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Why so pessimist about distribution?

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
True, but if you agreed some points as part of the deal, the end result would be even sweeter.
True, too.

Decisions need to be made. We would all love to be in the place
where a major like Paramount offered both a six-figure advance
and points for our 15k movie. Sweet, indeed. It is more likely
that we will be offered a lower buyout and no points by a smaller
distributor. I'm not a "no points, walk away" filmmaker. Sometimes
a buy out is the only offer on the table. And I see no downside to
a buy out deal.
 

sonnyboo

Pro Member
indiePRO
IOTM Winner
And I guess to the original point of the original post - I am pessimistic, although I prefer realistic, about the prospects of being in this kind of position with a feature film with no name stars and unproven talent.

Yes, a "good" movie stands a better chance, but the statistical odds are stacked very much against any film given the state of the marketplace. It's a reality that ALL films are less profitable at this point in time. It's an even harsher reality that there is a much lower profit margin for indie features. And the harshest reality is that there is so little money in a movie with no name stars and no major backing, and the market is also filling daily with no budget (under $100,000) features that the value decreases daily.
 
and the market is also filling daily with no budget (under $100,000) features that the value decreases daily.

Yep - this is what happens in a commodity market when the supply outstrips the demand, and indie films are essentially a commodity market. Most of the money to be made in commodities is in volume - that's where netflix, amazon, apple, etc are succeeding - and as an individual producer it's almost impossible to play in a market like that.

And yet, in nearly all commodity markets there are players who succeed on a smaller level - because they "decommodify" their products and are able to command higher profit margins than their competitors. I'm convinced that going forward that is going to be the key to being successful with no/low budget indies.
 
I can cover expenses like tens of thousands of dollars for marketing. But why should I do it before finding a distributor? All I have to do is to create an IMDB profile which is well known web site by the entire industry. I can also create Facebook fan page and submit news about the film.

You might as well make some money and build cache for your film on your Facebook page. Leverage Facebook reach with a direct VOD sales Facebook tool, like this one http://filmdemic.com/
 
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And I guess to the original point of the original post - I am pessimistic, although I prefer realistic, about the prospects of being in this kind of position with a feature film with no name stars and unproven talent.

Yes, a "good" movie stands a better chance, but the statistical odds are stacked very much against any film given the state of the marketplace. It's a reality that ALL films are less profitable at this point in time. It's an even harsher reality that there is a much lower profit margin for indie features. And the harshest reality is that there is so little money in a movie with no name stars and no major backing, and the market is also filling daily with no budget (under $100,000) features that the value decreases daily.

I read once that in any dream-based "gold rush" (e.g., indie filmmaking), the majority of those who make a living are the sellers of tools like gold pans, wheelbarrows, maps, sluices, pickaxes, etc.... NOT the miners (read: filmmaker). Seems true, and also kinda sad...

Sorry to be a bit of a pessimist: Bottom line is to love what you're doing.
 
Yep - this is what happens in a commodity market when the supply outstrips the demand, and indie films are essentially a commodity market. Most of the money to be made in commodities is in volume - that's where netflix, amazon, apple, etc are succeeding - and as an individual producer it's almost impossible to play in a market like that.

And yet, in nearly all commodity markets there are players who succeed on a smaller level - because they "decommodify" their products and are able to command higher profit margins than their competitors. I'm convinced that going forward that is going to be the key to being successful with no/low budget indies.

I like this approach and thinking. May be its own thread-- have you got some ideas on ways to "decommodify" an indie film?

Some ideas crossing my brain are films that cross genre, use unique marketing (has social media run its course?), combine media-- I'm tired, not sure these are on the right track of your suggestion....

Great discussion, folks-
 
I like this approach and thinking. May be its own thread-- have you got some ideas on ways to "decommodify" an indie film?

I do, I've been thinking a lot about this lately and have some notes that I've been planning to put together to start a thread on... unfortunately non-film related business has taken over my time (pulled a 62-hour day this week, unfortunately not a record for me!) so I haven't had time to really gather my thoughts. Will do it though in a couple of weeks when this project is wrapped.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I don't envy the 62 hour work week. I don't think that sort of thing should be necessary in the software field unless someone screwed up.

As far as the decommodify .. i have no idea what you guys are talking about. could someone explain it to me.
 
As far as the decommodify .. i have no idea what you guys are talking about. could someone explain it to me.
"Decommidfiy" as opposed to remaining a commodity.
There are a lot of films available to watch, anywhere, at any time, and via multiple devices/venues.

Think of any given film as a piece of gravel in these piles.


If one of those pieces of gravel (a film, short or feature) was removed or never existed then... life goes on pretty easy, as if nothing happened.
No one's gonna miss that piece of gravel (your film) is missing, or really care if it's there.
Gravel is a commodity. It's sold by the ton. It's value is in it's volume or aggregate form, not by the individual piece.
Crude oil is a commodity.
Corn is a commodity.
Sugar.
Wheat.
Lumber.
Fish in the ocean.
Job applicants.
Films.

Any one gallon of crude, bushel of corn, board foot of lumber, cute girl, resume, or film really doesn't mean a whole lot to society.

No one cares if any one of the above is there or not there. Doesn't matter.

To "decommodify" a film is to figure out a way to either produce an intrinsically "remarkable" film or to fiscally market it successfully - and neither is simple or easy.
 
If one of those pieces of gravel (a film, short or feature) was removed or never existed then... life goes on pretty easy, as if nothing happened.

No one's gonna miss that piece of gravel (your film) is missing, or really care if it's there.
Yeah but don't we all have a film or two that really touched us, even changed us in a way. Paul Haggis's 2004 Crash was one for me, ditto American Beauty, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption. Those movies really touched me and I'm sooo glad they exist. They're like the diamonds in that gravel.

But yeah, making a movie of that originally and standard is one hell of a difficult feat. I think a number of them won screenplay Oscars (or were at least nominated) so that shows the quality of the story they had - then a highly gifted director with a great cast and crew made visual and cinematic that story.

And boy did those movies move me... I rarely cry... Those movies had some tears welling in my eyes...
 
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Yeah but don't we all have a film or two that really touched us, even changed us in a way.
Yeah, well... that's the trick here, isn't it. Or at least half of it; to make something meaningful.

I'd cite 'The Devil Inside' as the the other half: cr@p film that was fantastically grass roots marketed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_Inside_(film)
Budget $1 million
Box office $101,386,096
Plus DVD,BR, and VOD.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_devil_inside/
tomatometer: 6
Average Rating: 2.7/10
Reviews Counted: 80
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 75

audience: 22
Average Rating: 2.1/5
User Ratings: 43,495

I dislike the product, and respect & admire the marketing machine.
http://www.thewrap.com/movies/artic...drives-devil-insides-box-office-success-34232
 

sonnyboo

Pro Member
indiePRO
IOTM Winner
Paul Haggis's 2004 Crash was one for me, ditto American Beauty, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption. Those movies really touched me and I'm sooo glad they exist. They're like the diamonds in that gravel.

And nary a one of those was made for under $100,000 with DSLR's....or without studio distribution. Hence, they ain't in the pile of gravel. They were made in a diamond mine with the rest of Hollywood's movies.

THAT is the point. Without name stars or a really decent P&A budget, indie-no-budget films will sit in the pile with all the rest of them, with more and more being made every day.

YES - there are diamonds in the rough. It's getting harder to find them, harder for them to float to the top, and even harder for them to make a profit. Realistically, everyone needs to keep their head on their shoulder when making a feature and not bet the house on their feature.
 
I don't envy the 62 hour work week. I don't think that sort of thing should be necessary in the software field unless someone screwed up.

No, that was a 62 hour work day. I didn't bother counting the whole week, too depressing. My stuff is probably unique from the general software world as it's event-based, so there are fixed deadlines that occasionally stack up on top of each other.

To "decommodify" a film is to figure out a way to either produce an intrinsically "remarkable" film or to fiscally market it successfully - and neither is simple or easy.

There's more to it than making something that's intrinsically "remarkable" - I kind of feel like that's what everyone thinks they're doing, whether or not it's actually true. But that also tends to lead to an approach that is basically your favorite/most hated phrase - "build it and they will come!". Because if you could just make something that was actually, truly, intrinsically remarkable people couldn't help but get excited about it, right?!?

I think that's the wrong approach. I think you have to stop thinking about the film as the center of the world, and start thinking about the audience as the core. i.e. it's not what you put into the film that matters as much as what the film draws out of the audience.
 
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ItDonned said:
To "decommodify" a film is to figure out a way to either produce an intrinsically "remarkable" film or to fiscally market it successfully - and neither is simple or easy.
There's more to it than making something that's intrinsically "remarkable" - I kind of feel like that's what everyone thinks they're doing, whether or not it's actually true. But that also tends to lead to an approach that is basically you're favorite/most hated phrase - "build it and they will come!". Because if you could just make something that was actually, truly, intrinsically remarkable people couldn't help but get excited about it, right?!?

I think that's the wrong approach. I think you have to stop thinking about the film as the center of the world, and start thinking about the audience as the core. i.e. it's not what you put into the film that matters as much as what the film draws out of the audience.
You kinda skipped over that "or" part.

You can make an 'The Human Centipede' or you can make/market a 'The Devil Inside.' Either will or could do fine, but GL with that!

Reading it as a "and" sentence and I definitely agree with you: There IS more to it than that.
A) Everyone thinks what they're doing is remarkable.
B) People don't naturally get excited about much.
C) You gotta think of the audience first. ← Aaaamen!


Begin with a marketable audience (if distribution is your goal for your film, presumably profitable distribution), understand what their current entertainment products are, craft a story for film that appeals to an unserved or underserved market, then deliver it.
Make it good and it will be remarkable instead of "me too."

Then you got to bring it to their attention at the development stage - then - keep it in front of their short-@ss attention spans throughout production and into distribution until you've wrung that baby out dry for every drop of dimes you can. Because...
;)


Provide a product consumers want.

It's real simple economics.

Art for art's sake is great and fine and all, everyone needs a hobby, but it's not economically sustainable.

Otherwise, filmmaking is not a meritocracy.
 
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...
Begin with a marketable audience (if distribution is your goal for your film, presumably profitable distribution), understand what their current entertainment products are, craft a story for film that appeals to an unserved or underserved market, then deliver it.
Make it good and it will be remarkable instead of "me too."

Then you got to bring it to their attention at the development stage - then - keep it in front of their short-@ss attention spans throughout production and into distribution until you've wrung that baby out dry for every drop of dimes you can. Because...

Provide a product consumers want.

It's real simple economics.

rayw, all-

I've been thinking about this a lot. And the strategies posted in the thread help, great stuff!

But this for me is the crux of the matter-- after all, auto and computer makers want The Answer, too: Will an audience buy my product?
And... how do you answer that before going into production (and therefore spending the money/energy/time)???

Seems that all the script analysis, smarts, marketing strategy and money, name actors, etc. don't guarantee a winner. Sooner or later, filmmaking is a "leap of faith." And I'm okay with that. :)
 
...
...

I think you have to stop thinking about the film as the center of the world, and start thinking about the audience as the core. i.e. it's not what you put into the film that matters as much as what the film draws out of the audience.

I agree-- but "what the film draws out of the audience" must be accomplished by the film, which keeps the process mostly filmmaker-centric, doesn't it?

Which reminds me of a 2012 quote from that marketing guy, Seth Godin:
"Apple had just one customer. He passed away last year." <meaning Steve Jobs>
 
I agree-- but "what the film draws out of the audience" must be accomplished by the film, which keeps the process mostly filmmaker-centric, doesn't it?

Which reminds me of a 2012 quote from that marketing guy, Seth Godin:
"Apple had just one customer. He passed away last year." <meaning Steve Jobs>

No, I don't think it keeps it filmmaker-centric, at least not at the level it's traditionally been. I'm thinking more along the lines of another marketing guy - Hugh Mcleod - and his concept of 'social objects':

http://gapingvoid.com/so/

The core of this concept is that the actual object isn't really what's important to the audience - what's important to the audience is the conversations and other interactions with their friends that the object brings about. From a marketing perspective the common mistake is to assume that you need to make the product itself the most important thing to people.

Sticking with apple as an example, take a look at one of their recent ads:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoVW62mwSQQ

They're selling a camera, just like a lot of other companies, but they don't do it like anyone else. How many megapixels is it? What's the zoom? What does it do better than any of it's competitors? They don't say - in fact they almost don't say anything (although I honestly think they still said too much).

What they do is show people taking pictures of the things that are important or relevant to them. People delighting in the act of taking or sharing a picture. Capturing a moment in time, a memory. It's not about the camera they're using, it's the experience they all share. It could be any camera, or many cameras, but it's not - it happens to be an iphone, over and over and everywhere all the time.

Now compare it to the recent nokia ads promoting their camera:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slf3GgxqusI

It's funny, for sure, but it's a contrived scenario designed to present a problem that is solved by the specific feature (41 megapixels!!!!!) in their phone, and solved much better than by the competition. That's a pretty traditional marketing approach, but it also has to pretend that what's important about the pictures you take at your kid's school play is the picture itself, rather than what it represents.

So I think the trick is to start thinking about how films become social objects. Many are to some degree, but some are far more than others. The 'cult' film is pretty much the definition of a social object - something like Rocky Horror perhaps being the pinnacle of that, where the film itself is primarily a catalyst for social interaction. Or anything that inspires widespread cosplay could be another example. So what is it that makes a film work that way?

Or maybe we need to start with something simpler - what is it that makes someone want to talk about or share a film with one of their friends?
 
So I think the trick is to start thinking about how films become social objects. Many are to some degree, but some are far more than others. The 'cult' film is pretty much the definition of a social object - something like Rocky Horror perhaps being the pinnacle of that, where the film itself is primarily a catalyst for social interaction. Or anything that inspires widespread cosplay could be another example. So what is it that makes a film work that way?

Or maybe we need to start with something simpler - what is it that makes someone want to talk about or share a film with one of their friends?
I think I can fairly well get behind this POV. :yes:
I like it.

I think music is something that has both "personal object" and "social object" characteristics that easily allows people to enjoy any given song/performance both personally and socially with others.
It's pretty common for someone to sing or hum a bar or line from a song and someone else to complete the following - if not outright starting something of an impromptu duet, even if in faux mockery.
Whereas films tend to be more heavily weighted on the personal side and light on the social.
Films pretty infrequently, considering the abundance of them, provide lines that are quote-worthy or promote humorous reenactment.

Again, with the film viewing consumer in mind, if we can consider constructing and promoting our films from a (nebulous, absent strong precedent models) more social object POV we can begin to decommodify them.
And this is perhaps the second greatest potential of crowdfunding sites - bringing otherwise disassociated people together to generate buzz around a social object.
This may also explain why, or contribute to an explanation, "friends-and-family-only panhandling crowdfunding" often crash and burn.

At a fundamental level of design and craft, an ideal "social object" film must still have merit and provide quality to the consumer (instead of relying on charity from the consumer), but it will also allow people to socially engage each other.

IDK how to do this, but I like the idea even if it turns out to be complete bunk. :D
 
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