Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Video and Hulu – these services are instantly recognisable brands and powerhouses within the VOD (Video on Demand) space. After attending one of the keynote talks at this year’s BVE entertainment technology show, it got me thinking about the future filmmakers still at college, for whom our connect2 equipment booking software has been developed. How are they going to release their upcoming features?
Even though it’s fun to talk about blockbuster productions, independent filmmakers have always had the talent to produce outstanding movies. Remember, Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Kevin Smith (Dogma) and Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) all started off in this way. Students using connect2 to book and organise their next shoot might be using the equipment to produce the next ‘Clerks’ or other cult classic, so it’s interesting to look at the distribution choices they have.
At the moment, there are two distinct ways for a production company to distribute films. They could either release the movie theatrically, or allow the picture to be streamed via a VOD service. Of course taking the traditional route of a theatre release is entirely feasible. But for first time directors, creating an independent movie and distributing it through one of the streaming services is a great way to get your film exposed to the right demographic. So what exactly does VOD involve?
VOD is a platform that allows you to stream or download content to any sort of smart device, without the restrictions that would usually apply with traditional cinema (i.e. having to watch a movie at a specific time).
Thoughts of funding and finding the right audience are never far off the agenda for budding filmmakers. Over the past few years though, streaming services are looking to take on the challenges that might be holding them back. It’s no coincidence that some of the major players at the Sundance Film festival are no longer based in Hollywood. Both Amazon and Netflix attend these festivals regularly – they are willing to take the risk and invest in independent movies that could lead to such highly acclaimed successes as ‘Paterson’ and ‘The Big Sick’. They also have extremely deep pockets, with Netflix reporting to have around $8 billion to spend on new content this year.
So, you’ve now gone through the painstaking hours and have finally created your own independent flick; how do you now get it out there in the streaming domain? Here are some points that may help you:
Step 1 – Become the festival darling
Movies like Clerks and Reservoir Dogs didn’t just become overnight hits. They went through the different festivals to build the ‘buzz’. Once your movie hits this reputation, Netflix and Amazon will have to listen!
Step 2 – Work on your pitch
If your movie is spotted by one of the major streaming services, they might invite you to pitch your film. If this is the case, remember to refine your presentation. It’s good to keep this question at the back of your mind when working on your pitch – ‘How is the streaming service going to benefit from my movie?’
Step 3 – Get a response
Usually it will take a few weeks for the streaming service to come back to you, since they are going to be viewing other directors’ work as well. However, if they come back and it’s good news, make sure that you’re ready for the delivery process.
So are there any downsides to taking the VOD route? Given the recent news about the Cannes Film Festival snubbing non-theatrical movies, as well as legendary director Steven Spielberg not wanting Netflix movies to have Oscar recognition – you might feel this could potentially be the fall of VOD. However, these stories should be taken with a pinch of salt. There is a wave of fantastic new directors that are making their mark within the VOD space. So you can still aim high when opting for this route to release. The opportunity for exposure is massive and participating in festivals remains a great way to set you on this path.