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  • I can tell you my choice in not going to the theater is not so much due to rising prices, but because the type of people that go to the theater are not the type to allow anyone to quietly enjoy movies. That and there definitely is so much great digitally distributed content, that I can wait to see Transformers 15 until it's on Netflix Instant viewing. :)

  • @bmorgan83

    I can tell you my choice in not going to the theater is not so much due to rising prices, but because the type of people that go to the theater are not the type to allow anyone to quietly enjoy movies

    Generally, this chart and links below tell that theaters are loosing their constant clients and rely more on random visitors, hence "quality" of people you see in theater is dropping constantly.

  • It's just a shame that there simply isn't that much good content available to stream yet - at least in the UK. I just subscribed to a free Love Film Instant trial and this is the sum total of films from last year... :/


    852 x 1863 - 1M
  • I really don't understand the industry's reluctance to make higher quality titles available to stream and/or rent online. There is a crazy gap left by the disappearance of traditional video rental stores. Redbox, Netflix and the like drove them out of business, but if I want to watch, say, a great but older classic like Alien . . . on a whim Friday night, there is no longer a video store where I can go and rent it. Redbox only has newer titles and Netflix streaming mostly has lesser titles.

    Internet-based streaming solutions could fill this gap instantly (well . . . click-of-the-mousetantly). A pay-per-view-per-film business model would work perfectly, and until the industry goes this route, many people will use the illegal alternatives. These days people want quick, simple and easy access systems, not to pay for stuff they don't want.

  • @B3Guy, I agree. I live in Australia, and we may generally have bandwidth issues for such a service, especially if high quality/data rate streaming. High speed internet infrastructure is currently being put down at various parts of the country. We'll have to see how that pans out over the next few years. Other than potential band width issues, possibly an issue for many countries(?), perhaps there is potential piracy issues for streaming that have not been solved? I have more questions than answers. Pay a reasonable price for the content you want, access to large database, great! Ownership of the movies by various groups may limit them all being available from one provider, and this space may evolve, eventually.

  • Part of the issue, for "the majors" at least, is that on-demand won't give them their big numbers, at least not as quickly or in the same way. It's fiddly.

    Consider this, a movie studio puts out a film on BD/DVD...their customer isn't you, it's one or more individuals or institutions between them and the actual retail interface to customers. Who the studios sell to buys in bulk. Boom, that's their figure for sales. Not how many are in the hands of people watching the film. Their sales and maybe what their bonus is based on are the cases and crates of the film that now a lot of other somebodies have to go actually sell.

    I'm sure I'm oversimplifying some aspects but if nobody buys the movie after the studio makes the sale to their actual customer the studio still wins. And when the movie itself isn't actually selling as well as the retailers and wholesalers are buying, that's when you see the $30 BD suddenly in the $6.99 bin, because the retailer is just trying to recoup something from all the stock they have. It's kinda incidental at that point, from the studio's and top level distributor's perspective, how many copies are actually in people's homes or actually being watched (which a stream-based model would more accurately represent) because those aren't actually their sales.

  • Actually, DVDs get returned and/or marked-down and charged against previous sales. I have two feature films in distribution, trust me on this!

  • That makes two of us.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the major producers also own most of the theaters (i.e. the physical distribution outlets)? That's a lot of real estate, not to mention equipment, which is also not easy to give up without taking more losses. So its not only the content distribution system thats shifting but also the fact that all those screens are moving right into people's living rooms, redefining what "cinema" started out as.

  • @DouglasHorn @BurnetRhoades since you say that you have 2 feature films in distribution, I have to address this question to you:

    Say for example, some indie goes ahead and makes a feature-length film costing $20,000-$40,000. So now the film is done. Now what? In this day and age, How does he/she access the distribution so as not to only recuperate the costs of production, but to also make enough profit to finance his/her next (more expensive) feature film? What are the available options? And what do such indies (presumably like yourselves) usually do?

    Thank you.


    My brother and I went two slightly different ways on each film but they both involved hooking up with a producer's rep, or sales agent. There's a lot of cross-over in these companies where sometimes they just broker deals, sometimes they're actually involved in the distribution or sometimes even production. But, basically, they're the folks that have the established contacts that you don't have as an independent. They go to all the important film markets throughout the year (AFM, Cannes, etc.) and, ideally, have good reputations with buyers in each region.

    You might get lucky and your film gets licensed to one major player with its own presence in every market but odds are each one will be its own sale and own deal and own little struggle and victory. You can tackle each of these yourself, and keep all of your pie, or you can attract a sales agent and give up a portion so that they take on the world for you.

    For our first feature, we got post finished up to where the film was pretty presentable. We'd premiered it at an international festival (Deep Ellum), I made a master screener DVD and then as many duplicates as I could because the tape houses rape you, especially if there's some kind of event in town like AFM (American Film Market).

    I took the screeners and another stack of discs with just the trailer and contact info to the market. Lots of bigger festivals have their own film markets but AFM is likely the biggest one in N.America, or it was then. It specializes in American film companies selling to foreign buyers. I think the hotel is four stories and they remove all the beds, turning each room and suite into a temporary office and comfy convention booth.

    They were all there to sell but everyone was really friendly and I'd just ask if they were also acquiring finished films, either for representation or distribution. Most were and were happy to check out my trailer. A lot asked for a copy of the screener and I'd either give them one I had in my bag or, based on an assessment of their interest and what I saw that they had for sale, take their card so that I could send them a screener after the market.

    I went door to door through the market, top floor all the way to the suites down in the basement and left with all my discs given out. I'd also made up post cards with a poster design for the film on one side and contact info on the other and given several of these out with each screener. About two weeks later I started getting follow-ups from them and followed-up via e-mail with all of the others I hadn't heard from yet.

    I'd say maybe ten percent of them responded in some positive way and of those we got down to five or so where we had to make a decision. Most will have fairly similar types of contracts and percentages, etc. After that the company we signed with helped us to prepare additional promo material and designs to go to the Cannes market and then over the next year more regions would be sold.

    The sales company is also there to guide you through the completion of each deal and your "Deliverables" which is a nightmare if you're like most independents and either aren't compiling everything during production or have the money to hire a company that specializes in managing this part of the process. You don't want to be dealing directly with each and every buyer. Thankfully, after you complete the sales for a couple of markets you'll have all the materials needed for any future sale.

    (shot June, 2001 .. premiere 2003 .. worldwide release 2004)

    For the second feature, we had a bit of a leg up in a few ways. For one, we knew we were making a film that was an easier sell, being horror/thriller rather than a teen-action-comedy-scifi which really threw a lot of folks for a loop. Anyone familiar with anime, which it was influenced by, wouldn't have batted an eyelash but something you learn quickly is there really isn't a lot of creativity involved with the sale of films, especially to foreign buyers.

    The average American audience gets dumped on a lot by the hoity-toity crowd but, truthfully, some of the dumbest, crappiest stuff made here is done so because it's well known that foreign buyers want it. No boobs...there are foreign buyers that won't even look at your film without them. There's a famous buyer at AFM that had a checklist that included boobs and a fart joke. These weren't Americans and they weren't buying for an American audience. Oh, another thing, most foreign audiences (at least according to the folks buying movies for them) want to read subtitles as much as Joe Six-Pack.

    Anyway, this time we were making something that was at least easier for a sales type to pitch to a buyer type. We also had an "in" with one of the reigning "Scream Queens" of low budget horror, the cult icon Debbie Rochon, thanks to our wardrobe/costume supervisor who had a small part in our first film and had co-starred opposite Debbie in a film just before she was in our's. Making this second film we had a network of people that got the script out and somehow our little film turned into a SAG indie with Skye McCole Bartusiak (the Patriot, 24) coming on and then her getting the script to her friend Marc Donato (Degrassi). We had no experienced actors for our first film but now we had instant credibility, which was also going to help with getting sales and distributor types interested.

    On top of doing a great job in front of the camera and on top of lending us access to her throngs of fans, Debbie is also a contributing editor for Fangoria Magazine. She got us a little feature story about the film's completion on their website, not even in the print magazine yet, and the next day our inboxes were hit with inquiries and requests for information on the project. The moral of the story, get the hype/propaganda/marketing moving before you're done.

    ...from there it was just a mad push to finish. Some months later we had our crew screening at the Alamo Drafthouse and got a trailer put together that we also were able to get premiered on the Fangoria Magazine website. This time our mailboxes started getting hit within first couple hours after the story went up. Even though it was still a lot of work to get to that point, getting the project featured on a website with the right exposure beat the hell out of going door to door at AFM. I'd still do that again if need be though. It was exhausting but also a lot of fun, and I don't usually like dealing with crowds and loads of people.

    (shot June, 2010 .. premiere 2011 .. worldwide release 2012-ongoing)

    Granted, all that might not fully answer your question or might not really map out what another person might see as a viable strategy to go about getting their film sold. All I can say is that's how we've done it and, at least so far, it's getting easier. Odds are our third film is going to have at least part of its initial sales team/strategy worked out before our first shot is lensed but there's no guarantee and given the choice between waiting for some illusion of security before beginning production or just doing it and then tackling the task of finding its way to market and an audience, we're not going to choose to wait.

    It's a lot easier to get someone to give you the time of day when you're an unknown if you've got a complete film in your hand, versus convincing someone to try and sell something that's still in your head. That said, for the kind of money we spent on SICK BOY, which is the kind of money you're talking about spending, I see the potential to make your money back quicker than we are through the right streaming service(s) and being a self-publisher. I really do. It all hinges on exposure though. It's a Catch-22 of sorts where the big boys have the money to market and get the name on TV and print whereas the independent could make his modest budget back quicker and be quicker into the black by a longshot if only they had some way of letting enough people know that they exist.

    Taking a look at some of the amazing successes in self-published books for handheld readers, the tech and the customers are there to make it viable and potentially extremely profitable. Potentially more profitable for the indie than ultimately playing the establishment game, like we are, where everyone's got their hand out and everyone gets their piece before you do.

  • @BurnetRhoades This is great info. Thanks so much for sharing. Congrats on your success. Will check out both your films. Inspirational.

    @DouglasHorn I would love to hear your experience as well with sale/distribution of your films.

  • @BurnetRhoades Thanks, that's a really great summary! Very much appreciated.

  • @matt_gh2 - I hesitate to say a ton about my experience in an open forum like this because 1) I don't have a clear picture on the way forward from here in the film industry due to all the changes; 2) some of my experiences with distributors, sales reps, etc. have some fairly negative elements to them and it's hard to tell the whole story.

    Here's my IMDB page if you're interested in some of my past projects:

    All the stuff Burnet Rhoades said sounds pretty familiar. I've been in numerous festivals and gone to AFM and Cannes among others. I've had films with sales reps, producers reps, and producers and I've seen all the statements, yadda yadda.

    Times are very hard for many distributors right now as the industry is changing so rapidly. ...And the distributors who handle smaller films were always notorious for not reporting, paying, etc. even in the "good" times. So low budget films can have a hard time making their money back.

    If I had a clear answer for how to recoup on films, I'd be making more of them! There's no clear answer. But it is far easier to get there if you're out making films and trying to make bigger and better ones each time. There's no playbook. You have to make your own.

  • @matt_gh2 @ahbleza're welcome, and thanks. And like @DouglasHorn says, if there were clear answers we'd be making a lot more. One of the hardest things to do, getting started, is stay positive and not get disillusioned too quickly. You learn that almost all of the too-good-to-be-true indie success stories you've read about are just that. They invariably seem to leave out mentioning the relatives (distant or otherwise), agents or other "inside track" to success that makes their story and the big surprise at Sundance that year, in reality, an orchestrated narrative. These people don't gamble. They deal in forgone conclusions or as close to them as they can get.

    Even the indie crowd knows audiences love an underdog story and so public perception is generally, usually, highly manipulated. There's no altruism to be found. It's all just a business and even at the local, regional level, it's filled with people who want to play Joe Hollywood. Make peace with that and keep doing what you love doing is the best advice I have.

  • @BurnetRhoades, thanks for sharing your "WALL-O-TEXT", a good read, you have had quite a journey!

    Thanks @DouglasHorn, for the overview.

    Perhaps this thread could now expand on the available "streaming service" providers that accept content from the indie, without having an agent or distributor involved? Any experience, pro/cons or suggestions someone is willing to share?

    The big issue I see for a streaming service provider and indie content may concern issues of copyright and ownership rights/clearences, potential copyright/trademarks that may be recorded in the movie, etc. The streaming service provider may become entangled as a result of there part of distributing/publishing the content. The consequences of this are no different to other forms of distribution, however, it may be a continuing concern that holds back no budget/low budget indie film makers with a main stream service provider(s). Just a thought, interested if anyone has experience and/or P-V they wish to share. Great thread. Thank you.

  • I'm pretty sure any reputable streaming vendor is going to want at least a subset of the "Deliverables" any traditional distributor needs to complete their license deal with a filmmaker, to CYA themselves.

    These include regular marketing materials like stills, credit list, etc., audio and video delivered in specific formats or with specific assumptions regarding tracks, etc. but, more importantly for legal reasons, copies of all of the talent and production agreements and releases from the actors, any copyright material for the script or WGA registration, releases and licenses for any music, all locations and then potentially tedious stuff like various dialog lists, each spoken line of the film, sometimes with specific timecodes. Dialog lists, spotting lists, these can get really complicated.

    You think it's hard shooting and editing a movie, the process of getting through "Deliverables" can make you cry. This was the part of the process the Weinsteins (historically) would exploit as long as possible to avoid having to pay their filmmakers after hyping up the deals and dollar amounts for purchases in the press.

    So far we haven't been required to have our films vetted by an outside service provider that specializes in this process and does thorough checks into the legal implications of everything from the story elements and character names to any visible logos on screen (you don't have to avoid these if you're not libeling or disparaging them in a non-documentary, non-satire, but some filmmakers choose to avoid any visible logos at all for their own peace of mind). We've been lucky and only the standard legal documents have come up.

    The most exotic thing we've been asked was for a "chain of title" showing ownership of the film itself. I say exotic because the previous two distributors never asked for this specifically, they just asked for all the releases and above-the-line agreements.

  • @BurnetRhoades, the legal documentation and deliverables is going to have a lot of indie film makers in tears.

    I am curious, are there any particular streaming service providers that you know of, or have experience with, that may cater for indie film makers, and provide that content to customers in multiple territories or world wide?

    Thanks for sharing.

  • @WhiteRabbit I don't, I'm sorry. I've seen some pop up over the years that supposedly cater to indies but I don't think they stick around. Either they don't anticipate the costs associated with server and bandwidth loads or their business model includes either charging the filmmaker or viewer with some sort of subscription.

    There's a fellow I'm FB friends with through Debbie who did a little documentary that I saw pop up on Netflix streaming. The production value in the interview sections was really low but the film itself was still interesting because of all the people interviewed and their stories about working in low budget horror. It was actually quite re-assuring, in the context of this thread, because I know he would have a very difficult time selling something like this to a traditional distributor but there it was on Netflix streaming.

    At some point I read a story about Amazon being friendly to indies as well but so far haven't really seen anything come up that looked as "indie" as I would expect.

  • @WhiteRabbit Not sure I read your post correctly, but if you're looking for a way to distribute your film online (via streaming/download for sale/rental) there are a bunch of sites that do it. Distrify, yekra, and others. They all have slight differences in terms of how it works but filmmaker and site split revenues. I believe Amazon offers something for filmmakers. I believe I heard iTunes distribution /sales can be set up by 3rd party intermediary who charges ~$1500. (A list of Apple approved partners is listed on Apple's website).

    I have no experience directly so please research if you're interested, but if you want to distribute your film online, its technically very feasible. Your only obstacle is marketing/advertising.

  • That new setup from RED sounds very, very interesting. Reading about how Kevin Smith for Red State and The Devil's Carnival crew did their own roadshow tours to generate publicity for the films, perhaps something like the RED distribution network, plus a streaming partner, could bring us a return to the old way of self-promotion and a return of showmanship to independent film distribution.

    You figure a couple people traveling the country, college town to college town, setting up interviews on local radio stations, podcasts, local morning magazine shows, a weekend of screenings at one of the RED theaters, constant updates to the film's FB page and Twitter feed and then you move on. You're basically paying for gas and whatever fees are associated with the screening on the RED network. Then, once you're done with the "tour" you open up the streaming source.

    You'll need someone full-time acting as publicist, helping to research each area before you get there and set up the interviews and appearances. They'd need to be the really perky, type-A, sales-type of course, back at "basecamp", remotely preparing everything for you before you got to the next stop. There is no "build it and they will come," you need the carnival barker working for you if you're not that guy (you'll have enough to do and keep track of on the road as it is).

    I dunno, maybe it's too romantic to work but I kinda like the idea of playing "rock star" and going on tour with a movie.

  • @BurnetRhoades, @matt_gh2, I will look at some of the names you mentioned matt, and look into where Red are heading. Thank you.

  • @WhiteRabbit here's the link to a story about RED's plans for independent distribution. I could really care less that it's 4K but there is that...

  • Thank you @BurnetRhoades for a very useful Wall-o-text! and thank you @DouglasHorn for sharing your experience as well. Can ANYBODY go to AFM? I mean are there restrictions, or is it like an open convention?

    I'm wondering if there is a British version of AFM? and European/continental version of AFM?

    @matt_gh2 sharing names like Distrify and yekra is very useful. Are there other such distribution networks? Isn't YouTube already doing something like revenue-sharing pay-per-view? I mean if it went 50-50 and YouTube charged say $3 per view,then getting 20,000 people to watch your movie would already generate $1.5x20,000=$30,000, then there's the DVD sales, revenues from TV etc.

    I have noticed that many directors keep getting income from films that they made previously many years ago. I wonder how that works?

    Another idea is, to go directly to your local cinema managers and offering them a direct revenue-sharing deal. 300seatsX£5ticketX5runs=£7,500box-office. I'm being a bit optimistic here, but find 10-20 such independent cinemas, and you're looking at £75,000-£150,000 in box office revenues already. I wonder if that would work? or is there some insider nuances that would make such a direct move impossible???

    Another (probably minor) source of revenues could be setting up a website and embedding a Vimeo or YouTube (or other such service) video and allowing the audiences to view the embedded video once a PayPal payment has been made. I haven't seen anything like this, but I'm assuming that with some web-development skills it should be possible.

  • @kronstadt Yeah, I think YouTube does. Vimeo also has something called a TipJar where video is free but user can PayPal a tip to you if they like video. Thought Vimeo may have or be developing a standard payment for video offering. For other online companies like Distrify, I would Google and I'd bet you'd find them easily.

    I believe directly approaching/booking with theaters/cinemas is often called "Four Walling". If you google you'll see history of it. I'm not sure of nuances of current arrangements theater chains have with larger distribution studios, but I believe some theaters are part of chains (such as Regal Cinema) and others are independent. I can only guess you'd have easier time with independents.

    I don't know how succesful all of the above has been or can be, so research needed. I would also assume that there are people/companies who represent indie filmmakers who want to navigate the whole process of self-distribution. So maybe look for that as well in research and discussions with others.

    If you're interested in self-distribution there's been a lot of activity/discussion of audience building, social media etc (facebook, websites, etc.) as a means to advertise/market film. This also overlaps with discussions of crowdfunfing and sites like Kickstarter/Indiegogo which are donation based as means of funding production. The guy who runs the site ran a successful campaign for a doc he's working on now. He has written a lot on his experience.

    Sorry no definitive answers here , but I'm merely working on my first feature now, so haven't really fully learned the sales/distribution aspects of filmamking. I absolutely applaud your aggressive spirit though. Best of luck. Rock on!