Prescreen Debuts as a Social Movie Discovery Platform

Prescreen was featured on our MUST READ list of the New Platforms. Sheri Candler also did an overview for the community on this site. Now they are launching. Their press release is below, but to understand just what they are doing, watch this short video before.

Are you excited? I'm excited.

Prescreen Debuts as a Social Movie Discovery Platform

Prescreen will embrace a curated daily email service to leverage the social web to give movies blockbuster exposure on an indie budget

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – September 14th, 2011 -- Prescreen, an innovative movie marketing and distribution platform, will officially launch today to give filmmakers and distributors an alternative to traditional advertising and distribution channels – through the mass marketing of curated content that is then shared by users through social media.

Prescreen offers users the ability to subscribe to a daily email alert, view trailers and rent movies to stream on demand, as well as earn rewards and discounts for sharing movie information on their social networks. Their daily email service highlights one movie per day, enabling their featured films to reach a wide audience.

Prescreen also delivers a Prescreen Performance Report to each filmmaker and distributor whose movie is featured on Prescreen. The report offers aggregated analytics and demographics about the audience for each featured film.

How it Works: • Consumer subscribers receive an email alert featuring one new movie each day. • Users watch the movie trailer for free and can purchase a rental to view the entire movie to stream on demand for up to 60 days. • Users can earn discounts and rewards by sharing the film through their social networks using Facebook, Twitter, etc. • Prescreen aggregates the purchasing data, protecting the privacy of each user, and delivers valuable demographic and analytic information back to filmmakers and distributors for future marketing and distribution efforts.

Prescreen’s intuitive marketing report includes all of the relevant information from the purchasers, allowing the content owner to use the detailed information to make informed decisions about continued distribution and marketing efforts. Prescreen allows content owners to maximize profits by marketing and selling via the Prescreen platform.

“Movie goers are increasingly consuming premium content through new digital channels including downloads, streaming, and video on demand (VOD), generating new revenue streams for the movie industry,” said Shawn Bercuson, CEO and Founder of Prescreen. “Prescreen will help movies of all shapes and sizes receive the love they deserve by leveraging the social tools that exist today to market and distribute movies more efficiently.” One of Prescreen’s first films will be Kino Lorber’s “The Robber;” a story of a champion marathoner who leads a double life as a serial bank robber, sprinting between heists and escaping from police in epic chase sequences. The film was directed by Austrian director Benjamin Heisenberg and features a riveting central performance by Andreas Lust (Revanche).

“Prescreen has developed an exciting and innovative digital platform for film distribution, and we are happy to be one of their first content providers,” said Richard Lorber, CEO of Kino Lorber. “We have one of the largest, most essential libraries in the United States and with Prescreen’s curatorial team so committed to high quality cinema it was a natural fit. In this rapidly changing digital distribution landscape, increasing market penetration means thinking outside the box –which is exactly why we're working with them.”

Prescreen is now accepting full-length feature film applications on a variety of topics and genres. To submit, visit: To sign up for the daily email service, visit:

About Prescreen Prescreen is a movie marketing and distribution platform that helps filmmakers and distributors efficiently reach audiences they otherwise would not have the ability to reach, and identify which audiences would provide maximum opportunity for continued growth and revenue. Prescreen offers users the ability to subscribe to email alerts, view trailers and stream movies on demand, as well as earn rewards for sharing movie information on their social networks. Visit for more information.


Everyday brings a better world for the independent filmmaker. Why should today not be like all others?

I was glad to receive today's press release announcing Cinedigm's new endeavor. I was even gladder though to learn of it, which is why I gave them this quote expressing it! CINEDIGM DIGITAL CINEMA LAUNCHES INDIE DIRECT™, A FULL SERVICE THEATRICAL DISTRIBUTION AND MARKETING SOLUTION FOR INDEPENDENT FILMS

Utilizing the Digital Cinema Backbone, Indie Direct™ Navigates Indies Through Theatrical Release Process

Woodland Hills, CA, September 7, 2011 – Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. (NASDAQ: CIDM), the global leader in digital cinema, today announced the formation of Indie Direct™, a full service distribution and marketing solution for independent film producers and distributors. Utilizing the digital cinema backbone, Indie Direct™ provides independent producers access to Cinedigm’s long-time industry standard services for managing theatrical digital distribution, including booking software, content delivery, sales, distribution strategy, marketing planning and execution and box office recoupment.

“From day one of digital cinema, Cinedigm has been at the forefront of deployment and installations,” said Chris McGurk, Chairman and CEO of Cinedigm Digital Cinema. “With Indie Direct™, we have tapped into our many years of experience and expertise to pioneer a turnkey method for indie producers to benefit from the flexible, precise and efficient distribution model digital cinema enables. Now, indie producers can reap the benefits of a full service studio in a one-stop shop.”

“Cinedigm is offering independent film makers autonomy to control their own destiny with Indie Direct™,” said Ted Hope, acclaimed independent producer of such films as 21 Grams, American Splendor and In the Bedroom. “Anything we can do to strengthen the indie community is vital to the health of the entertainment industry overall and I applaud their efforts.”

The first two production entities to sign up for Indie Direct™ are ARC Entertainment and Seven Arts Pictures. ARC is using the highest level of Indie Direct™ for eight titles it is releasing by the end of the year, including a horror film double feature with Zombie Diaries and Hellraiser, Smell of Success, Revelations, Killing Bono, Bunraku, Greening of Whitney Brown, Sundance Film Festival pick-up Knuckle, and Snowmen. Seven Arts Pictures will be using Indie Direct™ for the US release of The Pool Boys on September 30, 2011.

”A theatrical run tremendously enhances the value of the ancillary downstream revenue opportunities for our projects,” said Trevor Drinkwater, CEO of ARC Entertainment. “Cinedigm’s Indie Direct™ makes that theatrical play both efficient and affordable.”

”We are pleased that Indie Direct™ promotes the independent film community by putting a theatrical release within reach, both financially and from an execution perspective, ” said Jill Newhouse Calcaterra, Chief Marketing Officer, Cinedigm. “Previously producers had to go to multiple vendors for these services that are now available under our one roof.”

Completely customizable based on scope of needs and project release, the suite of services provided by Indie Direct™ includes: · Booking software · Distribution strategy · Sales · Content management and delivery · In theatre marketing · Box Office tracking, settlement and collections · Marketing strategy planning · Marketing execution · Publicity campaign strategy and execution

About Cinedigm

Cinedigm is a leader in providing the services, experience, technology and content critical to transforming movie theatres into digital and networked entertainment centers. The Company partners with Hollywood movie studios, independent movie distributors, and exhibitors to bring movies in digital cinema format to audiences across the country. Cinedigm's digital cinema deployment organization, software, satellite and hard drive digital movie delivery network; pre-show in-theatre advertising services; and marketing and distribution platform for alternative content such as CineLive® 3-D and 2-D sports and concerts, thematic programming and independent movies is a cornerstone of the digital cinema transformation. Cinedigm™ and Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp™ are trademarks of Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp.

Masterlist of PMDs ("Producer" Of Marketing & Distribution)

Okay, I am not truly a fan of the term "Producer Of Marketing & Distribution", but I am even more NOT a fan of how easy we throw around the term "Producer" in general. To me the Producer of a film is the individual or team that is there from the very beginning until the very end -- there is no in between -- and ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING. If you were not involved in any aspect of either the development, financing, casting, production, post, sales, marketing, distribution, and reporting, then you are not a "producer" and should not take that credit. There: I said it. But a nickel is bigger than a dime, and we drive on the parkway and park in the driveway, so who am I to say that this world or a job title does not really make sense? And frankly, if the collaboration between a "PMD" and a film works the way I dream it can, that individual is certainly there from at the very least VERY CLOSE to the beginning and all the way to the end -- like a producer is.

Regardless of how I feel, at this moment in time we are calling those that work in DIY/DIWO films, the PMD, and the world knows they need all the incentives we can provide to do this necessary work, so who am I to quibble over semantics? But the real question really is, who are the people that do this work and where can you find them? Today I launch the Masterlist of PMDs. I will allow someone else to take it from here.

Two weeks ago I asked "Can We Create The Future Of Indie Film Marketing & Distribution -- Or Is It Already Dead?". Ultimately it was a plea for the indie world to take serious the training & utilization of people specializing in DIY/DIWO marketing and distribution. The readers of this column started a lively discussion (check out the comments). Many revealed themselves to be precisely the sort that is gaining this expertise from actual experience in the field. Jon Reiss kept the conversation going with a subsequent post.

If you are prepping a new film, you should budget to collaborate with them, and bring them aboard. Jon Reiss contributed a great post last week on the why and also another on the responsibilities of a "PMD". I wrote out a list of all the services a "PMD" could utilize (now at 31!). I thought that the excuse of why I wasn't collaborating with a "PMD" on my last production, was because I didn't know who they were. I won't let you get away with the same excuse. Nor will I use it in the future.

The important thing is to recognize that PMD's are not simply for-hire service providers. They are collaborators. They are intimate with the production and can speak with an authorial voice. Community building and audience outreach are VERY personal endeavors. To do the job, not even to do it well, but just to do it, requires a tremendous amount of earned-trust from the creative heads. It should be recognized as a job that involves creativity as well as tactics and strategy.

So... Wondering who does PMD Marketing & Distribution work? This is what I found (please add to the list by posting some comments). Many thanks to Jon Reiss who provided several of these in his recent post on the subject.

I have listed contact information when I had it and when the filmmakers okayed it. The credits have not been confirmed. It is a start though...

Michael R. Barnard- Contact: | (917) 409-7294 | 444 E 10th St #104 New York NY 10009

Michael R. Barnard, Producer of Marketing & Distribution, brings years of experience in the production and distribution of low-budget video, broadcast TV, and films, along with experience in sales and marketing, to work with filmmakers to help make their efforts as profitable and widespread as possible. Michael is looking to partner with talented, ambitious, and exciting filmmakers. His goal is: "Bringing the audience to the film. Bringing the film to the audience."


J.X. Carrera -

Bill Cunningham

I am a PMD who has created, developed and executed over 75 motion picture marketing and distribution campaigns (both international and domestic) for clients including Omega Entertainment, York Entertainment, Peace Arch Entertainment, and Artist View Entertainment.

In addition to my motion picture marketing and distribution experience:

I was the Associate Producer of .COM FOR MURDER (Starring Nastassja Kinski) I was the Producer of SCARECROW as well as its co-writer. I was the producer and co-writer for its sequel, SCARECROW SLAYER.

I have also been hired to write screenplays for several production companies here in Hollywood. In other words, I have a background that makes me useful on set, in post, and developing marketing plans to sell a producer's movie.

My specialty is high-concept, low budget movies - horror, science fiction, action, etc...

I am well-versed in setting up promotional web media, creating exceptional, compelling marketing materials and making sure a motion picture is ready for delivery to a distributor, or ready for a producer to distribute himself. I attend the AFM every year, and keep close ties with the buyers there.

Bill can be reached at this email address: Or at the office:

Bill Cunningham Pulp 2.0 2908 Allesandro St. Los Angeles, CA 90039 323.662.2508 skype: madpulpbastard

Stephen Dypiangco (@Dypiangco) PMD “How to Live Forever” & Oscar winning short “God of Love” Contact: Email - Website - Twitter - @Dypiangco Facebook -

As a PMD, I must serve multiple functions on a film: strategist, project manager, communicator, problem solver and entrepreneur. But first and foremost, my primary goal as a PMD is to create and execute a customized marketing and distribution strategic plan (MDSP). I created this term, MDSP, to acknowledge the need for all film productions to have a concrete document from which to work. The term, “strategy,” is just too vague. This MDSP is a concrete strategic plan, a roadmap (a real physical document) of ALL OF THE WORK that needs to be done in the coming days, months and even years, before, during and after the film’s production. By moving forward without creating this roadmap beforehand, a PMD can become sidetracked and eventually get lost. If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

Audrey Ewell - Contact :Stay tuned for the website launch, and in the meantime Audrey can be found at audrey[at], 347-495-1476, or at Union Pool in Brooklyn.

"I position a film so that distribution is both more likely and then more successful. As a filmmaker (and one who's done all this for myself), there are nuances to the interactions between film, filmmaker and audience that I just get, a level of engagement that comes naturally and doesn't reek of marketing.

I start by helping filmmakers identify and engage their audiences. Then I tailor multi-platform digital outreach campaigns that organically amplify core audience excitement to reach new and larger audiences. I strategize and coordinate transmedia elements and game/incentive-based audience development (when desired), do website consultation with an eye toward social and new media optimization, and implement social media campaigns with an emphasis on peer to peer marketing. During festival runs, sneak peaks, premieres, launches and theatrical or semi-theatrical engagements (whether booked by me or an outside party), I consult on promotional materials, coordinate their manufacture and distribution, develop and coordinate street teams, and set up co-promotions with localized partners to cost effectively access targeted local audiences, push early ticket sales, and build awareness and excitement. I seek out new ideas and avenues of engagement and exhibition across multiple platforms.

I help the filmmaker demonstrate audience support and then leverage that visibility and fan support during the theatrical engagement. Once that infrastructure is there the filmmaker can build on it, use it to drive distribution in other markets, and help leverage their success into the next project.

Laree' Griffith Ambient Muse Production Services 310-986-0177

Specializing in social media and promotional admin services for entertainment industry. Consulting with filmmakers and producers to create, implement and maintain an online presence for their productions. Other services are, email campaign maintenance, promotional material handling, and event organization.

Laura Hammer PMD @unicornsmovie | contact:

As Producer of Marketing and Distribution I work closely with the creative team to develop a Marketing and Distribution Strategy translating the goals of the team into a plan; identify and engage with the film’s core audience and target markets; secure brand sponsorships; assemble and supervise all necessary specialists and consultants. I believe that a successful marketing and distribution plan enhances and supports the overall vision of the film's director. I prefer to work with a film from pre-production through distribution but also offer a la carte PMD services. I have produced several narrative, experimental and documentary shorts that have screened at festivals, BAMcinématek, and the legendary Two Boots Pioneer Theater. At MUBI Garage I curate short films, produce interviews with established industry, and promote emerging filmmakers. I have set up and developed successful social media campaigns and web sites for individuals, small businesses, and feature films. I have additional experience in marketing, public relations, and audience outreach working with Broadway producers and Off-Broadway theater companies. I graduated with a B.F.A. in Drama from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and trained with Atlantic Theater Company. While an undergrad, I focused on Interdisciplinary Studies and graduate courses in Web Design at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

I am currently PMD for I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS from Student Academy Award nominated director Leah Meyerhoff (Slamdance Grand Jury Prize winning short Twitch), executive producers Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Things Behind the Sun), David Kupferberg (Magic Valley) and Robin Leland (4th and Goal) and producers Heather Rae (Oscar nominated Frozen River) and Mark G. Mathis (Oscar winning Precious, Brick). I am also PMD for GRIOT, a feature documentary in post-production from Volker Goetze, Victor Kanefsky (Style Wars), and Samuel D. Pollard (Emmy winning When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts).

Sally Hodgson @SallyHodgson or sally@pipocapictures.)com, also see

Joe Jestus (via Jon Reiss' post)

Michele Elizabeth Kafko - PMD “Revenge of the Electric Car”

Eddie Kahlish - "Happiness"

Jason Kohl - "Acting Like Adults"; currently 3rd Year student at UCLA.

Adam Daniel Mezei

About Adam Daniel Mezei's PMD-For-Hire:

PMD-For-Hire ( is a full-service, full-time, 6-days/week film marketing and distribution shop.

I serve the needs of indie documentary and features clients (mostly docs, truth be told), working intimately with production crews on a strictly embedded basis as part of a minimum 3-month introductory commitment -- or longer -- to help get projects needed audience traction and off the ground.

The overall aim of the service is to help filmmakers brand their films accordingly. I harp on the need to develop sound traditional marketing, blogging, and social media evangelism techniques -- among a dozen others -- to painstakingly replicate in "micro-version" what mini-studios devote hundreds of thousands -- millions, even -- of dollars to achieve.

My techniques are custom-designed to inculcate solid habits from the get-go for filmmakers who are deathly serious about their long-term career prospects and who wish to harness the boundless power of the newly-democratized filmmaking milieu in true DIY/DIWO-style. Moreover, the point of the exercise is to get filmmakers generating a steady cash flow from their work so they can continue to shoot films.

The techniques I employ are varied, yet standardized because they work.

While every project's ultimate marketing and distribution goals are indeed different, demanding a bespoke approach each time out after a critical evaluation of a project's current marketing assets and personnel, the methodologies I leverage are similar depending upon which stage of the production process I'm parachuted in.

Several approaches I've applied for clients in the past include: organizing themed live events from "soup to nuts" as a way to promote a project and sell product at the event. conceiving of and assembling the pieces for a comedy documentary's entire behind-the-scenes DVD Special Features section. managing a team of half a dozen editing and marketing interns as part of a film's post-production rapid rollout. representing a client at a marquee L.A.-area film festival as part of that picture's world premiere, taking potential distribution meetings in the process. providing coverage on a spec script with suggestions for possible location improvements with the aim of potentially capturing better co-branding prospects in the future. My rates are monthly, comprised of a flat fee, first and last's months paid in advance (one month is always on deposit), and I no longer accept month-to-month contracts as past experience has shown not much of impact can be achieved in just 30 days. Clients wishing to sign me for 30-day periods are throwing away perfectly good marketing budget, and I tell them so. I also tell clients I can't help projects which don't move me personally. So if I'm not "method acting" certain aspects of the production role, there's no PMD in the business who can help you.

PMD-For-Hire is proudly Toronto-based and to my knowledge I'm one of the few Canadians who does this for a living. Given how public funding bodies like Telefilm Canada have now committed to releasing grant money only to those co-produced projects with a clear audience engagement or transmedia strategy in place, the need for PMDs on indie production crews has never been more imperative.

Since I only work the projects where I think I can be of assistance, genres like soft snuff, horror, or certain types of foreign dramas are out of my league. Furthermore, I collaborate with only a limited number of projects each quarter, so once that quota is filled don't take on new clients until the current period is over.

For custom requests or to find out when the next opening is,, or dial 416-827-4196. I answer my phone almost always. Thank you.

And of course, client references available upon request.

Errol Nayci - PMD working in the Netherlands

John Oravec -

I worked with Jon Reiss as he was releasing his film Bomb-It, helped him with flyering, distributing merch, coordinating deliverables, updating social media sites etc. I also did the same for a USC Grad Thesis film Carpet Kingdom by Michael Rochford and also for the feature documentary Danny Greene by Tommy Reid. I am based out of Santa Monica, CA and my contact info is Johnny Oravec 323 698 6900 and my website is

Diana Iles Parker PMD on "Eat The Sun". Spoken Media Contact: 415.225.8121 (c) 415.388.8281 (o)

I am a PMD who partners with documentary filmmakers as early as possible in their filmmaking process so we can develop a strong, cohesive and well-supported launch for their film. I specialize particularly in hybrid models of distribution that focus on splitting rights and maximizing profits; festival strategy, publicity and marketing.

Amy Slotnick - PMD for “The Business of Being Born” (she received producer credit for her work); outreach for “Red State”; "Wake Up". Contact:

As a PMD I work with filmmakers to help them build, manage and optimize digital and traditional marketing and distribution, allowing them to better engage their audiences. This includes strategizing and executing marketing, publicity and distribution of independent films, often aimed to reach a niche audience or to promote a particular cause. Partnerships with organizations, brands and businesses as well as planning screenings with non-profit, student and regional groups has proved effective for raising awareness for a film. Creating and managing social networks, mobile and online promotions and overseeing online distribution, theater bookings and licensing deals are all part of the PMD position. A plan that is specific to a particular film’s subject matter and perspective can be crafted and implemented to leverage its assets and build momentum. Titles for which I have worked in this manner include Kevin Smith’s RED STATE (pre-release 15 city tour), THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN and WAKE UP.

Lila Yomtoob Lila Yomtoob is a Brooklyn based producer specializing in marketing in distribution. She's got 12 years in different areas of the industry, a statuette named Emmy, and has produced three features, "Hidden Battles", "Foreclosure", and "High Life," which she also directed. As an independent filmmaker in her own right, she understands and respects directors' needs, and is especially passionate about getting good films seen by their audiences.

Jon Reiss on "What Are A Producer of Marketing And Distribution's Responsibilities?" Part 2 of 2

Yesterday, Jon Reiss explained why indie films need a "PMD" -- and if words don't work for you -- just look at Tuesday's list of all the new tools and services available that we can't afford to miss. Today, Jon takes it further, and tries to lay out the job description for both experienced and aspiring marketing & distribution collaborators. The responsibilities of a PMD are wide and varied. Not all films will utilize all of these elements (since every film is different and will have a unique approach to marketing and distribution), but each should be considered when strategizing and planning for the film’s release.

1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.

2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the key principles of the filmmaking team. Integrate this plan into the business plan for the film. This should also be done as early as possible and should be incorporated into your business plan. This helps your investors, donors, potential grant committees know that you have a clear idea of what your goals are and how you will achieve those goals.

3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.

4. As needed and appropriate, strategize and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in place of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organizational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.

5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, M&D production crew for extra diagetic material, key artists, web developers, trailer editors, bookers etc.

6. Audience research, outreach and relationship building through organizations, blogs, social media (including email collection), influencers, online and traditional publications.

7. Supervise the creation of promotional content and work with the development of trans media elements in either coordination with a Transmedia Producer, or in the case where the production is small – their might be one person who fills both roles, PMD and Transmedia Producer. Other elements to be created: the films website and social media sites, production stills, video assets - both behind the scenes and trans media, promotional copy and art/key art. Plus the PMD devises an organized content calendar to plan out what elements are released when and how they will disseminate online.

Just FYI – nearly all of the above and much of 8 & 9 happen before the film is finished.

8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, Digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners. The advantage of having the PMD on board is that it gives the filmmaking team many more options for distribution and marketing. No longer do filmmakers have to give up all rights just to get help in releasing their films. Filmmaking teams can create split rights scenarios that can be much more favorable to achieving their goals than many typical distribution deals. It puts the artistic team in the drivers seat instead of being dependent on taking any deal offered.

9. Coordinate, organize and supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to creation of all media needed for the execution of the release as needed including: • Live event/theatrical: Prints either 35 or Disk or Drive. Any other physical prep for event screenings. • Merchandise: All hard good physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc, and hard versions of games. • Digital products: encoding of digital products, iPhone/Android apps etc.

10. Modify and adjust the marketing and distribution plan as new opportunities present themselves during the film’s life span regarding information about audience, market, and partnerships arise.

11. When appropriate, engage the distribution process, which includes the release of: • Live Event Theatrical – Booking, delivery, of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance, discussion panels etc.) • Merchandise – Distribution of all hard good physical products created for the film. • Digitally – oversee all sales of the film in the form of 0s and 1s: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc. • This not just in the home territory – but also internationally. • Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.

12. Ramp up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes: • Content rollout • Additional Social Media activities such as contests, soliciting screening demands, posting press mentions . • Publicity including feature stories, interviews, reviews • Organizational Relationships • Sponsorship Relationships • Affiliate and Email Marketing • Promotions • Media Buys (as warranted) • Seeding trailers and other video content. • Any specific marketing especially tailored to the film.

This list should indicate how it would be difficult, if not impossible, to expect existing traditional crew categories to accomplish or even coordinate the work outlined above. In addition, while some of the work above is “quantifiable”, much of it is not – just like much of what a producer or even director does is not “quantifiable”. All efforts working in tandem produces the ROI.

Jon Reiss is a filmmaker and author of Think Outside the Box Office. His new book, Selling Film Without Selling Your Soul, cowritten with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter with social media marketer Sheri Candler, is sponsored by Prescreen, Area23a Movie Events and Dynamo Player available September 13, 2011 via Apple iBooks, followed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, a printed edition and free ePub version.

He can be reached at:
You can order Think Outside the Box Office here, or on Amazon.

Jon Reiss on "Why A Producer of Marketing And Distribution?" Part 1

Yesterday's HFF post on the plethora of new platforms & options for truly free filmmakers should have made you leap for joy and run for the cliff simultaneously. It is wonderful that filmmakers have SO many great tools and services at their disposal. But how does anyone take advantage of this situation. The choice is overwhelming. Sure the rewards could be great -- but so is the risk. Well, the answer, my friend, is... best explained by Jon Reiss. The Producer of Marketing and Distribution and The New 50/50

On the recent discussion concerning the Producer of Marketing and Distribution on Ted’s blog recently, there was some confusion as to what are the responsibilities of the Producer of Marketing Responsibilities. I offered Ted the list of responsibilities that I wrote for the introduction of a book that I am writing on the PMD. Ted offered to post the entire introduction in three parts. This first part concerns why I think a PMD is useful to independent filmmakers. The second post concerns responsibilities of the PMD. The third post will look at how the PMD is currently being adopted and what kind of training could help not only people who want to be PMDs, but also the filmmakers who want to have them as part of their teams. Here is the introduction.

As a filmmaker myself, I am well aware of the paradigm shift that has occurred in the last several years as independent filmmakers try to get their films distributed. Through my own work – and talking to countless filmmakers - I have become a firm believer that filmmaking is a two part process. The first part is creating the film – the second part is connecting that film with an audience. There is still a strong belief in the independent film world that filmmakers are only responsible for creating the film – someone else will take care of distribution and marketing. For a very few filmmakers this might still happen. But for the vast majority of filmmakers – and all artists and media content creators – it won’t.

Loose estimates range that there are between 5,000-17,000 feature films made in North America every year and that approximately 35,000 feature films are on the international festival circuit. Most of these are looking for, hoping for, a company to give them a check in exchange for the right to distribute their films. Even in an excellent year of acquisitions – only a relative handful of films will have some form of distribution entity “take their films off their hands”. (Whether having a distributor is the best course for any film is another debate – I am also a firm believer that every film is different and each film thus needs its own unique distribution and marketing strategy and implementation – but that is for another chapter.)

So it is up to filmmakers and artists to not only own the means of production – but also to own the means of distribution and marketing.

Hence the New 50/50 is as follows:

50 percent of an artist’s time and resources should be devoted to creating a film or artistic work. 50 percent of their time and resources should be devoted to getting the film/artistic work out to its audience, aka distribution and marketing.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule. Rather, it is a guide to changing our preconceptions.

In the year and a half since I coined “the New 50/50” I feel that it creates too much of a dichotomy between creation of a film and the distribution and marketing of a film. In the best of circumstances – these two “halves” should be integrated into an organic whole. Audience engagement needs to start as close to inception as possible – and with advances in technology – mainly Internet and mobile technology, it is more possible than ever.

I believe that this integration allows for not only much better results in filmmakers achieving their goals of their releases (whatever those may be) – but also allows for the distribution and marketing process to open up to new forms of creativity as well. Distribution and marketing can be as creative as the filmmaking process – even to the point where they become indistinguishable. This should not be scoffed at, as some form of branded entertainment – rather should be embraced as a revolution of artistic possibility. (However it is actually branded entertainment in which the artis is the brand.)

The Birth of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution

I find that most filmmakers (directors and producers both) I speak to are so overwhelmed with the amount of work involved in creating “a film” –they don’t have the time to connect with audiences or create additional assets during production to aid in later marketing efforts (or as creative extensions of the project). Further, many filmmakers (especially directors) do not have the skill set or inclination to engage directly with audiences. As a filmmaker, I can relate to these feelings myself.

In addition, just like you most likely did not make the film on your own, you should not be distributing and marketing the film on your own. I would propose that from now on, every film needs one person devoted to the distribution and marketing of the film from inception, just as they have a line producer, assistant director, or DP.

Just before sending Think Outside the Box Office to print, I came up with the concept of the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or the PMD. I gave this crew position an official title of PMD because without an official position, this work will continue to not get done. I gave this position the title of producer because it is that important.

In addition, in doing the work as a PMD for my own film as well as consulting on a number of other films, (and having produced three feature films myself) I can state that this work is producorial in nature.

The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement. {Note that I use “distribution and marketing” and “audience engagement” interchangeably. I do this so that filmmakers will start to view distribution and marketing (the whole process from beginning to end) as audience engagement. E.g. Audience engagement starts at awareness – and keeps going through consumption and beyond to the future. }

To continue: the purpose of the PMD derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.

The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires. It also recognizes that most split rights distribution partners and some traditional distributors will not spend adequate time or money on promotion when the film is ready for distribution. The earlier in the process this is started, the more successful it will be for everyone involved.

Jon Reiss is a filmmaker and author of Think Outside the Box Office. His new book, Selling Film Without Selling Your Soul, co written with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter with social media marketer Sheri Candler, is sponsored by Prescreen, Area23a Movie Events and Dynamo Player available September 13, 2011 via Apple iBooks, followed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, a printed edition and free ePub version.

He can be reached at:

You can order Think Outside the Box Office here, or on Amazon.

How Would You Use All 27 New Platforms Available For Direct (aka DIY/DIWO) Distribution?

UPDATED 8/31 730A (Now 30 Platforms & Services!)Thanks for the recommendations in the comments and elsewhere! UPDATED 9/1 630A (Now 31 Platforms & Services!) UPDATED 9/1 830A, UPDATED 9/8 8A (32!), UPDATED 9/15 6A, 9/23 UPDATED 5/15/2012 (Now 33 Platforms & Services!)

We are awash in wonderful opportunities. Distribution has long been said to be one of the top concerns of Truly Free / Indie filmmakers. Ditto on the marketing side. We've been neglectful to address the equally important social side, but that's changing. Financing is always a challenge, but even there we have new help and hope. The great news is that never before have we had so many opportunities in all these areas.

Now comes the time to develop some best practices. How do we use all of these wonderful opportunities? How do we prepare for them? How do we access them? Here's a list of the 27 platforms & tools I know of; I am sure you know some more to add to the list. Let's get this new model started!

How about everyone pick a platform (ideally one they used) and write up some recommendations on how to use it well, and we run them as posts on this blog?


How do you think we should utilize all of these great tools and platforms? We are not going to figure it out one by one on our own. The truth will only be revealed through collective endeavor (and a little good fortune). I would love to hear some advice from all the budding and experienced PMDs out there... not to mention filmmakers who have utilized or plan on utilizing any of these.

I am having a bit of a hard time coming up with the proper discriptions for the tools and services. This is very much a Work In Progress. If you have a better definition, please let me know. Several services show up in different categories. There are definitely suppliers that I have forgotten or neglected to mention (my apologies, but this is a public service and not my job job).

1. Artist Direct Distribution / Platforms: FilmDIY (promo video), MubiGarage, Ooyala, Viddler,

2. Artist Direct Distribution / Platforms - non-specialized: These are places filmmakers can "sell" their work, but are not filmcentric. Craigslist, Etsy,

3. Artist Direct Distribution / TVOD Players: Distrify, Dynamo Player (Review), EggUp (review), (still in Beta) , FlickLaunch, Groupee, OpenFilm,

4. Artist Direct Distribution / Service Facilitators: Sundance's Artist Services,

5. Audience Aggregation, Analytics, & Commerce: FanBridge, TopspinMedia

6. Audience Participation: LiveFanChat, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Social Guide, SoKap, Watchitoo

7. CrowdFunding/Audience Participation:      IndieGoGo • 4% fee if you make your goal, 9% otherwise, +3% credit card processing fee      Kickstarter • 5% fee, +3-5% credit card fee (only funded if you make your goal)      RocketHub • 4% fee if you make your goal, 8% otherwise, +3-5% credit card fee      SoKap • 5% fee, 10% fee on product sold via their marketplace, +3% credit card fee      United States Artists • 15% fee + 4% credit card fee      Eppela • 5% fee + PayPal processing fee (~2-4%), (must use PayPal, only funded if you make your goal, Italian)      Kapipal • Currently no fee + PayPal processing fee (~2-4%), (must use PayPal, Italian)      And 10 others listed here

8. Digital Delivery Facilitators: Veedios (article)

9.Digital Distribution Access Providers: Brainstorm, Distribber (analysis), GoDigital, Gravitas, Inception Digital Services, IndieBlitz ,Might Entertainment, New Video, Premiere Digital,

10. Digital Download & Streaming Aggregators: Amazon,, CinemaNow (aka BestBuy), FilmDIY, iTunes, Vudu, XFinityTV (aka Comcast),YouTube

11. Digital Limited Run US Theatrical Exhibition: Cinedigm, FathomEvents, Screenvision

12. Digital Streaming Aggregators FREE (AVOD): Crackle, Snag (Owners of IndieWIre, host of my blog), Vimeo, YouTube

13. E-commerce: E-Junkie (shopping cart)

14. Educational Market: An Overview, Educational Market Streaming

15. Exhibition/Four Wall Services (i.e. self booking): QuadCinemaFourWall

16. Exhibition/New Model: Emerging's Digital Repertory Program, Specticast

17. Free Peer to Peer: VoDo, BitTorrent

18. Fulfillment: Amazon Services, Amplifier, theConneXtion, CreateSpace, FilmBaby, IndieBlitz,Kufala Recordings, Paid, Transit Media, I got a lot more when I did a search but I don't know one from the other.

19. Influencer / Social Media Analytics: Klout, PeerIndex, Topsy, Traackr, Twitalyzer,

20. Markets / Online On Demand For Territorial Licensing (B2B): Cinando, Festival Scope,

21. Mobile Phone & Tablet Film App Builders: Mopix (see demo here) Stonehenge

22. Mobile Video Sharing: Thwapr,

23. Platforms: Facebook, Playstation, Roku, RoxioNow, XBox

24. Search (for SEO): Ask, Bing, Google, Yahoo

25. Social Discovery Platforms ( Online TVOD): PreScreen

26. Social Networks: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Weibo

27. Stream To View Transactional VOD (Pay): Constellation, Prescreen (review)

28. Streaming Subscription (SVOD): Amazon,, Fandor, Hulu, LoveFilm, Mubi, Netflix

29. Trailer Distribution / Online Internet Video Archive

30. Video Conferencing / Multi-party (for Fan Engagement & Remote Appearances): Watchitoo

31. VOD Aggregation:,

32. VOD Channels: Multichannel Video Programmers (note: not all offer VOD), FilmBuff

33. Facebook Video Players/Channels:Cinecliq, Milyoni

Nayan Padrai on "Why We Call It DIRECT DISTRIBUTION Instead Of DIY"

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.

Can We Create The Future Of Indie Marketing & Distribution -- Or Is It Already Dead?

We speak of the need to utilize PMDs (aka Producers of Marketing & Distribution) on Indie/TFF movies these days, but how do these people get trained (not to mention, paid for)? Where do they learn their skill sets? Two or three years into this DIY Indie Movement of sorts, can you name more than three or four people (at best) who do this? Isn't this the missing piece? How come we all aren't doing more to train these folks?

Two or so years ago, Jon Reiss and I developed a pretty extensive proposal for a Marketing/Distribution Lab. Our goal was to make it long term, six months to a year, with films in all different stages participating. We brought it to most of the indie film support organizations, and got a great response. Tribeca, Sundance, IFP, and FIND all said yes. Well they said "yes, but...". Financing it, maintaining it, and in one instance, monetizing it, were unsolvable issues too big for each for them to truly take on. IFP committed to bringing Jon in to speak to their lab participants, so not all was for naught, but the problem remains. Everyone recognizes it. Where will the people who can do the M&D work well come from?

On the agency level, I hear the problem amplified. Their clients, filmmakers, can make excellent movies at a very low out-of-pocket price point, but how can the movies get out and find audiences. Creators who have any regular work can not usually make the commitment to push their work out to audiences, let alone build vibrant communities. And often the agencies don't want them to, as it is perceived to "devalue" the clients if they go the DIY route. They need to find reputable and ideally prestigious entities to take on the film, and hopefully not in a manner that takes the rights forever and has little hope of upside.

Sundance has made great strides under new Executive Director Keri Putnam to not only recognize that most independent film won't find a traditional corporately-backed distribution home, but also most shouldn't even opt for that. Sundance's Artist Services is the first real step The Industry has taken to help build a true Artist/Entrepreneur class. Through this lens we can see a real creator middle class being born, not dependent on building their work to appeal to the widest audience, not self-censoring from the start, but recognizing that every option is theirs, if they are willing to take responsibility for their work.

But their lies the rub: are artists willing to take responsibility for their work yet? Is it even what is best for them? Twenty years in to being led to believe that great work will always not just find an audience, but also make money for all concerned courtesy of the golden hand of distribution entities, can we even glimpse what an alternative approach may bring?

I encounter the problem with myself. I know what I need to do to truly prep a film, but have a hard time allocating the labor and expense to it. I can imagine a better life where I distributed the majority of my films. Yet, how do I shift my priorities when I feel that my top skill set is in the development and production of feature length movies? Really, what I would like to do is supervise talented up & comers on the marketing and distribution of my films -- but I can't trust my work to total newbies. And I don't see a supply of PMDs coming out or up the pipeline and ladder.

Is it enough to hope that the producers that are pushed into or opt for the DIY or Hybrid approach are the ones who will build those skills and turn to that type of producing, if they enjoy it and are successful -- much the same as other producers focus on financing or packaging or development or physical production? Can we rely on partnerships developing between those who focus on it and those who focus elsewhere in producing pipeline? One can hope that this develops, but if I had to wager a guess, at the very least it is a ten year wait for such a natural progress, and that is ten years of not only good movies not being seen, but the entire chain of distancing from audiences and communities that will be indie's ruin.

In the studio world, there are producers more focused on marketing and distro than any other part of the process, and they are very successful at it. But Indie Film is a different calling, and a far different reward structure. Those of us in it, have chosen it fully because of the content, and are not compensated well for that choice. Fees for indie producing consistently have dropped over the last five years, requiring working producers to take on more jobs and commit less time in the process. The focus on marketing is something those in the indie world simply cannot afford to do.

So what is to be done? I could be wrong, but I think pure economics prevents a PMD sector from developing naturally in the indie world. Intervention is required. Starting out, I recognized I wanted to be a "creative" producer, but could not get a job remotely in that area for the longest period. Production skills were what was valued in NYC -- and still are. I was fortunate enough to have paying script reading work (in addition to my production stuff) that exposed me to some of the process and players -- but that wasn't enough to earn a living on. To get development work I had to first save my money, and then sell myself cheap in the dead production months to producers who were happy to find there was someone willing to be exploited. I eagerly agreed, but it was the only way open.

The newbie producers coming out of film school understandably look to make movies, and the desire to make the next one is never as strong as when you have just wrapped the prior -- you can feel your skill set at it's peak power and it wants to play in a new field.

We've known we need new blood in the distro field for decades, but as the previous crew won't (and some shouldn't) yield their seats at the table, there has never been much incentive for folks to try to step in that direction. The new generation has taken over international sales, but there is no equivalent in domestic distribution. Glen Basner who runs Film Nation, one of the true leaders in international sales. He was my assistant and for the longest time resisted the move into sales -- despite everyone at the company recognizing it was his calling. He was drawn to the lure of creative producing. Now he gets more movies made than most producers combined, and earns a far better living too, but it wasn't something that happened over night. He was fortunate to have great mentors in the sale business and a corporate structure that allowed for it. I can think of several others in his field that have a similar story. To foster similar innovation, growth, and success to that of the international sales arena that Glen and his compatriots have delivered, we need a structure in the marketing and distro world that can actual facilitate it.

We simply don't have the time to hope that a natural process of film by film growth will yield the new breed that we desperately need. I don't think it can be done without incentivizing producers to venture in that direction. They need to know that they will not only be expanding their skill set but also gaining prestige, connections, and opportunity. It won't just come naturally. People show their best when you can give them a path that promises the best view. They need a lab and other incentives. Where will the funding and leadership come? Can we get them to act before it is too late? Will the community recognize this as a real need and act to make it a reality?

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "Moving Indie Distribution Forward"

There are few fighters for Indie Film as ferocious as Orly Ravid. In addition to co-founding the only non-profit film distributor, The Film Collaborative, she speaks up and out about the state of things. Today she looks at a recent panel on "15 Years Of Film Distribution" and addresses a lot of what went unsaid.

15 comments regarding the indieWIRE panel at Film Society of Lincoln Center “15 Years of Film Distribution” and Sundance’s Distribution Announcement

On July 16, 2011 at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on indieWIRE Editor in Chief Dana Harris moderated a discussion about the past 15 years of film distribution with (left to right): Richard Abramowitz, Amy Heller, Bingham Ray, Bob Berney, Ira Deutchman, Mark Urman, Arianna Bocco and Jeanne Berney. It can be found here. The Sundance distribution announcement was made last week.

So glad to know, as Mark Urman noted, that even big A-list cast films have a hard time getting listed properly on Cable VOD in terms of cast. We know that Sundance indie Adventures of Power also was not always listed properly in terms of noting its full cast (namely Jane Lynch & Adrien Grenier who both have massive fan bases were sometimes left off the film’s VOD description). What will it take the MSOs to get it together? Please let’s not all name or rename our films with numbers or start with the letters A,B,C,D, or E. If Comcast can insert ads into programming surely they and all the other dozens of MSOs (Multi System Operators) can find a way to help attract an audience for films on their system by categorizing them and filling in complete descriptions even on mammoth platforms.

The glut of content was discussed and the marketing challenges all distributors of cinema face. We all know it’s cheaper to make films now, there are more of them, they don’t die or go away, they just multiply annually and even some of the panelists spoke to younger generations not even committed to being filmmakers, but just making films because they can and it’s made to seem so cool. Indeed. And what I want someone to say, well ok I will just say it, is when the real numbers behind film distribution are revealed across the board perhaps we’ll see a trim in supply. The best, most creative and most committed will survive and thrive. Investors will be choosier because they’ll have all of the REAL information they need to make educated decisions. As for how to clear through the clutter, well, that goes back to the basics of know-your-audience, down to the “T” and don’t pretend it’s everyone. I look forward to even more lifestyle and interest oriented programming and content servicing and all the more reason for filmmakers to cultivate audiences directly, where there is no room for glut or confusion.

They joked about no one knowing VOD numbers, except for Arianna of IFC of course and Mark sometimes when his VOD client (Tribeca Films I presume) fills him in. Well, we have some from our forthcoming case study book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and I want to challenge ALL FILMMAKERS to share your numbers and stop the madness of mystery! And I agree, it’s time that these numbers start getting tracked and reported in a more automated fashion as theatrical box office and DVD sales are now. Still those number only show gross, and not the spend needed to achieve those numbers.

Melanie of Milestone noted younger people have different habits in terms of what they want to view and how they view. So maybe we need younger folks running distribution companies now. TFC is hiring.

Arianna of IFC notes that piracy is a huge issue and that young people do not want to pay for content. So we can either be disturbed by that, or we can work with that knowledge and release in a way that will maximize revenues, instead of forcing audience into outdated window methods. One film we recently observed tried to monetize its distribution via sponsorship, but waited way too long to get started, tried to do so without a distribution plan in place, is having its theatrical launch 6 months after its festival premiere and cannot seem to make a decision on the rest of its distribution whilst it awaits fat-enough-offers that are not coming. That sort of paradigm is a set up for failure and leaves the film open to piracy when a clear plan from the start and an immediate release after festival premiere could have led to quicker monetization (sponsored, DIY and/or via a donation campaign on VODO). We caution against proceeding with filmmaking when there is no viable plan in place.

A question via TWITTER that came in was: Where do you want to be 15 years from now? Richard Abramowitz is amazed he’s still in the biz now… and that’s honest in that it speaks to deep concerns about the changes in the business and the truth is, the more transparent service providers are about their numbers, the more likely they will survive. Those less transparent are not likely to sustain themselves. What I object to is the mythology in this industry and the mask of success that hides the real story of spending more than you made back because there are too many expensive services or middlemen. Who can tell me about their PROFIT? Not just for themselves, but for the filmmakers and investors they represent? Who will publicly admit the numbers on how much was spent for each service even on services they did not really need if they were better educated, and each middleman and what that yielded? When people do not, it’s largely because they want to get the next project funded and, to me, this is no better than a pyramid scheme. You know what eventually happens with those, right? See 2008 for an indication. Anyone who wants to challenge TFC on its transparency please do, I am ready.

‘Theatre going experience is in our DNA (like gazing at a fire)’, says Bingham Ray. The communal experience is what it’s all about. Amen. I say let’s bring back the drive-in. I especially want it for Sundance film Co-dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.

Ira speaks to the Opera audience. He noted, as audiences get older they crave that experience (communal screening) more. I love that Ira Deutchman grew a business out of this niche. Niche is golden. A lesson for us all.

Ira spoke to “eventizing” theatrical– several noted about adding Q&As, live music, director attendance, panel discussions– to enhance theatrical and all of those screenings do well. Indeed. We have observed the same and that speaks even more to filmmakers knowing their audience and being more engaged in their own releases. There is nothing of this that one cannot do.

Ira ends quoting Richard Lorber “everything is possible and nothing works” harking back to 25 years ago when distribs celebrated small victories and spent little – before the rise and fall of indie bubble and the studios dressing big releases in indie clothes. My comment is regarding the “professional” the middle man, the lack of transparency even still is a burden, the fees paid excessive if one analyzes from the point of view of sustainability and healthy business. Service deals are announced like acquisitions. That’s why they say “film business” is an oxymoron but it need not be. And that’s why TFC’s resolve now is to not work with unsustainable filmmakers. We do not want to feed the habit, enable unrealistic expectations. If you spent too much on making your film, if your expectations are unreasonable, if you are not committed to being educated about both film and engaging audiences, and most of all, if you are just a money bag and not a creator but rather buying into the dream that your film (which you did not even create) is going to make you rich or richer, please go home.

And now, on a less cranky and more joyous note: What I love about the Sundance distribution initiative: 11. It’s offering filmmakers a truly filmmaker friendly set up by having a good partner and fair contract terms.

12. The terms offered by a truly excellent partner like New Video were already good in general, but are now even slightly advantaged.

13. That the deal is non-exclusive and allows filmmakers proper agency and control.

14. That I partly inspired it starting in 2009 and that the folks at Sundance listened, discussed, and worked it out slowly but surely and that there is more to come.

15. The Sundance brand connected with its alumni of filmmaker’s brands and on key platforms that function as the key portals to film lovers (and yet not at the exclusion of other viable modes of DIY and traditional distribution) is the model I have always championed even before TFC launched, because it makes sense. It’s good for filmmakers; it’s good for audiences and back to # 1 and #2, initiatives like this are the way to help clear a path through the content of clutter to the curious eyes of cinema loving consumers.

This post originally ran on The FIlm Collaborative.

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Rachel Gordon on "Tapping into Educational Distribution Part 2"

Yesterday, Rachel Gordon shed some light on how you might make your film viable for the Educational Market. Now as much as we all hope to make a living by making films, I don't think that is why most filmmakers enter the field. And as thrilling as self expression is, I often hear filmmakers cite another reason for the creative spark: they want to facilitate change. Today, Rachel provides examples of how the process of preparing for the Educational Market can also precisely do that higher goal of moving us towards a better world.

Adding to the idea of using media in education, this post will provide a broad view of integrating media with community change, as well as concrete examples of success.

If you ever watched a film in high school or college, or went to a screening at a local community center, you’ve already experienced media having an impact on a non-theatrical audience. Here is the short description of how that comes about, as well as specific situations from clients I’ve worked with.

The Collector of Bedford Street centers on a retirement-aged Jewish man with an intellectual disability who spends his days collecting money for a variety of charities that request him to do so. It shows him being an active participant in the community, and the mutual care-giving relationship between himself and his neighborhood – he’s able to continue collecting money for charities, and his well being is sustained through surrounding efforts.

This means that the main non-theatrical markets are (each of which will have subcategories): Disability issues, Aging/Gerontology, Jewish studies, Charities/causes, community activism, social work, and I could continue…

Now take one agency, perhaps one of the ones involved with the care of your subject, and get their perspective on your finished product. Show them a rough cut to get them on board and get ideas about who needs to know about what you’re doing. Be willing to give out preview copies to one or more of these organizations in exchange for feedback. Use their feedback in order to forward it to others who have similar interests.

Have a brief questionnaire with simple questions you can use for future reference and quoting such as:

How do you use the film?
What are some of the reactions you’ve seen?
Who do you think should see this?

To get specific, Collector has been used by Kiwanis International to help teach youth about the importance and joys of community service. Inspired by that, for the past couple of years, Roger Williams University has used Collector’s story, including filmmaker Alice Elliott as a speaker, at their student orientation to help demonstrate the positive change that results from participating in community service activities.

Every time a copy of your film leaves your hands, see who it went to and note what type of organization they are coming from. Write them thanking them for support and seek their feedback to build on, and quote as well.

When your film is showing, contact those in your interest groups to notify them, assuming you can invite others to see it. Or, even if you can’t, send out information about why it’s being shown in that community to those same parties. This would include public libraries, colleges/universities, local non-profit advocacy groups, etc. They may not be able to attend, but the screening provides community respect and they may at least check your website in interest.

Another concrete example was an event I recently coordinated for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Women and Gender Studies Division decided to work with their Student Disability Services Department to host a screening of the film Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy. They wanted the subject, Diana Braun, to speak at the event, but Diana was overseas promoting disability self-advocacy in Uzbekistan through the American Documentary Showcase. In order to make a more powerful event, I connected with the local Arc in Massachusetts – a disability advocacy group – who spoke alongside me at the event. After screening the film a lively discussion ensued about how to help ensure the independence of people with disabilities, and what any individual could do in support of disability rights.

Both of these films are under 1 hour long and both have been making significant impact in a variety of communities, and earning income in the process. If they can do it, any film can do if it you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

In the over-an-hour category is In Good Conscience, about a Catholic nun non-violently fighting for gay rights, with which we’ve managed to create public events at universities and churches. Sister Jeannine speaks with the film, along with filmmaker Barbara Rick, and it gets used as a tool to discuss bias, bullying, LGBT inclusion, and religious integration.

Another film over an hour, which also had a theatrical run, that I’m about to attend the American Library Association in support of is The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. The film is screening during the conference, and Daniel Ellsberg is also speaking there in an entirely separate program.

These engagements take some time to plan, as these institutions need to prepare budgets well in advance in order to prepare travel arrangements, technical support, etc. When an event happens at a university, chances are the institution will take an extra step of coordinating multiple activities with different departments to get their monies’ worth – such as the film or journalism department, schools of Social Work, Student Activities, etc.

It’s also worth noting that films can have a long lifespan in the educational environment, where acquisition and usage are based on theme and research areas. So a film isn’t discarded or forgotten because it’s already been out for 2 years, it can find strong validity in the classroom for over a decade. Creating and maintaining an educational and advocacy agenda can build you a worthwhile audience.

Rachel Gordon is a New York based independent filmmaker and consultant who started Energized Films to help other filmmakers, and distributors, expand the audience of their media into receptive homes in academic, non-profit, and other specialty markets. She’s currently developing a comedic feature about feminine fear of commitment, making a documentary about homeopathy, and speaking to film schools about the importance of teaching distribution to students.

Rachel Gordon on "Tapping into Educational Distribution"

For Indie Film to thrive, a producer must consider all revenue streams from the beginning. Of course not every project, is applicable to every opportunity, but nonetheless, you want a box to check for each. The Educational Market is one platform that goes unchecked for many filmmakers. Let's change that!

Filmmaker, and expert on this field, Rachel Gordon graciously offered to share what she knows of this field with you.

I began working with non-theatrical distribution at the National Film Board of Canada over 10 years ago. As a filmmaker, the experience of finding new markets for films that were under an hour, and even animated, was exhilarating as I’d worked on so many films that would never see the inside of a theater.

Educational distribution is broadly defined as any usage of media that is not consumed in a traditional theater, or home video setting. Examples include, but are not limited to: classrooms – both K-12 and colleges, museums, non-profit/advocacy groups, etc. It is not an exact science, and it often takes longer to start seeing returns than people have patience for. If you stick with it long enough, though, you’ll connect directly with an invested audience that will keep up with your projects.

So discussed here is how to make your film an educational tool, no matter what its length or genre, and hopefully pay a few bills in the process. This should not be relied on as your only form of income. Academic environments take longer because people plan courses ahead of time so expect this outreach process to take a minimum of 6 months, up to a year, to hit solidly.

Technical preparation:

1. During DVD creation, provide chapters of your film that are 5-7 minutes long. Don’t randomly pick the timing, use whole thought segments.

2. Disability accessibility features such as closed (or open) captioning and audio description may seem like “extras” but are becoming more necessary as state agencies and educational facilities adopt ADA (American with Disabilities Act) specifications into law.

3. Study guides are highly useful, as your way of helping any audience understand what they are supposed to get out of watching your film. Educators appreciate these as they often lack preparation time and energy.

4. Be prepared to process orders in any way that is convenient for your customers – including check, purchase order, credit card. If you make it hard to buy or use your film, people will lose patience and not ask for help.

5. Be flexible about how the content gets delivered. Current options include DVD, streaming, digital download, closed-circuit/institutional television, and the right for media to be accessed from a central server.

6. Be creative with photos and artwork. DVD covers should include pictures, synopsis, and quotes. If you hand someone a clear case, it’s going to look bland, uninteresting, and less reliable as an educational source.

At the beginning, you want to get some copies out to organizations that have like-minded ideals. Reach out to them and be prepared to send them review copies with such questions as:

How would you use the film? Who do you think should see this? What social action goals does this film serve?

Every time a copy of your film leaves your hands, see who it went to and note what type of organization they are coming from. Write them thanking them for support and seek their feedback to build on.

It’s also important to send review copies to the top educational publications – almost every media librarian in the country subscribes to them – university and public libraries alike – and they also peer-review the materials. Give about 3-6 months time for them to get to it. These publications include (but again, aren’t limited to): Video Librarian, Educational Media Reviews Online, Library Journal.

There are academic studies dedicated to any subject you can think of, and they all use media as a tool with which to engage their students because they realize that students are consuming online video content. The academic world extends beyond the classroom to include conferences, publications, and professional development.

It is, and seems like, a long process, but what you get from all of this work are people who do come back and want to continue to use your media to help with their programming. What is also amazing is how positive and supportive educational environments are. Librarians who use and promote your work respect copyright issues, talk on a variety of listservs about content that they find helpful, and are generally quick to respond and answer questions about what is going on in their worlds.

Rachel Gordon is a New York based independent filmmaker and consultant who started Energized Films to help other filmmakers, and distributors, expand the audience of their media into receptive homes in academic, non-profit, and other specialty markets. She’s currently developing a comedic feature about feminine fear of commitment, making a documentary about homeopathy, and speaking to film schools about the importance of teaching distribution to students.

Brendan Fletcher on "An Indie Process in a Conventional System?" Part 3

Today, Brendan Fletcher continues his tales of being a MAD BASTARD as much as the civilized world permits.


Now we were a wild, indie film within another system – the distribution system. But here it began to work for us - we had the bite of an indie, backed up by the experience and muscle of the Transmission strategists and the Paramount sales team. They understood the film, they loved it, and they backed it.

True to the original vision, it was the music and our raw non-actors that continued to be our point of difference, even when it came to the marketing campaign. We built much of the media around the story of the non-actors who turned their lives around by being involved in the movie. And we hosted a sell-out “live event tour” right around Australia before the theatrical release -- where we screened the film then the Pigram Brothers and Alex Lloyd performed songs from the movie. It created a fantastic focus for media and a great word-of-mouth “buzz”.

The movie opened on nearly 30 screens here in Australia on May 5 and is now in its sixth week of theatrical release.

The final vindication has been the critical and audience response. Reviews in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, AICN and Screen International all mention the raw authenticity, the rich sense of place and strong performances by the "real" cast and the unique use of music as defining elements of the film. And so many audience members have written/talked to me about the uplifting feeling they have when they leave the cinema knowing the real people's stories have weaved in and out of the characters they play. Wow -- maybe this thing has actually worked?


When it's all done and dusted, Mad Bastards has done exactly what I hoped a first film could do. It is unique in its voice, while also telling a powerful emotional story. We landed Sundance – and there’s few ways better than that to announce yourself to the world as a first time film maker.

Would I have made a “better” film if I stuck to my plan of a tiny crew, a digital shoot and a lived-in, community process back in 2001? Maybe … I don’t know. It would have probably been more rough and radical – but that doesn’t necessarily mean better. Those seven aching years of development in the “system” drove me crazy, but they did make me a better film maker. That time allowed me to write the less mature films out of my system, rather than actually make them.

If I did make the film back then, I probably would have made MORE films since, whereas I have now only made one. But then again, maybe I would still be repaying the loans I’d taken out to finance my indie dream.

There are rules and systems in place all over the industry for good reason. Exciting new ways of doing EVERYTHING are opening up in every aspect of movie-making and distribution – and so they should. But mess with the formula at your own risk. Play the risk, sure, but understand which way you are going and what you are sacrificing by going that way. And if you are going to do things differently, make sure everyone is on that same page with you right down to the last detail – every crew member, financier and distribution exec from the get-go.

A first-time film maker is in a vulnerable position because you don't want to rock the boat in case the whole thing suddenly falls over. But you need to be clear and strong about what you will and won't compromise, and accept the hand that those choices then deal you. What got my knickers in a knot was trying to please everyone -- both the hard-nosed system bosses AND the requirements of my own unorthodox process.

I must acknowledge our good-hearted investors. All of them. No one was quite sure what exactly they were buying into, but hats off to them for signing on and sticking with us ... we are all proud of what we made, and all the wiser for making it.

To see for yourself, Mad Bastards is available right now on IFC’s V-O-D network and keep an eye our for a limited theatrical run across the States in the coming months, and a November DVD release. It is in theatres now - Miami this week, more to be announced.

-- Brendan Fletcher. Brendan is currently working with Writer/Producer Train Houston on the Jeff Buckley pic "A Pure Drop".

A Public Discussion On THE FUTURE OF FILM With You, Me (Ted Hope), & Brian Newman

Brian Newman and I are headed towards the Czech Republic this holiday weekend in order to have a very public discussion on The Future Of Film with the filmmakers and audiences at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Yet, you too can join in even if you can't make your way to this wonderful festival. Neither Brian nor I are great fans of panel discussions these days; they fail to mine the great knowledge or passions of the community. So in contemplating how to get something done in the time we have allotted, Brian and I decided it would be good to get the conversation started a bit early. Below, Brian and I put together a focus on what we think are the key factors shaping the greatest and necessary change to the way films are made and consumed. What's your opinion?

The Future of Film - Joint Article by Brian Newman & Ted Hope
Prognostications about the future of film have been pretty easy to come by lately – it will be digital, it will be everywhere, it will be 3D, it will be expensive – but while everyone talks about the changes to come, very few people are actively addressing these changes head on. We believe “the future” is already upon us, and there are five key trends to address.

As we put our thoughts out there for you to consider, ask yourself: “are these the trends that will most effect content, production, and consumption?”. Did we leave something out? Is one not important? Is something else more important? Join the conversation and let us know below.

Similarly, these five suggestions may be the preeminent factors in shaping the next few years, but the real question is always “how?” As creators, facilitators, and consumers, what must we do to confront these issues? Are there models and best practices already emerging? Have there already been noble failures and/or arrogant efforts attempting to address these factors? What would a vision look like that might address these key elements? We all must share our thoughts, our hopes, our failures, along with what we learned from our successes if we are going to build something new, something that truly works for everyone.

1. Super-abundance: Historically, the film business has been built on the model of scarcity. It was expensive to make, distribute and exhibit (or broadcast) films, and it was equally expensive to learn the craft. Our entire business model and assumptions about what works and what doesn’t were built on this idea of scarcity, but digital has changed all of that.

We now live in a world of super-abundance. Thousands of film school students graduate annually, joining tens of thousands of self-taught others, many of whom are far better than amateurs. According to our talks with festival submission services, somewhere near 40,000 unique films are submitted to film festivals globally each year. As an audience member, we now have access not just to the films playing on television and at the theater, but to the entire history of cinema through services such as Netflix, Mubi and LoveFilm. We can experience the global cinema of 1968 better than an audience member who lived in 1968 could, and these films are now competitors for our viewing attention versus the newest films from today. 1968 was a pretty good year for film, it’s tough to decide to watch something new instead.

In a world of superabundance, you have to do a lot more to stand out from the crowd. Luckily, technology is also giving us tools to do this, engage with audiences more directly and develop new creative business practices to raise the attention level on our projects.

2. New Audience Demands: The audience didn’t use to have a lot of choice in what it saw, but now that choice is plentiful and we’ve entered an attention economy. Audiences now have access to mobile devices that connect them not just to one another, but to the content they choose, immediately and engagingly. Weened on social networks, instant messaging, gaming and touch screens, the audience now not only expects, but demands an interactive, participatory experience.

While many an audience member is content to sit back and relax in front of the television or movie screen, a significant portion of the audience expects and wants more. For some this means engagement through transmedia – using the full range of platform possibilities to interact with a story not just in film, but through games, ARG, graphic novels, webisodes or other experiences. At minimum it means being in touch with your audience, giving them the means to engage socially around a film, even if that’s just more easily sharing a link or a trailer, or engaging in a dialogue on Twitter or Facebook.

Some argue that artists shouldn’t be marketers, but this is a false dichotomy that actually only serves middle-men, distancing the artist from their most valuable asset (aside from their story-telling abilities), their fan base. Engaging one’s audience doesn’t mean just marketing. In fact, marketing doesn’t work, whereas real conversation, or meaningful exchanges does.

In addition, the audience is now global, diverse, young and niche. It demands its content to reflect these realities. Younger creators are addressing these changes, through the content they make, but the industry must do more to address these new realities and incorporate these new voices.

3. Audience Aggregation: In the past, we had to spend ridiculous amounts of money to find, build and engage an audience. And we did it, from scratch, again and again each time we had a new movie. Thousands of dollars were spent telling Lars Von Trier fans about his new film, but then we let that audience member disappear again, and spent more thousands finding them for the next film. We now have the ability to engage directly with our fan base, be it for an artist, a genre or the output of an entire country. We can aggregate this audience, keep them engaged and more easily communicate with them about what’s new or what’s next. Unfortunately, however, much of the value in this audience connection/data is accruing only to social networks and platforms and not to the industry, or more importantly, the artists. 4. Investor Realities: While public subsidy remains a vital strength of the industry outside of the US, the current economic and political climate is putting strains on such support and more producers are having to look fresh, or more strongly, to private investors. Up until now, however, it has been the rare investor who sees much of a return, and with the global market for art, foreign and indie films declining (in terms of acquisition dollars), this situation is worsening. To maintain a healthy industry we must build and support a sustainable investor class. The old model of financing one-off productions, limited rights ownership and closely guarding (or even hiding) the numbers needs to change to a system of slate financing, more horizontal ownership of the means of production and distribution and more open sharing of financial data. This is technologically easy to do now, but it will require a sea-change in our thinking about openness to ensure implementation.

5. A New model for Paradigmatic Change: All of this points to building a model for real, systemic change in the near future. Bold visions for a new model are needed, before someone from outside the film industry, in the tech community for example, launches this disruption for us. Entrepreneurial business leaders need to put forth new projects. Government agencies need to increase and shift funding to support these endeavors and traditional gatekeepers need to embrace these changes.

Experimentation requires limiting risk. Risk is usually defined in the film business by the size of budget. A devotion thus to micro-budget films should also stimulate experimentation on how they are released. Experimentation also requires an analysis of the results. Presently, the film business only likes to discuss its successes, but we need to get over the stigma of "failure" and recognize the brave and selfless qualities inherent in it so we all can learn and stop the repetition of processes that don't work. Experimentation is also a process; it is not a series of one-offs like the film business is today. We need to demystify the process from top to bottom and encourage sharing of data as well as technique. A commitment to a series of films is an experiment – one film is not. Experimentation requires opening one self up beyond a safe environment. The film business has remained a fairly hermetically sealed world. We need to collaborate with other industries, and form alliances that benefit them as well as us. New technological tools can help audiences discover work, allow artists to create work in new ways, and enable entrepreneurs to better distribute this work.

We’d like to open the discussion to others. Let us know in the comments here whether you agree with any or all of this, whether you have other ideas for addressing the future of the field, and even your strong disagreements.

If you’ll be attending the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, we invite you to also email us at to be considered for a slot during the panel. Slots will be delegated by a festival representative at their discretion. Selected responders will have three minutes to put forth their ideas, questions and/or statements during the festival panel. We’ll try to respond our best, and open it up to the audience for more input. We look forward to hearing from you.

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "Stop Waiting for Godot & Distribute Your Movie Now Dang Darn It!"

Orly Ravid had some good advice for us all before Cannes. Now that another festival is over, she's got some more critical advice for all with a film made, in process, or contemplating existence. Orly looks at what gives films "value" to distributors, but points out that those are not the only factors, and with a little effort and willingness to take it into your own hands, there's good business to be had. There's one key rule though: Don't Wait For Godot. Film is a perishable good.

WAITING FOR GODOT - "To wait endlessly, and in futility, for something to happen."

In future posts, we intend to track the progress and releases of the films that did deals at Sundance. And we also will track deals and respective progress related to other fests such as Tribeca and Cannes (which seemed to be largely a SundanceSelects play with an occasional TWC and Magnolia deal and a few others coming.). But for now, I want to address a phenomenon that I keep seeing and strongly feel needs to change.

Filmmakers are approaching us with films that had their festival run a year or even two years ago, OR, a film that did not have the benefit of an A-list festival selection, or maybe not even a B-list festival run, or is even more than two years old. I guess they assume that deals are still out there for their films and they are holding off on moving into the market until those deals are struck.

Film sales happen (when they happen) more often than not, for these reasons (I am speaking to filmmakers in America and trying to sell films in and/or from America):

1. FESTIVALS & AWARDS& REVIEWS: The film has the good fortune of being an official selection of a prestigious name film festival (and attended by or at least tracked by industry). By virtue of being an official selection, the festival brand helps the film’s brand and perceived value of that film to potential buyers. Also, publicity that actually occurs as a result of being part of the festival helps the film get noticed and attain perceived value to potential buyers. Winning prizes helps (especially Audience Awards) and getting great reviews help in attracting potential buyers.

2. The value (actual value of a deal that can be done) starts to go down after a festival premiere. Meaning, films that don’t sell at festivals or do not start negotiations at or close to the festival’s start or end date, go down in price. The perception in the market is the length of time between a festival premiere and settling on a distribution deal indicates the amount of value the film has. If there is a long passage of time, the price goes down accordingly and the likelihood of getting any deal fades. of course this depends to a greater or lesser degree on who is selling and who wants to buy and what their motivation is. But usually, prices go down in direct proportion with the passage of time.

3. CAST: The film has cast that increases the perceived value. And if #2 is accompanied by #1, all the better. This is not a cast of unknowns or a cast of former notable talent.

4. GENRE / DEMOGRAPHIC APPEAL / NICHES: Genre appeal, including horror, sci fi, western films often sell better than dramas; docs sell better than mockumentaries, often not always. Hot topic or big concept / trend topic documentaries or documentaries involving key niches or names often sell than more obscure or more personal documentaries, of course there are always rare exceptions. Best not to bank on your film being one of those. Films appealing to specific large enough demographics seem more “valuable” than those that don’t seem to have any specific appeal. Broad comedies can sell but highly depend on notable cast and when they don’t have the cast, it’s almost always the case that they need a big festival to create the buzz that gives them the commercial push. Foreign sales are not attractive for American-centric stories unless they are studio films, genre films, and/or have the cast or had/will have a big l theatrical release.

5. THEATRICAL: A small US theatrical can help usually only if the reviews really were strong and the film has some commercial appeal or at least niche appeal (and there are distributors catering to that niche if it’s not more broadly commercial). Theatrical in the US can’t hurt foreign sales but a tiny US theatrical can also have no impact on foreign sales whatsoever if the film is perceived as too American and does not feel either commercial enough for other territories to compete with all the world cinema or does not fit into niches for which there are buyers (if it’s not broadly commercial enough). Or the film can fit in to the niche but the niche is also glutted so competition is stiff. For Broadcast sales, sometimes it is simply a matter of programming and timing luck; the film fits what the stations are looking for.

We all know there’s no guarantee of a sale and sometimes even when a sale occurs, it’s not necessarily a great one. Even at the top A-list fests, many films do not “sell” so even for those filmmakers a strategy of building community around your film WAY AHEAD of your first public exhibition / premiere is wise, because this way, even if you are afraid of or counseled not to start any distribution in tandem with that premiere or necessarily soon following it, and even if you think you have a shot at the big deal, or a deal and that is what you want above all things.. even then, all that community building will do is increase the perceived value of your film. And guess what? If that deal never comes, or if the offers suck (which you may be more scrutinizing of and careful about when you do the math based on your acquired ability to distribute directly to the fans), you will always have that back up plan.

Many filmmakers come to us with thousands of even tens of thousands of Facebook and Twitter fans, lots of traffic to their site, an email list started and even good reviews of their film if it played smaller fests or if their genre was reviewed by niche film sites and this has all happened months ago or even a year ago or even two, and they are waiting for a DEAL, I have to say, DON’T WAIT. * You already have a deal*, direct to the fans of the film, the ones you have been connecting with and getting the attention of for all this time. Let them see it/buy it and stop waiting! They’ve been waiting and if you make them wait too long, they will either wander off in frustration or they may feel no other alternative but to view the film via P2P networks for free or get a DVD via E-bay that a journalist or programming staffer is selling for extra lunch money.

In short, and yes this blog is short compared to the usual (whew), don’t wait for Godot. There is nothing this marketplace is signaling that merits the wait. Broadcast sales are a different matter, you have a doc, or Latino-interest film, or gay film, or genre film, or even film with some cast.. a TV deal can MAYBE be done but still, there’s all the rest YOU should be doing sooner than later, or working with people who can help you do it if you don’t know how. This includes DVD and Digital off your site, it includes all the key digital platforms and it even includes hybrid theatrical / events and other public performance of the film (educational and/or commercial). And if your films has legs, you can carve out deals and DIY and work it all out. But if you just sit on your film and wait you are risking losing everything and I have to ask you, based on what? What information are you working with? Part of your distribution plan should include how long will wait before you start distribution? What is your path to sales? Plan A, B and C and how can you plan for all of those? It is no longer enough to hope for distribution and sit and wait.

Filmmakers, don’t hate the messenger… I say this with love and as someone who embraces deal making as much as I do DIY. ☺ You must have a plan of action early in your process.

Here’s an example of a filmmaker who we think did it right, and he worked with Peter Broderick:

And we’ll have other examples and even more details in our forthcoming digital case study book entitled SELLING YOUR MOVIE WITHOUT SELLING YOUR SOUL: Case Studies in Hybrid, DIY, P2P Independent Film Distribution (co-authored by The Film Collaborative, Jon Reiss, and Sheri Candler). Until then, stop waiting and get moving toward bringing your film to its audience.

-- Orly Ravid

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Guest Post by Ross Howden: "How Do You Sell A Film That's Being Given Away?"

The most important thing for filmmakers is to have an audience. Survival (aka Economic Returns) probably falls next on the list. Using the available tools to distribute and aggregate, are these two pursuits compatible? I just got back from a very successful Cannes (hence, my inability to post for the last couple days -- my apologies!). Among my pleasures there was hosting a Producers Roundtable. I was fortunate enough to have a great group to discuss the state of film with, and among them was producer Ross Howden, who is doing something truly bold with his latest film, The Tunnel. And it is working well. I am excited that he is now sharing his experience with the rest of us. Read on!

A few days before leaving Australia for Cannes, I agreed to sell Australia’s first crowd funded feature film: The Tunnel ( In another first, the film is legally being given away on BitTorrent the week of the Festival. The Tunnel is a compelling thriller/horror about a female reporter who takes a crew down to the deserted tunnel system beneath Sydney to investigate why homeless people are disappearing. My business, ScreenLaunch ( is an Australian sales/distribution/production company that specialises in low budget features and innovative distribution models. This particular model was very innovative, even by our standards.

On the plane over I was asked “So how do you sell a film that is being given away?” It's a good question – one I'm in the process of answering.

A friend once told me the secret to selling is to first find out what the buyers want. We already knew people wanted to see the film - the audience had paid for its production. Co-producers/writers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey developed the "135K Project" model, raising the film’s budget of $135,000 by selling each frame for $1. This acted as a great way to finance the film and gave a chance of profit share for less than the price of a lottery ticket - with greater odds of success.

So the audience wanted the film. And logic dictates that's what buyers would be looking for - a film that has an audience. But there is an inherent risk in this model – won't people just download the torrent version? In Australia, the traditional distribution channels took a different view. Transmission/Paramount bought the DVD, and Showtime bought the Television rights. The special extra footage on the DVD and the ease of a TV on demand purchase was valuable to them despite the fact it was being given away.

Armed with this good pedigree of attached local distributors, we hit the Cannes sales booths and a round-robin of meetings.

The first lesson we learned was that the film is not being "given away." We found the best way to explain things was that all rights are available but only 'non-exclusive' internet rights are available. Part of the deal with the crowd financing model is that those inclined can download the film legally for free. The producers were clear that this was a promise to their investors that they were not going to break. And they haven’t. It is released on Thursday, 19th May.

But it seems the Cannes market is not so forgiving of alternative online distribution. One of our salespeople got this crude response from a Cannes sales agent: “buying a film that has been released on BitTorrent is like going to a brothel and paying for a hooker that is giving services out for free.” Oddly, we've found that many other sales agents particularly from companies promoting a multiplatform interest didn’t actually know what BitTorrent was. Others acted if we had sworn at them and went looking for the skull and cross bones above our heads.

The response was curious, if not a little disappointing in a market that prides itself for the breadth of its thinking. We all know that the models are changing; surely there would be greater interest in at least exploring the options around new distribution models?

We certainly don’t support piracy or want to get involved in “windows wars." We just want people to see our film. And, we're keen to start moving closer to a distribution model that embraces new audience habits and choices – before those habits become so overwhelming that it's a game of catch up with the crowd.

Many buyers liked that the film was finished yet they didn't have time to watch it. Some wanted DVD screeners to view later (or toss in the bin when reducing their luggage weight.) The producers didn't want us to hand out screeners of the film, which some buyers found ironic given they could download it on Thursday. (Assuming they knew how!)

We concluded some buyers might think we have something to hide – or that the movie had problems. We knew the film was great, so we decided to screen the film in a theatre. And now we are busy handing out invites to buyers for a film that we believe can easily be as big as District 9 and Blair Witch (perhaps better as something actually happens!)

Tuesday night, 17th May at 8pm, The Tunnel, the first film legally released BitTorrent film associated with a major studio screens for sales in the Palais at Cannes. I already have post-screening meetings booked to discuss a sale, so the minds may be opening. Is this a small step towards the distribution model of the future? We will know on Wednesday.

How do you sell a film that is being given away? My answer? Make sure it's a good one, and stay open to the wisdom of the crowd.

Download the film now at:

Contextual Links to sites:

-- Ross Howden

Dr Ross Howden is founder and Director of ScreenLaunch - a sales, distribution and marketing company for innovative digital screen content. Prior to establishing ScreenLaunch in 2010, Ross spent fifteen years in the entertainment industry as a film producer, sales representative and entertainment technologist.

BREAKING NEWS!: The Tunnel just got a month of theatrical screenings in Sydney at Hoyts the main theatrical chain -- a rarity for Australian independents. The BitTorrent release also got a great article in Cannes Market magazine:

Guest Post by Jon Fougner: Cinema Profitability Part 3

This is Part 3 of Jon Fougner's guest series on Cinema Profitablility - today he focuses on the channels:


Do the Big 3 have channel strategies? The vast majority of their tickets are sold either at the box office or via 1 of the 2 online brokers: Comcast's Fandango with 9mm monthly uniques (used by Regal and Cinemark, plus the legacy business of AMC's Loews) and AOL-related with 3mm monthly uniques (used by AMC ex Loews, plus some legacy business from theaters now owned by Regal). My Gmail is chockobloc of order confirmations from both of these brokers. And yet, I've never as a result received targeted e-mail marketing from either of them nor the Big 3 whose inventory (among others) they represent. What a missed opportunity to share anticipated, personal, and relevant marketing! Instead, apparently indifferent to its own brand, Fandango indefatigably pushes irrelevant co-marketing offers ("Get your free credit report and credit score in seconds"), exit pop-ups and all. My inference is that the Big 3 have failed to negotiate an e-mail marketing partnership with their brokers, who, left to their own devices, have strayed off into unsavory lead generation rather than fishing where the (cinephilic) fish are.

This doesn't make sense. The brokers are in a weak negotiating position, since they need at least to show the Big 3's showtimes (as they currently do) to appear comprehensive to users. The Big 3 should get out of exclusives with the brokers so they can use them but simultaneously rep their own inventory online, as the airlines do. This would take a bit of SEO, so consumers find their O&O sites when they search on movie titles. The Big 3 tend to invest as consortia, but it's time for a go-it-alone adventure here.

Website optimization is a separate topic I'll touch on later, but while on the subject of online ticketing interfaces (whether 3rd party or O&O): there's no excuse for missing out on free social marketing tools. For instance, implementing Facebook Connect could make it easy for a customer to broadcast his ticket purchase to all his friends, at no cost to the ticketing site. Better yet, when he arrived on the site, he could see which friends were going to which screenings of which movies. Movie-going, after all, is social.

Once a Big 3 player builds its own ticketing site, it should build an affiliate program, giving away most of the service fee as commission. Fandango runs an affiliate program through Commission Junction; its paltry $0.10 per ticket commission pales in comparison to that of leading programs such as Amazon Associates on both a %-of-revenue and a %-of-gross-margin basis, because Fandango knows it has only 1 competitor, whose affiliate program appears to be private. The main partners of such a program would be film sites, the websites of newspapers and local TV news programs, and the long tail of cinephile amateur bloggers. Critics tend to prefer highbrow (think New York Film Festival) and middlebrow (think Oscars) films to mainstream Hollywood fare, so a potential consequence of such a program is the emergence of a viable top-to-bottom marketing funnel whose lack heretofore (along with the expenses of physical prints) accounts for the paucity of "art" films in Big 3 houses.

END OF PART Three Tomorrow: Marketing

-- Jon Fougner

Jon leads local product marketing and monetization at Facebook, working with the advertising engineers and product managers to build products for local businesses, ranging from restaurants to movie theaters.

Guest Post: Ava DuVernay "What Color is Indie?”

Back in January I heard of Ava DuVernay for the first time when the NYTimes ran a story on her new distro initiative. I thought "wow, there's a good idea, that can be replicated in many forms." It lifted my spirits, but then the assault of super-abundance of everything pulled my attention elsewhere. Recently, my attention got pulled back when a Twitter conversation turned it to the overtly white male dominance of the "indie scene". Fortunately, I was put in touch with Ava, and she guest posts today with some of experiences in DIWO distribution.

My name is Ava DuVernay and I just completed a 7-week theatrical release of my film I WILL FOLLOW in 20 major US cities, including NY and LA, without studio or corporate backing and no formal P&A. The release was accomplished through AFFRM, a black film distribution collective that I founded. Have you heard of us?

I may incorrectly assume that most of Ted's readers have never heard of AFFRM, or I WILL FOLLOW, or the excellent black film orgs that make up the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement -- for which AFFRM stands.

Why do I think that? Because we haven’t cracked that American indie establishment circle. You know, the Tribeca-Indiewire-IFP-FilmIndependent-SXSW-Lincoln Center of it all. The gate-keepers to the mainstream indie treasures. We haven’t had their attention. So we might’ve slipped by you.

It’s weird. Some new group pulls off an $11,235 per screen full-run simultaneously in multiple cities with absolutely no formal P&A, no four-walling, no touring, no service deal on their first try, and enterprising filmmakers and film pros don’t want the skinny on how? Maybe you just hadn’t heard. We’ve had full features in NY Times, LA Times, CNN, NPR and USA Today, but not one inquiry from the many DIY, DIWO, new distribution panel programmers or experts? The circle is tight.

With AFFRM, we sought to take the DIWO approach a step further, to give it infrastructure and branding. To align like-minded regional black film organizations and push them to go beyond their existing mission, to a renewed vision with national reach. It worked. Like, really worked. And we’re anxious to share what we learned, and to learn from others. But if you only get your news, views and film picks from the circle, you don’t know about us – and others like us.

My point is… you’re missing stuff. Many lovely films, many talented filmmakers and maybe a new idea to add to the discussion on how to move film distribution forward without corporate permission. I’ve been astonished by how many black filmmakers and film pros have approached us in the last few weeks about how we did what we did. Several dozen. And further astonished by how many of my non-black counterparts have approached. Zero.

Makes me think, what color is indie? I mean, what does it take to be of color and truly considered authentic American indie? To have done something seen as meaningful to the circle of the American independent film establishment, both artistically and as a business model. Like, if I don’t participate in what a good pal calls “white people festivals”… am I indie enough? Do you take my film as seriously because I chose to world premiere at Urbanworld in NY instead of submitting to Tribeca? If I don’t run my film through the labs or diversity initiatives of a recognized institution… do I not have that cool indie cred you need to see my movie with its beautiful black cast? I wonder.

I understand wanting your indie film product of color vetted through the proper channels. I get it. But just be aware that that is what you’re doing. Be aware that your indie is handpicked by a select few. And be clear that your indie is very white boy in view. Not a bad thing. White boys like all kinds of cool stuff – other white boys, white girls and the occasional thing of color that speaks to their sensibilities as white boys. But be real, that’s limited.

It limits you from hearing new marketing and distribution ideas, meeting filmmakers and experiencing films outside of this establishment construct, outside of the circle. You’re missing some good new stuff and ignoring success stories from many folks of color (See: I Will Follow or Mooz-Lum) or are by folks who are just downright colorful (See: Audrey Ewell’s Until The Light Takes Us and Bob Ray’s Total Badass). It’s not progressive. And it isn’t what I feel most people who love, support and live indie film really want. I don’t think its purposeful hateration. I think its just this lull of curation and prestige and, to be quite honest, laziness. Whatever it is… its affecting the whole business. And its far from positive.

If these statements makes you proclaim that I’m trippin’ and “there IS no circle”– then I’m happy that I’m not talking to you. Really am. Thrilled, in fact. And I invite you to see my film about a grieving black woman shot in Topanga Canyon that Roger Ebert called “one of the best films he’s seen about the death of a loved one.” You’re just my kind of audience member.

If on the other hand, these statements coax you to admit that you haven’t gone to a non-establishment fest or seen a film not featured in Filmmaker Magazine in years, then I invite you to step outside and take a look. Be like a couple of folks at Sundance Institute who’ve reached out to us to share and compare notes. Or the folks that head up RiverRun where I was invited to sit on the jury a few weeks back. Those RiverRun people take their mission of inclusion seriously, working to connect with the black community in Winston-Salem by leaping out of theoretical planning meetings and into bold action. They presented a special festival panel at the local historically black college this year, on which I was pleased to participate. I wondered if it was the first foray of a non-ethnic film festival at an HBCU? First I’m aware of. It was super impressive. And its what we all need to be thinking about.

Bottom line: It would benefit us all to be conversing and connecting. It’s not too late to break the boundaries of what you think this thing called indie should be, should look like. For instance, I dig that Indiewire, after years of really poor connection with black independent cinema at large, has wooed the wonderful team at to be part of its blog network. It’s a step in the right direction for iW amidst an ongoing, challenging lack of coverage of black fests and black and brown indies on the main site. 
This post is not meant to be a ball buster but a spirited call-to-action. There are new ideas, new paths for distribution, new films and filmmakers you're missing if you only look from inside. There are riches in the niches. Both monetary and cosmic. Heck, you love indie film! You care about its future! So why not step outside and look around? Its nice out.

Here’s the opening weekend video of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who came out to AFFRM’s inaugural release for I WILL FOLLOW in March. Quite a spectacle that you may not have seen or heard about. But now… you know.

Thanks for the invite, Ted.

-- Ava DuVernay


Ava DuVernay is a filmmaker and film distributor from Los Angeles, California.  Her Twitter is @AVADVA. More on AFFRM at More on I WILL FOLLOW at

Guest Post: Rob Mills "Online Distribution: 10 Lessons from Dynamo Player"

It used to be that indie filmmakers generally made their films for an audience/market of 6-10; those days their audience was the buyers at the film festivals. Those days made life simple: filmmakers had two responsibilities -- make your damn movie and then surrender. The idea then was that distributors would distribute the work we made. Several years ago folks started to realize that this model covered less than 1% of the films made in America (forget about the rest of the world). Solutions have been developing for the other 99%, both in terms of how to connect and engage with an audience/community, and how to actually earn revenue in the process. One of the most promising of the bunch is the Dynamo Player, and today we have the co-creator of the platform, Rob Millis, to guest post on how to make it work for you and your work.

Hundreds of filmmakers now use Dynamo Player to offer online rentals on their own sites, Facebook pages and across the web, but of course some films are selling much better than others. After a year of working closely with filmmakers, I want to share some distribution lessons that should help you reach your audience and sell your film directly. This is it, live and in action:

We began developing Dynamo Player after years of doing DIY distribution for our own work. We wanted to upload HD videos of any size, set our own price, publish them on any web site, and make it easy for viewers to pay with systems like PayPal and Amazon. Frustrated that nothing of the kind existed, we began designing Dynamo Player, which now includes almost every feature on our initial wish list, including:

  • unlimited file size and video length
  • no setup fees or other up-front costs
  • unlimited bonus content, so you can include all the video extras on your DVDs, or bundle multiple films for sale together
  • set your own price and access period (99¢ - $11.99; 6 hours to 30 days)
  • geoblocking by DVD region, continent or country
  • adjustable streaming quality, including 720p HD
  • immediate and transparent accounting, with payouts upon request
  • filmmakers keep 70% of every purchase with no hidden fees
  • With these features we’ve tried to provide the simplest, easiest way for filmmakers to sell their films directly online. But sales still depend on engaging with your audience and making it easy for them to watch your film. With that in mind, here are the top 10 lessons we’ve learned that should help you get the best online sales possible:

    1. Make it easy and obvious. People come to your site because they want to watch your film, so help them do that. Dynamo offers viewers instant gratification with easy payment, and the best way to take advantage of that is to present the film well. Make it big and beautiful, with a simple page layout and a high quality thumbnail image that fills the player screen. And however tempting it may be, save the poster, t-shirt and DVD sales for another page.

    2. Include a Preview. Dynamo lets you add a preview video to the player, so viewers can watch your trailer before paying. If you already have a preview on your film’s web site, you can simply replace it with the Dynamo Player to give viewers the same preview and add the option to immediately purchase the film itself. A good trailer will always lead to better sales, and there is no good reason not to take advantage of this feature.

    3. Sell it! In order to take advantage of online distribution, you need to take it just as seriously as you do any other distribution. Consider the thousands of hours and dollars spent promoting public screenings and DVD sales, often to keep just a small fraction of the purchase price. You keep 70% of every purchase with Dynamo, so it’s worth your while to drive viewers to your site and make it easy to pay for your film.

    4. Online Sales Require Online Buzz. Find your audience online and engage them! Facebook has great tools to spread the word (see the next item to build an app for your film), Twitter is a great way to engage directly with likely viewers and longtime fans, and Tumblr let’s your film spread rapidly with just a little bit of promotion. Participate in online discussions and join online groups, reach out to influencers and reviewers, and make it very easy for them to watch your film by simply going to your site.

    5. Build a Facebook App! A custom Facebook app lets you promote your film to all of your followers and fans, engage in active discussions with them and encourage social promotion. One of our filmmakers, Mike Busson set up the first movie rental on Facebook (yes, before Warner Brothers!), and he was kind enough to write a detailed guide so you can do it too:

    6. Publish Everywhere. Dynamo Player is great for selling your film on your own site, but it’s also great for selling your film elsewhere. Anytime you have an opportunity to write an article or blog post about the film, embed the player in that post. Whenever someone else writes a review, let them know they can include the film right on their site, even in the middle of a review. Potential viewers can immediately pay to watch while they are still excited about doing so, and this is great for reviewers, because it keeps readers on their web site. This article on Kevin Pollak is a perfect example:

    7. Relationships Beat Affiliates. Everyone gets excited about affiliate deals, and they may work fine for other goods, but they rarely get real results for film. The simple fact is that nobody is going to promote your film effectively unless they truly love it and would promote it anyway. Reaching out to your fans directly and asking them to spread the word is far more likely to engage dedicated evangelists. Your fans will typically appreciate your personal thanks more than any pittance they’ll receive from a few individual sales.

    8. Sales happen on weekends. Every Friday night our sales numbers get a bump that continues until Monday morning. To take advantage of this, reach out to your audience on evenings and weekends when they are deciding what to do that night. Sending emails to your audience at work during the week may result in traffic to your site, but it’s unlikely they’ll settle in with a tub of popcorn at their desk.

    9. Bonus Material. Dynamo lets you include all of the video extras you would normally put on a DVD. Outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage, director commentary and extra trailers all add to the value of your film. You may even want to offer the film on it’s own at one price, and then bundle it with extras at a higher price. And of course if you have several films you want to combine for a single price, this is the way to go.

    10. Pricing Is Key. The best sales results for feature films have been $1.99 to $4.99, with a major drop in sales above and below those prices. 99¢ is great for short films, but at 99¢ your masterpiece feature may appear to be nearly worthless. Meanwhile anything over $4.99 has a hard time competing with the sea of Hollywood blockbusters available for rent at much lower prices.

    When considering all of these points, it’s worth looking at some examples of great web pages that incorporate the video player. Each of the films below uses Dynamo a little bit differently, and may influence how you choose to promote your own film.

    The Ray Kurzweil documentary, “Transcendent Man”:

    Oscar-contender “Gone Fishing” with bonus content:

    Documentary “Cowboys in Paradise” on Facebook:

    I hope these examples and the 10 tips above help you reach your audience and increase sales. If you haven’t tried Dynamo Player, you can easily sign up at with no obligation or exclusive contracts, and we will be happy to help you in any way we can.

    -- Rob Millis

    Rob Millis is a co-creator of the online distribution platform Dynamo Player ( He is also a former documentary and web series producer, and longtime champion of independent media.

    Guest Post: Orly Ravid "New and Compelling Options for DIY Distribution"

    Orly Ravid co-founded the Film Collaborative and has been providing us with a great series of posts on the changing market and options for independent filmmakers and their work. Her generosity and commitment is an inspiration. She is a brave thinker. Indie Filmmakers used to think that once they made their movies, their only real option was to surrender -- to surrender to the market and the middlemen who decided on a film's applicability to an audience or community. Those days are now gone and good riddance! The services and tools we have to get our work out and on the screens of what has long been under-served under-educated audiences and communities increase every day. As those options expand, so do the choices of content, form, and aesthetic -- we are becoming truly free in terms of how, what, and where we can tell our tales. The sky hasn't fallen; a thousand phoenix have risen.

    Today Orly looks at new platforms and toolkits that allow filmmakers to sell or rent their films directly to fans. The Era of Artist/Entrepreneur is here! Now all we have to do is fight for a free and open internet...

    In a new media world in which people sometimes conflate distributor with platform and buyer with online/digital store, I want to draw that distinction and highlight a few new and compelling DIY options (platforms or toolkits) for filmmakers to sell or rent their films to audiences / consumers directly. TFC always encourages filmmakers to develop their own brands while also noting the importance of being connected to other brands that generate significant traffic and indie film consumption. In other words, sell direct to your fans off your site and other sites and social networking platforms and/or via other DIY platforms or tools but also recognize the usefulness of being available where average film consumers go, i.e. via Cable VOD if you can manage it, and other key platforms/online digital stores (depending on the nature of the film) such as: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, Hulu, Sony Playstation, Xbox etc.

    The few DIY platforms or toolkits highlighted in this blog are: Distrify, EggUp, Groupees, Stonehenge’s iPhone Apps. Next time we cover this topic, we’ll investigate more into DIY platforms FansofFilm and Open Film (7,000 films, 70% shorts).

    Let’s begin.


    Peter Gerard & Andy Green, the co-founders of Distrify, are both filmmakers who formed Distrify. I met with Andy @ SXSW.

    Distrify is not a film sales platform - it's a toolset. One can use Distrify to sell a film anywhere on the web and via social media platforms. Once your trailer and film are on Distrify you embed it on your website like and Facebook page like

    You can then start telling your film's fans about it and ask them to embed the widget on forums, blogs, websites, etc. 

    Distrify's "sell-movies-socially" tools are designed to make effective social media marketing profitable. If your trailer and film are on Distrify, when you share the clip, you're also sharing the store to buy the film or find out about upcoming screenings. When your audience shares it further, you're always spreading the point-of-sale along the way. Anyone who shares it gets paid a share of sales they generate. 

    One does not have to start selling through Distrify right away – one can use it to promote screenings and events through the trailer interface. Here's an example of an upcoming Anime release that is using the Distrify player to promote upcoming screenings: 

    If the film's not available in the user's area, they can make their interest known directly through the player as well. Distrify compiles the statistics for filmmakers and give them the mailing list data - all free. Any new screenings you add are also automatically listed in all the players that have been embedded around the web. And when you want to start selling the film, you can add it as well. 

    There are no up-front charges, fully non-exclusive, and they don't need any rights. They take a small transaction fee on sales (see specifics below). In the Beta period it is free to sign up and upload one film to Distrify. They don't charge for uploading or hosting and there is no subscription fee for a Beta account. They do charge a 30% revenue share on sales. They note that their profit “is around 3% to 5% so it's costing us around 25% to deliver the service to the customer. We're working hard to reduce these costs and when we do we'll hand the saving over to the rights holder.” 

    Distrify Beta Pricing

  • Free sign-up for a one-film account
  • They charge a 30% transaction fee on all sales made through Distrify
  • They split the 5% affiliate revenue with the filmmaker.
  • Beta users will be given a special offer when they leave the Beta period, and normal account pricing will be determined at that time. And filmmakers keep all their rights.
  • How do you get paid? Each month if you've earned sales revenue they will send you a sales report and transfer your earnings to you directly via PayPal or bank transfer. You may be charged by PayPal or your bank to receive the transfer. When you get your first sales report, they say “just let us know how you prefer to be paid”. What about affiliates?

    “We will soon offer your audience the ability to earn a share of revenues that are generated from their sharing. Once this is enabled they will earn 5% from each sale they refer to you. We are currently offering to split the cost of the revenue-sharing with you. This means we only charge 27.5% on a revenue-shared sale. You keep the remaining 72.5%.”

    Peter Gerard followed up further noting that whilst still in Beta their pricing is FREE to sign up and sell one film and a 30% transaction fee on all sales through their player and there are no costs for special encoding. Their Beta period ends in June and after they will continue this pricing option and offer some premium plans.

    EGG UP

    “EggUp is a publishing platform for filmmakers and film distributors. We help filmmakers and distributors rent and sell their films online while preventing piracy. Our free online publishing tools can help you distribute and sell your film or video which is all packaged and encrypted into a file called the Egg. The Egg is currently available for download and allows consumers to watch and share with friends and family virally while filmmakers are able to make money. With EggUp you get your own website to promote your film, together with an integrated pay per view solution. We also list your films in our film catalog called GoEggit. Distribute the Egg on your own website, and other online retailers with your very own buy now button without setup fees and inventory.”

    Payment options: FREE, Rental, Purchase. Filmmaker will be able to choose several options. Accept Paypal and major credit cards. Customer credit card information does not go through their servers. They only link to the filmmaker's Paypal account. Paypal holds customer's credit card info.

    They are Worldwide and can Geo Filter as needed.

    Content: Currently about 60 films due to focusing on developing technology and negotiating deals with international governments and studios. They will be ramping up pretty quickly in the next 3-5 months with content.

    When I asked about revenue thus far to filmmakers they answered with this: “It really varies since it's up to the filmmakers. Some filmmakers make $0 due to they are not marketing their content or older film with no cult following. While others are getting consistent purchases daily since they have a full marketing strategy including PR pushing their film. It adds up but nothing making millions”.

    EGG UP’s FEES:

  • Full length features: $1.25 per transaction ($2.00 - $1,000.00 retail)
  • Short film: 15% per transaction ($0.99 - $1.99)
  • EggUp noted that they are reviewing their fee structure and may be changing it soon.
  • Egg Up Overview: Image

    Egg Up Filmmaker Benefit: Image

    JON REISS’ GUEST BLOGGER Solomon MacAuley– Raved about EGGUP:

    SHERI CANDLER interview for MicroFILMMAKER Magazine about EGG UP:


    I was introduced to this platform via TFC client (and HopeForFilm Guest Blogger) Ari Gold (Adventures of Power). Thomas Brooke who demo’d the platform / service via Cisco’s WEBEX. I was impressed with the simplicity and comfort of the interface.

    Thomas Brooke is the Founder and CEO of YAWMA. YAWMA is the social media technology company that operates Groupees. Thomas describes GROUPEES as:

    “A Flash sale (24-48 hr) platform focusing on digital media entertainment (music, games, film)
- Like Groupon in the sense that we're crowd-sourcing but deal isn't dependent on a certain number of users buying and "tipping" the deal; rather we start with the good deal but the content owners set a goal and if achieved it unlocks extra exclusive content (to incentivize users to work as a group and spread the promo through their social graph)
- There is a high degree of Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally
- Flexible SaaS based system supporting product bundling, multiple pricing options (fixed price, pay what you want), inclusion of charity, etc. We've set Groupees up as an on demand platform where content creators/licensors sign up to run a single promotion, all of which is configured through a web interface. It is a platform by invitation only- we're sourcing quality independent music, games and film.”

    Their next Groupee starts on Wednesday so if you go to: you will see the promo vid and count-down clock now live.

    Here is a screenshot and the model we're using for projections on Music groupees.

    FEES: The model split is reflected at 60-40% (in favor of filmmakers).

    When I asked why they were more expensive as Apple (which takes 30%) Thomas answered:

    “While it is true that Apple takes 30%, they don't do anything for their 30% beyond providing a distribution system. Fact is we're not just a point of distribution. We're pretty sophisticated technology with a high degree of customization, strong FB and Twitter integration and 100% pr support (strongly question this, what do they mean by 100% PR support?) for every promotion we run. Groupon is really a better business analogy, and they take 50% but have nowhere near the social media integration or customization features. I do appreciate your asking whether to make mention but I'm certainly comfortable with this.”

    “In terms of film/video, we can support straight download in any format and also video streaming. As mentioned, the service requires buyers to register so all files are secured behind a firewall. I think for indie film the concept of bundling films from different film-makers might work very well as it provides good cross promotion and from the consumer's perspective allows you to get two cool films from a single purchasing experience. Definitely one of the premises of our platform is convenience as people are overwhelmed by our digitally connected world so by featuring quality indie entertainment as a part of a single promotion, consumers get the benefit of a curated good deal on relevant media/entertainment. I think also there is an opportunity to bundle films with music, especially where there's a good thematic connection. Obviously, a soundtrack with a film is a no-brainer as well. We're also currently looking at possibly bundling a video game that is from the horror genre with a horror film. “

    Groupee Platform Features

  • -Support for all digital media formats -Support both video download and streaming -Web-interface for creating and configuring the Groupees promotion -E-payments through PayPal and Amazon payments -Live World map that tracks purchases as they occur around the globe -Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally -Real time sales statistics and reporting -Flexible promotional programs including Fixed Price or Pay What You Want payments, charitable giving, cross-promotional bundles, goal setting with incentive giveaways -Cloud-based, highly scalable platform capable of supporting 1,000,000 downloads per 24 hrs
  • .

    STONEHENGE – Distributing films worldwide via Phone Apps -- FilmApps...Get Your Film in More Hands

    Stonehenge Productions enables film producers to sell their films on iTunes, Android Market and Amazon Appstore as applications for the iPhone, iPad and for Droid platforms. Their pitch: “With a low start-up cost of just $680, you can have an application of your film available on Phones everywhere !! You keep 100% of sales revenues minus the 30% that Apple charges.” What do you get for $680?

  • An iPhone FilmApp Embedded film in the App (better than streaming) About page/synopsis Twitter/FB/Email (Sharing) integration, A merchandise page for users to buy merchandise, DVD…(e.g. Amazon) Links to the film’s/director’s site (opens within the App) A trailer/video clip viewer (user can watch the trailer, clips, outtakes, behind the scenes) Photo gallery of shots from the film an RSS/News feed for any feed you would like to provide. Custom Graphic design and layout (using your art). Turn around is typically two weeks and then 7-10 days at Apple. Got other ideas? Let us know what you’d like
  • How? Contact Stonehenge Productions and we’ll provide you with further instructions to upload your content. It will then be turned into a customized application. You’ll get final review and you’ll continue to hold all rights to the film. We’ll submit it to Apple and manage the whole selling process through the App store OR we’ll put it on the Android Market or Amazon Appstore.

    A Stonehenge Sales Sheet:

    Mark Smillie of Stonehenge notes “we are really working hard to build FilmApps that encourage participation over the lifecycle of the pre-release to build awareness and fan base, at release to drive fans to the theater and post release to sell the film through the App channel.”“We build for Apple, Android and sell on the iTunes, Droid and Amazon app stores.”  

    Their latest press release for our App for the film: Race to Nowhere.  It's a good example of a social activism app paired with a film App.

    Another testimonial Mark showed me is from John Paul Rice of “One Hour Fantasy Girl” "Apps for films work: Itunes report for One Hour Fantasy Girl in Q4 2010, rental/downloads up 558% over Q3. Credit goes to @WeGoTo11"  John Paul Rice President No Restrictions Entertainment from Twitter:

    * That’s all for now folks. More platforms and tools and DIY solutions next time.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.