The Film Business

Six Tools for Online Film Distribution: Distrify, Dynamo Player, and other DIY Tools

Photo by Skrewtape

There are so many choices for filmmakers when it comes to their digital film distribution. You could use a pay service like Distribber on outlets like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes. You can sign up for services like IndiePix Unlimited or Infieflix which are Netflix-like services that cater exclusively to independent films. You can even take film distribution into their own hands using services like Dynamo Player or Distrify, allowing you to set your own prices to stream your movie on the player, which can be embedded on your website. Pirating your own movie using VODO is even on the table, in the hopes that the sheer number of torrenters all over the world will bring critical success and cold hard cash to your wallet. With all of the options that filmmakers are faced with, which is the right one?

The answer to that question really comes down to numbers, and not necessarily dollars and cents. In the world of online distribution, eyeballs equal dollars. So the more eyeballs that see your movie, the more money you should make, right? Well, that might be true, but where do those eyeballs come from? Sadly, not many people have the cachet of filmmakers like Kevin Smith, who can sell out multiple theater venues on his charisma alone. This leaves the burden of attracting eyeballs, paying or otherwise, to the distribution platform. Unfortunately, most of these platforms are still in the developing stages, and are trying to build audiences of their own by doing two things:

1. Gathering a large catalog of films.

2. Using that catalog of films to bolster their brand image in the industry.

Did you notice that selling and marketing your film specifically isn’t in either of those marketing tactics? The truth is that no matter how passionate the business entity behind your distribution platform of choice is about independent film, they are not going to give your film more than several passing glances unless it is going to put coin in their pockets.

So let’s examine torrenting briefly as an alternative. You put your film on VODO, which relies primarily on incentivized sponsorships to generate revenue for their content creators, and then what? People still need to find your film. So the burden is again placed upon the platform to initiate discovery.

Okay, but what if you just want to do it yourself and become my own platform? This is where services like Dynamo Player and Distrify come into play. They offer you the ability to upload your film to their servers, set a rental price, and let you embed that film on your own website. That takes the burden of bringing in an audience off of the platform and places it squarely on the shoulders of the filmmaker. But what is the average traffic for an indie film? Does your website bring in millions of viewers a day, week, or month? What is your marketing budget to advertise your site across the net and beyond? Most filmmakers have a hard enough time filling a theater for a film festival screening, much less attracting the numbers needed to their websites to be financially solvent using a self-servicing solution.

This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at every platform available today to aid indie filmmakers in their search for the perfect distribution solution. It is also not meant to pick out any particular company as being better or worse for filmmakers. It’s just meant to illustrate the various pluses and pitfalls that come with selecting ANY distribution outlet. Many of the points made can even be applied to traditional distribution. The point is, filmmakers need audiences. These services provide the means to help discover patrons of indie film, and in turn help them discover your movie, but the business of putting eyeballs on your project, and monetizing those eyeballs, is still the filmmaker’s.

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   Jason Robbins said on August 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

1. Gathering a large catalog of films.

That’s the crux of it really, if you find a platform that cherry picks the best films and it gets known for quality then people will invest time in it, through spending or by spreading the word. If it’s purely volume with no standards then no one will bother.

   Erwin V said on November 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm

An attempt to being comprehensive (certainly if you add the valuable discussion in the comments section) can be found in Ted Hope’s article ‘How Would You Use All 27 New Platforms Available For Direct (aka DIY/DIWO) Distribution?:

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MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.