Thursday, October 30, 2014

Where Does the Revenue Come from in Indie Film?

Oh where, oh where does the revenue come from in indie film? Unless you have a film in the marketplace, it's hard to know exactly where the revenue comes from. There are so many avenues to think about - domestic and foreign sales in theatrical, television/cable, Video-on-Demand (VOD), DVD, and nontheatrical/educational.

What I have found through the sales of my own titles is that most of the revenue from an independent film is generated from VOD. This means I have seen most of the sales of my films through On Demand via cable and digital distribution online through sites like iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Netflix, and Hulu.

Theatrical releases for independent films are very hard to justify. They're costly and time-consuming and more often than not - a bust. It's very hard to fill theaters in cities where you have no friends or family to rally people to see your film on the big screen. When was the last time you went to see a random indie flick at your local theater? If you're like me, it takes publicity for me to even know about the film (and strong publicity usually takes time and money to generate) or a colleague/friend to push me to go. So unless you have a very niche audience to which you can market and have the time and money to build a strong grassroots campaign, doing a theatrical usually doesn't make sense for a small indie film.

So what's the solution to seeing your film on the big screen? Film festivals. Use film festivals as your theatrical release. Lean on the festivals to help you fill the theater and use the publicity from the screenings to build buzz that can help you sell the film once it hits the VOD platforms. And some festivals do pay screening fees so you can even earn some revenue from your screenings. Or you can use the festival circuit to travel the world, meet your audience, gather their email addresses, and get help building a fan base.

What about DVD? Unfortunately, DVD deals are mainly dead at this point unless you have a genre flick or a very popular indie film that Redbox cares about. In that case, you can strike a DVD deal. In other cases, a DVD manufacturer will either ask for a piece of your VOD or you will need to figure out how to create and sell DVDs on your own. We sell our film The Diary of Preston Plummer through Amazon's CreateSpace. It's not a huge moneymaker but every sale helps so it's worth doing.

Television sales of indie films are hard to come by these days. The networks have gotten to the point of only considering films with big-name actors. If you are lucky to break through this prerequisite (it's definitely possible - I've done it) and snag one, good for you! The sale of a small indie film to a TV network probably won't make a significant dent in your budget - unless your budget was teeny-tiny - but television sales certainly help with visibility of your film, which can help translate to more VOD revenue.

Foreign sales. Oy. Just oy. First, foreign buyers love to see big-name actors in the films they buy. And foreign countries don't have strong streaming solutions yet so most of the sales are for television, which means there are less markets in which to sell. To reach foreign buyers, you usually have to go through foreign sales agents because they have all the relationships to the buyers and these agents will have high expenses and take about 20% to 25% of your revenue from your foreign sales. There's definitely revenue to be had in the foreign market but the question is how to get most of it coming back to the filmmakers instead of it just lining the pockets of the foreign sales agents. It's a conundrum and trust me, I'm working on figuring out a solution.

Nontheatrical avenues like airlines and museums are viable arenas for sales but not every film will make sense for these buyers. Definitely go after them because again, every sale helps!

And, one of the biggest lessons I have learned is to forego all-rights deals, unless the distributor is paying off the debt, deferrals and investors. All-rights deals allow distributors to steal from Peter to pay Paul. For example, let's say your DVD sales tanked and you actually owe money in expenses for making the DVDs. The distributor will take revenue from your VOD sales and apply it towards their losses in the DVD deal. If you had sold the rights separately then you would have received all of your VOD revenue and the DVD distributor would have been in the red that quarter (something you don't want but it's even worse if your hard-earned revenue is sucked up by losses in another market).

Additionally, all-rights deals often come with a high sales fee, like 20%, and their expense caps are typically high with no oversight on how much they're spending on fulfilling each deal. It can cost $1500 to deliver to iTunes alone and the distributor may be tacking on additional fees to process the sale. How do you really know?

The best thing you can do is hold on to as many rights as you can and sell them individually. How do you do this? Hire a sales agent who has successfully sold the rights to their titles individually and agrees that selling the rights to your title separately is the best strategy for your film.

The money trail in indie film can be hard to follow. That's why there's a big push right now for more transparency from filmmakers about the kinds of deals they're getting. And filmmakers are speaking out. You can see case studies in the books by the Film Collaborative here. They offer free copies online.

Transparency will only increase our chances of successfully budgeting and paying off our films. Knowledge is power!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Feature on Jane Kelly Kosek (that's me) in Lady Clever!




Hi everyone! My good friend and colleague Abby Stern put together a wonderful feature on me and my work at Meritage Pictures for the Web site Lady Clever.




Abby really challenged me to dig deep about my motivations behind my work. It was really fun to ponder where I've been and where I'm going. I hope you check it out!

Here's a link to the article: Indie Film Producer Jane Kosek on the Silver Screen.

Cheers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Q&A with the Creators Edward Kiniry-Ostro and Sal Neslusan of the Web Series "Roomiess"

What made you decide to film a web series?
Well, Sal had recently wrapped production on her first web series, Professional Friend, and Ed had completed his first short film, Hold Up Heart, this past winter. We were both itching to create content that could reach a wide market with broad appeal. Sounds like the World Wide Web, doesn’t it? We thought so too! So we turned towards that direction and have had a blast doing so.

Tell us about your web series. What inspired you to make it?
We were really interested in creating bite-sized comedy that people could choose to binge watch all together or in bits and pieces while their boss wasn’t looking at work. We also thought it would be fun to create shorter pieces that people could share amongst their friends. We both know anything past the two minute mark can sometimes feel like a marathon when it’s online. We wanted to carve out something that is uniquely us and still had the relationships of a sitcom but also caters well to the world of 140 characters and buzzfeed lists.

What do you love about your web series?
We love the stuff we came up with together. Our brains all think in very different ways, so when we truly collaborate, something fun happens. For example, one of the team’s favorite episodes was “Special” Victims: our homage to Law and Order:SVU. That episode was written around Ed’s kitchen table, and then when our director got his hands on it, it became a completely different animal. It was 100% a team effort. We were also inspired by some of our favorite shows out there like Broad City, 30 Rock and Portlandia. We feel we’ve captured some of their spirit while still keeping our own take on things. We love humor that’s irreverent but remains grounded in the slightly skewed universe that the characters live in. Keeping Stu & Syd in their bedrooms was also a fun challenge - how many adventures can they get into in a bedroom? Well, apparently a lot! So we’re just stoked we were able to keep pushing ourselves to be creative while utilizing the minimum amount of tools.

How long did it take you to make your web series?
We started writing in February, pre-production began in May, we were shooting in June and had wrapped by August. We basically finished it the morning we released. Say whaaa?!

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging part was probably in post. We had originally slated the first season to be a weekly series. Three weeks prior to our launch, we made the decision to go “Beyonce” and release the whole season at once. Ugh. This elevated our stress ten fold! Another thing we have in common with Beyonce. There are just so many. That said, we thought this was a better move as more and more people are binge watching. Since we’re fairly new to this world, we wanted our audience to get to know us immediately. When you alter the release date like this it definitely adds a lot more pressure. Everyone wants a solid product especially since they’ve been working so hard for some time on it, so we just made sure communication was our top priority. We have such a strong crew and so making sure everyone is heard is vital to us so we can all be proud of our work at the end of the day.

What’s next for your web series? When and how can people see it?
Well we’ve got a few different ideas rolling around for Stu & Syd, but for now you can catch find them at roomiess.com, or on our youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/RoomiessTV. You can also like Roomiess on Facebook and follow @stuandsyd on twitter!

Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their web series made?
We think you have to just take the leap and do it. Don’t just sit around writing and saying you’re going to make something. Make something. Ask for favors, dip into savings, stay up all night working - but you have to actually do it. We’re also strong believers in feedback. We asked everyone for their input. Sometimes it’s crap, and you’ve got to know that, but if you’re asking for it you’ve also got to know when to keep your mouth shut and listen. More often than not, even if you don’t like what they might have to say, it probably is going to help you in the long run. So be kind, gracious, and ask for help. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Wattpad Is Helping Me as a Filmmaker

It all comes down to story. I have been trying to stretch myself beyond just producing lately due to my love of story - I have been writing, directing and even editing my own work. I'm writing in mediums outside of film - from creating Web series to writing novellas and tackling a full novel.

I noticed Wattpad a few months ago but I wasn't really aware of what it was and how it could benefit me as a storyteller. I had been writing novellas and publishing them on Amazon and I knew I wanted to tackle a novel. 

Then my friend and cowriter Kristin Goodman suggested we publish a novella based on our screenplay The Virgin on Wattpad. I thought, why not? It might bring attention to the story and I had always thought it would make a great novella.

So that's what we did. Kristin took the lead on writing the novella for The Virgin. We have over three thousand reads and have garnered some wonderful comments from readers. You can check out The Virgin novella here.

And soon I realized that my first novel idea would be ideal for Wattpad as well. It seemed like a great way to be motivated to write each day and build an audience along the way.

The novel I'm writing is titled 30 Days to Love and it's about the first thirty days in Shauna and James's relationship. It explores the roller coaster ride that every relationship goes through during the first thirty days:
Shauna can't wait to graduate and embark on a new career across the country in New York City. She's ready for a fresh start until she meets James - one month before graduation. She is determined to not start a new relationship with anyone since she has to focus on finals and move in just a few weeks.
The problem is that she has little resolve around James. And he might just be her soul mate. Each day, she tries to push him away but instead finds herself falling a little more in love with him, knowing that she only has thirty days to make a choice between love and her career.
The scariest part about writing a chapter each day and loading it over the course of thirty days is that I'm putting up first drafts for all the world to see. I don't have the luxury of rewriting until I'm happy with what I've written. I have time to write and load and that's it. 

I have to say it's been incredibly motivating. I look forward to writing 1000 to 3000 words a day. And it's becoming a routine, which I'm so happy about. I can see myself continuing with this schedule of writing each day. And seeing that over 1500 people have read my writing thus far feels awesome. I hope that continues to grow. 

So while my story may be rough, it's inspiring me to keep going - figure out my voice - follow my passion - write what I love. I hope you check out 30 Days to Love here!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Film's Life after Initial Distribution Platforms

I'd like to start a discussion about life of a film after its initial distribution license periods come to an end. I have a couple of titles that are coming up to the end of their first or second license periods with big aggregators who helped the titles appear on big platforms like cable Video-on-Demand, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. I want to strategize the next phase of these films' lives.

I know that I can reload the film myself on Amazon so that's a start. But what else is out there? I know of and have some experience with the following:

IndieReign (www.indiereign.com)
Distrify (www.distrify.com)
IndieFlix (www.indieflix.com)
Amazon (www.amazon.com)

I know there is Fandor (www.fandor.com) as well, but they curate their titles so it's not a guarantee of acceptance.

Are there any other online distribution platforms for independent film? I'm doing the research and will share the list as soon as I have one complete.

And let me know your thoughts on any with which you have experience. Sharing our experiences will hopefully lead to a stronger independent world. Thanks all!