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July 19, 2014

Are 'Pay What You Want' Film Bundles the Future of Indie Film Distribution?

Creativity BundleWith technology advancing so quickly, and with the internet's supreme dominion over our entire lives, distribution doesn't look anything like it did in the past. In this day and age, independent filmmakers have to find creative ways to not just get their work out there into the ether, but to find an audience somewhere within it. Using VOD platform VHX, film strategy company Bond/360 is now experimenting with a "distribution and filmmaker collaboration" that offers award-winning films in a bundle and allows moviegoers to pick the price they want to pay for it. The directors of Indie Game: The MovieSign Painters, and Beauty is Embarrassing weigh in on their experience.

VHX's platform alone is creating an opportunity for filmmakers to sell content directly from their site, which is a relatively new(ish) concept. This bundling, pay-what-you-want experiment, called Creativity Bundle, is an interesting deviation from the "traditional" method of digital distribution. Bond/360 shares a bit about the idea behind forming each collection:

The curated collection delves into the inspired minds of artists across a set of diverse creative fields. While each of these films share the theme of creativity, an important similarity they also have is that they were made by a group of talented filmmakers driven by the spirit of entrepreneurism and innovation.

Bond/360 makes the Creativity Bundle's statistics available on its website (and is updated often). Currently, the average price paid for the bundle is $6.41 and the top purchasing countries are listed as the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Germany, and France. Though 25% of customers are choosing the minimum payment of $1, 18% are paying $15 or more, which is nothing to sneeze at.

But, how does bundling help a filmmaker make money off of their films -- especially when customers are given the liberty to choose how much they want to shell out for a bunch of films, and 25% of them are paying the absolute minimum? The first four films being bundled are Sign Painters, Beauty is Embarrassing, Indie Game: The Movieand Helvetica, and three of those directors shared with us their thoughts on participating in Bond/360's experiment, namely how bundling affects building upon their fan base.

Faythe and I have said from the beginning that we wanted Sign Painters to be a starting point for a larger conversation. While that conversation has been largely focused on the passion, dedication and talents of the sign painting community, the film and it's supporters have also tapped into broader ideas: the intersection of art and labor, design and public space, and more. By being part of the Creativity Bundle, we've expanded the conversation even further.

Good films are never "just" about their specific subject matter and this collection of films should resonate with anyone interested in process and thoughtful creation.

Sam Macon – Director of Sign Painters

As filmmakers we spend so much of our time talking to each other about what we can be doing to support our films on our own. I love that we were able to come together and work to help each other out. We can’t always count on our movies being distributed so its going to become more and more important for filmmakers to help each other out. This really feels like the future of independent distribution. We all have ideas and content that we want the world to see and for filmmakers to start trying to figure out how we can collaborate on getting our work out there is very, very exciting.

Neil Berkeley – Director of Beauty is Embarrassing

In many ways, the idea of bundles, dynamic pricing, selling in non traditional digital markets are all part of a larger movement of the film industry essentially playing catch-up with how audiences consume and want to consume their content -- we’re really excited to be part of real, actual change and experimentation that hopefully nudges the industry/market a little further in the right direction.

Bundles empower audiences. Fans get a great discount, sometimes get to choose their own price, and ability to expand their collection with several titles at once. As a creator, bundles allow you to tap into the way people discover stuff online -- A fan may be familiar with only one title, and learn about more through a bundle.

Overall, we've seen bundles lead to a nice cross-pollination of audiences and broaden the exposure of our film. In fact, through the help of bundles, IGTM has been purchased by over 600,000 fans, at varying price points.

James Swirsky - Director/Producer of Indie Game: The Movie

There is still time to purchase Bond/360's current bundle being curated on VHX. If you're interested, click here to get your hands on it. (They will also offer different bundles in the future, so stay tuned!)

What do you think about bundling? What benefits/detriments can you see in using this method of direct distribution?

Link: Creativity Bundle

Your Comment

17 Comments

if it earns these folks more money than they had earned previously, then it's worth it.
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From the economic perspective, an average bundle price probably would have produced the same totals ... if anyone knew what that average price was beforehand.
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Of course, there are and will be other models - monthly subscription, piecemeal, stream+DVD combo, pay-for-an-unlimited viewing, etc. This seems to get the ball rolling though and that's a start.

July 19, 2014

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DLD

It sounds like a great idea, as a film maker I find it very interesting but also as a viewer. I mean if the price looks expensive I will not take the chance to be desapointed but if I can pay the minimum price if I don't like it well I will be more likely to try.
Also it proven that usually people pay more if they are free to pay what they want, more precisely if they are offer to pay what they think is right.
My next film will be on it for sure!

July 19, 2014

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Antoine

Actually I checked it out more closely and viewer have to choose before, what would be the best I think is that they have to choose at the end. Something like they have their credit card number entered, then they watch the film and when they quit the page a pop up block the closing and they have to choose how much they give. If they quit it or the computer close they are charged the minimum price.
This would allow to chose the price depending on how much they liked it, which would be more efficient in my opinion. I would probably give more after watching than before.

July 19, 2014

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Antoine

Interesting idea. However trailers, excerpts, festivals and awards list, reviews and even stills should be able to give you a clear idea of how much a specific film might be worth to you before viewing it.

July 20, 2014

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Or how about allowing the first 15 minutes to be watched completely free of charge - maybe "free" after entering one's account or a credit card number - and then giving someone an option to continue watching for the stipulated price or disconnect entirely? Once a viewer pays, however, he can finish watching it at any time within a week? The latter gives a person an ability to watch film in parts and is one of the few major benefits of an online stream rather than a trip to a movie theater.

July 20, 2014

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DLD

These are very good, well known works. Worth risking the buy withourt'samples'. I would like to know, though, what the Bonus Features are, thinking about paying the 15$ needed to unlock them.

July 20, 2014

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That's a very good idea, I usually decide if I will finish a film within the 10 first min so if they last 15min they will want to finish it.
The only downside is that it's extremely frustrating to get block in the middle of the story. The best would be to have the choice : you can pay at the beginning but if you want you can watch the first 15mins for free. I don't know for the account or credit card before it might stop people from trying.
I will release my last film in around 6 months from now. I will try to make something like that in place :-)

July 20, 2014

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Antoine

I am not wedded to 15 min clips. It could be 10 or even 5. I think a streamer would want a credit card or account number/ID to prevent someone from going from one video to another without a limit and for no charge. (although, an option of watching a short advertising for the right to watch these 8-10-15 minute openings is also reasonable). Overall, a streamer needs to differentiate itself from a movie theater and free previews or an extended time span for viewing are only a few of these potential differences. "Price of one's choosing" seems like a gimmick to me but, as they say, whatever works.

July 20, 2014

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DLD

All good idea here. I think it's important to see from the spectator point of view. As a spectator I don't like to put my credit card number. As a viewer I am more likely to try the first 15 min if I don't have to do anything else then click on the link. Usually I don't like reading too much or watch the trailer as they spoil the film too often, so 10 or 15min is the best for me as a viewer.
Also for the payment I have a crazy idea : it's a big bet but it might be worth. It's also challenge for the goodness of humanity :-)
I would allow people to pay what they want, even give nothing if they want but to be able able to start watching they have to put their credit card number. I keep the free 15min idea too. At the end or when they quit they are given the choice to pay the film maker something : a cup of coffee 2$ a box of beer 10$ a bottle of Jack 30$ a fancy dinner 99$ and an empty box where they put what they want with the sentence "what you think it's worth". The idea with that is that you separate the value of things with the amount of mony. If I am offer to pay a 100$ I would never do it but if I loved the film I more likely to consider buying a fancy dinner to the filmmaker :-)
I am confident that if you leave people free and make the payments effortless they will be more generous. I'm sure I would be.

July 20, 2014

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Antoine

We are trying a slightly different approach in South Africa, which could add 50% profit to the Box Office turnover here. (And elsewhere if it works as planned. (SA Box Office Turnover 2013 $80million. We hope to add $40 million in pure profit)

The Plan

The ReaGilè Community Cinema MiniPlex Project would love the opportunity to exhibit your films to audiences in the Townships and Rural areas around South Africa and Africa.

ReaGilè plans to roll out 1300 South African Cinemas, where approved films may be shown if they are popular with Township and Rural audiences.

ReaGilè Exhibition Deal:
Each MiniPlex may 'Premiere' each film on one Outdoor screen to generate audience interest, thereafter the MiniPlex may screen the film in the 60 seat ReaGilè 9.2 channel THX surround sound Auditorium, as often as there are audience members willing to pay to view the film.

Great Films (In the opinion of the audience) may be screened multiple times in each cinema.
I.E. 20 screenings of a 1hr film, in 1300 cinemas, times ZAR 60.oo per ‘screened hour' could earn the film owner ZAR 1.56 million (±U$ 156k).

The recommended ReaGilè MiniPlex ticket price is ±ZAR5.oo /hour so the cinema only makes money after 12 auditorium seats are filled.

The Film Owner (Copyright owner) receives ZAR 60.oo per screened hour, irrespective of audience numbers. (R1.oo /seat)

ReaGilè is specifically requesting Locally Produced and Local Language films, but English language or English subtitled or dubbed films from around the world are welcome. (SA has 11 local languages)

We look forward to seeing your films at least once in each ReaGilè Cinema as they are rolled out countrywide and into Africa.

Kind regards, and may God continue to Bless you in your endeavours

July 24, 2014

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Another idea is to offer a reduced fee for the subsequent viewings In other words, you watch the film and enjoy it but, if you want to watch it again for whatever reasons, you don't have to pay a full pop like you did the first time.

July 20, 2014

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DLD

Actually that's the case now anyway. While you can just err the movie itself now at the theater, you get additional stuff when you but the DVD for even less...

July 21, 2014

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mariano

I have bought bundles for games and for ebooks. I like the process and they seem to be gaining popularity. Why not try with film? Thanks for the heads up. I didn't know anyone was doing this.

July 20, 2014

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This is sort of on topic - interview with the Roku pres.
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"Q: Where is TV headed?

A: To me, it’s pretty clear that all TV is going to be streamed. It’s either going to be streamed to a smart TV, a gaming console or a streaming player. Things like DVD players are going to go away. Cable boxes are obviously going away, too."
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http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2024121847_inpersonrokuc...

July 21, 2014

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DLD

Hey V Renee and commenters - If you're interested in this model you should check us out at Filmbundle.com. We also curate a monthly bundle of indie films (can you believe we were actually first?!). Our August bundle are independent short films from a range of talented indie filmmakers and it's pay what you want as well! We're doing research with a university professor to see how this pay model works to benefit the distribution company and the filmmaker so stay tuned for actual results! Filmbundle.com

July 21, 2014

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Every time I think I have a great new idea, I eventually realize somebody has already done it ;-) film bundle sounds great! Does it work well? Does a lot of people have subscribe, do they pay?

July 22, 2014

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Antoine

I'm currently using BitTorrent Bundles to experiment with the "first ten minutes free" approach. In offering the first ten minutes, and some other items from my film's bundle—for the price of entering your email—I feel like it allows audience to contextualize the film before committing. They can really gauge whether it is the type of film they may enjoy, get some other information and free stuff, and can always opt off the email list before even receiving anything. I've just started the process, but have heard excellent things about it.
Here's BitTorrent Bundles, if you haven't seen it: http://bundles.bittorrent.com/

July 28, 2014

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