Culture

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
filmmaker, hulu, online, stevie long, strictly sexual

Companies:
hulu



Indie Filmmaker Hits It Big With Free Film Online

from the nicely-done dept

Tom sends over the story of an independent filmmaker, Stevie Long, who wrote and acted in the low-budget indie film Strictly Sexual that has found tremendous success by being online where people can watch it for free. Apparently, Long had a deal with some sort of online distributor, who got the film on Hulu, and word of mouth made it the most watched film on Hulu, ever:
"I woke up one morning and found a dozen or so messages in my Facebook inbox, saying, 'Hey, I just saw this film, and it really touched me, and I love the way it talks about breakups and relationships,' " Long says. "And I just scratched my head, saying, 'Where'd you see my movie?' I had no idea what Hulu was. God bless the people who had the foresight to put it up there.... We were fortunate in that the timing of the Internet and the ability to watch movies came about at the same time. I didn't have any ego about it as an artist, I just wanted my movie to be seen."
But, of course, it's not hurting him financially either:
"I'll give it to you in these rough terms," he says. "The $100,000 film has made 10 times its money."
But... but... but... we keep having Hollywood insiders tell us in our comments that indie filmmakers who distribute online can't possibly make back enough money to cover their costs. Everything's impossible until someone does it.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 2:15am

    we keep having Hollywood insiders tell us in our comments that indie filmmakers who distribute online can't possibly make back enough money to cover their costs

    I don't know about any hollywood insiders, but I can certainly say that this one be a rare bird.

    While I am sure someone will poop on me for this, I have a feeling there is a whole bunch more to this story that isn't being told.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2010 @ 3:57am

      Re:

      "While I am sure someone will poop on me for this, I have a feeling there is a whole bunch more to this story that isn't being told."

      Maybe because you don't ever elaborate on your feelings?

      If you can't explain them you'll have a tough time convincing others that they have a solid basis.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 11 Feb 2010 @ 4:15am

      Re:

      Of course there is more to it - because we know give it away and pray is not a business model. I'm sure there is a lot more to it, but from the story as-is, we can come away with two things:

      1) This movie was released on Hulu for free and has still managed to make money.
      2) There is a place for some kind of business that handles this kind fo thing for the artists - since the movie was posted by someone that knew what they were doing and incorporated it into a business model. This was done without the artist having to become an internet guru and he still made money.

      Sounds like a pretty reasonable world to me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        wvhillbilly (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:27pm

        Anybody ever heard of free exposure?

        Apparently the movie industry doesn't want to. they're totally paranoid that somebody might get some benefit out of something they've produced without having to pay a mint for it. Same thing with the record industry. They'd rather stick to their ancient steam engine business model, tie down the pressure release valve and wonder why the boiler blew up, rather than let off some steam and attract some business.

        You reap what you sow. But you gotta sow before you can reap, or all you'll get is weeds.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 4:50am

      Re:

      "I don't know about any hollywood insiders, but I can certainly say that this one be a rare bird."

      I'm not "pooping" on you, but you are asking for it, really. you state this with such conviction, yet you offer no proof nor reasoning for this argument.

      You are basically saying "this will be rare, 'cause I say so". Do you have anything more constructive to offer?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Killer_Tofu (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:22am

        Re: Re:

        The "must be more to this story" is the TAM cop-out for when a story goes against everything he stands for, and he really does have zero bad things to say about it. It is mostly because he just HAS to say something. Every. Single. Time.
        He probably has some sort of insecurity complex that leads him to purposely post factless and baseless arguments here as a form of attention seeking. It is the only reason I can come up with why his own thoughts will contradict themselves from thread to other thread, yet he keeps coming back and has never sided with Mike (except halfway once, kind of, but he still tried to argue best he could).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2010 @ 4:28pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's why TAM gets so upset when you attack the person and not the idea. When we call TAM a shill, paid or unpaid, or a troll, paid or unpaid, I know that it personally affects TAM.

          Imagine if the internet were like the old west. I know, a useless comparison but let's imagine for a moment that the internet is like the old west and real space is like virtual space. Long story short:

          Techdirt is home sweet home for TAM. Paid or unpaid, TAM is staking out his virtual land.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      but its too early, 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:43am

      Re: Drinking Game

      "there is a whole bunch more to this story "

      time for a shot everyone

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:45am

      Re:

      "I am sure someone will poop on me for this"

      Ummm, fyi ... this is no that kind of site dude.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:14am

      Re:

      While I am sure someone will poop on me for this, I have a feeling there is a whole bunch more to this story that isn't being told.

      Yes there alway is - however the odds are that it mostly reinforces the aspects that we already know......

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 11 Feb 2010 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      I recall another movie that was made by indie outsiders.
      A movie which made 10 times or more than what it cost to make.
      Which was seen be millions of people.
      Do you know of which project I speak of.
      My friend Blair thought is was good.

      LOL

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      RD, 11 Feb 2010 @ 11:24am

      Re: TAMTROLL

      "While I am sure someone will poop on me for this, I have a feeling there is a whole bunch more to this story that isn't being told."

      Bwaahahahahahaha. Fallback Unthinking Rebuttal #2 from our favorite Shill.

      And...OF COURSE there is more to the story, there ALWAYS is. You can say that about ANY article of ANY topic. DUH! But you say that as if that acts as a valid dismissal of ALL the valid points of the piece. It doesnt. This isnt a and all-or-nothing game, you need to figure this out or stop posting. SOME people can have SOME success with ALTERNATE methods and it can STILL be VALID. And even then, just because ONE example works doesnt mean the VERY NEXT STEP is to "tear down" (your words) the ENTIRE existing business and replace ALL OF IT with JUST that ONE NEW example that worked for ONE GUY. Get a clue, you look like a babbling idiot when you post this nonsense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ack-, 11 Feb 2010 @ 2:48am

    Hey, problems brewing in Finland, again.
    Kaisa Rastimo says she's going to at least try forcing even more censorship and stuff, once again using cp card AND her own financial interests. ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0711551/ )

    Her latest blog entry -
    http://web.me.com/kaisa.rastimo/www.kaisarastimo.fi/Blogi/Merkinnät/2010/2/7_TIETOYHTEISKUNNAN_K EHITTÄMINEN_EI_OLE_NÖRTTIEN_YKSINOIKEUS.html

    Looks like google translate does good enough work on this to understand the message.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mdavidthomson (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 3:13am

    Is there more?

    There might be more to this story, the NPR post reads like fluff and it's hard to know much more without a real effort.

    A quick IMDb, however, reveals that Arts Alliance is the US distrib. They're a big company here is their big international parent:

    http://www.artsalliance.com/PortfolioCurrent.aspx#artsalliancemedia

    Basically, while this is a great indie success for that guy, I suspect it's not that radically different from a straight to video release that's been done since VHS started. Strictly Sexual would have been bought at a film market at some point by the distributor and I imagine they got it on Hulu through one of their block booking (you only get Transformers if you take three films we think are rubbish) style deals.

    The surprise is that the film resonates and the executives didn't see that it would (actually, that might not be much of a surprise knowing movie execs).

    What I'd be interested to know is... how much of that $1m did he see? Enough to make another movie? Or even live on a reasonable salary? I suspect not. I suspect he got a small fee upfront that might have covered his production costs and nothing more. I found it notable that he didn't know what Hulu was. If it was my film, and I had a monetary investment in the picture, I'd want to know where it was playing.

    So far as I can guess (and yes, this is all an educated guess) we're still looking at the classic music industry/movie industry style distributors taking all the money.

    It is more an indication of the fact that sub $1m movies have a lot more places to get seen. Even using old distribution companies. Even though those companies may or may not know how to fully exploit new channels.

    I'd argue that Netflix is much more radical in this space. They have been releasing movies such as The Puffy Chair (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436689/) for a few years, sort of as a hobby. If Netflix gets into the habit of buying these sub $1m movies they are all of a sudden a fully fledged movie studio. They have all the distribution in place without the momentum of the old system because their built digitally from the start.

    Then... who needs other people's content? Why buy from a distributor when you can make and distribute for less. Production costs of these type of no stars, no fx films are well within the price that I imagine Netflix can afford. And they fit the long tail that is the speciality area for Netflix pointing customers to. And they have all the consumer data they need to tailor movies to exactly the audience. And everything is focused on line.

    They might not want to go into production because of the inherent risk, or they might not need to because lots of no-budget indie filmmakers would be lining up to get their film distributed by Netflix - some of which will be very good. But that's another story.

    My guess is that Netflix doesn't want to anger the studios. Yet. Though I do think Netflix is poised to make a killing in sub $5m indie films when they feel strong enough to take the majors on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 4:45am

      Re: Is there more?

      So wait, you are saying that this "indy" film wasn't so "indy"?

      Hmmm.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 4:53am

        Re: Re: Is there more?

        What's your definition for "indie". In my mind, any movie that was conceived, paid for and made by independent filmmakers counts as "indie", even if they don't distribute it independently.

        Do you have different criteria?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

          Well, I would say that if you are going to claim an "indie success", it would be full on indie end to end. Mike's story pretty much reads like Indie producer made a movie, got it on Hulu himself, and managed to sell a million dollars worth of copies by himself.

          But if the story is that an indie producer made a movie, signed a distribution deal, and the distributor (you know, an evil middle man) managed to get the movie on Hulu, and also distributed and sold a million dollars worth of product, well, that is a whole different story.

          The story would ring nice if the guy just put the movie on the torrents a people randomly started buying it from him. But with evil middle men involved, it's just another movie made with his own funding (see Kevin Smith's Clerks... which was shot for 1/4 of the price on actual film, when doing it was expensive).

          Like I said, the indie isn't quite so indie, if you know what i mean.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

            You may want to do a little research into the definition of independent film. Then, having educated yourself, you can actually contribute something worthwhile to the conversation instead of wasting everyone's time with your senseless troll dribble.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

            "The story would ring nice if the guy just put the movie on the torrents a people randomly started buying it from him"

            You don't pay attention, really, do you? That's the "give it away and pray" that Mike always warns against. Besides, does the platform being Hulu rather than torrents really matter?

            That doesn't change the focus of the story - a movie was put online and made 10x its budget despite being "free". Who signed the initial deal is irrelevant, and the filmmaker himself states he didn't know what Hulu was, so he obviously had help. that the help came from a more traditional source has no bearing on its financial success through a "free" channel.

            The point is that despite what you constantly claim, it is possible to make money without sticking to the traditional business models. Who was responsible for making this happen is really neither here nor there. That the movie was a low budget independent production rather than a studio production is really the interesting factor (i.e., if it was a studio genre pic, you'd have claimed that this was the only reason it was successful).

            "Like I said, the indie isn't quite so indie, if you know what i mean."

            No, I don't. In my mind, who distributes a movie has no bearing on its independent status.

            Are you saying that Clerks wasn't an indie movie simply because the Weinsteins bought *the finished product* and released it? Are The Blair Witch project and Paranormal Activity not independent productions because they were bought by studios after they were finished? You really have a warped definition in my view.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:43am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

              Independent productions are all over the place, even in Hollywood. Rather than funding through studios, they are funded in different ways.

              You only have to look at things like the Sundance Film Festival to see plenty of higher end movies that are not studio financed, but are being shopped around in part by getting played at the festival. They aren't "indie" other than they aren't specifically signed up and paid for by a given studio.

              More often than not, such as with Blair Witch, they get signed up and get distribution.

              All I am saying about this example is that hulu isn't specifically available for a solo film maker. If you or I chose to make a movie, there is no direct path for us to put our movie on Hulu. He needed to sign a distribution deal for that to happen. Now, is Hulu running ads before the content, and paying rights for it? Is this how he made his money? Or did he make money selling units out of the back of his car, at flea markets, or whatever? Did the movie get distributed to WalMart? We don't know.

              In the end, it's about the type of success story Mike is trying to push here. This movie is perhaps independently financed, but it's success appears to be totally dependent on the "old buggy whip system", otherwise it wouldn't have been where the eyeballs were.

              This would be the sort of post Mike will link to later and say "we have proven that free online distribution works", when there is actually so much more to the story that just isn't here.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:51am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                "This would be the sort of post Mike will link to later and say "we have proven that free online distribution works", when there is actually so much more to the story that just isn't here."

                But this douse prove that free online distribution works. Even if it wasn't an inde film, the MPAA is quite clear in their beliefs that even making it available online for free will completely kill the marketability of the film. This proves that's false. That's the point of the article, not whether the film was independent or not.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:10am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                Wow, you aren't making much sense, still...

                First of all, what's your definition of "indie"? As I've said, mine is that it's a movie that's not produced within the studio system. With your second paragraph, you seem to be agreeing with me, but then you bring distribution into the mix, which I consider irrelevant as to whether it's "indie" or not.

                "He needed to sign a distribution deal for that to happen."

                This is irrelevant to the argument in progress. Let me break the discussion down:

                1. An independent film-maker writes & produces a movie.

                2. Said film-maker agrees to distribution of the movie, part of which involves the movie being shown for free on Hulu.

                3. The Hulu streaming alone ends up making 10x what the movie originally cost, despite being given away for "free", which the MPAA, RIAA and their cronies constantly tell us in not possible.

                4. Therefore, it is possible to make money from "free" online, as long as there's a business model and quality product in there to make it happen.

                Which part of this do you disagree with?

                "Now, is Hulu running ads before the content, and paying rights for it? Is this how he made his money? Or did he make money selling units out of the back of his car, at flea markets, or whatever? Did the movie get distributed to WalMart? We don't know."

                You get a kick from being disingenuous, don't you? The money being discussed comes from Hulu, and Hulu alone (at least the NPR article is worded that way). Hulu's business model revolves around advertising. Therefore, we can say that this is how the film has made its money, especially since the NPR article also mentions that it's the most viewed movie on the platform.

                "This would be the sort of post Mike will link to later and say "we have proven that free online distribution works", when there is actually so much more to the story that just isn't here."

                Which part of the story does not prove the "free online distribution works" part, at least for this one example?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:57am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                  Which part of the story does not prove the "free online distribution works" part, at least for this one example?

                  Simple: Where did the sales happen?

                  We don't know. There is no indication that i can see that free distribution on Hulu is the cause, just that X and Y both happened. Where is the connection?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:15am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                    Wait a sec, are you dismissing the article just because you don't know step 2?
                    1) give movie away for free
                    2) ???
                    3) profit
                    We know that 1 and 3 happened, so dismissing the entire thing just because you don't know the specifics of step two is stupid.

                    I don't know the specifics ether, but it sounds as if there was a pay option in the theaters. It's also possible that Hulu payed for part of it from advertisements. 1,000,000,000 views will pay a hell of a lot.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:19am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                    "Simple: Where did the sales happen?"

                    So, you are being deliberately stupid, then?

                    Hint: sales are not the only way to make money.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:59am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                      I am not being deliberately stupid. The information isn't in the article. We don't know if he made a million from sales, if he sold the movie to the distributor for a million, or one single Saudi prince bought a single copy for a million.

                      That information isn't there.

                      Without it, there is no way to connect "FREE!" to any income.

                      So I am just asking the obvious question: Where was the million made?

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 8:14am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                        In the absence of any further information, we have to assume that it came from Hulu (the only source mentions in the articles), whose business model does not include direct sales.

                        While more complete information would be nice, why are you arguing with this? Why are you bringing out idiotic red herrings like flea markets and Saudi princes, when there's nothing to indicate that Hulu's ad-supported model was not responsible for the lion's share of income?

                        Stop derailing the threads. If you simply say "I'd like to see a more detailed breakdown of where the income has come from", that's fine. A good point, and it would be nice to see the complete picture. But, you can't simply do that, for whatever reason.

                        Yet again, you prove why people think you're an industry shill. So far in this thread, you've attacked the idea that the film-maker was independent (he clearly was), insisted that sales or some non-Hulu source MUST have been involved (there's no evidence to suggest this in either article) and simply cannot accept that a well established, profitable free model actually exists. Once again, why is this so hard to accept, unless you have some investment in the old models?

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 8:23am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                        While I know the Saudi prince was an exaggeration, if it worked for him it worked.

                        If the distributor bought the rights to the movie for one million dollars then the distributor had it in his head that he could make more from it by putting it online (remember it was the distributor that put it online for free).

                        If he made the money from sales then what Mike and others have been saying is proven in an ideal example. This is identical to the "free is part of the business plan" that has been explained here so many times. What was sold isn't relevant ether.

                        The fourth possibility is much more likely than the three you've given. Hulu payed per viewing. With one billion views that's only a tenth of a cent per viewing. If that is the case then he got ripped off by Hulu or Hulu's getting ripped of by their advertisers.

                        So, in the long run, how he did it is irrelevant, all that's important is he found a way to make it work. Unless your so insistent that you find out how because you want to copy his idea and use it on your own product. Just remember, it may have worked for him, but it may not work for you.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          The Anti-Mike (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:03pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                          So, in the long run, how he did it is irrelevant

                          Actually, isn't that the most relevant in an ongoing discussion about business models? That would degrade this website down to being something between stories about santa claus or the tooth fairy, because we are suppose to just believe in the magic.

                          I want to know what works, in part because Mike is all about "what works" - yet here we are with something that worked, but we don't know what the something is.

                          It makes me think that the part that worked may have had little or nothing to do with Hulu.

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          • identicon
                            RD, 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:21pm

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                            "It makes me think that the part that worked may have had little or nothing to do with Hulu."

                            Do you know it DIDNT have anything to do with Hulu? No? Then you really cant say not then, can you?

                            But we DO know that Hulu WAS a part of this. Its not like Hulu had NOTHING to do with it.

                            So we can pretty safely say: Hulu had SOMETHING to do with it, but it might not have been EVERYTHING to do with it. It most certainly didnt have NOTHING to do with it, as you suggest.

                            Logical thought and reasoning is a GOOD thing. You should try them sometime.

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                            • icon
                              The Anti-Mike (profile), 12 Feb 2010 @ 9:17am

                              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                              RealDense, take all your arguments and reverse them.

                              Do we know Hulu did it?

                              It is pretty safe to say that aliens from another planet had something to do with it, or for that matter, the video getting sold on a porn site or out of the back of a car at a strip club.

                              The point is we don't know where the money was made, Hulu may have nothing to do with it. Without knowing, the story is incomplete and everything about it is assumptions and guesses, not facts.

                              Mike will of course use this story as proof that "indie film makes can give away their product and make money doing it", but the story doesn't not show cause and effect.

                              Come on RealDense, thing about it... I know you can do it! Logical thought and reasoning is a GOOD thing. You should try them sometime.

                              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Amanda, 31 Jul 2011 @ 7:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Richard (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

            But if the story is that an indie producer made a movie, signed a distribution deal, and the distributor (you know, an evil middle man) managed to get the movie on Hulu, and also distributed and sold a million dollars worth of product, well, that is a whole different story.

            Yes - in some ways - but an equally good one, maybe even better!

            It proves that the "evil" middle man doesn't have to be evil after all!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Bad Anti-Mike, 11 Feb 2010 @ 8:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

            As The Anti-Mike, your position that “an evil middle man” is required is spot on. “Evil” being the opposite of Mike’s stance that middle men are a good thing and stated that monopolies, not middle men, were evil.

            At least understand Mike's position before pretending to understand the argument as “The Anti-Mike”.

            The Problem Isn't Middlemen, It's Monopolies
            http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091208/0259297245.shtml

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:24am

          Re: Re: Re: Is there more?

          The only way that TAM will ever except that the internet will work is if it's conceived, payed, made, and distributed independently, and it must be distributed online only for free and must make millions or it's just the same as big media.

          @TAM Why would you accept mdavidthomson's ramblings without any form of proof (or logic) while insisting that we provide proof on top of logic even after we've provided proof?

          @mdavidthomson even if it was distributed by a big company, it was still FREE online. That's exactly what the MPAA is saying can't possibly happen for anyone, anywhere, in any situation.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        mdavidthomson (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: Is there more?

        No. I'm pretty sure it was as indie as you get. He probably put the money up himself. And then he was lucky enough to sell it to a distributor. At that level, he probably didn't sell it for very much. A studio almost certainly didn't give him money to make it or tell him what to do. That's all still super indie.

        I think it's great that he was able to do it. In essence I just think his film is still playing by the old rules of the game. That's the bit of "is there more" i was responding to.

        But there's no doubt that Hulu is selling ad space on that movie and making money from it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeremy2020 (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 9:38am

        Re: Re: Is there more?

        Which means that major studios can make it work then? Great! They seemed to be the ones confused about how to make it work. What's the problem?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Desmitty, 11 Feb 2010 @ 5:16am

      Re: Is there more?

      Netflix was making moves to become the distributor like mention, but then realized in doing so that this would most likely limit the amount of movies they get from other big name distributors that they base the majority of their business on. From the idealogical side of things, your idea is good, from the business side it falls apart. Would most of the consumers still pay that money if they didn't get Harry Potter, Twilight, or the next Adam Sandler/Jim Carey flick?

      http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/st_netflix_distribution/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        mdavidthomson (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re: Is there more?

        Absolutely, I agree, it is likely to damage their business. I think they were doing it too early. As with their streaming deals, they have tried to push forward and been slapped back by the big studios for being uppity. The studios still have all the power as you say.

        However, I think that the movie studios, like the music industry, show no evidence that they are going to shift their business model quickly enough to prevent a collapse similar to the recording industry.

        I think that soon enough they will be weakened enough so that they will want to give the latest Twilight flick to Netflix regardless of whether Netflix is producing it's own content or not. It's like Warner Brothers saying they're not going to do any more free music streaming.

        Then I think producers would start complaining. Or going directly to Netflix (or someone else who uses all distribution channels they can) to make movies.

        Or Netflix may have been scared off permanantly. But if I were in charge of Netflix, I'd be too tempted not to try again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yogi, 11 Feb 2010 @ 3:31am

    Just take it like a man.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Antsy-Mike, 11 Feb 2010 @ 3:35am

    It may have worked once, but it can't work for him again. Or for a non-porno film. Or for a mainstream blockbuster. Or for recorded music. Or for books. Or for bards. Or for trolls.

    1 + 1 = 3 and always has.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DOlz (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:07am

    Re Anti-Mike

    I understand "Sita Sings the Blues" by Nina Paley is also doing well while distributing the movie free online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    WammerJammer (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 6:33am

    Indie Filmmaker Hits It Big With Free Film Online

    I don't get it. How do you make 10 times the cost of the film if it's free. And if it's not then why are you saying it's free? Which is it?
    I'm not being a jerk. I am trying to capitalize on the idea. How do you make money from free?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:05am

      Re: Indie Filmmaker Hits It Big With Free Film Online

      The trick is that there is a pay element to it but not one that the viewer had to give money for. I don't know if it's the advertisements on Hulu or if he's offering the DVDs on a website somewhere, but whatever it is seems to work for him. It douse seem that there was an in theater option as well as Hulu.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nina Paley, 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:29am

    a little perspective

    "I'll give it to you in these rough terms," he says. "The $100,000 film has made 10 times its money."

    The missing part of the story is how much the filmmaker got. We have no idea. Possibly something; possibly (probably) nothing, because most filmmmakers receive no "back end" due to typical distributor accounting practices. It would be nice to know, but what filmmakers actually get remains a well-guarded secret.

    Sita has probably "made back" its $270,000 budget by now. But I only report the money I actually get (which is now somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000; gotta write a new report). That's the part I care about!

    There's a good article about what's wrong with box office figures from
    Slate Magazine:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2118819

    And this Metafilter comment from 2005 sums up my understanding of the movie
    business. Unfortunately it's anecdotal and unsubstantiated (because it can't be
    substantiated):
    http://ask.metafilter.com/19015/What-percentage-of-movies-lose-money-overall#31 3
    994

    "If anyone tells you that there's a hard-and-fast answer to your question,
    they're big fat liars (or probably agents). Although box office and DVD sales
    numbers are generally reliable, budget numbers are closely held secrets. When
    you see numbers, on IMDB for instance, those are generally estimates that have
    never been verified. Then there's P&A, prints and advertising, which can cost as
    much as the movie itself or more. That's the cost of printing the movie (tres
    expensive, believe it or don't) and advertising the movie.

    "Sidenote: When I worked for an indie production company that was just moving
    into distribution, I did a lengthy analysis of rock bottom P&A for getting a
    movie into ten theatres simultaneously and determined that the least amount we
    could possibly spend on releasing this film we considered buying (and, indeed,
    any movie) was 3 million dollars. Seeing as how every single similar movie of
    the last five years had never cleared more than 500 grand, we opted not to buy
    it. You can't even GIVE movies away in this town.

    "The individual film numbers simply aren't important. They determine little
    things like salaries of directors and writers (although only tangentially) and
    they determine which executives get promoted and which get fired, but they can
    be easily manipulated for whatever your dark purpose. Hollywood accounting is
    maleable. You can shift production costs from one movie to another with the
    blink of an eye. Is "Weekend at Bernie's III" costing too much? Have "Ocean's
    Thirteen" buy the beachhouse from the movie at an inflated price, and put Andrew
    McCarthy's hair and makeup team onto the balance sheet for "Harry Potter and his
    Big Fat Who."

    "The only numbers that are at all reliable are the overall profit/loss statements
    for the studios, and even those are suspicious. In the end, there's this little
    secret that no one tells you -- movies don't make money. Never have. Never will.
    Corporations that buy movie studios end up getting screwed from a financial
    standpoint. What they're really getting is control over content for their
    delivery systems. (And a little slice of magic!)

    I swear, this whole Hollywood thing is a complete sham."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Nina Paley, 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:31am

      Re: a little perspective

      But the fact that "free" content can make money is well proven by the main post! It's just that now that we know that, artists should be taking advantage of it more directly, so they can enjoy more of the money generated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Nina Paley, 11 Feb 2010 @ 8:13am

      Re: a little perspective

      And now that I re-read my own links, I see that the profit margins on this particular film are probably much much higher than a theatrically released film - so the filmmaker is probably getting a lot more after all! I'd still like to know how much, but my apologies for assuming the worst.

      Anyway, no matter who gets the $$, the point is that $$ can be made from a "free" film.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        mdavidthomson (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 10:52am

        Re: Re: a little perspective

        As far as I know, you're right, on the books it's true that movies never make money (why would you ever want to pay people when you don't have to). And big corporations that buy them sometimes get screwed (Vivendi). But movie studios do make a lot of money for the people running the studios.

        Hollywood is notorious for hucksters and con-artists. ruthlessly fleecing everyone. At the same time, sometimes making great art (here's looking at you Robert Evans).

        With the revolution in technology both for distribution and production, maybe that can change and more filmmakers can make a reasonable living making better films. In theory, making a movie should be like being in a band. The monetary and physical cost is now roughly comparable for a small movie and an album. That still means however, that while you can do it for free on your laptop, to pay professionals it rapidly adds up.

        So I find it very disappointing (though I'm sure you find it a whole lot more disappointing) that Sita has only seen you get maybe 100k back. I'm very interested to read your new report. Do you think you've reached an upper limit? Why do you think you've not gone higher? Do you have further to go?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 2:44pm

      Re: a little perspective

      The closing paragraph of that metafilter comment sounds like BS. Movies don't make money? All the big movie studios have been losing money for like a hundred years? Please. Hollywood accounting is indeed a sham, but the fraud is in hiding the huge amount of money made so the studios can keep it for themselves, not pretending they're making money when they're really not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dima (profile), 11 Feb 2010 @ 7:46am

    The bright side

    So many negative people. Look at the bright side - with distribution channels becoming more accesible to average Joe Indie Film Maker, the good movies will find it's way to the public bypassing the the big boys.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 11 Feb 2010 @ 1:49pm

    this movie blows

    All things aside, I attempted to watch this movie on Hulu... Within minutes my ears and eyes were bleeding. This movie sucks ass and I recommend nobody sees it. But I am glad they made 10x what they put into it. that is great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RobShaver, 12 Feb 2010 @ 2:43pm

    Ignore Anti-Mike

    I blame the people who respond to Anti-Mike for his continued presents here. You can't win with a closed-minded individual who redefines common definitions to bolster his agenda.

    If you ignore his posts ... that means don't even read them ... and especially don't respond to them, then he may go away. And even if he doesn't, at least the noise caused by the useless responses will be reduced.

    Just my opinion about how to deal with trolls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lucy, 12 Feb 2010 @ 11:44pm

    http://businesseshome.net

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Lucy

    http://businesseshome.net

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alfred, 19 Feb 2010 @ 7:09am

    Everyone seems to talk about the evil middle man (the distributor). I find it baffling that the person who sells your film and makes you money is called the "The Evil Man". The distributor is undoubtedly taking a big risk by acquiring your film and other than the minimum guarantee it only makes sense that they keep a bigger royalty percentage than the licensor.
    There are plenty of territories one can exploit and let's remember that the money injected by the distributor for advertizing and promotion is usually one of the reasons why people learn about our film and end up watching it, either for free of paying.

    Agreed they sometimes offer bad deals but lets be clever about how we embark on the business side of film making and do a little homework about how to negotiate deals that benefit the filmmakers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Marcus, 18 Aug 2010 @ 11:39am

    Great competition for Indie film makers to get their work noticed: http://bit.ly/ctWYf3

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.