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.

Alan Finney’s Cannes Report #3

Philippe Mora and Alan Finney at Cannes 2011

Filmmaker Philippe Mora, left, and Alan Finney catch up at Cannes 2011.

AFI Chair Alan Finney attended the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (11 – 22 May) as a producer and member of the Australian film contingent. As an industry insider since the 1960s, as a filmmaker, distributor and exhibitor, Finney has been to Cannes many times before. This year Alan sent back snapshots, impressions and memories. In this third and final report, he reflects on the state of the international market and on how other territories, particularly the French, manage their business. He checks in with Philippe Mora, makes some observations on piracy, and recommends a couple of fascinating new documentaries.

You can catch the previous Cannes Reports, #1 here or #2 here. Read on for the final installment…

It’s pretty obvious that there’s a feeling out on the streets of Cannes that this has been a strong market (as opposed to a Festival which I’ll leave others to judge).

Plenty of films, together with enthusiastic buyers in a highly competitive mode, and newly emerging markets in Russia and Latin America have resulted in a litany of good deals, a somewhat surprising result given the recent softness of international theatrical performance and declining DVD performance.

Also, of course, China is discussed as one of the growing and increasingly valuable markets. Importation and censorship controls are being addressed and whilst China is not alone in imposing limits on non-domestic films, its quota regime is among the world’s tightest.

The shared opinion seems to be that the rules are changing, though one producer expressed the opinion that a US sale is just as important as it was in the past, because if a film fails in the US it will impact negatively on its business in the rest of the world.

Of course it wouldn’t be the film industry without someone casting doubt on the upbeat mood with the Hollywood Reporter commenting : “While some are hailing this year as a return to the pre-crisis glory days – ‘extraordinary’, ‘huge’ and ‘best-ever’ were the most used adjectives amongst sales heavyweights – there remains the big question of whether Cannes’ hot pre-sale titles, when delivered, can deliver at the box office.”

A Glance at the French Case

Learning how other territories manage their business is always interesting and attending a forum on film and television, I learnt that in 2010, French television contributed 400 million Euros to the French Film Industry. I hope I didn’t hear that incorrectly!

The last time I checked, the French system for financing films seemed unique in Europe:

  • French theatres must show French films for a minimum number of weeks each year;
  • Major TV channels must allocate 3.2% of their turnover to cinema as co-producer (including at least 2.5% to French films);
  • They must broadcast a minimum of 50% of French films and Canal Plus, a very popular pay channel must devote 20% of its turnover to buy the rights of films (12% European minimum including 9% French minimum);
  • On each cinema ticket, an 11% tax is allocated to the “Fonds de Soutien’, which is open to foreign films provided they are co-produced with a French producer.

 At a producers’ breakfast meeting, one speaker told of some buyers making offers based on the Internet Movie Database (IMD) ratings…. a rather strange way to make commercial projections I would have thought.

Anticipating Dali

Salvador Dali and Alan Cumming

Salvador Dali, left, and Alan Cumming, the actor who plays him in Philippe Mora's upcoming 3D biopic, 'Dali'.

I also had a great catch-up with an old friend Philippe Mora who is in Cannes getting buyers excited about his next film Dali, a 3D biopic which will star Alan Cumming as the surrealist artist, and Judy Davis as his wife Gala. This I want to see! You can read more about this fascinating project over at Indiewire.

Piracy

Piracy is also a topic that pops up frequently in conversations and over recent years AFACT (Australian Federation against Copyright Theft) has had a hard fight against Internet Service Providers and hopefully recent news will encourage them to keep up the fight.

The US entertainment industry has thrown its weight behind proposed legislation that would give law enforcement officials and others new authority to move against internet sites that traffic in copyright material without permission. The Bill was introduced Thursday into the US Senate and is called the Protect IP Act, for intellectual property, and it will take aim at foreign-owned sites that trade in pirated material by allowing US authorities to seek court orders directing domestic internet service providers, search engines and others to stop doing business with them.

Alan’s Documentary Picks

Documentary films were also a big topic this year at Cannes. According to a very interesting article in movieScope Magazine, “we live in a golden age of documentary. Worldwide, more docs are being made by more people about more subjects than ever before. The Internet has democratised distribution and marketing.”

Whilst I am leaving movie reviews to others, there are two films I recommend you look out for, two  docos that are very different, but both intriguing.

Roger Corman at Cannes 2011

Roger Corman, centre, attends the premiere of documentary 'Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel' at Cannes 2011.

First, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. It was well worth standing in line for over an hour along with hundreds of Roger Corman fans to see this movie! I not only remember Corman’s films from late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s,but also ushered at some of them in Melbourne, and then was later involved in marketing others in the early days of Roadshow Distributors.

For those unfamliar with Roger Corman’s unique career, he began in 1949 with a job at 20th Century Fox and worked his way up to become a story analyst but after he received no credit for notes he made on a screenplay he abandoned the Studio path and started “no Budget” films. His first film was Monster from the Ocean Floor in 1953 which led to a lengthy relationship with American International Pictures (AIP), where he produced and directed films for years. His films were always profitable so he accessed larger budgets and in the ’60s he developed a long string of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. He made the first biker movie (Wild Angels) and the first “drug” movie (The Trip). Then there was The Intruder, a movie about integration in the South, but unable to find a financier willing to touch the subject, it was self-funded and self-produced. Corman later left AIP to form his own company, New World Pictures, which not only produced Corman signature entertainment but also distributed renowned foreign films in the US, helping to introduce American audiences to Kurosawa, Truffaut, Bergman, and Fellini. Corman then sold New World and formed Concorde-New Horizon which is still in business today.

Corman’s World contains interviews with some big Hollywood names, including Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and Ron Howard. Roger and his wife Julie attended the screening and introduced the film as did Peter Fonda. The response from the crowd was enormous.

Conan O'Brien on tour in 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Conan O'Brien on tour in the documentary 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'.

The second documentary I’d like to highlight, is Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, which follows  the former Tonight Show host on a  two-month, 32-city comedy-and-music variety-show tour (“Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television”) shortly after his split with NBC in 2010. His staff are key characters in the film such as Andy Richter, Jeff Ross and his ever-understanding assistant, Sona Movsesian and we catch up with stars such as Jim Carrey, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  The back-stage encounters with his team are funny and fascinating. Conan is obviously a complex and complicated person – but that’s what being a comic is all about.

Finally, back to the AFI….

Its also been good to chat with the Australians attending the Festival about the role of the AFI and the exciting challenges we face in making it relevant to all sectors of our very broad industry. Overall the filmmakers see value in the AFI as a body that can do more than just present awards once a year, and thankfully they seem willing to work with us in becoming an energetic and relevant organisation. The years ahead are going to hard work but it will be worth it.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Alan Finney’s Cannes Report #2

View from Screen Australia office at Cannes

The view from the Screen Australia office at Cannes

AFI Chair Alan Finney,  is currently attending the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (11 – 22 May) as a producer and member of the Australian film contingent. As an industry insider since the 1960s, as a filmmaker, distributor and exhibitor, Finney has been to Cannes many times before. This year Alan is sending back snapshots, impressions and memories. In this second report, he catches up with some old friends and attends a forum debating the merits of Video on Demand (VOD) versus a traditional windows approach to distribution. You can catch the previous Cannes Report here or read on for the latest…

My favourite memory of Cannes is probably the launch of Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, back in 1994, and it was the exposure they got here, followed by terrific screenings back home that really kicked off their success.

Now there are so many Australians here which is terrific – producers, distributors and government film body representatives and a lot of “veteran friends” who still come to the festival to stay in touch with the worldwide industry. And of course, there are icons such as David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz who are stars in their own right. It was also great to bump into Anthony LaPaglia in the street as we hadn’t worked together since Brilliant Lies, directed by the late and great Richard Franklin and based on the David Williamson play.

The place for Aussies to congregate is naturally at the Screen Australia office, perched high up and with great views of Cannes. Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley and her team are most hospitable, and as well as being a spot to catch up with friends and business contacts, there are many functions to which filmmakers from other countries are invited and the communication opportunities are most beneficial. What also pleased me was the number of young Australian filmmakers who I met in this office, most at the Festival for the first time. Some of them are here with short film experience, while others are attending, just with plans to make features and using the experience to sound out possible opportunities and strategies.

Overall there’s a really positive attitude to our home-grown product, and this is appropriate and necessary if we are to continue encouraging and supporting our filmmakers, both established and those preparing to get into the rough and tumble world of getting projects up onto the big or small screen.

The American Pavillion

The American Pavillion - a place to eat, drink, connect to Wifi and attend industry panels and seminars

There is a really interesting venue called The American Pavillion, and by registering for a not too heavy fee, you can mingle, buy things to eat and drink, use free Wifi and also attend information sessions such as one I did. The subject matter was ‘Indie Film Innovators: Keeping up with the New Thinking in Distribution’ (See participants below*). A wide range of topics were discussed including (naturally) the issue of day and date theatrical and Video on Demand (VOD) release strategies.

The panel were in fact split on this question, some seeing keeping [separate theatrical and DVD] windows as a necessary way to recoup the production investment and value the theatrical publicity which helps VOD and gives the release high profile.

Those in favour of day and date release argue that they have to be where their customers are and that their film should be on as many ‘monetised’ (the new buzzword) channels as possible. They believe that consumers are platform agnostic. They also see the impact of piracy which is encouraged if a film plays in limited locations in its theatrical life. The most sensible view seemed to be that the question of a window approach depends on the movie itself, and that this decision should be on a title by title basis.

A related subject discussed, of course, was social networking and the way it has changed how audiences learn about and become excited about films.

*Indie Film Innovators: Keeping up with New Thinking in Distribution. Participants: Jon Fougner (Facebook), Tim League (Alamo Drafthouse), Shawn Bercuson (PreScreen), David Fenkel (Oscilloscope), Berry Meyerowitz (Phase Four). Moderated by: Scott Macaulay (Editor-in-chief, Filmmaker Magazine).

Below: Alan’s Snapshots from The American Pavillion at Cannes