Semantics and symbols carry a lot of weight. I think it matters to get the terms & images right, but it is not easy. The importance is precision is easy to see though. People don't recognize their desire until they can name it. That desire then won't spread, unless it is widely appealing. I think several of our phrases still aren't right: transmedia, PMD, & DIY -- to name a few. They either aren't user-friendly, inaccurate, or diminish the value of what they are trying to name.
It was with great pleasure that I came across someone trying to do something about it. WHY WE CALL IT “DIRECT DISTRIBUTION” INSTEAD OF “DO IT YOURSELF” (DIY) By Nayan Padrai, filmmaker of “When Harry Tries to Marry”
Recently, I posted a comment on Ted Hope’s blog Can We Create The Future Of Indie Marketing & Distribution—Or Is It Already Dead? where I suggested that independent producers start calling the process of independently releasing films Direct Distribution instead of DIY (which isn’t too far from DUI). Ted was kind to offer me space to expand my views on the subject.
I recently co-wrote, produced and directed the feature film “When Harry Tries to Marry”, which was produced by our company 108 Production and released by our newly formed distribution company 108 Pics. We like to call the process of releasing our first feature film “Direct Distribution” and I’ll share with you some pertinent details to encourage this liberating correction in terminology.
Rahul Rai as Harry
While walking the calorie/money-burning treadmill of submissions to festival and indie distributors, my producing partners and I started work on a game plan to distribute our film directly. We reasoned that the only entity that stood between the film and viewers was this mystic movie God known as the film distributor. Well we had a production company, so why couldn’t we start a distribution company too?
So we asked folks what do these movie distribution companies really do, aside from throwing expensive yacht parties at Cannes? A) They acquire films (we have the film), B) they have an infrastructure that includes a marketing team, bookers C) create deals to output to home video and VOD and D) Most of them anyway use outside international sales agent for foreign markets. We’re from originally from India so naturally we thought, what if we just outsource those processes and infrastructure needs to specialists (to reduce our overhead), while being the client (distributor). The concept is similar to a rent-a-system, or service deals (which need millions in spends) but we didn’t want to handover control of the process and all the money to another company. We wanted to be involved in every stage of the process, while building experience and knowledge for the future. So it was decided that we would be the distributor and launched 108 Pics. But a distributor also (hopefully) has money to do all that is necessary, so we raised a second round of financing, rolled up our sleeves, donned PMD caps, and put a bulls-eye on a release date.
Naturally, we made some missteps along the way but by knocking on enough doors, and speaking with other producers, we came across folks who had years of expertise in marketing and distributing indie films. It was a team that spoke every day, and had weekly calls to decide a variety of issues.
Some of the most experienced folks in the business are involved in collective facets marketing and distribution of “When Harry Tries to Marry”:
Marketing • Marketing and distribution strategy: Matthew Cohen Creative • Trailer: Zealot • Key art: XL • TVCs: Kinetic Trailers • EPKs and Music Videos: Dreamline Pictures • Online marketing team: Brigade Marketing • Publicist: PMK*BNC • Music publicist: Flipswitch PR • Media agency: Callon • Social media marketing: Advantage and Naqeeb Memon - who worked on Mooz-lum • Online Sweeps: CFA Promos • Website: Design Mechanics
Distribution • Theatrical booking service: Alerion Services • Foreign territories: Cinemavault • VOD and Digital Downloads: Gravitas Ventures and Warner Bros Digital Distribution • Home video: Viva Pictures • Soundtrack: TuneCore and CDBaby
The above establishes that the term DIY is a fallacy, an ego booster, and makes for nice sound-bytes at seminars, or tag lines to sell books to aspiring filmmakers, but no essential process of filmmaking is so isolated that you can do it (all) yourself. (Unless Ikea starts a-ready-to-assemble kit for marketing and distributing films.)
Stefanie Estes and Rahul Rai in When Harry Tries to Marry
If you are making a film and able to sell / license it to an (in-direct) distributor, great for you. Start writing your next script. But if you are like the 95% majority of Indie filmmakers, please accept that marketing and distribution is now a part of the job, but luckily you don’t have to DIY it. Start your own distribution label (of course raise this money during your production finance stage itself), subcontract pieces of the workflow to enthusiastic and knowledgeable people, make your own output deals for now and the future, and embrace the free-market model of Direct Distribution.
Some may argue, that it’s all the same with different names but DIY is really just mind-set predisposed to failure IMHO. Direct Distribution not only sounds better and more respectable but its the accurate definition of the process of marketing and releasing independent film, which we Hope ☺ everyone will start using with a lot of confidence.
By the way, When Harry Tries to Marry is currently on Video-on-Demand everywhere across North America including iTunes
Nayan studied screenwriting at the School of VIsual Arts in NY. He became a co-founder of one of the largest South Asian media, entertainment and marketing conglomerates in the U.S. He left the company after running it for ten years to return to his true-passion, filmmaking. His debut film is the award-winning, and crowd pleasing "When Harry Tries to Marry". Nayan is currently writing his next film.