April 9, 2020

Filmmakers Debate Putting their SXSW Films on Amazon

Last week, Amazon stepped up and offered affected SXSW filmmakers a place to premiere their films, but some are debating the offer. 

After the cancelations and drama surrounding SXSW 2020, Amazon offered filmmakers an undisclosed fee to premiere their films on the streaming service. 

This was seen as a great opportunity. The festival's filmmakers would get a chance to find an audience and receive payment. Sure, you don't get the festival experience but you get more eyeballs on your work. 

Amazon's plan was simple: launch a "film festival collection," where SXSW films could play exclusively on the platform in the U.S. for a 10-day period—the length of the festival. 

Still, as the dust has settled, filmmakers mulling over the opportunity have a few uneasy feelings. Many of them talked to The Hollywood Reporter about it. 

As one producer put it, "Showing things for free isn't going to make a dent."

While many of these people wanted to remain anonymous, the consensus was similar to this response: “We spent three years, our budget wasn’t big, but it was three years of our lives. We aren’t going to kill the distribution chances for this film for an unknown sum."

Distribution is the best bet to make money on your work. It's the best bet to prove you can do well at the box office and proof that someone should get you the budget for the next project and the next after that. 

So, where does that leave worried filmmakers? 

As one put it, "It has only been a month [since the SXSW cancellation]. There is still a lot of uncertainty," says one SXSW filmmaker. This person adds, "As a filmmaker, it is hard to have patience right now. But the right thing will come. This didn’t seem like the right thing.” 

The main problem boils down to SXW being canceled only a week before it occurred. That effectively ended things too late to reconsider debuts elsewhere and without enough time for the festival to pivot to later in the year. 

This surge changed the course of many films there and left filmmakers grasping at what to do next. 

There are no definitive answers. 

But right now many people are left feeling frustrated and worried about their future in this industry.      

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