I was on another fun panel yesterday at the Woodstock Film Festival. All of these discussions are part of the ongoing conversation on the future prospects for both Indie and Truly Free film. There's a lot more that I can write about that panel, but one thing I felt was the filmmakers' position getting stronger.
John Sloss, the man and the legend, and Ryan Werner of IFC Films were among the panel's participants. IFC Films is certainly the leader in terms of number of films that they are putting up on VOD, and John, among many other things, probably sells more films to them than anyone else. Sloss's Cinetic Digital Rights Management initiative is also probably the leading aggregator of digital rights for feature films.
This whole arena is new for everyone and it all can easily be looked at as one big experiment for the time being. The market is being created as I type and as you read. The model is not yet set by any means. Yet Cinetic and IFC are arguably the market leaders of the moment. That's why I was so heartened by what I heard them claim they were open to -- something that could truly be a great step towards creator empowerment and ultimately also towards audience access.
Neither company, to my knowledge and according to what was said on the panel, currently does anything to provide the content generator/creator/filmmaker with access to any of the data that their work generates. I hope that's now going to change, and what was said on that panel makes me believe it could.
Matt Dentler, Cinetic's Digi-maven, has expressed that Cinetic's DRM initiative is all about transparency for the filmmaker. John Sloss backed that on the panel by saying that he thought it made sense that future contracts include a provision mandating that buyers provide the digital data to the filmmakers. Not that Cinetic does that yet for its clients, but it can, and as John said, it will. Ryan Werner also replied to an earlier question that he felt that such information could be provided to the filmmakers if they asked for it (even if they did not contract for it).
Now its up to the filmmakers to demand that their lawyers craft such language. What will that be? What is the information we need? And how can we make sure that we are able to share it with each other? It would be great if an industry leader on the legal side really stepped up and showed their commitment to filmmakers' rights and drafted something that could become industry standard. It would be great if we could link to it now! Who's going to help?
If you are licensing your film for next to nothing, if you have decided to split your revenue with your sales agent, shouldn't you at the very least get the information on who your audience is, where they are located, when they are watching or purchasing, whatever. If you, the filmmaker, feel forced to make this kind of deal, shouldn't you at the very least be getting the data your work generates? As filmmakers, not only should you be asking for language from your lawyer, but demanding that your licensor, your distributor provide this. Do it and according to the leaders on the panel yesterday, they will listen and provide. I hope it is so.