A Note About Indie and Self-Distribution: Aggregators, FilmHub, & Indie Rights
By B. Luciano Barsuglia
Maybe this information compiled from 15+ years of experience will help someone, maybe it won’t. These are simply a few of my observations and experiences in the world of self-distribution for independent film.
Since my first feature film released back in 2006, I have worked with established distributors and I have done a lot of self-distribution in a variety of ways with varying degrees of successes.
Back in the heyday of the Amazon when they were indie friendly, they were paying $0.22 per hour viewed and there was money to be earned for indies. As that dwindled, Amazon pushed out indies, and if you survived the purge, you are lucky to be making $0.22 a month.
Today, if you want to do it yourself, you are left with a handful of choices to get your movie on the main streaming platforms (Amazon, AppleTV, Tubi, Vudu, YouTube etc.) and attempt to recoup the cost of making your movie.
You can use AGGREGATORS such as Bitmax, Juice Worldwide, or Premiere Digital. Again, these are aggregators, they all charge a fee per outlet. It can cost you independently upwards of $10,000 to get your movie on the major outlets on your own. Timing and release are another beast altogether. Unless you are an established distributor, it is near impossible to have a single, unified release date on all platforms as an indie. But on the positive, you are in control of your movie and receive all of the reporting directly. They will also put your movie through a rigorous quality control process which can also cost you movie if your film isn’t technically up to snuff.
FILMHUB has become another useful resources for indie filmmakers. This is an easy outlet for you to check the technical quality of your film as well as get it distributed. When you submit a title to FilmHub, it does not cost you any money and you get three opportunities to pass quality control. The quality control process is standard to all aggregators and distributors and can often end up costing you money in the process. If your movie does not make it through the QC process on FilmHub, it will likely not make it through anywhere of significance, and your film probably has significant technical issues that need to be addressed before it can be adequately distributed.
FilmHub basically makes their catalog available to outlets (major and minor) and they can pick and choose which movies they want. Then FilmHub delivers them to the outlet. You, as the filmmaker, have little or no control when/where your movie will end up or be launched, but if it is technically sound, it will get out there. FilmHub does not offer any marketing support, so the process of getting your movie seen is entirely on your shoulders. FilmHub accepts your movie based on technical quality only; they do not evaluate content.
Technically, INDIE RIGHTS is a distributor, but much of the process is up to you, so a partnership with Indie Rights still walks hand-in-hand with self-distribution. While a distributor, yes, they rely on the filmmaker to do the majority of marketing.
Indie Rights will evaluate your content on both technical quality and sellable marketing qualities, so submitting to them, is by no means, a sure path to acceptance. If accepted, they will begin making your movie available to outlets immediately. Similarly to FilmHub, there is no unified release, but rather a continued rollout as your film goes live (which is also up to you to track).
As a distributor, Indie Rights will try and make your movie available to the main streaming services as well as on physical media (as long as you provide the materials) through Allied Vaughn (see below). They will also take a selection of their movies to markets such as Cannes and AFM. Their split is fair and their reporting is timely, upfront and honest. They also provide resources to help you in the process and they have a strong community of filmmakers who actively help one another.
If you still want physical media (DVD/BluRay), this is yet another challenge. Once upon a time, CreateSpace was a valuable resource, but then Amazon bought them, then dissolved their primary service of media on demand. Allied Vaughn is probably the best resource to get this done, but their focus is a distributor with a catalog rather than an indie with a single title. However, they can get your movie onto major websites, whereas most other media on demand outlets leave it up to you to find outlets for selling.
Of course, there are always resources like Vimeo, where you can post your movie, sell it and have it available on a reliable and established platform. However, Vimeo viewership is then almost based entirely on how well (and widely) you can promote your movie.
What should you take away from this? Well, first, marketing of course. As an indie, your success will largely be about the audience you build.
Lastly, technical quality. The content of quality will always be subjective to the viewer, but the technical quality will not.