We recently wrote about how writer/director Stewart Thorndike and producer Alex Scharfman have released "Lyle," their first female-centric horror film online for free in order to service the funding process for their next film. That project, a similar horror film, is entitled "Putney," and is being funded on Kickstarter, with a crowdfunding campaign running simultaneously to the release of "Lyle." In a guest post, Zachary Wigon writes about how this recent strategy reveals a key similarity between independent film and web entrepreneurship. You can read his original post in its entirety here.
Most industries, naturally, function on the basis of maximizing revenue; one creates a business in order to make as much money as possible. With independent film, the coordinates are not always as simple. The folks who made "Lyle" could have held out and tried to sell the film to an independent distributor, and it's entirely possible that they would have succeeded, and made some money in the process. Instead, they're eschewing the possibility of selling the film and simply making it available to the widest possible audience via their free online strategy. Why?
Independent filmmakers, like web entrepreneurs, are first tasked with distinguishing themselves from their competitors in the field, and to do this they must draw a significant fan base.
Independent film is, essentially, much more about building a fan base, a critical mass of viewers, than about trying to turn a profit. There's so much material in the marketplace, and so few buyers, that it isn't all that logical to approach independent filmmaking with an eye toward selling your film as the utmost goal (though this is how many filmmakers approach the process). Far more important - and far more realistic - is the idea of getting as many people as possible to watch your film, full stop. Familiarity breeds opportunities, at least, it does if the product is good, and it seems likely that - with its easy availability - "Lyle" will reach more viewers through this innovative method of distribution than it might have done if it went a more conventional route.
More viewers means that there's a greater mass of people who might be willing to help Kickstart Thorndike's new project; it also means there's a greater chance that a wealthy benefactor might come across the film and become a fan, or that a prominent member of the industry might view it, like it, and come to her aid in some other manner.
It's tempting to think about independent filmmaking in terms of selling one's film to a huge distributor and reaping the rewards, and I'm certainly not arguing against that mentality per se, but I do believe it's important to recognize that the primary emphasis for independent filmmakers has to be on getting eyeballs, not getting revenue - at least, not early on in one's career.
Read the full post here.