When independent film directors bring their films to festivals, many hope that studios will pick up their distribution rights, opening the doors to widespread theatrical release and award consideration. However, online platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are disrupting this traditional distribution model, forcing filmmakers to choose between the chance for mainstream success and a relatively large, safe payout.
In the Streaming Media article “How Netflix and Amazon Are Changing the Indie Movie Business,” Partner Lisa Callif stated that independent filmmakers are increasingly choosing to take online platforms’ money over the chance for red carpet premieres and Oscar nominations. “If you’re an independent producer, you want to make movies and you want to make your next movie,” she said. “When you’re paying your investors back, that’s a big deal.”
Though some online platforms are more amenable than others to releasing films in theater so as to make them eligible for awards and prestige, it’s still a tradeoff that eliminates the potential for a wider variety of distribution methods, including DVD/Blu-ray sales and in-flight films. And not all streaming services are created equal: “Amazon is more open to doing a theatrical and doing some other type of exploitation, but Netflix is basically saying ‘We’re paying you all this money and we get all the rights internationally so that’s the only deal you’re going to do and your film is only going to be seen on Netflix,’” Lisa said.