Archive for August, 2009

Indieflix vs CreateSpace Update 5

August 27, 2009

Background: My first film, “Hunting Season was released nationwide on August 1st, 2009 via Cable and Dish Video on Demand (VOD). In conjunction with the VOD release I wanted to capitalize on the added exposure by offering DVDs for sale on-line. The best way to do this without dropping a minimum of $1,000 up front is to distribute through one of the DVD On-Demand sites, www.IndieFlix.com or www.CreateSpace.com (there are others but these seem to be the most popular). Since both sites are non-exclusive I decided to distribute through both of them simultaneously to see which one offers the “better” (in my opinion, for my needs) experience, and document it all here.

I have 2 requirements:

  1. I will ONLY be selling DVDs on Demand. Both of these sites offer numerous digital download options. None of what I write about here will take that into consideration.
  2. I want to price the DVDs as low as possible but still make an acceptable amount of revenue per disc (equivalent to the average that I will receive per VOD purchase).

Please see the previous blog post “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1″ and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 3 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 4 to catch up.

I’ve pretty much completely written off CreateSpace as an option at this point. It has NOTHING to do with their service. The fact is that, at this point, IndieFlix is offering me everything that CreateSpace is offering, and more.

Last week I received an e-mail from Mike Williams stating the following:

Your submission of “Hunting Season” has been received and screened.

A couple of quick notes before we can slate the release date:

  • Due to a large number of submissions IndieFlix has moved to accept primarily film festival selected work so if you could, please email me a list of where the film has screened as soon as you can.
  • Also, if your film uses any non-original licensed music we’ll need a music cue sheet.

I sent the requested information yesterday and received GOOD NEWS today:

Thanks Nathan,

I’ll email you the week prior to the film’s release to confirm the date.  It’s typically about three weeks.

So it looks like Hunting Season will be available on DVD in about a month! Then I’ll be able to report on the completed experience, including the trials and tribulations of attempting to make sales.

A littler further information:

This blog series started out as a comparison between the two services IndieFlix and CreateSpace it quickly became apparent that a comparison wouldn’t be necessary because there was no reason to continue to pursue distribution (and comparison) through CreateSpace since IndieFlix could offer the same service, but better.

One thing that you may have noticed above is that Mike Williams requested information on the festivals (IndieFlix indicates all over their filmmaker submission guidelines that they only accept films that have played a festival. However I did receive an e-mail from Mike Williams stating “Although film festival selected film are automatically accepted, we certainly welcome all submissions and try to let the audience decide what they want to see rather our filtering some out“) that Hunting Season has played at. Hunting Season screened at NewFilmmakers in NYC on Halloween Night in 2007. This must have fulfilled the festival requirement. This is one area where IndieFlix and CreateSpace differ drastically. CreateSpace will take almost ANY dvd (they do have some restrictions: Porn, etc) but IndieFlix has some sort of quality criteria. If Hunting Season had not been accepted by IndieFlix I would have turned to CreateSpace.

If you are a representative of either CreateSpace or IndieFlix and have stumbled across this blog I openly welcome your input (especially if any of my statements or “facts” need fixing).


District 9

August 18, 2009

It’s been awhile since I blogged about something that I’ve seen, heard or read so I figured it’s time:

This is a quick review, no spoilers hopefully.

Went to “District 9” tonight.

Paid $6 per ticket, That’s the Criterion Cinemas, New Haven, CT special Tuesday night Member’s Price. Pretty cool.

I’ve been inundated with hype surrounding this movie. Seems that EVERYONE who has any blog or site related to movies has seen a preview of it and declared it the best movie of all time.

I was looking forward to it.

Here’s what I knew about it before going it: It’s a fictitious documentary (aka Mockumentary) about a species of aliens who have been relegated to living in a refugee style slum for the past 20 years because their spaceship stalled over Johannesburg, South Africa. The human locals of Johannesburg grow tired of the Alien population and violence begins to break out and conditions (bad as they were, deteriorate) A huge multinational military defense contractor (Halliburton) type company is tasked with relocating the 1.8 million Aliens to “District 10” which is a new, refugee camp with shining barbed wire and white tents. And then all hell breaks loose.

“District 9” was EXCELLENT.

But I didn’t love it.

Let’s start with the good:

The Acting was phenomenal. Due to the “documentary” style the performances HAVE to be spot on and they were, especially the lead Sharlto Copley playing Wickus Van De Werwe. A+

The special effects were FLAWLESS. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why any movie with a budget over $30 million should ever have unrealistic digital effects from this point forward. The spaceship, the aliens, I don’t even know what else was digital because it was all blended perfectly. A++

Flawless digital Effects

Flawless digital Effects

The Directing Very, Very good. But this could be debatable because I’m not sure which of the script aspects of the film below fall into the lap of the director.

The Style: Remember the fictitious documentary style I just mentioned? The filmmakers (script? Director?) only stick to this format for about half the movie and then it transitions (not very gracefully, or completely) to a narrative cinema-verite style. When the movie (any movie) is 100% Documentary, awesome. When the movie is 100% narrative fiction, awesome. Blending the two, not awesome. Especially since there isn’t a ‘hard line’ distinction between the two. I’m watching the “documentary” “District 9” and all of a sudden there’s narrative footage of Prawns (the derogatory name for the Aliens) digging through a garbage pile. My first thought is: “What part of the documentary crew shot this footage???” Then a short while later the narrative style is more and more frequent (now we’re seeing scenes INSIDE the Prawn’s shacks?? The documentary crew got some AMAZING access and just at the right time  😉 ) And then the documentary style falls by the wayside completely. I understand WHY the second half of the movie isn’t documentary style (because A) It would be ridiculous to think that a documentary crew would follow Wickus around at this point and B) It would be ridiculous to think that Wickus would allow a documentary crew to follow him around at this point).  But I don’t like it. If you’re going to have a gimmick this powerful, don’t be afraid of it. Don’t ditch it because it’s too hard to creatively develop the story with this kind of ball and chain, embrace it and make a better movie despite the limitations of the style. OR ditch the documentary style and go cinema verite narrative fiction THE WHOLE TIME. The movie would not have suffered from it. Hell, even start the movie off with some exposition as a documentary (a la the propaganda films in the beginning of Starship Troopers) but please do one or the other. Reminded me of “Diary of the Dead” copping out on the “found footage” style and adding in additional external footage (albeit “justified” in their minds). The blend of the styles didn’t work for me and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what purpose having it half and half served (other than the “cool factor” which isn’t a real purpose)

More Flawless Effects

More Flawless Effects

The Script: HORRENDOUS. Yes, HORRENDOUS. General plot was okay, but there are some specific plot issues (I’ll get to those in a minute). But this script has some SERIOUS issues with really, really bad exposition delivered by the aliens. Unless maybe this race of aliens ALWAYS says what is EXACTLY on their mind in order to fill in the blanks. Worse than any exposition M. Knight Shyamalan has ever written. Really depressed me whenever they would talk to each other. There’s a few timeline issues I won’t go into for fear of giving away plot points but usually when a Multinational corporation has a timeline to move 1.8 million beings that timeline is adhered to. I still don’t know why the ship stalled (and this is kind of important).

I really, really should have liked this movie. I should have loved this movie. It’s sci-fi with heart and meaning, it’s deeper than the surface it’s got all these aspects of what I think makes a really great movie. But for some reason, halfway through I started to wonder why I didn’t like it, and that’s never a good sign. Sure I liked PARTS of it. The last 30 minutes or so is pretty thrilling. But as a whole, something didn’t work.

I can’t not recommend it but I also can’t recommend it. You’ll have to see it to decide for yourself. I’m glad that it is making a killing at the box office, maybe more “smart” sci-fi genre stuff will get out there in mass distribution. If you’ve seen it please comment I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read the comments, I can’t guarantee there won’t be SPOILERS.

District 9

District 9

$527.00 Beer.

August 14, 2009

The first episode of the Dalton Gang Productions / 3 Kung-Fu Movies co-production, “Kayaking With Lifevest”. take 4 minutes to watch it, subscribe, rate, recommend. ENJOY.

Episode 2 is scheduled to go up on Friday, August 21st. If you get the word out, we’ll put it up early. AS SOON as we reach either 500 views, 20 subscribers or 100 5 star ratings Episode 2 will go live!!!

Tweet this EASY with the following shortlink: http://wp.me/pq3Kq-1P

Vick.

August 14, 2009

Michael Vick is everywhere today. I figured I would put my 2 cents in.

A relative of mine posted the following in the middle of a facebook conversation:

I’m not a big fan of any sport but, didn’t Vick serve his time? was that not enough for you all?

That pretty much seems to sum up the primary argument for letting Vick play in the NFL.

I responded with an edited down version of the following:

“The judgment that was passed down on him was fulfilled. Nobody is disputing that he “paid his debt to society” (although many may argue that the debt should have been more). But the NFL and NFL teams are not “society” they are private businesses that have an obligation to their fans and their fans’ sense of moral character. Every job that I have ever applied for asks the question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” and it is within the employer’s discretion whether they will or will not hire the applicant. And the employer must consider many different facets before deciding yes or no.

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL wrote to Donte Stallworth that “The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations.” and denied his reinstatement to play in the NFL (after being convicted of killing someone while DUI). Yet somehow what Vick did (“hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water” among other things in case you weren’t sure) is not a stain on the NFL?

Sure Vick has every right to get on with his life, but the NFL and NFL teams have an obligation to their fans to not associate with criminals, abusers and thugs. Whether they like it or not they are role models.

Let’s not forget what these men do. They play a game! Michael Vick’s job isn’t so important that he has a right to it no matter how he conducts himself and he isn’t so great at it that nobody else can do it. So why are Goodell and the Philadelphia Eagles organization so willing to go out on a limb?

Is Vick reformed? I certainly hope so.”

Photo is from @siskybusiness twitter feed.

Photo is from @siskybusiness twitter feed.

“If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable.”

August 11, 2009

On Thursday, August 13th at 7PM Eastern Time I will be interviewed via live chat by Eugene Driscoll of the Valley Independent Sentinel (www.valleyindy.org). We’ll be talking about my movie “Hunting Season” on Nationwide VOD, shooting (movies) in CT’s Naugatuck Valley and probably a variety of other things that involve movies and The Valley.

Eugene’s a good interviewer with a lot of insight and the whole format is interactive (you can join the chat and ask questions) so make sure to stop by: Valley Indy Live Chat on  Thursday, August 13th at 7pm Eastern Time

The quote that makes up the title of this blog is from the feature film “The Hurt Locker” directed by Katheryn Bigelow (“Near Dark”) now playing in theaters everywhere. Kim and I saw it last week and I definitely recommend it as a peek into the mind and life of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team in Iraq. Directing and Acting all get A+. Overall it gets a B. Screenplay gets a B-.  (On a bit of a side note, when my U.S. Army enlistment was nearing an end in 1996 I gave a great deal of consideration to reenlisting as an EOD Tech. We weren’t at war at the time). (Another side note: Katheryn Bigelow directed the superior vampire flick “Near Dark” (seek it out if you haven’t seen it) and the Keannu Reeves / Patrick Swayze excellent surfer-bank-robber actioner “Point Break” (which was remade a few years ago and retitled “The Fast and The Furious”). I don’t know if she’ll get a best director nomination or a best picture (unlikely, even with 10 nominees) but I hope the success and rave reviews of “The Hurt Locker” help her continue to make quality pics.)

One more thing: A comment was posted on my “The Big Day. Help?” blog entry regarding violence in film. I responded and hope to get a dialogue going about this very subject. Please check it out and comment away if you have an opinion one way or the other.


IndieFlix vs Createspace Update 4

August 10, 2009

Background: My first film, “Hunting Season was released nationwide on August 1st, 2009 via Cable and Dish Video on Demand (VOD). In conjunction with the VOD release I wanted to capitalize on the added exposure by offering DVDs for sale on-line. The best way to do this without dropping a minimum of $1,000 up front is to distribute through one of the DVD On-Demand sites, www.IndieFlix.com or www.CreateSpace.com (there are others but these seem to be the most popular). Since both sites are non-exclusive I decided to distribute through both of them simultaneously to see which one offers the “better” (in my opinion, for my needs) experience, and document it all here.

I have 2 requirements:

  1. I will ONLY be selling DVDs on Demand. Both of these sites offer numerous digital download options. None of what I write about here will take that into consideration.
  2. I want to price the DVDs as low as possible but still make an acceptable amount of revenue per disc (equivalent to the average that I will receive per VOD purchase).

Please see the previous blog post “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1″ and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 3 to catch up.

I’ve pretty much completely written off CreateSpace as an option at this point. It has NOTHING to do with their service. The fact is that, at this point, IndieFlix is offering me everything that CreateSpace is offering, and more.

I received some responses from Mike Williams (the Filmmaker Relations & Acquisitions guru at IndieFlix and my contact):

My Question:

“I’m sorry to keep bothering you but I have one more question before I send my master DVD in. What is the best way to make the Master? I burn with iDVD. Should I put a menu page? Should the Trailer be on the same DVD? or should I save it as a Disk Image or just save it as a Video_TS folder?”

Mike Williams’ response:

“Yes, ideal would be for you to submit your DVD with menus and a trailer included on the disc.  However, that’s not a requirement if you don’t have that available.”

Perfect. That’s easy enough. (And I’m going to slip a trailer for my second movie “Burning Inside” on the disc too. See if we can drum up some advanced notice for its future release.)

My next question (this is in regards to distributing the disc through IndieFlix on Amazon.com):

How do the royalties work when IndieFlix goes through CreateSpace? In the research I’ve done the rates are different? Does the 70/30 IndieFlix split happen after the Amazon 60/40 – $4.95 split?

Mike Williams’ response:

Yes, the royalties through any revenue source we offer is 70/30 or the NET (rather than Gross) so prior to our begin paid we have to pay out any costs.  In the case of Amazon DVD (via CreateSpace), we pay out their $4.95 and the remainder is our Net Royalty with 70% going to you.

Holy CRAP! That’s considerably better than CreateSpace’s deal with Amazon (which is that Amazon takes 40% off the top, then minus $4.95 and the filmmaker gets whatever is less).

I just want to clarify
one thing about this. The only COST prior to the IndieFlix NET through
Amazon via CreateSpace is the $4.95. So the 40% that Amazon normally takes
on top of the $4.95 (if I were to go through CreateSpace myself) does not
apply?

For the following scenario: Retail price = $14.99

Amazon Via CreateSpace:  $14.99 – 40% – $4.95 =  $4.04 (to filmmaker)

IndieFlix Amazon via CreateSpace: $14.99 – $4.95  = $10.04 (NET) – 30% =
$7.02 (to filmmaker)

Is that how it works? If so, AWESOME! I’ll have my DVD and agreement in the
mail as soon as I hear back from you.

Mike Williams’ response:

IndieFlix has a different, enterprise, deal negotiated with
Createspace/Amazon than is available for individuals.  I believe $4.95 is
correct but since IndieFlix usually doesn’t use that service unless by
filmmaker request, I’m actually less familiar with those details as I should
be.  I’ve just left a message with our enterprise contact there to make sure
I have the correct numbers.  Unfortunately it sounds like she’s on vacation
through the weekend (as is our CEO and Accounting who’d know the details on
this end) so I’ll probably have to get back to you next week on that point.

In any case, you’re free to select only those revenue sources that work for
you when working with IndieFlix.  I’d love to have you get the submission
underway so that we can screen HUNTING SEASON and once it’s accepted get it
into the release queue for IndieFlix.com.  Subsequent to our accepting it we
can work out what third party outlets work best for you.  And, of course,
you’re not locked-in with us so you’re free to pull the plug at any time.

And then the next day I received this from Mike Williams:

I’ve just gotten word from Createspace that I did actually have the incorrect split on that.  IndieFlix pays $4.95 only for our internal orders from them. For sales on Amazon.com we get a straight 42.5% of the selling price. So, a title for sale on Amazon.com at $12.99 would earn a $5.52 royalty.  Of that $5.52, you’d receive 70% and IndieFlix 30%.

I hope that helps.  As always, please feel free to let me know should any further questions/concerns arise.

Let’s see how that stacks up against selling on Amazon directly through CreateSpace:

For the following Scenario: Retail Price = $14.99

Amazon via CreateSpace: $14.99 – 40% – $4.95 =  $4.04 (to filmmaker)

Amazon via IndieFlix: 42.5% of $14.99 = $6.37 @ 70% = $4.45 (to filmmaker)

That comes up pretty close but the IndieFlix deal is still better. Of course this deal will fluctuate with the retail price of the DVD:

Let’s look at it with a $12.99 Retail Price:

Amazon via CreateSpace:  $12.99 – 40% – $4.95 = $2.84 (to filmmaker)

Amazon via IndieFlix: 42.5% of $12.99 = $5.25 @ 70% = $3.86 (to filmmaker)

Now we’ve got a $1.02 difference. Which is pretty considerable. As the retail price of the DVD goes down (= better for the consumer) the IndieFlix deal is better for the filmmaker. The CreateSpace deal is better for the filmmaker when the retail price is somewhere between $15.99 and $16.99 and up. Requirement #2 above is to keep the retail price as low as possible. In order to do that IndieFlix is the only way to go. In fact at a $8.99 retail price through Amazon via IndieFlix the filmmaker is bringing in $2.67. Amazon via CreateSpace nets only 44 cents.

Plus IndieFlix offers a straight 70/30 split for disks sold through their own site.

SOLD.

My MASTER DVD and Filmmaker’s Agreement will be in the mail tomorrow.

P.S. You may have noticed up there that Mike Williams made this statement:

“…I’d love to have you get the submission underway so that we can screen HUNTING SEASON and once it’s accepted get it into the release queue for IndieFlix.com.  Subsequent to our accepting it we can work out what third party outlets work best for you

I underlined a few key words in there. Those terms are the somewhat “gatekeeper-ish” which can be a bit worrying. There is still the chance that IndieFlix may not deem “Hunting Season” fit for their distribution. At which point the game is over and I move forward with the CreateSpace distribution model. I will be sure to keep you informed.