BitTorrent has long been a pioneer and a strong voice in the conversation about digital distribution, and now they're bringing us a video interview series called BitTorrent Sessions. Off the heels of a successful Bundles collaboration (over 3.5 million downloads) with Drafthouse Films for The Act of Killing, BitTorrent's Matt Mason sat down with Evan Husney (the then creative director of Drafthouse Films, now with Vice) to talk about the current state of film distribution and where we're headed.
Here's the ~28 minute conversation:
The Act of Killing is an interesting talking point and case study, being a film with many implications that stretch beyond the edges of the frame. Here's some of the big takeaways, graciously provided in bite-size morsels by BitTorrent:
- Rebuild the arthouse. Rebuild the record store.
- Start with the people. Not the film.
- Make content marketing more efficient.
- Find the communities where access to the film has the most impact.
- Build a distribution model that amplifies the story behind the film.
- Reclaim offline distribution.
It seems like distribution is all about how you package a release, i.e. finding the right audience, offering incentives for watching the film, and creating different ways for people to consume the film. Projecting The Act of Killing on the face of the World Bank in D.C. is an example of some "provocative" ways to show the film by dropping it into more cultural context (the World Bank had given $30 billion to the regime that committed the 65-66 Indonesian genocide).
The biggest thing I've learned about digital distribution while releasing my own film is that it's a constantly moving target. You must stay open and vigilant to the shifting sands, open in communication with your audience and willing to try new ways to engage people. We're all competing for eyeballs; even really great films have trouble getting visibility in today's market. Some say we're cannibalizing ourselves:
Many in the industry still refuse to acknowledge that film is subject to the economic laws of supply and demand. The hard truth is that it is, and ignoring that fact won’t make it go away. All industries have to adapt to stay relevant and viable, and film is no exception. That is especially true in the U.S. where, unlike some other countries, the government doesn’t fund production as a cultural initiative. And if the challenges in the industry are not addressed, everyone in it stands to lose.
What do you think? Are there too many films and not enough eyeballs? How many filmmakers among us will be able to adapt to the way people want to consume films and new ways to distribute them? It all seems incredibly daunting for anyone starting out, but laced with vague feelings of hope for new voices to shine through. Share your thoughts below.