filmdoo_logo

CEO & Cofounder, FilmDooby Orly Ravid.

I was introduced to indie film platform FilmDoo.com and decided to share it with you all here by asking FilmDoo some questions. I spoke to Weerada Sucharitkul, CEO & Co-Founder and most of what is below are Weerada’s own words in response to my questions.

What is FilmDoo’s Mission?

We help people to discover and watch great films from around the world, including documentaries and shorts. Essentially, we help people discover non-Hollywood films, which include independent films from the US and UK, as well as mainstream blockbuster films from China and Japan, for example. We not only help people to discover films but languages and regions, and are very much a ‘TripAdvisor for Films.’ On FilmDoo, you can discover films from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, many of which we are the first to show internationally outside of film festivals. Furthermore, we also have a very engaged global film community (users can have an active social profile and leave reviews, comments as well as engage with other community members) and are an extensive international film database source, which is increasingly becoming an alternative to IMDB for foreign language films. As such, we are not only a VOD platform, we are more than that—a global database of foreign films as well as rapidly growing international community of film fans.

How does the platform work? What is FilmDoo’s Business Model?

FilmDoo’s current model is TVOD (pay-per-view) for feature films on the main FilmDoo site. We are a global online streaming platform and have the ability to sell and show films anywhere in the world. We are at over 500,000 visitors a month, with users from 194 countries. As we are increasingly getting a lot of traffic from emerging countries (e.g. Indonesia is now our second biggest traffic country, and countries like Turkey, India, Malaysia and Philippines make our Top 10 list), we are now looking at more ways to further monetize from these parts of the world and could be looking to do an AVOD model in these countries in the near future. We are able to geo-block for any country combination, and only require one month notice from filmmakers or content owners if they would like to change the geo-block country combination. We are able to accept transactions in UK Pound, US Dollar, Australian Dollar and Euro, as well as Paypal and AliPay (for Chinese-based users).

Which types of films do best on your platform?

Search ’gay movies’ and ’lesbian movies,’ and you will see we rank very high on Google from a SEO perspective. At the moment, their best selling category is LGBT films. FilmDoo claims to already have one of the biggest LGBT online film collections in the world. In terms of typical demographics, the audience base is a lot younger than typical ‘world cinema’ audience. They tend to be globally mobile, active on social media, speak many languages and/or learning languages, and come from an international or expatriate background (such as second generation French or Italian). Human rights documentaries have also tended to do well. As such, we see strong appeal for films that fit our current demographics: average age 22-39, young, learning languages, loves travelling and enjoys watching coming-of-age movies, first love movies, thriller movies, road movies, LGBT movies and human rights and social issues.

Where do most of your consumers live? Explain which countries.

Our current Top 10 countries by traffic, in order, include: 1. US, 2. Indonesia, 3. Turkey, 4. UK, 5. Turkey, 6. Malaysia, 7. Philippines, 8. Egypt, 9. Germany, and 10. Saudi Arabia. However, in terms of sales, our top selling countries include: US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Netherlands and India. As you can appreciate, given the global nature of our traffic, for many in emerging countries in Asia and Africa, for example, the current TVOD price point is either too high for them, they do not have credit card or they are more used to an AVOD or free viewing model and not used to making transactions online. Hence why we are now exploring AVOD as an option to do more in the rest of the world.

What is the revenue split? Are there any costs recouped?

Revenue share is 70/30, same as iTunes. There are no costs to put the films on the FilmDoo platform, no further additional transcoding or ingestion costs. There are no marketing costs recouped either. The mission is to make it as easily and as flexible as possible for film makers to be able to put their films online at no additional costs and with maximum ease to be able to maximize their full global potential.

Some of their top selling content partners are LGBT content partners who have a collection of films with us and are able to make a decent sum month (I was asked not to share the exact sum publicly).” They note doing increasingly better for other film genres and collections. Launched in 2015, FilmDoo claims to be growing rapidly and expects to grow its catalog and audience.

Please speak to the simplicity, ease, and flexibility of the platform as far as geo-blocking, limiting territories, and the simple delivery, non-exclusivity…

Simplicity, ease and flexibility are absolutely at the heart of what we do at FilmDoo. Our goal is to reduce current barriers to international distribution in the film industry and most of all, to help films, especially films that have had their festival runs and may have already sold in a few territories, to continue to be able to monetize and reach their full global potential. That’s why we want to make it as easy as possible for them.

This includes:

  • Ability to geo-block to any country combination requirement, with only one month notice required if you need to make changes to this. We will be able to sell your film in any country.
  • We will try our best to work with your material—we can take both HD and SD files (where HD is not available), AppleProRes and H.264. We can accept the digital files via our FTP, WeTransfer, Aspera as well as any other way.
  • We can also accept film files sent to us in hard drives by post.
  • Where the films are not available digitally, we will also accept DVD/ Blurays and will digitize these at no additional costs to the film makers.
  • We do require that all films have English subtitles. If available, it would also help to have native language caption files as separate files (e.g. English captions for English language films, French caption for French language films, etc), although this is not required.
  • Our preference is for clean film files with separate subtitle files in .SRT or .WebDTT format.
  • However, if separate subtitles are not available, we can also accept film files with burnt in English subtitles.

What is FilmDoo’s Term?

Our terms are 2 years non-exclusive.

As you will see, we are much more flexible and easier to work with than most other global platforms, because our number one goal is to make it as easy as possible for film makers and content owners to put their films online and reach their global audience.

Are filmmakers able to see the data of where their audiences live (country) and how many transactions per each country? Is there a dashboard?

Yes, we have an online reporting dashboard. Film makers or content owners will be able to log in any time to see their total sales in real time. They will be able to see where the sales are coming from, the countries their films are getting the most interest in, and where available, the demographics breakdown of people interested in their films such as gender and age.

Can filmmakers contract with you directly?

Absolutely, please feel free to email me directly at wps@filmdoo.com. In addition, we can also be contacted at our general email: info@filmdoo.com. Please also feel free to follow our news, film releases and reach out to us on our social media: FacebookTwitterYouTube.

What is FilmDoo doing to increase its consumer/audience reach?

Through our proprietary marketing technology, we are doing very well on SEO, where we are able to reach global audience interested in Lesbian and Gay movies as well as films by language collection. Furthermore, our proprietary technology include our personalized film recommendation engine.

At the same time, we also have a very strong Editorial and Curation team, where we continuously help to promote our films via our Blog, YouTube channel, social media and newsletters. We are also able to interview directors and film makers at no additional costs to help create promotional and editorial content. We also have community user-generated content, such as film playlists and film reviews, which are growing rapidly.

Most importantly, what is unique about FilmDoo, is our “DooVOTE” concept, whereby we are empowering users to discover films not yet available in their country and to express a demand in seeing that film. Consequently, we are using this data to try to go after the films we know there is interest from our community:

filmdoo.com/doovote. To increase our audience reach, we often do a lot of on the ground marketing, including partnerships with film festivals and giving presentations and talks at film workshops and events.

Please share anything else you think is relevant — including that you may turn into an SVOD or AVOD

I think it’s important to note that unlike other players in this space, we are not going after the already hardcore indie or world cinema film fans. We are identifying and converting new film audiences, many of which are traditional mainstream audiences, who may be increasingly interested in exploring new and refreshing content, whether from a cultural and language perspective or from an awareness of gender or human rights topics. Effectively, our audience is an increasingly growing group of people who are becoming more interested in travel, studying or traveling abroad, as well as forming multi-cultural families. FilmDoo is all about providing a truly global platform to traditionally underrepresented voice, such as emerging film makers and female and LGBT film makers from around the world. Their films deserve to be discovered and seen legally and FilmDoo is building a community and global platform to help them achieve that.

Sydney Levine has written an article on FilmDoo as well. Please read it here.

Please note: I did not publish information about revenue per FilmDoo’s request as that is proprietary information, but I am told I can discuss it privately/confidentially with filmmakers.

October 18th, 2017

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, DIY, International Sales

Tags: , , , ,

platforms

Always check with your lab or distributor to make sure their deliverable specs adhere to what is outlined below. Especially deliverables outside North America, which are sure to diverge from what is below. Much of this may apply to films who have sold to distributors, but this post is mostly aimed at those doing DIY distribution. The following also mostly applies to TVOD platforms, but may also apply to others. Again, check with your distributor/lab before you produce any deliverables.

  1. Know when not to do iTunes
    iTunes is expensive. It will cost at least $2K to do iTunes/Amazon/GooglePlay. Think of how many people will need to rent your film at $4 (and that’s before the platform’s cut) for you to recoup that money, and then think how many more will have to do so for you to recoup your investment. Are your 1500 Facebook fans going to come through for you? Most probably won’t. A better option might be to do VHX or Vimeo on Demand and spend that money on marketing to drive people to your site. We have handled almost 50 films in the past three years via our DIY Digital Distribution Program, and the bottom line is that if you expecing people to find your film simply because it’s on iTunes while you sit back and move on to your next project, you are probably going to be in for a rude awakening.
  2. Subtitles and Closed Captioning (part 1)
    Pretty much the only way to go nowadays is to submit a textless master, with external subtitles. This can get kind of tricky, so it’s important to understand what is needed and to not expect that the lab you are working with is impervious to mistakes.

    • Your film is in English and has no subtitles
      You will need to produce a Closed Captioning file
    • Your film is 100% not in English
      You will need to produce a subtitle file only (Closed Captioning is not required)
    • Your film is mostly in English but there are a few lines (or more) of dialogue that are not in English
      You will need to produce both a Closed Captioning file and what is called a Forced Narrative Subtitle file.
      This “Forced Narrative” subtitle file is rather a new concept, so when you work with your subtitle lab (if you need suggestions for labs to work with, check out the ‘Subtitling, Closed Captioning and Transcription Services and Solutions’ section on the ResourcePlace tab on our website), make sure they understand that an English language forced narrative file (unlike Closed Captioning or regular subtitles) does not need to be manually turned on for territories where English is the main language, and in fact cannot be turned off in those Territories. Hence, they are forced on the screen. Together with the closed captioning, they make up a complete dialogue of your film, but they should not overlap, or else you’ll be in a situation where the same lines of text are appearing twice on the screen, and your film will be rejected.

    TECH TIP: We recommend watcing your film through before you deliver with all subtitle and CC files. If your film is only in English and you only need to produce closed captioning, these files are pretty much gibberish. So ask the lab to ALSO provide you with a .srt subtitle file of the closed captioning (it’s an easy convert for them). Even though you won’t be submitting this file, you can watch it using, for example, VLC. Just make the filename of your .srt file the same as your .mov or .mp4 file, place it in the same folder, and the subs should automatically come on.
    If your film has a forced narrative, keep track of your non-English dialogue…easy to do especially if your film only has a few lines of non-English. Then change the file extension .srt or .stl temporaily to .txt. This file can then be opened in any text application and eyeballed to ensure that no lines of foreign dialogue are misplaced. If you ask for a .srt conversion of your Closed Captioning file, you can do the same thing with this file to verify that these non-English lines are not repeated in the Closed Captioning.

  3. Subtitles and Closed Captioning (part 2)
    Closed Captioning needs to be in .scc format. Subtitles need to be in either .srt or .stl format. But .srt file do not hold placement, so if you are making a documentary, for example, you will probably want to submit .stl. Because if you have any lower-thirds in your film, lines of closed captioning or subtitled dialogue needs to be moved to the top of the screen when lower thirds are on the screen. .srt files will appear on top of the lower thirds, and your film will be rejected.
    TECH TIP: Again, watch your film back with closed captioning / subtitling to make sure your lower thirds are not blocked.
  4. Dual Mono not allowed
    Make sure the audio in your feature and trailer is stereo. This does not merely mean that there is sound coming out the L & R speakers. It means that these two tracks need to be different…and not where one side gets all the dialogue and the other gets the M&E. Think of how annoying that would be if you were in a theater. L & R tracks need to be mixed properly and outputted as such.
    TECH TIP: Listen to your film before you submit, or at the very least make sure your film is not dual mono…download an applcation such as Audacity, a free program, and open your masters in that program. if the sound waves are identical for both L & R, you need to go back and redo. Don’t assume your sound guy is not infallable.
  5. 720p not allowed
    iTunes is no longer accepting 1280×720 films. In addition, they will not take a 1280×720 that has been up-rezed to 1920×1080. No one should be making movies in 720p and expect the world to cater to their film.

September 16th, 2015

Posted In: Amazon VOD & CreateSpace, Digital Distribution, Distribution Platforms, iTunes, Vimeo

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

Selling Your Film Outside the U.S.Last May, TFC released the second book in our series called Selling Your Film Outside the US. As with everything in the digital space, we are trying to keep track of a moving target. Netflix has now launched in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. iTunes continues its transactional VOD domination by partnering with Middle East film distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment to give Arabic and Bollywood films a chance to have simultaneous releases in eight countries: UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait. Amazon has just launched several new original series in the US and UK, including critical darling Transparent, to a line up that includes returning series Alpha House and Betas.

But what does DIY Distribution mean in the context of European territories? The following is an excerpt included in the book:

Here are a few tips for any filmmaker who is thinking about doing digital distribution in general, but especially in multiple territories:

-If your film is showing at an international film festival, ask if they are producing subtitles, and, if so, negotiate that the produced file be 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. See more about the kind of file you need in this post;

-When you are producing your master, create a textless version of your feature. Apple and probably other platforms will not allow external subtitles on any films that already have burn-ins. If your film, for example, has a few non-English lines of dialogue, instead of burning-in English subtitles into your film, a better method would be to create an external English-language subtitle file (separate from closed captioning) in a proper format and submit it with your master. Different aggregators may require different formats, and if you are going to a Captioning/Transcription/Translation Lab to do your closed captioning and subtitling work, be smart about which questions you ask and negotiate a price for everything, including transcoding from one format to another because you may not know exactly what you will need for all your deals right away.

Subtitles need to be timed to masters, so make sure your time code is consistent. When choosing a lab, ascertain whether they are capable of fulfilling all your current and future closed captioning and subtitling needs by verifying that they can output in the major formats, including (but not limited to) SubRip (.srt), SubViewer 1 & 2 (.sub), SubStation Alpha (.ssa/.ass), Spruce (.stl), Scenarist (.scc) and iTunes Timed Text (.itt);

-You may want to band together with films that are similar in theme or audience and shop your products around as bundled packages. Many digital services, including cable VOD, have thematic channels and your bundle of films may be more attractive as a package rather than just one film;

-Put the time in toward building your brand and your fanbase. 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. If you are accessing platforms for your film on your own, YOU are the distributor and the responsibility of marketing the film falls entirely to you.

To download a FREE copy of the entire book, complete with case studies of films distributed in Europe, visit sellingyourfilm.com.

October 15th, 2014

Posted In: Amazon VOD & CreateSpace, book, case studies, Digital Distribution, DIY, iTunes, Netflix

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Orly Ravid and Sheri Candler

In the past 3 posts, we have covered knowing the market BEFORE making your film, how to incorporate the festival circuit into your marketing and distribution efforts and understanding terms, the foreign market and release patterns.  In this post, we will discuss the items that will be required by sales agents, distributors (primarily digital distributors) and even digital platforms (if you are thinking of selling directly to your audience with less middlemen) before a deal can be signed and the film can be distributed.

photo credit Vancouver Film School

photo credit Vancouver Film School

Know your deliverables

Distribution is an expensive and complicated process and all distribution contracts contain a list of required delivery items (often attached at the end of the document as an exhibit) in order to complete the agreement. Without the proper items, sales agents and distributors will not be interested in making a deal. Your film must have all proper paperwork, music licenses, and technical specifications in order and these delivery items will incur additional costs to your production. Make sure to include a separate budget for deliverables within the cost of your production.

US sales agents and distributors will require insurance covering errors and omissions (E&O) at minimum levels of $1,000,000 per occurrence, $3,000,000 in the aggregate with a deductible of $10,000, in force for three years. E&O insurance protects the producer and distributor (usually for the distributor’s catalog of films)  against the impact of lawsuits arising from accusations of libel, slander, invasion of privacy, infringement of copyright etc and can cost the producer in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. E&O insurance is required BEFORE any deal is signed, not after, and can take 3-5 days to obtain if all rights and releases, a title report and music clearances can be supplied.

Digital aggregators in general do not require E&O insurance unless it is for cable VOD and Netflix (these do). However, they do require closed captioning (around $900), subtitling (if you intend to distribute in non English speaking territories, usually costs around $3 per minute) and a ratings certificate (if distributing in some foreign territories, prices vary according to run time and ratings board).

The production will need to supply a Quality Control (QC) report, preferably from a reputable encoding house. If you film fails QC for iTunes and other digital platforms, it can be costly to fix the problems with the file and it will lead to a delay of the film’s release. MANY problems can be found in the QC process so whatever you think you are saving by encoding yourself or via a less reputable company, you will more than make up for in having to redo it. The most common problems arise from duplicate frames or merged frames as a result of changing frame rates; audio dropouts or other audio problems; sync problems from closed caption or subtitling files.

Distributors will accept a master in Apple ProRes HQ 422 file on an external hard drive or HD Cam. By far, the digital drive is preferable to tape and unless your distributor specifically requests HD Cam, do not go to the expense of creating this. The master should NOT have pre roll advertising, website URLs, bars/tones/countdowns, ratings information, or release date information. For digital files, content must begin and end with at least one frame of black.

Other delivery items required by sales agents/distributors include: trailer (preferably 2 minutes) in the same aspect ratio as the film with no nudity or profanity; chapter points using the same time code as the master file; key art files as a layered PSD or EPS with minimum 2400 pixels wide at 300 dpi; at least 3-5 still images in high resolution (traditional distributors often require as many as 50 still images) and already approved by talent; DVD screeners; press kit which includes a synopsis, production notes, biographies for key players, director, producer, screenwriter, and credit list of both cast and crew; pdf of the original copyright document for the screenplay and the motion picture; IRS W-9 form or tax forms from governments of the licensor; music cue sheet and music licenses.

There are technical specifications that need to be met as far as the video and audio files. Most post production supervisors are aware of these. It is also not unheard of to be asked to supply 35 mm prints for foreign distribution if a theatrical release is desired or contractually obligated.

Sometimes if your film is considered a hot property, a distributor might be willing to create the delivery items at their expense in exchange for full recoupment and/or a greater cut of the revenues. But do not count on this. We have heard from many filmmakers who didn’t clear music rights for their films, assuming a distributor would take on this expense, and were sorely disappointed to find none would do that. If you can’t supply the delivery list, no agreement will be signed.

July 23rd, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, International Sales

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Orly Ravid and Sheri Candler

We continue this month’s series covering the practicalities behind successfully marketing and distributing an independent film with limited resources. Please see Part 1 on knowing the market for your film HERE.

Part 2-Temper festival expectations and don’t wait too long to release.

While you may be targeting top-tier festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Telluride and SXSW (Austin’s South by Southwest) where acquisition executives attend and search for films to acquire, your film may not be chosen for these festivals. Be prepared for this disappointment and have a backup plan. If your film fails to be selected, your distribution options are likely to change as well. The best acquisition prices are paid by the most reputable companies for films out of these top tier fests. While you may receive offers for distribution even if your film doesn’t have this type of premiere, those offers will be lower in scope and usually from either up and coming companies (ie, start ups with little money) or companies whose reputations are not as prominent.

Should you continue submitting to other festivals and stay on the circuit? TFC colleague Jeffrey Winter has handled festival distribution for countless films, but mainly the films TFC picks up for festival distribution either come from A list festivals or have some kind of specific niche appeal. He advises “For any film that is performing well on the circuit (meaning getting accepted into a significant number of festivals on a more or less regular basis), there is a general rule you can follow. Most films will see their festival bookings continue robustly for 1 year from the date of the world premiere, and then significantly drop off (but still trickle in) in months 12 – 18. After 18 months, festival bookings will nearly cease worldwide. Given that general rule, I am going to go ahead and call that 18 months the ‘Festival Window.’”

“For filmmakers and many small distribution companies, the festival window is invaluable and irreplaceable in terms of the marketing/publicity value it can afford, and the modest revenue that can be generated for certain kinds of films (prestige festival films, films that fit within the programming of specific niche festivals), especially if they can secure European festival placement. When working with a modest budget, any and all revenue the film can bring in is significant. Additionally, the free marketing/publicity that a festival offers is just about the only kind of marketing the film may ever get.”

Assuming you achieve regional festival screenings, will you use it as a form of theatrical tour, gathering press coverage and fans in regional areas in order to fuel your digital sales? If so, how to transition that coverage and word of mouth into the digital rollout, when is that rollout going to happen and who is going to coordinate it? These questions need to be answered.

Leaving too much time between a regional festival premiere and eventual digital and DVD sales is a mistake many independent filmmakers make.  When publicity and good word of mouth recommendations are being generated from your festival screenings, set a firm deadline on when digital distribution will have to start should your distribution savior not appear. Don’t hold out indefinitely for distribution opportunities that may not come. Often, we are contacted by filmmakers who insist on spending a year or more on the festival circuit, without making any revenue and without significant distribution offers in sight. They are wasting revenue potential by continuing to hope a distribution savior will appear and refusing to move ahead with plans for the next phase of release (that will probably be handled on their own) because they didn’t budget for this situation or they have no idea of the options available. Note, it can take up to 4 months to go live on iTunes and other well known digital platforms. If you’re thinking of having a digital self release, plan accordingly.

If chosen for a festival, take full advantage of the screening as a marketing opportunity. It is imperative not only to enjoy face to face compliments at your screenings, but encourage people to use their social media accounts to tell others how great your film is. Many times filmmakers tell us about their sold out screenings at regional fests (or even pre release screenings) and how many people came up to them with kind words to say about the film. But in looking for those kind words online, sometimes we find very little or nothing being said. This is a troubling sign. No bump in Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, trailer views or website traffic? No one using a hashtag or @mention on Twitter or Instagram? No comments or shares of the film’s trailer from Youtube? Kind words in person are great for your personal morale, but in order to have beneficial word of mouth, people have to want to share news of your film and the normal outlet for doing that today is online. It is trackable too! Word of mouth won’t help with digital sales if no one is talking so make sure everyone you meet is aware of the film’s home online, its social media accounts, and where a trailer exists to be shared. You can’t MAKE people speak, you can only encourage it.

photo credit Matt DeTurk

photo credit Matt DeTurk, Dalboz17 via photopincc

If you’re brash during a post screening Q&A, take a selfie à la Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars and tell everyone you will post it to the film’s Twitter or Instagram account and what that account handle is. They are more likely to retweet or share it if you make it super easy and they are more likely to follow your account, visit the film’s website (so make sure the About section includes that URL link), maybe even sign up for your email alerts. Also, think a little differently about your film’s festival catalog description. If you want people to follow you as an artist and your film’s actors (a social media following is important for their career!), add Twitter handles/Instagram handles/FB page name etc to the paragraph you are asked to submit about your film. Technically, ALL festivals should want this kind of information included just as they now post website URLs. If audience members like the film performances, they also might like to follow the humans who gave them and the humans who made the film possible.

Instead of using a clipboard method to collect email addresses from your festival audience, look into using a text-to-subscribe service associated with your email provider. Mailchimp’s MobileChimp (UK, USA, Australia, Spain, France & Netherlands) and Constant Contact (US only) both have this capability. Put the keyword you choose to associate with your account on any printed material and be sure to say it out loud during your Q&A. An email database is worth its weight in gold throughout your release and further into your future work so don’t neglect to grow one while you are touring your film.

Add festival laurels from the most important/recognizable film festivals to your marketing materials. While we know the temptation is to put every laurel from every festival on your website banner, key art, postcards etc. it starts looking cluttered and inconsequential. The festivals with the most impact on your audience are the ones to include because they will have the most impact on purchases. Don’t forget the pull quotes to favorable critical reviews as well.

In going back to the discussion about digital release, is this release going to be worldwide or only in your home country? If your film has played festivals worldwide, it doesn’t make much sense to only release it within your own country, especially if you have all territories still open for sales. If you have signed agreements in some formats or in some territories, then those warrant compliance. But hoping for a foreign deal when you don’t have one even in your home country is unrealistic. Seriously consider releasing digitally worldwide when your launch comes.

In the next part of the series, we’ll take a look at the different players in film distribution and how to work with them.

July 9th, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, Film Festivals, iTunes, Theatrical

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The simple answer is “yes..wellsometimes.” Like most questions in this business, there is a simple answer for casual conversation, and a truer answer for a more in-depth analysis.

laurel winner

It would be nice to say that all film festival awards are valuable for independent film distribution, but the truth is that it mostly comes down to what Festival it is (what actual award it is is less important for the most part). The simplest rule is, if a particular Festival matters, then an Award from that Festival matters even more. If a particular festival doesn’t show up on anyone’s radar, then the Award won’t either. The easiest comparison to draw is the use of press/publicity quotes in marketing…i.e. nobody cares about a glowing review from a press outlet they’ve never heard of. But if a respected journalist at a respected publication gives you a great review…well that matters a great deal.

We’ve worked on a lot of seemingly “small” films, like CONTRACORRIENTE by Javier Fuentes, VALLEY OF SAINTS by Musa Sayeed, A RIVER CHANGES COURSE by Kalyanee Man, and THE INVISIBLE WAR by Kirby Dick that jumped up hugely in prestige and profile when they won big awards at the Sundance Film Festival. Suddenly “everyone that’s anyone” had heard of these films even though they paid no attention to them just two days before. By getting the ultimate stamp of approval, they suddenly became “serious” films in the minds of those who pay attention to such things.

But let’s not exaggerate…  as much as they changed the general perception of the films, I don’t think they really changed the acquisitions picture for any of these particular titles. Maybe the PRICES went up for those that did get bought, but I don’t think it radically changed the number of buyers interested in the titles. And not all of those ever got serious acquisition offers anyway.

I think there are three major ways that festival awards matter. First of all, it distinguishes you from the glut of available titles at any given festival as one of the films that one should pay attention to first. Meaning, if you are the kind of person (Industry, press, or consumer) who is paying attention to a particular festival, then of course one easy way to determine what one should see first is by starting with the ones that have won the awards. I think this is PARTICULARLY true for OTHER film festival programmers, who face the daunting task of pouring through thousands of available titles and submission to their festival. Why NOT start with the ones that are winning awards? Its just good triage technique.

Secondly, if someone is a discerning film consumer looking to discover new films to watch, why wouldn’t you pay attention to the films that are winning the awards? To that end, I think the right Festival Awards have tremendous marketing value…but really only for the discerning consumer. So, that’s not the majority of consumers, but there ARE a lot of cinephiles out there. And they are the first audience any independent filmmaker wants to reach.

Let me give you a simple marketing example….I am on the e-newsletter of LOTS of films that send me updates on their progress all the time…and for the most part I pay no attention to them. But if I start to notice that the film is winning a lot of great awards…which can be easily put in the subject line and the header of the email….of course I take note of that and of course I become more interested in the film. Suddenly it changes in my mind from one of a million films vying for my attention to one that must deserve my attention…because it is being validated by “tastemakers” I have heard of and have some respect for.

On the subject of the marketing value of Festival Awards, there are a couple of truisms I’d like to address:

1) The general perception is that Audience Awards matter more than Jury Awards, because they reflect the will of the people (which more closely resembles your eventual target audience), while Jury Awards reflect the view of the elite (those select insiders chosen by festivals to judge according to their own snobby tastes). In truth, I don’t think this theory stands up to rigorous analysis of the data. Sometimes it is the opinions of the jury that most closely mirror the press and taste-makers that propel a film onto greater success after its Festival run.

2) Part of the problem with Audience Awards is that in many ways they are popularity contests, not dissimilar to high school president elections. Because of the way Audience Awards are voted on by everyone in a given screening, sometimes its just the film that packs the house with the most crew and friends and close-knit community that wins the Award. Sometimes even a great Q&A can swing the results. And enterprising filmmakers should take note of this….as it is not unusual for a small film in a small theater to win an Audience Award because the filmmaker simply had more friends in attendance than anyone else did.

Unfortunately, the dominance of digital distribution in today’s independent market has made the marketing value of film festival awards a lot LESS relevant than they used to be….and that’s because iTunes, cable VOD et al don’t really offer much marketing space where you can actually SEE any of the Festival awards. When you used to browse through a video store and pick up the box cover, you could actually SEE all the laurels and rent it for that reason. Now you’re going to have to see the laurels in an email or banner ad or hear about it in a review or something…and then go LOOK for the film. That’s a lot less immediate than it used to be, and it makes the job of marketing a lot harder.

Finally, lets not downplay the fact that a lot of Festival Awards come with MONEY! There are some staggeringly large Festival awards out there…Dubai, Heartland etc…but I don’t advocate submitting to festivals just to go after the award money. That’s just gambling and your odds are probably better on a slot machine. But when a film starts to rack up a few awards, it can certainly get into the five figures of revenue…..and in this market that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at!

 

August 1st, 2013

Posted In: Film Festivals

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

Just prior to SXSW, I was contacted by a new digital distribution outfit called Devolver Digital Film who were launching during the festival. I rolled my eyes as I opened the email because frankly, digital distributors are becoming a dime a dozen and few offer anything that differentiates their services. Yes, they are all non exclusive, but most do not have much to offer in the way of audience recognition of the platform.

Film distribution in some fashion isn’t difficult to obtain anymore…but getting an audience to know a film is available, actively seek it out AND getting them to watch it is another story. So, I was intrigued to find out that Devolver is planning to help solve that problem. Devolver Digital Films is a company expansion out of video game publishing and distribution. Devolver is primarily known for the Serious Sam series of games and their success within the video game industry coupled with founder Mike Wilson’s filmmaking interests lead to a desire to use the same successful game marketing techniques for independent films.

The company’s first title, Cancerpants, is described as “a story about life, love, and a young woman’s journey with breast cancer.” Cancerpants is currently available on VOD networks Verizon and Frontier, and will reach Comcast, Cox, Cablevision, and Dish Online on June 4th. Local theatrical screenings are planned for May 30th in several cities including Grass Valley, CA (hosted by the filmmaker), Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, Oakland, and New York City.

Cancerpants film

I spoke with Andie Grace, VP of Acquisitions, and Mike Wilson, Partner and filmmaker, to hear what lead to Devolver’s foray into independent film distribution and what they plan to offer that other digital distributors don’t.

AG: “The experience that motivated the creation of Devolver Digital Films comes from the games space.  Mike is also a filmmaker and he knows what it is like to run up against the wall of getting distribution. After spending years of making the film, getting your own network together, hitting the festival circuit and landing a distributor and then they put it out, but do little to support it. Devolver Digital would never put out a game that way and now there are so many films on the digital shelves too, a small film that is great could do a lot better with a little help.

When a filmmaker’s own network is exhausted, they themselves are exhausted and ready to move on to another project, they just need a partner to be interested enough to work the title and we saw it as a niche to be filled.”

SC: “Speaking of a niche, does Devolver have a niche audience that they are serving with films? My main problem with film distributors is they don’t really have an audience for their company. They are used to speaking to other businesses (exhibitors, video stores, broadcasters), but not speaking directly to any audience for their titles. Their titles are so diverse that they don’t even really know who is watching. Will this be a unique aspect for Devolver? Is there a Devolver audience?”

AG: “Genre fans definitely stick with a label because of what the label brings them. This is definitely true in the games space. We now have many gamers saying ‘What is my favorite game label going to do with movies?’ So our aim is to keep that fanbase alive and choose films we think they will like.

A lot of counter culture films are coming our way and I definitely look at those films and say ‘I know where to find people who will like this, I know how to organize events around this.”

MW: “Our brand will be built on films that we believe we can make bigger than they would have been without our help. Decisions on films will be based purely on what we think we can do with the network we already have in place. It won’t be according to genr. Inevitably everyone wants us to do films that are considered ‘gamer’ fare.  But people who are outside of the gamer world don’t realize that gamers aren’t only into zombie movies or sci fi movies. The independent gamer tends to like lots of independent entertainment. Independent music, independent films, they tend to look a little further past the mainstream. More interesting, less predictable.  So that is what we will specialize in.”

SC: “Is there something that the filmmaker has to bring with the project? Do they have to have a certain mentality? Do you want the filmmaker to be an active participant in marketing his/her work, or are you fine with them leaving it with you to make it successful?”

MW: “There are 2 kinds of filmmakers. Those that are exhausted from making the film and just want someone to take care of the rest for them.  Some of those are very good films, but there is no promotional hook, and no niche we can tap easily. If they just want it out there, use our service to get it into the world, we’ll put it out for you and you can move on with your life.”

AG: “But we regard this as a partnership. We amplify what they have already started doing on their own. Anyone who wants to just turn tail and walk is probably not going to work well with us. Now, we do understand that by the time the film is ready for distribution, the filmmaker has already exhausted their network and they have done all they know how to do with their Facebook page or Twitter account and they need someone to help them, do it with them. It’s better for them to stay present, be there for the interviews, help craft the story, and use the opportunity to build their own brand as a filmmaker by working with us in a promotional partnership.”

SC: “What will be the range of services Devolver offers? I was thinking it was just digital distribution platforms, but you are working with Tugg to do events too?”

AG: “We will offer cable VOD and internet VOD right now. Being from the games world, we also have our eyes on gaming consoles. We will talk about the total distribution strategy based on the film. It may include using tools like Tugg to do some live event screenings rather than spending time exclusively on the festival circuit. Events can help power the VOD sales.  We also will talk about the marketing and publicity, some of the more traditional tactics. We will motivate our own networks to help with promoting screenings. By having the film on VOD when it is in theaters, we can get it highlighted in the ‘in theaters now’ sections of Amazon Instant and such.”

MW: “We are going to be direct to the platforms when that is possible, but until we build up our catalog, it isn’t realistic to think we will be big enough to negotiate direct deals with the bigger players.  With our zero overhead, we will be competitive with the percentages we take even when a third party is involved.  Plus, we’re going to help promote it which should make the revenue bigger than it would if you went through an aggregator who isn’t doing that.”

devolver logo

SC: “Do you take rights over the film or do those stay with the artist?”

MW: “We wouldn’t take all rights like broadcast network rights, or international rights at the moment. But to the extent that we do put time in to exploit on certain platforms, we want exclusivity on those. It is just bad business for everyone if you have several companies pitching the same film. As a filmmaker, I know there are distributors who want to take all rights just in case in future they want to do something with them. That is not the case with us. Our reason for existence is to avoid that scenario, we have all experienced it as filmmakers ourselves.”

“We do ask for a minimum of one year with options to extend. Most cable operators do want a 5 year minimum. We have found on the games side that there are opportunities for digital bundles and we will want to include our films in bundles without having to keep going back to ask permission. We aren’t going to be releasing 30 movies a month or anything. The films we do have are precious to us and we will be working harder to make the small amount work for us and for the filmmaker.”

SC:”Advertising and promotion aren’t free, they often make up the majority of any kind of film release. Is this a service deal agreement where the filmmaker fronts the money for Devolver to spend or is this more like a traditional distribution situation where Devolver will front the money and recoup from revenue before the filmmaker sees any profit?”

MW: “This won’t be a six figure M&A budget. It is more like soft dollars from us in our organization and network of already existing connections. This is what helps support our games as well.  Filmmakers will also be expected to help each other when they are on our label. So anything we provide from this network is just the cost of us doing business and we provide that.”

“Then, if there is an opportunity to buy into a promotional program or whatever, we’ll agree it with the filmmaker and write the check up front and share that cost. If the filmmaker gets a 60% split with us, we share the cost of the promotion.That’s the way we work in games too, it is purely situational. To the extent that they want to be involved, the filmmaker will sign off on any promotion we want to participate in and they will know the whole cost.”

“Another thing we feel is important is being completely transparent. If we do have to go through another distributor to get to a certain outlet,  I will forward every royalty statement we get from that distributor so that the filmmaker knows what the revenues were. There has just been too much damage done by ‘Hollywood accounting,’ I use that term to mean all entertainment. The games industry is as bad as any.  The little things we can do to remove any doubt about whether we are on the filmmakers team, we will do. The world may not need another VOD distributor, but one thing we will provide that others do not is transparency.  There is always room for that.”

SC: “When is the best time for a filmmaker to approach you? In preproduction? Production? Post?”

MW: “I would say in post. We’re not a production company and we aren’t trying to influence the outcome of a movie. We can’t really have a conversation about a film until we know the level of quality it will be.  Most of the people we are talking to are in fine cut or have a festival version that they still want to trim.”

AG: “We are having conversations now with people who are in post and it is pretty obvious who their audience is.  We are also talking to people who are not going on the festival circuit, they are launching straight into distribution.”

MW: “We have many dream producers coming to us who get this online promotion stuff. We want to network them all together and help to promote each other.”

SC: “How will you bring them together?”

MW: “Google Hangouts I envision. I want just these producers who all have great ideas and are on the same label to get together and brainstorm with each other. Their films are all coming out near the same timeframe so I think some great creativity and excitement will come from it. I don’t think they imagine for a minute that helping someone else will hurt their own projects. It just makes their own network bigger, by aggregating everyone’s together.These are all young, smart, tech savvy producers who want to learn from each other.”

SC: “Well, that is definitely a differentiator for Devolver! Most distributors don’t bother themselves with bring together the filmmakers  to help work with all the projects in the catalog. It means you really want to work with filmmakers who are giving, tech savvy and want to help make everyone’s work successful.”

MW: “The filmmaking process just sucks everything out of you, you are totally exhausted when finished and often you are the last man standing. The crew disappears after the wrap party. It will be great to have a company that knows this, pulls together a group of filmmakers in the same situation about to release their films and supports everyone.”

“It is really fun to be coming in at a time when we aren’t having to undo our skills. You go to industry panels where these veteran people are completely unsure of what is happening and frustrated at having to relearn everything because they are used to doing things in a certain way for many years. For us, it is exciting because it is wide open.”

I will be keeping an eye on this young and enthusiastic company. If you have a project you would like to approach Devolver Digital Films about, contact Andie Grace:

films [at] devolverdigital dot com

 

May 9th, 2013

Posted In: Amazon VOD & CreateSpace, Digital Distribution, Distribution, iTunes, Netflix

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Another video interview co sponsored by TFC in conjunction with Microfilmmaker Magazine from Sundance 2013 featuring writer/director Edward Burns (Brothers McMullen, Fitzgerald Family Christmas). Burns discusses why he loves the freedom that comes with microbudget filmmaking, the compromises that are involved when working with less money, why digital distribution interests him more than conventional theatrical, using social media (primarily Twitter) to reach his audience and why he enjoys it.

February 19th, 2013

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Social Network Marketing

Tags: , , , , , ,

by Orly Ravid

It is difficult to definitively explain what The Film Collaborative (TFC) does in a few sentences. Often, when asked for a company bio for a speaking engagement, we are asked to sum up in a few words, but here is the thing…we do different things for different films and that is what makes this non profit company devoted to independent film distribution different. We are a membership organization and we offer a menu of services that are separately available.  For our members, we are largely an educational and informational organization. We will work with any film/filmmaker to provide consultation and educational resources which are included in our membership fees.

We can provide services such as: worldwide festival distribution, worldwide sales, domestic sales, worldwide direct digital, domestic theatrical, limited domestic educational distribution, grassroots / social network marketing services, and contract negotiation services. These are all subject to additional fees so the filmmaker must have significant budget to allow for the labor and expenses incurred and our acceptance depends on the workload currently undertaken by the company.

We also serve in a sales agent capacity with SOME films. Due to this dual nature (educational and service oriented), we are very discerning about the films we take on in this capacity. We can work on any aspect of distribution, but with a strong emphasis on direct distribution being part of  your overall distribution strategy. We can connect you with service providers/buyers we think are right for your film, and ones we trust and recommend, but WE NEVER OWN YOUR RIGHTS and filmmakers can cancel the service at any time. This clearly sets us apart from other sales agents and can be confusing to those who are accustomed to typical sales agent arrangements. The deals we make are almost always between the buyer and the filmmaker. The only exception to this are bulk deals whereby doing the deals individually is just tortuous for all involved.  We are very boutique in our sales agent offerings, not wanting to disappoint or take on more than we can handle. If we don’t think a title is suited to our strengths and our mission to offer quality films of artistic merit with strong distribution potential, then we don’t take them on for sales representation. Which brings us to merit…

Not all films will have distribution potential, not all films are good, not all films have an audience, or not a significant one. There, we said it! Time and again we see filmmakers willingly, enthusiastically going into debt, either raising money from investors or credit cards and coming to us for help in getting their creations out into the world. Sometimes those creations just won’t have a life out there and no matter what is spent in time or money, a significant audience won’t be found. We drill down into every member’s film in order to give the best assessment, but there are times when the prognosis is not favorable to the kind of success they are seeking.

For members’ films, we remove our  personal tastes from the equation and try our best to determine WHO in the world would be enthusiastic for the film and how many such folks are out there? And where are they? And can they be reached given the resources available? When you made the film, were you thinking of an audience?  When you came to us expecting the film to: get TV sales, international sales, a nice Netflix fee, a theatrical release, a theatrical even after you did a DIY DVD and iTunes release, were you basing that on another film that is similar? Do you understand the decision making process involved in the buying of films for release? Was any research at all conducted BEFORE the production started? With the amount of information on our site and thousands of others online, there is no longer an excuse for not knowing the answers to these questions well before a production starts.

I am starting to want to be the tough love nursemaid and say we don’t want your babies to be orphans. Filmmakers now have to educate themselves a bit before conception and well before giving birth so they will be able to  cover all the rearing their film baby is going to need to claw its way through the mobs of other film babies, their TV siblings,  Webcontent cousins, and the rest of their multimedia distraction family. As with conceiving real babies, it is all fun and games until the reality of raising a child sets in. You need to be fully prepared for the long haul.

We have information, we keep up with the current shifting sands of distribution, we receive opportunities because we represent quality films, we have contacts, years of expertise, we’re friendly, we’re not gonna f*ck you over, but we cannot save every film from oblivion nor can we convert every film into a success however you define it.  So much of that has to start with you, being clear and honest with yourself, before you say “action”.

 

photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor

August 8th, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, International Sales, Marketing

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

This post by Orly Ravid was published originally on the Sundance Artists Services blog April 15, 2012

1.  CARVE OUT DIY DIGITAL:

Distributors and Foreign Sales companies alike often want ALL RIGHTS and including ALL DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS.

No matter what, at least CARVE OUT the ability to do DIY Digital Distribution yourself with services such as: EggUp, Distrify,  Dynamo Player, and/or TopSpin, off your own site, off your Facebook page, and also directly to platforms that you can access.  Platforms and services can almost always Geo-Filter thereby eliminating conflict with any territories where the film has been sold to a traditional distributor and often times a distributor will not mind that a filmmaker sells directly to his/her fans as well in any case.

2.   PLATFORMS ≠ AGGREGATORS ≠ DISTRIBUTORS:

Platforms are places people go to watch or buy films. Aggregators are conduits between filmmakers/distributors and platforms. Aggregators usually focus more on converting files for and supplying metadata to platforms and that’s about it.  Marketing is rarely a strong suit or focus for them but it should be for a distributor, otherwise what’s the point? Aggregators usually don’t need rights for a long term and only take limited rights they need to do the job.  Distributors usually take more rights for longer terms.  Sometimes distributors are DIRECT to PLATFORMS and sometimes they go through AGGREGATORS.  It makes a difference because FEES are taken out every time there is a middleman.  Filmmakers should want to know the FEE that the PLATFORM is taking (because it’s not always the same for all content providers though usually it is other than for Cable VOD, for example) and know if a distributor is direct with platforms or goes through an aggregator.  Also, filmmakers should have an understanding what each middleman is doing to justify the fee.  On the aggregator/distributor side, we think 15% is a better fee than 50%, so have an understanding of what services are included in the fee. If a distributor is not devoting any time or money to marketing and simply dumping films onto platforms, then one should be aware of that. Ask for a description in writing of what activities will be performed.

3. THINK OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS AS STORES AND CUSTOMIZE A PLAN THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOUR FILM:

A film should try to be available everywhere however sometimes that is too costly or not possible and when that is the case one should prioritize according to where the film’s audience consumes media. Think of digital platforms as retail stores. Back in the DVD days (which are almost gone), one would want a DVD of an indie film in big US chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video but especially a cool, award winning indie would do well in a 20/20 or Kim’s Video store because those outlets were targeting a core audience. With digital, it’s the same. While many filmmakers want to see their films on Cable VOD, some films just don’t work well there and delivery is expensive. Some films make most of their money via Netflix these days and won’t do a lick of business on Comcast.  Other films do well on iTunes and some die there whereas they might actually bring in some business via Hulu or SNAG. Docs are different from narrative and niches vary. Know your film, its audience’s habits and resolve a digital strategy that makes sense. If money or access is an issue, then be strategic in picking your “stores” and make your film available where it’s most likely to perform. It may not be in Walmart’s digital store or Best Buy’s. Above all, if you dear filmmaker have a community around you (followers, a brand), your site(s) and networks may be your best platform stores of all.  Though there is something to be said for viewing habits so I do recommend always picking at least a couple other key digital storefronts that are known and trusted by your audience.

4. TIP FOR CABLE VOD LISTINGS:

By now many of you may have heard that it’s hard to get films marketed well on Cable VOD platforms. Often the metadata either isn’t entered or entered incorrectly and it’s nearly impossible to fix after it goes live. Hence, oversee the metatags submitted for your film and check immediately upon release. Also, since genre/category folders and trailer promotion are not always an option for every film, it is the case that films with names starting in early letters of the alphabet (A-G) or numbers can perform better. Then again, there’s a glut of folks trying that now so the cable operators are getting wise to this and not falling for it. All the more reason to focus on marketing, marketing, marketing your title, so audiences are looking for it and not just stumbling upon your film in the VOD menu. There are only going to be more films to choose from in the future, not fewer.

5. ART for SMALL:

Filmmakers, if there is one thing I must impart to you once and for all it’s this:  TAKE GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY!!!  Take it when making your film. Remember, most marketing imagery if not all for digital distribution (which will be all of “home entertainment”) must work SMALL so create key art and publicity images that also work well small and in concert with the rest of your campaign. Look at your key art as a thumbnail image and make sure it is still clearly identifiable.

6. KNOW YOUR DIGITAL DISTRO GOALS AND PLAN AHEAD:

I have seen distribution plans wasted because a vision for the film’s path was not resolved in time to actualize it properly. If your film is ripe for NGO or corporate sponsorship and you want to try that, you will need loads of lead time (6-12 months at least!) and a clear distribution plan to present to potential sponsors (who will always need to know that before agreeing).  If making money is a top concern, then know how YOUR FILM’s release is mostly likely to do that and plan accordingly. It may be by collapsing windows or it may be by expanding them. All films are different and that’s why it’s best to look at case studies of films with similar appeal to yours. And if showing the industry that your film is on iTunes matters to you for professional reasons more than financial then know that is your motivator but know that getting a film onto iTunes does not automatically lead to transactions, marketing does.

7. TIMING IS EVERYTHING | WINDOW WATCHING:

Digital distribution often has to be done in a certain order if accessing Cable VOD is part of your plan. That is not the only reason to consider an order and an order is not always needed, but it can be a consideration.  Sometimes Cable VOD is not an option for a film (films often need a strong theatrical run before they can access Cable VOD) and, in this case, the order of digital is more flexible and one can be creative or experiment with timing and different types of digital. However, Cable VOD’s percentage share of digital distribution revenues is still around 70% (it used to be nearer to 80%) so if it’s an option for your film, it’s worth doing, at least for now.

It is very often the case that if your film is in the digital distribution window before Cable VOD (on Netflix for example), that will eliminate or at least dramatically diminish the potential that Cable MSO’s (Multi System Operators) will take the film or even that an intermediate aggregator will accept it.  There is more flexibility with transactional EST (electronic sell through) / DTO (download to own) / DTR (download to rent) services such as iTunes but much less flexibility with YouTube (even a rental channel) or subscription or ad-supported services such as Netflix (subscription) or Hulu (which is both). Films that opted to be part of the YouTube/Sundance rental channel initiative (such as Children of Invention) could not get onto Cable VOD after. The Film Collaborative has to hold off on putting films in its YouTube Rental Channel if cable VOD is part of the plan.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule due to relationships or a film proving itself in the marketplace, but better to plan ahead than be disappointed.

Companies such as Gravitas are also programmers for some of the MSOs so they have greater access to VOD, but they too discourage YouTube rental channel distribution before the Cable VOD window and they do Netflix SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand), distribution after. In general, people often do transactional platforms first and ad-supported last with Netflix being in the middle unless it’s delayed because of a TV deal for example. This is not always the case and some distributors have experienced that one platform can drive sales on another but in my opinion it depends on the film and habits of its audience.  You should know that Broadcasters such as Showtime will pay more if you do your Netflix SVOD after their window rather than before.

WINDOW WATCHING: If you stream or distribute digitally before Cable VOD for example, you will often lose that opportunity so timing is key.  And of course festivals will often not program a film if it’s available digital or at all commercially.  For documentaries, one has to be mindful about the EDUCATIONAL window (though this usually most relates to DVD).  Broadcast and SVOD are competitive with each other so compare options in terms of fees and timing for best distribution results and maximum benefits.  Sometimes VOD is best BEFORE theatrical (it’s called Reverse Windowing and Magnolia does that for example, sometimes).  Sometimes Ad Supported VOD (AVOD or FOD (free VOD)) (e.g. regular HULU) or Broadcast airings are seen as useful for maximum awareness, relatively significantly revenue generating, and/or good for driving transactional VOD.  Whereas sometimes AVOD or FOD is seen as cannibalizing business and is delayed.  So again, know your strategy based on both your audience / consumer and your goals.

8. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DEFINITIONS

DEVIL IS IN THE DEFINITION: Remember that the term VOD means or includes different things to different users.  The terms in the space are becoming more customary but they are not fully standardized so be sure to have ALL terms related to digital rights DEFINED.  And the space keeps changing so be sure to stay current.

There is no standard yet for definitions of digital rights. IFTA (formerly known as AFMA) has its rights definitions and for that organization’s signatories there is therefore a standard. But many distributors use their own contracts with a range of definitions that are not uniform. When analyzing distribution options, be aware that terms such as VOD can mean different things to different people and include more or fewer distribution rights and govern more or fewer platforms.

Consider the term “VOD”. In some contracts, it’s not explicitly defined and hence can mean anything and everything. IFTA is clear to categorize it as a PayPerView Right (Demand View Right) and limit it to: “transmission by means of encoded signal for television reception in homes and similar living spaces where a charge is made to the viewer for the rights to use a decoding device to view the Motion Picture at a time selected by the viewer for each viewing”.

However in some contracts, it’s defined as “Video-on-Demand Rights,” meaning a function or service distributed and/or made available to a viewer by any and all means of transmission, telecommunication, and/or network system(s) whether now known or hereafter devised (including, without limitation, television, cable, satellite, wire, fiber, radio communication signal, internet, intranet, or other means of electronic delivery and whether employing analogue and/or digital technologies and whether encrypted or encoded) whereby the viewer is using information storage, retrieval and management techniques capable of accessing, selecting, downloading (whether temporarily or permanently) and viewing programming whether on a per program/movie basis or as a package of programs/movies) at a time selected by the viewer, in his/her discretion whether or not the transmission is scheduled by the operator(s)/provider(s), and whether or not a fee is paid by the viewer for such function/service to view on the screen of a television receiver, computer, handheld device or other receiving device (fixed or mobile) of any type whether now known or hereafter devised. Video-on-Demand includes without limitation Near VOD (“NVOD”,) Subscription Video-on-Demand (“SVOD”,) “Download to burn”, “Download to Own”, “Electronic Sell Through” and “Electronic Rental,” for example.  This example includes everything and your kitchen sink.

One has to ask if a definition of VOD or another type of digital right includes “SVOD” (Subscription Video on Demand) and includes subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus. Why does this matter? Well if the fee to the distributor and/or to you is the same either way then it may not matter. If there’s a difference in fees depending on the nature of distribution, then it will.  Recently an issue in a deal came up with respect to distinguishing ad-supported specifically from general “free-streaming”.  Is ad-supported governed by a “free-streaming” rights reference?  Why wonder, Just spell it all out; better to be safe than _____.

Another example, if a contract notes a distributor has purchased “VOD Rights” but does not define them, or defines them broadly, then do they have mobile device distribution rights as well? The words “Video-on-Demand” sometimes are used only to refer to Cable Video on Demand and other times much more generally. In a “TV Everywhere” (and hence film everywhere) multi-platform all-device playable universe, the content creator needs to know.

The devil is in the definition that you must read carefully BEFORE you sign on the dotted line.  Know what you want for and can do for your film in terms of distribution and carve it up and spell it out.

9. PLAN FOR FUTURE: Digital distribution in Europe is not as mature as it is in the US but it’s growing.  The key platforms and categories of VOD now may not be key down the road.  Again, do deals wisely and plan for the future.  One way may be to set revenue thresholds for contract terms to continue.  Or allow for terms to be reviewable and adjustable into the Term.

10. IF YOU CANNOT MAKE PIRACY YOUR FRIEND by lets say monetizing it or using it to drive awareness… then think about shortening the time between your release windows and when you first start handing out DVDs and getting a lot of buzz for your film. Many folks would happily consume your film legitimately if given the opportunity in time.  Some piracy cannot be helped and can either be monetized or just enjoyed.  There are anti-piracy services one can employ as well.  In my experience, DVD is a bigger source of piracy than digital.

11. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS / OTHER WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF IN A DEAL: Before giving rights away for longer periods of time think about the future.  For example, the category of DTR (download-to-rent) is growing as is SVOD (Subscription VOD).  So you will want to make sure your splits are strong in your favor, especially for growing categories, and Cable VOD and transactional DTO (download-to-own) or EST (electronic sell through) are strong too and btw, some of these terms include each other.  Instead of merely focusing on rights classes even within the category of VOD one may also want to address gross revenues so that one can get an appropriate share of revenues at certain gross revenue thresholds.  You may want to have terms of a deal be reviewable for contracts with a longer Term.

Access to individual consultations for your film is available to members of The Film Collaborative starting at the Conspirator level. We also offer a menu of low cost festival and digital distribution services, marketing education and services, and graphic design for key art and websites. The Film Collaborative is dedicated to helping independent filmmakers receive the maximum benefit from their dedicated and creative work without the need to own rights. Send us a message to discuss your needs. 

 

 

May 8th, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, Distribution Platforms, DIY, Marketing

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

Next Page »



© 2017 The Film Collaborative. All rights reserved.