Hardly a week goes by without a new Kickstarter campaign clogging up your Twitter feed and inbox but funding is only half the story in this particular fraction of independent film-making. Affective methods of distribution for any given project remains a loaded topic for film-makers with the digital world presenting more and more possibilities.
Here are four recent crowd-funded and directly distributed films that have gained particular attention for their distribution methods.
1. The Cosmonaut (dir: Nicolas Alcaca 2013)
The Spanish sci-fi film, despite going through several business models, has become one the most successful crowd-funded projects, raising over €300,000. It’s the distribution however, that makes The Cosmonaut an interesting project and one that fully embraces the new media. It is a “transmedia” project, using the benefits of both traditional and new media to distribute the film to cater to different audience budgets. A version of the film exists for free on the internet in the form of webisodes with an alternate ending for TV channels and special presentation for cinemas. Using this mix of media, the film-makers ensured that the film was accessible on a local, national and international level while providing incentives for the audience to access all three if possible.
2. Dick Figures: The Movie (dir: Ed Skudder and Zack Keller 2013)
Based on the animated online show Dick Figures on YouTube and with a huge fan following online with over 350 million views, it was not difficult for the creators to gain support and financing. Released in chapters on YouTube and available for rent and purchase on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon amongst others, the project has received millions of views and largely positive reviews from the critics. These different methods of distribution insured that the audience was rewarded for their funding effort but the film-makers also have the chance to claim back some profit when possible.
3. Indie Game: The Movie (dir: James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot 2012)
This documentary about struggling independent game developers used Kickstarter after unexpected success at Sundance Film Festival. The film-makers’ decided self-distribution was the right route for this film especially considering the large digital nature of the industry and audience. They followed in this vein with a strong social media presence and an aim to respond to every tweet and message to build a relationship with their audience. They embarked on a short screening tour around North America and a extensive digital launch with the film available on iTunes. It is also one of the first films ever to be available through it’s own website by VHX DRM-free download.
4. Red State (dir: Kevin Smith 2011)
Arguably the most well known film-maker on this list, Kevin Smith led the media and fans on a so-called hoax during the promotion of his 2011 action-horror. Smith maintained that the rights for distribution would be auctioned off at the Sundance screening of the film after using Twitter to raffle off exclusive teaser posters. He then later revealed that he would distribute the film himself by screening tour and subsequently DVD and VOD release to much backlash that he had purposely deceived the industry. The internet community, that is divided over Smith at the best of times, also suggested that this move resulted in Smith losing credibility to an extent, but he has since defended his methods and advocates the use of social media in promoting and audience building. The film itself gained mixed reviews from audience and critics but was fairly successful in the 2011 award circuit.
Per Ted Hope’s latest post about his predictions for the future of independent film-making, 2014 has the potential to be the year that direct distribution comes into it’s own and to varying degrees, these projects have led the way.