If you had to make a list of all the industries that the evolution of technology has changed over the last decade, filmmaking would undoubtedly be right at the top. Especially when you consider the possibilities of VOD platforms.
Filmmaking used to be an incredibly expensive endeavor – both on the actual production and distribution sides of the equation. In the early 1990s, filmmaker Kevin Smith famously maxed out all his credit cards and shot his indie debut – “Clerks” – for less than $30,000. The upside was that it proved this level of indie filmmaking was even possible. The downside was… well, that the finished product looked like “Clerks.”
Flash forward to today, and entire feature films are being shot on little more than the latest iPhone. Actually creating art has never been more efficient and cost-effective, but the distribution and sales portion of the conversation have remained an issue.
Once again, technology has given filmmakers a gift in the form of OTT (over-the-top) and VOD (video-on-demand) platforms that are changing the landscape of the entire industry. It’s never been easier for the next generation of filmmakers to leverage these platforms to distribute and sell their films directly to the masses. Of course, they just need to keep a few key things in mind.
VOD Platforms – The Old Versus the New
You’ve likely heard that people are spending less time watching television or going to the movie theater than ever. This is true, but that does NOT mean people have stopped consuming this content. They’re watching more films and television shows than ever – they’re just going around traditional channels in order to do so.
According to one recent study, more than half of all homes in the United States with Wi-Fi now engage primarily in OTT viewing. Netflix accounts for a significant portion of this, sure – but that’s only because it’s currently one of the biggest names.
People are willing to watch OTT content everywhere and anywhere, including on Smart TVs, gaming consoles, set-top boxes, Internet-connected Blu-ray players and (especially) streaming boxes and sticks. The industry is suffering in large part because it’s still stuck in this “old school” model of distribution. People’s habits have changed and large corporations have been hesitant to change with them.
The filmmakers that saw that change coming – and the ones who are willing to take advantage of it – have been presented with the type of opportunity that comes along once in a generation, especially as far as self-distribution, sales and brand growth are concerned.
Putting VOD platforms to Work For You
In terms of actually creating this type of distribution mechanism for yourself, literally, the most important piece of the puzzle is likely the one you’ve already accounted for: actually creating the film you’ve always seen in your head. A VOD platform isn’t necessarily going to help you with the content – you need your own creativity and ingenuity for that. But for the sake of discussion, let’s say you’ve already got a finished film that you’re incredibly proud of that you can’t wait to get out to the masses.
At that point, your possibilities are practically limitless.
Instead of waiting for one of the big corporations to buy your film, take control over it and distribute it in any way they see fit, you can cut out the middlemen and do it yourself. Platforms like KweliTV and FilmsOfNorway have already proven that this is possible on the narrative side of things and that audiences are willing to seek out “unconventional” methods to get the movies and television shows they seek.
One viable step involves creating your own Roku channel, which is a lot easier (and more effective) than you probably thought it would be. Not only are there 22 million monthly active Roku users, but they each spend about 50 hours per month consuming content and watched seven billion hours worth of video combined during the first six months of 2017 alone.
Because Roku boxes connect directly to television sets, at that point the difference between watching your film via a streaming service and watching it on a Blu-ray purchased down at the local electronics store isn’t much of a difference at all – at least as far as your viewers are concerned.
You could even go as far as launching your own Netflix, creating an SVOD business and selling your videos online. This is especially helpful if you’ve got a lot of content that people are interested in, like multiple features or narrative short films. You can allow people to rent or purchase your films individually, or roll everything under a subscription model that gives people access to all of it in exchange for one fixed, predictable monthly fee. This might sound intimidating at first, but there are tools and platforms out there that allow you to create your own VOD website, without the need for any programming and coding skills. You can just upload your films, set up a payment method, choose a beautiful theme for the website, and customise it to match the branding that you want. Simple as that! And you’ll be ready to distribute and monetise your films! No middle-man, you’ll have all the control over your content!
The point of all of this is that traditional distribution – meaning “making a film, getting a large conglomerate to buy it and getting them to put it in local theaters” – isn’t just less popular than ever. It’s also effectively dead, thanks to the myriad of different advantages that the VOD and self-distribution eras have bought with them.
As an artist, how people experience your art is less important than the fact that they’re experiencing it, to begin with. Technology has made both of these things easier than at any point in the history of the industry and it’s only going to get easier as time goes on. At this point, the only thing standing in between your content and your ability to get it out into the world is your own will to do so.