A Business of Ignorance: 6 Lessons from the New Digital Distrib Universe

A Business of Ignorance: 6 Lessons from the New Digital Distrib Universe

What’s the next trend in indie filmmaking thanks to the digital universe in which we live? Tween TV stars. Yes, that’s right. Turns out Harmony Korine was ahead of the curve with his casting of Disney TV ingenues in “Spring Breakers.” In my latest Industry Beat column for Filmmaker Magazine (not available online), I looked into the latest developments in digital distribution, including new strategic casting decisions, and I’m still not sure whether digital and VOD distribution is good or bad for the biz.

Here are 6 key takeaways from the story:

1. Find a young TV star with a solid online fan base and you’re gold.

“I’m seeing more and more films leveraging up-and-coming TV actors that have social media profiles,” said Erick Opeka, Senior Vice President of Digital Distribution at Cinedigm
Entertainment.

2. Over-supply is a problem.

“It’s harder and harder for people to find stuff,” says Brian Newman. “Yes, you get the sense that some people are succeeding – certain docs, Eddie Burns, Kevin Smith – but very few will target a niche that can be served, and very few have that direct relationship with the audience.”

3. Digital successes are predictable.

Either horror films, starry
Hollywood-imitation indies (Margin Call,
Arbitrage, Bachelorette), and
lots of docs, whether those suited to capitalize on young tech-savvy
millennials (Indie Game: The Movie,
Bones Brigade, Jedi Junkies), pop
docs (Dave Grohl’s Sound City,
Journey doc Don’t Stop Believin’)
or health and wellness docs (Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead).

4. Theatrical runs are still key.

If
producers can come up with about $100,000 for small theatrical runs, Gravitas’ Nolan Gallagher believes it’s a cost-effective strategy to achieve the necessary
reviews and social media awareness to eventually be profitable—”if you
have a great film,” he adds.

5. It’s better than nothing.

Low-budget
narrative indie filmmakers aren’t getting rich—two recent indie projects
launched through Sundance Artists Services saw about 10,000-11,000 downloads–but they
still welcome the platforms. “I
think some filmmakers might be disappointed with that result,” says Adam
Bowers, writer-director-star of the comedy, The New Low. “But I feel lucky to have this. For me, these
digital platforms seem to be the best option for dealing with that huge amount
of movies [being made and released].”

6. A digital apocalypse for indies may be looming.

“I think there’s going to be a big VOD apocalypse coming
soon,” says Brian Newman. “As soon as Hollywood starts messing more with windows and doing day and
date, imagine viewers sitting at home on the weekend, and they have the option
to see the latest Hollywood movie over an indie? Then screw it: indies are
dead.”

This Article is related to: News


Comments

Danny Indio

Because oversupply is a problem maybe filmmakers should go full-tilt and brand themselves like rap and rock stars to stand out.

Danny Indio

And in anticipation of an indie VOD collapse, I'm curious to know what the numbers for the indie dvd market are today as a parallel indicator. I wonder how many dvds indie filmmakers sold before the erosion of the dvd market to compare it to present-day sales. If the comparisons aren't too off then maybe indie filmmakers can still survive a Hollywood intrusion into VOD.

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