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2015 is the start of a new era for Independent Film! (Part 2)

By Benjamin Oberman
February 1, 2015

Thanks to advances in technology, access to equipment, and education, DIY (Do It Yourself) Filmmaking is a reality. However, DIY Distribution is not as clear cut. Assisted distribution and hybrid distribution strategies are a more accurate description. From my experience as a filmmaker and CEO of Film Festival Flix, here are a few points you should know and understand to give your film the best opportunity for success…


For the past 10 years the indie community mistakenly believed digital platforms were the Holy Grail, able to save Independent Film. What we failed to realize was they were stocking the shelves with the most plentiful and cost efficient content available while building their audience base to critical mass. The shelves are now more than stacked, these platforms serve and must satisfy tens to hundreds of millions of customers, as public companies are focused on films that move the bottom line for multi-billion dollar corporations, and as of December 2014, the release of THE INTERVIEW proved they can get studio films, “day-and-date”. Indie films, barely able to recoup the cost of the intern hired to onboard the film and metadata, are lost in the digital ocean.


The proliferation of the Smart TV, Mobile and Web Apps and the TV /Internet connectivity devices (Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, etc.) has made the internet accessible to everyone, not just kids and tech geeks. As new digital platforms emerge daily, filmmakers and many distributors falsely believe they need to be everywhere. All marketing dollars are your burden to bear! People don’t accidently discover your film. Being everywhere without significant marketing will fracture your audience and may rob you of the impact that allows your film to break out and grow.


Social Media seemed like the answer to marketing. In the early days, it was cheap, unsaturated, and worked for many. But, these networks too have reached critical audience mass, there’s more noise than ever in your news feed, we’re programmed to ignore ads, and the social networks we use are now charged with turning profits. Social Media has become a digital billboard, creating awareness, but converting few direct sales. In a free-market system, where ads are served to the highest bidder, the winner will always be the studio. Their films have mass appeal, they have hundreds of millions to spend annually (against your thousands), and these companies are soliciting and working with them directly. It’s time to find new ways to reach the specific audience who is interested in your film.


We’re in the Golden age of TV. Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and Google have joined the TV and Cable broadcasters focusing on original TV programming. There are more TV shows than ever and they’re great. People are invested in the characters and there is an expected and consistent level of satisfaction guaranteed for your time. With On Demand, DVR, and subscription based services, you can watch what you want, when you want, and where you want. When given the choice between one of the many series you’re addicted to or an unknown film, you can see the challenge for the indie filmmaker. The aggregator business is dead. This is the era of curated content.


Blockbuster ceased to exist in a major way leaving RedBox the primary game in town. As the last man standing, their independent acquisitions are less than 4 titles per month, predominantly horror, action, and family films. Additionally, they reduced their price per unit paid, cutting into an already small margin. Walmart, Target, etc. also have reduced their acquisitions and increased the financial risk involved in placing content on the shelves. Niche market films do not satisfy a great enough audience to warrant the expense and risk involved in the physical DVD distribution.


We’ve been programmed to believe that A list stars in lower budget films is Indie. We think that Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics, and The Weinstein Company are Independent. According to the definition; not financed by the six major studios, they are. However, they successfully apply a studio model to independent (financed outside the six major studios) film. They have the star power, marketing components, and budget needed to successfully execute a studio model release campaign. They also make these films with distribution and marketing already in place and developed into the film. George Clooney thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press for “keeping small films alive”. The “small films” he’s referring to are 10 to 100x’s the budget of most indie films. Your ultra-low budget film with no recognizable names, no advance distribution, no P&A funds, and made with only artistic decisions in mind is not in the same league as these films. You must plan your distribution strategy differently.


TVE (TV Everywhere), OTT (Over the Top), Smart TV, and Mobile Apps are the future. Providing every brand the opportunity to sell directly to their audience is going to lead to a shift unfathomable for most people today. You can already see examples of this taking place with Warner Archive, HBO, Showtime, and Disney to name a few. The reason that Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Google are joining the cable and TV networks producing original programming and securing exclusive rights to select films is they see the writing on the wall. I predict that very soon, the major studios will cease to offer their films to audiences through cable networks, TV stations, and Internet platforms like iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu. Why? Because they have BILLIONS of dollars for marketing to tell the world that if you want to watch the new Batman, then you must buy it directly on their App. Why would they give up any percentage of revenue when they are driving all the promotion and advertising? In the future, you won’t have cable or TV. You’ll have super high speed internet, and you’ll curate your own line-up of the apps you like; Universal, Warner Bros, Disney, USA, HBO, NBC News, Nat Geo, etc. Each brand will exist and thrive based upon their ability to service their audience with quality programming that can only be found on their platform. When this is our reality, where will you turn for great Indie films from around the world? FILM FESTIVAL FLIX, Saving Independent Movies!

This all sounds like doom and gloom. But it’s not… During times of great change come great opportunities. Join me next month to read about potential solutions to all the problems stated above and the many opportunities that are available to you as an indie filmmaker. Be creative, be true, tell stories worth hearing, and THINK INDEPENDENTLY!

Independently Yours,
Benjamin Oberman
President / CEO

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