Posts Tagged ‘hunting’

Sundance Goes Lo-/No-Budget. Kinda.

September 10, 2009

About a week ago, on September 2nd, the Sundance Film Festival announced a new section of the festival called NEXT. Sundance’s website describes this as “a new section featuring six to eight films selected for their innovative and original work in low- and no-budget filmmaking.” (You can find the full description as well as a downloadable official press release here .)

Low- and no-budget filmmaking !? WOW! Awesome. That is exactly what I traffic in. My first film “Hunting Season” was made for $5,000 and my second feature “Burning Inside” had a budget of $10,000, which is clearly in the realm of “low- and no-budget” films and is definitely “innovative and original”. I had submitted a work-in-progress version of “Burning Inside” for last year’s Sundance fest and was rejected but with their new focus on low- and no- budget films maybe the playing field would be leveled and “Burning Inside” might have a better chance against $10 million dollar films with Hollywood stars attached.

One thing that I have learned in the past 10 years or so is that there is a WIDE definition of “low- and no-budget” when it comes to filmmaking. And one thing that I noticed about Sundance’s announcement was that there was no specificity or guidelines in regards to what actually constitutes a “low-” or “no-budget” film. I can pretty much guarantee that my definition differs from theirs. I was considering re-submitting “Burning Inside” but before I shelled out the $100 submission fee (yeah, Sundance made the “low- and no-budget” announcement when the only realistic deadline left was the one that costs $100 to enter. Not exactly affordable in the realm of no-budget filmmaking.) but I wanted to see if there would be a better chance against the 5,000 films already entered, than there is in any normal year at Sundance. So I did some research.

A lot of articles were written about this big announcement but none had any more clarification than the information on Sundance’s website. In line with today’s journalism status quo, most articles were just a regurgitation of the info from Sundance’s page (I think they call this “aggregating”). I decided to contact Sundance to see if I could get some answers to my specific questions.

The Sundance submissions page has an e-mail address: programming@sundance.org. So I fired an e-mail off to them that said:

I’m sure you’re inundated with questions about the “NEXT” (Lo/No budget) announcement made the other day. I have a question or two:

1) “Lo/No budget” can mean many different things to many different people.  What is the criteria for a lo/no budget film? Is there a budget cap that you will be implementing for the films that fit this category?

2) If I submitted a film last year that will fit the Lo/No budget category ($10,000 budget) can I resubmit it this year (final cut was made on 03/30/09) for consideration?

Thank you very much for your time.

Nathan Wrann
Dalton Gang Productions
www.daltongang-productions.com

Today I finally received a response (after sending a follow up e-mail).  Here’s what they sent in regards to my questions:

“Nathan,

The films that play in the NEXT category, like all of our categories, are determined by the Programmers AFTER the film is selected for the festival. When you are submitting a film, you are submitting to the festival as a whole. Programmers will be making their choices based on atmosphere and aesthetic.

For a better idea of the NEXT category, I would direct you to this article: http://www.indiewire.com/article/john_cooper_we_are_looking_for_creativity_born_of_limitations/

If your film was completed AFTER our deadlines last year, then you are still eligible to submit to this year’s festival.

Best,
Programming Department
Sundance Institute
8530 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor
Beverly Hills, CA  90211″

In the e-mail an article on IndieWire.com is linked to give me a better idea of the “NEXT” section. It’s interesting to note that in the article the film “The American Astronaut” is used as an example. “The American Astronaut” has a budget “between 1 and 2 million dollars” according to the wikipedia page about the film (hardly low-budget to me).

Taking this information, and the information in the e-mail into consideration it appears that it will be business as usual for Sundance. They will select whatever films they select (with no additional consideration for low/no budget, starless features) and then the films (if any fit) will be marketed in the “NEXT” category. In other words a $5,000, $1,000,000 or $10,000,000 “Indie” film all have the same chance of getting selected.

I’m not complaining about the films that Sundance selects or why they select them. They have a place in the whole scheme of things and if their niche is $10 million indie films then so be it. But I don’t think that they should make an announcement that implies they are re-focusing on selecting low- / no-budget films when they aren’t.

If you’re a low- / no- budget filmmaker and were considering forking over the $100.00 submission fee I hope that you found this blog before doing so. Not so that you would be dissuaded from submitting, but so that you will be better informed in your decision.

As for me and resubmitting “Burning Inside“, I’ll be saving my $100 fee. That’ll go a long way toward feeding the cast and crew of my next feature.

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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).


“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.

The BIG Day. Help?

July 31, 2009

(I sent the following e-mail out to virtually everyone on my e-mail mailing list. Please feel free to copy, paste and distribute. I truly, truly appreciate any and all support we can get to help “Hunting Season” find an audience)

Today is the big day.

“Hunting Season”, my first movie (produced with Kimberly Dalton, my wife) premieres today (August 1st) via Video on Demand on virtually every cable and dish network across the country, except Comcast and TimeWarner (see www.huntingseason-themovie.com for details).  We are extremely excited that the friends and family that volunteered their time, blood, sweat and tears will finally have the potential for a nationwide audience to see the fruits of their labor.

This is a huge accomplishment for us for a couple of reasons but a major one of them being that we made “Hunting Season” for under $5,000 (plus the aforementioned blood, sweat and tears) and it is now competing on an equal playing field with movies that had production budgets at least $300,000 more than ours.

In reality though, the playing field isn’t equal, those movies with budgets that dwarf ours also have marketing and promotional budgets and the ability to buy advertising to drive viewers to their films. All that we have is our network. Let me rephrase that: WE HAVE OUR NETWORK! I believe that the friends, family, filmmakers, musicians, artists and others that I am sending this e-mail to undoubtedly have the knowhow, heart, the fanbase and the DIY mentality to truly level the playing field against the bigger budgeted behemoths we’re competing with.

That playing field can be leveled in 1 easy step. Forward this e-mail on to everyone in your e-mail address book.

I’m not  asking (and would never ask) you to watch or purchase “Hunting Season” I’m simply asking that you please spread the word by any means possible. Like an e-mail forward, or a blog, or a Facebook Event Invitation or a Twitter tweet. Ask your friends and family to spread the word the same way you are. The goal is not to convince people to buy “Hunting Season” but to build awareness. The ultimate sign of success would be if people start inquiring snopes.com to see if this is real. Or maybe I receive a forward from someone else 6 degrees removed down the chain. Then we’ll know we’ve arrived.

If you don’t want to forward this longwinded e-mail, copy and paste the passage below into a new e-mail. feel free to alter it however you like:

Today is the big day! My friend Nathan Wrann is an independent filmmaker and his first film, “Hunting Season” is now available on Video on Demand on cable and dish networks all over the country (you can find out where here: www.huntingseason-themovie.com). “Hunting Season” is a pretty brutal horror film and Nathan knows that it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea so he’s not asking you to buy it or watch it but he would be eternally grateful if you could please forward this e-mail on to the family and friends in your address book and ask them to do the same. Simply getting the word out and raising awareness about this micro-budgeted independent film is the goal.



If you want to learn more about “Hunting Season” please go to www.huntingseason-themovie.com

If you want a press release (that has more detailed info about the cast, crew, music, etc in the film) or have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at nw@daltongang-productions.com

I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to read this e-mail and help us get the word out about “Hunting Season”.

Thank you
Nathan Wrann
www.daltongang-productions.com
www.huntingseason-themovie.com
www.burning-inside.net
www.facebook.com/nathanwrann
www.facebook.com/huntingseason
www.facebook.com/burninginsidemovie
www.twitter.com/nathanwrann
www.twitter.com/daltongangprod
Now on VOD!

Now on VOD!

IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 3

July 29, 2009

Background: My first film Hunting Season is being released nationwide on August first via Cable 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, IndieFlix.com or 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.

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

NOTE: I have changed the title, going forward, to “Update #” instead of “Day #” because this will not be a day by day reporting blog, instead I’ll do updates when I get them.

CreateSpace: When last I left CreateSpace I had received a less-than-satisfactory response from customer service regarding my Tax ID question (see: IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 for the full details). The e-mail that the response came in had two options:

1) f you need more help with this issue, click here:
http://www.createspace.com/Support

or

2) Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

If yes, click here:
http://www.createspace.com/Special/L/hmd32767-ygttygtpaaisadynwynr-pos.jsp?ref=

If not, click here:
http://www.createspace.com/Special/L/hmd3276-ygttygtpaaisadynwynr-neg.jsp

(NOTE: I slightly altered these links because clicking on them opens the form up with personal information)

I decided that rather than go back to the “Support” page and resubmit the same question through the same form that I would respond to the “Please let us know if this e-mail  resolved your question” by clicking “NOT”

Clicking that link brings me to a “We Value Your Feedback” form. I entered my case number, clicked “No” for the “Was your experience positive?” question and then I shared my experience in the free text box with the following:

TAX ID numbers for my state do not fit the format on the online forms that are filled out as part of the process. your forms request a number like this xx-xxxxxxxx  my Tax ID is like this xxxxxxxx-xxx. How should I submit my tax ID. I asked this question and the answer that I received was that I should use my Social Security number. I don’t want to use my social security number, I want to use the Tax ID number that I file taxes with every quarter. Instead of helping me with the issue the support center gave me an unnecessary work around.

Less than 24 hours I received the following e-mail from donotreply@createspace.com :

Hello Nathan,

My name is Genevieve and I am a CreateSpace Support Lead. I would like to apologize for the response you previously received regarding your Tax ID inquiry.

In order to complete this setup you will need to enter a valid 9 digit Federal Tax ID number, SSN number or EIN number.

Again, I apologize that this information was not presented in our previous response and for any inconvenience that this may have caused you.

If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us here:
http://www.createspace.com/Support

When contacting us, please be sure to reference your Case Number: 00512286

Best Regards,

Genevieve
CreateSpace Support Lead

Genevieve seems like a REALLY nice person but she didn’t answer my question any better than the previous response. In fact it seems that she didn’t even read my previous question, response or follow-up clarification.

For some reason I’m beginning to get the feeling that ALL Customer Service issues with CreateSpace will be this inadequate. Not good.

At this point I’ve finally decided to say “screw it” and just use my social security number for submitting to CreateSpace.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

IndieFlix:

When last we left IndiFlix, Mike Williams the Filmmaker Relations and Acquisitions guy sent me a great, in-depth, specific e-mail answering my questions about their service and the Filmmakers Agreement (see IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 for full details).

At this point I was ready to send IndieFlix my master copy and continue the ball rolling.

But there was something scratching at the back of my head or maybe a tapping and rapping at my window. A little bird, or maybe it was a raven, mentioned something to me about IndieFlix being able to distribute DVDs through Amazon.com (see the comments left at “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1″ for full details). If this was true then that carrot that CreateSpace dangles in front of my face wouldn’t matter. So before finalizing the agreement and sending my source copy to IndieFlix I had another question for Mike Williams.

I sent the following e-mail (as a “reply” to Mike’s e-mail in order to keep the “personal-communication-train” going) on July 24th:

Mike,

Thanks for the great response! This information is very helpful. I do have a question though, do you offer DVD sales through Amazon? I didn’t see it mentioned on your pricing sheet, only Amazon VOD?

I received the following response from Mike Williams on July 27th:

Yes, we can distribute DVDs of your film through Amazon if you like.  We go through Amazon’s Createspace for that, however, so don’t offer it standard unless a filmmaker requests it.  For AmazonVOD we go straight to Amazon.  Let me know if you’d like to have IndieFlix set up DVD through Amazon and we’re happy to do so.

WOW. IndieFlix might be ripping the carrot right out of CreateSpace’s hand!!! But This raised more questions so I replied on July 27th:

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?

I really appreciate you taking the time to explain. Thank you

If I receive the correct answer this comparison is over….

I haven’t received a response yet but I used the time to read through the Filmmakers Agreement again and create my Master Copy to send in.

I’m going to be sending a DVD-R burned through iDVD. Wait, can I send a DVD-R? Should I burn it with a menu page? Or just put the files on it? What about Trailers or extras? I realized at this point that I wasn’t sure what formats IndieFlix accepts for a Master Copy.

Time for a little research.

First I checked the Filmmaker’s Agreement. Usually the “deliverables” section will explicitly state what the producer needs to send to the distributor in order to get their film out there. No such luck. In this case the “Delivery” section only states: “

Producer shall deliver to IndieFlix a signed original of this Agreement along with a copy of the Picture on

medium acceptable to IndieFlix (“Delivery”),

The problem is that it doesn’t explain what medium is acceptable to IndieFlix.

I was pretty sure I had seen the info somewhere though so I looked around on the indieflix.com site and found the following in the “How it Works” section:

We accept DVD (Single layer, 4.7GB max disc), MiniDV, DVCam, & BetaSP. DVD will get you listed on the site sooner in most cases.”

Cool. Some info. But it doesn’t really go into detail enough for my tastes.

***Let me pause here real quick just to say that I am being genuine with my ignorance regarding these questions. I’m not being nitpicky, or playing devil’s advocate or trying to create issues. These are true, valid questions that I have had while going through this process***

Problems I have with the info above: Will they only accept a real (replicated) DVD or will they accept a DVD-R. How should the movie be formatted on the disc? Should there be a menu? Should the movie start up immediately with no menu? Can “extras” (trailer? NOTE: the package content slip portion of the Filmmaker’s Agreement indicates that a Master and a Trailer be submitted. But doesn’t specify whether it should/could be on the same disc.) be on the disc as well or should it ONLY be the movie?

In doing my research for CreateSpace I discovered that there have been issues in the past with the content submissions and there are threads devoted to the topic on the CreateSpace forum. CreateSpace also happens to state that “DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R or DVD+RW either general or authoring are fine” right in the documentation/checklist that is printed after registering with them.

Since I couldn’t find a definitive answer for how my DVD should be submitted I sent Mike Williams the following e-mail:

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?

Your help is greatly appreciated.

I have not had a response yet.

And that’s where we end today.

IndieFlix is definitely pulling ahead and with a game changer (like them distributing through amazon.com with a better royalties agreement) they could close this out before I even get the movie listed on their site!

We’ll see how it all plays out and I’ll update this blog every step of the way.

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).


IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2

July 23, 2009

I know I promised a shorter blog today and I’m REALLY gonna try but there have been some interesting developments in my side by side comparison of IndieFlix and CreateSpace.

Background: My first film Hunting Season is being released nationwide on August first via Cable 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, IndieFlix.com or 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.

Please see the previous blog post “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1” to catch up.

When I finished yesterday the experience was virtually EVEN with neither company getting the edge. The submission process was at a standstill for both sites due to some questions that I had about the submission process. So I sent off some e-mails to customer service and waited.

CreateSpace: The issue that I ran into during the CreateSpace submission process had to do with the formatting of Tax ID numbers.

Here’s my original question to them, submitted through the “Request for Member Support” form at the “Contact Support” section of their site:

The Tax ID format for my state is different than the restrictive one that you have on the site. My Tax ID number is set up like this XXXXXXXX-XXX and your format is XX-XXXXXXXX. My Tax ID is from Connecticut. Any suggestions?”

The “Request for Member Support” form also has a drop-down box for “I have a question regarding…” I selected “Royalties”. There’s a field for entering the Title ID number that was assigned, a field for entering a description of the issue and the ability to upload attachments.

At 1:38pm today I received an e-mail from donotreply@createspace.com . This is what the e-mail read:

Please Note: This e-mail message was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

Hello Nathan,

Thank you for contacting CreateSpace regarding your Tax ID inquiry.

Your tax identification number is your social security number, employer identification number, or individual tax identification number.

You are welcome to input your social security number in place of your Tax ID number when filling our your Royalty Payment Profile as this is equally sufficient.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to contact us regarding any further questions or concerns that you may have.

Hmmm. But I don’t want to use my social security number. I want to use my TAX ID number. The same Tax ID number that I file for taxes on every quarter. Not my social security number. Looks like we’re at a stand still. The e-mail does have a few links to click if my issue was not resolved. I guess that’s the next step.

IndieFlix: There were a couple of issues that I ran into with IndieFlix.

Issue 1: The first issue was that the Filmmaker’s Agreement was all inclusive regarding the Format Rights. The agreement included rights to VOD, Digital download etc. I am currently only looking to use the service for DVD On-Demand and don’t want to sign away rights for the other digital services so I sent an e-mail to them inquiring about revising the Agreement.

Issue 2: The IndieFlix website and filmmakers agreement refers to royalties being paid after fees, costs and taxes. But it doesn’t explain anywhere (at this point in the process what those fees, costs or taxes are). I was going to send an e-mail regarding this but figured I would wait until I heard back regarding the Format Rights.

And hear back I did. I received an e-mail from Mike Williams, (Filmmaker Acquisitions and Relations) at 7:29pm Eastern Time. (A little background: I had contacted IndieFlix a few weeks ago with a question, prior to starting this process, through their filmmaker@indieflix.com help e-mail address which is all over their site. The response came from Mike Williams. Since I had his e-mail already I sent all subsequent questions directly to him.)

My original e-mail stated: “I’ve filled out my Filmmaker information and am now reviewing the Filmmaker Agreement. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that in section 4 (RIGHTS) the VOD, direct download and transmission over the internet rights are all included here. I only want to have Hunting Season available on DVD. How can I adjust this agreement to reflect that?

IndieFlix response from Mike Williams: “

Hi Nathan,

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Yes, by default the Filmmaker Agreement tasks IndieFlix with finding as many revenue sources for the film as we can worldwide. However, you’re able to limit sales to only to only those outlets and territories that work for you. At the end of Section 4 (“Rights”) you can write in the outlets that you’d like IndieFlix to not pursue (for instance, you can write-in “No iTunes” or No “Amazon.com”) or be as specific as “IndieFlix.com DVD Only” in your case. In case you’re interested, attached is the full list of current revenue sources available through IndieFlix along with any associated costs, special deliverables, or commitment.

This allows filmmakers who are already offering their work through, say, Netflix to exclude that from their IndieFlix agreement or a filmmaker who’s already sold their VOD rights exclusively to another company can still offer their work on DVD through IndieFlix. We always try to be as flexible as possible to meet filmmaker needs so feel free to let me know if you have any other questions/concerns.

And with this one e-mail Mike Williams not only specifically answered the question that I sent him, he gave me an explanation for the agreement being the way it is and an easily workable solution. He also managed to answer my question about the “fees, costs and taxes” (without me asking) by including a pricing breakdown:

1. IndieFlix.com – DVD is $4.75 per unit; 30-Day VOD Rental Stream is $1 per unit

2. Hulu.com – Free VOD, 3-year non-exclusive commitment; of the advertising revenue they take 50% with an additional ‘”ad-network” fee of up to 15%; on average Filmmakers/IndieFlix receive $7/$3 per 1,000 views

3. Joost.com – Free VOD; of the advertising revenue they take 50% with an additional ‘”ad-network” fee of up to 15%; on average Filmmakers/IndieFlix receive $7/$3 per 1,000 views

4. SnagFilms.com (Documentaries Only) – Free VOD, 3-year non-exclusive commitment; of the advertising revenue they take 50% with an additional ‘”ad-network” fee of up to 15%; on average Filmmakers/IndieFlix receive $7/$3 per 1,000 views

5. Netflix.com (feature length only)- buys Replicated DVDs $10 per disc; they start at 30 units and buy more (60, 120, etc.) for more popular Films; only cost is FedEx shipping to Netflix.

6. AmazonVOD – 3-year non-exclusive commitment, each film has a Download to Own $9.99 and 7-day VOD Rental $2.99; AmazonVOD takes 50% of revenue

7. iTunes – 3-year non-exclusive commitment, require Digibeta tape, feature Length Downloads for $9.99; iTunes and their aggregator take about 50% of revenue on top of cost for iTunes proprietary encoding

  1. iTunes Proprietary Encoding is based on Run Time and cost is taken out of our revenue until paid to them in full
  2. Encoding rates:
  • § 20-44 min. $7.00/min.
  • § 45-89 min. $5.00/min.
  • § 90-119 min. $4.00/min.
  • § 120+ min. $3.75/min.
  • HD Content $11.00/min.

I’m impressed. Despite it taking just over 24 hours to get a response Mike’s response was exactly what I was looking for. That’s customer service.

The IndieFlix response to my questions changes or reinforces some of the breakdown I had on my evaluation after day 1.

Royalties and Pricing: The EDGE stays in IndieFlix corner. Their base cost ($4.75) is less than CreateSpace’s and their percentage (70/30 in the filmmaker’s favor) is better than CreateSpace’s percentage through Amazon.com (60/40) but less than CreateSpace’s e-store percentage (85/15).

EDGE: IndieFlix

Customer Service: IndieFlix’s personal, informative, comprehensive customer service blows away CreateSpace’s clunky, robotic customer service submission and response experience.

EDGE: IndieFlix

Requirements: EDGE: CreateSpace

Rights: EDGE: Even

DVD On-Demand Distribution: EDGE: CreateSpace

Mission Statement: EDGE: Even

Overall: So far the IndieFlix experience has really been better. It’s more personal and seems more empowering. CreateSpace is the cold military-industrial-complex of the DVD On-Demand world. But they do keep that Amazon.com DVD On-Demand carrot dangling in front of me. At this point in the game:

EDGE: IndieFlix

But the race is far from over.

Coming Soon in the IndieFlix vs CreateSpace saga:

  • Submitting Master Copies and… Waiting. Let’s see who gets the proof done first!
  • Listings Go Live. Will it be IndieFlix, CreateSpace or Amazon.com that gets “Hunting Season” up for sale first!
  • Sales and Revenue! Which site wins the ultimate test?

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).

I promise (hope?) Future Blogs on this topic WILL NOT BE THIS LONG but there was a lot of ground to cover.

***A Final note. You may have noticed that Scilla Andreen, the CEO and Co-Founder of IndieFlix left a comment on the IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1 blog. I am honored and highly impressed that she took the time to address, in public, the questions and comments that I have/had about her company. Her comment was heartfelt, succinct, informative, inquisitive and friendly. She addressed some of my concerns and mentioned plans to revamp their website to better communicate information accurately and clearly. I think that a revamp is a great way to fix some of the shortfalls, I only hope that the new website doesn’t become “cold, hard information”. I would like to point out that my blog has not in any way favored any aspect of IndieFlix’s business over CreateSpace’s and that this is based solely on my experiences and the results of getting “Hunting Season” out there.

I also look at Scilla’s comment as an experience outside of what I would normally have had if I was not documenting this process. Therefore I did not include the information or impression that she left on me in my evaluation for the Day 2 blog.


IndieFlix vs. CreateSpace Day 1

July 22, 2009

Today was day 1 of my side by side comparison of Indieflix.com and Createspace.com.

A little background:

My first film Hunting Season will be available Nationwide on Cable Video on Demand on August 1st. In an effort to capitalize on the added exposure, and get the movie to fans who may not have the cable systems it’s offered on, I decided that it would also be a great time to release it on DVD on-line. Indie film distribution has changed so much in the past year or two that it is now possible for a filmmaker to release professional grade DVDs of their project with no money up front and no distribution contacts. A lot of people say that the “gatekeepers of content” have been removed. That distribution is more democratic. That audiences, not executives, will decide what they want to see. This is where Indieflix.com and Createspace.com come into play.

I have two 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.

Both of these sites offer filmmakers the ability to sell DVDs on Demand, they make the DVD when the customer orders it. No big stockpiles, no big money up front, no risk. But there are a few differences:

DISCLAIMER: This is all info that I found at both of these websites. There may be more detail in the fine print. Do your own research before deciding which one to go with.

www.IndieFlix.com :

www.createspace.com

Mission Statement:

  • IndieFlix: Excerpted from their website: “promises to build a fair and open market to empower filmmakers to be the engine of their achievement…”
  • Createspace: Excerpted from their website”With our services, you can make your books, music and video available to millions of customers by selling on Amazon.com and on your own website with a customized eStore”

IndieFlix def appeals more to the emotional, empowerment aspect of filmmakers (very indie) and Createspace appeals more to the business, straightforward aspect (very cut and dried).  EDGE: Even.

Requirements:

  • IndieFlix: “must have played as an ‘Official Selection’ at a film festival.” (It does state that they do make exceptions). No porn. No instructional  video. Artwork (case or DVD) is not required.
  • Createspace: No porn. No offensive, illegal, stolen, recopied or copyright infringing material. Otherwise anything is “accepted”. I guess.

On Createspace If I want to sell 90 minutes of TV static, I can. This raises concern as a consumer (no quality assurance, I wonder if there is someone that makes sure that the product being advertised is actually the product on the disc and if they have restrictions on that) and as a filmmaker (there must be TONS of available titles to compete with) but overall the open acceptance policy makes Createspace TRULY Gatekeeper free.

EDGE: Createspace

Rights:

  • IndieFlix: Non-exclusive.
  • Createspace: Non-exclusive

EDGE: Even

Distribution:

  • IndieFlix: Distributed through IndieFlix.com
  • Createspace: Distributed through Amazon.com and “your own” Createspace e-store.

Amazon.com is huge. Obviously. They sell gazillions of DVDs 🙂 to gazillions of customers 🙂 from a selection of gazillions of titles 😦 .

EDGE: Createspace

Royalties & Pricing:

  • IndieFlix: Royalties: 70-30 split in the filmmaker’s favor (after costs, which at this point is unknown). Pricing: “Set your own price”. Default is $9.95 for features (not sure if this is for downloads or DVDs at this point)
  • Createspace: Royalties: Fixed charge = $4.95 then if sold on Amazon.com 40% of the set retail price goes to Amazon, filmmaker gets whatever is left. % changes to 15% if sold through the e-store. Pricing: $9.00 is the min price (at which point the filmmaker will make virtually no revenue) (40% of $9 = $5.40 – $4.95 = .45 to the filmmaker)

up front it looks like a lower price can be offered with more return for the filmmaker through Indieflix.

EDGE: IndieFlix (subject to change when “costs” are found out)

That’s the initial research breakdown.

Today I registered on both sites and filled out all of the start-up forms to get up and running. Createspace’s forms seemed more in-depth requesting UPC data (if you don’t have one they will provide one for use on their site only), Tax ID (or social security) information, copyright information etc.

Both sites requested short synopses, long synopses (or description), director, writer, producer, cast info. All pretty standard stuff.

On Createspace I was able to upload my DVD case and face artwork. On Indieflix I could supply a 3 minute time code range for a promotional clip to be hosted and streamed on their site.

After submitting the information and finalizing all of the forms:

IndieFlix required me to download and print a 9 page “Filmmaker Agreement”, packing slip (deliverables list), and shipping label. The “Filmmaker Agreement” is where the Tax ID and banking information is requested. This is also where all of the legalese is regarding the distribution of a motion picture essentially indemnifying the company against lawsuits if the filmmaker didn’t get their clearances.

I came across a few stumbling blocks at this point. The “Filmmakers Agreement” includes VOD, Digital Download and internet rights. I have no intention of using IndieFlix for those means of distribution at this time. Nowhere during the process of filling out the forms did it give me an option to opt out of these. So I sent an e-mail off to Mike Williams at IndieFlix.com to ask him how I can remove those from the agreement.  Another issue that I had with the agreement was the ambiguous nature of the Producer’s Royalty section. Again IndieFlix says that I will get 70% of net revenue generated by the picture. Net Revenue shall mean the proceeds actually received from sales after deduction of any fees, costs, and/or sales tax.  Sales Tax? Fine, no problem. But “any” fees and costs? This is exactly where most Filmmakers get screwed by distributors. The distributors say it cost 1 million and 1 dollars to replicate and market the movie and they only made 1 million dollars back. I’m not saying that IndieFlix would do this, but this kind of language is pretty ambiguous for a contract. Especially since the IndieFlix website said that all of the costs would be revealed. In fact, for all of IndieFlix’s “empower” the filmmaker jargon in their mission statement, this agreement reads very much like a traditional, No-Advance Distributor agreement. Except that it is non-exclusive (did I mention that the agreement is for 1 year and if you break it early you owe $100.00?). A per-disc cap on fees and costs ($4.95 maybe?) would seem mighty fine right about now. I might need to send another e-mail off to Mike Williams at IndieFlix.

After finishing the Createspace forms I was moved into the “Proof Review” step. What? I never submitted my Master Footage, how can I “Review a proof”?? This is a step where they send me a “final product” and I sign off on it. The reason that this step is happening now is because they need billing information for the cost of the proof. Currently DVD proofs are free through Createspace so there really isn’t much to do here except click a button that says “continue to proof order”

Let me backtrack a bit. At one point in this process I was asked to enter my Tax ID number. The space that I am supposed to enter the Tax ID number is formatted like this: XX-XXXXXXXX my Tax ID number is formatted like this: XXXXXXXX-XXX. Square Peg, Round Hole. So I sent an e-mail off to Createspace customer service. I don’t want to arbitrarily flip my numbers around and end up with an invalid Tax ID.

After filling out the Proof order information Createspace generates a packing slip with information and tips for ending in the Master DVD.

Where Everything Stands:

Currently both processes are at a standstill awaiting response from “Customer Service” Createspace for the TAX ID issue, IndieFlix over the VOD/Download Filmmaker’s agreement issue.

OVERALL EDGE: Even

*Special Note about IndieFlix “Festival Requirement”:  “Hunting Season” didn’t play any festivals but it was screened as part of the NewFilmmaker’s NYC series so maybe that qualifies. I do believe that snagging a national VOD deal counts as a special case so I e-mailed IndieFlix’s contact e-mail found on the site and about 24hours later received an e-mail from Mike Williams, Filmmaker Relations & Acquisitions stating: “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.” So that shouldn’t be a problem.

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).

I promise Future Blogs on this topic WILL NOT BE THIS LONG but there was a lot of ground to cover.

GO TO INDIEFLIX VS CREATESPACE DAY 2

I’m Back… I Think

July 21, 2009

Okay, I’ve decided to try this blogging thing out once again. I’ve been spending a lot of time on twitter ( @nathanwrann and @daltongangprod while you’re there check out @kimberly_dalton and @kdaltondesigns ) and Facebook ( Burning Inside and Hunting Season *become our fan/friend!) (okay enough of that.) And it’s gotten me back in the mood to blog.

I also happen to have a HUGE event coming up in my professional life.

What is that event you ask? That event is the Nationwide Video On Demand release of HUNTING SEASON on August 1st! These are very exciting times for me as an independent filmmaker. I’m able to boast that I have a (literally) no budget film that is considered “good” enough to get distribution alongside $350,000+ movies and hopefully this will open the door to more opportunities down the road. But it will only work if you, the fine readers of this blog, not only order it yourself but also tell everyone that you socially network with (facebook, twitter and what was that other one? Oh yeah, Myspace oh and don’t forget those real life friends and family too 😉 ) to order it too and to tell their friends about it. Contact your local Cable Company or You can find out more here. Okay enough of the shameless plugging, I’m starting to nauseate myself.

One of the things that may have burned me out from blogging previously is that I felt compelled to write WAY too much. Which then became this intimidating thing that made me feel like I had to write these monster blogs. But I’m over that now. I can write my 140 character spiels on Twitter and I can write my mid to longer diatribes here.

This blog will now be a sounding board for things professional (announcing new projects maybe? I’ve got a few good ones just waiting to erupt), promotional (starting August 1st I will be writing up profiles on all of the fine musicians that supplied music to HUNTING SEASON. It’s one of the aspects of the movie that is ALWAYS commented on favorably) and interesting (Movies (did anyone see “MOON“? It’s awesome, check it out), music, art, books (if I ever get around to reading one again)).

The first course of business here will deal with the trials and tribulations of Self-Distributing an independent film on DVD (sometimes questionably referred to as DIY distributing. Newsflash, in film there’s nothing that’s DIY (except maybe writing, but it’s not film until it’s a motion picture)).

A few weeks ago I had the honor of being interviewed (it was more of a great conversation between independent filmmakers than an interview) on HorrorMovieFans Radio (You can listen to it here . I show up about 45min in but there’s a really good conversation you should listen to until then anyway). One of the things that we touched on, which is probably a topic on the tips of the tongues of most indie filmmakers these days, was Self Distribution. I decided to take it one step further and after the show contact my fellow filmmakers that were on the show (Alan Rowe Kelly, Abel Berry, Parrish Randall, Andrew Rose) and begin a further dialogue about self distribution. (The transcripts from those conversations may show up in future blogs). One of the points of the conversation is the effectiveness of on-line DVD-OnDemand distribution. Specifically we discuss Createspace.com (an Amazon.com company) but there is also another one out there called http://www.indieflix.com . What I’ve decided to do was to register for both companies simultaneously and promote the Hunting Season DVD equally for both sites and see which one has the better service, better experience, better sales and better revenue. This will all be coinciding with the release of Hunting Season on VOD. I’ll be discussing my experiences in this blog.

That’s it for now. I’ve already gone on for too long, but rest assured I will be back more frequently than I was before. See you around.