February 16th, 2014 | The Exquisite Corpse Project | Germantown, MD
The fourth stop of my tour was at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, MD — a quick ten-minute jaunt from the nation’s capital. Washington DC, in addition to famously being the home of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument, also houses a host of incredible museums – including the Smithsonian, the Air & Space Museum, and the National Archives. There are few cities in the US that boast a richer history or a greater wealth of attractions.
So how, you ask, did I take advantage of my close proximity to all of these incredible sites? Did I take a devastatingly sad tour of the Holocaust Museum? Or stop by the Interior Museum for a firsthand look at the offices of the US Fish and Wildlife services? Or at least entertain my fifteen Instagram followers by taking suggestive photos of myself in front of the Washington Monument?
No, instead of personally experiencing one of the most impressive cities in the nation, I experienced DC in the most pathetic manner possible – by locking myself in my hotel room and watching all thirteen episodes of the new season of House of Cards in a row. Without stopping. And it was amazing. Except for the bedsores.
Since we’re talking about House of Cards, let’s talk about Netflix and the current state of independent film distribution. The rise in popularity of video-on-demand services (such as Netflix) presents an interesting dichotomy for today’s independent filmmakers. On the one hand, producing a film is now cheaper than it has ever been – the equipment is affordable, the software is readily accessible, and there are a wide range of options for how filmmakers can release their content without a distributor.
On the other hand, it’s also more difficult than ever to turn a profit on a film, as video-on-demand services are responding to the growth in the independent film market by paying filmmakers less and less (especially for films that don’t have a celebrity attached). We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to employ a hybrid distribution strategy that allowed us to break even on our film (we partnered with a comedy website called Splitsider than released our film online, and supplement the digital launch of the film by selling DVDs on our own website). But as I consider what project to pursue next, I can’t help but worry about the direction the industry is headed.
But I haven’t given up, either. It seems like the increased rate of innovation (undoubtedly because of the internet) results in the creation of new, useful platforms constantly — and it’s very possible that a new, polished, open distribution platform will exist in the near future. Just look at the way Kickstarter changed the game. It’s not unreasonable to imagine a similar innovation that would be the perfect platform for distributing independent films. A lot of different platforms are already fighting to try to be the leader in that space, and it’s only a matter or time before one of them gains the critical mass necessary to be successful.
Incidentally, that was the most times I’ve ever used the word “platform” in a single paragraph (4).
Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Ben Popik.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.