A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to AFM…

On November 1-8, 2017, I attended the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California.  It was the 19th time I attended and saw many survivors from the video days.  The main focus was AFM is expensive but yet we survive.  How?

“Keeping up with the times” was the most consistent response.  During a seminar about streaming I was reassured about something I have been preaching at my film festival for over a decade.  Don’t post or stream your film unless it’s a last resort.  The first thing a distributor asks (after if it’s financed or completed) is how many followers do you have?  Promising those that put up money via crowd funding doesn’t count.  This is especially true if you already promised them a copy of the film as part of their donation reward.  Better to promise them a still or poster of the film and have them download the film at a price when a distributor makes it available.

But why should I share that revenue with a distributor when I can do it myself?  Good point but the answer is that a distributor has the means to get your film a larger reach of viewers.  If you have a large following it gives you leverage when making a deal.  Having three hundred benefactors isn’t a large following but having a leading performer with four million followers on social media is!

Netflix is very picky when selecting a film for distribution.  They also have a process and distributors with a track record for providing films to Netflix helps.  It doesn’t guarantee anything but it’s a foot in the door and if your film holds up and is in the genre they need, you have a shot.  Netflix distributes 25% of the streaming content and your film, if selected, would have a two year play.  If your film doesn’t stream well then it’s replaced.  Sound familiar?  Back in the video (Mom & Pop) days if your film didn’t rent it was placed in the “Previously Viewed” bin and sold off to make room on the shelf. Same principal holds here.

Hulu holds the same principal but accounts for 35% and Amazon pretty much takes anything that you can download with a few exceptions.  They account for 85%.  So telling your investors that you can guarantee them distribution via Amazon doesn’t quite mean a return on their dollar.  Having a distributor placing your film in top of the line Video on Demand companies, means they will invest in a marketing strategy and promote you film.  Estimates from Netflix and Hulu hold more weight.  This means it’s better to be rejected by several sources before you cut bait and self-distribute on Amazon.

Yes there is an Amazon Prime Access but they are currently figuring out how to distribute via VOD.  Hulu and Amazon use to have venues where you could post your films and they would show commercials during your screening.  The filmmaker would receive a portion of the advertising.  This isn’t something they thought was lucrative enough for the providers and they have gone to monthly fees. Competition is strong which means supply and demand is needed.  Just like in the VHS days, if you have a film with a track record you have an excellent chance of getting distribution.

Now that I have put my days as a Festival Director behind me, I can concentrate more on being a filmmaker.  I also want to help as many young filmmakers as possible as I journey back into the Hollywood “Rat Race”.  Why just learn from your mistakes when you can learn from mine?  I will be writing a weekly blog providing filmmakers with information helpful to producing and distributing your products.  In January 2018, we will begin covering information as you, the filmmaker, request.  Simply ask a question and I will research your answer and make it part of another blog.  This is how we can help each other continue to survive in this ever changing world of film making.

See you at the movies!

Bob Cook
B.C. Entertainment Group, Inc.