The New World of Hybrid Distribution – Peter Broderick explains what it means for Australian filmmakers

Indie distribution guru Peter Broderick is President of the US based Paradigm Consulting, which helps filmmakers and media companies develop strategies to maximise distribution, audience and revenue. In short, the emphasis is on helping filmmakers to maintain control of their work, and reach the widest possible audience.

Peter Broderick

Broderick was a key player in the growth of the ultra-low budget feature movement and an early influential advocate of digital movie-making. He was formerly President of Next Wave Films, which supplied finishing funds and other supports to filmmakers from the U.S. and abroad. During this period, Broderick helped launch the careers of directors such as Christopher Nolan, Joe Carnahan and Amir Bar-Lev, before going on to focus on the revoution that’s currently occuring in film distribution.

Broderick  is patron for Australia’s SPAA Fringe, an event he’s been involved with for the past 12 years. This year (26 – 27 October) he’ll be a key speaker and moderator. In this role, he’ll be delivering talks on all aspects of Hybrid Film Distribution – which is all things outside traditional distribution agents, and is a red hot topic in producing circles right now.

In a special treat for our readers, Broderick gives us a quick advance sketch of what the new world of distribution looks like, and some of the best ways to make your film work in this environment. For more information, be sure to click through to Broderick’s seminal articles, which are linked at the end of the interview.

AFI | AACTA:  You’ve been involved with SPAA Fringe for the past 12 years. Can you give us a brief overview of the major changes that have occurred in worldwide film distribution over that time?

Peter Broderick: A new world of distribution has opened up in which filmmakers will have greater control over their distribution and the ability to reach viewers directly. Foreign sales used to be territory by territory, but that’s starting to change. Now it’s possible to work with a foreign sales agent who will make traditional deals in as many territories as possible. A filmmaker can then complement these deals by selling from a website directly to individuals living in the unsold territories. I think the days of territory-by-territory sales are numbered and that a growing number of films will be made available globally.

AFI | AACTA: You’ll be talking at SPAA Fringe this year on ‘Hybrid Distribution’. Can you explain it for us in a nutshell?

Peter Broderick: In the past, filmmakers had to give all of their distribution rights to a single company for many years. Today, it’s increasingly possible for filmmakers to use a hybrid distribution strategy in which they split up their rights, making deals with different distribution partners and retaining the right to sell DVDs, streams, and downloads directly from their websites.

AFI | AACTA: What do you see as the key problems or challenges for Australian filmmakers in this new world of distribution?

Peter Broderick: The challenge for independent filmmakers in Australia, and elsewhere, is to explore the possibilities in the new world of distribution, rather than remain stuck in a declining old world. They need to not only understand the opportunities in their country, but also to learn the new configurations in North America and other key regions.

AFI | AACTA: What are some of the key opportunities and untapped resources in this New World?

Peter Broderick: Too few filmmakers understand the importance of building mailing lists, with names, email addresses and postal codes. If they build a large enough personal audience that they can take with them from film to film, they may have the chance to become truly independent.

AFI | AACTA: Do you have any local (Australian) examples of recent films which have used successful hybrid distribution?

Peter Broderick: I’ve consulted on three Australian films that have used hybrid strategies effectively: Food Matters, Hungry for Change and YogaWoman.

AFI | AACTA: You advise filmmakers (especially producers) to bring creativity to their distribution, not just their production of the actual film. Can you give us examples of such creativity?

Peter Broderick: Each of the Distribution Bulletins on my website, www.peterbroderick.com, provide examples of creative distribution. Hungry for Change was the first film to do a global online premiere in which the film was made available for free for 10 days. Almost 450,000 people watched the film in over 150 countries, generating over $1 million in sales of DVDs and recipe books. If your readers would like more examples of creative distribution, they can go to my website and subscribe to the Distribution Bulletin for free.

AFI | AACTA: The internet and online viewing can be seen as both the boon and the bane of the film industry. What do you think are the key ways to protect a film against piracy and illegal downloading to protect the revenue stream? Or is the threat overestimated by Old World models?

Peter Broderick: The threat of piracy for independent filmmakers is consistently overestimated. Obscurity is a much greater danger.

AFI | AACTA: The recent rapid uptake of crowdfunded filmmaking makes one wonder whether it’s going to become harder to use this method, as supporters tire of the novelty value of donating and contributing. What is your advice to filmmakers wanting to best utilise these platforms without exhausting their supporter bases?

Peter Broderick: Crowdfunding has grown substantially in the past few years and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. A few years ago in the U.S., raising $10,000 was considered a success. Today a notable success is raising $100,000 or more. I’m not worried that filmmakers will exhaust their supporter bases. I’m confident that they will continue to raise money from people they know and will get better at raising money from people they’ve never met.

AFI | AACTA: What are the primary considerations for an independent Australian film trying to tap into the US market at the moment? Is a Sales Agent essential?

Peter Broderick: I recommend that filmmakers design customised strategies for the U.S. market where the opportunities have changed significantly. In many cases, Plan A should be splitting up rights and making multiple distribution deals, and Plan B should be selling all your rights to one company. Sales agents can be helpful if they’re really up to speed on the diversity of new opportunities; if they’re not, they can be a real obstacle to maximising distribution and revenues in North America.

AFI | AACTA: If a filmmaker wanted to employ the expertise of your company, Paradigm Consulting, what is the process you use to create a distribution strategy? Is this affordable for a low budget film?

Peter Broderick: I’ve really enjoyed consulting with the Australian filmmakers whose films I’ve mentioned above. I start by doing a series of consultations to help each client design a customised distribution strategy for his or her film. Then I help them implement the strategy and build a distribution team. I’ve consulted on hundreds of low-budget films. My fees are affordable regardless of budget. I don’t agree to consult on a project unless I’m convinced the filmmaker will come out ahead. If I’m making significantly more money for a filmmaker than I’m costing, he or she could say they can’t afford not to work with me.

AFI | AACTA: Thanks for your time, Peter, and best wishes with the SPAA Fringe program.

For more information on Peter Broderick and Paradigm Consulting, click here.

You may also like to read his seminal articles which have been read and reproduced around the world:

SPAA Fringe is a two-day weekend event comprised of workshops, round tables, panel discussions and networking events, held by the Screen Producers Association of Australia. This year the event will be held on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 October, during the inaugural Cockatoo Island Film Festival on Sydney Harbour. You can find the full SPAA Fringe program here. Registration is now open. In 2012, the programme’s emphasis is on staying one step ahead of the mainstream by presenting up-to-date trends and issues across distribution, funding, development of digital extensions, online formats and hosting discussions with indie producers and filmmakers who are forging their own pathways in the digital revolution.

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