I saw this quote in an Indie Wire blog post this week and it really stood out to me….
“After reading pieces on “new distribution models” to the point of nausea over the past two years, it was nice to see that the one thing exactly no one was talking about at Sundance this year was self-distribution; everyone smelled the blood in the water and, in many cases, got a distribution deal out of the ensuing frenzy.”
To me it is because it feels like after a 2 year slump in indie land, where everything has been reduced to micro low-budget moviemaking, self distribution as the only choice, and spending all your time building an audience from scratch on facebook – the sun also rises!
This year at Sundance is proof that traditional distributors are back and willing to make deals that make sense even for filmmakers. In addition to decent advances, they are committing sizable P&A budgets, splitting up rights, and experimenting with windows.
It’s the best of both worlds in my eyes because we Producers can make films for a decent budget and be assured there’s at least some kind of market out there for our work… provided we make exceptional films. That part doesn’t change – no amount of Red camera work and fancy post production and audience building, and facebook followings can replace good old fashioned great work. So don’t kid yourself on that front. Do yourself a favor and watch the films that were in Sundance competition (you can see some via Sundance Selects) – that’s how high the bar is! Then look at your film honestly…. is it of the same level not just in production quality but in every other way? Be brutally honest with yourself.
Do I think that we should ignore self-distribution as an option all together? No way. It’s a great Plan B for many films, and even a Plan A for some. But we no longer have to resort to it and accept it as the only way to go. That’s the difference.
So back to focusing on making exceptional films, at the right price – none of these Sundance festival winners went to extravagant heights with their budgets. Everyone kept things modest a couple million or less.
One other thing – I still think we need to be focused on who the target audience is for our films because guess what, whether you are self distributing or not, even the traditional distributors who bought at Sundance proved to be hungry for the films with a distinct target audience. Why? Because it means cheaper marketing for them! They no longer have to market to everyone which is exceedingly expensive. They can target their advertising and marketing and get more value from less spend.
So this is the new reality… Long live Intelligent Filmmaking! The good news is that in 2011 there’s different paths to success, you don’t have to choose the same old boring one. You can make a film and sell it into the traditional system for a decent price OR you can make a film specifically to self-distribute and go that route if you want (like Kevin Smith is doing with his film “Red State”).
What are your thoughts about what happened at Sundance and anything I mentioned in this blog post?
Please comment below – would love to continue this discussion with you!