The main problem with any indie sales platform is still discovery
The main problem with any indie sales platform is still discovery. Back in the day (2008), I was a filmmaker who just finished his first full-length documentary. I wanted to tell the story of Apple, and what makes the company a cult-like global sensation.
Like many independent filmmakers, I used to rely on public funding. But there are drawbacks: competition is fierce, and you have to abide by implicit tough rules regarding both your film’s topic and the way you make it.
In 2007 I produced and directed MacHEADS, an independent documentary about Apple fanatics. I knew we could get more audience to see our movie the digital way, iTunes streaming services just launched, and we decided to skip the festival route and go direct to fan selling MacHEADS on Itunes and Amazon VOD, and at the same time selling DVDs from the documentary’s official website.
From my studio apartment, I was marketing and distributing MacHEADS to the world. I created a trailer that went viral. MacHEADS generated a huge buzz. I got emails from CNET, CNN, BBC, ABC News 7 and asking for an interview. No film festival could have achieved the same buzz created on the Internet.
We premiered the movie on iTunes in 2008, and MacHEADS became the number one top-selling documentary in its category and number 8 at the 2009 top 50 documentaries. In addition, It made 739,389 views on Hulu. Then the Netflix deal came and was finally broadcast on CNBC.
My personal experience with digital distribution was quite a learning experience. A lot is unknown to filmmakers even today when data by many filmmakers who are sharing information with one another.
In the end, MacHEADS success and failure depended on my marketing efforts. So if you like it or not, filmmakers today need to master both distribution and marketing.
VOD portals are not new, today we have a whole range of them, the main problem with any indie sales platform is still a discovery issue. Without marketing effectively your content won’t be discovered, it doesn’t matter what platform you choose.
True, marketing niche content is challenging, but the audience is loyal and is happy to help by spreading the word. The second reason, which is totally emotional and therefore the strongest, is that I’m an indie filmmaker myself and simply love it.
The industry is in a dynamic process of technology change, and I’m always on the lookout to incorporate new and exciting models.