There continues to be even more conversation about the changing models of digital distribution and their implications for independent film. A number of people in my daily blog reads cited Brooks Barnes’ New York Times article about new distribution models and the challenges that indie filmmakers have in reaching niche audiences. Specifically, the discussion focuses on the decision of many filmmakers to bypass the traditional plan of playing to theaters first before going online or on-demand. Meanwhile, Ted Hope continues to discuss his optimism that indie filmmakers can create “event” films that will inspire conversation and ongoing engagement, long after the film has screened, whether through transmedia storytelling, or through other forms of participation.
NewTeeVee reports that the agreement between YouTube and Sundance to offer streaming rentals of some recent Sundance faves seems to have been a “failure,” as the five available films received a combined 1,500 views. At $3.99/per view, that works out to about $1,200 per movie. There are other factors to consider here: many users may have regarded YouTube as an undesirable venue for watching feature-length indie films. It’s also worth considering the idea that these YouTube screenings could serve as promotion for future distribution, especially if there was strong word-of-mouth for some of the films. I didn’t have time to see any of the five, which may suggest that the viewing “window” of 48 hours was too short. One of the complaints about theatrical is that indie films are often only given a day or two to build an audience in theaters before being pulled. Films shown online may need similar time to build an audience. Just a hunch.
Via Scott Macauley, a reminder that Cinetic Film Buff, the distribution label for Cinetic Rights Management, has launched. The site helps direct you to independent films, such as Lemonade, Owning the Weather, and Big Fan, that are available online or on-demand. Macauley also points to the site’s blog, which covers issues pertaining to digital distribution.
But as some of these conversations continue to play out (and even though I’d like to see many of these distribution models work), I’m beginning to find Deenah Vollmer’s observation about Sundance lingo a little more convincing, especially her redefinition of “cinematic rebellion,” It is “the theme of Sundance this year and apparently means, at least some of the time, what happens when reasonably known filmmakers make medium-budget films using A-list actors about hegemonic countercultural figures or people who smoke and swear a lot.” This should not imply that there aren’t many truly great indie films playing there this year, but that the attempt to reclaim the language of “rebellion” sometimes seems to ring a little false. Maybe we need a new Devil’s Dictionary for the entertainment industry.