Friday, January 22, 2010

Content vs Distribution: An Argument and A Perspective

There's a long running argument in the entertainment world... content or distribution? Which is King? Personally, I've always thought that content is king, but that could just be the storyteller in me. Tell a good story, make it compelling, make it good and it'll find its way. Cream always rises to the top... or was it shit always rises to the top? In any case, there's a lot of people out there who disagree with that and think that distribution is King. Go ahead, make whatever you want, the people who distribute content will decide what's good and who watches. At the end of the day, you need to get past the gatekeeper. Really, if you think about it, this whole argument is basically the studios versus the indies, isn't it? The studios are the ones who have the agreements with the theater chains, they own the networks, they have the distribution. They can make shit movies and still make a buck. Indies, on the other hand, are all about content. They have to sell their films, they have to find an audience. If their content stinks, that's it, it stinks and hopefully their parents like it... because they probably funded it. Both sides have a point and it's not a new argument. So, what is it? Content or distribution?

Up until recently, the distribution side probably won out. Who's kidding who? If you didn't want to go through the networks, the studios or the theater chains, how were you going to get anyone to watch your content? What was the result of that system? Well, you had Tuesday nights where the best thing on TV was "Coach" and you got a lot of Dolph Lundgren movies... with all due respect to Dolph, I loved his movies. Today, the networks, studios and theater chains are actually starting to lose a bit of their power. Sure, you still have to go through a network, studio or cable provider, but there's 100's of channels that run lots of indie content, there's plenty of DVD distribution outlets that will stock your film and there's tons of film festivals that'll give you a theatrical screening... and that all goes without mentioning the one distribution outlet that's shaking the very foundation that the studios, networks and theater chains were built on - the internet. From downloading legal indie content to piracy to Hulu and Boxee, the power really is starting to shift from distribution to content. Now, tell a good story, make it compelling, make it intriguing and you can find an audience, one way or the other.

Now, I don't think that it means that it's going to be any easier to distribute your film... or, should I say, successfully distribute your film. I still think you're going to need help, which I think will see the rise of a new breed of agent or manager, one that helps you navigate this 'new world' of distribution and just takes a percentage of profits. This is an area that we at Dead Harvey are hoping to get into, to be honest. We know and study the landscape and see a world of opportunity for good films and good content that studios, networks and theater chains would generally ignore. As usual, if any of you would like help in this area or just want our opinions, we're more than happy to give it - like I said, we're still studying this landscape and would love to work with some 'test subjects', so to speak. However, if reaching out for help just isn't your thing and you'd rather just read something, here's links to two articles that I recently found, which gave me the idea for this post.

Screen: Indie Filmmakers Find Alternatives to the Multiplex - I actually read this offline in Wired magazine, one of the few magazine that I actually still purchase... and then found it online to share. A great one page article on how indie filmmakers are finding out new ways to make money.

Backyard Filmmakers Are Hollywood's Greatest Fear: Analysis - funny thing about this article is that it was written 5 years ago. It's a good read, but the sites he mentions and the technology he talks about are currently outdated. However, I think that makes the article all that much more valid.

Have a great weekend, see you next week!


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