Another piece from Anne Thompson at Variety about the changing distribution strategies indie producers/distributors are pursuing:
[F]ilmmakers with an easily defined niche and some marketing flair can still assemble a distribution plan. After doc “Beautiful Losers” debuted at SXSW in March, the filmmakers considered traditional offers from distribs but decided to release the doc on their own. Sidetrack Films partnered with Nike Sportswear to sponsor art workshops, and a shoe and apparel company helped pay for its Aug. 8 launch at New York’s IFC Center and subsequent rollout to four more markets.
Longtime fest film seller John Sloss‘ Cinetic Media also entered the fray this year with the Digital Rights Management group, led by former SXSW film fest director Matt Dentler, who is taking on some of the thousands of titles that are undervalued and haven’t sold after playing the fest circuit. Cinetic will take rights exclusively as a distributor does, and share all revenues 50/50, with no advance.
Filmmakers don’t have to give away the store with DVD deals anymore, but can pursue online distribution via Amazon and a host of rival online indie distribs, from iArthouse and iTunes to IndiePix, Jaman, Hulu, Vudu, Cinequest, Spout and GreenCine.
Laure Parsons at Infinicine points out that holding on to digital rights is not necessarily the path to riches when most people are still watching DVDs:
It may seem like a coup to retain digital rights if you do a DVD deal but you may be shooting yourself in the foot. A good distributor will manage your digital rights in concert with the DVD to make sure you see the maximum revenue on the balance sheet.
The film business has always been a high-risk venture, but now at the onset of a deal, the willingness to give is at an all-time low. Filmmakers want to hold on to whatever they can, in hopes they can parcel off rights for some benefit in case one or another distribution partner fails. Distributors want every right, so that they can consolidate their campaigns and also have different avenues to fall back on if one strategy fails. The only protection you have as a filmmaker ultimately is to know who you’re getting in bed with and their track record- or to do it yourself, but armed with a lot of knowledge and some good consultants.