The New Rules: An Indie Film Digital Policy

Over in the UK they have a state-backed initiative to try to figure out this new digi-film culture universe.  Here in The States of course we are asked to sink or swim on our own.  

Luckily we can crib some of the insights The Brits generate.
The UK Film Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is calling on the film industry to expand digital distribution, seek new sources of funding and work with online audiences as publishers not just viewers, as part of series of findings from their digital innovation programme.
Some of their initial recommendations are:
  • Film companies should see online audiences as participants, authors, contributors and publishers as well as just viewers, and use this to their advantage
  • Directors, writers and actors should be encouraged to write a blog or Twitter, to engage audiences in the film-making process
  • Free tools such as Google Blog Search and Twitter should be used to track the performance of campaigns by monitoring site visits and bookmarks. But popularity should not be mistaken for financial success.
  • Companies should be wary about giving away potential revenue in return for digitisation costs, and instead look into getting it done themselves.
  • The aim should be to sell content to as many platforms as possible and to keep the deals non-exclusive or for short exclusive periods.
  • Film-makers should look to new sources of funding. Brands and content creators are potential sources, as in the case of Shane Meadows’ Somers Town, which was financed by Eurostar.
  • Companies should think about what would make audiences pay for content, and the principle of ‘added value’ in the form of quality of experience.
  • The whole industry is still learning and there is no perfect online campaign, so experimenting is the key.

If you aren't following these recommendations, you are not living in the world of today.  Indie Film culture's survival depends on the majority getting with the program.

The Mainstream Is Waking Up

The LA Times and NY Times have each run their requisite articles on DIY Distribution.  Now Screen International is speaking up on the need to bring the films to the audiences (vs. bringing audiences to the films).

The trick now is to mobilise audiences, market and increasingly distribute to the places they want to watch the film. And, of course, set the budget accordingly.

But it's also vital to ignore the orthodox - surely the mission of independent film. It is, for example, snobbish and self-defeating to suggest that no one outside an educated elite wants film that challenges. If that's true, then why make films? Music and books don't seem to share that view. And the big film franchises from Batman to Bond have done their very best to apply as much shade as possible.

The indie film-maker needs to take on the fight. This is the time for a little less "we're doomed" and a little more "yes we can".

I am really curious if we will see this "yes we can" spirit invade Sundance this year, or will filmmakers keep believing in angels and demons.