Archive for the ‘digital distribution’ Category

What is the DVR of Indie Film?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

On his Blog Maverick site, Mark Cuban addresses the illogic behind opposition of the DVR by big media companies like Viacom and Disney.

For some reason they want to kill off the DVR… Do you not realize that the DVR is the one device that can save all things traditional and holy to your business and stock price?… Let me ask a simple question, if everyone had a DVR that could record any and every series they liked, enabling them to watch the shows they missed immediately, why would they go to Hulu ever again?

When new technologies come along and change the marketplace, the gut reaction of most established companies seems to be, “How can we block this new idea?” As I heard at a panel last night, “water is wet.”

For indie film companies with few resources, the challenge is to see the DVRs, the customer-friendly opportunities that are already emerging. A few companiesare innovating with VOD but have any really taken advantage of the new ways people are watching things from a marketing perspective? What about the technology that is already emerging is worth embracing rather than trying to send takedown after takedown to rapidshare sites? Will there be a technology, like satellite distribution, that makes theatrical super cheap? Or will there be a way to find out about and schedule the films, like theatrical TiVO?

Will the MPAA destroy theatrical? Selective Output Control and the FCC

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

News from Washington- the MPAA filed with the FCC to encourage the approval of technology that would allow Hollywood studios to transmit theatrical films directly to consumers hi-def before their video or broadcast windows begins. Called Selective Output Control (SOC), this would compete with piracy but would supplement or undercut theatrical runs depending on your viewpoint. A take on this seems to be that this will destroy the theatrical system and put exhibitors out of business.

I’m not one to defend the MPAA, but this seems a little silly in a number of ways. For one thing, theatrical viewing of films has proved time and again to be an unmatched way of reaching an audience who will pay for the experience. You may reach far more actual eyeballs on TV screens, but the value proposition is different- and it’s not because one thing is generally 90-120 minutes long and the other is shorter (films play on TV too, I hear). Theatrical may need to become more robust and interactive, but people actually do want to go out and be with other people, even with amazing flat screen 3D HD TVs in their house and lots of bittorrents to choose from. The already-declining DVD business is more in danger here, it seems.

Also, it seems to me that trying to stop a new technology, via regulation or approbation, is doomed to failure. If something comes along that people want, it’s a lot more likely you’ll have success giving it to them than trying to figure out how to withhold it.

MoMA Indie Summit: Major players, making the future

Monday, September 28th, 2009

A major cadre of players from the independent distribution world net up on Friday to discuss the state of things, primarily in relation to how the new tools and technology are shaping the future of the industry. (Disclaimer- my company was a part of the MoMA conversation, though I was not in attendance).

Among the players there are some significant gaps in approach and experience, ranging from the technology-forward Magnolia and IFC to very traditional players. The resource differences among the attendees were also marked, ranging from tiny to well-capitalized. Producers and distributors were in attendance.

What strikes me about these kind of discussions, and what occurred to some other coverage’s commenters, is that this is still essentially an old-school game, with older people running the show and not really, for the most part, personally accessing the new methods of engagement that have emerged in the last few years.

Most indies have only discovered Twitter in the last 6-8 months as it has emerged with mainstream culture and other kinds of realtime technology and mobile tech are still hypothetical for most indies. I attend tech and content-related events on a semi-regular basis, and even at something like DIY Days, I don’t see other people from an “indie distributor” (I attend on my own time).

One person who is very smart about these issues is Ira Deutchman. His 9 responses to the MoMA day are essential reading. One thing I’m not sure I agree with him about is the crisis situation he (and Filmmaker Magazine ‘s Scott Macaulay) emphasize. It could be a crisis, and there are some kinds of films and certainly some kinds of companies in danger. On the other hand, there are possibly opportunities that will exceed the “dangers”- at least in terms of building audience and creating revenue.

I guess it may just be a philosophical disagreement. It seems to me that in the marketplace, when you see a trend emerging, the best answer is usually not, “how can we stop this?” it’s “how can we ride this to a good destination?” It seems like the most successful players so far have taken more of that approach.

The Free North- Fun stuff from TIFF

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Some cool stuff from the Toronto International Film Festival last week:

Liesl Copland, formerly of Netflix and now with William Morris Endeavor’s Global Finance & Distribution Group, gave a keynote at the Doc Conference about the state of digital and what it means for the industry. The takewaway: theatrical still has life; filmmakers need to learn about metrics; crowdsourcing is the new focus group.

Ted Hope, as captured by indieWIRE’s Eugene Hernandez, about Hope’s Doing It With Others (DIWO) philosophy. The takeaway: Blog, tweet, Facebook your whole life- or at least your projects and interact with other people using those tools. (He’s made a lot of films but does he have time now with all these social networks? He says yes.)

A conversation with a number of distributors in the New York Times about the state of distribution and what’s to come. The most interesting response for me was IFC prexy Jonathan Sehring’s, when asked about the glut of films in the marketplace (something the other respondents universally decried, as per conventional wisdom).

The one comment from my colleagues that drives me nuts is that there are “too many movies.” If one looks at specialized film as “art,” it is the only art form I can think where people who work within the industry say there are “too many” of. I never hear anyone in the music industry say there are too many songs, no one in publishing says there are too many books, no gallery or museum says there are too many paintings, no one in fashion says there are too many designers — why too many movies? When my colleagues say this it sounds like the anti-immigration, protectionist rhetoric from the far right.

Pat Aufderheide from the Center for Social Media on ‘what she learned at TIFF’- the takeaway: People still find Peter Broderick’s “DIY” presentation new, even after about 500 wears- he must be using Tide with Bleach Alternative! Also, go see some good docs.

I want to rock and roll all night (and wake up in the gutter)

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Ben from Shooting People was weighing the piracy issue a couple of weeks ago and its impact on independent filmmakers. The first dilemma is whether independent filmmakers can transition in the way indie bands have to be able to make money in other ways besides money for product transactions. In theory, this seems like it is the wave of the future- Robert Greenwald or Four Eyed Monsters-style. Filmmakers can, in theory, sell events versus selling DVDs, and potentially can make some money. No doubt touring in a bus is not as easy as having some record company shill a CD, either.

There is a part of me that feels a bit sad that there seems to be numbers of films that I think are good that would have a hard time reaching an audience in the emerging climates and I wonder if they will continue to be made. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that the spectrum of music that has awareness in general has really broadened in the past 20 years. The more people feel a direct relationship with the films they are accessing, the more they may be willing to branch out and explore.

Also, Ben suggests filmmakers have nothing else to sell? Why not? They could have games, ala Lance Weiler, cool swag like T-shirts for festivals or the web or speaking engagements for the filmmaker. Online they could give away the film and sell the extras, or create a community for the film with something value-added, or do contests or giveaways. Look at breakfast cereal- companies have been able to charge many times the cost of production because of packaging, extras, and perceived health benefits– filmmakers can learn from all kinds of marketing sources.

That said, it isn’t like a $5 million budget is redeemed with cracker jack prizes, but for filmmakers working on the cheap, making shorts or iTunes-friendly films, the indie rock model may not be that far-fetched.

Distribution for a New Era: Hot Docs panel action

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

If you’re at Hot Docs next month, you’re welcome to check out this panel on ‘The New Distribution’ I’ll be on. It’s Tuesday, May 5th at the Rogers Industry Centre and will concern:

As commissioning budgets shrink, distribution bucks the trend with acquisition and sales windfalls. Is it a sign of the times, or the ebb and flow of the market? Join our international sales and distribution powerbrokers’ status report on their theatrical, broadcast, DVD and online media ventures. Find out how they are working for filmmakers and adapting sales techniques to the new economy.

Not sure if there’s really any bucking but it should be a good time. & After that I hope to be powerbroking at some nice TO bars and movie theatres.

RiP, Snag, Friends, and Followers: Quick Hits

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Some recent news of note:

RiP: A Remix Manifesto premiered at SXSW and has been ‘picked up’ in the US by B-Side, whose DIY model will presumably avert some of the bigger copyright issues that might be a problem for regular distributors.

Snag! Films has made a deal with Hulu to place films on that site. This begs the question for filmmakers of whether, when they license their film to one online market, they are permitting that company to resell their film elsewhere (presumably cutting into whatever revenue there might be). It’s probably a good idea in general to look at contracts closely to see if this is the case- and to be clear about who you want to sell to and who you want as a representative.

Cinematech
guru Scott Kirsner’s new book “Fans, Friends, & Followers” streets today- and is available both in physical and virtual versions. I hope to have more to say once I’ve had a chance to read it, but as Scott asks for examples of business models that work in the online realm, I’ll just say that in terms of the selling of art and fundamental things that make it successful no matter what realm we’re in, I think that having people at the core who are both true fans of the work AND good businesspeople/entrepreneurs is the most important aspect. The how seems like it will follow naturally after that.

CineGoGo is a different kind of "Festival Direct"

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

CineGoGo explains how they take films from the festival circuit and distribute them to the nontheatrical/semitheatrical market on HD.