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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Philosophy of DIY+ (DIY plus) Distribution: An Introduction

The world is, compared to any one person, huge. Getting a movie out even nationwide is an enormous task, even if that task is to be accomplished over time - over several months. DIY distribution is a powerful & effective tool. Instead of waiting around for approval & acceptance from film festivals/theater programmers/critics & other media/other distributors, a filmmaker can interact directly with the audience and conduct business by offering his/her work for purchase at screenings or through DVD or VOD. In the final analysis, two groups of people matter above all others in the film creation & consumption area of activity: filmmakers & paying audience members. DIY distribution is the shortest route between those two groups. The down side of DIY distribution is its limited reach. Unless the filmmaker has access to a lot of money & can hire/create a distribution operation that can take the film out wide, the film will only be seen in a few places, and even that would have to be done over several months, most likely. Right now my new film Date Number One has screened 9 times in 4 US cities. I want to screen the film hundreds of times & at all major US cities w/ in the next two years - let's say by May 2008. In order to accomplish that goal I am embracing an approach that I call DIY+ (DIY plus or Do-It-Yourself plus). My DIY distribution of Date Number One will always continue but I am open to working with, and will actively be seeking collaboration opportunities with, other distributors (also theater programmers, fests, media) in order to get the film out wider AS LONG AS I retain ownership of the film & I have a strong vote in how the film will be distributed, how it will be presented to the audience & how it will be marketed. Even if I am doing a screening a week & selling DVDs from my website, another distributor can, during the same time period, show the film at theaters in places that I am not doing my screenings & hopefully make money. The work being done by two entities in a DIY+ situation can even complement & assist both entities (the press generated by one distributor may assist the other since both are showing or selling the same film).

Maybe the DIY+ arrangement can be a limited partners type biz situation, with the filmmaker/distributor as the main partner & other distributors as secondary partners (even if they do more work, spend more money & subsequently make more money).

One of the key benefits of a DIY+ distro situation is the consistent availability of the film to the audience. If any one distributor (lets say a secondary partner - theatrical distro in Texas, for example) does not or cannot provide the film to an audience member in the preferred format, space & time, then at least the film may be available through another distributor in the DIY+ arrangement (in this case the main member of the group - the filmmaker/distributor, can perhaps make the film available to the audience member through a sale of a DVD through the filmmaker/distributor's website).

DIY distribution is a different level & scale of work - not indiewood distro & not Hollywood distro, and a given film can be brought to the market from any one or through all three of those avenues. It is a good time to be an indie filmmaker, specially a DIY distribution inclined indie filmmaker who is open to working with others, because at the moment distribution options are many for such filmmakers. Indie filmmakers & distributors will & can be as creative as the best films in that field in order to accomplish the availability (to the audience) & profit (to the filmmakers & distributors) mission.

- Sujewa

Note 1: Concrete examples of DIY+ situations would be Date Number One screenings #8, 9 & 10. In all three of those instances I the filmmaker/distributor & the screening venue worked/work together for the benefit of both parties.

Note 2: On the DVD front, Lance Weiler's Head Trauma may be an example of a DIY+ type arrangement: Weiler is retaining ownership of the film while the DVD gets sold nationwide through another distributor. Head Trauma also seems to be an example of relatively wide DIY distribution (15+ cities theatrical!), read about Head Trauma at Indie Features 06.

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