Recently, I made a post on my personal blog about why I am advising filmmakers to reconsider their use of Facebook to connect with an audience. There are lots of changes going on and it is important to understand that Facebook is a public company with shareholders to appease and a very large user base to exploit. A Facebook page is increasingly pay to play, so if you aren’t budgeting money to spend on growing your page and reaching your fans on a regular basis, you should find another way to reach them.

It’s too crowded

You may not believe it, but only 4 years ago it was not commonplace for businesses to use Facebook. Studios didn’t really get the point (most still don’t) and large corporations thought the whole social media thing was a fad that would fade. Small business pages used them to constantly talk about themselves and their products, but at least they were in the under utilized position of reaching consumers for free via a channel few put much stock into.

Now there are more than 25 million small business pages on Facebook! It isn’t easy to stand out in that crowd and only those with the most creativity, time and money can hope to compete. Sure, it feels safe now to say you have a Facebook page and you can still open a new one for free for every new project you start. But are you really going to put in the time, effort and money on a regular basis to make the page work? If the answer is no, don’t even start one.

Overcoming the Facebook algorithm

Some have said that Facebook perpetrated the biggest practical joke of the internet age by convincing brands and advertising agencies to spend money building up a large following only to restrict the ability to reach that following unless further payment is made. Others have said without the restriction, a user’s newsfeed would be inundated with useless promotional crap from companies who have no other interest than to use Facebook as a free advertising tool, ruining the ability to connect meaningfully with things users care about. However you see it, it is no secret that Facebook does indeed throttle the reach of your posts through the use of their complex and ever changing algorithms. Assume a day will come when the organic (ie, free) reach is zero.

Be platform neutral

Realize that social media channels are only tools in the long game toward building a base of support. Sure, people peruse your Facebook and Twitter follower numbers and make quick decisions about how “successful” your work is, but ultimately it is how interested, engaged and loyal your audience is that will make the biggest difference to your sustainability. None of these tools will last forever. One will eventually be usurped in popularity and the users will move on. The central idea behind all of them is the connections, the trust and the loyalty you are building and to bring that audience to the channel you do control–your own site.

Choose a social channel that you actually enjoy using, one that allows you to express your creativity on a daily basis, and where you can find like minded individuals to truly connect with. If that channel is still Facebook, then just be prepared to pay to participate.

 

 

 

 

 

March 26th, 2014

Posted In: Facebook, Social Network Marketing

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Trailer and short clip video editing is a much needed service in the independent film world, especially by lower budget filmmakers who can’t go to the bigger digital agencies and spend tens of thousands to get a trailer cut. Too often, lower budget filmmakers try to edit trailers themselves, but are too close to the material to understand that a trailer is a sales tool, not a visual synopsis.

In addition, the internet space is becoming dominated by visual material, photos and video clips. It isn’t enough to have just one trailer, multiple video pieces are now needed to enable social sharing, video channel subscription growth and capture and maintain an audience’s attention over a long period of time in the lead up to release.

While searching online for video editors that specialize in short clips and trailers, I came across a new site called Videopixie, a community of video freelancers offering post-production services at fair prices. I immediately contacted the site’s cofounder and COO, Thomas Escourrou, to find out more about how Videopixie might be the solution for independent film marketers who are long on footage, and short on money and skills to create compelling marketing videos.

How long has Video Pixie been around?

TE: “We launched in June 2013. My cofounder and I have been in the video space for a while, but the site is less than a year old. We are growing quickly with a 700 member community of video freelancers:  from editors, motion designers, animators, FX specialists, to videographers and writers.”

Video material is quickly taking over the internet space. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded just to Youtube every minute and over 6 billion hours of video are watched every month. There is a lot of competition for attention so a video really has to be compelling.  Is Videopixie trying to help companies, non profits and artists who don’t have the skills and expertise to create their own videos do that in an affordable and collaborative way?

TE: “Definitely! Videos are everywhere now. With mobile access and higher bandwidths, video is becoming the medium of the web.  Companies make videos to announce new products.  Inventors and creators make videos to crowdfund their projects. Experts make videos to teach the world. App  developers and filmmakers make trailers to sell more of their apps and films. As video distribution gets easier, the stakes are shifting to video production. How to create quality video content, frequently and affordably? When there was little distribution for a short video, it was an undertaking to invest in making a video and getting it into the world. Now that video can be put out online in a global way by anyone, it is a much more worthwhile investment.”

Video is also a great medium to put a face on a company or artist or non profit. You can demonstrate what they do, bring it to life, and make an emotional connection to an entity.

TE: “Right, basically show the soul of the venture. It isn’t easy to communicate soul through text and ad copy on the web. Video is more like real life. It hits a lot of the senses; sight, hearing, and the ability to have conversations around it. The web is becoming warmer and more human through the use of video.”

There is a nonprofit video clip I saw on your site showing what they do in Africa. It was awareness building for the organization and a fundraising initiative I guess.

TE: “Yes, the Impact Network is a non-profit improving the quality of education in rural Africa through digital tools.  They needed a video for their annual fundraiser, to connect with potential donors.   Their staff on the ground in Zambia shot some every day footage and interviews with their iPhones. They uploaded the footage to Videopixie and had it edited for about ~$250.  The editor arranged the footage to tell a compelling story, and added some simple motion graphics.

It proves that you can get solid videos without spending a fortune.  Of course, higher production value projects aren’t going away!  The video production market is as vibrant as ever.  But with marketplaces like Videopixie, it’s now possible to find great options for a wide range of budgets.

Often times, our users ask for help with their script and storyboard in the pre-production phase and we connect them with writers and directors.  Buying 1 hour of a writer’s time to jazz-up a script is well worth it.

Kickstarter videos require planning and we have freelance directors/writers on the platform who help with pre-production.  Kickstarter videos also benefit from polished post-production. Here is one of our blogs with tips to make great crowdfundng videos.”

How does one get started with Video Pixie for a project?  What would I need to upload? How does the system work in getting an editor interested?

TE: “To get started, just answer a few questions about your video, upload any existing footage, and post the project to the community. Freelancers engage, suggesting ideas and styles.  Some create teasers from the uploaded assets, others link to relevant videos they’ve made.

You receive the first bids within a few hours and hire the freelancer you like best.  Then project delivery starts using collaboration tools (real time chat, easy file transfer, reviewing tools etc). Payment happens at the end when everyone is satisfied.”

 

Videopixie editors

Choose from a community of editors

 

Right, I saw there is a money back guarantee so there is protection on both sides. The editor knows the money is there so they won’t get stiffed for work. And the buyer is protected in that their money isn’t paid until they sign off on the final cut. 

TE: “We play an insurance role for both parties, which brings peace of mind to the users and the freelancers. Users know they’ll only pay when satisfied. And freelancers know they’ll get paid for their work.

We chime in when necessary to make sure projects are budgeted properly, and that quality standards are met.”

If I am an editor looking for extra work, how do I get started with Video Pixie? 

TE: “Signing up is easy, there is a link at the bottom of the home page.  We require reels and a list of skill sets.  Within minutes you can browse available projects and you’ll start receiving email notifications when new projects are posted.

You can ask questions directly to the clients from the real-time chat. You submit bids for projects you are interested in. If you have relevant reels then great – just attach those to your bid – or you have the option to create a teaser (using the project’s footage which we make available in SD for faster download in the bidding phase).”

When you say bid, do you mean you offer to do a project for a certain amount of money? Is it by the hour, by the project?

TE: “It is by the project, not an hourly rate. Editors have access to the database of projects that includes a brief, the asset list, and the budget range. They can quickly scan through and see what is involved in the project and how many others are also interested in bidding. If a lot of people are bidding, it might not be attractive to submit something. “

What is the typical turn around time on an edited piece? 

TE: “It depends on the scope of what needs to be done. It could be just a few hours for very simple, scripted clips. Many of our users make videos every week, so they know exactly what to submit and what they want. For projects that need more creativity and back and forth, it could be one to two weeks.”

In uploading assets, how long can the footage be? A trailer for a feature film would involve uploading a 90 minute film.

TE: “There is no size limit. Uploading 200 GB of footage is no problem on a fast connection. We built an HTML5 resumable uploader called Evaporate JS. It works straight from the browser, no plugin.  It’s free, and takes full advantage of your connection speed.

Uploading is the recommended workflow for most projects.  Shipping hard-drives is also an option, and it is sometimes needed.  For example, if the director wants the trailer cut from TeraBytes of uncompressed footage (eg. DPX , open EXR).  In that case we still recommend to upload at least some footage so that interested editors can make teasers for you in the bidding period.

With the easy upload, you get a notification that it went through. We also have a notification system that alerts you when input is requested from either party. There is also a real time chat feature that gives a better sense of what it would be like to be in the editing suite with the person working on the project. We are also working on in-timeline commenting, so instead of making note of the timestamp to make comments on a certain aspect of the edit (make a hard cut or transition here, or insert a different image, or whatever), you can leave a comment within the timeline edit and the editor can bring those comments right into their editing suite, instead of searching through email or message communication.  This is our next improvement.

It may be that you don’t upload the full hi res footage. Maybe you want to do proxy edits where you upload SD footage and editor works off of that to get the final cut. Then you would take that trailer file into your own editing system and render the high definition trailer on your own system. This is a process for a more advanced person who just needs help formulating a good edit.”

Besides non profit videos, weddings, music videos, what other kinds of videos have been made through Videopixie?

TE: “Hundreds of videos have been made on Videopixie since launch:  Kickstarter videos, animated explainers for start-ups, Udemy course videos, game trailers, movie trailers, sizzle reels for TV shows. Here is a link to recent examples:  www.videopixie.com/happy-new-year

Some projects are straight forward, others involve tons of footage, creative scripts, motion graphics, FX, color grading, animations.

We also have started doing a lot of work with Youtubers. We created a partnership with a multi channel network (MCN) called Fullscreen. Videopixie serves as a post production house for their network of Youtube channels  to get shows edited and make motion graphic logos or intro or bumper pieces to make the videos unique.”

This would be great for independent filmmakers who want to make audience testimonials as people come out of a screening or on set video for crowdfund backers. There are all kinds of things a production shoots, but never finds time to edit. 

TE: “Yes, the goal is to make video production easier and possible for a wide range of budgets.  So people can create quality video content frequently with economics that make sense.

Audience testimonials are a no brainer, they are very compelling and cost very little to make. Just film, upload the footage, and get a finished video back for under $150 a day later to post on your FB page.”

Also, films need more video content than just a trailer. In the months leading up to release, many short clips need to be created and released at regular intervals to keep an audience’s attention and enable them to share these videos on their own channels. Every filmmaker and distributor wants buzz for their films, but they need to enable people to share material with their friends and widen that buzz. 

TE: “We also see this trend in the video game industry. It used to be about one big trailer for the game, but now the most successful games are creating new videos every month in lead up to release and well after. It is important to find a workflow for creating this content that doesn’t become burdensome.”

Videos can be used to bring critical moments in the production of a film to life for its audience, in near real time. Why only shoot on set for the special features when you could share a critical moment on the set from this morning or this week?  This is a great way to keep backers of a crowdfunding campaign up to date on how their donation is working to create a project. Having an on demand editing service that is affordable and quick keeps the production from having a backlog of shot footage that no one is in charge of editing.

Videopixie takes a 10% fee for facilitating the editing project.  If you plan to have a regular schedule of videos that need to be edited, many of the editors will offer a bulk discount for repeat customers.

As already stated, there is a money back guarantee for your satisfaction. If you are unhappy with the work of the editor you chose, Videopixie either will pay to have another editor re edit your piece or release your money from escrow and return it to you.

There is a full FAQ section on the site as well as some sample work. Before you sit down at the editing console and struggle for the right cut, consider spending a little bit to get a professional’s time and experience instead. In fact Videopixie is giving $100 credits to the first 20 readers who start a project. Make the perfect trailer or compelling short video clips for your film with the community on Videopixie.

 

March 20th, 2014

Posted In: Trailers, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last month, we gave you the first sneak peak at the next edition of our EU-focused Case Study Book, set to launch in the spring.

Our second teaser looks at digital aggregator UNDER THE MILKY WAY, which specializes in digital aggregation to some of the largest TVOD (transactional video on demand) platforms such as iTunes, GooglePlay/YouTube, Amazon, Sony Entertainment Network and VUDU. Unlike New Video and Gravitas in the U.S., they do not really deal with telecoms, pay TV or the cable sector in Europe. Advertising Video on Demand (AVOD) and Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) in Europe will be addressed in a forthcoming preview blog and in the next version of the book.

While UTMW does not exclusively work with EU territories, our interview with co-Founder Pierre-Alexandre Labelle concentrated on some of the ways filmmakers (and other rights-holders) are getting their films onto digital platforms in the EU.

1) What are the services you provide?

Under The Milky Way is a company providing VOD distribution services on a global basis.

With offices in 13 countries, including the US, we provide services to rights-holders of audiovisual content to get their films distributed on the most prominent VOD Platforms in the world. We provide a legal, commercial, editorial and financial interface between rights-holders and platforms.

2) Do you work directly with filmmakers? Or just sales agents and distributors? Or just distributors?

Most of our clients are distributors who choose to use our services to get their films out in VOD. Our commission-based model allows them to outsource part of the work necessary to take full advantage of VOD distribution for a limited investment. Through our ongoing agreements, we currently distribute more than 1600 films. We also sometimes work directly with sales agents who have not sold rights to a film in a particular country, and sometimes with producers looking to release their films internationally directly to VOD.

3) What are the key digital distribution platforms in Europe?

As you know, Europe is very broad and each country has its own set of “local players.” Normally, only one or two of these local players have an important VOD market share in their respective country (and the rest is very marginal). However, none of them operate on a European level. They are also mostly IPTV operators (comparable to cable operators in the US), and usually propose a limited selection of films (limited to films theatrically released in their country).

The main opportunities on a European level lie with the “global platforms,” i.e. iTunes, Google, Sony, etc., who also have a long tail approach and are willing to host a wide variety of films. Given their wide geographical coverage, one delivery/process can lead to wide exposure, ensuring much needed economies of scale.

4) To what other continents, if any, do you distribute?

In addition to the whole of Europe, and North America, we have offices in Japan, and Australia. We also handle Latin America from our New York office.

5) Which kinds of films perform best?

Huge blockbuster hits that are locally released in theatres… such as The Hunger Games, Twilight, Intouchables, etc, which we distribute in some territories. But I presume that’s not the kind of answer you are looking for…

Filmmakers who want to release their films globally on VOD first need to understand the implications of doing so. We will share this information with whoever contacts us in order to manage expectations to the best of our abilities. We can guarantee for all films a regular flow of information and data, which can then be useful for future releases. From a financial point of view, royalties are paid in a regular and transparent manner. We normally calculate a 2€ average revenue share for rights holders per unit sold (mix VOD/EST) meaning that 350 to 400 units are required to pay for their initial encoding expenses. No other costs are opposed, and any sale above that is direct revenue for the rights-holder.

6) What does performing well mean in Europe? In terms of money, prestige, placement on platforms, etc.?

Again, putting aside theatrically-released films in Europe, direct to VOD numbers can in theory vary from a few units sold to a few thousand. But we should look beyond the monetary aspect. UNDER THE MILKY WAY developed communication tools and workflows to ensure that all films are properly presented to the programming teams at the platforms. We do this on a per-territory basis, thanks to our local teams in all major markets. We always make sure to provide the best pitch possible for the film, but placement is still the decision of the merchandising teams at the platforms. They have the final say, but we feel that they value our recommendations and the work we put in to make their job easier. This is of course true for the release of the film, but also to ensure that the film is properly presented in promotional opportunities (which also proves to be a determining factor in the financial performance of a film on a particular platform).

7) Which kinds if films are the hardest to get platforms to take? And the hardest to get consumers to watch or buy?

Most global platforms will take any film that has had at least one theatrical release in their home country.

This being said, we sometimes still have a hard time understanding why a particular documentary does really well, while another does not. There are probably many reasons (Subject, Artwork, Trailer, Placement, and a myriad of other reasons). But I find this to be tremendously exciting. Distribution and marketing of cultural content has always been a very interesting subject, and quite a challenge. For the first time, the “Distribution” aspect is less of a problem; we now need to concentrate on the “Marketing.” How do you convince people to watch your film? Trade Marketing (placement on platforms) is currently a very important factor of monetization, but we are constantly working on experiments to find the right marketing levers to pull to maximize returns for our rights-holders.

We believe Digital Marketing will be key, and that a customized strategy could be applied to each film. We still experiment in that sense and are very careful to do so in a way that we can learn from our experimentations without wasting anyone’s resources. I wish we could be more efficient in terms of marketing at this point in time, but I believe that the market has not reached that point yet. I have yet to meet anyone who has found the proper mechanisms of VoD marketing (although a lot of people claim that they have —the good old “fake it till you make it” approach!).

8) Do filmmakers in Europe do DIY distribution? If so, to what extent?

The European Film industry is very complex and structured. I won’t go into all of the details, but most films in Europe are pre-financed through the involvement of distributors/sales agents/TV’s etc. at an early stage in the project. Even though truly independent filmmakers in the American sense exist, they tend to be marginalized by the fact that many films fall within the “system. ”

This being said, we are seeing an increasing amount of independent producers seeking the route of DIY for reaching international markets (especially the US). Indeed, international distribution in the traditional sense is still very limited. In any given year, only about 10% of European productions find their way to the US “traditionally.”

As a result, producers are starting to prefer an international VOD release of their film to 1) ensure commercial distribution (not always the case through a sales agent); 2) have shorter financial cycles (royalties flow rapidly in VOD and no recoupable expenses; and, finally, 3) directly connect with their audience (having access to data—actual number of units sold, etc.).

Of course Sales Agents provide many services that VoD distributors are not in a position to offer (festival selection, potential all-rights deals, etc.), and often do a great job at adding commercial value for a film, which will not be the same for a straight to VoD deal. Then again, not all films are fit for sales agents…It all boils down to having a very lucid picture of the film, its potential, and its best route to audiences.

9) Do you know about or know of filmmakers in EU using Distrify or VHX?

We recently initiated a partnership with Distrify within the TIDE Experiment (TIDE stands for Transversal Independent Distribution in Europe). It is a project made possible through the support of the European Commission. The goal of the action is to experiment with international Day and Date releases (Theatres/VOD). Distrify is taking part in the experiment on the third film entitled For Those in Peril. We’ll let you know how it goes, but I’m sure results will be very interesting.

10) What role do Film Festivals play in the success of a film digitally (in EU)? Which festivals matter? Do prizes matter (other than presumably winning at Cannes).

It is obvious that festivals play a very important role in the “professional” life of a film. A lot of initiatives were recently started in order to bridge the gap between the B2B marketing surrounding a film’s presence in a festival, and the general public.

Of course, no festival in the world actually has more of an impact on the success of a film digitally than Cannes, but more can definitely be done, which is why we partnered with the Rotterdam Film Festival last year and launched an initiative called IFFR in the Cloud. It provides filmmakers a way to show a film on iTunes Benelux within the itunes.com/iffr collection. [Note: the previous link will only work on computers with iTunes installed and logged in to one of the iTunes stores in the Benelux territories.]

11) What advice can you give to American filmmakers with regard to digital distribution in EU of their films. For American films, do only the bigger films with cast work, or is there a market for small indies? What about documentaries?

There are no set of pre-defined rules at this stage. I would suggest starting slowly and experimenting. The process is fairly straightforward. We sign agreements for a two-year term, and fees are payable directly to encoding houses (so there are no hidden costs of any sort), and you start getting your reports, and payments soon thereafter. Again, it is always valuable to have a discussion beforehand in order to manage expectations.

12) How are LANGUAGES handled in digital distribution in the EU?

You need to have localized versions of your films for each territory. Some platforms produce multilingual assets, meaning that with only one encoding you can add many subtitle tracks, thus making it cost effective to distribute a film over many territories. English is still accepted in many territories (I believe that, to this date, with an English version of a film, we can distribute it on 47 territories…)

[Note: By “multilingual asset,” he is referring to a textless version of your feature. If your film, for example, has a few non-English lines of dialogue, instead of burning-in English subtitles to your film, you would create an external English-language subtitle file in .itt format [Note: in the U.S., we are often asked for a different format: .srt or .stl] and submit with your master. This is the most flexible way to submit films, as many (but not all) platforms, such as Apple, will not allow external subtitles on any films that already have burn-ins. They will ask you for a new master, and you will have to once again pay encoding fees.]

Clearly, there are a few takeaways here that we have heard before:

  • that every film is different, and there is no one thing that determines films perform well and which do not. The best way to manage expectations is to understand how your film fits into today’s market. Having said that, it’s encouraging that a company such as UNDER MILKY WAY is taking steps toward transparency in terms of the process and reporting of earnings.
  • that IPTV operators in EU, like cable operators in the U.S., are quite localized and normally take only films that have been release theatrically in their country. Having said that, perhaps there was a slightly higher emphasis here on the curatorial aspects of getting one’s film onto platforms— perhaps they are stricter than those in the U.S.?
  • that the importance of proper presentation to programming teams at the platforms. Moreover, proper placement/positioning on those platforms was repeatedly brought up as an important provided service.
  • that for global platforms with wide geographical reach, UMW’s “one delivery” process simplifies the process and reduces costs.
  • that there is quite a bit of experimentation going on, such as their day and date partnership with Distrify and their film festival partnership with Rotterdam.
  • that marketing still is the missing piece of the puzzle here. As it gets easier and easier to get onto platforms, so too does it get more difficult for audiences to find the films that are perfectly suited to their interests. This is especially true when talking about marketing one’s film outside one’s home territory.
  • and lastly, we should remind our readers that one of the major obstacles to releasing a film in another territory can be the cost of translating and producing a subtitle file— it’s a tough hurdle to overcome on one’s own. One piece of advice for filmmakers, no matter how they are handling their global strategy is this: if your film is showing at an international film festival, ask if they are producing subtitles, and negotiate that produced file as part of your festival fee. It may need to be proofed again or adjusted at a subtitling and transcription lab later on, but as a first pass it could prove very valuable down the road.

March 14th, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, DIY

HELLO SXSW! It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since SXSW 2013. The film festival (and all the other things that happen) has consistently been on the cutting edge of distribution options. It is truly a one of a kind festival for a number of reasons and while they won’t pay for filmmaker travel, they do provide huge opportunity for the savvy filmmaker.

With 125+ films and the literally hundreds of panels, it can be daunting trying to get the attention of eyeballs. That said, over 2/3 of the films that world premiered here last year have secured some form of domestic distribution (on par with Tribeca and second only to Sundance).

The Film Collaborative world premiered I Am Divine at the festival last year and our release strategy is a prime example of how the fest can be a launching pad. The film went on to play over 200 festivals in less than a year (more than any other film in the world) racking up screening fee revenue. TFC also managed its theatrical release starting last October. The entire operating budget for the theatrical release was less than $10k and the film has grossed over $80,000 theatrically to date. As impressive as that is, the festival revenue surpassed the theatrical total. Meanwhile, despite never paying for a single print ad, we just passed our 50th theatrical engagement. The film has almost 40,000 Facebook Fans and will be released on DVD/Digital in April through Wolfe Releasing, and a TV premiere is scheduled for October.

SXSW 2013 films

SXSW produced two clear narrative breakouts last year, neither from a first time filmmaker. Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies was a day and date release and managed to gross $300k+, his highest grossing film to date. It has chartered quite well on iTunes and other digital platforms and is likely quite profitable for Magnolia (hence why they acquired Swanberg’s follow up out of Sundance this year).

The other narrative breakout was the critically acclaimed Short Term 12. Sundance’s loss was SXSW’s gain and the film grossed over $1 million at the US Box Office, won multiple audience and jury awards and is the highest grossing film ever for Cinedigm. The film has been in theaters non stop for over ½ a year!

12 O’Clock Boys was released day and date and is Oscilloscope’s highest grossing release in over a year. It also topped iTunes and, to date, the film has managed over $80k in revenue. In fact, the day and date strategy has not appeared to hurt other top performing SXSW Docs.

Magnolia grossed $138k with Good ‘Ol Freda  Also passing the $100k mark was Spark: A Burning Man Story. The film managed over $120k with a self financed theatrical handled by Paladin. What stood out wasn’t the total, but the fact that 70%+ came from Tugg Screenings!  FilmBuff handled the digital rights where the doc performed equally as well.  Meanwhile IFC’s The Punk Singer was a more standard release, but still a solid success passing the $120k gross mark.

Fall and Winter, Euphonia  and Some Girls all opted for digital releases via the newly established Vimeo on Demand service. This year, Vimeo is investing $10,000,000 into its service and offering $10,000 minimum guarantees in exchange for an exclusive digital distribution window to any film that has premiered at one of the 20 leading global film festivals throughout 2014. Filmmakers also may apply for marketing support. The huge thing though is that the filmmaker gets to keep 90% of the revenue, which is far better than any other notable digital platform.

Also popular amongst the filmmakers was FilmBuff. No fewer than eight world premieres were distributed digitally by them. A few of those films also had small DIY theatrical releases.

It should be noted that DIY releases cost money which might be a problem for those who did not budget ahead of time for such a release. However, cash strapped filmmakers  have raised DIY funds via Kickstarter to aid in such releases. TFC helped Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton raise over $50k. Loves Her Gun, This is Where We Live, and Love and Air Sex (AKA The Bounceback ) all raised distribution funds via crowdfunding.

Netflix took The Short Game as their first documentary acquisition and the film had a modest theatrical run via The Samuel Goldwyn Company. Pantelion passed $50k with Hours which has been a top digital performer following the death of its star, Paul Walker. First Run Features is approaching $40k with Maidentrip and companies like IFC, Magnolia, Oscilloscope, Breaking Glass, FilmBuff, and Variance all took multiple films.

On the TV side, SXSW films have premiered on Al Jazeera, CNN, Showtime, PBS, and VH1. Many of those films had some form of theatrical too. Documentaries continue to be the bulk of the festival highlights though the top two grossing films were narratives. The festival is second only to Sundance for world premiering a doc.

As we look to what the 2014 crop will offer, there are already some game changing situations. BFI is repeating their marketing match offer of up to $41k  for any distributor who acquires one of their five UK based SXSW premiere films for distribution. As pointed out earlier, Vimeo’s offer extends beyond SXSW to 19 other upcoming festivals. I encourage you to keep an open mind and craft your film strategies now! The $10K MG that Vimeo offers for such a short exclusive digital window (plus you get to keep 90% of any revenue after the MG is recouped!) is better than many advance offers made by lower profile distributors. You can always pull your title off after the MG is recouped and seek more traditional distribution routes as Cinemanovels did out of Toronto last year

SXSW is a great place to showcase your film, but without a formal market and with all the craziness that surrounds the festival from the interactive and music sides, it is unlikely that seven figure deals will pop up like they do at Sundance. Despite this, deals are still made, some choose to go into the DIY space and a few (like our release of I Am Divine) succeed in both arenas. The possibilities are endless.

 

March 10th, 2014

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, iTunes, Netflix, Theatrical, Uncategorized, Vimeo

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You may remember that I profiled a new digital distributor last year called Devolver Digital who was adding independent films to their existing line up of video games. Yesterday, Devolver announced a new initiative with the folks at Humble Bundle and VHX to release the “Devolver Digital Double Debut” Bundle, a package that includes five games both classic and new and the new documentary Good Game profiling the professional gaming lives of the world-renown Evil Geniuses clan as well as other films on the VHX platform. Proceeds from the bundle benefit the Brandon Boyer Cancer Treatment Relief Fund as well as The Film Collaborative.

You may remember, we are a registered 501c3 non profit dedicated to helping creators preserve their rights in order to be the main beneficiary of their work. We plan to use our portion of the proceeds to fund the new edition of our book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul which will be given away totally free upon its publication. If you’ve ever benefited from our advice, our speaking or our written posts, now is the opportunity to give us support in expanding even more of your knowledge as well as help Brandon Boyer, chairman of the Independent Games Festival (IGF), to help with his astronomical medical bills for cancer treatment.

Devolver Digital Double Debut bundle titles

You can find the Bundle here https://www.humblebundle.com/devolver  It is available only until March 16, 2014.

It is just this kind of out of the box thinking we love and we couldn’t wait to be involved.

As a follow up to last year’s piece, I asked Devolver Digital founder, Mike Wilson, to fill me in on how the company has ramped up and what this initiative means to gamers, to filmmakers and to the non profits involved.

In the year since Devolver Digital started, how has your games audience transitioned into an audience for the films you handle?

 MW: “When we announced the start the Films branch of Devolver Digital last SXSW, we did so for a few reasons.  The first was seeing an opening to create a more publishing-like digital distributor for micro-indies.  Curation, promotion, transparency, versus what we perceived as the status quo in the VOD distribution space where films were uploaded in bulk and they hope for the best.

One of the biggest reasons, though, was the knowledge that the biggest games platforms that we do 95% of our (very healthy) digital distribution business with on the games side were going to be moving to start delivering films this year.  Those platforms are still not very active in the film space, aside from Games/Movies bundle with Humble Bundle that just kicked off.  But they are coming, so we’ll know more about how much we are able to turn the indie game-loving audience onto indie films from the fest circuit a little later this year.  Our hopes remain high, as these are people who consume an inordinate amount of digital media, are very comfortable with digital distribution and watching films on their computers, and they have a community around independent content from small teams around the world like nothing we’ve seen on the film side.  It’s more akin to music fans, turning friends on to great bands they’ve never heard of, and gaining their own cred for unearthing these gems.  THIS is what we hope to finally bring to the independent film space, along with these much more sophisticated platforms in terms of merchandising digital content.”

Devolver Digital Double Debut Bundle

Where are you seeing the greatest revenues from? Cable VOD, online digital, theatrical? Even if one is a considered a loss leader, such as theatrical typically, does it make sense to keep that window?

MW: “We just started releasing films on cable VOD in the Fall, and most of that content didn’t hit digital until recently, so the jury is still a bit out.  We are now able to do day-and-date releasing on all platforms as well.  We have done limited theatrical, purely as a PR spend on a couple of our strongest releases, and that has been very successful in terms of getting press the films never would have gotten otherwise, but of course it does cost some money and it’s just an investment in the VOD future of the films. There is still no hope of breaking even on a theatrical run for indies as far as we can tell… but at least the cost to entry has gone down and will hopefully continue to do so.  For now, we still expect cable and iTunes to be our best performers, until the games platforms start delivering.”

What lead to this recent initiative through Humble Bundle and VHX? Have you partnered with them before? 

MW: “Humble Bundle has been a miraculous success on the indie games side.  We do bundles with them as often as possible.  The key was getting them and VHX to work together, as we needed a high-quality, low-cost streaming solution to deliver what we expect to be hundreds of thousands of ‘keys’ purchased in these bundles.

VHX is pretty forward thinking on this front, again watching the games platforms carefully, and has come up with an elegant solution that works. We have been asking Humble to let us do a movies bundle for at least six months now, since we’ve had such success with them on the games side.  They decided that this games+movies bundle would make for a stronger segue.  They have delivered other types of media before such as music, soundtracks, audio books, and comedy records, none of which has had anywhere near the attach rate of their games bundles, but are still quite successful when compared to other digital options for those businesses.  We expect films to do better than any of these other ancillary avenues they’ve tried.”

What is the split for all involved? There are several entities sharing in this Pay What You Want scenario, so is this mainly to bring awareness and publicity for all involved or is revenue typically significant?

MW: “In this particular bundle, since all the games and films are roughly $10 values, we’ve split it equally.  So you have 10 artists splitting what will probably average out at $5 or $6 bucks a ‘bundle.’  But the volume will be so high, we still expect each of these filmmakers to make more money in these 10 days than they will likely make on their entire iTunes run.

And, TONS of new people watching their movies who would never have found it otherwise, which as a filmmaker, I know counts for as much as the money.  I’d personally much rather have my film (and one of the films in the bundle is the last one I produced) in a bundle like this than shoveled onto subscription based VOD, and I know it’ll make more money and get more views.” [editor’s note: Those purchasing the bundle get to choose how the contribution is split between Devolver, Humble Bundle and the charitable contributions.]

Why did you decide to include a donation aspect to the Bundle? Is that an incentive to pay a higher price for the bundle?

MW: “Humble is committed to supporting charities with their platform.  It’s part of the magic (other than the tremendous value) that makes their 4 million + regular customers feel really good about taking their chances on games (and other media) they’ve never heard of.

From Devolver’s standpoint, our last weekly games bundle on Humble resulted in nearly $150k for charity in addition to our developers all making a nice payday.  It’s a miracle of a win-win-win.  In this case, hopefully a lot of filmmakers will feel compelled to try this method out since it’s new, an incredible value, and will support TFC, who have helped so many filmmakers learn to navigate these murky waters.  And there’s a very local, very specific cause on the games side, helping a champion of Indie Games like Brandon Boyer overcome his devastating personal situation of fighting cancer while battling mounting medical bills. It just feels good, and this is a big reason Devolver is such a fan of Humble Bundle.”

We can’t think of a better situation than contributing money to receive fantastic games and films while helping those who enable the creators to reach new audiences, keep rights control of their work and celebrate their creativity. Check out the Devolver Digital Double Debut on the Humble Bundle site. We thank Devolver, Humble Bundle and VHX for allowing us to partner with them on this initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

March 7th, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution

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