The Digital Age of Independent Filmmaking By Dennis Corsi
Despite the fact the we are called filmmakers and work in the film industry, "film" is rarely a part of the picture anymore. The world has been switching to digital and is almost exclusively such. In 2013, Fujifilm sold its final film stock and they don't plan to ever produce it again. Most theaters have thrown away their film projectors and have switched over exclusively to digital projectors. This major shift is wonderfully beneficial to independent filmmakers, who are finding it more affordable and more possible to produce and distribute their films.
There are two major benefits to independent filmmakers in the new digital landscape: cheaper production costs and more accessible distribution routes.
Cheaper Production Costs
Film is expensive. A 1000 foot roll of 35mm film stock would cost around $600 and holds around 11 minutes of footage. This doesn't even include the processing fees for the film, which can be another couple hundred dollars per roll. Nowadays, a 64 gigabyte CF card costs $200 and can hold 3 hours of footage. And no processing fees! Not to mention that once you no longer need that footage, you can delete it and use the card all over again! For filmmakers working on low budget projects, this price deduction makes a HUGE difference.
Distribution is often the least thought about, yet most important part of making a movie. Many new independent filmmakers think "as long as I make a good movie, people will see it and it will be a success." That is a giant misconception. Fortunately though, the digital era is providing many more methods of distribution for indi films that did not exist before. In the past, once a movie was made it would need to be picked up by a distribution company who would work to get the film in movie theaters. Getting a distribution deal was a like winning the lottery. Not only would you first need to get your film into one of the major film festivals (an almost impossible feat in itself), you would then need to be one of the very few, if any, that a distributor is willing to risk putting money into distributing.
Now indi filmmakers can distribute on their own, with little to no upfront costs! With online video sharing services like YouTube and Vimeo, anyone can upload a movie to share. TV and movie streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu accept independent films. CollabFeature used the service Distrify for it's first feature The Owner. This allowed us to sell the video online via digital download and allow for rental at a cheaper price.
The downside of digital production and distribution is that the web is being over-saturated with mediocre and poor movies. It makes it more difficult for the good filmmakers to rise out of the chaos. It's requiring an entire new range of skills for marketing our movies.
We are part of an exciting time as filmmakers. Everything about the industry is changing, and this is our opportunity to be at the edge of that wave of change.