It’s time for film makers to take action over distribution… it’s OUR problem, not theirs!

It’s no secret that the current distribution model is broken, but I believe that a whole new model is about to evolve. And I woke this morning in something of a frenzy, needing to brain dump my thoughts… so here they are…

Here are the distribution problems right now…

1.    The high impact life of your film is 14 days, max. Any buzz you create, any momentum you build, is now created on a global scale. Social media does not know boundaries – posters, trailers, interviews, articles – all go global in a moment, and ideally viral. I believe that you can only get REAL buzz for your project for a few weeks, something Morgan Spurlock discussed at NAB last week. After those two weeks, internet dies back considerably.

2.    It follows then that you need to get your movie out as quickly as possible, and in as many territories as you can, and finally on all devices (TV, web, phone etc.). Ideally this would happen on the same day too.

3.    If we create buzz and then fail to deliver an easy way for people to legally watch our films, we are simply begging people to rip and upload our films to share. I don’t believe these people think of themselves as pirates. This isn’t about money, it’s about us promising something amazing and then failing to deliver a way to watch the film legally and easily.

4.    No single platform, aside from iTunes, seems to work well as yet. And iTunes being Apple owned, is housed a ridiculous walled garden.

5.    Forget theatres, they are operating in a different century.

As a film maker, all this means that I will get very little back from current distribution methods and my film will get seen mostly via illegal downloads.

So the problem really comes down to an archaic distribution infrastructure run by largely backward thinking business people. Like all empires, this one will topple, and topple  very soon. I genuinely wonder what the Cannes Film Market will look like in five years as I can’t see how things can carry on as they are.

Three Structures we need in place
Here’s what needs to happen for your film, and my film, to have a better chance of success today…

1.    We need to release globally on the same day.

2.    We need to release on every platform available to us (phone, online, VOD, theatre etc) on that same day. People should be able watch your film in their chosen environment and on the platform or device that suits them.

3.    We need to remove as many barriers to purchase as possible (no staggered release, no geolocking, must be value for money, must be easy to purchase).

Without these three structures in place, the future is extremely challenging for filmmakers.

We need to own it
So, we as filmmakers need to own this problem. We need to own the destiny of our films and not just pass it on to third parties and cross our fingers. We need to find bold new collaborators who think like we do. The distributor of tomorrow is more likely a technology company with great marketing, transparent accounting and strong media partners than what we have today.

My Manifesto

  • Filmmakers and sales agents need to start to think truly globally.
  • Sales agents and distributors need to wake up to the fact that filmmakers are now powerful marketers in the life cycle of the film, not just the creators.
  • The audience is no longer just a passive consumer, through social media and transmedia the audience are active participants.
  • If the audience wants a film right now, because we have created demand – they will find it. You either supply it to them, in the way they want it, at a price point that they accept, or they will find it illegally.
  • Distributors need to start thinking collaboratively – they MUST embrace new technology, transparency and partnerships.
  • Theatre owners need to enter the digital age – movies should be uploaded and downloaded online, not transported on 35mm or hard drives as is the current and ridiculous state of affairs.
  • Theatre owners (especially independents) should open themselves up to deals where film makers can use tools like ‘Demand It!’ in order to build a small, local audience for a film – the filmmaker can then upload remotely – the theatre would screen their film, maybe for one day, or even just one screening, after the film maker having driven traffic there.
  • And while we are on it, let’s see large plasma screen that are hooked to the web replacing paper posters inside theatres. Really, why on earth is this not happening now?
  • Artwork should be centralized so that all distributors can share and benefit from each others hard work. Yes I know they will bitch about who pays for what, but we need to move past this and start to really collaborate.
  • Rewards MUST be shared honestly – what if a centralized third party, money-service held all cash, releasing it to parties in accordance with deals made between all parties? Before we all say, ‘that will never happen’, remember, PayPal stole the internet market from Visa and Mastercard (at least at the low end of the market). It is possible and there is money to be made with an online collection agency. This would also make investment easier due to confidence and transparency.
  • And it’s a global release on one day people, on ALL platforms. This is why we need sales agents and distributors with vision, who can work collaboratively. We the filmmaker cannot do this alone, it’s too much work and we don’t have the connections or relationships. We need reliable and honest partners.
  • Let’s ditch DVD and BluRay. Mastering and carrying stock makes no sense when we live in an online world. There is no stock to warehouse or ship when your film is delivered via non-physical digital files.
  • Can we make moves toward a genuine ‘universal master’? So we make ONE file, from which all other files and formats are derived? Maybe uncompressed 1920×1080 HD in 4:4:4 with six discrete audio channels? In order to future proof your movie, there may be a higher quality master that you create before making this Universal Master. But when your film hits sales and distribution, why is there not one single format we can all work toward?

Final thoughts… over the years, I have seen filmmakers struggle with film technology that was expensive and a genuinely high barrier to entry. MiniDV removed that barrier, and cameras like the 5D MkII and now the Black Magic camera have crystalised that entry point. Desktop editing, proliferation of knowledge on the web, books and training courses have brought tools, knowledge and experience to everyone. Social media has connected us all in a way that we can genuinely help each other and collaborate… We are now in the final furlong… and distribution is the final fence to jump. Make no mistake, distribution that genuinely works for filmmakers and investors is the highest, most challenging barrier to overcome… but it will happen.

I have said it many times, but it needs to be said again. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a filmmaker.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
My movies www.LivingSpiritGroup.com
My Facebook www.Facebook.com/ChrisJonesFilmmaker
My Twitter @LivingSpiritPix

Comments

  1. Simon Cox says:

    Excellent post Chris, its something we’ll have to face up to.

  2. Geoff Glendenning says:

    Great piece Chris.

    I’m not convinced about the global multi-platform release, but certainly a more strategic roll-out that can switch immediately to home ent, rather than wait 14 weeks is essential.

    Perhaps the VOD, rental and online retail can react quickly to this strategy, certainly the high street and supermarkets can’t, but the high street is dying, super markets are crippling the entertainments industry, and we are seeing the demise of physical stock.

    Most of all I agree with the marketing. Film makers need to own the marketing strategy from development onwards. Most of all don’t expect the distributor to do a great marketing job on anything that isn’t a blockbuster, as most of them only have the skills and resources to spend too much money on mass media in a very lazy and formulaic way. A good marketing strategy will encourage investors, help build a fanbase, media hooks, revenue streams, great assets, continuity, and a large part of this should be included in the production budget.

    Not the media spend to get ‘bums on seats’, that will remain with the distributor and be recouped before any money comes through. But productions need a marketing expert to represent them so they don’t get screwed at release.

    Thats the theory anyway.

    1. Chris says:

      Hi Geoff, a single date of release on all platforms is 100% do-able, its done every day in other industries – take the Olympics, no-one would accept watching the finals a week later just because their provider couldn’t get their act together. It’s do-able, we just need to make it happen by being really unreasonable.

      1. Geoff Glendenning says:

        I agree that the ideal future of film will be so, but indie films end up with a distribution model that does not allow for this sort of global release. How many Indie films will get a global distribution deal!? and if they do it would be with one of the big guys who will only know how to release it in the only way they know: huge P&A and if it doesn’t work on the first weekend they’ll bury it.

        I too love a physical product, but this is sadly dying as technology, costs and a generation who have grown up downlaoding slowly take over and dictate the future.

        This is such a huge subject that I could not possibly put down a full argument or considerations for how the future will be, I just know that marketing is the key and owning the success of your movie through this, combined with the right distribution model is the only way to maximise it.

        The only way to truly maximise your films success in the future is self-distribution via digital, but maybe that will happen in the next ten years.

  3. Jim McQuaid says:

    Am I the only person left who likes to have a DVD (or bluray) sitting on the shelf so I can look at a piece of it anytime I am moved to do so? I just don’t want to live in a world in which I own nothing unless I am attached to the internet.

    1. Chris says:

      You are not the only person Jim, but don’t judge the world from the cinephile perspective. Most people don’t want to keep our films, they just want to watch them once. There is so much choice now. More importantly, DVD locks up capital in stock, plus there is shipping. In contrast, digital has no shipping or warehousing costs (or very small). I loved and I mean LOVED 12″ LP’s. Then I loved my CD collection. Then I loved my ipod. I now have Spotify. Film is no different.

      1. alua says:

        I don’t want to physically own a film, because I move countries every 2-5 years. The less I physically own, the better. But I do want to rewatch films, so I want them digitally on my computer.

        My other issue with physical DVDs is region-encoding. I purchased several DVDs while I lived in a region-1 country, now I live in a region-2 country and am likely to move to a region-3 country next. I cannot watch some of the DVS I LEGALLY PURCHASED because of this ridiculous region encoding and computers only allowing limited switches between regions (5!). A multi-region DVD player is not an option (no TV, and setting up with the computer seems near-impossible. Never mind that it’s another physical item I don’t want to lug around.)

        I very much agree on the point that the whole industry has be globalised – both in terms of the physical products (encoding should be region 0/ALL!), release of the products and any digitised formats. I don’t think legal options for downloading are much available at all at this point, even iTunes is very restricted – check the US iTunes store versus the UK one, the Japanese one, or any other one and you’ll see that in some no movies are available at all.

      2. @AudreyEwell says:

        The key to DVD and moreso Blu is to make limited edition deluxe packages for the collectors. There will always be collectors, always people who want the vinyl, want the blu-ray, want the art in the best quality possible. Don’t exclude them from the pool of people who should be able to have the film on any platform they want. My boyfriend and I track blu-ray releases, we know what’s coming out months in advance, and we wait for Criterion sales to snap up films we don’t already know we love, during slow release cycles. Trust is certainly a factor there, but for cinephiles, there will always be a collector mentality. As long as it’s quality over quantity, the numbers work fine. My last film, Until The Light Takes Us, is in profit on all physical releases in all countries where we did them.

        As far as global day and date, my god, show me the sales agent who can do that. This doesn’t take into account pre-sales either. They don’t much care when your other distributors may show the film. In fact they often demand an exclusive window for their territory. The only way to coordinate global distro by date would be to self-distribute or do hybrid with a service. I don’t know of any international hybrid distributors. I’m fairly confident in saying they don’t exist.

        But I’m all for filmmakers working together, and you only need to look as far as AFFRM to see a filmmaker-distributor who’s on the ball, working to get other filmmakers’ work out there. But self/indie/hybrid distribution is a ton of work. Some of us can handle that, some of us can’t. It will definitely cut into the time you have to make other films.

        This is always a good conversation, but the strokes are a little broad. It’s true that it’s an a la carte world – but that holds true for the producers as well as the consumers. One size will not fit all. Luckily, we’ll always have intrepid filmmakers bucking the trend, finding their own ways, and driving us forward.

        And a wholehearted yes to building your brand, growing your audience, and marketing like a she-devil (or he-devil) as an integral part of the process from the word go.

  4. David Branin says:

    Chris, you are dead on the money here. Most filmmakers still cannot see it. We cannot tell them, we have to show them. We are planning to give it our best shot when we release our film ‘Goodbye Promise’ in June.

    1. Chris says:

      Thanks David. Your show continues to break boundaries and records, great stuff!

  5. What a great read.
    Found this article informative, descriptive and most of all inspiring.
    I woke up to my industry after this. How true so many of the points were.
    I’m gonna put this into practise immediately.

    Thanks Chris, just what we needed

    Darren

  6. This is inspiring and a good vision of what could happen. There are a couple of hurdles I’d like to point out:
    * Economic Disincentive for Theater Owners: the problem with day/date releasing is that it removes a good number of reasons for going into a theater and buying an overpriced ticket and popcorn. Now just to play devil’s advocate for a second, theater venues have already been hit with economic hard times (lower attendance), getting their arms twisted by distributors, and the film-to-digital conversion. Why would they want to jump aboard this? Convincing theater owners (particularly indies and mini-chains) that siding with indie producers who can dribble out a small stream of niche films is going to take some doing.
    * When Does It F*#king Stop? In the course of making my latest film, I’ve taken on the role of writer, director, exec producer, producer, AD, production designer, epk shooter/editor, post supervisor, Social media publicist, and I drove the cargo van. Part of me is really DONE with this and wants to move onto the next script. So I don’t necessarily have the perspective to be the best envoy for the film. Isn’t that why distributors exist in the first place?
    * The Rest of the World. We live in a tech bubble in the US. Believe it or not, there are big patches of the world where the only “cloud” is the one in the sky. DVDs and other media are essential if you want to reach a truly global audience.

    The answer to all these problems is to form a United Artists for the 21st century – where creative producers and directors lean on each other for support, and leverage the numbers to make better distribution deals, and work with foreign agents/distribs. to supply them with content that makes them want to upgrade their tech. This collaborative effort is already happening but it needs to go national and international.

    1. Peter Cannon says:

      I agree Arthur a collaborative effort world wide from independent artists needs to be made. An Indy cinema chain would be nice.

    2. I’ve seen other suggestions for a “United Artists” type of arrangement. Perhaps if we partner up with other filmmakers geographically or by film genre we can increase our influence and reach? The Internet makes this very viable. Unfortunately, many of us are creative types – not the best marketers. We’d need what Jon, Sheri, et al, call a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) on the team.

  7. Very nice, thanks for sharing.

  8. We make underwater adventure docs. Previous releases with PBS, Discovery, NOVA, NatGeo. The money is no longer there for us – the broadcast/cable offers are insulting, and tie up all rights. We know our niche audience and how to reach them. Experimenting right now with an instructional scuba video on Distrify. The audience is buying downloads or streaming 10 to 1 over DVDs. We still need DVDs for some customers, but this is an eye opener! Admittedly, our next release is more mainstream, than niche, but this hybrid distribution model can be tweaked and as filmmakers we must master distribution – or suck it up to the “man.”

  9. Chris says:

    Hi Robert, I am going to do a follow up blog post that addresses some of these issues – there are some real easy things I think we can start doing too. Very exciting.

  10. Chris says:

    Hi Geoff, I dont agree about indies NOT getting global release. We need to rethink EVERYTHING.

    There is no tech reason why we could not release on all platforms on one day. If I am repsonsible for global PR, it’s then up to me to make it happen. New model distributors will have near zero overhead. They could release a thousand films a week, and the ones that work bets, that have the best hook, the best story, the most buzz will rise to the top.

    CJ

  11. Mark says:

    Don’t blame theatre owners for some of this…. we are doing our best! A lot of money is being spent on digital conversion and in the very, very near future we will download our films by satellite. But this is all recent, the technology has only just reached a good enough standard with Sony 4K digital projectors. And again, it is VERY expensive and time consuming.

    You are quite arrogant with your dismissals of the hard drive delivery technique and dvd’s and paper posters. Again, this will all cost a helluva lot of money to do. Would YOU like to pay for it? Plasma’s are very typical in lots of cinemas, including the chain I work for. We are also working towards replacing posters and have already started installing massive canvas lightboxes. Typical western arrogance – you definitely can’t do all of this in developing countries, Arthur Vincie is right.

    And as for a mutli-platform release…. just because it works for other industries does not mean it will work for films. I honestly believe the best way to watch a film is on the big screen, not on a tiny computer screen or your common household television (no matter how big it is). I can understand moving release of dvd’s and on other platforms closer to the big screen release but all on the same day? No. That would be the end of the cinema as we know it.

    1. Chris says:

      Hi Mark, so your points.

      First off, 2K is totally fine for 99.9% of people. I am a movie lover so yes, maybe I could see the difference, most can’t. So let;s not invest in 4k, let’s spend that monye more wisely?

      I am sorry you think that what you are doing is costly and time consuming, so is making a film. Seems like we both have extraordinary challenges. Its a shame we don’t help each other right? The reason we don’t is that there is someone between us – the distributor.

      DVD’s are a terrible investment for indie films, locking up money in stock. As for hard drives, the system seeks to keep lower budget films out be presenting solutions like a DCP – effectivley a locked JPEG 2000 file – I can create one of those files on my desktop right now. Why can’t I send it to you right now and you project it? That would be the middle man again. You and I are stopped from doing profitable business.

      As for Plasma screens, on a low budget feature I could easily spend £2k on printing posters, more on shipping. If every film maker invested in a screen in a cinema, instead of printing posters, we could have it done in a month. Heck, offer me a split of advertising and you will even make me money. We NEED to think beyond the way things are right now.

      As for a cinema being the best place to see a movie, I agree. I love to see movies in a cinema. It;s just lots of other people don’t care. If we force people to see a film the way we thing they should (because we know whats good for them), they will download illegally and watch it the way they want to watch it.

      I am on YOUR side, I want to make this work. I want to keep theatres alive and profitable, but its time to look forward and not backward.

      1. Toby Leonard says:

        Hmmm…So, which is it? “Forget theaters” or “I am on YOUR side”?

        “Theatre owners (especially independents) should open themselves up to deals where film makers can use tools like ‘Demand It!’ in order to build a small, local audience for a film – the filmmaker can then upload remotely – the theatre would screen their film, maybe for one day, or even just one screening, after the film maker having driven traffic there.”

        You seem to presume that theaters aren’t able to drive their own traffic. This is where independent theaters excel, many of which have long-since established inroads and a level of trust within their community and consequently have direct contact with key local press and far more followers on FB/Twitter than the average digitally distributed independent release.

        Other than that, good points.

        1. Chris says:

          You are missing my point Toby. I agree local theatres do make good inroads, but if I do my job well, I can deliver 100 people in any given city direct to a single, specific screening. I am in direct contact with my global tribe / audience and I know them better than the theatre owners. It’s about collaborating. We can’t compete with big advertising spends, but we can build an audience and that audience is more likely to go on a cold and wet Tuesday night in February that the one the thetare can drive there through traditional methods, even with a curated ‘art-house’ approach to audiences.

    2. alua says:

      I enjoy watching films on the big screen (and I go to the cinema a LOT), but I don’t think it’s the “best way” of seeing films. It’s one way (and a wonderful one at that).

      BUT I enjoy just as much watching a film while sitting cuddled up in my bed on a rainy day on a lazy Friday night in. And sometimes I just want that.

      Plus, I think by taking an exclusive stand like that you are excluding some people – people who cannot go to the cinema, e.g. old or ill people or perhaps even parents who can’t make time/find sitters for their children (etc.). Maybe they are not the audience you are thinking of, but they too should be catered for and should be able to see any film that they wish.

      Or people who live in more rural areas and cinemas that (understandably) can only screen the more popular films. There should be options for them to watch some small indie or a foreign release, and not months (years sometimes!) after the original release.

      I can see that multi-format release on the same day (cinema and other formats) will be tough on cinemas, but I don’t think it has to mean the end of cinemas outright. Just that cinemas have to reinvent themselves. Not sure how (sorry!) but there are things you can only get in cinemas. Big screen. Live Q&A’s (love those!) or just the sheer fun of going to a film festival and attending several screenings over several days.

      1. Chris says:

        I agree Alua, the bottom line is that every human is unique and we should cater for how THEY want to watch a film, not dictate how WE know what is best. Life is short, we have too much choice, and unless you have real power like Lady Gaga, George Lucas or Stephen King. And even the mighty really need to rethink their strategy too.

  12. Andreas says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for a very well written post! As the founder of fairpie.com, a self-distribution service specifically aimed at independent documentary filmmakers your points are particularly inspiriring.

    We have worked hard to pinpoint how to optimise indpendent online distribution of independent niche content so that the filmmakers can start to make some money and efficiently cultivate a core fanbase they have an ongoing relationship with.

    The key points we arrived at are very similar to yours and as we’re approaching our Alpha trials it feels great to see that we’re not alone in thinking this way.
    We believe that in order to create a more fair and level playing field the problem has to be tackled on three fronts.

    – The first is to make as easy to create an online microsite for your film as it is to set up a youtube page. Filmmakers aren’t web developers so why should they have to build and maintain a website, that let’s be honest, only a fraction of their potential audience will ever find.

    – The second is to make it as easy to browse and pay for content as it is to buy a dvd online. And here we’re actually going one step further, showing the customer exactly how much of what they’re paying ends up with the filmmakers. We’ve also worked hard to make it easy and intutive to share content you like with your friends and on social networks

    – The third is to amass and aggregate independent documentaries in one place. Just as you would go to the farmer’s market for fresh organic produce, you will be able to finally know where to find amazing independent documentaries. We all know “everything is available on the internet”, but some people say that it’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. That holds up as long as you know which needle you’re looking for, but I would argue that finding good independent documentaries that you don’t even know exists is more like accidently stepping on a needle when running barefoot on a sun-splashed meadow chasing a butterfly. In short, it really doesn’t happen.

    We’re obviously keeping our ear to the ground so that we ensure that we’re developing tools and features the filmmaking community is actually looking for, so I would hereby like to invite all filmmakers and documentary lovers to our site and I promise that we will take on board all suggestions and criticism you might have. We’re building fairpie fo you guys, so if we’ve got it wrong, please let us know!

    Best,
    Andreas Pousette
    founder, fairpie.com

    1. Chris says:

      Thanks for commenting pal, any way I can help, let me know. We are doing a big doc event soon too http://www.documentarysummit.com/
      CJ

      1. Andreas says:

        I really appreciate that Chris! I can think of a few ways already 🙂

        I’ll be in touch!

        Andreas

  13. James says:

    The issue is not speed or “getting it out there”. The issue is that film makers are trying to make a movie with no name actors, few production values and small budgets, then trying to compete in the market with Transformers. People don’t watch Transformers because it’s a better movie, it’s just a safer bet then some Joe Smith who made a £100 horror round his nans house, UNLESS you get mass media coverage like COLIN. But how often does that happen? The issue isn’t pentration it’s trust, do I TRUST this guy with my £7 or whatever it cost to download. The answer is actually easier than you suggest….community. Build a community around your brand, a website with free webisodes or free movies, pictures, let people know you exist and can be trusted first of all. THEN start asking for money, demanding the same £7 as Transformers when nobody is a star, nobody has heard of you and nobody has seen ANYTHING you have made is the problem. It’s a trust issue. Studio movies or movies made by established directors have the element of trust. Like it or not that UNIVERSAL or PARAMOUNT logo on the poster goes along way to securing a purchase. You need to build some trust up in your brand otherwise you’re dead in the water. Problem is film makers are still stuck in the 4 year cycle of pre/prod/post festival distributor, then rinse and repeat. It’s flawed, you need to be putting 3 films a year out there at least in the digital domain to gain traction. Look at Youtube, why do the top earners get so many hits? Prolific output, sure you don’t buy Youtube but people click away pretty fast when something bores them. The key is simple, think like a studio not like a film maker, set up streamlined systems, writing, shooting, editing constantly rotating, outputting, shooting releasing. The “one movie every 5 years” model is the only thing screwing you. Imagine if Universal made one movie every 5 years…….hmmm

    1. Jason says:

      You’re right on the money James.

      Filmmakers need to create lots of product to create a sustainable career and a library of work.

      However all aspects of movie-making is time-consuming.

      And when you’re the last person working on the project (always happens) it can be agonizingly slow.

      You better be sure you want to make said-movie, because it will stick with you for awhile.

      So how do we speed up the film-making process?

    2. Dom says:

      I think you nailed it, James.

      Of course you’re also describing exactly what distribution should be all about. Good advertising. Whether its a big Hollywood event movie or the release of, say, “Lock Stock…”, it’s all about building trust.

      Same goes for crowd funding campaigns and anything else. Trust comes first.

      What concerns me about the idea of filmmakers “owning” the distribution mechanism, as Chris seems to suggest, is that there are a lot of talented filmmakers who make lousy marketeers. So to suggest “We need to own the destiny of our films and not just pass it on to third parties and cross our fingers” is, for many, going to be a recipe for absolute disaster.

      There’s a third way out there that neither I nor Chris nor anyone else has yet found that is THE way and anyone out there who claims different is either naive or just blowing their own trumpet.

      Until then, we need to be careful we don’t become the blind leading the blind. The question is, how?

  14. Peter Cannon says:

    In Australia and NZ indy filmmakers are looking at trying a new concept to get films out and seen, with earning potential attached. We’re starting small and building and with proper collaboration from around the world we could all help each other. One of our concepts is to create a traveling film festival which will travel a circuit over a 12 month period of all major centers in Australia and NZ. The films chosen to show, earn a share of the sales. Each festival has a small grouping of awards, allowing a film to gain some credibility from judges and audiences.

    Each move to a new center means that the low performing films drop off and new films are introduced thereby always having fresh content coming through. This festival involves short films as well as features so new film makers can gain a reputation beginning with short films if that’s what they’d like to do. In our first year the festival will play for one week in each center.

    We have sponsors interested in covering cinema hire costs and advertising costs. We are able to offer naming rights as part of sponsorship deals. Our intention is to invite film buyers to our festivals in the hope of securing sales for as many films as possible.

    Whilst as an individual concept this is not large, if there were similar festivals like this in other countries we would have the ability to take foreign films into our festivals and to send ours to other markets, thereby collaborating to help each other as independent artists.

    This is just one of a number of things that we as independents are doing to help each other out and get some form of distribution happening.

  15. Daniel P.B. says:

    I still find something magical about 35mm film projection. But I do agree that for independent filmmakers, digital really is the only reasonable choice.

    I think the only real way to break into the indie film world is simple: Make a good movie. Not a commercial, predictable movie. A freaking good, original, great movie. The reason Gareth Edwards is directing “Godzilla” isn’t because “Monsters” was a commercial movie, its because “Monsters” was a GREAT movie.

  16. Mark Morris says:

    I hear what you’re saying Chris But I would hate to see blockbuster films on a computer. I know many do but for me it really ruins it. Personally I think more needs to be done to get people back in cinemas and I believe a lot of it is down to a lack of original inventive great works. Remember the 70’s and 80’s and the steven spielberg summer hits. Or the latest star wars saga? So where are the new great directors. Where are the great actors?

    Some of them have had kids and those kids become the new stars Its become inbred New talent no longer have access to the big films. Many hollywood stars are british but speak with American accents. Where is the new sean connery Tony curtis marlon brando dustin hoffman clint eastwood sylvestor stallone richard burton michael caine the list is endless. or the great new directors like kubrick Coppol scorsese Hitchcock etc.

    Today access to the top is denied to many people. Especially those without connections As you often say building contacts is the way to get in and social climbing knowing the right people So where is the talent for film making there? The talent is how good you are at socialising not film making neccesarily

  17. Hi Chris, great post.

    We’re launching our independent documentary, Twittamentary in a month or so.

    As a first time indie movie producer, but with a 17 year background in the web and mobile miltimedia, I’ve been shocked to discover how broken the indie movie business is. I find it amazing that most movie makers do well just to break even and recover costs in the traditional ecosytem. I attended the digital movie sessions at SxSW and one presenter simply laughed and moved on when he got to the “how to make a profitable indie flick” slide. Consensus opinion seems to be that doing so is like winning the lottery. Having recently done a few festivals and engaged in traditional distribution-rights negotiations it’s easy to see what’s broken.

    Meanwhile, with the internet and low priced equipment, the barriers to creating movies are tumbling down. In addition, the web and social media, blogs etc mean that the audience for even the most niche of indie movies is becoming ever more easily identifiable and accessible.

    The bottleneck is the traditional distribution model which will clearly go through seismic changes in the next 5-10 years. This should be a very good thing for everyone in the industry (probably with the exception of traditional sales agents & distributors).

    Given the nature of our movie (about how social media effects the lives of everyday people) we’ve tried to align with this newly emerging movie ecosystem wherever we can, from conceptualisation through to post production. For example, to get to the final cut we did 14 rough-cut “tweetup” screenings to audiences of 50 plus people through last year. The movie was updated after each of these screenings based on audience feedeback on twitter as they watched.

    Now, for distribution, we will use Distrify which for me is a very exciting platform & tool. It gives us the opportunity to use blogs and social media as an affiliate programme, and the flexibility to experiment and adapt as we go. Platforms like Distrify will help solve the discovery problem for small indie movies like ours and I’ll be happy to share how it plays out.

    To the points above about the demise of movie theaters – the traditional ecosystem is still relevant for big multi-million dollar, mass market (lowest common denominator) movies and will be for a while. It’s not a zero sum game. It’s about the ecosystem evolving to become better by enabling wonderful stories to be told to anyone, anywhere who has an interest in participating in the telling of the them.

  18. Mark Morris says:

    St John Deakins

    Isn’t the tradiditional model still going strong? Years ago you had just the BBC ITV and the cinemas as outlets. Those outlets are more relevent than ever but its just who now gets to play in their arena?

    Cinema chains in this country are mostly american owned and that also has its complications. Their are a few chosen production companies in favour

    An indie film from someone who can get past the gatekeepers of those institutions is now much more difficult. However with the web which is by nature free is a NEW choice that every indie film maker is being sidelined into. Web users are I think far more interested in watching a one minute attention grabber than a full film that might or might not be any good whereas on the TV you know it has to be of a certain standard.

    I think film media has been divided up into what is equivilent to the poor and rich. The BBC takes a HUGE slice of money from us to make films the way they decide with little accountability as to how or why stuff is chosen. They have to close the shutters ever tighter with easy access now to equipment. Before they may have had to deal with a hundred films a year Now well its to much they are inundated So many dont get watched Many dont get pushed forward and the whole thing is closed to new blood.

    So now Just like the crippled cameras the game is split between us and them. Good luck to those who want to make something of the internet Personally I think the big boys WILL be one step ahead.

    My advice is to try and find a way to at least give people a chance to break into the still professional arena and a way to sort out the good stuff from the bad.

    Maybe some sort of show like X Factor but for film makers would be the answer

  19. Andy Lewis says:

    The ideal would be a fully available, popular, independent VOD system, returning a generous 90% to the producers. All the technology is available, it just needs connecting up. So instead of expensive masterclasses and workshops, all this pain and suffering. Let’s set up a British marketing and distribution system and dump the old and creaky existing organisations. They are not helping indie films the way they might. (iTunes is not old and creaky)
    Andy

  20. scout says:

    Same date releasing requires new prints and means that marketing spend must be committed internationally before the studio knows how the film has played in the USA. It also reduces the time that the distributors have for sorting out dubbing, classification and other issues in each territory and makes it less likely that the actors will be available to promote it in as many markets. In practice, decisions on release pattern will continue to be taken on a film by film basis, with release dates generally moving closer to the initial US release. …

  21. Hanna says:

    Well, there actually still is plenty of money in DVDs, because not everyone lives in a place where they have connectivity to stream movies – this is why Red Boxes (DVD rental kiosks) are so prevalent in the US. Otherwise, you make many good points, thank you.

  22. Chris says:

    Hanna, I agree with you about DVD, I wrote this in a ranting brain dump. But DVD is on the our for sure. It may not go forever like VHS as I think DVD will be the last physical medium to dominate. My mum is not going to switch anytime soon for instance. Can you tell us in the UK more about the RED DVD distribution system? We dont have it

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