04 February 2010

Straight to Audience - Not Straight to DVD

by guest columnist Sheri Candler.  Follow her on Twitter.
As with some of the new bloggers here, I met Tyler on Twitter as part of the group of filmmakers I have been able to connect with using the platform, you know the one that everyone thinks is “dumb” and they don’t “get.” It is quite useful in finding people with similar interests and I am glad if not relieved to have found a good group of film people from all over the world who relate to this crazy, artist world that is independent filmmaking.
In a discussion group we are having on Twitter at #infdist, I brought up the point that it is a shame the term Straight to DVD has such a negative connotation; meaning that such films are somehow inferior to films shown in theaters. I think it has more to do with bigger Hollywood studios deciding that their smaller films, the lower budget genre films, don’t command as much marketing investment as the star driven vehicles and they are “dumped” straight to home video instead of screenings in theaters.  It has little to do with the quality of the film. But quality, low budget indie films get this bad rap from it as well. Home video (or DVD) is the most lucrative way of distributing independent films. Low budget films appeal to smaller, niche audiences and while financial investment can be made for an expensive theatrical release, it is more cost effective to reach the audience at home, either on DVD, Video On Demand or increasing online through digital download or streaming.
My friend and indie filmmaker Zak Forsman published a post on his blog laying out his film festival strategy and subsequent release of his two upcoming films, White Knuckles and Heart of Now. In it, he talks about his direct- to-audience release goals.  When I thought about it, this is a much better way of explaining what straight to home video is. Shaking the negative term Straight to DVD and replacing it with a term that describes the ultimate goal for indie films; delivering a film straight to the audience, without paying percentages to costly middlemen, giving up rights to the material for 20 years (a standard term in film distribution), and depending on a third party to bring the film to market (or not) is a more accurate way of describing this kind of distribution. The audience can see the film that they have been hearing about in the press or at festivals immediately instead of waiting until, or if, it comes to the town cinema. Inspired by Zak, I suggested the term be changed to Straight to Audience.
The idea seemed to be pretty popular with some of the indie filmmakers on Twitter and captures the new spirit of the indie film community, one of taking back control of the distribution process of our films instead of depending on out of date distribution methods and shady accounting practices that leave filmmakers with little perceptible return on investment. Now, for audiences to accept the term and stop thinking that anything not seen in theaters first is of lesser quality, we as filmmakers must think that way as well. Not all films have to be destined for the big screen.

The goal of a filmmaker is to tell a story to their audience with images in the best way they can. What difference does it make where they see it, what it is watched on? I know it isn’t a popular thought. “Films should be seen in a theater, on a big screen blah, blah, blah,” I can hear it now. That has more to do with ego and vanity than with telling a compelling story.  Tell a story to the audience, no matter where they see it. If it resonates, then you have succeeded. 
Even if it skips the theater.
Sheri Candler is a Los Angeles based film marketer who advises low budget filmmakers on how to find and gather an audience for their films. She has been a marketing consultant for the Santa Clarita Valley Film Festival, LosAngeles Film Festival and LA International Shorts Fest promoting both the festivals and the filmmakers using online media and social networks. She is currently representing the film YELLOWBRICKROAD  at Slamdance and helping filmmaker/author Jon Reiss promote his new book THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE. She can be reached on her website: www.shericandler.com and via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/shericand

3 comments:

Miles Maker said...

Straight to Audience! I'm arguably its #1 fan!

Having said that, I'm largely disappointed to see so few filmmakers exploring the straight-to-audience model from a tech-savvy perspective; identifying delivery strategies that put them ahead of the existing curve to satisfy the consumer's desire for accessibility with cutting edge deployment platforms.

The global mobile device audience consists of nearly 1.6 billion users. A mobile device offers a level of connectivity most of us take for granted--the mobile phone is the one item within arm's reach of nearly 90% of Americans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's the most accessible, real-time distribution mechanism in the history of media and a wide open channel to bypass costly third party middlemen while retaining content ownership.

Most filmmakers don't have a mobile website or a mobile app. They haven't optimized their existing website for mobile viewing either, despite the fact that every type of mobile interaction is on the rise as consumers looking for new things to do with their new device. Most filmmakers don't even realize some search engines exist exclusively for mobile websites; a golden opportunity to escape obscurity.

In terms of monetizing--brands are looking for opportunities to extend their reach with a higher level of engagement where the brand is secondary and the content comes first. This represents an untapped revenue stream for filmmakers, as analysts expect an 80% growth in mobile ad revenue to $3.8 billion in 2010.

The hybrid model never looked so good! It's also on the move just like audiences, so filmmakers must adapt their Art to move right along with them.

(Miles Maker is a story author, content creator and Auteur whose dynamic media ventures encompass three current web/tech sector megatrends: mobile, social, and real-time.)

Miles Maker said...

Straight to Audience! I'm arguably its #1 fan!

Having said that, I'm largely disappointed to see so few filmmakers exploring the straight-to-audience model from a tech-savvy perspective; identifying delivery strategies that put them ahead of the existing curve to satisfy the consumer's desire for accessibility with cutting edge deployment platforms.

The global mobile device audience consists of nearly 1.6 billion users. A mobile device offers a level of connectivity most of us take for granted--the mobile phone is the one item within arm's reach of nearly 90% of Americans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's the most accessible, real-time distribution mechanism in the history of media and a wide open channel to bypass costly third party middlemen while retaining content ownership.

Most filmmakers don't have a mobile website or a mobile app. They haven't optimized their existing website for mobile viewing either, despite the fact that every type of mobile interaction is on the rise as consumers looking for new things to do with their new device. Most filmmakers don't even realize some search engines exist exclusively for mobile websites; a golden opportunity to escape obscurity.

In terms of monetizing--brands are looking for opportunities to extend their reach with a higher level of engagement where the brand is secondary and the content comes first. This represents an untapped revenue stream for filmmakers, as analysts expect an 80% growth in mobile ad revenue to $3.8 billion in 2010.

The hybrid model never looked so good! It's also on the move just like audiences, so filmmakers must adapt their Art to move right along with them.

(Miles Maker is a story author, content creator and Auteur whose dynamic media ventures encompass three current web/tech sector megatrends: mobile, social, and real-time.)

pangofilms said...

Every film that comes out in a theater in NY gets a review in the NYT. If it comes out in a theater in any city, it gets a review in the local paper. That's not just free advertising, but it's also how many people still get their idea of what movies to see. Coming out in a theater gives a film cache, whether it deserves it or not.

Until there is some website, or NYT-type DVD review section, that has the same popularity and respectability as a film review of a newspaper, then straight to audience is going to be straight to very small audience.

 
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