26 May 2011



If I'm going to be accused of being nothing but a self-promotional whore, I figure I might as well do it right. Kind of like the idea that if you get in trouble for something, you might as well go ahead and do it, you know?

Of course, the flip side is 98% of people think I'm not a self-promotional whore, so let's see if we can't find some value here while we're at it.

Pretty much every filmmaker I know these days is pondering the idea of digital distribution. The festival model is dead. Theatrical distribution is dead. The old world is crumbling all around us and if you're waiting for some studio executive to swoop in and give you a three-picture deal, you're out of your mind.

This is pretty much old news.

It's one thing to know the system is fucked. Any anarchist can tell you that. But it's something else entirely to figure out what to do about it. We're all still trying to find audiences and we're all still trying to figure out how to pay the rent (well, not all of us). And for every Ross Pruden who seems to have figured something out, the rest of us are just pretty much guessing, and very few people want to be the guinea pig.

Thing is, I've got a feature film that was pretty much designed to be a guinea pig, so I have no problem using it to try things out.


Shot and edited in two weeks (on a budget of $970) as part of Reid Gershbein's #2wkfilm project, BLANC DE BLANC is best described as "a mystery born out of a dare--a jigsaw puzzle of a film that has confounded and delighted audiences around the world." At least, that's what we say about it.

Like most indie films, some people like it and some people don't.


There's a bunch of different places you can put your film. You can do Distribber, which lots of people I respect speak very highly of. However, when your film's budget is under $1,000, you become kind of wary of throwing $1,300 at distribution. Might we, going forward? Maybe, but I just don't see it happening. However, if you're budgeting a "proper" micro-budget film, I think it makes a lot of sense to work Distribber into your budget, if at all possible.

With the plan being to use a service that only took a cut, without any up-front money, we looked at a bunch of sites. Some of them looked good. Some of them looked like shit. You can probably guess which ones. The ones we seriously considered (and/or are considering) are:


Personally, I think YouTube rentals are a pretty good option. They let you upload a 20GB file, which is convenient in terms of compression. Thing is, you have to be part of their partner program to get involved (as of now). I'm not in their partner program as of yet, although I'm working on it.

Open Film

I have an Open Film Pro account. It hasn't really been working, which is bad. However, last week their CEO took the time to reach out and talk to me personally about my issues, which he is now attempting to resolve. I'll post an update to that here when I get one.

I do know that they're working on a few very interesting things that I don't think are public yet.

On the tech side, they have a nice-looking player (see above) that's tweak-able in a couple of different directions. The website has a built-in donation button and you can set up your videos with buy/rent options.

Uploads via the web can be up to 2GB in size and works pretty seamlessly and has the benefit of giving you specs. You can upload a 5GB file via FTP (which never works for me) or send in a DVD (which strikes me as kind of a 2005 option). They will split ad revenue with you 50/50, but that's one of the other things I've never been able to get to work.

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.22.20 PM


Used by Edward Burns and recently written up over at Ted Hope's blog, Dynamo seems to be the hip new thing. It's still in Beta, so you have to submit your project for acceptance. They say that takes 24 hours. It took maybe 1.

The uploader is pretty self-explanatory. I haven't seen a limit on the file size, but it let me upload a 4.78GB file without any trouble (other than how long something like that takes).

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.27.24 PM

The access period ranges from 6 hours to 30 days. Down below you're asked for a description, some basic tagging info, and some basic credits. Once uploaded, you'll get this:

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.32.12 PM

Not a lot of surprises here. You can bundle a couple of videos, in case you wanted to rent a full season of a serialized program. You can add a preview that viewers can watch before they rent. GeoBlocking let's you select who can and cannot watch your film, based on DVD Region, Continent, or Country. Ours says "yes" because I went in and actually selected yes on everything, just to be safe. There isn't really an explanation of what "Viewer Emails" does, but I'm guessing it's an automated email you can send to your viewers. I wrote a really basic one, so hopefully someone will rent it and report back on if they got an automated email.

From there, you can embed your video pretty much anywhere, kind of like this:

If the size isn't a good match for what you need, you can change it manually, which is kind of a hassle and the Facebook integration could be a lot smoother, but the video player looks nice and, above all, looks professional. For a Beta release, those strike me as pretty small issues.

As for stats, we haven't been live for long enough to get a pretty graph or anything, but the reports pretty much break down like this and seems to update more or less in real-time, unlike some other sites like Amazon, where I'm told it can take weeks for a content creator to get any data.

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.54.39 PM

Screen shot 2011-05-25 at 10.55.23 PM

Obviously, it's way too soon to see any real numbers from this. It'd be nice if the share options were more robust and one could see, for example, what sort of success rate Facebook posts get vs. Twitter updates. Stuff like that.

We'll see how it works. For now, myself and the rest of the BLANC DE BLANC team will see if we can't get some traction on these rentals. Because, you know, it'd be nice to figure out ways to make this work.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.