According to stories in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Vimeo will offer advances of $10,000 to any of the 146 world premiere films screening in the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival in exchange for a brief exclusive period of exclusive VOD rights on their Vimeo on Demand platform. This continues Vimeo’s push to market itself as a destination for exclusive independent film content that it began at SXSW in announcing the Vimeo on Demand service and acquiring Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s). Is this a good deal for independent filmmakers?
It probably comes as no surprise from my previous posts on distribution and VOD platforms that I am a big believer in filmmakers offering their films as directly as possible to audiences without a distributor in the middle of things. While ten grand may not seem like a lot of money for a feature film made for a million dollars or more, advances can be hard to come by these days, particularly for digital rights alone.
Toronto is a major film festival–probably the most important North American festival in terms of film acquisitions. Certainly, several films of the 146 will be gobbled up in lucrative deals from major distributors with advances in the millions. That’s every film producer’s Plan A. So for a film by Ron Howard or Jason Reitman, this may not be a very tempting offer. However, for the hundred films or more that are likely to premiere at Toronto but still not spark a bidding war–or even a moderate distribution offer–Vimeo’s offer could be the start of a solid Plan B.
Vimeo’s exclusive rights to a film are for digital only and last 30 days or until the film recoups its advance, whichever comes first. Once that happens, the filmmakers are free to expand to iTunes Store, YouTube, or any of the other platforms they may wish. Filmmakers can also continue on Vimeo and receive a 90/10 cut of the film’s revenue once the advance is earned out (with the 90% going to the filmmakers). Filmmakers may also launch a simultaneous (a.k.a. “day-and-date”) theatrical release for their film. I believe that for many independent films, this can be a great strategy, especially if there is some budget available to advertise and get the release off to a good start where it can build momentum. A $10,000 advance well spent could help a film reach a broader audience and ultimately recoup much more for its investors. For some films with smaller budgets and perhaps more limited appeal, $10K could be a good chunk of change towards financial success.
I don’t see a lot of downside to this offer (for those fortunate enough to receive it). Launching a film digitally is likely to eliminate revenue from pay TV networks. This could potentially be worth a larger advance than the filmmakers would see from an online deal. So that is a very real drawback that filmmakers should consider before signing up for this deal. Some films may do better going that route. However, the sales from a TV deal will be a fixed price whereas filmmakers have the possibility of making more money through future sales on a digital rights deal with Vimeo’s 90/10 revenue split. This offer should not hinder foreign sales since it appears that Vimeo will still allow geo-blocking of foreign territories so as not to preclude future sales.
I’ll be watching this and hope that it proves to be a success for both Vimeo and the filmmakers. It seems that Vimeo is serious about making itself a destination for quality paid film content. I expect more news like this as the festival season continues.