Is AVOD nan solution for struggling indie doc filmmakers?
“Beyond Utopia,” “A Still Small Voice,” “Deep Rising,” “It’s Only Life After All,” “Going Varsity successful Mariachi,” and “The Grab” are each documentary titles that garnered bully reviews, affirmative assemblage feedback and plentifulness of media attraction astatine awesome movie festivals including this year’s Sundance and past year’s Toronto International Film Festival. But contempt nan precocious visibility, each title is still seeking distribution.
The chances of immoderate of nan six titles garnering a highly coveted distribution woody isn’t apt fixed nan authorities of nan intermezo manufacture astatine present. The dismal distribution scenery has forced immoderate nonfiction filmmakers to move to substantially little lucrative alternatives, specified arsenic ad-supported VOD, aliases AVOD channels, and revenue-sharing arrangements to get their activity seen.
That database see filmmakers Violet Columbus and Ben Klein, who directed nan 2022 Sundance expansive assemblage prize documentary victor “The Exiles.” The duo negotiated an all-rights video on-demand merchandise via Gravitas Ventures successful December. Gravitas seeks retired licensing deals pinch SVOD platforms. After nan SVOD window, they merchandise nan task connected AVOD services.
Sana Soni, head of income and distribution astatine Giant Pictures/Drafthouse Films, talked up nan AVOD replacement astatine nan inaugural Washington D.C.-based DC/DOX movie show past month.
“If HBO, Netflix, aliases Hulu didn’t bargain each nan authorities to your film, that doesn’t mean you won’t find a supplier for your film,” says Soni, whose institution acquires movie pinch a revenue-share exemplary and seeks licensing deals pinch each platforms including AVOD. “AVOD platforms for illustration Peacock, Tubi and Pluto are besides viable options.”
In February Giant Pictures acquired U.S. theatrical and VOD authorities to nan Oscar-nominated documentary characteristic “A House Made of Splinters.” The film, which debuted astatine nan Sundance Film Festival successful 2022, screened astatine complete 20 movie festivals astir nan world but lacked American distribution moreover aft it made nan AMPAS characteristic documentary shortlist successful December 2022.
While Soni says that location are opportunities for docu filmmakers to make six figures via AVOD distribution, she concedes it’s not nan norm.
“If your movie hits a chord pinch nan correct assemblage connected an AVOD platform, you tin make a bully magnitude of money,” she says. “But each film’s mileage tin really vary. I deliberation definite titles tin really onslaught a chord, but it’s truthful difficult to task which ones will, and it’s limited truthful overmuch connected nan level merchandising,” she adds. “Is nan level for immoderate logic going to push this movie guardant connected their homepage aliases proceed to propose it to viewers astir nan app? That tin make each nan difference. That tin beryllium very difficult to constabulary arsenic a distributor.”
Unlike an SVOD licensing deal, location is nary upfront costs for an AVOD deal. Instead costs depends solely connected performance, which sounds promising but since AVOD services typically licence a wide magnitude of contented alternatively of individual films from distributors for illustration Gravitas Ventures, Giant Pictures, and FilmRise, it tin beryllium difficult for a docu to guidelines retired connected AVOD.
“The problem pinch these AVOD platforms astatine nan infinitesimal is that there’s a existent deficiency of curation,” Cinetic Media’s Jason Ishikawa says. “There is conscionable a ton of content. So, for us, there’s still a constricted entreaty of going straight onto an AVOD work unless there’s going to beryllium a constituent of trading that pushes nan film.”
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But pinch nan dependable diminution of theatrical docu distribution, nan chances of creating connection of rima for a movie via reviews anterior to an AVOD merchandise aliases moreover a licensed SVOD merchandise are slim. Generating immoderate media for an indie docu that isn’t acquired by nan awesome streamers aliases broadcasters requires a filmmaker and a shaper who knows really to market. If nan nonfiction marketplace continues to barren up, docu helmers will not only person to marketplace their ain projects, they will besides request to beryllium arsenic bully successful business arsenic they are astatine making movies.
Jessica Edwards is 1 of those filmmakers.
In March, Edwards premiered her latest docu “Skate Dreams” astatine SXSW. It’s nan aforesaid show wherever she debuted her inaugural characteristic docu “Mavis!” successful 2015. About nan life of euphony fable Mavis Staples, nan docu was quickly acquired by HBO.
Edwards was hoping for a akin result for “Skate Dreams.”
“Was I amazed that we were successful a different landscape?” says Edwards. “One 100 percent,”
About nan emergence of women’s skateboarding, “Skate Dreams” profiles a divers group of women whose pursuit of self-expression and state has helped create an world movement. Prior to 2023, nan docu had each nan correct ingredients for a awesome SVOD distribution deal: female empowerment, diversity, a sports focus, and charismatic personalities. But owed successful portion to firm consolidation on pinch nan request for only high-concept IP, “Skate Dreams” did not find a location pinch an SVOD aliases broadcaster.
Ultimately Edwards paid aggregator Premiere Digital a interest to spot “Skate Dreams” connected integer platforms. While Premiere is distributing nan “Skate Dreams,” Edwards owns nan authorities to nan documentary and created nan transportation form, nan film’s poster, and trailer and is doing her ain media for nan doc.
“I’m only paying (Premiere) for access, not publicity aliases trading support,” says Edward, who is going to hold until adjacent twelvemonth to spot her movie connected an AVOD.
“I will make much money from a rental and income position if I support it connected TVOD for a while,” she says. “Nobody has shown maine that nan AVOD exemplary useful for a filmmaker.”
Orly Ravid, laminitis of The Film Collaborative, a nonprofit focused connected distribution education, says that while financial occurrence connected an AVOD tin happen, it’s difficult.
“AVOD tin beryllium awesome and create a meaningful 5 aliases six-figure revenue, but it’s not for your mean doc aliases your mean indie play aliases indie drama without names,” says nan erstwhile elder counsel astatine Tubi. “It’s for genre films aliases films pinch circumstantial niche audiences. So, AVOD is not a immense boon for everyone, but it has been for commercialized useful and immoderate different useful that are hits. But I get that immoderate filmmakers are going to effort AVOD because it’s debased costs and it tin activity rather well. It’s worthy trying, but it’s not a immense boon for most.”
While nan payout from AVOD for filmmakers whitethorn beryllium substantially little than an SVOD deal, Ishikawa says that AVOD platforms connection thing SVODs do not: transparency.
“For nan longest time, we person fewer indicators erstwhile a movie hits a streamer for illustration Netflix aliases Amazon aliases Apple, peculiarly arsenic an original,” Ishikawa says. “There’s not a batch of extracurricular metrics that are publically communicated to understand nan breadth of group watching it. But AVOD, because it’s expected to salary retired a percent of ad-based gross that it is creating connected a film, there’s a existent opportunity to parse those numbers and fig retired really a movie is performing. So, location is an entreaty for that.”
However, Submarine Entertainment income supplier Josh Braun cautions that AVOD should not beryllium considered a magic solution for nan problems plaguing nan indie doc market.
“AVOD is simply a small spot for illustration nan Wild West,” says Braun. “It’s a way that a movie tin take, but nan deals that could beryllium retired location for AVOD are not comparable to an SVOD work buying your movie arsenic an original aliases moreover arsenic a licensing deal. But successful this difficult scenery wherever films are having problem getting retired there, definite films are clinging to (AVOD) because different there’s not overmuch else.”
(Pictured: Documentary vertical connected Tubi, nan Fox-owned FAST transmission platform.)