14

See that video above? That’s my feature film “Burning Inside”. In its entirety. It is now potentially available anywhere on the web where embeddable code can be placed. To see it in its native environment, go to the official Burning Inside site.

Why did I embed it in this blog? Because it represents the ongoing process of getting a film out everywhere in order to find an audience for it.

A few weeks ago I had an hour long conversation with Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff that he recorded for his podcast. Basically, the theme of the conversation was the struggle to A) Make a truly independent low budget film. And B) Release that film and find an audience for it. This is a battle that seems to get more and more difficult every day. The difficulty for part B exponentially increases due to influence by everything from the economy (how much spending cash your potential audience has) to shopping habits (where does your potential audience buy their entertainment from). And all of these factors are constantly changing. You can listen to the in-depth podcast here. And make sure to check out the rest of Jason’s site and his other podcasts. He’s got a lot of great information.

One of the things that I mention in the podcast is that we’ve had more good reviews of Burning Inside, than units sold. What I would like to do now is list all of the on-line reviews that we’ve had. If you happen to know of a review that isn’t listed below feel free to put it in the comments and I will add it to the list:

BadLit.com “Burning Inside Review”
Brutal as Hell “A Surreal Nightmare You Cannot Escape”
Fear Zone: “Fear Zone’s Final Film Review: Burning Inside”
The Liberal Dead “Burning Inside” also listed as one of their “10 Indie Flicks That Deserve Your Dollar
All Things Horror Online “Burning Inside: A Deeply Penetrating Surreal Nightmare” All Things Horror also screened “Burning Inside” in Boston on January 5th
Planet of Terror “Burning Inside”
Twenty Four Lies Per Second “Cult Review: Burning Inside”
366 Weird Movies “Burning Inside”
Cinesploitation “Burning Inside”

Burning Inside has also been reviewed in print magazines, Shock Cinema, Deadline (Germany) and Fangoria

There’s also an amazing essay at Zouch: “Extended Short Circuit: Nathan Wrann’s ‘Burning Inside“.

You can also find dozens of articles and interviews out there about Burning Inside or Channel Midnight.

All of this adds up to a list that is almost longer than the list of people that bought “Burning Inside” (whether as a DVD, download to own, or streaming).

Burning Inside is available at the following locations for price points ranging from $1.99 – $19.95:

Channel Midnight
Amazon.com Instant Video
Amazon.com DVD
YouTube Rental
iTunes (as an app)
Burning Inside Facebook Page
and now the Burning Inside website

and maybe a few other places around the web, if you find one, let me know.

I’ve also put the word out on all the social networks:
YouTube: Burning Inside trailer has 1,200+ views on my page and 370 views on the Channel Midnight page
Burning Inside Facebook Page has over 244 Likes (admittedly not a lot)

What I’m saying here is that Burning Inside is available and the word is out, yet success in the sales department has not yet found us. Does that mean I roll over and die? No, it means that I continue to find new ways to make it available in ways that might find an audience, hence using dynamoplayer to embed the film right on the Burning Inside website for only $1.99. However, Jason Brubaker has a recent blog post that addresses the main issue with this new technology. Ultimately it’s the overall problem plaguing all independent filmmakers. Findability.

I didn’t make a film with the dream that 14 people would see it, and I doubt you made your film with those hopes as well. If you are you an independent filmmaker and willing to talk about your numbers? Put ‘em in the comments and tell me how you’ve found success. Or why you haven’t. Let’s get a real discussion going and not just the fantasy that you can find on most blogs talking about how great this technology is for us.

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12 Responses to “14”

  1. 366weirdmovies Says:

    Not a filmmaker, but I do help distribute films, and I thought I’d add some comments.

    We offer 3 titles through our website, DVD-R, and Amazon on Demand. We’ve sold dozens of copies of each. It’s a bit embarrassing for me to have to send such tiny checks to the eager filmmakers at the end of the year.

    Let me restate the obvious: you have to make art because you love it, not because you think you’ll get rich off it. Every distributor quickly learns that, if profitability occurs at the waterline, then your catalogue is shaped like an iceberg: 90% of it (at least) is underwater.

    I like DVD-R because it minimizes the possibility of losing money. I’m sure filmmakers would prefer pressed DVDs, which (all things being equal) are 90% likely to lose money, even though they open up potential new avenues of distribution. Pressing 1000 copies of a DVD is no guarantee you’ll be accepted on Netflix or that Best Buy will order copies of your movie.

    Amazon VOD or YouTube rentals seem like a good option, but the audience is slow to adopt it. Downloading to own a film from Amazon yields the highest profit margin, and the price point is lower for the consumer, and I’d prefer people utilize that option, but again people are slow to adopt.

    We placed a movie for free viewing on YouTube to test if we could make money from advertising—2,300 views yields less than $1 in ad revenue, not exactly the way to go.

    A contract with Netflix streaming, or a similar less selective service, may be the wave of the future. It’s the current fad, at least.

    And of course you’re up against a wall in the current climate of rampant piracy: not only do you have to compete for people’s entertainment dollar against Hollywood movies, you also have to compete against them downloading whatever entertainment they want for free.

    It seems to me that increasingly you find independent artists begging for handouts and donations, like street performers. The producers of INK “embraced piracy” by not going after people who torrented their movie; instead, they invited them to donate what they felt it was worth if they enjoyed the film. They got a lot of publicity out of “embracing piracy,” but I don’t know how much they profited from it. I’m skeptical that strategy is viable in the long term, and I sense many artists aren’t going to like it—it feels a little like an “if you’re going to be raped anyway, you might as well get paid for it” philosophy.

    From the distribution end, if I were going to go into this business seriously, I think I might be able to scrape by through having a huge catalogue of indie films available for download/streaming (a single title or two or three wouldn’t cut it). I might bundle movies together and offer them in packs for the price of a single DVD, a la Mill Creek. Though these strategies would help the distributor make money, they wouldn’t help you as the filmmaker get more money. More exposure, perhaps, but you’d be getting a smaller slice of a larger pie.

    Ultimately, I think we may be reaching the point where independent film needs a social subsidy, whether from the government or private donation. People are accustomed to seeing moviemaking as a purely commercial endeavor, but in the case of independent artistic films this is not really the case. Classical music is now largely subsidized. I would love to be able to distribute grants for people to make the films they love.

    Sorry I couldn’t offer much positivity, but hopefully commiseration is appreciated as well.

    • nwrann Says:

      thanks for the awesome, well thought out comment and discussion points.

      “Let me restate the obvious: you have to make art because you love it, not because you think you’ll get rich off it.” Absolutely. I said in my podcast with Brubaker, one of the most important things a filmmaker can do starting out is to know WHY they are making their movie. If it’s to get rich, they should definitely find something else to do, ’cause it ain’t gonna happen.

      I’ve never been concerned with getting rich off of film, clearly with a film like Burning Inside I knew my bank account wasn’t overflowing. What I would like to do is get a couple thousand (One thousand?) people to see it (aka find an audience) and hopefully pay back the investors. With that said, my personal success was achieved with the essay that Bjorn Gabriels wrote and Zouch Magazine published (it will also appear in the next quarterly print issue of Dutch magazine Cinemagie). To have someone take that much time, care and energy into researching and analyzing the film is really what it’s all about. But I would like to find a bigger audience to reward the people who worked on it and believed in the project.

      Commiseration is good. This can be like a support group. After the first phase of denial passes all of the self/small-distribbed filmmakers can come here and tell our stories and support each other.

      I think INK is a great “Success” story, but it’s really an outlier. I don’t necessarily see that kind of success repeating, although VODO.net does have an interesting business model for finding an audience. INK is a pretty good movie, that was definitely made with heart so I’m glad that they did find some success. I think that success has allowed them to make a second film so even if INK doesn’t make all of its money back they did benefit from it. Also, regarding piracy, ask Jason Brubaker from Filmmakingstuff.com about it and he’ll tell you that when his film was available as a torrent his sales went up. When they fought to get it taken down, the sales went down. People do use torrents to take films for test drives.

      YouTube ad revenue: Forget it unless you can get over 5 million views. And if you can get over 5 million views, chances are you have no problems with findability or awareness or audience interest in your film and will sell plenty of DVDs

      Netflix streaming (or DVD delivery) will return next to nothing in revenue. I believe streaming is pennies per stream (may as well have an ad supported stream on youtube) and DVD delivery is only like 10 copies at $10 each. However, just like the piracy, people like to test drive so if your movie is something that sticks with people that they want to figure out by watching over and over again (ahem, Burning Inside) then a test drive on Netflix might be beneficial. By the way, Netflix rejected Burning Inside. (my guess is that it’s because it is black and white. Which is the same reason we were rejected for Cable VOD. By the way, the quality of your film has no bearing on whether Netflix selects it. I just attempted to watch “Madness”, and “Hellweek” and only made it through about 10 minutes of each before deleting it from my queue. Total rubbish, which brings me to a thought about the state of independent horror films but I’ll tackle that in another blog.

      With Amazon VOD it would be great if there was a better way to achieve findability on my Blu-Ray player (or even on the computer). I like to watch movies on TV, just like a lot of people. There are way too many steps between identifying Burning Inside as a movie one might want to see, and actually streaming it to my TV. More than one step is too many.

  2. J. Sibley Law Says:

    I helped produce and did some digital effects work on BIS. It’s an edgy psychological journey that invokes the spirit of Pi (Darren Aronofsky’s debut film). My hat’s off to Nathan for creating an excellent piece of cinematic art. Wrann asks a lot of the right questions about distribution and audience in this post. As much as I am a fan of the webseries, I am a fan of the single viewing experience afforded by a film. My webseries The Oligarch Duplicity can be viewed on its website (http://www.TheOligarchDuplicity.com) in an even-more edited 37-minute film version for free. Episode viewership of the webseries (from all portals) is at nearly a quarter of a million (250,000) views. The film version has a paltry 250 views. Read another way, a thousand people have viewed an episode of the webseries for every one view of the film version. Certainly, there are many reasons for this. But for now, one of the biggest reasons is that, despite the always-on-everywhere-ness of Internet distribution, there are only a few locations that have come to pervade the public consciousness at portals for viewing long-form content (Hulu.com, iTunes, and Netflix). There are others, but none as ubiquitous as these three. As in traditional distribution models, the Indie filmmaker is left trying to rise above the noise and be seen. What does this translate to? A very large opportunity for an entrepreneur to create a digital destination for high-quality, curated long-form Indie content. Anyone?

    • nwrann Says:

      I think that there are people out there that would argue that the high-quality, curated long-form indie destination has been created. They might argue that IndieFlix is one. (note: Burning Inside is available on IndieFlix for $9.95 in a DVD on demand capacity. To my knowledge we haven’t sold anything through them yet). Are there others? Are they effective at finding an audience for their films? How successful has the most successful film on IndieFlix been? Is that success due to IndieFlix and their built in subscribers?

      I think it needs to go one step further than simply a digital destination. I think it has to offer one-clickability for viewing on TV, in a ubiquitous set-top box. Imagine if dynamoplayer content was available through your cablebox or through your network connected Blu-Ray player as an App?

      Right now my blu-ray player offers Qriocity (which is Sony’s VOD app), Netflix Streaming, Amazon, YouTube, hulu plus, and then a bunch of other stuff like Crackle and FearNet (which doesn’t seem to make any effort toward actually offering content). Throw the dynamoplayer app on the blu-ray (with a good, findability friendly interface, not like the amazon app) and thousands of otherwise unknown films become available in HD for .99 or $1.99, in true competition to the $4.99 or $5.99 Hollywood movies available on Qriocity. This would allow indie filmmakers the possibility of the same type of success that some self publishers are having by pricing their books for .99-$2.99 on the kindle.

  3. mike vogel Says:

    I’ve had a similar experience trying to sell my first feature The Waiting List and eventually ended up putting the full version on YouTube. The additional benefit of YouTube is that you can deep link to sections of the video (like dvd chapters). I’m selling the script with embedded links to the scenes for .99. And I embedded it on a website with adsense and amazon ads around it, the way bloggers make money. After a few months, the banner ads have brought in more money than dvds on IndieFlix. Granted it’s a small amount of money, but since it was a microbudget movie, I think I might be able to pay it off in a 2-3 years. And more importantly, there is not a financial barrier to anyone seeing the movie. If they watch and like, I think they’re more inclined to click a banner ad or buy from an affiliate link.

    • nwrann Says:

      I’d love to hear more about this concept. Have you written any blogs/articles laying out the details?

    • nwrann Says:

      This is a really good example of what Ted Hope talks about when he talks about Truly Free Film (that concept that he preaches but doesn’t practice). Give the film away for free and capitalize on sales of merchandise, in this case, the script for 99¢.

      the question now is, has the audience of your film grown since it went up for free? I see that you have over 460 views on Youtube since the end of December which isn’t bad. You made a feature film (without double-mortgaging the house) and it’s finding an audience. Does it really matter if you get your $1,200 back? At about 200 views per month you’ll end the year with 2,400 potential fans/people looking for your next movie, if you can capture them somehow.

  4. Miles Maker Says:

    There’s a distinct difference between a film ‘finding an audience’ and knowingly targeting its known audience; an audience you have previously identified when you conceived your movie with consistent communication as your film was being made and a call to action to incite and empower your audience’s influencers when the film was complete. It sounds like you did none of these things and you’re now caught with your pants down trying to figure out who in the whole wide world wants to pay you to watch your film, and so it is.

    At the end of the day, your approach isn’t entirely unlike Hollywood’s–yet we have nowhere near the exorbitant marketing dollars Tinseltown blows behind each movie they wave their ‘shotgun approach’ at.

    This is all very unfortunate for you because EVERY movie has an audience (albeit some very small) and many films have more than one. If your target audience is estimated to be a mere fifty people your production budget should reflect that–but knowing who they are and how to reach them may even indicate whether or not making your movie is a viable investment in intellectual property. The daunting challenge is to not only identify your movie’s core audience and engage it with a unique strategy, but to discover new audiences in the process in connecting captive viewers with the film’s theme, subject matter, genre, plot, mood, character, message, whatever [works].

    It’s never too late, but it may in fact be too difficult or too demanding or simply not cost-effective in terms of opportunity cost but you made the film, so WHY did you intentionally burn yourself with a lack of market intention?

    • nwrann Says:

      First let me say I agree whole heartedly with your 3rd paragraph (“This is all very unfortunate…”). Which is why we create business plans, in order to determine the budget fits the estimated audience. Budget = $10,000. Audience = 1,000. Problem is, the way the potential audience consumes (and finds) media changed between the time that Burning Inside was conceived (2006) and the time that it was released (2010).

      Let me back track to your previous paragraphs:

      “There’s a distinct difference between a film ‘finding an audience’ and knowingly targeting its known audience” I disagree. When I’m “finding an audience” I’m looking for that audience, “Targeting” that audience is part of the “finding” process. If we were waiting for an audience to find us, that’s a distinct difference.

      “an audience you have previously identified when you conceived your movie with consistent communication as your film was being made and a call to action to incite and empower your audience’s influencers when the film was complete” This sounds like that whole “Tribe” concept. A concept that sounds good in theory (“Get a bunch of people to read your blog and follow your tweets so that YOU become the Personality in the cult of personality, and then when you release something for consumption they’ll get the word out for you!!”) But doesn’t work in the real world. If I can’t build a Tribe when I ACTUALLY have something for them to consume, how am I supposed to build a Tribe when I’m just a wannabe with a dream? The Tribe concept suffers from the same Findability issues, except, even more than an independent film would, simply because there’s nothing for a Tribe to find. In short, I don’t believe that the Tribe concept works. I also have yet to see a successful example of the Tribe concept. If you know of one, please show me.

      Our approach was very targeted to the identified potential audience for this film. The audience is fans of “horror” films in the style of “Eraserhead” and “Nosferatu” and “Begotten” As you can see above we received numerous great reviews on horror blogs, in horror magazines and on cult movie sites and underground/experimental sites. We advertised on underground/experimental sites, in Rue Morgue (horror) magazine, Video Scope (cult) magazine and targeted ads on Facebook. On top of that there were also articles written in horror/cult/underground sites/blogs/magazines. So to assume that our approach wasn’t targeted would be incorrect. The only thing more targeted would be to troll and spam David Lynch’s message boards.

      Obviously we haven’t reached the entire audience for this film (which is why I still look for ways to get the movie out there and track down that audience) but if your suggestion is to apply the Tribe concept, I ask you to present me with at least one narrative independent feature film example where the Tribe concept was successful.

      If I haven’t answered your question: “WHY did you intentionally burn yourself with a lack of market intention?” Then maybe I don’t understand it, please explain.

  5. Feature Film Online: Burning Inside | Bad Lit Says:

    [...] rental, and a viewing app on iTunes. Regarding his experiences with web distribution, Wrann wrote this very intriguing blog post.Tags: Feature Film Online, Nathan WrannRead More:Feature Film Online: The RomanticFeature Film [...]

  6. E-Book Magic Says:

    Good luck with your project and sales

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