Busting Internet Distribution Myths with Jamie Wilkinson of VHX

There's been a lot to say regarding self distribution recently, and that's a very good thing. We're in the midst of what could be a renaissance of decentralized creative efforts, with film at its forefront. You can now, more than ever, literally do everything yourself -- and that's very important to us. We've heard from the creators of Indie Game: The Movie, and there's a lot to learn from their success. Now, VHX co-founder Jamie Wilkinson has presented the common misconceptions of internet-based self-distribution, why the old studio ways of thinking are obsolete, and what powers the new media ecosystem puts directly into your hands.

Here's Jamie's full presentation at the XOXO festival, a conference featuring a wide variety of pioneers and thinkers in both art and technology -- and how they can mix (James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajoton also spoke):

I think it's important to hear from one of the makers of a system such as VHX, because these are the people literally making the future happen -- they're conceiving, designing, and implementing the tomorrow of what we do, or at least a significant part of it. Many of "the old ways" are bloated, sluggish, or stubbornly entrenched -- there's a lot to be said about the robustness of studios, they obviously have a lot of capital behind them -- but their future (continued as they are now) isn't certain if they resist major changes outright -- adapt or die, like anything else. Everything is so quick and fluid nowadays that studios may have to break from long-standing traditions to stay relevant. The studio system has, of course, gotten a lot of movies made, and widely seen, from a historical viewpoint -- but a parallel model of making/watching is certainly coalescing, and it looks bright.

I reiterate this point because it's just staggering that anyone could make an analogy such as that above, never mind the idea behind it -- and as Mr. Wilkinson points out, it's a powerful example of how not to think. Resisting changes that are already in the process of being globally embraced probably won't see you emerging into the field in question as a leader. Furthermore, I think it's heartening to hear the that three biggest concerns about internet self-distribution are untrue, if not representative of obstacles to be overcome. Once again, these 'myths' (having since been busted) are:

  1. People aren't willing to pay for content on the internet
  2. Self-distribution and traditional distribution are mutually exclusive from one another
  3. You must already be famous to achieve self-success with a direct-to-audience model

Untrue, false, and not so. What this all amounts to, of course, is what you do with it. To me, it basically reads as 'anything is possible' -- like any success: in order for it to happen, you have to get out there and make it happen.

What thoughts do you have on Jamie's presentation? Will old 'video store'-style models continue to prevail, or do you think more direct distribution will overtake it? How do you think studios can adapt to such a changing environment?

Link: XOXO Festival

Your Comment


i actually don't think there's anything wrong with rentals. $10 to stream 1 movie is too much if you ask me.
i pay 14/mo for hulu+ only to watch criterion.
and stream movies on amazon.

no longer using netflix

December 3, 2012 at 7:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I have had success with the direct-to-audience model.
We made a documentary about a family that released paranormal videos to youtube that became a huge viral hit online. We were able to attach a link to our site (pantryghost.com) to these videos that recieved millions of hits on youtube, and they essentially became a trailer for our new film.
On our site we used distrify player which allows you to rent or buy the movie straight from the player, and it has our trailer as well.
The trick to self distribution is to make sure the public knows your movie is out there, and the best way is by making sure your trailer or behind the scenes video gets shared on facebook, twitter, and youtube.
CLS is right about the price point, we made sure the rental price was below 5 dollars.

December 3, 2012 at 9:09PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


How has Distrify worked for you, Stanley?

December 3, 2012 at 10:27PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

Disrify has a great player, What sets the player apart from the others it offers,
1. rental and sales at what ever price point you choose
2. An option to sell merchandise, t-shirts, coffe mugs, etc....
3. tickets to any public screenings for your film
4. its a 70-30% split with distrify with no monthly fees, its in there best interest for your film to sell
5. and an affiliate share plan, which means with one click on your player they can share or embed the movie on twitter , facebook, or any blog. and they get 10% of every sale of your movie.
The best part is distrify splits the payment to anyone sharing your movie, you pay 5% and they pay5%
out of there percentage of the proffits
So anyone who likes your film will have a great incentive to share it with other people because they get paid to do so.
you can check out a blog someone made about our film (thepantryghost.blogspot.com) they posted our player twice on it and recieve commission from every sale, its a win/win.

December 3, 2012 at 11:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


i think it really is going to pick up steam but at the moment saying you dont have to be famous or at least have an established youtube like @stanley k. self dist. seems like it is not quite there yet. is it just me or did he keep stopping like he was going to vomit? ha
that said im a 100 %behind this and will keep an eye on the success of other such films!

December 3, 2012 at 11:42PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I don't necessarily disagree with you, but the quote was "you don't need to be famous, you just need to work." Honestly I think with a well thought out strategy and a lot of work, Jamie is absolutely right. But if you're not famous, nobody should expect it to just take off on its own simply because it's good content - which I think is probably what you are getting at.

December 6, 2012 at 8:37AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

You voted '-1'.

Its a great motivational video. But, I am a little skeptical, regarding:
1. How many people actually make millions, through self distribution.
2. Glenn Beck is not an amateur. He never really was. He was already making millions, when he took his show from Fox, and started paid distribution. Also, he was ranked #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list, 4 times. I am not sure, anyone else, who is self-selling, would be. Plus, he had millions, in funds, to start his online business. He, as a matter of fact, merely converted TV to internet, in terms of distribution.
3. The truth, is, very people, who buy online, still, venture out, beyond iTunes, Amazon and eBay.
4. Very few people who are into self distribution, or try and sell through, other innovative ways, really make a profit. Or a noticeable profit.

I am not trying to dismiss the video. I think, its a great idea, of trying to give artists what they rightfully deserve. Until now (and for another 10 years, ATLEAST), artists will get nothing out of their creative works, whereas their agents, and big studios, will make a killing. While artists are alive, and for a few decades, after the artists kick the bucket.

Self-distribution, and innovative distribution, is around the corner, for sure. Though, its not easy to guess, how far the corner actually is. Maybe another 5 years, or so.

December 4, 2012 at 2:58AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Zack, working in the industry I can assure you successful artists in film and TV get far more than nothing...they are quite phenomenally overpaid (at the moment...the entire business model is rapidly unraveling and the gravy train is about over) but what they don't get that these new models promise to provide is genuine equity, and creative control. And for everyone else, a potential seat at the table, bypassing and even eliminating the gatekeepers. But the gatekeepers will fight hard.

December 4, 2012 at 2:00PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


What is the name of the book that he mentions in the video? About the "customer service economy?"

December 4, 2012 at 4:07AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


December 4, 2012 at 7:35AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hey Jamie, thanks for stopping by :)

December 4, 2012 at 8:22AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Dave Kendricken

Thank you Jamie! Great discussion.

December 5, 2012 at 8:33AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


VHX looks very promising. At the moment, for the near future I'm looking to release a feature via VHX or Distrify. I'm wondering how does VHX make money. Do they take a percentage cut from the sales?

December 5, 2012 at 6:13PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Still...Good Luck trying to get people to pay for
anything..unless you yourself or the work itself
is either famous or known about in the world.

December 6, 2012 at 1:58PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I would like to hear how to build your audience with a little more detail other than calling it work? Just what do you do. Saying you need to be willing to work is too broad a brush.

I've built the website, blogged, facebooked and twittereeeeed

Not really working for me, so Myth number three...."you need to famous" doesn't seem like a myth to me, it seems like you need to be famous, or a least have about 1 million fans just waiting for your next release...

December 6, 2012 at 4:42PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Yeah...EXActly...what else can you do...kidnap people at gunpoint and force
them to watch.

Ultimately the work has to just be of such Quality that it does this "work" for you.
Or you target a community that is totally underserved by the Studio System.
i.e.Gibson with the Passion of Christ movie.

And once you are known then you can coast for X number of years
until the film police take away your "keys".

December 7, 2012 at 2:29PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


In 2008 I was one of the first filmmakers experimenting with DIY, I directed my first documentary MacHEADS and I knew I had to find my audience online, I'm not famous, but the topic of the movie (Apple fanatics) sure was and still is. Naturally It helped me a lot to get it noticed. I thank the Internet for allowing me to get my film out and to connect with thousands of supporters. MacHEADS became the #1 top selling movie on iTunes, and was the most popular movie both on Hulu and Snagfilms, it was finally bought by CNBC. I wish companies like VHX and Distrify were around at the time. it's really all depended on our ability to create engaging content, and as indie filmmakers we need to understand that we have to find a compelling story to attract audience. So basically you don't have to be famous, but you do need to communicate an engaging narrative.

December 9, 2012 at 2:52PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM