Indie filmmakers, shunted by Hollywood, are being forced to move to the self-distribution path with their films. The lack of interest from Hollywood, thanks to lackluster theatre sales (blame it on what you wish) has driven filmmakers to discover their own audiences in areas never previously explored.
In a recent issue of Filmmaker Magazine, Jay Craven, writer/director of the film “Disappearances”, wrote about his experience with the self-distribution of his film in rural areas – a demographic traditionally ignored by Hollywood, who shops their high-brow films to city audiences, where profits are almost guaranteed.
We needed cash, so while we waited for movie theaters to clear their schedules, we started playing town halls, granges and old opera houses. You can rent most of them for $50 and set up the show in less than an hour. And you take home all the cash at the end of the night.
Craven and co. took their film around Vermont, and played the film in over one-hundred towns that, for the most part, didn’t have theatres, instead relying on community gathering points. Despite the success the film achieved, distributors were still cautious, said one:
As far as Iâ€™m concerned, thereâ€™s a brick wall eight miles outside of Manhattan. And I donâ€™t care what happens on the other side of that wall.
This isn’t the only film that has relied on the self-distribution path and found success in it though, the film “Four Eyed Monsters“, by Arin Crumley and Susan Buice, utilized the internet to attain a cult-like following. Through a massively successful video podcast and their connection to fans via social tools such as MySpace, Buice and Crumley were able to garner enough support to set up a self-distribution platform. Fans could go to the Four Eyed Monsters website and request a screening. If enough people requested a screening in a certain area, the pair would call local theatres and set up a time and date.
The success of their self distribution push won them showings at the IFC Center in New York as well as a contract with the Sundance Channel and Cinema Village (also in New York). They’ve started selling DVDs on their website, and recently at Sundance, Crumley declared his desire to make another film. They’ve showed the film in the internet virtual world “Second Life” and are continuing their video podcast.
Self-distribution is made easier by companies such as Withoutabox.com and other internet systems will become more prevalent (YouTube and Revver are already great examples, however more direct iTunes competitors will play a greater role). This independent movement will force Hollywood to de-centralize, as that is the independent advantage. We’ll see if Hollywood can learn before it is too late.