As I start to work on the distribution plans for Justice Is Mind, I am reminded about the similarities between the film and publishing industry when it comes to distribution. Having worked as a magazine publisher for over ten years, I can tell you definitively they have a lot in common. Both have evolved from their standard methods of distribution to include new and exciting revenue generating platforms. For the last several years I’ve been talking about VOD (Video on Demand) and online streaming as the way to go for independent filmmakers. In fact, I was interviewed about this new method of distribution on New England Film a few years ago. Trust me when I tell you Hulu, Crackle, Amazon, iTunes and YouTube deliver solid revenue to filmmakers. It may not be as sexy as theatrical, but there’s real cash in those downloads.
As publishing has migrated to more of an electronic medium, filmmaking has evolved in the same capacity on both the production and distribution side. Unfortunately, just as I’ve known way too many publishers that were terrified of this thing called the internet, the same holds true for some filmmakers that believe theatrical distribution is everything and that somehow VOD doesn’t validate their work. Of course we all want to see our films in theatres. Who doesn’t? But the reality is that, traditionally anyway, theatrical distribution is perhaps the most expensive outlet for film. When you consider the P&A costs alone, a distributor has to make certain that there is a reasonable chance your film will do well enough to justify their investment. But if your film isn’t picked up for theatrical, it doesn’t mean you can’t self distribute. You can simply call up an independent theatre to see if they can screen via DVD and share the gate. Send a few posters for their lobby with social media and public relations support and you may just have a hit that finds its way to traditional pick up by a distributor. My point is that, like publishing, the film industry has evolved and that independent filmmaking is now more approachable than ever. The goal, in my view, is to make your entire package as attractive as possible so when distributors see your work they know you put some time into making it look as sharp as possible.
Prior to operating my own publishing company, I worked at Time magazine and had a mentor that instilled in me the importance of a solid presentation. I worked for a sales representative at the venerable newsweekly for a few years. She handled some pretty major accounts for the magazine and always prepared these wonderful presentations. I’ll never forget what she said, “Always have a nice leave behind.” Simply, once you leave the room make sure your presentation stands out on its own. I took that axiom to the magazines I published and the films I am now producing. It all comes down to packaging. From the one sheet, website, trailer to the end product – the film. Of course, we are limited by our budgets, but with social media and other online tools why not try your damndest to put your best foot forward? With thousands of films being produced every year, standing out from the crowd is important. Besides, I owe it my investors, cast, crew, sponsors and myself to see that Justice Is Mind is distributed over as many platforms as possible to maximize revenue.
One trend in film distribution that I love is the Day and Date release. Like Margin Call did, why not have your film screen in select theatres the same day it’s available for VOD and DVD? It’s a foregone conclusion that consumers want choices in their entertainment experience on how the content is delivered. Who cares what platform it comes in from as long as it winds up in your bank? Remember content is king and the key to more content is someone has to pay for it.
Will Justice Is Mind have its world premiere in a theatre? Naturally, and a day will be set. But while Justice Is Mind is playing in a theatre someone thousands of miles away may have a date with their tablet watching Henri Miller face his own memory at the trial of the century.