May 25, 2016

Why I Chose Amazon Video Direct to Self-Distribute My Film

Indian Cowboy
You might make the same choice after reading my story, so I’ve included a handy step-by-step guide, too.

Amazon, iTunes, HULU, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, VHX. Brands on every Filmmaker and Producer’s radar. I’m no different. 

I waited years for my first feature, Indian Cowboy: A Love-Love Story, shot on 35mm film, to get online distribution. A week or so ago, it finally did, thanks to Amazon’s newly launched Video Direct platform.

Indian Cowboy is an indie romantic comedy with a diverse cast, AKA, “no stars”. My sales agent told me how, when he presented the one-sheet of my romantic comedy to distributors at the American Film Market, one asked him flippantly if it starred George Clooney and Meg Ryan. The answer being no, the distributor walked out of the room. 

Still, I spent all my money (think 35mm Internegative, Interpositive, Answer Prints, Release Prints) giving it a small theatrical release. That sank without a trace as I had few dollars left to put behind any reasonable marketing effort. My sales agent got me a small deal on HBO/Cinemax in Eastern Europe, and a small order from Netflix for DVDs (back when Netflix still did DVDs).  After that, the film stalled. When Netflix dumped their DVD business, the film essentially disappeared. 

"The revenue part was going to be negligible. That was a given. My goal was to make the film available to the world, and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars doing that. "

The Road to Digital

Being a Digital Product Manager in my “day job,” I stayed very close to the online distribution phenomenon, looking for opportunities to get my existing film online, and work out a pipeline for my future work. 

Having sworn off 35mm film entirely, I focused on building a digital pipeline for production. I bought a RED Dragon camera, and so high quality acquisition was in my grasp. Having built a PC, and adopting Adobe Premiere and Resolve Lite, high quality post was also attainable. 

But high quality distribution that solved the “audience” and “revenue potential and transparency” problems remained elusive. 

I attended IFP’s distribution event, where I got to meet with representatives from YouTube, Vimeo, and VHX. Vimeo had the quality I was looking for, but it didn’t address the audience or revenue needs I had. Even with their “tip jar” at the time, or their current payment options, fact remained that they didn’t bring an audience to the table. 

YouTube had the opposite problem. They brought a global audience to the table, but it was not a cohesive, high-quality, ready-to-pay audience. That might explain their current YouTube RED strategy, but that’s a whole different story. The revenue model was a hard nut to crack. I felt like I’d never see any money if I put my film up there. So I decided against it. 

Indian Cowboy
Sheetal Sheth in 'Indian Cowboy'

VHX was a small player. They promised to be audience-centric, and seemed to address some of the payment challenges. I decided to work towards putting my film up there. I suspected though that there’d be no audience on that site, and eventually, that proved to be true. The recent buyout of VHX by Vimeo may help Vimeo out on some fronts, but “audience” is the missing magic sauce that remained elusive.

One place audience did exist was on iTunes. But the challenges to get on iTunes were the following:

  1. Creation of an HD Version of the film (transferring 35mm to HD) was expensive.
  2. Requirement to go through an aggregator (like Distribbr) added initial expense and operational costs.
  3. iTunes Quality Control promised additional unknown expenses. 

Similar challenges existed with the other contenders: Amazon Prime, HULU, and Netflix. The revenue part was going to be negligible. That was a given. My goal was to make the film available to the world, and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars doing that. 

So I waited. 

When Amazon announced their Video Direct service, I knew immediately I finally had what I wanted. Amazon offered a platform to host my film, low-cost of entry, no operational (running) expenses to keep the film on the platform, and the prize I was looking for: THE PRIME AUDIENCE! 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Amazon Posting

Once my decision was made, I set about figuring out what was needed. 

  1. HD version of the film
    Thank goodness for Resolve Lite! A free software color-correction bundle, Resolve also boasts of a high-quality scaling algorithm. I used Resolve on my PC to up-res the SD version of my film, digitized off a DigiBeta tape. 
  2. HD trailer for the film
    Resolve Lite to the rescue again. I no longer had the trailer assets (edited a long time ago on AVID Media Composer) but I ripped the trailer from the DVD, and up-resed it.
  3. Key art
    Amazon requires two posters in 16:9 and 3:4 aspect ratios. I’m decent enough with Photoshop, and have a subscription to Creative Cloud, so I re-jiggered the assets/layers and created these two pieces. Amazon also requires a 16:9 background image, which I got from the 16:9 poster minus everything except the background. 
  4. Closed captions
    This was trickier. Back when I had created the DVD, the manufacturer had created the captions and they were available on the DVD. I spent a ton of time figuring out how to recreate them, then finally stumbled upon this – Rip the subtitles off the DVD into a .SRT file using Optical Character Recognition. This kept all the sync information, but needed review as the OCR frequently failed to recognize letters correctly. 
  5. Metadata
    I needed to provide all the standard stuff like description, cast etc. I tweaked this some to ensure I had SEO-friendly cast members at the top. For those who aren’t familiar with SEO, it stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and it helps your content show up ranked higher on google when people search for related terms. 
  6. Link to Amazon bank account
    Since I had a business account for my production company, I created a new amazon account for this. 

The total cost of all of this in real dollars (i.e. not including my time)? $0.

So for a grand total of ZERO DOLLARS (again, not including my time), I would be able to get my film up on a well-known platform, with a built-in audience primed for consuming entertainment content. 

It’s fair to say I jumped for joy!  

Amazon has given me the boon of “online self-distribution”–a phrase that is meaningless if a platform doesn’t solve for audience, revenue and metrics.

Bumps in the Road

Despite my initial excitement, there was a bump along the way. 

After hours of uploading (despite Verizon FIOS), Amazon barfed on the movie file. It was a .MOV but had H.264 encoding. Amazon didn’t like that, asking for ProRes 422 HQ for a MOV file. I tried creating a MP4 file to circumvent this, but with no luck. 

I had ditched Final Cut Pro since the switch to FCP X. I didn’t want to spent a couple of hundred dollars buying FCP X just to get the ProRes codec. Fortunately, I could buy Compressor for about fifty bucks and install the Pro Codecs from Apple. Another weekend to re-encode to ProRes and upload, and this time, amazon had no issues with my film and trailer encodings.

But the film still didn’t show up on Amazon! 

I must have searched for it a million times. The user interface doesn’t do a great job of letting you know the film is waiting for review. All you see are these half-filled green circles, which means that the film is waiting on a human being to review the submission and approve it for release on the platform. I figured that out via hard-to-find FAQs. 

Then, I just waited. 

About three days later, I logged in and saw the circles were fully filled in with green! BAM! I checked on the Amazon site, and there it was. 

I streamed my film to test and sure enough, it played and I was thrilled to bits. 

Time for the final item on the to-do list:

7.  Add links to the Amazon page on the Indian Cowboy website. 

Indian Cowboy
Behind the scenes of 'Indian Cowboy'

I’ve been keeping track of the hours viewed, and the film has racked up a couple of thousand minutes already. Not bad for a film that was essentially sitting in my basement for years. 

Now, this won’t make me rich. Let’s be clear about that. A thousand minutes of streaming add up to about a dollar fifty. That’s right. $1.50. 

So why the hell am I so excited? 

If it wasn’t obvious going through my story above, let me sum it up here. 

  • Amazon brought an audience to the table—one that’s ready to consume entertainment content table on a variety of platforms including desktop, mobile devices, OTT devices (Roku)
  • Amazon allows me access to metrics like hours viewed, that I can use to measure effectiveness of promotional and marketing strategies.
  • Amazon gave me a low-cost, true self-distribution alternative (no Distribbr or other middle-men). It has given me the boon of “online self-distribution” – a phrase that is meaningless if a platform doesn’t solve for audience, revenue and metrics.
  • Amazon will (hopefully) drive competition, and platforms like iTunes etc., will provide a low-cost option for self-distributers like myself
  • Amazon allows me as a writer/filmmaker to complete the pipeline for my product – I had production and post figured out, and now distribution has an acceptable solution.

Indian Cowboy
'Indian Cowboy'

What Amazon could do better 

What more would I like from Amazon Video Direct to make it more compelling for indie filmmakers? 

  • Deeper metrics like abandonment data (where a user stopped watching a film) and viewer demographics, Referral information (which page linked the user to the film page)
  • Promotional Tools (placement in recommendation panel for a fee, as an example)
  • More territories (currently only US/UK/Germany and Japan are supported)
  • Support for Subtitles in Additional Languages
  • 4K support (Dolby Atomos and home theatres should not be underestimated)
  • Maker-to-Maker (Allow filmmakers more capabilities – for eg., promote films together)

The roadmap and the opportunity for Amazon Video Direct is rich and huge. They have the ability to become that one distributor who solves the audience and revenue challenges to self-distribution and enables a worldwide platform for all filmmakers. 

So what’s next on my to-do list? To move the pilot for my web series The BOYE Division, an espionage comedy, from Vimeo to Amazon Video Direct.      

Nikhil Kamkolkar is a writer-filmmaker now working on sci-fi political thriller web series. Check out his first feature 'Indian Cowboy' on Amazon, or reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

Your Comment

57 Comments

Good insight. I just created my account, but the captions requirement just hit my face before uploading my short. I figure out that you can write your own captions using YouTube system, you just have to export it back to amazon. I'm actually curious about what would be of Amazon direct a couple of years from now.

May 25, 2016 at 6:14PM, Edited May 25, 6:16PM

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Edgar More
All
1121

Thanks Edgar. Building out a captioning pipeline is going to be a critical element of any indie filmmaker/editor's workflow moving forward. Besides being a FCC requirement, it's just good business. I looked into and downloaded a trial of CaptionMaker (PC). The cost made no sense to me (> 1K). I hope there'll be more affordable versions that leverage speech-to-text functionality to give a better starting point for solo filmmakers to generate basic captions and create an affordable pipeline. Ofcourse, you can always use the services (i've seen rates of around $3/min which isn't too bad).

May 25, 2016 at 9:16PM, Edited May 25, 9:17PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

As of right now, the captions are not a problem, as I can make them myself. But I have been trying to upload my file for the past 3 days, and my effort has been futile. Mp4, h.264, proress, proress hq, nothing works. I am talking to them and trying to fix the issue.

May 27, 2016 at 12:38PM

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Edgar More
All
1121

Edgar, I have the same issue, I tried to export to h264 and proress HQ, it doesn't work, would you share with me the solution?

November 10, 2016 at 2:34AM

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alex
2

rev.com has been great for me.

November 4, 2016 at 7:22PM

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Steve Yager
Filmmaker
305

Had he used one of the other sites like Vimeo and invested time in online marketing - hell even pamphlets - he'd have reached a couple thousand views slower but would have netted the film four or five grand cash. You can still dump it on Amazon later, when you've recouped some money. What's the virtue of this approach? He would likely have reached a wider audience and made more money posting it on youtube with advertising. What am I missing here? E

May 25, 2016 at 7:49PM

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eric wadsworth
Director, Storyboard artist, VFX artist.
112

Hope you don't mind the direct reply, Eric. Yes, I did explore using Vimeo, as well as payment services like tinypass. There's an entire aspect of marketing that is still NOT solved for indie filmmakers. But the process has started. I've tried out some FB advertising and found it effective, and FB targeting capabilities are awesome. Solving that will be the next breakthrough for us. My biggest crunch is time -- and I just didn't want to develop a marketing plan for this film. I certainly intend to for my next newer project.

May 25, 2016 at 8:57PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

US = 0.15 per hour
UK = 0.06 per hour
JP = 0.06 per hour
DE = 0.06 per hour

1000 hours x 0.15 US = $150

May 25, 2016 at 8:05PM

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Jason Rosete Film
Filmmaker
74

Yes! Someone else pointed that out as well. My bad. It should read "minutes" not "hours". I've reached out to NFS to make that correction. Man, it'd have been AWESOME if it had been hours, but no such luck.

May 25, 2016 at 8:58PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

so it's .15 cents per minute that it pays?

June 6, 2016 at 3:29PM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
879

No, it's 15 cents per hour, Jason's post has the correct amounts per Amazon site.

June 9, 2016 at 4:51PM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

Again, I'm not seeing the virtue of this approach or the articles relevance to film makers who frequent No Film School - he's essentially describing how he dumped his film on Amazon for a total of 22 viewings to date (rough guess) for a mere $1.50 remuneration. Is the purpose to simply show how easy it is to publish on Amazon? I don't see how it speaks to the platforms virtues for a film maker or distributor either way. Can't help think this article is just a ploy to drum up extra viewership and self marketing - which isn't necessarily bad I suppose. I guess I'm not seeing the logic or maybe it needs a summation of this approach as opposed to the other options. In comparison. Was it actually easier? Somehow more profitable? No other platform was exercised so I don't know how he arrives at the assertion this was the best option for the film as opposed to posting on Youtube - other than being considered a marginally more 'legit' platform for a 'movie'. Not looking to bag anybody - but this feels like little more than a transplanted personal blog post with a nebulous agenda. I didn't find it enlightening. No Film School is starting to feel a little like a dumping ground lately. E

May 25, 2016 at 10:07PM, Edited May 25, 10:20PM

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eric wadsworth
Director, Storyboard artist, VFX artist.
112

Exactly!

May 26, 2016 at 5:31PM

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I believe it's about finding an audience.
A good friend of mine has just done exactly the same thing with his film, to get it out there, to get it watched, to get exposure. Yes, Vimeo or YouTube can offer higher rates of financial reward, but is there really an audience for features on these platforms? A higher rate is pointless if no one actually watches it.

May 27, 2016 at 6:30AM, Edited May 27, 6:30AM

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Paul
81

One of the more passive-aggressive responses I've read lately. Remind me not to hire Eric Wadsworth for anything. He sounds like a total dickwad.

June 23, 2016 at 10:30PM

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Hi folks, I'm the writer of this article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wrote this article because I truly am excited about video direct, and believe that this will encourage other platforms to open themselves up to independent self-distributors like myself. My agenda in writing this for NFS is to find like-minded people to connect with, and perhaps even stumble across my future collaborators. Please feel free to reach out on twitter/fb or comment here and I'm happy to engage, share and learn. Thanks for reading!

May 26, 2016 at 12:41AM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

If they add the ability to stream to specific movie theaters, then I'd definitely be in.

May 26, 2016 at 7:03AM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
879

I have little doubt this will happen. That's why I have the 4K requirement in my roadmap list for amazon as it's only a matter of time before Amazon can created DCPs and make them available to theaters for private screenings, or four-walling a theatrical release. Ofcourse, the big studios are going the other way. They want to be able to stream new releases into your home theatre. Here's a great set of links with more info on this. http://www.primacinema.com/press/

May 26, 2016 at 12:32PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

I have some limited experience from posting a couple of shorts (one is VERY short) over the last few days with AVD.

1. I was able to upload an MP4, but it wasn't near feature length. I wonder if running time was an issue with the MP4 failure.

2. There are some online and downloadable tools for creating SRT files, but none are all that user-friendly in my opinion.

3. The beauty of the SRT format is that it's very basic, so as a last resort they can be completely hand-coded.

4. I wasn't super happy with the quality of my first short that was uploaded. It seemed a bit soft. I don't think it was the file that was uploaded as an MP4; I think it was a better codec than that, so I was surprised to see it soft. (Maybe I was viewing a standard definition version?)

5. So far, it seems that the publishing process for projects with no issues takes less than a day, maybe right around a full day. I expect that will lengthen as the service gets more use.

6. I made a small timing error in the SRT file for the longer of the two shorts I uploaded. It was an easily-overlooked mistake, but I couldn't figure it out. I wrote to customer support and attached the SRT file (I wasn't sure if they'd take the time to review the file, but I included it anyway). I heard back the next day, advising me the issue was being forwarded to a tech. I received another email the next day that pointed out the SRT error.

Overall, I'm happy with the level of service. I'll do some more poking around to see if the quality issue has improved.

EDIT: I just checked my dashboard, and for the one film that's been online all week (only a minute and 12 seconds long), I've accumulated 37 minutes of viewing in three days. I only watched once, and I don't know if it counted my view since I was logged in. I don't know if this figure includes any time staff members might have spent watching as part of the publishing process. In that span of three days, 27 minutes were viewed via Amazon.com, and five minutes each for Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. (None via Amazon.co.jp.) There isn't any revenue, so that may mean all the views were by Amazon employees.

In short, I have no good idea about what any of that means so far.

May 26, 2016 at 5:23PM, Edited May 26, 5:40PM

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Just a quick update. I have two films streaming on Amazon - one is only 1:12, and the other is 5:12. Since March 11 I've streamed 362 minutes (most in the U.S., none in Japan).

348 minutes were streamed via Prime memberships;
14 minutes streamed free with ads;
No purchases;
No rentals.

Obviously a couple of super short films aren't going to generate much, if any, income, but the platform certainly seems to be a decent one for getting some exposure.

June 1, 2016 at 9:20PM

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An update to my update:

I earned the equivalent of 43 cents in May! ; ) (Including fractions of a British pound and fractions of a Euro.)

However, just in about the first quarter of today alone Amazon streamed 20 minutes of my 1:12 short film and 11 minutes of my 5:12 short film (all in the U.S.).

Anyway, now that I have a brief earnings report, I can probably stop bombarding you all with my updates. ; )

June 2, 2016 at 3:09PM

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Hi everyone! Based on all the questions I've been getting, I should make one thing clear. You don't HAVE to choose the streaming option for your project. You can only allow for digital download sale, or digital rental or any combination of several options! I wish I could post the screenshot, but I did so on the fb thread for this article in NFS's post. You don't HAVE to settle for amazon's low streaming rate. You can go elsewhere for that, if you like. Each project deserves its own treatment. I went the way I did for very specific reasons. Infact, if you are female and between 18-20, and you like amazon.com, you could be seeing an ad on facebook for my film. That's part of why I went the way I did. So I could play with advertising/targeting and see how the metrics are impacted. This is all about learning from me at this point, more than it is about strict revenue. But you can definitely tweak the options to focus on revenue for your project. Hope that helps.

May 26, 2016 at 6:01PM, Edited May 26, 6:02PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

I don't quite see why this is such a gamechanger. I mean, it's cool that your film is out there for people to see, but it's not a profitable platform at all.

May 26, 2016 at 7:18PM

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As a content creator, I can never rely on any platform to be profitable. The platform only gives me an avenue to get to an audience, but whether the audience chooses to watch my content, is a whole different story. No platform can ever create 'want-to-see' in the audience. That is all on me as a storyteller. I have no issues quite openly and publicly sharing that as my first feature, "Indian Cowboy" had issues at all levels -- story structure, dialog, direction, you name it. But it's still better than a ton of crap out there. All that said, I agree with you that some platforms can be relatively better than others -- for eg., I'd LOVE to get on iTunes or Netflix streaming, but the cost and gatekeeper barriers don't appeal to me. Someday though, I do plan to get "Indian Cowboy" up on all those platforms.

May 31, 2016 at 6:02PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

"But it's still better than a ton of crap out there. All that said, I agree with you that some platforms can be relatively better than others ..." agreed, I can think of several multi-million dollar Hollywood films with major distribution that aren't as good.

June 2, 2016 at 12:46AM

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Chris Tucker
amateur filmmaker
107

I've had my feature on Amazon Video Direct for 2 weeks now, and it's been watched 35,000 minutes. I wish it would break it down to how much of the film is watched per person, because I don't know if this is a ton of people watching the first two minutes, or a couple hundred watching it all the way through.

The subtitles can be made with Aegisub and a few hours of your time.

Here's my film if you're curious:
http://www.amazon.com/Palmdale-LACKOS/dp/B01FL5PAK8

I'm surprised I don't have any reviews yet, considering the minutes viewed. This fact leads me to believe it's people jumping on for 2 minutes and leaving.

I'm happy with the amount of views and with the service overall.

May 26, 2016 at 9:52PM, Edited May 26, 9:52PM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

Eric you might want to create another trailer.

May 28, 2016 at 12:30PM, Edited May 28, 12:30PM

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William Scherer
Writer/Director/Producer/Fine Art Aerial Photography
330

Thanks for the input.

May 28, 2016 at 4:54PM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

Wiliam - that was an old trailer, so I made an updated one - should be live on the Amazon page soon:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6-O5Bs_KXM

May 29, 2016 at 7:28PM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

Thanks for that Aegisub tip, Erich! I will try it out for my webseries pilot which needs the subtitle work to be done. Good luck with your film! 35K mins is awesome! I do wish we are given better metrics by Amazon in the future, but I suspect it'll be some kind of a premium play for them.

May 31, 2016 at 6:03PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

Thanks, Nikhil! Past 55K now, hopefully it continues at this pace. Yes, better metrics would be very helpful for us, and hopefully they'll be implemented in the future and not at any extra cost. Best of luck with your feature & pilot.

June 1, 2016 at 2:15AM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

wow! Used Aegisub last night to create the subtitles for my 10+ minute webseries pilot! Worked really well. Thanks again for sharing that info, Erich! Much appreciated.

June 2, 2016 at 9:09AM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

Another free subtitling application is 'Jubler'. Worth a look:
http://jubler.org/features.html

June 2, 2016 at 6:36PM, Edited June 2, 6:36PM

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Zach Fine
Editor
8

Unfortunately Amazon doesn't "bring" an audience. Non major titles don't show up browsing through their categories (Roku app anyways). I only managed to find your film by performing a search on the term "indian". 99% of viewers won't do that and thus Amazon's acceptance of indie titles boils down to tossing them in a box in the back of the store and showing them ONLY if someone all ready knows about it and types in the correct search terms.
I'm not sure why Amazon opened up submissions to indie content if they're not making it easy for their subscribers to find the content. Perhaps they'll address this in the future, but until then don't count on any significant numbers from Amazon, probably not even enough to justify the effort to put captions on your work.

June 25, 2016 at 5:24PM

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Agreed. No platform can really bring an audience to bear unless you've been acquired by them or are high-profile enough that you pass their curation tests. There may be other ways amazon opens up that window - whether via payment, or via better related-ness algorithms, but that's to be seen. In the meantime, if the film can't acquire organic hits from your own marketing/word-of-mouth, then there's no option but to do an advertising campaign. Again, def not a revenue play unless you have the content that'll support such a goal, but it's a great way to experiment with this platform and learn/setup for your next projects. It's a powerful tool, this.

July 1, 2016 at 1:58AM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

My feature "Palmdale" has been up for less than two months and been watched approx. 160K minutes' worth, which works out to around 2200 times, if they watched it all the way through. I haven't seen numbers like that on any other platform. My assumption is that people go to Amazon to watch longer-form content. On my feature's Amazon page there is a "People Also Watched" section with other low-budget crime/thriller indies, and I'm guessing there are lots of folks who just binge low-budget indies. I also have my film free to watch with Prime, which is proving much more lucrative than only offering Rent & Buy.

As far as driving people to my film's Amazon page - I run an ad on Facebook for $2/day, but Facebook's ad manager tells me only a couple hundred actually click it. So that tells me all the traffic I'm seeing to my film is people already on Amazon.

As soon as my feature was pulling in figures like that, I subtitled a short film and stuck that up there. Far fewer views, perhaps due to the subject matter, or because it's a short and people are there for features/binging episodic TV.

Put your film on Amazon and see how it does. To me, this is a no-bull marketplace. If people want to watch it, they will, and you'll see some - not much, but some - cash. What other platforms offer indie filmmakers the traffic Amazon gets, without up-front fees, and an audience that isn't there for 3 minute cat videos?

July 2, 2016 at 5:45PM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

So does this mean you've made 160,000 x .15 = 24 grand? In 2 months?

One thing I don't understand is all the youtubers or wanna be youtubers saying that AVD doesn't pay as well. But to me it looks like it pays better for a lot less views. And the 500k hrs cap payout per year is like worrying about a problem that would only effect the top of the top.

I'm extremely interested in creating new content for AVD. But I think the issues are the same for any distribution model. And that is that you have to make compelling content that people want to watch. If not you won't make a dime and essentially be "cancelled" by default.

I'm glad that AVD has all these requirements and is weeding out unprofessional content.

What I wish that amazon would do is to make an AVD or Indie page or category so that these self published titles would have some avenue for natural discoverability.

July 16, 2016 at 5:08PM

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Michael Smith
Content Creator
15

Oh.. I re-read.. 160k minutes (not hours). So thats 2,667 hours x .15 (assuming all was usa) = $400.

July 17, 2016 at 2:35AM

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Michael Smith
Content Creator
15

"So does this mean you've made 160,000 x .15 = 24 grand? In 2 months?"

I wish! Your follow-up post is correct - at the time of my post, it did equal around $400. The first payment is supposed to go out in August and it should be ~$500. If that's the average I'll see every 3 months, that isn't too bad, considering I honestly didn't think I'd see any money at all from it.

"One thing I don't understand is all the youtubers or wanna be youtubers saying that AVD doesn't pay as well. But to me it looks like it pays better for a lot less views. And the 500k hrs cap payout per year is like worrying about a problem that would only effect the top of the top."

Yeah, I'll take $70,000/year per title!

"I'm extremely interested in creating new content for AVD. But I think the issues are the same for any distribution model. And that is that you have to make compelling content that people want to watch. If not you won't make a dime and essentially be "cancelled" by default."

Which is what I love about AVD. Before this, my film had shown at some very small fests, a few people saw it at those. No distributor I contacted wanted it, and folks at the AFM asked: "Who's in it? Play at any big fests?" Seemed like my film was dead. I also didn't want to pay thousands in up-front fees to an aggregator to submit to Hulu/iTunes/Netflix... not on this first feature film attempt of mine. This was a no-budg film. So, the numbers I'm seeing on Amazon are very exciting: it's found an audience, and a large one at that. Now, I just have to make a better film.

"I'm glad that AVD has all these requirements and is weeding out unprofessional content."

The closed captions are the only requirement that stands out to me as any different than anyone else requires. Took a few hours to sub my feature, no sweat. I guess that's a deterrent to some people?

"What I wish that amazon would do is to make an AVD or Indie page or category so that these self published titles would have some avenue for natural discoverability."

I think that could go either way - maybe audiences would welcome an indie section, or maybe they'd avoid it due to some fear that the films are all amateur attempts. But then again, I don't see many films offered free for Prime viewers, which I believe may be the reason I've gotten so many views. I only have one rental and one buy, otherwise... and I'm pretty sure those were people I know... most of the films with recognizable names/larger budget films rent for 2.99/sell for 5-7.99. A rental on amazon for more than a dollar doesn't make sense to me - why wouldn't you redbox it?

Once AVD starts rewarding the top-viewed films with the share of $1 Mil, we'll get a better sense of what audiences on the site are watching... and then we can produce accordingly.

July 18, 2016 at 12:36AM, Edited July 18, 12:36AM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

What they couldn't do better... AVD has a horrible help department. Absolutely useless! My issue is that there is no phone number to contact them if you're having problems. For a business that is partnering with me at 50%, I expect to speak to someone when I am having problems. As of now I have been dealing with them via email. But they don't answer my issue directly. Instead, they give me generic answers that leads me no where (repeatedly). I truly believe that I'm emailing an automated robot, not a real person. I have been dealing with this for a month now with absolutely NO headway what-so-ever. Just spinning my wheels. The department of AVD is useless and Amazon heads have NO control over them. I've called all head departments and no one can help me.

June 27, 2016 at 7:53PM, Edited June 27, 7:53PM

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a gonz
8

I haven't had occassion to ask for help, but have you tried their facebook page? They seem pretty responsive on there.

July 1, 2016 at 1:55AM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

Maybe you could post your problem here for one of us to help you. I've sent a few emails to AVD and they've been great at answering my questions.

July 2, 2016 at 5:46PM

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Erich Kemp
Producer
88

I'm prepping my first title (a 50 minute nature documentary I shot just before pro HD cameras were affordable) to try out on AVD and have run into a problem with resolutions.

According to their email support department (quick but very short replies that just confirm what the online guidance already states) AVD doesn't support Pal 720x576 Anamorphic Standard Definition. I have to either drop down to 640x480 (?anamorphic) or 640x360, or uprez to 1280x720. The cost of the latter, done professionally, seems a big risk when I've no idea what, if any, income will be gained from it.

Which ever way I go, the SD version will be worse quality than the current DVD I sell on Amazon UK and the uprezzed HD version is likely to disappoint a 'buy or rent' purchaser who thinks they will get true HD quality (or perhaps I can just set a lower than normal price to compensate?).

Any ideas would be gratefully received.

September 21, 2016 at 5:13PM

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So after waiting almost a month while youtube kept my video in a non-monetizable state for a copyright claim (automated based on music signature), and chasing down the claimant to have them release it, "Indian Cowboy" is now up on youtube as well!

Finally, I'll have a way to compare revenue between youtube and amazon prime. I'll post a note here too, but for those who want to, feel free to follow on facebook.com/indiancowboy or on twitter @indiancowboy

The youtube link for the full movie is https://youtu.be/Tt1BDcTkXYU

Feel free to ping me with any q's!

July 1, 2016 at 1:55AM, Edited July 1, 1:55AM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

Seriously, call in a favor and get that thing properly telecine'd to 1080p or UDH 4k prores. I don't care how good a film is, I'm at the point where I just won't watch stuff that isn't at least 1080. If you don't know someone who works at a transfer house make a bunch of calls and ask what deals they could make you if they did it at night, one light if necessary, etc. If you're very nice and explain your situation you might find a house that would do it in exchange for a Special Thanks card at the end. Add a card just for the transfer house. Even if they have to do each reel individually and you have to piece it back together in FCPX. Even if you have to go back and color correct each shot.

July 17, 2016 at 2:33AM

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Michael Smith
Content Creator
15

Hi Michael, do you mind getting in touch with me offline? Would like to chat more with you about this. Yes, I've reached out to transfer houses, but the film insurance and shipping costs alone were prohibitive. And it was only 1080p at the time. And I don't want to transfer anything less than full frame 4K (or more). I'm totally prepared to re-colorcorrect the film - infact, I'm attending Dado Valentic's color correction course for the next four days at mewshop. Anyways, would love to chat more in depth. My email is kamkol dot productions at gmail

July 27, 2016 at 11:14PM

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Nikhil Kamkolkar
Writer/Filmmaker

Hi Nikhil,

Appreciate you putting up this article. Would you have any idea of Amazon video direct allows listing flims in India. Have tried registering but they do not have an India option when we put in the bank details.

Thanks for your help
Satish

August 14, 2017 at 7:36AM

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Thanks so much for the insight! :) We are about to roll out a proof of concept 3D African culture-based animation and we've been trying to figure out what's best for us and the subsequent release. Sharing your journey has certainly cleared up a lotta questions we had, although we do intend to implement a marketing campaign upon release.

September 16, 2016 at 10:21AM

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Great article. I uploaded my short films to AVD (some 12 years old) and am making some money with them. It's pretty crazy. Check out the story here: https://www.indiefilmhustle.com/amazon-video-direct-selling-short-film/

September 25, 2016 at 9:47AM

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Alex Ferrari
Director / Producer
982

Great episode Alex. I have heard of your show before and just wanted to say great resource. Everyone should be listening!

PS: Gonna shoot you an email too.

October 28, 2016 at 11:49AM

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Evan Kidd
Writer/Director
109

Thanks for the article.
I would like to ask if anyone has any advice on the key art requirement? I keep getting rejected because of it. The main problem I have is that I have uploaded three pieces of key art and they do not advise if all are rejected or just one. Thanks in advance and good luck to everyone.

October 20, 2016 at 6:56PM

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This is a great read Nikhil. I just shot my debut microbudget feature SON OF CLOWNS last year and am just wrapping up our festival run. We played a lot of really cool festivals, but distribution was always the concern in the back of our minds.

When Video Direct was announced I almost jumped for joy. The fact that we will be able to put this feature which when we made it was most likely gonna end up on Vimeo to a now massive platform with a built-in audience like Amazon is astounding. (Now we are about to release there come November 15th! Check us. ;) )

I know that it's not a perfect platform, but for an independent writer/director type like myself this is the best way I can think of to reach folks on a reputable platform while building an audience base for the next film.

I have written several blog posts on this topic before, but I believe your first feature should be viewed more as a learning experience than a moneymaker. If you get out of the red, then you are extremely lucky. However I would rather have the know-how and feature under my belt than to never have one at all and still be kicking that can down the road so to speak.

Anyways. I am thankful to Prime for finally giving us microbudget creators a place to land the ship. Heres to that! Now to make the next one!

October 28, 2016 at 11:37AM, Edited October 28, 11:37AM

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Evan Kidd
Writer/Director
109

I have also published my 82 min. film via Amazon video.
The whole process was a nightmare, due to the irrational technical requirements. I also created an srt file, which was not easy... 0 support from Amazon, I must say.
I am disappointed with my revenue. I created something very professional, and it was not worth it.

November 19, 2016 at 2:01AM

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Padmini Elef
Creator
1

Came back to this thread, happened to run a page search and can't believe the words CreateSpace were not mentioned Anywhere in this page. Heck, I'm posting this just for Google indexer's sake...
For history's sake, CreateSpace used to be the only option to self-publish videos on Amazon before AVD, and was pretty bad (SD only, for example). It still appears high on relevant search results, but it looks like now if you go on CreateSpace and want to publish your film, it at least directs you to AVD.

January 28, 2017 at 6:38PM

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Drew
Editor | Colorist | DP | Post Engineer
10

Thanks for this article. I went over to AVD after reading your article and attempted to sign up but was halted by the fact that they asked for a Tax ID#. Do I need to have a legal business (LLC, Corp, etc.) in order to join? I do not have a tax id# as I do not want to pay $800 a year in California to form an LLC which is the cheapest business entity to set up I believe. Is there a way around this? Any feedback would be very helpful. Thank you.

February 20, 2017 at 2:42AM

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What others have said - Video Direct is a useful channel to have access to but the captioning requirement is burdensome enough that no filmmaker I know with small catalogs is touching it. It amazes me that Amazon has provided zero support to content providers for enabling this, aside from giving a short list of third party services who specialize in providing captioning.

June 1, 2017 at 12:08PM

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Putting our movie on amazon vod has become a nightmare. Is there anyone to talk with to help us get through this?

July 17, 2017 at 11:23AM, Edited July 17, 11:23AM

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we would pay someone to upload our movie to Amazon vod

July 17, 2017 at 1:47PM

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Hi Nikhil,

I be just been watching your film on Amazon. Very likeable I must say for a low budget film. I'm not creeping when I say that this is down to good judgement and your acting decisions.

I see that you switched to pay for view.
In the UK this is £3.

I'm considering putting my film on Amazon like you. Are you tied to them? Does it mean they always have your film and can't use another service?
I realise you have to make tough decisions in marketing, I just want to know if this is one of them?

Kind Regards
Jason Ritchie

July 17, 2017 at 4:58PM

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