This alternative distribution service champions independent filmmakers.
By Rosie Lavan
IndieFlix provides a comprehensive, supportive and fair package for filmmakers, based on its hybrid or DIY distribution model.
The service gets independent films out on to the major internet platforms, including iTunes, Hulu, Amazon VOD and Netflix, as well as selling DVDs and streaming films on a pay-per-view basis from IndieFlix.com. It is free to join, the only condition being that films have been accepted for a festival screening. It is non-exclusive, so members are free to explore options with other services while retaining all the rights to their work.
If a filmmaker has not produced a DVD, IndieFlix will undertake to encode and author a disc free of charge. It works hard to promote every film it hosts, driving marketing campaigns across the internet through blogs, vlogs and tweets and via the major social networking sites. The filmmaker and IndieFlix share income on a 70:30 basis, and IndieFlix only makes money when the filmmaker does.
The service is committed to helping filmmakers succeed as both artists and entrepreneurs. Founder Scilla Andreen believes the information and support exists now to make the business side of the industry far less intimidating. “I think the world has changed in that it’s much easier to understand now because we are our own gatekeepers. We are not handing it [our work] off blindly and signing off our rights to a distribution company that’s not going to be held accountable.”
Andreen, an Emmy-nominated costume designer, producer and director, recognises that despite the massive potential of new platforms, making money from this kind of distribution is very difficult. “It’s hard to monetise content in a free culture: that’s the challenge,” she says. “The value propositions are changing. People aren’t going to pull out their credit card and pay for a DVD or a stream: they want easy access.” In its effort to overcome this challenge IndieFlix recently launched a subscription service, and take-up so far has been good.
“I’ve spent a lot of years trying to figure out how to make people watch movies – they’re so distracted by the internet and YouTube,” Andreen says. To this end, IndieFlix has launched Rogue Screenings: screenings organised in public places from parks and museums to vacant homes and Starbucks cafes which incorporate mobile phone voting games for the audience.
The recently launched Festival in a Box feature lets the audience turn judges in their own homes. Boxes of new independent films on a particular theme or genre are available from IndieFlix and select stores and websites; viewers are invited to watch them and then vote on their favourites. They are offered the chance to chat online with directors and receive a virtual goodie bag with free gifts and discounts.
“All of these films are competing with each other. It’s like American Idol meets the film industry,” Andreen says. “It’s building an audience plus the marketing for the filmmaker, but it’s fun and games for the audience: they’re helping out a real human being by watching and playing.” The initiative is already drawing interest from brands.
In another development, IndieFlix will soon be using Crowd Controls, the audience demand tool developed by Brian Chirls.
IndieFlix now hosts about 2,000 films, from shorts to features and documentaries. It recently acquired the films held by the libraries of the American Film Institute and the University of Southern California Film School – partnerships that came about through striking up good relationships with contacts.
“We’ve been around long enough now that we have a really good reputation,” says Andreen. “What I found in old distribution was the lack of trust and the lack of transparency. Some of our core principles are honesty and transparency. It wasn’t cool five years ago, but then when the economy went into the toilet, suddenly transparency was very hip and cool.”
The Windfisherman (2007)
First World (2009) Sci-fi short which debuted on Hulu
Official Selection (2010)
In the Darkness (2010)