Following up from an earlier post talking about effective independent film distribution, we decided an industry opinion was needed to further add to this interesting topic. Danny Costa, principle of New York based film distribution consultancy DeLarge and blogger from The Outsider adds to the dicussion:
Video streaming—of both live and pre-recorded content—presents some interesting opportunities for filmmakers. And the good folks at Flumotion—a leading company in the realm of streaming video software—contacted me about writing a guest blog post on the implications on new streaming software for filmmakers.
In the interest of absolute clarity, I’ll start off declaring my belief that, in so uncertain terms, going the DIY route and streaming your film (either through a platform or proprietary software) to fans is not, in any way shape or form, a proper outlet for premiering a film in the current content distribution environment. The relative failure of the recent Sundance 2010/Youtube project should be evidence enough—and to those contesting this statement, I’d admit that the coverage of the “experiment” was likely a boon to both Sundance as well as Youtube but was, ultimately, an utter failure for the filmmakers who, at best, saw an uptick in interest in their film that, mind you, did not translate into dollars.
If the implications of streaming your film in conjunction with what is perhaps the most media-covered film festival are so—mediocre—then it’s likely that the results for a film in a less-advantageous situation would likely meet relatively disastrous results. For those needing a back-up example to bolster this argument, I might point out “Crawford”, an fascinating documentary from SXSW ’08 on the subject of Crawford, TX, a town that found instant fame when it became G.W. Bush’s adopted home. Never heard of “Crawford?” It was the first film to debut on Hulu—and it has toiled in relative obscurity since. With few exceptions, streaming your film—be it ad supported, a free-view, or with a fee barrier—should be a last-ditch effort to squeeze a couple extra dollars out of a film that has already been milked for all it’s worth; not a primary (or parallel) distribution platform.
That said—streaming shouldn’t be ignored. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the possibilities for enterprising filmmakers; branding and marketing are ultimately the two lynchpins for the proper execution of a DIY or hybrid release strategy of a quality film.
I mention the above for a number of reasons:
-Savvy filmmakers who can connect their film to an event will do well to work said events into their theatrical/non-theatrical distribution strategy. Think “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” which Richard Abramowitz, head of theatrical distributor Abramorama, brilliantly coupled with concerts the band played in conjunction with the screenings. I recently had a conversation with Chris Smith (@endurablegoods for you twitter-folk) the head of marketing at the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, who pointed out that “Bitch Slap” may have seen superior BO numbers had the rights-holders considered attaching screenings of the film to events that share a similar audience—motocross and demolition derbies both came to mind.
Event-based theatrical engagements may very well be the saving grace for otherwise difficult-to-market films. Streaming early events—or a portion of all events, could ultimately give the entire strategy a great jumping-off point.
-It pays to offer more than just your film(s) to help build your brand. There are few up-and-coming filmmakers who have drummed up as much interest from the web as Zak Forsman and Kevin Shah, the minds behind SABI pictures. Zak and Kevin have been streaming interviews and concentrated industry brilliance from film festivals and events as part of their push to bring attention to the aims of the film collective, SABI, which they founded. Under the SABI banner, Kevin and Zak have completed two features in the past year which will be heading to some form of distribution in 2010. Zak and Kevin have leveraged their interest in building a community of filmmakers into a rally-cry for DIY-minded filmmakers who are ready to take advantage of all the new platforms and outlets afforded by industry changes and technological advancements.
By offering valuable information—straight from the mouths of professionals—to be streamed from their site (as well as a through other sites, though all the videos are branded as works by SABI) Kevin and Zak have offered a value-ad in getting to know their brand, much like a loss-leader in the supermarket. You might find SABI in a search for the industry advice and insight they provide through their streaming videos, but you’ll stay for their impossible-to-ignore, refreshingly honest and totally beautiful feature films.
The possibilities extend well above and beyond what I’ve mentioned above. Offering streaming content that’s (even) tangentially related to your film can be a great way to raise awareness of your project and, as is the case with most emerging technology, filmmakers and other content-creators of the future will find all sorts of nifty and unforeseen ways to use streaming video in an effort to bring eyeballs to their feature films and, hopefully, dollars that come with them—because hey, if you make something good, people should pay you for it—though that’s another discussion altogether.