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March 14 at 8:29am

Training Our Producers For Failure

Let’s try this experiment: 

  1. Gather 5 producers:
  2. Ask them if they can do a budget and schedule for your film;
  3. Ask them what that means;
  4. When they tell you it will be a budget and schedule for the production and post of a film, tell them you are looking for a producer who can do one that will take the movie all the way through release;
  5. Want to bet that no a single one of them will know how to do that? [...]


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December 29 at 8:30am

The Letter ‘D’: Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player

By Orly Ravid

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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December 7 at 8:30am

Sundance and Topspin Bring D2F to Indie Film

By Bob Moczydlowsky

The following post was originally published on TopSpinMedia.com.

 

Sure has been a lot of talk about movies around here lately, huh? ;)

This morning, the Sundance Institute announced an expansion of their incredibly forward-thinking Sundance Artist Services program, and we at Topspin are honored to be included alongside distribution outlets iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, New Video, Netflix and Sundance Now as the provider of Direct-To-Fan Marketing and Distribution tools. We’re humbled to have our first major expansion outside of music to be with such a storied and benevolent institution, and we’re quite literally stoked to start helping Sundance filmmakers connect with fans and create new channels for their amazing work.

This quote from Robert Redford really says it all:

“When I founded the Institute in 1981, it was at a time when a few studios ran the industry and an artist’s biggest concern was whether their film would get made,” Redford said. “Technology has lessened that burden, but the big challenge today is how audiences can see these films. The Artist Services program is a direct response to that need. We’re not in the distribution business; we’re in the business of helping independent voices be heard.”

If you’d like to read the official press release, you can DOWNLOAD HERE.

In addition to the expansion of the Artist Services program today, Sundance also launched an online alumni community containing blog posts and essays from some of the brightest and bravest minds in indie film, like Tim League and Ted Hope. The goal is to provide a place where Sundance artists can share data and advice, and interact with distributors, technology partners and each other. Somehow, I managed to sneak my two cents in there, too. Below is a reprint of my “Direct-To-Fan Keynote” that appears inside the Sundance Artist Services site.

My hope is that all filmmakers find it useful. Please share it liberally.

You can it download it as a VIDEO or as a PDF.

Hello. My name is Bob.

I’m here to talk about Direct-to-Fan Marketing (D2F) and Distribution. I work at a software company called Topspin. We’re honored to be a part of Sundance Artist Services.

Topspin makes software used by 
Kevin Smith, David Lynch, Ed Burns, Trent Reznor, Arcade Fire and thousands of other artists to sell downloads, merchandise, tickets and memberships directly to fans. Our company mission is to create an artistic middle class, and we’re doing it by building a self-serve application you can use to market and distribute your work yourself.

You may think I mean self-release. Or DIY Distro. Or “creative” distribution. But those are not the same as Direct-to-Fan. What I’m talking about is a distribution and marketing strategy that should be a part of every filmmaker’s career. I’m talking about making sure you are directly connected to your core audience. I’m talking about selling premium products to super fans. And I’m hoping to persuade you to treat your audience like your most important asset. It is time to invest in your fans.

Here’s the problem I see: Filmmakers have been taught to be wholesalers, not retailers. Filmmakers make films — so the teaching goes — and then it is the job of distributors to market and distribute films.

There is actually a stigma attached to doing it oneself, as if every direct release was a sign not of true independence and autonomy but instead an indicator of the film’s quality or filmmaker’s professionalism. “Did you hear about XX film? They couldn’t get distribution. They have to self-release.” Sounds familiar, right? The goal is to make films and sell them to distributors. That’s the model.

That shit is broken. Permanently. I mean it. Yes, the “traditional model” still exists as a best-case outcome for a few films. But most likely not for your film. Sorry. Just being honest. It’s time to stop calling the best-case, long-shot, home-run option “the model”. Let’s get realistic about what’s happening:

Everyday, the odds of the traditional indie model working for your film get longer and longer. Even at Sundance, upwards of 80 percent of the films fail to find traditional distribution deals. A ton of interesting and excellent films don’t reach audiences and fail to grow the careers of the artists who made them. That’s sad. And yet, more and more excellent films get made everyday. Because technology makes production easy.

And the Web makes distribution easy, too. My phone will shoot video and upload to YouTube. Production and distribution is in your pocket! But here’s where the trouble starts: Free content, empowered fans and unlimited choice make marketing very, very hard. Fans can watch and share all day, effortlessly. But competing for their attention is really tough. Fans who want to watch a movie used to choose from the 10 films at the theatre on Friday night. Now they choose from the entire historical catalog of filmmaking on their laptops, phones, set-top boxes or VOD services. Or they skip the film altogether and play Words With Friends online. Think about your own habits. Getting fans to pay attention is harder than it has ever been.

“So, how will anyone see my work?” you ask. It’s simple, actually. You need to grow a database of fans, and market to them. Here’s how you do it:

First, make amazing films. I don’t mean pretty-good films, or better-than-average films… I mean INCREDIBLE films. Invest in quality, and invest in new. New sells. But also please make sure to budget appropriately, based on the size of your audience. Don’t have an audience? Then keep the budget LOW.

Second, give away free downloads in exchange for connection via email, Facebook and Twitter. This might mean a soundtrack, or the opening scene of the film, or some killer making-of footage. The point is to get fans excited, connected and sharing. You can’t make dollars until you have fans, and giving away incredible content is the best way to attract new fans.

Third, offer premium products fans actually want to buy, and sell these premium products at a mix of price points FIRST. Many of the folks who will end up with the $2.99 rental on iTunes would be even happier with a great-looking shirt, HD download, photo book and a Skype-call-with-the-lead-actress for $75. Don’t miss the opportunity to convert your core demand into a high-revenue product. Get creative with your products and your prices. You’ll earn more money and create happy fans who spread the word online.

Now, once you’ve grown your database and you can monetize your core fans, it’s time to look around for distribution partners. If you can prove there is demand for your art, you will have traditional distribution opportunities. But long-term success requires reversing the common logic:

Direct-to-Fan is NOT the last resort. Direct-to-Fan is the foundation of your career. Think about this way: Imagine your career is a ladder.

Each rung represents more audience paying attention to your work. Which rung are you on? For the sake of example, let’s say the ladder has 100 rungs. On rung 100 is Steven Spielberg, smiling down from the top. At rung zero is every first-time filmmaker just trying to get a project made. At rung 25 is someone like Miranda July (one of my personal favorites) and at rung 75, someone like Kevin Smith, who has a rabid fan base and relative autonomy.

Everyone starts at the bottom. From rung zero to 25, Direct-to-Fan will likely be 100 percent of your income. You won’t have traditional distribution offers, so you’ll do it all yourself. If you do it well, your audience will grow and you’ll move up the ladder. Once you start climbing, you become much more attractive to potential partners.

In the middle, you’ll mix it up. From rung 25 to 75, the mix of Direct-to-Fan income and other distribution deals will vary depending on the project.

You’ll have to license rights to move much past 25, but you’ll do it in a way that allows you to retain your control of your core audience and monetize them via premium products you control.

At the top, you’re really in control. If you make it to rung 75 or higher, Direct-to-Fan will start trending back toward a larger percentage of your revenues.

You’ll have a dedicated, connected following, and you’ll want as much creative control over your fan experience as possible. Read Kevin Smith’s Red Statements for a perfect example of this return to Direct-to-Fan in action. Sure, he’s done deals, too… but on his terms and with his audience as the top priority. In music, we’re seeing well-run D2F campaigns with top-tier artists earn 15 to 35 percent of gross revenues — and the lion’s share of the profits. There is no reason those numbers can’t be replicated in film. And during this year.

And there are many more practical examples out there, too. The film Broke* is giving away its soundtrack to grow its database. NYC filmmaker and musician Cory McAbee opted to take his serialized film Stingray Sam out exclusively via Direct-to-Fan, and he gets you hooked on the first two episodes before asking for your money.

Ed Burns has killer posters and t-shirts bundled with downloads of his new film Newlyweds, and William Morris and Barry Ptolemy have created a killer Direct-to-Fan experience for the Ray Kurzweil doc Transcendent Man.

 

With a database of fans, you can raise money on Kickstarter, sell premium products and ticket your own event screenings with a director Q&A. Like Kevin Smith is doing RIGHT NOW, TODAY. But most importantly… you’ll be able to RETURN to the same group of core fans for all of your future products. Build an audience. Build a brand. Always compare the money you’re offered to the value of your fan database down the line.

You may find that you’re better off keeping your film under your control than doing that no-advance, all-rights distro deal. Especially if we’re talking about short films!

Now, I know I’m getting long-winded, so I’ll wrap it up.

Here’s the summary: It’s time to make Direct-to-Fan Marketing the foundation of your career. It’s time to assume your films will be marketed by you, not acquired in a Sundance bidding war. It’s time to start building a database of core fans that you own and nurture throughout your career.

Stop calling it Self-Release. Stop calling it DIY Distribution. It’s called Direct-to-Fan Marketing, and it works for filmmakers at every rung on the ladder.

Direct-to-Fan Marketing is:

- Growing your email, Facebook and Twitter database by giving away free downloads and encouraging sharing

- Maintaining a great website that sells merch, downloads, memberships and tickets directly

- Owning your fan marketing data, and using it to raise money and promote your work throughout your career

Good Direct-to-Fan Marketing will make you more attractive to distributors. But you may find yourself telling them “No, thanks.” Your audience is your biggest asset. If you sell it, make sure you get full price.

Questions? I’m accessible. Let’s chat.

Thumbs up for rock ‘n’ roll,

-bob

@bobmoz

VP, Product & Marketing

Bob Moczydlowsky has been kind enough to offer HOPE FOR FILM readers his service for free:

The code HOPEFORFILM entitles you to three free months of Topspin Plus, the most powerful direct-to-fan platform on the planet.

Topspin empowers you to:

- Promote your film across websites, social networks and mobile devices

- Connect with fans and offer free downloads for emails, Likes & Tweets

- Customize your store & sell digital media, physical items, tickets and more

To redeem your free account, go to topspinmedia.com and submit your email. Follow the instructions in the email to create your account, and then click “Upgrade” in your account header. Scroll down and enter this code: HOPEFORFILM


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April 18 at 8:30am

Guest Post: Audrey Ewell “Until The Light Takes Us case study: DIY and DIWO International Release”

What do you do? You have no money but KNOW your film has an audience. Even sometimes with great content, the world conspires and leaves us all alone, just meat for the vipers. Often, a good movie is not enough to make it in this world. Faced with surrender or the long hard road, it’s then that the real filmmakers, the ones passionate about their babies, are willing to sharpen their claws and dig in.

Audrey Ewell first guest posted with the now legendary “Younger Audiences & Creators Tell Old Fogies To Shut The F Up!”. She has continued to be a generous contributor, sharing her knowledge and experience in both making and distributing her work. Today’s guest post is a case study in DIY/DIWO distro. Read on!

Until The Light Takes Us, a documentary about black metal (a violent music scene from Norway) premiered at the ’08 AFI Fest in LA. We spent the next year playing festivals and turning down terrible offers. It was a hard time for film, and a terrible time for docs, as you may recall, but no time would ever be so hard that I’d be willing to take a $10,000 MG on an all-rights deal, with a 25% back-end that we’d probably never see anyway, or a 25K all rights offer from another distributor who wouldn’t guarantee theatrical or even DVD. We didn’t want to just get shunted to the VOD ghetto to sink or swim without any support.

By the summer of 2009, confident that the film had a sizeable and reachable audience, we decided to keep our rights and do it ourselves.

INITIAL BUDGET: zero dollars. This was before people were talking about working distro dollars into your budget. It had never occurred to us that we’d go DIY; ours was an award winning film with a passionate core audience and enough headline grabbing content (murders, suicide, church arson, nationalism, Satanism) that we thought our floor was a little higher. But a mix of bad economic timing and a treatment some buyers thought was too “arty” limited offers. We knew we had to take a DIWO approach – doing it with others. The others we had at that point were our fans. And thankfully, they showed up.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ORGANIZING: Remember Myspace? When we got back from Norway, where we’d filmed for two years, we actually set aside time every day to send out 300 invites/messages to likely fans. We built up about 18,000 fans there, and then watched as everyone stopped using the site. Then Myspace randomly deleted our page anyway. That sucked, but was a good lesson. We don’t own social media pages – so have a lot of them. But we’d at least gotten the word out to those 18K people. One of those fans offered to make us a facebook page. I said sure, and we now have over 200 of those; more than half are fan-made. I encouraged fans to make pages for their city, as I think it gives them more of a sense of ownership and involvement with the film’s success there, and because they know their community better than I do, and are already part of the audience, so it becomes peer to peer marketing. BTW, you can now do on Twitter what we did on Myspace: just follow people you think will be into your film, or who talk about similar films.

THEATRICAL DIY: We put out the word that we were taking the film on tour. We told fans that we needed 3 things to bring it to their city: 1) a list of the indie/arthouse theatres near them 2) calls/letters/visits to those theaters to request the film 3) commitments to flyer and blog for us.

Our fans happen to rock, so we got the help we needed. I booked the film into 12 cities, either one-offs or weekends – I billed these screenings as sneak-peaks, wary of over-playing markets that we’d want to hit with longer runs. (And I avoided NY and LA.) The screenings were a success. My partner Aaron Aites and I did our first one in Austin during but not part of SXSW. A risky move. Our amazing new friends at the Alamo Drafthouse were kind enough to clear a midnight screening with the festival (fair warning: if you go this route, you risk pissing off the festival unless it’s cleared with them). Since Aaron’s band Iran was playing that year, we piggybacked our travel arrangements, got press lists from friends, and promoted it to film and music fans alike. A perfect fit. The screening sold out. Next stop: Seattle International Film Festival. I mean, we weren’t technically in it… but that didn’t stop us getting some of the indie film write-ups that were in the air. We booked a few late nights at the Northwest Film Forum – sold them out. One kid told us he’d driven 5 hours to see the film, not sure if he’d ever get another chance. We did Q&As, then headed to Portland for more of the same.

We continued with non-piggyback screenings, with lots of sold-out shows. We tried to hit the right balance with press – enough to get the word out, not so much as to have shot our load if we made it back later with a longer run (which was always the end-game). Toward the end of our solo bookings, we decided to just go for it in San Francisco, a market where we knew we had a huge audience – we booked a week with a museum screening series and went after press. We were about to approach distribution services to take over, so we wanted to show we could perform over longer runs. And we did. Variance Films came on about a week later, and the first thing they did was get us moved over to the Roxie, continuing our SF run.

DISTRIBUTION SERVICE, THEATRICAL DIWO: We then raised a P & A budget of 25K off the strength of those solo screenings and having Variance onboard. $25,000 dollars: AKA “nothing,” to distributors. And we started our formal US and Canadian theatrical release.

Variance handled bookings, ads and co-promotions, we managed street teams and did nonstop interviews, and also brought on co-promotions through our music contacts. A very deserved shout-out to Emma Griffiths at EG-PR who took on this indie doc about a foreign music scene and worked it like crazy. We also eventized many of our screenings: we launched in NY with a party at the Knitting Factory where Dave Pajo of Slint/Papa M, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, and some of our other indie rock friends played (btw, our film is about metal – this did not impress the core audience terribly much, but we had a secondary audience that we wanted to reach, and we also had a second NY launch party a few days later which was all metal bands). We continued to open runs with giveaways, bands, parties. For our Canadian premiere, the film was projected onto a giant screen made of ice, outside, in the winter (fitting our film’s aesthetic and subject matter). Elsewhere, fans flyered like crazy, set up FB pages for their town, blogged, talked about it on forums. We only ran print ads when theaters demanded it. People came out. Our opening weekend per screen avg in NY was over 7K . Sadly, we only had one screen here, the indie loving Cinema Village.

We grossed about 140K overall, in 35 cities. We paid back the theatrical investors, with a little extra on top. Toward the end of our run, the film went up on the Sundance Channel’s broadcast schedule, and theaters backed off. By then we’d drastically expanded our fan base and found distribution partners for DVD, VOD, Digital, TV, etc with Factory 25, Gravitas, The Sundance Channel, and Dynamo on our own website (since we kept non-exclusive streaming). I like retaining some control over this thing, and I like having partners, so this is the best of both worlds, and it was brought about largely by our theatrical success.

KNOWLEDGE TRAVELS (AND SO DID WE): In fact, it worked so well that I repeated this process in Europe. I set up a three week screening tour (mostly at festivals and arts venues with cinemas) from London to Krakow, met contacts who facilitated us selling the film to a German distributor, and then took everything I’d learned and theatrically distributed the film in the UK in the spring of 2010. That made a profit, and we then self-released a very profitable DVD there. We later sold digital/VOD rights to a UK company.

The rewards of all these DIY and DIWO releases were great: the film has a much higher profile, my partner and I have fantastic contacts and relationships with great companies and venues and people all over the US and Europe, we’ve grown our own audience, (with street team captains who I know by name and keep in touch with because they’ve become a part of my world), and had utterly amazing experiences. The downside is that I stopped being a filmmaker for two years, and became a distributor, promoter, sales agent, community organizer, online work-bot; it was 18 hour days, 7 days a week, and it was completely exhausting. Now at the end of it, I’m glad I did it, but I can’t wait to make a film again!

I hope this is helpful info for some of you who are doing this now or are thinking about it. I’m happy to clarify anything in the comments.

– Audrey Ewell

Audrey Ewell is a filmmaker living in Brooklyn, NY with her partner Aaron Aites and their three rescue animals. More info on her current film can be found at http://www.blackmetalmovie.com

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April 13 at 8:30am

Guest Post: Orly Ravid “New and Compelling Options for DIY Distribution”

Orly Ravid co-founded the Film Collaborative and has been providing us with a great series of posts on the changing market and options for independent filmmakers and their work. Her generosity and commitment is an inspiration. She is a brave thinker.

Indie Filmmakers used to think that once they made their movies, their only real option was to surrender — to surrender to the market and the middlemen who decided on a film’s applicability to an audience or community. Those days are now gone and good riddance! The services and tools we have to get our work out and on the screens of what has long been under-served under-educated audiences and communities increase every day. As those options expand, so do the choices of content, form, and aesthetic — we are becoming truly free in terms of how, what, and where we can tell our tales. The sky hasn’t fallen; a thousand phoenix have risen.

Today Orly looks at new platforms and toolkits that allow filmmakers to sell or rent their films directly to fans. The Era of Artist/Entrepreneur is here! Now all we have to do is fight for a free and open internet…

In a new media world in which people sometimes conflate distributor with platform and buyer with online/digital store, I want to draw that distinction and highlight a few new and compelling DIY options (platforms or toolkits) for filmmakers to sell or rent their films to audiences / consumers directly. TFC always encourages filmmakers to develop their own brands while also noting the importance of being connected to other brands that generate significant traffic and indie film consumption. In other words, sell direct to your fans off your site and other sites and social networking platforms and/or via other DIY platforms or tools but also recognize the usefulness of being available where average film consumers go, i.e. via Cable VOD if you can manage it, and other key platforms/online digital stores (depending on the nature of the film) such as: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, Hulu, Sony Playstation, Xbox etc.

The few DIY platforms or toolkits highlighted in this blog are: Distrify, EggUp, Groupees, Stonehenge’s iPhone Apps. Next time we cover this topic, we’ll investigate more into DIY platforms FansofFilm and Open Film (7,000 films, 70% shorts).

Let’s begin.

DISTRIFY

Peter Gerard & Andy Green, the co-founders of Distrify, are both filmmakers who formed Distrify. I met with Andy @ SXSW.

Distrify is not a film sales platform – it’s a toolset. One can use Distrify to sell a film anywhere on the web and via social media platforms. Once your trailer and film are on Distrify you embed it on your website like http://www.justtogetarep.com/ and Facebook page like https://www.facebook.com/just.to.get.a.rep?sk=app_203403406338325

You can then start telling your film’s fans about it and ask them to embed the widget on forums, blogs, websites, etc. 

Distrify’s “sell-movies-socially” tools are designed to make effective social media marketing profitable. If your trailer and film are on Distrify, when you share the clip, you’re also sharing the store to buy the film or find out about upcoming screenings. When your audience shares it further, you’re always spreading the point-of-sale along the way. Anyone who shares it gets paid a share of sales they generate. 

One does not have to start selling through Distrify right away – one can use it to promote screenings and events through the trailer interface. Here’s an example of an upcoming Anime release that is using the Distrify player to promote upcoming screenings: http://www.we-loveanime.com/ 

If the film’s not available in the user’s area, they can make their interest known directly through the player as well. Distrify compiles the statistics for filmmakers and give them the mailing list data – all free. Any new screenings you add are also automatically listed in all the players that have been embedded around the web. And when you want to start selling the film, you can add it as well. 

There are no up-front charges, fully non-exclusive, and they don’t need any rights. They take a small transaction fee on sales (see specifics below).
In the Beta period it is free to sign up and upload one film to Distrify. They don’t charge for uploading or hosting and there is no subscription fee for a Beta account. They do charge a 30% revenue share on sales. They note that their profit “is around 3% to 5% so it’s costing us around 25% to deliver the service to the customer. We’re working hard to reduce these costs and when we do we’ll hand the saving over to the rights holder.” 

Distrify Beta Pricing

  • Free sign-up for a one-film account
  • They charge a 30% transaction fee on all sales made through Distrify
  • They split the 5% affiliate revenue with the filmmaker.
  • Beta users will be given a special offer when they leave the Beta period, and normal account pricing will be determined at that time. And filmmakers keep all their rights.
  • How do you get paid?
    Each month if you’ve earned sales revenue they will send you a sales report and transfer your earnings to you directly via PayPal or bank transfer. You may be charged by PayPal or your bank to receive the transfer. When you get your first sales report, they say “just let us know how you prefer to be paid”.
    What about affiliates?

    “We will soon offer your audience the ability to earn a share of revenues that are generated from their sharing. Once this is enabled they will earn 5% from each sale they refer to you. We are currently offering to split the cost of the revenue-sharing with you. This means we only charge 27.5% on a revenue-shared sale. You keep the remaining 72.5%.”

    Peter Gerard followed up further noting that whilst still in Beta their pricing is FREE to sign up and sell one film and a 30% transaction fee on all sales through their player and there are no costs for special encoding. Their Beta period ends in June and after they will continue this pricing option and offer some premium plans.

    EGG UP

    “EggUp is a publishing platform for filmmakers and film distributors. We help filmmakers and distributors rent and sell their films online while preventing piracy. Our free online publishing tools can help you distribute and sell your film or video which is all packaged and encrypted into a file called the Egg. The Egg is currently available for download and allows consumers to watch and share with friends and family virally while filmmakers are able to make money. With EggUp you get your own website to promote your film, together with an integrated pay per view solution. We also list your films in our film catalog called GoEggit. Distribute the Egg on your own website, and other online retailers with your very own buy now button without setup fees and inventory.”

    Payment options: FREE, Rental, Purchase. Filmmaker will be able to choose several options. Accept Paypal and major credit cards. Customer credit card information does not go through their servers. They only link to the filmmaker’s Paypal account. Paypal holds customer’s credit card info.

    They are Worldwide and can Geo Filter as needed.

    Content: Currently about 60 films due to focusing on developing technology and negotiating deals with international governments and studios. They will be ramping up pretty quickly in the next 3-5 months with content.

    When I asked about revenue thus far to filmmakers they answered with this: “It really varies since it’s up to the filmmakers. Some filmmakers make $0 due to they are not marketing their content or older film with no cult following. While others are getting consistent purchases daily since they have a full marketing strategy including PR pushing their film. It adds up but nothing making millions”.

    EGG UP’s FEES:

  • Full length features: $1.25 per transaction ($2.00 – $1,000.00 retail)
  • Short film: 15% per transaction ($0.99 – $1.99)
  • EggUp noted that they are reviewing their fee structure and may be changing it soon.
  • Egg Up Overview: Image
  • http://i811.photobucket.com/albums/zz38/Egg_Up/EggUP_Overview3.jpg

    Egg Up Filmmaker Benefit: Image
    http://i811.photobucket.com/albums/zz38/Egg_Up/EggUP_Filmmaker3.jpg

    JON REISS’ GUEST BLOGGER Solomon MacAuley– Raved about EGGUP:
    http://jonreiss.com/blog/2011/03/03/prevent-film-piracy-and-globally-monetize-instantly/

    SHERI CANDLER interview for MicroFILMMAKER Magazine about EGG UP:
    http://www.microfilmmaker.com/tipstrick/Issue58/EggDist1.html

    GROUPEES (YAWMA)  groupees.yawma.net & yawma.net

    I was introduced to this platform via TFC client (and HopeForFilm Guest Blogger) Ari Gold (Adventures of Power). Thomas Brooke who demo’d the platform / service via Cisco’s WEBEX. I was impressed with the simplicity and comfort of the interface.

    Thomas Brooke is the Founder and CEO of YAWMA. YAWMA is the social media technology company that operates Groupees. Thomas describes GROUPEES as:

    “A Flash sale (24-48 hr) platform focusing on digital media entertainment (music, games, film)
- Like Groupon in the sense that we’re crowd-sourcing but deal isn’t dependent on a certain number of users buying and “tipping” the deal; rather we start with the good deal but the content owners set a goal and if achieved it unlocks extra exclusive content (to incentivize users to work as a group and spread the promo through their social graph)
- There is a high degree of Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally
- Flexible SaaS based system supporting product bundling, multiple pricing options (fixed price, pay what you want), inclusion of charity, etc. We’ve set Groupees up as an on demand platform where content creators/licensors sign up to run a single promotion, all of which is configured through a web interface. It is a platform by invitation only- we’re sourcing quality independent music, games and film.”

    Their next Groupee starts on Wednesday so if you go to: http://groupees.yawma.net
    you will see the promo vid and count-down clock now live.

    Here is a screenshot and the model we’re using for projections on Music groupees.

    FEES: The model split is reflected at 60-40% (in favor of filmmakers).

    When I asked why they were more expensive as Apple (which takes 30%) Thomas answered:

    “While it is true that Apple takes 30%, they don’t do anything for their 30% beyond providing a distribution system. Fact is we’re not just a point of distribution. We’re pretty sophisticated technology with a high degree of customization, strong FB and Twitter integration and 100% pr support (strongly question this, what do they mean by 100% PR support?) for every promotion we run. Groupon is really a better business analogy, and they take 50% but have nowhere near the social media integration or customization features. I do appreciate your asking whether to make mention but I’m certainly comfortable with this.”

    “In terms of film/video, we can support straight download in any format and also video streaming. As mentioned, the service requires buyers to register so all files are secured behind a firewall. I think for indie film the concept of bundling films from different film-makers might work very well as it provides good cross promotion and from the consumer’s perspective allows you to get two cool films from a single purchasing experience. Definitely one of the premises of our platform is convenience as people are overwhelmed by our digitally connected world so by featuring quality indie entertainment as a part of a single promotion, consumers get the benefit of a curated good deal on relevant media/entertainment. I think also there is an opportunity to bundle films with music, especially where there’s a good thematic connection. Obviously, a soundtrack with a film is a no-brainer as well. We’re also currently looking at possibly bundling a video game that is from the horror genre with a horror film. “

    Groupee Platform Features

  • -Support for all digital media formats
    -Support both video download and streaming
    -Web-interface for creating and configuring the Groupees promotion
    -E-payments through PayPal and Amazon payments
    -Live World map that tracks purchases as they occur around the globe
    -Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally
    -Real time sales statistics and reporting
    -Flexible promotional programs including Fixed Price or Pay What You Want payments, charitable giving, cross-promotional bundles, goal setting with incentive giveaways
    -Cloud-based, highly scalable platform capable of supporting 1,000,000 downloads per 24 hrs
  • .

    STONEHENGE – Distributing films worldwide via Phone Apps — FilmApps…Get Your Film in More Hands

    Stonehenge Productions enables film producers to sell their films on iTunes, Android Market and Amazon Appstore as applications for the iPhone, iPad and for Droid platforms.
    Their pitch: “With a low start-up cost of just $680, you can have an application of your film available on Phones everywhere !! You keep 100% of sales revenues minus the 30% that Apple charges.”
    What do you get for $680?

  • An iPhone FilmApp
    Embedded film in the App (better than streaming)
    About page/synopsis
    Twitter/FB/Email (Sharing) integration,
    A merchandise page for users to buy merchandise, DVD…(e.g. Amazon)
    Links to the film’s/director’s site (opens within the App)
    A trailer/video clip viewer (user can watch the trailer, clips, outtakes, behind the scenes)
    Photo gallery of shots from the film
    an RSS/News feed for any feed you would like to provide.
    Custom Graphic design and layout (using your art).
    Turn around is typically two weeks and then 7-10 days at Apple.
    Got other ideas? Let us know what you’d like
  • How?
    Contact Stonehenge Productions and we’ll provide you with further instructions to upload your content. It will then be turned into a customized application. You’ll get final review and you’ll continue to hold all rights to the film.
    We’ll submit it to Apple and manage the whole selling process through the App store OR we’ll put it on the Android Market or Amazon Appstore.

    A Stonehenge Sales Sheet: http://www.stonehengeproductions.com/sales-sheet/

    Mark Smillie of Stonehenge notes “we are really working hard to build FilmApps that encourage participation over the lifecycle of the film…so pre-release to build awareness and fan base, at release to drive fans to the theater and post release to sell the film through the App channel.”“We build for Apple, Android and sell on the iTunes, Droid and Amazon app stores.”  

    Their latest press release for our App for the film: Race to Nowhere.  It’s a good example of a social activism app paired with a film App.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/03/prweb5193274.htm

    Another testimonial Mark showed me is from John Paul Rice of “One Hour Fantasy Girl” “Apps for films work: Itunes report for One Hour Fantasy Girl in Q4 2010, rental/downloads up 558% over Q3. Credit goes to @WeGoTo11″  John Paul Rice President No Restrictions Entertainment from Twitter:https://twitter.com/norestrictions/status/53291871367200768

    * That’s all for now folks. More platforms and tools and DIY solutions next time.

    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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    January 27 at 4:00pm

    DEALS & DIY: A Film Distribution Duet

    Today’s guest post is by Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative(TFC), the first non-profit, full service provider dedicated to the distribution of independent film.  Orly was featured as one of HFF’s Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010.

    *This is Part II of the “If I Were a Filmmaker Going Sundance…

    *Part III to will be written in the aftermath of the glow of the fest.

    Sundance 2011, insofar as distribution was concerned, saw a spike on both the traditional sales and the DIY front.   26 deals were done so far and more to come. One difference between this year’s Festival and those of recent years is that several acquisitions were done prior to the Festival and more deals occurred right at the beginning of the Festival rather than taken several days or weeks to materialize. In addition, some of the acquisition dollar figures were bigger than in recent times. There was a definite sense of ‘business is back’  (though mostly still for bigger films with either name directors or cast or both – and this we address below).  And DIY is seeing a new dawn with directors like Kevin Smith announcing a self-distribution plan and Sundance’s solidified commitment to helping artists crowdfund (via Kickstarter) and market their films (via Facebook for example) access certain digital distribution platforms (in the works and TBA).

    Starting with the deals. So far I counted 26 (one at least was a pre-buy / investment in production) and two so far are remake rights deals.

    I only list the deal points that were publicized… meaning if no $$$ is listed then it was not announced. [...]


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    December 8 at 8:15am

    Wanted: DIY & Hybrid Distro Liaisons Internationally

    The US has a healthy supply of “bookers”  and for-hire distro/marketeers who can help you navigate the theatrical waters when you are looking at DIY or hybrid approaches, but are there the same folks in Europe, Asia, and other territories?  There’s got to be right?  So where are they and how can we access them easier?

    Many a filmmaker in the US have now decided it makes better sense to split up rights across media, license on a short term or non-exclusive basis, and essentially handle the theatrical themselves on a non-traditional basis.  But why would what makes sense in the US, not also make sense in other territories?

    This is one of my wishes for the new year: let’s demystify hybrid distribution internationally and build up a good list of companies and individuals to partner with.  If you are out there, let us know!


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