reading: can indie docs secure profits from digital distribution? yes and no

by eug
August 18, 2010 3:27 AM
4 Comments
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A friend of a friend is trying to map out festival and distribution strategy for a new doc. As I was responding to his email tonight I simultaneously came across this blog post by "MacHeads" director Kobi Shely: Can Indie Docs Secure Profits From Digital Distribution? Yes and No (via Basil Tsiokos on Twitter).

The take away follows (but read the full blog post for the explanation and insight):

1. Sell your DVD, Digital file for download, from your website

2. When DVD sales slow down, sign a digital distribution contract and sell your movie on iTunes US, UK, Canada + Amazon VOD + your DVD on Amazon + Retail stores DVD distribution

3. Sell your movie to Netflix streaming

4. Offer your movie for "free" on Hulu, Snagfilms and any possible digital platforms

Do others agree? Disagree?

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More: The Biz

4 Comments

  • Rogue | August 26, 2010 10:30 AMReply

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  • Javier Mitchell | August 18, 2010 4:10 AMReply

    I totally agree! These days are times of "guerrilla marketing & distribution".

  • jl | August 18, 2010 2:11 AMReply

    @Nina, I agree with you completely. I know a couple of filmmakers who had a doc indie "hit" a number of years back, and they got a good deal of press and distrib offers (in the six-figures). But they wanted the press and wanted full control on how to "get it out there". So instead of giving up a portion of the check and moving on and making more films, they self-distributed (somewhat successfully) over the next couple of years.

    Like you said, if you're in the business as a filmmaker, go be a filmmaker. These kids just turned into a one hit wonder and aren't relevant anymore. Too bad. I guess they were busy self-promoting themselves instead of their film.

  • Nina Seavey | August 18, 2010 1:53 AMReply

    No. What new on-line methods of distribution of docs has done is to enslave filmmakers to the process of self-promotion, not filmmaking. And there's no way to create sustainable revenue to actually live on.

    Now filmmakers are required to spend not only years making the film, but as much, or even more time, "getting it out there."

    When there was a distinction between the craft of filmmaking and the business of film distribution, creators could actually hone and improve the quality of their work over time. Now that filmmakers are a "one-man creation/marketing/self-distribution outfit," the act of creation has become subservient to a pathetic series of acts that amount to "look at me, please look at my website, please click my "like button, please download my film, please!"

    And the yields are paltry. If there are investors on films, they can't be repaid - single one by one sales are like chipping away at an iceberg with a pick-ax. There is no more "back-end" to negotiate back-end crew deals with, and, except in the rarest of cases, the notion of living off the proceeds of a film is laughable.

    So while some see "guerilla marketing" as an improvement in the "independence" of the documentary filmmaker, I see it as a degradation of quality of the creative life that is/was/should be the raison d'etre of what we do.

    Sure, distributors took their cut in the recent past - but I say "let them have it." I'd rather have someone distribute my films who actually knows how to tap markets, represents enough quantity of product to have advertising and PR budgets to promote work, and is incentivized to distribute as broadly as possible.

    Now every documentary filmmaking is out there in his or her small little boat in this huge ocean of the market place trying to find the right place to cast a net to pick up a few fish - with the dream of course of "catching the big one." Yea right.

    Good luck. I'll take my consistent quarterly check from the distributor over that kind of lottery ticket approach to self distribution- and make more films with all of that time I'm saving. After all, I got into this business to be a filmmaker, not a distributor.

    Sorry for the long post. This article pushed a hot button.