I'd like to throw something out there to Dead Harvey Nation.
Indie and micro-budget film, especially indie horror, has been much talked about over the last year or so. Most of that talk is thanks to the success of "Paranormal Activity", but that success came in the middle of the worst financial crisis that our generation has ever seen and at a time when all the studios were struggling for revenue. I do think that the big boys are at a point right now where they're willing to look at the indie and micro-budget business model, Paramount's promise to open a micro-budget division is a prime example, but I still don't think they really get it. The problem, as I see it, is that when it comes to low-budget films, the distributors and studios are trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. The problem is, what does that square hole look like... and are they using lube?
The round hole is what Hollywood's been doing forever... sexual innuendo understood and on purpose. You see, to simplify... you make or acquire a film, you market it and then release it into the wild. Aim for theatrical first, then DVD. After that, see if you can't get some revenue from TV or cable or whatever and, after that, it's part of the library. Own content, manage its distribution, try to make as much money as you can at every turn, screw as many people as you can along the way. So, when they deal with indie content, they pick up the rights and throw it into their grinder, which usually means that they barely market it and just throw it out there on DVD. Is that wrong? If it is, why would they think it is? With their existing distribution channels, they can usually turn an easy profit on that, especially since they screwed the desperate filmmaker out of his rights and they paid next to nothing for the content. My point is, I think that a new distribution and monetization system needs to be set up for indie content. Sure, they're turning a profit, but they could be making so much more and they could really create a win-win situation for everybody. Long and short, we need to create that square hole.
Problem is, what's that square hole look like? If we look at the average consumer of indie and micro-budget horror, we can make a few easy assumptions. One - they're horror fans. That means that they probably watch old, new, high-budget and low-budget horror movies, they probably read horror websites and they probably pick up Fangoria or Rue Morgue. Two - they probably spend quite a bit of time online. When you're into a specific niche like indie horror, the web is the best place to find out about new things going on. They probably listen to specific podcasts, read specific blogs and watch online video. Those are the easy assumptions, now let's make some more difficult ones. Three - I'm betting that indie horror fans are more likely to play video games than your average Joe. There just seems to be a connection there. Four - they're probably aware of, follow or have been to horror festivals. Five - they're probably more apt to buy merchandise based on the films that they watch. What horror fan doesn't have a few genre posters, t-shirts or action figures? I could go on and get more in-depth, but let's leave it at that. Now that we have a basic idea of who the indie horror fan is, how do they consume their media?
Knowing all that, if I were given the opportunity to be involved in the distribution and monetization of indie horror content, to start... I would be heavily involved with the indie festivals - support them, sponsor them, attend them, sell at them. Eat them up, make the festivals your cornerstone. I would also have a huge online presence where fans could watch shorts, read about the films and filmmakers and interact with indie horror content. I would try to get deals with PS3 and XBox to distribute content. I would strike deals with and get involved with the fan mags. I would constantly leverage the films against each other and sell related merchandise. After I've thrown the film through that entire process and monetized it as best I could, then and ONLY then, would I throw it out there on DVD through traditional distribution channels.
So, here's my question... and, please, think outside the box. Aside from DVD, how would you consume your indie horror? What distribution channels are out there that we haven't thought about? Long and short, what do YOU think? Am I crazy to think that there's a new distribution model out there?