Over the years, there have been numerous milestones in the digital filmmaking revolution. You may remember Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration (1998), a Danish movie shot with handheld consumer camcorders that inspired thousands of filmmakers to shoot low-budget features with small DV cameras. But this was nothing compared to the 2007 release of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. With the camera's full-frame sensor, filmmakers were able to create "professional-looking" movies with cameras they could purchase at a fraction of the cost of high-end digital motion-picture camera systems.
But even with the ability to produce a professional-looking movie on the cheap, trying to recoup your budget by getting your film seen by a paying audience is a whole different beast.
The most common model was to get your film into a major film festival like Sundance or SXSW, sign a small theatrical distribution deal (with a cool poster to promote it) and then enter ancillary markets like DVDs and cable. But what happens if you don't get into a major film festival or your film is hard to market? The chance of your film becoming profitable is pretty bleak. Even with an acceptance letter into Sundance with rave reviews from film festival audiences and critics, it's still going to be an uphill battle. Even Steven Spielberg says he struggled to get Lincolninto theaters.
We've been hearing for many years that the future of independent film distribution is the Internet, but due to limited bandwidth and the negative perception of watching a movie on a small screen, it has taken awhile for online distribution to take off. But with improved bandwidth speeds came the success of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and other online video sites that can display a high-quality, 1920x1080 stream on multiple devices (computer, tablet, mobile phone), as well as streaming TV-set boxes like Roku and Apple TV. It's now quite common to stream a movie, whether in your living room or on the go.
But one particular film, Some Girl(s), and a service from video-sharing site Vimeo might become the next major milestone for indie filmmakers. Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer (Party Girl) and written by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty) from his own stage play, the producers signed an exclusive deal to self-distribute their movie through Vimeo On Demand, Vimeo's new open-platform self-distribution service. Some Girl(s) stars Adam Brody, a writer traveling the country to make amends with his many ex-girlfriends, including Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Emily Watson and others. The film was shot by the busy indie DP Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station) on multiple formats and cameras, including the ARRI ALEXA, RED SCARLET and Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
VIMEO ON DEMAND
One of the largest video-sharing sites with over 18 million registered members and a global audience of more than 100 million each month, Vimeo has recently launched Vimeo On Demand, which is open to all Vimeo PRO members ($199/year) and lets you sell your movie directly to audiences at a 90% share of the revenue after transaction costs (e.g., credit card, PayPal fees). According to Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor, the fundamental difference between Vimeo On Demand and other on-demand services such as Hulu, Netflix, cable VOD, etc., is that Vimeo is an open platform. "You can't press a button on your Comcast cable box and say, 'Please add my film now,'" explains Trainor. "Not only can you not get it up on those platforms, there are also a lot of restrictions in terms of availability, pricing and presentation. Vimeo is interested in giving as much flexibility and control to the filmmaker, or content owner, as possible."