It's safe to say that Netflix took the world by storm with its first original series, House of Cards. Not only was the show immaculately produced, shot, and acted, but it also may have planted the seeds for an entertainment revolution in that it signaled the beginning of a shift away from traditional media outlets towards online streaming services. Today we got word that original series might just be the tip of the iceberg for Netflix, whose content boss said that original movies could be a reality for the company very soon. If this is the case, and Netflix starts taking on a studio-like role in the film world, what would the implications be for independent filmmakers? Let's take a look:
First, here is Netlix's Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos' keynote address at the 2013 Film Independent Forum:
And here's the little tidbit that has film folks excited:
What we’re trying to do for TV, the model should extend pretty nicely to movies. Meaning, why not premiere movies on Netflix, the same day they’re opening in theaters? And not little movies — there’s a lot of ways, and lot of people to do that [already]. Why not big movies? Why not follow the consumers’ desire to watch things when they want?
If Netflix does decide to make the foray into original films, they would likely start large-scale, something with notable directors and A-list talent. If this strategy is profitable with big-budget filmmaking (and it almost certainly would be), the company, with its spot-on statistical analysis and built-in audience, would be in an incredibly unique position to become not only a leading distributor of independent films, but also a notable funder of these films.
The fact is that Netflix knows exactly what you like, when you like to watch it, how many times you get up to pee while watching it, and probably some other really weird statistics. With the same prudent statistical analysis that told them it was a good idea to make House of Cards, they have the power to determine the exact numbers of people who would ideally watch certain kinds of films. With that information, they could fund various scripts in proportion to the built-in audience that Netflix's statistics tell them these films would inherently have.
This kind of funding model, one based on legitimate viewer statistics, would significantly reduce the risks Netflix would be taking with its capital when funding independent films. Of course, scripts would likely have to meet an exacting set of criteria in order to qualify for funding of any sort. However, considering Netflix's seeming devotion to providing its viewers with smart and engaging original content, I wouldn't be particularly worried about filmmakers with original stories and ideas being shunned like they often are in the current studio system.
This whole shift could very well leave theaters, both large and small, in the dust, but that's a discussion for another day. At this point we should get excited for the tremendous opportunity that Netflix could possibly present to independent filmmakers with an original film funding and distribution system. Now however, it's time to sit back and see how this all shakes out.
What do you guys think? Would a Netflix system of producing and distributing feature films be beneficial to independent filmmakers? Let us know in the comments!