Making an independent movie is one thing, tough enough but once you call it a wrap there are still obstacles left to face. You entered the festivals, you received the awards, you had fans and critics sing your praise but your film is still not out there. What now? Get a regular job? After two years of struggling and only sealing a deal for a Swedish DVD release, filmmaker Filip Tegstedt finally decided to self-distribute his much beloved debut feature „Marianne” via VOD. For a humble amount of $6.99 everyone can legally watch it online for 24 hours. Worldwide. No region-blocking, no rating restrictions. Streaming services are provided by Youtube competitor Vimeo. Is this the future of independent film distribution?
The decision is a radical one since selling „Marianne” to a regular distributor is not an option anymore now. But Tegstedt says, that option is long gone anyway. „Piracy has pretty much killed my film. It was out there a week before the Swedish DVD release. I couldn’t sell it anywhere after that.” But apart from his own feature, the filmmaker sees a general problem: „Filmmaking is totally imploding. The rise of films being made since about 2005 creates an incredibly difficult distribution situation for independent filmmakers. Because distribution and marketing is so expensive, and pirates take films as soon as they can.”
The decision to self-distribute was less natural than it was a necessity though: „If I close my production company or it goes bankrupt, nobody will ever be able to release ‘Marianne’ anywhere ever again. So at this stage I really haven’t got anything to lose if I self publish, except I become a self published filmmaker, and that’s not really a good thing. Like, imagine you’re at Cannes, or another networking place. You’re talking to a producer because you want to pitch a film, and he asks what you’ve made before. You say you’ve made a feature, he asks who bought it, you say you self distributed it. And that’s it. If you can’t make something people will buy, it’s going to be tough getting the money to make another film.”
On the other hand this approach might open the floodgates for a new distribution model that could help independent filmmakers to get their work out there and not having to give it away for free. Surprisingly, less well-known Vimeo offers a service that is much more filmmaker-friendly than Amazon Instant. Says Tegstedt:
„In order to distribute via Amazon, you have to make a physical single layered DVD-R, which has half the capacity of any DVD you buy in stores. After they hopefully approved it they rip it and re-encode it, so you get an SD resolution super compressed video file. Low resolution, low bitrate. And in the end they keep 50 percent of the profits. Also the film is only available in the US. With Vimeo you upload and it’s done. The file that’s streaming now is almost Blu-ray quality. 20mbps bitrate in 1080p.”
„Marianne” starring Thomas Hedengran and Peter Stormare is available via www.mariannemovie.com in the original Swdish version with English subtitles and can be watched instantly. In case you are still not convinced, read our review and an earlier interview we conducted with Tegstedt back in 2011. [LZ]