The Netflix dilemma for filmmakers

In following all that’s been transpiring regarding current distribution paradigm shifts and the like, the most perplexing aspect for me is what is being said or, more accurately, not being said about Netflix as it affects filmmakers’ bottom line.

It’s pretty much a given that Netflix some time ago won control of the rent-by-mail DVD business in this country. With 12 million subscribers, half of whom stream movies online, it is also rapidly commandeering the Internet streaming business.

For the consumer, Netflix is a wonderful and convenient way to have access to just about every movie out there in release, new and old. In fact, the company has become a household mainstay, much like Amazon.com arrived on the scene years ago and as its subscriber base continues to rise, this will only solidify their permanence in the minds and hearts (and habits) of movie lovers.

And, to the company’s credit, its deals with distributors to date have been quite successful in tipping the numbers towards their own profitability with the argument that they are able to make any film available to the world and allow enormous access to films that otherwise wouldn’t be nearly so widely available.

However, when it comes to filmmakers—the actual content providers—it’s fairly universally agreed that from a monetizing standpoint, Netflix is a disaster. The problem stems from the fact that every filmmaker understandably wants his or her film to reach the widest audience possible and Netflix has become a must if this is going to happen. In fact many filmmakers consider it a benchmark once they are picked up and in their catalog. However at the same time—especially with the streaming option now on its rapid rise—consumers can easily and very cheaply enjoy unlimited films for a relatively small monthly fee. And there lies the dilemma.

As we all know secrecy is the operable word in this industry, especially when it comes to distribution deals, but as far as I can decipher, the typical deal with Netflix for a distributor involves either selling a certain number of DVDs to the company at a negotiated price with Netflix then mailing the DVDs out to subscribers on demand as many times as the disc will withstand and/or an annual licensing fee paid by Netflix for customer streaming of a film based on a formula that involves the number of customers who have that film already in their queue. More recently a growing number of distributors are insisting that the streaming deal be based on the actual number of times a film is streamed as opposed to a one-time annual licensing fee.

But regardless of the details of the deal or deals, it’s the filmmaker who is getting shafted financially. If distributors are unhappy with their piece of the Netflix pie (and a growing number are), it’s a foregone conclusion that filmmakers are pretty much being left out of the equation entirely when it comes to making any money from the Netflix deals. I’d love to hear from filmmakers who are happy with the profitability of their Netflix arrangement. Do any such filmmakers exist?

The biggest and scariest aspect of all this is that Netflix is only getting bigger and more all-pervasive. This month Netflix will be coming to the iPad, for example, so for $8.99 a month iPad owners will have access to Netflix’s full-streaming library.

And all this is happening at a time when filmmakers finally have the tools to get the word out about their films to a vast audience (as has been discussed at length on this blog with many filmmakers). If we give Netflix our films that pretty much kills our customer base for selling and streaming our films off our own websites because all Netflix subscribers (the movie lovers that make up our audience) will have instant access to our films already and at a very miniscule price. And as a result we see nothing or a mere pittance from that robust business.

So what do we do? Not give our films to Netflix in the first place…? A radical thought for sure. Let’s face it, we have no power as filmmakers to negotiate a better deal with them ourselves and distributors are trying to put pressure on them for their own reasons, but even they aren’t having much luck to date. On the other hand, if we don’t go with Netflix, we run the risk of not getting our films out there to the vast audience we want to reach. And if we land a distributor, we’re living in a pipe dream if we think we’re in a position to tell them how to negotiate their Netflix deals… So where does that leave us filmmakers other than perpetually ripped off financially?

A dilemma indeed. Or is the emperor actually wearing clothes and I just don’t see them?

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96 comments »

  1. Laure @infinicine said,
    April 1, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    Filmmakers should probably sell to Netflix. The digital sales on filmmakers’ own website model is untried and not particularly plausible given the trends we’ve seen so far. But even if that ends up being incorrect, the Netflix digital license terms have typically been very short: a year, for example, so the risk is fairly low.

  2. david baker said,
    April 1, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    Hi Buzz,

    I have no experience of Netflix, but I never hear any good experiences from anybody. But I expect that from these companies. Its never going to be good.

    I am only with indieflix at the moment, but will be getting my film to other platforms. LoveFilm is like the uk version of dvd’s via the mail & streaming. They are looking at my film at the moment.

    The deal wont be great, so why would I give it to them?, or any of the others? Ok, I want my work to be seen. Ok, people get to see it, what next? If it does well, how do I make money? Seen and broke, is that good?

    Well my goal is simple, if people get curious about other work from me, it won’;t ALL be given out to these majors. Like if people like Mission X, and these platforms are just promotional means, then they could lead an audience to buy a sequel I will do, which will be exclusive from my web streaming platform.

    As the years go on, I will also be building the platform with merchandise. I dont just mean t shirts and caps, I mean physical items that are new and fresh. Like these items here I have just started to sell this week. http://www.missionx.co.uk/#/flash-drive/4539929865 (Sorry, not plugging here, want just want to share how I see how things can work)

    As I make each project, as I write, I will have a lot of ideas how to monetize, as I really beleive the film itself will be worth nothing in the future. Anyway, I dont want to stray from your original point about netflix, but my belief is, that we will never earm from all these platforms as filmmakers.

    I really think we do have to start thinking completely outside the box, and get the mindset that the content itself will not really have much revenue with itself in the future. So we really should start focussing on other areas for our monetizing.

    Its obviously easier to merchandise, be more sensational, and do sequels with genre films. It is going to be harder in more introspective art films, but I do also believe there is always a way, but only if we really leave the old models behind.

    Saying that, “Theatrical Events” are still definatley the way. I believe once you make that direct connection, build fans at events, get the mailing list, then I do believe that these people will buy direct PPV, other merch from your website. AFTER that conection is made.

    Without a theatrical event route, I think it can still be done, but it has to be in the model I kind of suggested. As for the last comment “The digital sales on filmmakers’ own website model is untried and not particularly plausible given the trends we’ve seen so far”

    Thats no reason to completely dismiss that route. Because something is not ried enough. Thats very negative, and giving up before we even try. We sometimes talk as if we have been in this new digital world for 20 years, when in reality its almost been overnight. I see new models as part of a 5 year plan to build following, try and test, experiment.

    I would be excited by any netflix, or any other deal like that, but I will still take them to spread my work and my name out there. If Hollywood gives me a remake deal, Damm, I will work for almost nothing, because theres a platform I REALLY want to exploit to get people to my exclusives indie films.

    Great post, great post, all around great people here! Finally going to watch your flick this weekend. Thank you so so much for watching mine :0)

    David

  3. Bill Pennington said,
    April 1, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

    I am a total newbie when it comes to film making so I have no experience to speak of when it comes to distribution. It seems to me though the issue is with the distributor, not with NetFlix. If we could take our films direct to NetFlix and get some payment direct it seems like perhaps there would be enough money to go around, at least for the smaller budget indie films.

  4. Angelo Bell said,
    April 1, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

    A wise filmmaker once told me, “Don’t make your first film unless you’re firmly committed to making your third film.” With that ideology in mind it makes sense to use Netflix as one of many tools for a CAREER in filmmaking. The lifeline of films can be long and enduring — just look at some of the old films still streaming on Netflix. What most indie films WON’T be is instant money-makers.

    Filmmakers who are committed to making more than one film can effectively use Netflix as a sales & marketing tool. With film #1: exhaust self promotion until your eyes hurt from staring at all the social media sites; sell DVD’s and then put your film on Netflix while you move on to film #2. Repeat and go on to film #3. If your work is good your fanbase will grow, and as David stated you’ll have more people waiting for film #4 and/or using Netflix to see what film #1 was all about.

  5. Distributor said,
    April 1, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    Points will be awarded for a new paying member only and requires, at time of sign up, linking directly from this page. Distributor

  6. Charles said,
    April 1, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

    I just think its so crazy that all everyone seems to think about is money. We make movies to show them to people, not hope to profit from them, profit (if any) is a bonus we should be surprised to get. When you say you want a broader audience, you make it quite clear its because you want that broad audience to pay up. When I say I want to reach a broad audience, I say it because I want everyone to watch and enjoy what I worked so hard on. I understand there needs to be balance, have to keep the lights on! But get enough stuff out there, make enough people see it, for FREE (which is what it seems we’re so scared of) and eventually you WILL get noticed, you will land that deal, you will be hired by that agency, money comes, but it can’t be the only thing we think about, if you became a filmmaker for the money you are in the wrong industry.

  7. david baker said,
    April 2, 2010 @ 6:40 am

    In reply to charles comment.

    That attitude is fine if you want to make films as a hobby, and people are content to work for you for free. Cool! But see how long you last with favours and goodwill. My hobby is watching movies, thats a lot cheaper.

    I agree you have to show you have talent (Although talent is only a small part of the package these days) Sure you want to show you have potential, thats why I mde my film so cheap, I dont have to do huge sales.

    However, that cancels out too just showing you have done this as a hobby. Just showing your potnential Why? Anybody employing you in the industry today does not give a flying f*uck about how talented you are. You will get no deals, jobs, unless you can show “numbers” from what you have done before.

    This is the REAL world now. Its the “film business”

    David

  8. John W. Bosley said,
    April 2, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    There is an old business concept that not just the film business but all American businesses have lost, and I think our economy is hurting from it: Supply and Demand. The idea that you have to drop your film onto every platform possible just for someone to notice you is rediculous. Want someone to notice you? Find a way to get to your audience. Netflix, you’re just part of a catalog. That’s it. Yes, maybe someone will “stumble upon” your film, but let’s be honest, do you want them just to stumble upon your film?

    What I have been doing for the last year is studying how to create demand. It’s something filmmakers like Lucas, Hitchcock and others were able to do back in the day. Create the demand. Make them want you film. Then limit the supply to what benefits you the filmmaker most. If your fans complain they want it offered on more platforms that don’t benefit you then be honest. Tell them that you don’t financially benefit from that platform. Even though making money wasn’t your reason to make the film, you need a profit in order to make another one. If you fans really want you to make more then they should buy/rent/watch on a platform that makes that possible.

    If the USA and the other countries out there that forgot about “supply and demand” don’t get their act together and reverse the trend, don’t expect this recession to end. It won’t!

  9. david baker said,
    April 2, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

    I could not disagree more john. I got two great contacts purely after they saw me on indiefix. The direct link to them alone justifies me being there.

    As for finding your precise audience, totally agree with that. Thats where I really bring back revenue, affiliates partners that have traffic that are close to my market. And I dont get my audience via twitter, or facebook, thats where I build relationships

    Lets agree to disagree

    :0)

  10. Buzz McLaughlin said,
    April 3, 2010 @ 9:52 am

    Thanks to all who are joining the conversation. That’s what I was hoping.

    Some specific responses:

    Laure– It seems to me that it’s much to early in this exploding digital era to dismiss the potential of filmmakers getting into the e-commerce act themselves. I agree with David that the verdict is definitely still out on our potential to change the rules of the game. Also, the one-year term with Netflix is still a problem if you give them your film during the first year when the vast % of the action will happen. Sure, it gets the film out there, but don’t you pretty much give away the store in the process?

    David– Watch out! With 50% of Netflix’s catalog now available for streaming who’s to say that they won’t be soon knocking on your door, if they aren’t already moving in. GB is the size of CA (let alone a population filled with smart film lovers) and don’t think for a minute that they aren’t licking their chops to get their teeth into your market. Also, you say “We will never earn from all these platforms as filmmakers.” But doesn’t that also put you in the cynical camp of concluding prematurely that its hopeless? Of course, you’re not alone in thinking that we should never expect to make anything off our films–apparently it’s a pretty widespread belief–so if we’re going to “think outside the box” shouldn’t we be questioning these established models and make a concerted effort to change the financial rules of the game more in faor of filmmakers when the window of opportunity is still open to us? And I’m not talking about getting rich here, but having our work at least help sustain our careers as artists–make a contribution to that sustainability. I do concede that exposure for a filmmaker with his or her early work can help launch a career and therefore might be a good “investment.” However, to join the fray with the mindset that your films will never return you a nickel seems somehow self-defeating. Is that the way painters feel when they put a price tag on their works and expect to sell them? Why should we think any differently?

    Bill– Welcome to the club. I agree the distributor does get in the way, but dealing directly with Netflix as filmmakers…? It would take strength in numbers. And yes, there is enough money to go around, but that’s always been the case. The problem is that those in control think they should have it all.

    Angelo– I totally agree about the career building point, but the question is sustainability. How do you make it to film #2, 3, and 4 and beyond if you don’t at least have your work contribute to costs and supporting you as an artist? Does filmmaking remain just a hobby with all of us having to have a “real” job forever to keep it going? And is that realistic if you are envisioning making a film that’s going to take you months to make? How long can you last in those circumstances…?

    Charles– My question to you is (as David suggests), how do we keep the lights on if filmmaking is going to be more than a hobby? And I’m not talking about a broad audience necessarily, but the audience that’s a good fit for my films. You seem to be coming from the perspective of someone who sees his future as entering the film industry in the traditional way, with early work hopefully landing you the big payday eventually. Nothing wrong with that. But I’m not thinking in terms of that kind of career track when I talk about getting films out there and having them help bring in dollars. I’m more interested in finding a way to sustain my career making my kind of films for an audience that loves my kind of work–not from inside the “system” that will inevitably take control of my career and my content (regardless of my “success” as a filmmaker), but from my own “studio” above my garage where I can write and put together the projects I feel compelled to create on my own terms. And my dilemma (and I know I’m not alone here) is that by giving my films away perpetually for free I don’t how I’ll ever get there. “Free” has become a habit and it’s only getting more deeply engrained in the minds of the public–especially when it concerns the Internet. From my perspective, therefore, it’s counterproductive when filmmakers themselves are fanning the flames of that trend.

    John– I agree that building demand is one of the keys. With quality work to back it up. It’s adding another whole set of plays to the playbook, but I think that’s our reality if we ever hope to sustain our careers.

    So the dilemma remains: exposure vs. sustainability vs. keeping control vs. making at least some return from our work. We need to keep talking to each other and wrestling with this. Thanks, guys.

  11. Zev Robinson said,
    April 3, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    Anyone read Down and Dirty Pictures re the origins of Miramax, Sundance and the indie films of the 80’s? The form may have changed but, as you say Buzz, the dilemma remains the same, and probably has been the same since the first person charged for a painting or song.

  12. Obhi Chatterjee said,
    April 3, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    Very interesting article & comments. Want to back up David’s comments.

    Our first feature is also with IndieFlix (great company btw: by filmmakers for filmmakers). It’s also on Amazon/CreateSpace. These are non-exclusive, global deals, even though Amazon limits itself to the US for VoD. There’s also a free version on the company’s website and the film, soundtrack album and book are open to personal copying.

    Happy to have it on other platforms too: poorer percentage often compensated by higher sales volume. We’ve explained the economics behind the ‘ubiquity-based’ business model on the production company’s website: http://www.innereye.eu .

    The ‘artificial scarcity’ model outlined by John just wouldn’t work for our film, which is based on a pretty specialised form: a kind of cross between ballet and opera in Bengali. So the demand is widely dispersed all over the world and it would cost a fortune to advertise widely enough to ‘create the demand’.

    Currently preparing a proposal for the next two films, which we’ll probably make back-to-back, using the first one as an illustration of what we can do, both in terms of production and of audience penetration. So the business model is medium-term and for the three films (which will form a trilogy, hopefully in time for the 150th birth anniversary of the author next year) … which comes back to what Angelo said. That said, the business model doesn’t rely only on revenues from the sale of the films.

    Best wishes

    Obhi

  13. John W. Bosley said,
    April 3, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

    I think what I’ve been commenting about on this blog and else where on the issue isn’t so much an answer to the problem but a big question. See, it’s ok, if you have to, to use platforms like Netflix, indieflix, amazon, etc. to connect, if that is the only option out there that you can come up with. While you’re at it, and you want to just use it for exposure only, then just drop the whole entire film on YouTube, for FREE! Yes, drop the entire film on YouTube, the second largest search engine on the internet, and get a ton of exposure. But, at the end, if we have to get to the point where we see the idea of going totally in the black in order to get exposure it is a sign that we need to stop, and ask how to do change this.

    This FREE mentality will destroy the film business. Now I can see dropping segments, shorts, trailers, etc. on the net to build interest, but the whole thing, we need to show caution about. Now, I’m criticizing myself, when I make these complaints. Anyone who knows me, knows that I let the internet audience see AMNESIA for free for the week of Rebfest, and a week after that as well. over 3,000 people saw it for free. And the trade off was that Yahoo News ran a new article on Rebfest and feature AMNESIA (and Angelo Bell’s BHC and Renounce and other filmmakers films as well). We all got some exposure by showing some stuff for free. But then I had the option of pulling it afterwards. It created temporary buzz.

    What I did learn was that I came pretty close, not sure exactly how close, but pretty close to getting the exposure I wanted. But I have come to the realization that finding the right way to get adequate exposure is something more important than film making. I have spent that last year and a half searching for the answers. I think that is something we all need to do.

    Fact is this, other filmmakers can settle for Netflix, indieflix, etc, etc. as the answer to their problem, but it’s not good enough for me. It’s not that I’m selfish, it’s that my rational mind will to settle for an answer that doesn’t add up.

    ps. Everyone needs to watch the video that Ted Hope posted on his blog of a speaker who was speaking to Canadian filmmakers. It’s a real eye opener.

  14. david baker said,
    April 4, 2010 @ 7:19 am

    Hi Buzz,

    You completely misunderstand me. :0)

    I dont see it as hopeless at all! If anythig its the opposite. I am 1000% positive about the future! However, I just don’t see the models that most film makers still hang on to as the way. We can’t turn back history. The problem is the changes with consumers, not the infrastucture. In my opionion.

    Look at the time of cinema, then when the video market started. I saved all my money to rent or buy videos as a kid. It was a “treat” to be able to rent or buy a movie. Now, games, 24/7 free content everywhere, people are not going to pay in the future whether we like it or not. Content is not a “treat” anymore.

    On the big opening blockbuster yes, but I personally don’t see people paying for small films in the mainstream. So if I am cynical, I am cynical about what consumers will buy and won’t by, not about whether changes will happen with distributors,content platforms. Its not even cynicism, its waking up to the reality of what is going to happen.

    However, I am not going to waist my energy on wondering if people will buy my “content” in the future, I am moving in different areas, planning on different strategies, working out what they “Will buy” or what they will “Buy into”. My recent sales this weekend have been the biggest I have ever had. And 50% of those people were given my film for free, not they are paying £14.99 for a physical item.

    I don’t have the answers like a lot of others, so many filmmakers seem to know what is the way and not. I dont have that wisdom. I try something, make a mistake, dont try that road again, etc. Fast process of trial and error. I just know what is slowly working for me.

    I am content to just work towards it. Experiment. But I do beleive in one fundimental thing, “Exposure” On a small scale I have tested it, and it works for me. Multiple it by higher levels, add a few years, it works 100% for me to make a living from my creativity. And a good living. So I don’t waist all my energy on other areas. I have personally found a way I can see working.

    I have given away downloads for free for “exposure”, and already people have
    came back and they are pre-ordering these bullet flash drives. Indicating they will buy into my next film. So I dont go by what people tell me what is right or wrong, I go by testing what works for me and what does not work for me.

    I cant get on a fight for our rights bandwagon to beat the estblished models, as that is not really where the full problem lies, in my opinion. Unless you are on a platform and you see that your film has made $1m, but you only get $1000 back to you. Fair enough. That corruption needs to be addressed. Thats when we need to get together as filmmakers and fight to change things.

    As I said, if we find our exact audiences, gather our mailing lists, make good work for our niche, I really dont see a problem for the future. Its only a problem if we don’t FULLY accept what its happening, adapt fast, and move on. As Ted Hope said “Lets not blow it” I think a lot of us will! I think MOST filmmakers will.

    I think a lot of filmmakers are doomed if they dont accept, and adapt FAST! As for on platforms again for free, or bi-torrent, I can’t stress this enough, the more expsoure I get, the better I do, the bigger the mailing I am building. I see the future how it can work for me. And its not in the old models at all.

    On a final note. We are all “talking too much”. We all have to be “document” regular what we are doing. Whether text blogs, video, whatever. We are speculating too much, if we all just “do it”, and report back what does work for us, what does not, then that will really help us all.

    Some of us obviously have been through the process and found what “does not work”, like you are doing with this great blog. And I was there with my first industry film. We all know what does not work. But I think we all have to push ahead and start reporting about “what does” work for us. There is way too much “predicting” what lies ahead.

    So many people are saying that you should do this, dont do that. Where in hells name do they get all this wisdom, when we really have not fully explored alternative models. I mean the web is still virginal. I think we need to make more work, and experiment in new areas with very cheap films, and in 5 years, we will all know what works and does not.

    I am so positive about the future, but I am not positive about the old traditional models. Yes, you are right there.

    cheers

    David

  15. Phil J Webb said,
    April 4, 2010 @ 7:44 am

    I’m on the outside looking in, as to say I am not a film maker, but a writer. Is it possilbe for the Film industry tell Netfilx that they can’t sell on demand unless there is an additional fee to the filmmakers? If Netflix says, no then the Big filmmakers say, fine no movies at all and you will go out of business.
    Just a thought, I know there is a lot more too it than that, but that’s what I feel.
    Happy Film making

  16. Scilla Andreen said,
    April 28, 2010 @ 2:34 am

    Great post! I think about this all the time. All of the dialogue on this subject is exactly what we deal with every day. I am a filmmaker who got VERY frustrated 5 years ago and decided to launch IndieFlix. I met with everyone I could in distribution and my final meeting with Peter Broderick made me realize it was up to the filmmaker to find a solution. I know for a fact the basic Indieflix infrastructure, the model itself is rock solid, scalable and can be very successful for filmmakers to sell and deliver their films, but it’s not enough. You can have access to every screen on the planet – paid, free, ad revenue etc. It doesn’t mean anyone will see your film. It doesn’t mean you will make money. The platform is not the issue. The marketing and inundation is the challenge. How do we motivate our fans to watch our film and to help us market? How do we make them care? What do they get out of it?

    We are now our own gatekeepers with new challenges. We need to keep our rights and help each other market. This is the direction I am taking IndieFlix as well as launching totally out of the box revenue streams to get people watching. We have a game we are launching that will bring hard dollars to filmmakers. We have a subscription / membership we’ve recently launched to invite users to watch and support indie filmmakers. Every time a user watches a film 2/3 of the way through the filmmaker is paid a royalty. I have the privilege of being in a position to work with many talented filmmakers who experiment with us and try new things and then I am able to share that information with other filmmakers. Together we are stronger than apart. I’m a bit tired. I hope I make sense. I’ll come back and add more later. Thank you. I love this conversation. It’s like a puzzle. Together we are figuring out how to monetize our films and get to people to watch.

  17. Samantha said,
    April 29, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    I was recently reading about how a lot of the bigger studios are making Netflix hold back titles almost a month before release in hopes of boosting sales, but for most people that isn’t going to work. Everyone on here is right, it doesn’t matter how you do it, but you have to build buzz for your movie. There are so many ways to get a movie now that people only buy movies they really want to own. If a movie isn’t available for them to watch legally online, or through a rental, then they will find it online illegally and watch it. If it is a good movie, then they may buy it.

    As a consumer I say the more grassroots you can be with the campaign the better, we like to buy things that we feel connected to. I am far more likely to check out a movie or a TV show staring an actor I follow on twitter because they have talked about filming it on twitter, they have posted pics, and they have shared their excitment about the project with me. Obviously this works better if you are well know, but the principle still applies.

    A movie I can think of that did this well was “Repo: The Genetic Opera” they had some familiar names in it, but no real stars. They had a huge online thing going, and traveled around attending prescreenings of the movie with the fans, and the fans told people about it, and promoted it on youtube, and facebook and anywhere else they had a voice.

  18. Buzz McLaughlin said,
    May 4, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Thanks to everyone contributing to the conversation.

    David– I hear you. I just don’t see why it isn’t reasonable to think that we should be able to at least return our investment with our films from the sale (in any and all formats) of the films themselves. If people like our work (a big if I know) then what’s wrong with asking them to pay a reasonable price for it. I like the new Subaru Forester, but I can’t walk into the dealership, take a set of keys off the wall and drive one away and claim it for my own without writing a check for the privilege. Why should films be any different? As you can see, you haven’t quite convinced me otherwise, but please keep trying. Also, I think we do need to talk and share, mainly because as we start new projects in this present age it’s critical to have a distribution/marketing game plan or strategy mapped out from the very beginning–how we’re going to tackle the back end, even as it shifts and changes as a project develops. Going in blind is no longer an option. So let’s keep talkin’! I think it helps–at least it helps me.

    Phil– I love your comment because it is so clear-headed. Us filmmakers so often get caught up in the details and miss what’s staring us in the face and you state the obvious so clearly. And now with Netflix announcing they’re going global with their streaming, it’s suddenly gotten even scarier. As you hint at–there is strength in numbers. Is it time for all of us to come together, stop being in competition with each other, and form a front to be reckoned with…?

    Scilla– Couldn’t agree more that the key is marketing and getting the word out about our films. Jon Reiss is right when he says we need to think about marketing/distribution from the get go and that it has to be folded into our job description including needing to add from the start a producer of marketing/distribution to our team. And you along with others like Ted Hope are starting to suggest that “strength in numbers” and “organizing” might be something to finally look at–not as separate orgs/companies all trying to do the same thing and offer basically the same services, but as one big org or guild representing all of us so we can be taken seriously and have some real power at the negotiating table. As Phil suggests above, if we were a united front in a position to say no to Netflix if a decent deal were not offered, what would happen…? That was the situation 90 years ago when the Hollywood biz tried to take over the theatre and The Dramatist Guild was born (see my post “what history can teach filmmakers” if you’re interested in how that worked out). It’ll be interesting to see how bad it will have to get before filmmakers start getting serious about this. Regardless, I love your honesty and straight talk–something we all need to encourage among ourselves. If we keep it up (easier said than done given our busy lives) just maybe we’ll figure this out and one day come out smiling at the other end.

  19. Buzz McLaughlin said,
    May 4, 2010 @ 11:36 am

    Samantha– Thanks for the comment. You are definitely on the money when it comes to filmmakers having to build demand for their films. A tough job, but doable over time–at least for films that truly have something to offer to one or more niche audiences. Also, the studios are just starting to wake up to Netflix’s dominance and their latest “pushing back” is really the first signs that Netflix is ultimately vulnerable. And with their streaming now going global, this resistance to their dominance will only multiply. It’s clear to me that it’s the streaming technology that ultimately will be the big game changer in the industry. How it all plays out is still up for speculation, but there’s no way that the industry (including our wing of the biz) is going to let one company control most of non-theatrical film distribution and hence the vast percentage of profit to be made. Most likely Netflix, given the degree to which they are entrenched in the minds of cinema lovers, will not go away, but the deals struck with content providers will change considerably. The coming months are going to be very interesting, especially as the studios begin to unveil their own alternatives to the Netflix model.

  20. Jonathan M said,
    September 25, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

    How’s it going, I really like this conversation. I’ve been doing research trying to crack my brain to figure out how to make profits making films. My conclusion from reading and surfing the net, the best answer I’ve heard is that the way the studios made their fortunes were by finding investors in the early days. The studios make money nowadays through their media libraries and distributions deals, but in the beginning they used investors. I’ve heard that a good way to start is to find investors such as dentists, doctors, or even real estate groups is in the yellow pages and just start calling, meeting, networking, etc…whatever it takes! This is a business and producers have to sell and pitch their movies to investors. Eventually after you’ve made several movies you can profit from distribution deals, but that will take time. There’s no profits in the beginning, but intellectual property and real estate are the best way to make money The stock market, bonds, mutual bonds…all of that stuff is not worth it. Write a script, copyright it, sell it and make money…everyone makes money selling books, cds, etc…marketing is the key.

  21. Dan McGuire said,
    June 22, 2011 @ 11:01 am

    Distrify is a game changer. Hopefully it will be a netflix-killer for indies.

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