digital distribution. Why give the rights (and fees and percentages) away to a distributor when you can easily use tools to distribute your work directly and in the most expedient manner?
Lately, several companies have emerged to help filmmakers do just that. Instead of looking for outside distribution companies to buy your work’s rights, hope they treat you fairly, and wait for them to bring it out for sale, consider these tools to go direct. When you can cut out as many of the layers separating your work from its audience, you’ll profit more….
Rob Millis, co founder of Dynamo, explained that was the aim of the product from the start. “Dynamo is as easy to access as any online video platform, with no restrictions or qualifications. It is available for any legal content you own the rights to, except pornography… The player allows you to upload your film, set a price for streaming it on a website or on Facebook, and publish it with no upfront costs or monthly fees. Fans, bloggers, online publications and organizations can host the player on their sites too in order to share their love of your film with their audience…
Two filmmakers from Scotland, Andy Green and Peter Gerard, founded Distrify. I spoke with them to find out what led them to create this tool to help filmmakers. “We wanted a better business model ourselves so we worked out a technical solution where we’d actually get some of the money from the films we produced by making it easy for fans to buy our films directly,” said Gerard. Distrify’s player adapts to support your film’s marketing at every stage of the value chain. If you’re crowd-funding for example, the Distrify player helps drive viewers to your crowd-funding campaign. If your film is at a festival, you can list all the screenings directly in the trailer, with links to ticketing sites. If you’re doing an indie screenings campaign, Distrify lets your fans sign up to your mailing list, giving you a location-based map of where the demand is for your film. Whenever you add new screenings or products to your film, every player that’s embedded around the web is automatically updated to ensure your fans will always be able to engage with or purchase your film”…
Founded as the first global indie movie distribution platform built on Facebook, I spoke with CEO Craig Tanner about what makes Flicklaunch different as a way to distribute films. The site is in beta. “Flicklaunch was built around the ‘Like’ button. A filmmaker can give away a predetermined amount of free views in exchange for a ‘Like’ to the film page. For example, a filmmaker can give away 1,000 free views and with the average Facebook user having 140 friends, it creates awareness for that film of 140,000 people. Since Facebook is global, Flicklaunch is available to audiences and filmmakers everywhere.” The rental period for streaming the film is 7 days and audience can choose how they want to view it (through any web enabled device connecting to Facebook). Soon FlickLaunch will offer badges and perks for film fans that drive the most traffic to the film.
In addition, I wrote a chapter on film festivals and how to use them in a book entitled The Modern MovieMaking Movement which will be available from July 1. It is a free ebook that will be available on this site in exchange for email signup if you leave your email address when you click Subscribe to the Newsletter and you’ll get an automated download link. The book was written by 10 of the most outspoken and knowledgeable indie film thought leaders (well, 9 and me ) in the world today and it will cover topics such as successful screenwriting, ways to finance a feature film, fundraising, the director’s role, the PMD and making microbudget features. Well worth the price of an email address! Plus I don’t send many email blasts personally so you won’t have your inbox bombarded from here on out by me.
I also have 2 other books coming out very soon. One is an anthology of Ted Hope’s Hope For Film blog and the other is Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen. I guess I have been doing a lot of writing lately! More news on these 2 works coming soon.
I don’t think I rant too much on this blog. I do rant on my Facebook page and on my Twitter account and if you follow me there, you’ve probably witnessed that. I want to take my rant today on this notion of needing a “theatrical experience” for films. In my view, VERY FEW independent films need a theatrical release because they simply aren’t an experience. Watching slow, carefully crafted (or not), character driven stories in a cinema doesn’t do anything to make me experience the film better. Hardly any indie films play a cinema in the area where I am staying now, NW Florida, but I can still watch them on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes et al through my Roku or computer. That is, if the filmmaker will let me.
Indie filmmakers and, obviously, the theatrical bookers, distributors and service companies are all lamenting the closure of arthouse theaters, the drop off in attendance and the expense of getting indies in the remaining ones. “We’re being pushed out by the bigger, more expensive films.” Yes, yes you are so why are you still trying to compete that way? Why is it more important to you to have your film play a few cinemas in like 4 cities, than it is to allow people to watch it wherever they want? I realize many filmmakers and these service companies are located in New York City or LA and they think the whole of the US is like the theatrical landscape of those 2 cities. Um, it’s not. Indie film fans don’t just live in major cities, but we do hear about your films, we do hear the buzz coming out of a major festival, we do read those interviews and see trailers, and you know what you do to us? Say screw you, go see it in a theater in New York! After you’ve wasted all of that P&A money by opening the film in a few theaters at a loss, THEN you start thinking about digital. By that time, we’ve usually forgotten about your film because there is a new crop of buzz films coming out which also will not be playing at a cinema near us. So I plop down on the sofa after the kids are in bed, what’s available on Netflix? I’ll tell you what isn’t, YOUR FILM!
There was also a recent article on the Huffington Post site also lamenting the fact that when great films come out, they are only available in a few cities. It went on to praise Film Forum in New York, making me think the writer has some financial relationship to them because of the depth of praise he went into. Still it doesn’t get to the crux of the matter to me. It isn’t why are indie films only seen on the big screen in New York; it is why are you insisting indie films need to be seen on the big screen at all? Believe it or not, films didn’t start off screening in theaters. Why do you think they must continue that way?
My friend Ted Hope often asks what can be done to get the kids back into the cinema. I ask what can filmmakers do to reach those kids and let them see films wherever they want? I am thinking will be on a mobile device, not in a theater. Yesterday, the Alamo Drafthouse published a video poking fun at a patron’s angry voicemail; the result of her being tossed out of the theater for texting. The filmmakers loved it and I admit it was comical. That was a kid, Ted. Did you hear what she was doing in the theater? THAT’s why they don’t go. THAT’s the film watching experience for them. For the older patrons and “cinephiles,” she was an abomination, but that is how the “kids” are watching films. those kids will soon be older with more kids coming up behind them. I am betting their knowledge of going to a movie theater will be comparable to the live theater experience for kids today. Are you going to adapt to that? It’s fine if you won’t, just stop complaining about the lack of theaters your film can play in and the lack of attendance. You’re making a conscious decision to stay behind the times into extinction, that’s all. And stop trying to fight “piracy” (also known as a free distribution method!) of your films because you aren’t offering potentially paying people the chance to pay. You are trying to force them into your mindset and you’ll lose.
Say all you like about cinema history and how YOU think films ought to be experienced. That’s only your opinion and it is increasingly NOT how the younger generations are experiencing indie film. And that is ok, no matter how romantic and nostalgic you feel for the good old days of cinema, there’s one thing for certain in this life. Change.
It has been a while since we ran the Twitter discussion panel, before Sundance I think. Between Mark Bell and me being in Park City and Austin and Charles Judson gearing up for Atlanta Film Festival, schedules just didn’t get us together. #Filmin140 was born in September 2010 when Charles, Mark and I were talking on Twitter about having a place where all filmmakers, no matter where they lived, could access the new information being shared and talk directly with innovators without having to travel to festivals and panel weekends which are usually filled with old model thinkers. We decided we would build that place, using Twitter.
Tonight we return with one of the most awesome panels to date!!
“I thought the producer just finds the money?” was born out of Charles’ experience with new filmmakers who don’t have a clear picture of what the producer’s job is. There are many definitions of producer in the film world and tonight we get to speak with some truly innovative, well respected producers to find out how they produce films. Ted Hope and Amanda Bailey produced James Gunn’s Super, due for release on April 1. Both have a long list of credits and you can watch a retrospective of Ted’s slate here. Thomas Woodrow produced last year’s Sundance buzz film Bass Ackwards. We’d like to keep the discussion on the subject of producing, so please refrain from pitching them on your project.
If this is your first time participating, please visit the Film Threat site for instructions. You’ll need a Twitter account obviously. We recommend using Tweetchat because you won’t have to remember to add in the #filmin140 tag to your tweets. If you don’t use the tag, your tweet doesn’t show up in the discussion stream. If you can’t join us tonight, a transcript of the discussion will be available the next day on the Film Threat site and should stay archived. I expect the stream will move quite fast tonight; it will be a challenge to keep up so you might want to see the archive later even if you are there live. You can start sending in questions any time, just mark them #filmin140q. The discussion runs one hour but often well over. Panelists are only required to stay the hour though. We start promptly at 9pmET/8pmCT/6pmPT.
Hope to see you all tonight and check out our Facebook page for some additional background on the panelists.
About half a year ago, I wrote post for Ted Hope’s Hope for Film site on the role I see film distributors taking in the future; their new business model. I want to revisit that post again since I read this post on the O’Reilly site called Publishers: What are they good for? in which the same kind of discussion is going on, but for the publishing world.
In my post, I suggested that distributors should concentrate more on building an audience for themselves, building a brand around the type of content they distribute and that content should be clearly defined, not appeal to a wide audience. The O’Reilly piece reminded me of another role they could fulfill when dealing with creators; that of a service instead of rights holder. In order to evolve and survive, I think film distributors should be offering their expertise in audience research and outreach, marketing, advertising, sales, booking, online distribution etc as a paid for service. All of the things that creators need, but are not expertly versed in. The rights would stay with the creator.
Some may say they do this now and some companies do, but the vast majority are still buying rights and imposing a distribution process on creators that is simply not needed. Access to distribution is wide open, easy to obtain. It is attention that isn’t easy to obtain. While there are some hold outs like iTunes who will only deal with aggregators (which is largely a service agreement for the creator), those will only remain for a little longer as more and more portals will open and more and more viewing devices catch on with consumers or as creators will distribute direct to audience themselves with new tools.
Also mentioned in the O’Reilly post is the role of cheerleader. This cannot be underestimated either. In my business model post, I offered that distributors become the outlet for specific types of content created by filmmakers whose style or penchant for a certain subject would be a source of material to populate the distributor’s offerings. The distributor would then have an interest in encouraging that filmmaker in their creation efforts, pushing them to make their best work, helping to craft it by being a sounding board, much like an editor is in the publishing world. A feeling of mutual trust and dependency would form long lasting partnerships that could be financially beneficial to both. As it stands now, there is no loyalty, no trust in the industry from either side.
The savvy distributor would build a profitable ecosystem that includes benefits for all involved; the creator, the distributor and the audience.
I have written two articles for next month’s issue of Microfilmmaker Magazine that will go live on Sunday August 1, but I am so excited for you to see them, I will give you a sneak preview here.
About a month ago, Randy Finch made a post entry on Ted Hope’s fabulous Truly Free Film site explaining a MFA track he teaches at the University of Central Florida called Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema. For some reason, this post turned into something controversial. You should read that post and the comments and then read my article. I decided to follow up on what Randy and crew are doing down there in Florida and a story excerpt is here:
“We wanted a program that did not stress the goal of blockbuster in the first three months. Rather, the filmmaker would take a longer view for a ROI and would develop low cost works that could withstand such a strategy. Individual filmmakers would have the chance to be more personal with their work while at the same time better equipped to meet market changes and make these changes work for them. One faculty member saw us as creating ‘pirate ships’ with tiny crews, braving the waves of change while the larger entities moved inland for protection. Our ‘pirates’ could be taught how to read the weather, the waves and better assess their risks. The collapse of the distribution models was the proverbial ‘opportunity’ we all hear about – it will redefine everything: the art; the audience; the filmmaker; the business,” said Steve Schlow.
This month I attended the ARG Fest conference in Atlanta and one of the featured speakers was Mike Monello of Campfire. Coincidentally, Mike is a graduate of UCF film school! You may remember that Mike was part of the team around The Blair Witch Project and helped to shape the early audience engagement that made the film such a spectacular success when internet marketing was barely a term and certainly not being used to market an independent film. I sat down for a chat (and a brain pick, come on!) with him to talk about what techniques they used then that are applicable to the tools we have now (and we have many more than they did in 1999) to market indie films. This bit is about what they did after they got the initial enthusiasm for Blair started.
“The more we put up, the more the people started to devour it. It was a combination of seeing pieces of footage that were really intense, with a history that had massive holes in it because we didn’t put the whole thing up, and it gave a space for people to imagine what they wanted and tell each other stories. The mythology was based on stories that were around, urban legend. I don’t want to say they were historically accurate because none of it was factual information, but it all had resonance with people. It gave people a reason to talk about their own local witch legends and their own scary camping experiences and it just all ballooned from there.”
“We were conscious of the fact that we needed to keep everyone engaged until we had the film available to see. So, we would read the forums of what the fans were saying and looked at the topics they discussed and we’d think ‘that’s interesting, they are curious about this thing in particular’ and we would look at the information we hadn’t released yet and release what spoke to that curiosity. If we had holes in the information people wanted to know, we would fill those in.”
To read both articles in their entirety, visit www.microfilmmaker.com
I just found this in my Google alerts regarding comments made on Ted Hope’s Truly Free Film site about self distribution. It is an open letter on FilmUtopia.Posterous.com addressing some of his comments and asking a few more questions, good questions. Then Ted made a response, then Clive made another response. So the debate went on and you can participate too if you want. Debate is good, debate is healthy, it will help us all create community and find answers.