Want to see a movie this summer? Head to the theatres if you want to see big and loud stuff like “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man”. But if you’re looking for interesting indie film and documentaries, you’re going to have to go online.
If you want, you can bemoan the fact that movie theatre economics mean that only the biggest of blockbusters get time on theatre screens. But we prefer to look on the bright side: New online services are giving indie film and documentary makers the means to distribute, new audiences and, at least theoretically, new ways to get paid.
The latest, SnagFilm.com, from ex-AOL execs Ted Leonsis, Steve Case and Miles Gilburne, acquired indieWIRE and launched with a library of 225 documentary films last week. The films are free to users; ads run every eight minutes during the films and proceeds are split 50-50 with the filmmaker.
YouTube’s “Screening Room” has delivered some impressive audiences to indie films since it opened its doors last month. YouTube selects four new films every two weeks for the section, a few of which, such as “I Am The Walrus” (below) have accumulated more than 600,000 views, in part thanks to a button on the YouTube homepage. YouTube is running overlay ads within the films, and sharing revenue with the filmmaker as they would with any content “partner.” Each film has a “buy now” button to buy on DVD or iTunes download.
If YouTube is getting betweeen $15 and $20 CPM for overlay ads against the films, and splitting revenue 55% with producers, some of the filmmakers are netting a few thousand dollars in the last month from YouTube’s efforts. That doesn’t count any direct sales; a YouTube spokesperson declined to say how many “buy now” purchases has been made.
One of the more prominent indie film aggregators, Jaman.com, has two models for making indie film pay: films can be rented for $1.99, purchased for $4.99, or watched for free with ads. CEO Gaurav Dhillon told Beet.tv he believes the ad-supported film will be the more pervasive model for indie film in the future.
Plenty of video sites such as Indieflix have launched their own “film festivals” to build their own video libraries. Metacafe’s “MetaFest,” offers $10,000 prizes for winning submissions. Peer-to-peer online TV service Babelgum awarded $30,000 prizes in seven categories and a trip to Cannes for winners selected by Spike Lee. Other sources venues with business models for indie films:
- Filmmaka: startup headed by Sandy Gushow, former chairman of Fox Entertainment, runs a competition for aspiring filmmakers, and then distributes the films and splits revenue.
- Striketheset.com: subscription and paid-download indie films site. Subscription revenue is shared with filmmakers based on the number of views generated.
- Theauters.com: still in private beta, the site is creating a library of films for on-demand streaming and download.
- PBS’s Independent Lens: the public broadcaster’s online film festival.
- Hungryflix.com: allows filmmakers to upload and sell their movies.
Know of a better way to watch indie film and for filmmakers to get paid? Let us know in comments.
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