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'Precious Little Things' - Video On Demand Distribution Reality

Hello Shooters,

Here is some straight up, 100% accurate VOD distribution advice if you're looking at using Amazon Video Direct (Prime) or Vimeo on Demand.

My name is Al Carretta and I run the Nightpiece Film Festival in the Edinburgh Fringe. I also constantly produce short and feature content.
In August I completed my 10th indie feature since 2010 'Precious Little Things' (cast partially through Shooting People in March) and in late September released it through Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand, ignoring US distribution interest (which incidentally continues).

I turned PLT (86 mins) around for less than £2k including the cost of the distribution elements described here.

If you've got Prime, have a watch:

If you want to read more about 'Precious Little Things' and how I produce, have a read of the latest issue of Digital Filmmaker:

If you've got feature content, both channels are definitely worth pursuing, however,there is some key tech focused admin involved. Prime/Amazon Video Direct is FREE, however, the one caveat on Prime is 'Closed Captions' ($1 per min via = PLT cost $86/86min) - no CC, no Prime. You can do them yourself but it's cost ineffective if you're not skilled at transcribing and don't have the software - you'll be there for days.

On Vimeo you don't need CC but you do need to be a PRO member to sell your video. This costs $199 if you're upgrading from Basic membership but there's a pro-rata reduction if you upgrade from Plus. Key on Vimeo (assuming in UK) is to fill out the form relating to your US Tax ID else they'll take 28% of any income. Vimeo pays out monthly to Paypal on whatever you've made and is overall a far smoother process. For Amazon Video Direct to pay you need to break $100 in sales.

So, is it worth it?

No brainer if you don't expect any significant return on a nominal outlay.
$285 to put a feature to market on 2x respected VOD platforms is nothing.
Do the CC yourself and ignore Vimeo it really is $0 with Amazon Prime.
You won't get close to iTunes Rental/App Store on double this figure and you'll give 30% to Apple for the privelege.

On IMDb, having the instant connection to Prime via the movie poster is an excellent marketing tool.

However, to put things into cold brutal perspective the total return on streams, sales and rentals via Prime since release on September 9 equates to about $38.57 with a total of 13,411 minutes streamed. This equates to about 150 views of the film; absolutely nothing but with no additional marketing spend you can't expect any more.

On Vimeo PLT has sold 3 copies since September 9 bringing in a whopping
$8.68. So, another 30,000 minutes of streaming for PLT on Prime and it might break $100.

And that's the brutal reality of no-budget distribution. When you've only got nothing to play with, it's very difficult to get much more than nothing back.

Keep Filming!

Al Carretta
Director, Nightpiece Media / Nightpiece Film Festival

  • Hi Al,
    Firstly thank you for your insights, facts and figures, really honest and open information sharing, invaluable and very greatly appreciated. Really surprised that no one has followed up on your posting (at least openly on SP forum). Unfortunately too many people keep all their cards held so closely to their chests, as if by sharing experience they will fail to keep their competitive edge, a practice that is both narrow minded and selfish, so kudos to you Al!
    I have been making indie films for decades now, found some success with distribution both here and internationally, but the market is constantly changing, rules that were once set in stone have softened or completely dissipated, tried and tested marketing strategies now no longer work, sales and promotional methods have evolved incredibly fast now that the internet has really become a major part in sales and promotion. Having fallen foul of the BBFC in the past and suffered heavy financial losses and sales because of that, I wondered how you managing the BBFC? They had a one size fits all system (don't know if that has changed recently), as in films with huge 100m budgets were charged the same fees for submission as micro budget indie films made with budgets that could only afford to cover bus fares, food and on a prayer, which frankly was ridiculously disproportionate and onerous, since their fees where prohibitively expensive,
    they were also attempting to control/censor films distributed solely digitally on-line, something that only North Korea would have a chance of pulling off, but hey, I fully appreciate their very real fear, that they are begging to loose control and therefore could soon become obsolescent. Under the circumstances, if you wish to message me off SP I would completely understand, but a response would be very greatly appreciated please? I have just completed a new indie feature and also am also nearing completion of a feature length documentary, both will be debuting at markets and festivals early next year and your insights into any recent marketing and sales trends and successes would be very greatly appreciated. Shared information would be reciprocated,
    I am always on the look out for new alliances as only by sharing experiences can independent filmmakers have a chance of prospering and competing with the huge corporations that presently are the gate keepers.
    Either way...once again kudos for sharing, well done and the very best of luck with your latest film projects.
    Regards Ray Brady

    10 months ago
  • Hi Ray,

    Thankyou for your comments and feedback; I’m glad you found the information in my post of interest.

    As stated in my first post, this is straight up, 100% accurate VOD distribution advice if you're looking at or using Amazon Video Direct (Prime) or Vimeo on Demand.

    To answer your question about how I am managing the BBFC requirements, and to elaborate on the situation at large, online, as things stand in 2017, they (the BBFC) aren’t relevant to the situation all the time the VoD platform you sign up with is based outside of the UK.

    In this case both Vimeo and Amazon agreements cite U.S. law and apply their own respective content guidelines so these are the gatekeepers to align your content with.

    According to BBFC spec they mention that Amazon Video Direct / Amazon Prime uses their BBFC Digital Video ratings but this (so far) doesn’t reflect in additional costs to distributor and would appear to be on a film by film basis.

    Film ratings in the US are a voluntary system (Motion Picture Association of America) and weigh heavily with marketing campaigns (e.g. buzz happens when an NC-17 rated film does big money) but you can go unrated with
    no issue as so many films do.

    For those who might not be aware, for commercial UK theatrical and DVD/Blu-Ray releases etc. BBFC classification is a legal requirement and financial barrier to entry in the marketplace and will be for the forseeable future.

    If I wanted to burn money and have the BBFC ‘Digital Video’ rating on ‘Precious Little Things’ it would cost at least £337.10 (86mins) according to their 2018 tariff calculator but there is no requirement for it and on current sales, no value in it's classification. The VOD operator in question also needs to be licensed by the BBFC to carry these ratings and there is clearly no necessity for all operators to do this.

    Price structure on the BBFC remains cost ineffective for a no budget feature seeking a theatrical or DVD release. At 86mins ‘Precious Little Things’ would cost at least £878.84 on the 2018 tariff to rate. I do note, however, if you get a digital rating this cost can get offset against theatrical or DVD/Blu-Ray costs.

    The one situation lots of UK filmmakers / general public at large aren’t aware of is the power to screen a given film in a Cinema actually lies with the local Council authority, who can ignore the BBFC’s decision at any time and revise the rating. This means you can approach a UK council directly for permission to screen a film for a public audience without the involvement of the BBFC or even after rejection by them.

    I hope that bit of insight helps.

    Keep filming!

    Al Carretta
    Director, Nightpiece Media / Nightpiece Film Festival

    10 months ago