Independent Filmmakers: Web Doesn’t Cut It

At the TED Conference last week, I had the chance to sit down with a number of filmmakers. My first question, of course, was what were their web distribution and marketing plans for their next projects. And each one’s response was the same: traditional distribution models are still what matters.

<em class=Morgan Spurlock and Bristol Baughan” title=”spurlockbaughan” width=”300″ height=”224″ class=”size-medium wp-image-18153″ />

Morgan Spurlock and Bristol Baughan


Morgan Spurlock said that his Super Size Me was the most popular film on the site SnagFilms for its first six months of existence. At the end of six months, he received a check for a whopping total of $1,200.

Spurlock’s reputation has made it easier for him to raise money and get involved in cool projects (he just directed a section of the upcoming Freakonomics movie), but not to distribute his work. Spurlock said he thinks the opportunities to get more creative apply more to short films, hence his involvement with the multiplatform startup Cinelan (our coverage).

Bristol Baughan is executive producer at GOOD and of the new untitled Barack Obama documentary. Given GOOD’s admirable web video chops (see our coverage here and here), the video-savvy subject matter, and the fact that this movie’s timeliness and access gives it a heck of a lot of bargaining power, I thought for sure Baughan would tell me web distribution would factor into this project. But no, she told me that traditional release is the plan.

And it’s not just that traditional distributors’ deals exclude the web, Baughan said, it’s that the web distributors tend to hang onto too much of what little revenue they do make. In conversation with Spurlock, she described 50-50 web distribution deals as “almost fair,” and he agreed heartily.

<em class=Barbara Darwall and Janice Doskey” title=”blueman” width=”300″ height=”225″ class=”size-medium wp-image-18155″ />

Barbara Darwall and Janice Doskey


I also got a chance to speak at length with Barbara Darwall and Janice Doskey of Blue Man Productions, who are making an IMAX 3-D film about the famed Blue Man Group that will be based on a original story. They said the script was just finalized, but they don’t even plan to start shooting till next January.

Since the Blue Man Group is such a beloved known quantity, the film will be released in such a premium format, and there will be so much downtime before the final product comes out, it seems like a great opportunity to build anticipation on the web by at least giving people a peek behind the scenes as things develop. Darwall and Doskey got very excited by this idea, and started brainstorming who they could hire to help out. It might be a great chance for a NewTeeVeester to get involved in what’s sure to be a thrilling project.

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