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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Notion Of Independent Group Distribution--Can It Work?


Independent writer and director Ben Hicks forwarded me his recently published mammoth of an article titled "The Evolution of Film Independence" and his call for a new industry of indie distribution is both compelling--and capable of happening.

"So what is Independent (group) Distribution?

Independent (group) Distribution is when a team of independent filmmakers unite under one Film Collective, in order to effectively distribute their collective works. A Film Collective is nothing more than a trademarked name and logo that the Film Collective’s members share. No one is the owner of the Film Collective and the Film Collective does not own any of the films, the filmmakers do. Each filmmaker is only responsible for their films and are not involved creatively or financially with any other filmmaker’s work. Each Film Collective member must have their own production company from which each individual filmmaker’s films are produced through and which any and all money earned through the Film Collective is paid to. Each Film Collective member’s films should share similar characteristics to help distinguish their films from other distribution companies, and all films (and film related merchandise) should be available for viewing and purchasing on the Film Collective’s website (although not exclusively).  

So what is the advantage of Independent (group) Distribution over Independent (self) Distribution?

Let’s take a look.

INDEPENDENT (group) DISTRIBUTION VS. INDEPENDENT (self) DISTRIBUTION

First and foremost we must remember that although film has incredible artistic and social relevance and is one of the most powerful art forms of our time, we also have to remember that the distribution side of things is a business (which is why most of us would rather let studios deal with it).

But this is all we have to know.

Like any business, no matter what you sell, you have good customers and bad customers. A good customer is someone who continues doing business with you throughout the years. A good customer is someone you can rely on, a bad customer is someone you can’t.

Going up to a movie theater with your one film and asking if it can play there one weekend may be possible at some mom and pop theaters, but by and large it’s a very difficult process. Why? Because for larger movie theaters they have good customers that continue to give them consistent business through a body of content. Business usually feels so cold to many of us because it’s simply a numbers game without any heart, but if we realize that all we have to do is play by the numbers we’ll be able to get our foot in the door. A lone filmmaker with their one film is an unknown, maybe they’ll take a chance but most likely they won’t because their other clients (studio distribution companies) bring in typically a known amount of people. They can see that this distribution company is usually good or great for business (or they wouldn’t continue to use them) and why would they choose an unknown client over a client that is typically good (or even great) for business?


But what do you think would happen if you went to a theater and said, “Hi, I’m a filmmaker who works for an artist owned Distribution Company. We are a collective of award winning independent filmmakers with thousands of devout fans and if you would like to do business with us we can guarantee 5 to 10 films a year for theatrical screenings. We do our own promotions and in the past, our numbers show that 70% of our screenings get sold out while another 10% usually sells close to 80% capacity.”

Now we’re talking their language and by forming film collectives the amount of doors that will become available to us will increase considerably. Not only for theatrical screenings but also for DVD markets, streaming and downloading options, international markets, EVERYTHING. If we join forces we can leverage our collective content to make leaps and bounds towards sustainability.

Next, and on a much more human level, which sounds like a more rewarding and enriching experience: self distributing your films or forming a company with a bunch of artists you respect and are inspired by - a group of artists that you can now call friends - or continuing to do everything alone? Now I don’t know about you, but to me the idea of rolling into a festival with a bunch of friends, watching and supporting each others films while being on the lookout to recruit new and talented artists/human beings (for the Film Collective), sounds way cooler than eating popcorn alone in a dark theater.

Last but not least, forming a Film Collective will also make everything easier on our fans. You tell me, as a film fan, which site do you think you would visit more frequently?"

So there. The cards are on the table. Ideas are bouncing around in your head. You may be kind of excited. Do you agree with Ben's pitch? Disagree? Want to add more? Keep the dialogue going in the comments below and be sure to share this post on your social media platforms.

Remember: Our time is now.

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Read the rest of Ben's original post here.

Also check out the website for his latest film Kids Go Free To Fun Fun Time.

2 comments:

  1. This is a great idea.
    I'm doing a self-distribution of my feature 'Young Hearts Run Free', out in UK cinemas in April. It's great that a distributor isn't taking a cut but it is so much work. Finding contacts for special interest groups, schools, colleges etc is hard but okay; the hardest thing is trying to speak to cinemas about arranging screenings. They don't respond to emails or calls and it has taken months and months to get the dates we have.

    Group distribution would mean that others would do their share of this hard work. Experiences and contacts can be shared amongst the group and this could make the whole process a lot easier.

    This approach relies on sustaining the reputation of the collective so that audiences and cinemas maintain trust in the product and build a relationship with the collective. Would this mean there needs to be vetting of films that make up the collective? There would need to be some kind of 'brand identity' to the group so that audiences have a rough idea of the type of films (my social-realist film will have a very different set of special interest groups to my mate's horror film). Similar branding works for French New Wave (though they're pretty diverse) and the Danish Dogme films.

    Still questions to be answered but it's a very good idea.
    andy@youngheartsrunfreefilm.com

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  2. It's a very exciting time Andy. Thanks for sharing your film's info too.

    ReplyDelete