Tip of the Week: Think of Digital Platforms as Stores
Orly Ravid, founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), a nonprofit educational and services organization dedicated to indie film distribution. She has twelve years of experience working in distribution, acquisitions and sales at companies including Wolfe Releasing and Senator Entertainment. TFC’s first digital book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, will be available in September.
The business of film distribution is predicated on being in the know of some basic information, and then trading on it. I founded The Film Collaborative in 2010 to educate filmmakers about distribution and facilitate it to the extent needed, without taking rights and without padding middlemen. We monetize transparency, not secrecy. I started working on digital distribution deals back in 2004 and created the Digital Distribution Guide that is now part of TFC’s Distripedia, an online resource tool for filmmakers. The industry and filmmakers are finally starting to focus on digital now that revenues are picking up and DVD is truly, undeniably dying. But the digital distribution world still confounds almost everyone. So, each week I will be sharing a little piece of wisdom relating to digital distribution — we’re calling it a Tip of the Week — with the readers of #ArtistServices. So here it goes, my inaugural tip for this week:
THINK OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS AS STORES
The first order of business is to simply think of digital distribution platforms as if they are retail storefronts. It should help you make decisions about which ones not to waste too much time on, which to make sure you get into, and how directly and at what cost.
Digital platforms are not distributors; they are places where film consumers shop (e.g. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube's rental channels, Hulu, Netflix). WalMart and Best Buy have their digital stores too, as does Blockbuster still.
A consumer's credit card is already on file (e.g. iTunes) or they're already a subscriber (e.g. Netflix). In any case, a billing mechanism is established and a non-issue.
We can talk all day long about filmmakers setting up their own websites, and that’s valuable to be sure — for some more than others (think name-brand filmmakers like Kevin Smith). But not every filmmaker has enough traffic flowing to their site or a film that will drive a major volume of sales that way. And not every film lover is going take the time to find you or entrust their credit card info to you.
So if you are at that point where people know you already -- and want to buy your work no matter what -- then all the more reason to focus on direct sales and/or have an affiliate relationship between your site and Amazon, for example. But, for most filmmakers, being discoverable in the top digital "stores" is key.
Clearly, there is much to discuss and in the coming months we’ll dig deep into the details of digital, what rights are worth what, which platforms are working for which films, what to watch out for in deals, what to do on your own to work your film and let it work for you. And it’s important not only to be in the know now, but to anticipate the future.