Still not ready to give up the dream of theatrical? Not sure about the value of self-distribution? Or, anything digital? In his article, “How I Learned to Stop Counting on Miracles and Love Self-Distribution” (No Film School, October, 2016), Ross Putnam encourages indie filmmakers to take the plunge. He received offers for distribution after his film, FIRST GIRL I LOVED, premiered at Sundance 2016 but chose self-distribution instead. Find out why …
… No businessperson would willingly create a product with which they literally had no way to go to market. Yet indie film, day in and day out, continues to do this. We make films hoping for a miracle: we want to make an artistically fulfilling film, go to Sundance, win an award, and watch the money come rolling in. Well, as someone that has made an artistically fulfilling film, gone to Sundance with it, and won an award, I have to tell you: a miracle is not a business plan. We chose to self-distribute our film. And it was the best decision we ever made.
… At and after our premiere at Sundance, we had offers from “distributors” —that is, reputable companies with movies that they’ve released, largely on the internet and on VOD platforms. They have contracts with those platforms, they say, which is why we should go with them and give them an all-rights license for 15 years, for a fraction of our budget up front, with no promise of ever seeing another dollar. Every right that exists for the film—including the increasingly lucrative SVOD (Subscription VOD) rights—Netflix, Hulu and the ilk—would be theirs to exploit until I was in my mid-50s.
… For $2,000, you can be on every meaningful VOD platform that a distributor can access. So unless your “distributor” is promising an advertising spend for your film, they’re not a distributor. They’re an “aggregator.” They’re taking your content, putting it on the internet, and capturing whatever revenue is there from “low-hanging fruit”—the people that will buy it simply because it is what it is. If they’re not promoting and pushing your film, they are literally doing nothing that you can’t do for yourself.