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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Film Arts Workshop on Digital Distribution + Marketing

Thursday's workshop at Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco was a lot of fun. We had a dozen participants, and two guest speakers: documentary filmmaker Jim Kerns, and distributor Alex Afterman of Heretic Films. Both were *hugely popular* with the students.

Jim talked about his experience selling DVDs of his doc "Destination: Bangalore." He has targeted universities, since the movie is about outsourcing and globalization. He has been disappointed by an arrangement that has put his movie on Jaman, where it is one of the most popular titles; he has seen no payments so far. His next movie is about Shell Oil's attempt to build a pipeline in the northwest of Ireland, and the towns that aren't wild about the prospect.

Alex said that shelf space for indie DVDs at big retailers like BestBuy has been getting "tighter and tighter." But he said he is optimistic that "digital distribution is the future of independent film." Selling DVDs involves manufacturing costs, graphic design, the risk of returns. A $19.95 DVD might generate $8.50 for Heretic, which then takes out its operating expenses and does a 50/50 split with the filmmaker.

Digital may produce more, even at lower sticker prices, he said. "I call it 'closing the loop.' There are all these social networks where people congregate who might be interested in your movie. They can immediately click and buy the film [digitally], and it's easy and affordable. That is where the future of independent film is going."

One movie Heretic distributes is Joe Swanberg's 'Kissing on the Mouth.' He said that an Internet video series that Swanberg made for, "Young American Bodies," was watched by more than half a million people. That helped to propel sales of the 'Kissing' DVD.

I'm talking with people now about doing the workshop in other places; let me know if you'd like to bring it to a town near you. Here are the slides (if you re-use them in some way, please credit CinemaTech and include the site's URL):

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  • For clarification's sake, "Destination Bangalore" is distributed on Jaman through Cinequest, so all the revenue from thsi film would be through Cinequest's agreement with Jim.

    I'm so glad to see that digital distribution is finally starting to come to light as a viable distribution!

    By Blogger Danielle Farrar, at 11:51 AM  

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