The ultimate struggle for independent filmmakers a decade or so ago was securing that golden opportunity of a theatrical distribution deal. Ask any independent filmmaker at the time and you were bound to hear the same story time and again about how difficult, stressful, frustrating and disappointing the process was. Some of them may have had the good fortune of being accepted into festivals. Even fewer may have scooped up a couple awards along the way. But mere acceptance into a festival or a couple accolades never guaranteed anyone a distribution deal. Theater space was, and to a certain extent still is – limited. I can only imagine the plethora of films that never received an audience, destined to obscurity on a filmmaker’s living room bookshelf. Tragic.
Fast-forward to present day. The future is much brighter indeed. Barriers are collapsing, ushering in a new frontier in distribution – Digital. Times are changing and everyone from the filmmaker to the distributor to the consumer is reaping the benefits.
Today, Digital Distribution (known as Video On Demand or VOD) comes in a wide variety of flavors. The most common are TVOD (Transactional Video On Demand), SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand), AVOD (Ad-supported Video On Demand) and EST (Electronic Sell-Through). You may have heard of some of the platforms that utilize these On Demand services; iTunes, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, CinemaNow and so on. You’re probably looking at all these acronyms and wondering what the heck it all means. It basically boils down to how content is disseminated and how revenue is generated. These are just a few of the important factors for filmmakers to consider when choosing the most viable distribution deal for their film. There are pros and cons associated with each model and I could dig deeper into what they are, but I’ll save that for another time.
For now, lets focus on another form of self digital-distribution that has emerged most recently. It’s called VHX. It’s so new in fact that it’s still in its beta stage. The reason I decided to spotlight this platform so early in the game is because it’s a new breed of self-distribution. What’s unique about the VHX distribution model is that it offers filmmakers full control over the how their content is distributed, marketed and promoted. This route of distribution is also ideal for those filmmakers who are working within a very small, strict budget as it allows the filmmaker maximum control over the financial aspects of their project. VHX allows artists to sell content directly from their own website and offers a few extra perks such as social media integration, SEO optimization and analytics tools. In addition, they are 100% non-exclusive so filmmakers are free to sell their content anywhere else they’d like. Now as I pointed out earlier, VHX is still in a private beta stage. Essentially, this means VHX is taking submissions from content creators looking for distribution, but on a selective basis. They say the reason for this selectivity is due to their focus on making sure the content they put out is high quality. VHX founders Jamie Wilkinson and Casey Pugh have stated however that the long-term goal of the company is to democratize the distribution process.
On a personal side note, I feel this democratization is quite an exciting prospect. Hollywood has dictated our tastes for so long simply by controlling what’s available. Digital Distribution is changing all that. I’ve spent some time in this arena professionally and it’s really satisfying not only to bare witness to this shift of “choice” being handed over to the public but also to be an active participant within it.
– Stephen Reilly