Jamie Wilkinson is co-founder of VHX, a new streaming video platform helping filmmakers bypass the studio system to distribute DRM-free films directly to fans.
XOXOing: Video Distribution
Wants to start by talking about Glenn Beck. He’s the self-distribution story that nobody wants to talk about. Over 300,000 people pay $10/month to get his daily videos, generating gross revenues of $36,000,000 per year. Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible and Louis C.K.’s million-dollar-per-week grosses are big precedents too.
VHX does all the design, hosting and support for Indie Game’s distribution, after having been introduced by Andy Baio via Twitter. Traditional studio distribution woud have taken up to 2 years, but from Andy’s Twitter intro, Indie Game’s site was up and the movie for sale 10 days later. This led to helping making available works like Aziz Ansari’s video special.
We are living in the future, but big studios are living in the past. He references Jack Valenti’s 1982 “Boston Strangler” quote about VCRs. How many people in the room don’t have cable? More than half the hands in the room go up. (!) We’ve evolved a whole new process for discovering content, but Netflix and iTunes are still modeled on video stores.
iTunes heavily featured Indie Game, but their own website performed just as well as Apple’s influence with iTunes in terms of driving sales. The old system is fundamentally built around restriction. The film distribution process is still modeled after selling films by distributor by region. But the new system is about trust, sharing and respect. Gary Vaynerchuk’s book about the service economy shows that customer service is going to matter, and media models about restriction are in tension with that.
Financing, production and distribution are all being improved by the web, but distribution is still lagging compared to advances like Kickstarter and Final Cut Pro. One thing to walk away with: Self-distribution works. You can make enough to get by, and to fund your next project, and to buy potatoes. The cast and crew of the film have as many eyeballs and fans as any distributor could hope for, and they’re way more engaged because they don’t have loyalty to distributors, but they do have loyalty to creator and artists.
Myth 1: People won’t open their wallets. Busted! People will pay, especially since the payment experience is improving. Aziz made six figures in his first day.
Myth 2: Self-distribution and traditional distribution are mutually exclusive. Busted! Direct fan distribution is a great substitute for DVD sales. Beck added $16M in DISH Network revenues on top of his direct $36M in revenues. Louis CK and Aziz have sold their specials to TV after selling them online.
Myth 3: This only works if you’re already famous. Busted! Indie Game the movie disproves this point by building an audience through hard work and transparency online. Another reference to 1,000 true fans.
Filmmakers need to take risks and thing long-term about audience needs and retaining rights. Selling rights without thinking about options and alternatives is short-sighted. Fans have to open up their wallets more, to support artists and filmmakers.