New book for Indie filmmakers on digital film distribution in Europe


Yesterday, The Film Collaborative, a non-profit committed to distribution and facilitation of independent films, published their second book calles Selling your film outside the U.S.. It focusses on different models of digital film distribution throughout Europe and covers most of the European VoD/streaming-providers. It’s a MUST READ for all indie filmmakers, especially in addition to their first publication. And the best: it’s free to download and available for Apple devices, Amazon Kindle and as PDF. I asked Sheri Candler, one of the authors and member of The Film Collaborative, a few questions. Here’s what she replied – again a MUST READ:

Wolfgang: Sheri, in 2011 you published a book called „Selling your film without selling your soul“ with case studies on digital distribution for indie filmmakers. What’s the new book about?

Sheri: While the focus of the original book was quite American-centric, this volume takes a deep dive into digital distribution in Europe and provides several case studies of films released there. All of the case studies came from producers who employed some form of self financed or crowdsourced distribution.

One of the chapters in the book was written by Wendy Bernfeld of Rights Stuff, an Amsterdam-based  business and legal consultancy for companies and producers working in both the traditional film/television world, and new digital media ventures. She entitled the chapter “Carpe Diem.” In the context of digital distribution, this has dual meaning. First, in a harsh world that can tire of one thing and move onto the next in the blink of an eye, we encourage filmmakers to jump into action and formulate a viable and expedient distribution strategy as their films move from the festival circuit onto a larger arena. Second, the digital distribution space is a constantly changing one, where platforms come and go at an astonishing rate. Therefore, it is important that filmmakers not only empower themselves by learning how to navigate the landscape of digital distribution, but by keeping this knowledge constantly up to date.

We also believe that European producers are now starting to embrace digital tools more readily, much more than they were back in 2011. It is only right to cover that development and let those producers explain how they are using crowdfunding, audience development, soliciting user generated content and audience demand for screenings in addition to explaining about the various outlets available for digital distribution of films.

Wolfgang: Apart from Wendy Bernfeld, who else gives insights in how to distribute a film in Europe effectively?

Sheri: We have interviews with 2 European based digital distributors, Under the Milky Way and Viewster. UTMW handles all manner of digital distribution to digital outlets such as iTunes, Google Play, Sony Playstation etc. They tell us that the main opportunities on a European level lie with these “global platforms” who also have a long tail approach and are willing to host a wide variety of films. Given their wide geographical coverage, one delivery/process can lead to wide exposure, ensuring much needed economies of scale for rightsholders.

Viewster mainly handles episodic content such as TV series, miniseries, and web series. They are willing to work with producers directly, and sales agents, aggregators, TV networks etc. Whomever holds rights to the work. Their platform is AVOD, ad supported video on demand, meaning that the content is free to consumers to stream and the rights holders take a percentage of the advertising revenue their show generates. Viewster also just launched the first edition of its online film festival to which both aggregators and individual creators are invited. There is a high total prize money of US$100,000.

While it is great to hear about services and what they do, we also included 3 case studies from different kinds of films that all went about distribution in Europe in their own way. They told us how they secured screenings, crowdfunded their budgets, sold ancillary rights and how much they received from those deals. We hope all of this information will be very useful for filmmakers who are formulating their next project because chances are it won’t get an all rights, all territories deal they think it will. A lot has changed.

Wolfgang: So the book is interesting for both, European and US filmmakers?

Sheri: We do feel the book is valuable to both US and European filmmakers, but our goal was to focus on encouraging the education of filmmakers outside of the US this time. In 2011, much of what we talked about in that last book was just starting to happen in Europe with only a small amount of filmmakers becoming interested in new methods, but many still believed this was more of an American method. Now, we are hearing of film funding being cut and broadcasters in Europe curbing their commissions so interest is growing around alternatives to being in the „system“ and how it might even be advantageous because of the freedom to choose your own material, reach an audience directly and distribute to them directly no matter where they live. Even so called „small language“ films, such as Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, can find audiences outside of their home country. There are ethnic diasporas all over the world that can be reached with digital tools.  In fact, one case study is about an Indian language film (Kannada) that was distributed globally to all of those who speak that language.

Wolfgang: Do you think European and US Indiefilm distribution works similiar? Or are there any special things to consider when distributing a movie in Europe?

Sheri: What I mean is, many newer filmmakers who are working outside of the „system“ of film funds still believe that their distribution will work the same way a „system“ film does. A sales agent will take the film off of their hands and make all rights deals (theatrical, broadcast, DVD, digital, educational etc) in several territories. That isn’t what is happening very much. There is now MUCH MORE supply because there are filmmakers working on their own with access to cheaper equipment to make a film and the avenues to traditional distribution aren’t open to these truly independent productions.  If these filmmakers are not in the system, but still want to try their hand at making a film, they will need to think much harder about how to launch a film into the market.

Wolfgang: Apart from buying your book, what do you recommend filmmakers in terms of distributing their movies online?

Sheri: Filmmakers really need to stay current with their knowledge. I am shocked at how much filmmakers cling to the old ways of sales and distribution and believe it will still work for them. There are a lot of changes and mainly it is because of the sheer volume of work that is now being made and looking for an audience. Not only do all of the authors of this book write frequently on blogs, industry publication articles, and whitepapers about the changes going on, but there are many other people doing the same. It isn’t difficult to use a search engine to find the most up to date information on marketing and distribution for films. All of us are trying to keep producers, directors, and investors informed, but people who are professionally working in the space also need to be proactive.

Also, our book is available for free, so buying it is not an issue. The Film Collaborative is a non profit and part of our mission is education. Both of our books have had a free component because we didn’t want money to be a barrier to knowledge for anyone. The book is now available via our book’s website and via Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle (Amazon does charge 99 cents for their own revenue). We look forward to hearing feedback from our readers.

Wolfgang: We are also interested in the feedback and hope that you share it with us. Thanks for the interview, Sheri!

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