The State of Film Distribution: Many Opportunities to Upload Your Film, Far Less to Make Money
The digital revolution has put a spin on about everything regarding filmmaking, from the actual shooting to the film distribution. Understanding what is available for indie filmmakers, and how we can make the best use of it is an on-going and evolving conversation. Nobody knows what will happen in a few years from now -especially with threats like a double standard Internet Speed- so the only way is to stay in touch with what is said and try to figure out its own recipe for the sake of a particular story.
Canadian Film Festival TIFF just released a 30 minute talk by Bob Berney, CEO of NYC based marketing house Picturehouse (Pan’s Labyrinth, Memento, Y Tu Mama Tambien) about the State of Distribution. I was expecting to have a super slick presentation of the different distribution models, maybe with numbers (I probably projected a personal fantasy on the video title) but ended up watching I’d say a rather grim presentation.
Here is the State of Film Distribution from Berney’s point of view :
1 – “[Distribution] in the U.S. is really in a chaotic, disruptive state right now.”
2 – “In all this chaos lies a lot of opportunities.(…) There are more outlets now that at anytime to get films out.” (sweet!)
3 – “Despite the new platforms, the theatrical release is still currently the only way for a film to truly break out in a big way.” (great)
4 – “The bar for theatrical release has really been raised, it’s more expansive even with digital marketing, it’s still pretty expensive and competitive.” (square great)
5 – “Multi-platforms or Day-and-Date (meaning you’re going V.O.D and theatrical) or V.O.D before theatrical, are providing a huge number of slots now for films that either haven’t been offer theatrical distribution deals or they didn’t want to take those deals.” (that’s nice!)
6 – “But the deals that come with these [meaning V.O.D, direct TV etc.] can be really tough.” (I was starting to get my hopes up for a second here)
7 – “There is no one way to release a film now, there is no simple method and I’m still a really big believer and advocate in the theatrical experience.” (back to 2005)
8 – “Any ways you release a film, big or small, you have to create some kind of event. (…) Each film has to have a customized, hand-crafted marketing plan.” (see Marc Schiller’s excellent talk about strategies to build audience with video content for more on that.)
Based on those elements, it sounds like if there are more screens, there are really less opportunities to get your film viewed and to make a living out of it. I wouldn’t say this comes out as a surprise, but despite Berney saying several times that it is an interesting time with many opportunities, it did feel like rougher years were ahead for 99% of us.
So, why did I share this then? Because, as I said at the beginning of this article it is always good to keep up with what is said, especially when it’s at a high profile International Film Festival, so we know what the conversation sounds like, and we can think, debate, and make better informed choices. Also: maybe you’ll disagree with my reaction to it.
Watch the full talk below and let me know what you took out of it: