Posted by Jim on Thursday, October 06, 2011
"So you wanna DIY your film release?
Reasons why this is a good idea permeate the Internet. Most of them center on the premise that a project’s best case scenario consists of low six-figure revenue from a distributor who uses accounting tricks to hide any further monies due and who maintains full format rights for the foreseeable future. So the thinking goes, a filmmaker should skip traditional distribution, or only use select portions of it (e.g., DVD or foreign rights), in favor of a DIY release that returns the same level of revenues and allows for retention of format rights.
Control of distribution shifts to people who know the movie best, and fractionalization of format rights creates revenue potential in the same ballpark as a traditional distribution deal. However, this alluring picture obscures the two main cons of implementing a DIY movie release.
Con #1: A DIY release involves supreme amounts of time. In the case of a hit (extremely rare), more than enough money will be made to compensate for this time. However, without a hit, a filmmaker will spend many many months, if not years, trying to push audiences toward his or her film in its various formats, regardless of the number of PMDs (producers of marketing and distribution) hired.
In the case of a film garnering publicity on the festival circuit (but never to be a financial hit), this means getting that all-important next project off the ground will be postponed to a time when people are consumed by a new batch of festival favorites. And if a film is unable to generate festival buzz, moving on to the next project ASAP becomes imperative. In either case, the victory of holding on to format rights appears rather pyrrhic.
Con #2: Low barriers to entry for film production and self-distribution create a galaxy of competition. A DIY release does not magically confer better odds of being seen. In fact, during any given year, thousands of other filmmakers are simultaneously pushing to turn their control over distribution into profit.
Additionally, DIYers have to battle against larger and much more capitalized specialty distributors ranging from the studios to larger indie labels. These entities use DIY tactics incredibly effectively, as it is their job, year in and year out, to save money for their corporate parents/investors. It is not unusual to read an account of a specialty label’s marketing tactics and think you have been transported to the pages of a DIY releasing manual...."