Tim Roth on VOD: Why the Distribution Alternative Doesn't Affect Him as an Actor

Tim RothNow that the most recent murmurings regarding our industry indicate that, despite some of our big screen dreams, VOD is slowly becoming the future of film distribution. With VOD gaining popularity among low-budget filmmakers and being sold as a "good alternative" to a theatrical release, let's be honest -- VOD is kind of considered, quite literally, the "poor man's theater." But Oscar-Nominated actor Tim Roth says that this platform is something to be embraced, and actors that are reluctant to take roles in films that go straight to VOD are "dumb." Hit the jump for more.

Roth gave an interview about his latest film Brokenwhich was released on VOD as well as in select  theaters. In it, he shares his thoughts on the platform, stating that it's as difficult as ever to afford to get a film a wide theatrical release. Roth says:

Our chance of getting into a theatre, especially if you’re a tiny budget film, is near impossible. The idea that you slide into a theater nowadays, past "Iron Man" or "Despicable Me" or past these big budget movies, is a joke.  It’s the hardest thing to do. You have to go the VOD route and with a limited theatrical release, if you’re lucky.

Let's admit it -- releasing a film on VOD isn't the same as releasing it in theaters. There is still something glamorous about a theatrical release -- it gives the immediate illusion of success. At times, VOD seems like a filmmaker's Plan B to their distribution strategy.

I think for independent filmmakers, the VOD alternative can be disappointing because they say, “Ah, I just want it to get to the cinema and be on the festival circuit,” but it’s also a way of getting their message out.  Sometimes it’s all they’ve got.

However, VOD is also a welcomed alternative for many filmmakers, but does that leave a bad taste in the mouths of actors? Have actors shied  away from pursuing roles in films that have a direct-to-VOD release? Roth says, "Well if they have, they’re dumb."

 I don’t think the VOD alternative really affects me as an actor.  I shouldn’t come into the equation, to be honest.   If that’s where the film is going to end up, that’s where it’s going to end up.  If I have read the script and want to do it, then that’s why I want to do it.

It seems, at least to me, that independent filmmakers struggle with this idea that their work is somehow illegitimate in the eyes of moviegoers, who are used to theatrical releases. And "straight-to-VOD" sounds an awful lot like "straight-to-DVD" -- or even "made-for-TV." But supporters of the platform, like Roth, help instill a little more faith in audiences, investors, cast, and crew that a film's quality is not measured by its distribution strategy.

What do you think? Have you fully embraced VOD, or do you have some reservations? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Tim Roth on 'Broken,' Vimeo and Why Actors Should Embrace VOD -- Tribeca

[via Indiewire]

You Might Also Like

Your Comment


I thought clicking a link from Facebook about a story highlighting an actor like Tim Roth embracing the VOD format would be less pessimistically written. If you want to read a well written article on this topic, click the link at end of this article or the "in a nutshell" article at via Indiewire, also above.

July 21, 2013 at 7:10AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Pessimism wasn't my intention. I think it's important to be straight-forward about how many, if not most, casual moviegoers (not industry professionals) see VOD. Most liken it to straight-to-DVD releases, which gives the impression that the film isn't well-made.

Once VOD becomes more of a standard, we'll see this change. Until then, a lot of indie filmmakers will have to bear the "Oh, that's cute," face from their family, friends, and acquaintances when they say their film is being released straight-to-VOD. ("You mean, like, it's not going to be in theaters, or anything? Is it even a real movie or is it, like, a YouTube thing?")

July 21, 2013 at 5:41PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

Mark Cuban's owned Magnolia Pictures uses both mediums simultaneously. A lot of their films are distributed this way and has been Mark Cubans formula since the early 2000's. God Bless America, Goon, and John Dies in the End were all handled this way. All great films, less than 250 theaters released, but got to more people with VOD. Even a movie such as Margin Call, was first released as VOD, then small release in theaters. This film had Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Zachary Quinto in it. It did exceptionally well (compared to budget) and I particularly only had access to it through Amazon/Cinemanow.
All this to say, that this form of distribution is viable and utilized, but How many of us went to see Upstream Color in theaters (if you had the access to it) or saw it on a VOD/SOD?

July 22, 2013 at 12:05AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I fully intend to see Upstream Color, though from a business point of view, does anyone knows how it has performed ? Has it made money ? If so, did most of the income come from exhibition or VOD ?

July 22, 2013 at 7:40AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


$444,098 total domestic according to box office mojo... here's a good article on the flick

July 22, 2013 at 5:24PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Thanks jaybird, very interesting. I understand that Shane Carruth was a bit coy talking about the budget and production because he didn't want people to fall victim to preconceived notions about low budgets. If we extrapolate up from the camera he used, to me that looks like a really good figure.

July 23, 2013 at 11:27AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


The flavor of "straight-to-video" B-C-D-E (and so on) movies associated with VoD and electronic distribution will eventually go away. In the end there will be just good movies and bad movies, no matter which way released to the public.

July 21, 2013 at 7:42AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Can't wait.

July 21, 2013 at 9:02AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


A "Some Girl(s)" producer commented on that film's thread a week or so ago. I asked her to reveal some of her film's Vimeo watch/download numbers. I hope she responds, if only with non-specific data.

PS. Hypothetically speaking, it is not that cost prohibitive to launch a chain of independent theaters. A 35-50 seat theater can get away with a mid-high end consumer level front projector (under $3K), some self-powered speakers (~ $1K) and a laptop/media center. The room itself can be a permanent location or rented for a particular event. It can even be staged as an outdoor drive-in.

July 21, 2013 at 7:54AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I really don't understand it. VOD is NOT an alternative! It is just another distribution route. I would choose it any day. Why? If you are really into making independent films then at some point you need to generate an income from your film! And it seems to me that if you have a good movie that can be seen by millions, it is better than being in few theatre and make no money. Because let's face it, no independent movie will ever be dispatched in 1000's of theatres. The world is changing whether people like it or not. I recently spend a lot of money in the cinemas and it has been disappointment after disappointment. I only spent a few bucks on VOD and really enjoyed what have seen...

July 21, 2013 at 7:59AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Anthony Bert

Theatrical distribution does legitimise features. But the difficulty of gaining distribution is also coupled with the difficulty of getting a distributor that truly understands how to best serve and market a film and has the means and will to do so.

My own hope is that digital distribution, through ventures like Odemax etc, will allow a new breed of "cinema complex" to form that can be fluent and responsive to it's customers wants and less encumbered by keeping the bigger distributors happy and able to be diverse and dynamic in their programming.

What I mean is something like this...

Subscribe to your local cinema. They send out lists of upcoming titles in your preferred genre, and you basically "like" what you would like to see, and when numbers reach house nut or what have you, they screen.

There would be no need to take a big risk on choosing this tiny indy over that mega blockbuster for this up coming week of programming. Or needing to be cutting this disaster or that as soon as humanly possible. The focus no longer on "did it open?" No more tragic outcries of pain from Indie film makers, of oh how well it could have done if it was just properly marketed. And all it really needed was a chance to build up a little word of mouth. Cinema owners would not have to fear dire repercussions or trying to explain to Universal why they just dropped their 300 million dollar giant robot punch on for a film about a boy and his dead horse that some fifteen year old shot for $70 with a friends new Gh32.

Cinema programming could be fluent, directly connected, and relevant to it's audience. People would likely even start campaigning to try and get a screening going of X film that they desperately wanted to see - sending links to their friends etc... Hobbiest groups and organisations could get that screening they would so love. Film makers could have an incentive beyond just passion to make it for them. It'd be an open playing field. And hell the studios could even save some money on their stupendous P&A budgets having forfeited the need to get their films to open at all costs and instead perhaps even start to support a few more risky and interesting projects.

I think it's the future. At least I certainly hope it is. Otherwise, I think it will just be an online version of what it is now... In majority, clever people with the money, telling people what they like, so they can continue making money.

July 21, 2013 at 9:57AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I like the local cinema subscription idea.

We could a setup a site that networks all the indie theaters on the planet. Filmmakers can then put their film's promo materials up and people can vote on whether they would want to watch it. The theaters could then license the film directly from the filmmaker.

July 21, 2013 at 6:21PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Yeah I think it has some merit too.

July 22, 2013 at 7:14AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


With tv's getting cheaper and the quality getting better, the ability to create exceptional home theatre environments is become easier. VOD content will arguably become more desirable. VOD is not a replacement but just another option. Personally I HATE a crowded theatre. That's why I go before noon preferably during the week.

July 21, 2013 at 10:36AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Totally agreed. I don't enjoy paying $50 so my wife and I can listen to some pining loser with an inferiority complex [always seated directly behind me somehow] vocally criticize the movie or offer his predictions on what the upcoming plot points will be. Even a good movie is utterly tainted by this kind of experience, whereas VOD is under the viewer's complete control.

July 21, 2013 at 11:16AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


The current problem with VOD is that not many film goers know what site will stream which film. YouTube has a PPV feature for major releases but, even there, I see more Netflix banners than ads for specific titles, from which - let's not forget - YouTube gets a pretty decent cut. And, if you ask that average movie goer about Vimeo or Vudu or any other streaming service, he will only recognize iTunes and/or Amazon. Of course, right now is an early adoption stage but these video services have to make their offerings more known. The film makers, actors included, have to do their marketing bit too. The "Coffee Town" gang apparently went on a nine city tour to promote their flick. At this point, however, a 40-80 city tour (major metro areas + college towns) might be what's required.

July 21, 2013 at 11:01AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '-1'.

I don't think the question is, "Are you cool (as a filmmaker) having a VOD release or does it bother you?"
It's more, "Does the industry care?"

Let me explain...
If you want to play in the big pool with the big fish you gotta' make a splash in their pond. This stinky, stagnant pool hasn't changed much in the 100 years it has existed and every big fish knows 'theatrical release' is the stamp of legitimacy... but it's changing.

To be brief, theatrical does more than 'open' your film (BO wise). It's the first piece of mass marketing the public will be exposed to. VOD is challenging because it must hit the ground running - social media, etc, should have already gathered some momentum before it's released to the masses. Theatrical is much the same, but as it drops to the VOD window it has a TON of momentum behind it. That is why people still try to open theatrical, even if it's limited.

Obviously theatrical costs a shit ton more and the chances of seeing a large return as a low budget/indie filmmaker is very, very, VERY slim. Net costs will slash any claim you had on the backend. But hey, now you got some pull going into VOD land!

Speaking from my own experience releasing to limited VOD (comcast, cox entertainment, etc) and then to more traditional VOD, I can tell you my chances of seeing a little bit of cash is going to be much better. No P&A costs or anything of the like. The only shitty part is my producers can't pitch me as, "A director with a theatrically released film." So that leads me to my real question,

Does the industry care?

July 21, 2013 at 2:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I don't think industry cares about VOD.
You could have made a bunch of money on VOD
but it means nothing to a studio. A Film that lost
money in theatres will gain you more respect
in the Hollywood world.

They only care about the big splash of theaters and festivals.
Cinema and all art industries operate on hype..status..
and promotion. Quality and profit are in there too but
just not so much as we all think or want to believe.

July 21, 2013 at 3:30PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM