July 25th, 2010
Audience members from Seize the Power: A Marketing (DIY)stribution Symposium
Attending last month’s (DIY)stribution Symposium at the L.A. Film Festival was energizing and inspirational. Talks ranged from funding strategies, to digital fulfillment solutions, to the new trend in advocacy-driven distribution, given by Caitlin Boyle, founder of Film Sprout. Be sure to visit the Seize the Power website for a full list of speakers and topics.
After two days of so much innovation and revolution, my belief in the artist as entrepreneur was firmly implanted in my consciousness, but has there ever really been another option for artists? Some of us may bemoan the fact that traditional distribution methods are getting harder to come by, but I think the change is only for the better. A documentary filmmaker I recently met told me that a name distributor was selling her film to the academic market for a mere 80% of the profit! Finding your buyer and sending them a targeted email is not rocket science, people. Distributors may act like they’re doing you a favor by distributing your film and taking most of the profit, but thankfully I think that’s changing.
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July 25th, 2010
Most of the fimmakers I meet think the major difference between self-distribution and mainstream distribution is the person who does the work; otherwise, an independent can copy the mainstream model and, if they’re lucky, achieve equal success. The truth is that there are major differences, and if you don’t fully understand them, you stand to lose a lot of money.
Here’s why. The film industry (if such an entity still exists) makes money from movies in four ways: from theatrical release, broadcasting, licensing, and the home market. The least obvious of these is licensing. You don’t see it unless you look. Go to Amazon and you can usually buy a feature-length film for $20 or less–pretty cheap compared to my 30-minute film that sells to universities for $250 (the price of the DVD plus a public performance license which allows institutions to show it without risk of copyright infringement). In reality, most institutions pay much more for the Amazon feature, we just don’t see the transaction. If the film comes from a major studio, an umbrella license is usually required, and is purchased yearly to comply with copyright laws that protect the institution should a professor or other professional rent a film from Netflix and show it in class. (The average professor, of course, won’t even know a license is required—a fact spoken from experience. How many films have I rented and shown to classes without a second thought?)* Swank Films, a distributor of successful independents, sells rental licenses that give colleges and universities a ‘one night only’ right to screen an indie DVD to audiences for as much as $500. Read the rest of this entry »