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Netflix May Be Good for Indie Film, But Is it Good for Indie Filmmakers?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik July 31, 2006 at 6:56AM

Netflix May Be Good for Indie Film, But Is it Good for Indie Filmmakers?
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Filmmaker Magazine just put up its summer issue online, and while it's currently not available on the web, I'd like to point readers to my story on Netflix in the print edition. Over the last few months, several articles have heralded the arrival of Netflix onto the movie scene as part of the democratization of media (part of that whole "long tail" phenonemon that everyone's talking about). But a filmmaker recently came up to me and said that one of his recent films had appeared on the mail-order service without him ever seeing a contract, let alone a cut of the proceeds.

Like any business, Netflix is looking closely at its bottom line; as Netflix's VP of original programming and resident cineaste Eric Besner told me, "It's not like we're throwing money around willy-nilly."

Indeed, several of the filmmakers I spoke to for the article were sobering about their profit prospects.

"A lot of it really has to deal with your expectations," "Room" producer Jesse Scolaro told me. "No one is becoming wealthy."

Michele Ohayon, whose 1997 Oscar-nominated documentary "Colors Straight Up" was acquired by Netflix, is a staunch advocate for the company. (She has since partnered with them on all of her subsequent films.) But she admitted to me the model isn't exactly financially viable. "It's not like we can sell a movie and live on it. I make documentaries for mostly educational purposes," she said. "I write fiction for a living."

This article is related to: Corporate Evils