The Letter 'D': Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player

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by Orly Ravid
December 29, 2011 8:30 AM
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Dynamo Player is one of the many DIY options we've looked at with close interest over the past year, (See Felicia Ptolemy's Review HERE and Rob Millis' Introduction to the Dynamo Player HERE. Is 2012 the year that it takes off for the indie and artist direct communities? It may very well be, and if so, we can have Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative to thank once again. Today, she sits down with Dynamo's founder and discusses further evidence of it's success and some of the do's and don'ts of the platform.

The Letter “D”

D: Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player.

I got educated more all about how it works, with owner Rob Millis who I finally met in person at IDFA in Amsterdam. A fine gentleman indeed.

I usually recommend a filmmaker work with at least two DIY options to give customers a choice and just to not have all one’s eggs in one proverb.

Rob explained why Dynamo serves its filmmakers well. He noted its “designed with presentation and high quality” and that the “filmmaker's brand is in front.” It’s not just about the Dynamo brand.

Dynamo can handle any of the popular video standards and offers viewers up to 1080HD quality, a clean crisp presentation and as many extras as one can pack in. Hence it’s a good alternative to DVD, but with the instant gratification of an online rental.

A filmmaker once remarked that the issue with DIY is the “TRUST FACTOR”:

People don’t trust too many places with their credit cards and feel safer with big companies that have built a solid reputation. Well at Dynamo, and some other DIY services, the payment method is secure. Rob Millis explains:

“The key is payment process and protecting information”. Dynamo does not handle any payment information directly. They rely only on PAYPAL and AMAZON. Dynamo does not receive any of that confidential information so as not to risk anything going wrong. They just confirm that one is approved rather than handling payment info.

What about GENRE?

What kind does Dynamo work with and which ones do well with the service:

Most of their success is with DOCUMENTARIES.

“They have the highest value and there are a lot of reasons for that,” noted Millis.

“Entertainment for its own sake is competitive and as soon as it’s online one is competing with mainstream studio product. DOCS have a hook for those interested in the subject matter and hence people are willing to pay for it”.

“Dramas are harder to sell. The marketing for them needs to be more powerful than that for docs. Docs are also EVERGREEN. Dramas die off as soon as the marketing stops and are very competitive. There are hundreds of love stories but only one or a couple docs or at most a few about any given specific topic”. Millis concluded “One can sustain sales for a doc”. However Dynamo still accepts all kinds of films.

In fact the first-ever film rented on Facebook was a Zombie film (“Stag Night of the Dead”) hosted by Dynamo that played on the page for $1.99 and then dropped to $0.99 as a special sale.

DYNAMO DIY RULES | DO’s & DON'TS:

“The most obvious rule is to be in touch with your audience, especially on Twitter & Facebook”. Millis elaborated that in a more vague sense it’s best to put oneself in a viewer's shoes. “Think of them as consumers… Recognize that people have a million options. Film needs to be well-presented and easy to consume, make it easy and possible for them to choose your film instead of all their other options”. I also note this to filmmakers about theatrical releases and suggest they remember how many choices people have for how to spend their time and money.

Millis exclaimed the “BIGGEST MISTAKE FILMMAKERS make is believing that their film is beautiful enough to compel people to watch it just because the trailer reflects that to some extent.” A poorly designed website will not do! "Think about it as a product that is being sold and that you are competing for really valuable time when your audience has a million other really good options available".

$$$ TALK:

Right now iTunes current releases are $6.99 RENTAL for 2 days New Releases for OLDER TITLES it goes down as low to $1.99 or $2.99. Millis thinks iTunes is pricing things correctly. The Dynamo mean average sale price for all sales is approximately $4.00, including shorts and music videos, that amount to approximately 1% of all sales are below $1.99.

Millis told an anecdote that taught the moral of not making content seem too cheap. There’s so much for free online and people judge what is priced like a discount bin, hence the $0.99 rule, which is, most of the time, $0.99 makes your film look cheap!

PRICE RANGES:

$9.99 seems at the top of what works and sells well. Dramas do well $1.99 - $4.99 (“they see a strong drop off on either side of that,” Millis noted). Documentaries can be priced higher – he sees solid sales all the way up to $9.99The best range is $2.99 - $6.99 for most films, except for big films or those with a serious marketing team behind them.

Of course it’s always hard to predict what will work or not. For long tail, mid tail, smaller filmmakers the difference between sales of $5.00 and sales of $10,000 in a month is based on the work done with the audience and a good looking player.

Great films with A-list talent sit idle all over the internet because nobody knows they exist, while independent titles that strike a chord with the audience can catch on fire overnight with just a little bit of communication and an appealing web page.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The timing varies, as one would expect because strategies and distribution needs vary. People sometimes do a first release with Dynamo and then stop to do theatrical and DVD and then start again, or others do it later on in the process and get on Dynamo only at the tail end of the sales.

A film that has been heavily pirated can still do good business because the film looks good this way and one can add compelling extra features. One can read about an example of this: UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US (see her Guest Post on Ted Hope's blog.

What’s the MOST $$$ made for any one DIY film on Dynamo Player?

This information is regarding Independents, DIY only:

$20,000 per film MAX if it’s an independent and with small marketing team. It won’t be bigger unless you have serious marketing experience. But Rob Millis encourages: “don't give up even if you have no traction in beginning, you just may have not hit critical mass yet”.

“I can tell you that sales typically taper off slowly for documentaries, continuing at a rate of perhaps 10-20% of the original month. If a doc did $10,000 in online rentals its first month, with some dedicated online promotion, then you might expect sales of $1,000-$2,000 per month several months later.

Dramatic features are a different animal, and you can expect major sales drops after promotion stops. A lot of residual interest depends on star power and search results, but dramas get stale faster.

Regarding dollar values, I can’t really give a solid estimate in any way that wouldn’t be misleading. No matter what number I give, every filmmaker then expects to reach that number. My biggest hesitation is attributing an estimate to Dynamo specifically, which always makes people really excited or really disappointed about Dynamo. In reality, it’s about the marketplace, and the online rental market can certainly support revenues of 7-figures for independent films. There really is no limit, practically speaking.

For instance, Louis C.K. just produced his own comedy special and did over a $1mm in sales using PayPal and direct downloads in about a week. He’s a well-known comedian, but this was a mid-budget shoot completely financed and marketed by Louis, totally independent. I certainly think his sales numbers would be at least as good if he had used Dynamo, but the success or failure would still lie mostly with his ability to convert the audience.

Beyond that we’re talking about differences of probably 10-50% between different platforms, depending on the customer experience.”

Dynamo is proud to note that its sales are growing overall, significantly. To find out more about Dynamo email info@dynamoplayer.com or visit DynamoPlayer.com to see an introductory video and sign up.

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

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8 Comments

  • New World Producer | December 29, 2011 5:49 PMReply

    Dynamo doesn't market itself as a true distribution outlet. Customers will be wary to use tools like this. When you have well marketed and trusted brands like Itunes, Amazon and Hulu. But, I think Dynamo player is a good tool. It's just beginning of revolution of distribution for filmmakers on Internet. But, filmmakers need to be wary about giving there baby to just anybody out there. Do your research about these tools.

  • Jon Reiss | December 29, 2011 4:06 PMReply

    Great post Orly - excellent info!

  • James | December 29, 2011 3:44 PMReply

    1. Nothing new in this article, documentaries are doing better? Didn't need Dynamo to figure that out.
    2. "Exciting" Nothing is really exciting about losing money, too much hype for the Internet, Dynamo, Distrify they all mean well, but let's be honest we indie filmmakers are in trouble, the Internet DIY whatever the hype is, it's just not the answer.
    3. Time and energy spent on DIY just not worth it, lesson #09090 connect with your audience, have a great website, how many times can we hear the same tune from the same people? Not a word on how much time and effort spent for that connection, time that will never be repaid. Great to have a discussion about your film, but that's all it is.
    4. If that's the best the Internet has to offer, if that's the so called "revolution" well to me it sounds like the Arab Spring, joyful moments and than reality hits hard.

  • Orly Ravid | December 30, 2011 2:55 PM

    James, if you are making films in the hopes of making significant profit and yet not having to exert yourself greatly and be able to rely only on others you are indeed in the wrong profession. The film business has never been and never will be easy and generate profits for most involved on the content creation side. Those who succeed in launching a career such that others pay handsomely for their time are the lucky few relative to the total who try. Those who hit the jackpot and actually profit after all expenses have been factored in are also few and far between. European filmmakers have had it easier in that they received government funds that did not need to get paid back (and that is shrinking for the obvious reasons). In this country, someone has to take the risk either with their time or their money or both and the risk does not always pay off for all involved but that depends on who you are in the process and what your goals are. DIY tools and support are the staple of most truly independent film now, and certainly even more so in times to come. Let us see how many films without name directors or cast get real distribution offers out of Sundance that are better than DIY.. only a few at best is my prediction. There is too much competition and too much supply for this business to be otherwise at this time.

  • @AudreyEwell | December 29, 2011 1:51 PMReply

    November, has that been your experience with a film? My film was very well marketed in the US by a PR company, we also had a theatrical run in a few countries, etc. I'm just genuinely wanting to know if these figures have been achieved by anyone. We put ours up after the DVD was out and it was already on the Sundance Channel etc (which meant it was also on youtube after the first airing), so I'm wondering if this is a windows issue, at least partly. Did you reach these figures on a film, and if so, when do you put it up? Thanks!

  • @AudreyEwell | December 29, 2011 11:51 AMReply

    Is anyone actually making 10K a month with Dynamo, or 1-2K after the first one? If so, you shouldn't use my film Until The Light Takes Us as an example as we're not doing anything like that! Sadly, very sadly. But whoever IS, please have them do a guest post. I'm clearly not doing it right. Although we've had it up on our site for what, over a year now? Maybe 15 months? If you do want to see how we've laid it out, it's blackmetalmovie.com. But I'd be more interested to see what the 10K doc has done!

    Also - I like Dynamo. I'm not saying this as a cut at all. But either these figures are high, or I'm doing it wrong. and I hope I'm doing it wrong, b/c 21K - 33K in a year off a player on your own page would be a really good thing.

  • Rob Millis | December 29, 2011 3:31 PM

    Hi Audrey. I love Until The Light Takes Us as an example of capturing sales long after formal release and piracy, but it wasn't meant to be compared with high sales from recent releases. Since the film was made available through Dynamo years after release it's different than something released online while wide promotion and festival screenings are still happening. I think you've done a great job of presenting all of the video extras (interviews, etc) on the blackmetalmovie.com site next to the feature film, and it's a great example of how to get residual sales from bonus content long after release. So, in short, I think you're doing it right.

    We do have independents reaching $10k in the first release and $20k over a longer period, but the big challenge for independents is sustaining fan awareness. A coordinated marketing effort that sends people to MyNewFilm.com for rentals needs to be part of the first release effort to get serious online sales. This means thinking about it ahead of time and making it part of the post-production planning, and also keeping up with fans through Facebook and Twitter over the long term.

    I often suggest that our filmmakers their stories publicly, but unfortunately the bigger the release, the more risk there is in sharing those numbers. I think a few of our filmmakers will be ready to write something with more detail in the future, but it will likely be long after they have finished all marketing and sales deals. Hopefully we'll be able to share more details soon.

    Thanks for using Dynamo!

  • @novemberfilms | December 29, 2011 1:26 PM

    You have to have a online following to get any decent return like @Stana_Katic "For Lovers Only" otherwise it's a nice player to use to have your film on your site. If you have a marketing team with a hook to promote the film when it's new you could make some steady numbers such as 4K-8k if your film's audience watches films online.

Hope on social

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