still from The Drift
Despite this being a film-centered blog, that is to say a blog not about myself, let me indulge.
I am in the process of editing a feature-length documentary film, The Drift, about an Iraq War veteran’s experiences after serving overseas. It’s not so much about the conflict in the Gulf, but about the effects that the conflict had on said veteran.
Since I financed, shot, and am editing this film on my own, I have had little time to figure out what exactly to do with it, after I somehow figure out how to end it. I’ve been convinced, lately, by a couple of posts which suggest that theatrical distribution may be a bit less legitimate than in the past.
I should admit that I had hoped for The Drift to be seen on the big screen, whether on the festival circuit or in a brief theatrical run. I understand the odds of this happening, but the experience of seeing any film theatrically, in my opinion, still outweighs home movie viewing. Though I may have suggested in the past that a theatrical run validates a film, which to some degree it does (see also: Killer of Sheep), other means of distribution will need to be attempted before independent film dies off completely. Warner Independent Pictures, Picturehouse, Red Envelope, Paramount Vantage, and Tartan all going under this year suggests foreign and independent film is in trouble.
I suppose that, when this film is finished, I could attempt some kind of self-distribution, where I’d contact theaters on my own, and offer a reasonable price for a DVD or HDCAM screening. When I worked as a programmer, off and on for three years, distributors would call me, email me, and snail mail me information on all titles available. Though I am less and less a programmer these days, to my great sadness, I think there’s a market for smaller titles being booked in smaller, more intimate settings. There’s much to be learned from the old system, especially when, in my case, I have little to lose by charging, say, $200 for a week long screening than New Yorker Films’ insane demands of five times that.
So, if a minor theatrical run fails, or if I decide against it, perhaps a small DVD pressing, allowing for sales online? It’s worked, somewhat so, for films like Mutual Appreciation and Dance Party, USA, though those films received a fair amount of buzz prior to their releases, and were handsomely reviewed by bloggers.
If some kind of digital distribution can be had, now is the time. With various operations like Cinetic, which handles all digital distribution deals for filmmakers they choose to represent, the future of small film viewings is being born. If you live in a small city like I do, the waiting period for independent titles can cause interest to wane, and could inevitably cause much revenue to be lost. If films are available for direct downloads or are streaming on websites such as SnagFilms, the waiting period is over, and with any luck, a few reviews by print journalism or bloggers could quickly bring in a bit of revenue. Though this is all very new, and untested, we may be witnessing the future of film distribution.
And lastly, if all else fails, I would seed my film through a torrent site, allowing for free downloads via an .avi or .mkv file, which would allow the film to be seen at no cost. This may be the last choice of any filmmaker, especially one in debt, but it beats the alternative. Perhaps a .txt file with suggesting donations is included with the file, suggesting a small donation to assist in budgetary debts (luckily, mine was about $2500). I would include a Creative Commons license, allowing for anyone to distribute the film non-commercially. Again, one wonders if this would allow for greater viewings of films, but it may be worth a shot.
Though I’m unsure of what to do with my film, The Drift, especially as I am not only still editing, but will someone to polish the sound. This is the first film I’ve made that may have some commercial appeal, and I would honestly like the opinions of others to comment on where I might go from here. I’ve essentially given up the prospects of what film viewers have come to expect of a film, which is a festival run, theatrical run, and an eventual DVD release.
I’m a bit thrilled at the prospect of experimenting with the release of my film, mostly because I would like it to be seen, and would like to move on to something else. Again, if anyone would like to suggest to me a route to take, I would be quite grateful.