Independent and documentary films are increasingly being consumed on subscription streaming services like Hulu, or being purchased through Video on Demand (VOD) services like iTunes. This has opened the door for an increasing number of festival filmmakers choosing the path of self distribution. The problem is there are two significant barriers that have developed to filmmakers getting on these platforms.
One barrier is that as these retailers continue to grow, individual filmmakers are not able to make a direct deals with these companies.
“The cost benefit for say a company like iTunes of doing a direct deal has diminished dramatically,” said Erik Anderson, Founder of Quiver. “It takes time, it takes legal and administrative resources, just getting on the phone and having conversations is time consuming.”
According to Anderson, even for smaller distributors with a handful of titles it’s not worth it for a giant like iTunes to put resources toward a deal unless there are bigger, recognizable titles involved.
Another barrier is platforms are extremely particular about how films are delivered to them.
“Most independent filmmakers assume, ‘I’ll just export out of my timeline in Avid or Premiere and I’m good to go,'” said Anderson. “There is so much more to it than outputting a high res file.”
There are specific formatting requirements for how files need to be prepared and there are upwards of 400 pieces of metadata per feature film that needs to be included. To make things worse, each platform is different. There is no standardization, so what you do for iTunes isn’t transferable to Amazon. It’s a process that is so complicated and time consuming that most major studios outsource the work of prepping their movies and television for digital distribution to vendors who know how to streamline the process and work closely with iTunes and Amazon to match their various specifications.
One of those trusted vendors is Premiere Digital, which Anderson started five years ago and services a number of big studios. With the growth of digital distribution, Anderson, who has a passion for independent film, wanted to be able to grow his business by offering the same services to smaller films who were having difficulty gaining access to these platforms.
Using his relationship with the various streaming services, Anderson negotiated contracts to deliver smaller films to iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and others. He then started Quiver, which would charge filmmakers the same pricing Premiere charges studios to prep their movies, but he’d also allow independent filmmakers to gain access to these sites using the Quiver contract. Quiver does not take one penny from the revenue a film makes on iTunes, but instead passes it on directly to filmmakers.
Quiver has built a dashboard that shares all revenue data coming in from the platforms and allows filmmakers to see how their film is performing.
With Quiver’s user interface, filmmakers are also able to have finite control over the their distribution, setting and altering pricing for every territory where they’ve decided to sell their film.
Anderson speculates that filmmakers attempting self distribution instinctively don’t want to be dealing with a middle man to access these platforms. Which is why with other aggregators stepping into the market to fill this role, Anderson believes Quiver’s model of a set fee combined with an interface that supplies financial transparency and control is key to allowing filmmakers to actually serve as their own distributor. It’s a model that has become appealing to the independent filmmaking community, as Quiver has struck discount deals with Sundance Artists Services and Seed & Spark.
While Quiver offers numerous platforms, Anderson recommends starting small. One of the most popular options is iTunes only for $795 (short film) or $1395 (feature film,) which allows filmmakers to reach 60 different countries. There are also packages that bundle Amazon and Google Play with iTunes for $1895.
Editors Note: This post is presented by Quiver. Quiver provides worldwide distribution of film and television content across major digital download and streaming retailers. Click here for more information.