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What are distributors doing for indie today?

What are brick and mortar distributors doing for indie movies these days that is worth a hill of beans? After all ANYBODY can sign up with Amazon Advantage and have their DVD for sale on there. And last time I checked (although a few years ago) it was a one-time $750 charge to get your movie for sale digitally on iTunes and Amazon. Then we have the question of how robust are digital sales anyway? $750 is a LOT to fork over which is why I haven't done it yet.

I had a distributor offer to handle an indie movie of mine but I am very skeptical. I don't see any indie films in any of what's left of brick and mortar stores. So that leaves digital and DVD distribution to Amazon and iTunes basically. I CAN DO THAT MYSELF! And there's no free lunches in this world. If this distributor pays $750 to get my movie for sale on iTunes then they're simply going to deduct that cost before I see any revenues. Overall a distributor just seems like an extra middleman taking money out of my pocket. What do you think?
 
Based on my first hand experience, I am totally bypassing the DVD route other than creating copies
for cast and crew via Createspace. By the time you pay to press the DVD and ship it, there is no profit to be made. I don't know what Redbox pays per DVD, but I suspect it isn't much for indie films.

VOD is the only viable option of recouping costs and making a profit unless you have a film with names and high production value or you have another Paranormal Activity. In addition, it seems like
VOD only films are less likely to be pirated. My film Geek Mythology which is on Netflix as a DVD and was sold through various other outlets is available all over the Internet on bit torrent sites. On the other hand, my current film Outcall hasn't been pirated so far.

In short, I don't know what traditional distributors can do for a small indie film. I guess if they want to throw a lot of marketing dollars at it then I would sign. Otherwise, you might as well do it yourself.
 
Based on my first hand experience, I am totally bypassing the DVD route other than creating copies
for cast and crew via Createspace. By the time you pay to press the DVD and ship it, there is no profit to be made. I don't know what Redbox pays per DVD, but I suspect it isn't much for indie films.

VOD is the only viable option of recouping costs and making a profit unless you have a film with names and high production value or you have another Paranormal Activity. In addition, it seems like
VOD only films are less likely to be pirated. My film Geek Mythology which is on Netflix as a DVD and was sold through various other outlets is available all over the Internet on bit torrent sites. On the other hand, my current film Outcall hasn't been pirated so far.

In short, I don't know what traditional distributors can do for a small indie film. I guess if they want to throw a lot of marketing dollars at it then I would sign. Otherwise, you might as well do it yourself.
Does RedBox just do those kiosk booths? And what are the odds of them carrying an indie movie??? 1 in a million?
What kind of VOD revenue (as a percentage) do you do versus DVD? What kind of iTunes movie sales can one expect? And is Stonehenge Productions and Tunecore still the main two inroads to iTUnes if you want to go it alone? And is it still $750 to get in on there?
And what's the deal with Netflix? Last I heard they only order about 40 DVD's and then rent it out as many times as they can. Sweet deal for THEM!

Also what is a standard revenue sharing deal with a distributor? 50 / 50 after they recoup costs?

I'm thinking about using Distribbor instead. Do they charge you $750 to apply to get into iTunes?
 
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NickClapper

Member
Not interested in any $97 books. Just a have a few questions to answer.
Eurgh, absolutely. I think it should be against the rules of the forum to link to any content that you have to pay for. Completely defeats the point of having a discussion community.
 
This distro wants transfer / assignment of all copyrights in perpetuity. Not my cup of tea. Their contract also allows for essentially open billing. Basically no revenue until "any and all costs" are recouped. We all know how Hollywood accounting works. Any and all costs could entail almost anything.... a share of office expenses, electric and phone bills, trips to Canes, maybe a monthly salary for the owner, etc.

I might as well pay the $1,000 to get on iTunes on my own.
 
Does RedBox just do those kiosk booths? And what are the odds of them carrying an indie movie??? 1 in a million?
What kind of VOD revenue (as a percentage) do you do versus DVD? What kind of iTunes movie sales can one expect? And is Stonehenge Productions and Tunecore still the main two inroads to iTUnes if you want to go it alone? And is it still $750 to get in on there?
And what's the deal with Netflix? Last I heard they only order about 40 DVD's and then rent it out as many times as they can. Sweet deal for THEM!

Also what is a standard revenue sharing deal with a distributor? 50 / 50 after they recoup costs?

I'm thinking about using Distribbor instead. Do they charge you $750 to apply to get into iTunes?
I see a fair number of low budget independent films in Redbox kiosks so it isn't a one in a million situation. Like Netflix, they buy the DVDs and rent them out an infinite number of times which ultimately hurts revenue in the
long run in my opinion. Yeah, Netflix only buys 30 to 60 DVDs if they buy at all so I'm not even considering selling to them.

Stonehenge bypassed the iTunes store where the films and TV are by creating an app for my movie Geek Mythology so you were purchasing a program that had a movie in it. It's easier to get an app approved than a movie. It was a cute idea but it didn't create a large number of sales. You need to contact them if you want to go that route. I believe Tunecore doesn't even handle movies anymore.

I had the DVDs of Geek Mythology pressed myself and I sent them to the distributor and sometimes directly to the wholesalers at a retail price of $14.95. Wholesale price is $7.50, and after you factor in the distributor's cut ( I can't even remember what the percentage was but I think it was 50%.), I was making something like 2 dollars per DVD. I sold roughly five hundred DVDs so I barely recouped the cost of having the pressed which was about a thousand dollars.

Mara who produced Surviving Family and posts here used Distribber and seems happy with them. I think the guy who posted on the other forum was upset that his film didn't pass Quality Control for iTunes which can be tricky. I'm not sure Distribber can be blamed for that.

I think Distribber charges $1295 to get films on various outlets and that's basically it. Since Createspace is free, you can get your film onto Amazon for free.

I don't have a DVD versus VOD percentage to give you since Geek Mythology was released in 2009 when VOD was in its infancy. And my latest film Outcall 2014 is only available on VOD through Amazon. If it had better production value, I would consider Distribber but the the additional expense of getting it suitable for iTunes probably isn't worth all things considered. The bottom line is that the smaller the film the more likely you should do VOD only.
 
Netflix only buys 30 to 60 DVDs if they buy at all so I'm not even considering selling to them.

And my latest film Outcall 2014 is only available on VOD through Amazon.
Are you referring to CreateSpace?

Seems like nothing has changed with Netflix. 30 - 60 is about what I remember it being 8 years ago. I agree that it just robs sales. Nobody is going to buy an indie DVD that they first rented. I really don't know why the movie industry supports it. In the music business consumers used to always buy CD's -- not rent. I also have some audio albums. I refuse to sign up for the download / streaming sites. I only use non-interactive digital radio outlets in addition to Amazon and iTunes sales. SoundExchange is a non-profit organization that does a GREAT job of collecting radio royalties and they keep growing with leaps and bounds every quarter thanks to Pandora Radio.
 
Are you referring to CreateSpace?

Seems like nothing has changed with Netflix. 30 - 60 is about what I remember it being 8 years ago. I agree that it just robs sales. Nobody is going to buy an indie DVD that they first rented. I really don't know why the movie industry supports it. In the music business consumers used to always buy CD's -- not rent. I also have some audio albums. I refuse to sign up for the download / streaming sites. I only use non-interactive digital radio outlets in addition to Amazon and iTunes sales. SoundExchange is a non-profit organization that does a GREAT job of collecting radio royalties and they keep growing with leaps and bounds every quarter thanks to Pandora Radio.
Yes, I got Outcall onto Amazon through Createspace.
 
Yes, I got Outcall onto Amazon through Createspace.
I'm going to have to look into this Amazon Instant Video. So all you do is sign up with Create Sapce? I'm already signed up with Amazon Advantage. I wonder what percentage of people watch movies on Amazon Instant Video versus ordering a DVD. Have you heard any figures?

And I wonder what kind of market share Amazon Instant Video has versus other VOD outlets. And what are the other main players? iTunes?
 
All of these solutions have the same basic issue - distribution is easy, marketing is hard. It doesn't matter where your film is available if nobody knows to look for it.
 
The cost to go via createspace has dropped considerably. I wrote about that in another thread on distribution. They now allow you to upload your film -- but they've a bunch of "gotcha" rules that that they tell you about after you've waited for it to get processed (months), then you've got to start anew with the wait clock reset.

Good luck.
 

rayw

Member
All of these solutions have the same basic issue - distribution is easy, marketing is hard. It doesn't matter where your film is available if nobody knows to look for it.
^^ That.

Pretty much sums up the conundrum that stymies most would-be filmmakers.

At some point you kinda realize "What's the point?" of making a film if you can't effectively market it?
 
All of these solutions have the same basic issue - distribution is easy, marketing is hard. It doesn't matter where your film is available if nobody knows to look for it.
On every Amazon and iTunes movie page, they suggest other movies purchased by customers. So if someone purchased Insidious 2 and my movie Outcall, another customer viewing Insidious 2 would be aware of my movie also. I've done very little marketing mainly posts on filmmaking websites and have sold about 250 downloads. I find this very encouraging. Createspace doesn't allow for trailers to be posted which has probably hurt sales. But I'm guessing if I used Distribber that wouldn't be a problem.
 

jax_rox

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
All of these solutions have the same basic issue - distribution is easy, marketing is hard. It doesn't matter where your film is available if nobody knows to look for it.
This exactly. You can distribute it yourself if you want, but unless you have deep pockets you will never compete with a decent distributor.

This distro wants transfer / assignment of all copyrights in perpetuity. Not my cup of tea. Their contract also allows for essentially open billing. Basically no revenue until "any and all costs" are recouped. We all know how Hollywood accounting works. Any and all costs could entail almost anything.... a share of office expenses, electric and phone bills, trips to Canes, maybe a monthly salary for the owner, etc.

I might as well pay the $1,000 to get on iTunes on my own.
But then - would you not be seeing a similar amount of return anyway?

Isn't the costs to be recouped detailed in the contract? Is this rights for all markets?

To me it seems like you have two options:

Option 1: Hand your rights over to the distributor. Have the distributor market/distribute it. Your film ends up being seen by a lot of people, ends up in a few markets. Makes a bit of money. The distributor recoups their costs (they did spend a lot of money marketing it), then hand over the money to you.
You make back your production budget, more people have seen your film and more people know who you are. You've officially made a film that's been distributed and are therefore more likely to be picked up on another project.

Option 2: You pay out of your own pocket to get your film on iTunes. You attempt to market it yourself. A small amount of people see your film. You slowly but surely eventually make your production budget back. You then use that money to make your next film.

Of course, it all depends on the distributor. I'd be doing my research to make sure they're who I wanted to go with. Are they not paying you a fee for the rights?
 
All of these solutions have the same basic issue - distribution is easy, marketing is hard. It doesn't matter where your film is available if nobody knows to look for it.
IDOM spits logic like Yoda. If you can't effectively market your film, might as well just put it on vimeo. Either that, or hold on to it for some future hypothetical opportunity to exploit your work.
 

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