The digital revolution has helped independent and low-budget filmmakers in any number of fantastic ways, from fundraising, organization, production and promotion, to connecting with talent, applying to festivals and showing their work. For content creators, this last obstacle was always the hardest to overcome, until MySpace and then YouTube allowed every artist to become his or her own distributor.
And yet, for filmmakers who don’t make the festival cut and/or secure any kind of distribution — theatrical, DVD, VOD or otherwise — throwing their work on YouTube for free is a last resort, the only consolation being that it is technically (and technologically) possible for someone to stumble across it during a late-night Internet surfing binge.
New streaming start-up Pivotshare, founded by Adam Mosam, hopes to change that. The service basically creates a payment infrastructure for any filmmaker who takes the time to upload a film and pick a price (plus choose a subscription or pay-per-view approach). Its “self-serve” model involves no up-front costs or monthly fees; Pivotshare merely takes a 30% cut of revenue only if sales actually happen on its channels. This effectively means that cash-poor filmmakers have nothing to lose by trying it.
Of course, attracting viewers and persuading them to pay for work by an unknown filmmaker remains the same enormous hurdle it’s always been, but the potential for monetization without having to figure out the complicated logistics of setting up payment on your own is hugely appealing. Low-budget filmmakers have enough time sucked away by DIY promotion.
“We create free branded and monetized streaming channels to send media directly to your paying audience across any device,” says Pivotshare marketing exec Chris Woolsey. “In a nutshell, we offer organizations (and individuals) a Netflix-style channel with your logo, your branding, your media sent to your audience.”
To back its business plan, in June Pivotshare secured $1 million in Series A funding from TownsgateMedia, and the site went live two weeks ago. Pivotshare already has a handful of filmmakers and groups for whom it is building channels, including L.A.-based director Damon Packard, who has two projects he’s put on the site.
TechCrunch, which recently wrote about the company and its new capital, puts the development in the context of the recent direct-to-fan successes Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari have had with their comedy specials but notes that Pivotshare could be used by all kinds of non-famous professionals to monetize their video assets:
What about musicians who want to distribute recordings of their performances, or educators whose lectures could be valuable outside the university system? If you’re not a well-known star, there haven’t been a lot of good ways to make your content available to consumers. Anyway, that’s what Pivotshare is for. The startup provides a self-serve platform that will let anyone — absolutely anyone — upload their audio or video files to the Internet and sell them directly to fans.
Any filmmaker who tries Pivotshare is still faced with the challenge of somehow breaking through the vast sea of content drowning out their little film. But since most indie filmmakers are willing to scratch and claw their way through seemingly insurmountable roadblocks just to make the movie in the first place — and then fight to get even a few people to watch the damn thing — the prospect of a few bucks in their pocket to make the next epic is just icing on the creative cake.
Give it a look if you think it sounds promising.