By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire January 24, 2006 at 4:3AM
Independent filmmakers, some in Park City this week without the support of high-profile sales reps and high-priced publicists, will have a new outlet when looking for help in releasing their films without giving up their rights. Withoutabox has announced the launch of The Distribution Lab, a new program that will offer a suite of services to support filmmakers who plan to release their films themselves in various ways, including theatrical, DVD and on demand distribution. As part of the new program, participants will have access to ticketing, catalog management, accounting and online social networking and marketing solutions. A plan to offer DVD fulfillment and download distribution is also in the works.
Up to six films will participate in the new Distribution Lab as part of a pilot program to establish and shape the new initiative. Ultimately, Withoutabox intends to make the Lab available to its website's 75,000 paid and unpaid members. As with the company's other services -- namely its signature system for submitting films to festivals via the Withoutabox website -- paid members receive discounted services.
"The original Withoutabox system facilitates a filmmaker's efficient and comprehensive reach into the film festival market," said Withoutabox CEO David Straus, in a statement today. "Our next logical system, The Distribution Lab, provides a filmmaker with the ability to efficiently and comprehensively reach their audience in theatrical and other distribution channels, without having to give up their rights." Straus and company co-founder and president Joe Neulight will unveil and discuss plans for the new initiative this afternoon at a Queer Lounge distribution panel and again tomorrow (Wednesday) during a discussion session at the Slamdance Film Festival.
Susan Buice and Arin Crumley's "Four Eyed Monsters," a film that has already been marketed by its filmmakers through a unique video podcast series available through Apple's iTunes and MySpace.com, is one of two films that will kick-off the new Withoutabox initiative. The other is "The Dogwalker" by Jacques Thelemaque, Withoutabox director of community and founder of the L.A.-based Filmmakers Alliance. Up to four additional films for the Lab will be identified in the coming months, Straus said today.
"The digital media revolution is making it possible for distribution to be automatic, a non-issue, just a click of a button, so filmmakers can get back to making films," said Crumley in a statement. "We are glad to be a part of Withoutabox, who is taking distribution in that direction." Buice and Crumley's ongoing podcast series, detailing the ups and downs of their own relationship, and their struggles to make and release their first feature, has been downloaded some 150,000 times since it launched last year, according to the filmmakers.
The precise distribution plan and release dates for each film in the Lab has yet to be determined but plans will be developed as part of the program, Straus explained today in a conversation with indieWIRE. Each film will have a unique tailored strategy that can include theatrical, DVD, or on demand distribution, Straus said, He explained that the specific approach will be adapted for each release.
"Rather than hand over all of our hard work, building a fan base, to a distribution company, we plan to sell directly to our audience," added Buice in a statement. "We will use any proceeds to get out of the credit card debt we incurred from making the film and hopefully build a budget for our next film, which is already in progress."
Jacques Thelemaque, in Park City this week with the new short film "Transaction" screening at the Sundance Film Festival, debuted his feature film "The Dogwalker" at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2002. He and the other filmmakers from Sundance Shorts Program 3 recently banded together to create a joint DVD of their work and plan a party celebrating their Park City debut.
"No two independent films are the same or meant for the same audience, yet distributors want to squeeze them into the same box," said Withoutabox's Neulight, in a statement. "These two films will serve as first examples of what can be done to energize new communities of audiences, both at the local level and online around the world." Withoutabox will publish case studies of the distribution of assisted releases.
Withoutabox will bear all the costs of building out these new services, Straus told indieWIRE today. He added that the company would implement a revenue plan to send some portion of the film's revenues back to his company to support the new program. But, he emphasized that the filmmaker's who participate will retain all rights to their movies.
"We're creating a system that will facilitate transactions," explained Straus, during the conversation. "We're facilitating every aspect of the process and we really want filmmakers to be able to step into the Lab and pick and choose which part of the process fits them best."
[Straus and Neulight will discuss the new venture at the Queer Lounge today (January 24th at 2:30), and will join "Four Eyed Monsters" filmmakers Buice and Crumley at a Slamdance event that will include screenings of the filmmaker's video podcast series, tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.]
[Get the latest from the Sundance Film Festival throughout the day in indieWIRE's special Park City '06 section.]