In today's flooded online entertainment ecosystem, Fandependent is a refreshingly simple self-moderating curation platform for indies.
Getting your film seen is the biggest challenge facing most filmmakers, and is often a big unknown for many of us. Founded by filmmakers Ben Hicks and Jerry Tran and launched earlier this year for its Winter cycle of films, the Fandependent model is somewhere between a streaming platform, a film festival and an online competition. I spoke with founders Jerry and Ben about their 5-year journey to launch the platform, their motivations behind it and how it all works.
"Once you see someone's first film it makes me more willing to pay for their next one."
Fandependent at a glance:
- 1 new film added each day.
- Watch films for free with no ads.
- Viewers can become a 'Fan' of a film for a $3 charge.
- At the each of each quarter (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) the 3 films with the most fans win an Audience Award.
- At the end of the year 12 films that won Audience Awards are retained on the platform.
- At the end of the year, a 12-day festival solidifies each winner in the 2016 collection.
There are plenty of streaming destinations and tons of indie films out there to choose from, but I'm convinced Fandependent's home-grown approach (showing films for free) is a better way to promote underseen films. In the same way that Kickstarter's all-or-nothing model offers backers an incentive to donate, Fandependent gives audiences a reason and a timeframe in which to watch your film — before it's gone off the platform forever (oh my god, it's like Snapchat for feature films).
Fandependent in the same philosophical corner as NoBudge and without the paygates of Fandor or Vimeo on Demand. I've submitted my 2014 film to the platform and for me (having been behind a Vimeo on Demand paygate for 1.5 years) it's refreshing to be able to offer it to people for free. For first and second time indie filmmakers, a place like Fandependent is designed to help grow your audience — one fan at a time.
"There's a perfect moment after your festival run where I feel you gotta just lay it out there for a small period of time to continue your momentum before you bury it behind some paywall."
NFS: When did decide to start this?
Jerry: We were gonna put $40,000 down on this company to build our site and the day before I was gonna sign this check over I called Ben and said, "I think we gotta just do this on the same level as the films we're presenting. Just do it with what we've got and soldier through it, get something out there and soldier through it."
NFS: It was cool to see a lot of familiar films on the platform and to discover some new ones. That's the power, I think, of a platform like yours: it provides discovery, and that's what all independent filmmakers want and need.
Jerry: Yeah, and once I see someone's first film it makes me more willing to pay for their next one.
Ben: And it gets you excited for their work. We thought by putting yourself behind a paywall you're missing out on the potential of being discovered.
NFS: Sometimes the right person seeing something they like in your work can be huge. As filmmakers yourself, where does your platform fit in to a film's distribution life?
Jerry: You gotta have your festival run, but what do you do then? Inevitably you have to make a decision about what you do with it. There's a perfect moment after your festival run where I feel you gotta just lay it out there for a small period of time to continue your momentum before you bury it behind some paywall. I feel like if you're generous to give it up for free then I might be generous enough to chuck a couple bucks at you.
NFS: You've just launched, what's your plan for growing your community?
Ben: We're just trying to reach out to people who think it's a cool idea. It meant a lot to us that there's so many good filmmakers that were willing to take a chance on something totally new.
Jerry: At the time, it was unheard of to say you were gonna make a movie and just offer it up for free. I feel like that culture is changing big time.
Ben: It's so exciting for the internet generation of filmmakers. There's a whole scene already in place that most people don't know anything about. And we can showcase that a little bit -- I think it's really cool.
Jerry: Not to sound nerdy about it, but it's like finding a new tab at the record store. You won't seek it out until you're exposed to it.
NFS: Why delete films if they don't make the top 3?
Ben: We're keeping the content at a small quantity; we never want it to have that feeling of being overwhelmed with 1,000 movies in your face.
Jerry: It keeps it flowing. We're not having a warehouse rave, we're talking about a party at my apartment with 20 people.
If you find yourself with a hankering for some solid independent fare, check our their Winter cycle of films (which ends at the end of March) and cast your $3 vote. Oh yeah, and my film is available to watch for free until February 19th. :)