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DouglasHorn.com

Is Vimeo’s $10,000 Advance for Digital Exclusives a Good Deal for Filmmakers?

by on Sep.03, 2013, under Distribution

Services like Vimeo's new Vimeo On Demand will change everything for independents.  Eventually.

Vimeo is putting its money where its mouth is and offering TIFF premieres a $10K advance.

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.

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6 Comments for this entry

  • Leah

    Thank you for this info! I agree it could make a big difference for the smaller fish in the pond :) We will be watching to see what happens!

  • Kelly Daisy

    I would love to see a followup with those who participated and how it paid off or not. We need to all learn from each other, because this info is not being shared enough. Seeing what numbers films bring in from different avenues will help us make a successful plan for our future films.

  • Angry Artist

    Vimeo offers a great deal to upper tier bigger budget indie films. Although, these festivals still reek of corporate, canned mentality. Unfortunately, for now and to my dismay, Vimeo seems to currently align itself with these top tier festivals. If Vimeo were to change it’s current strategy and all films listed on Vimeo even crappy weird stuff had pay walls the viewer would be compelled to pay something and my belief is Vimeo and more us indie creators could make better money.

  • Douglas

    I don’t think that Vimeo is keeping videos away from paywalls because they’re small. The filmmakers decide whether or not to subscribe to the service and offer their movies for sale, not Vimeo.

  • Angry Artist

    Yes, I realize we filmmakers decide on whether to sell on Vimeo. What I am trying to say which may not have come off clear in my comment above is this: If filmmakers were not given a choice to list their films as free on sites like Vimeo and Youdube and all films were only given a choice of paywall or an honest and better paying AdSense type of monetize tool to upload their work, then my belief is this: Viewers and or advertisers would be compelled to pay us creators for our work. Forget “Tip the creator” Nobody I know on Vimeo is getting tipped. I say: “Make viewers and advertisers pay all of us indie filmmakers to watch our art, even if that means including the Guitar Hero videos and yes, even the soft porn videos. Maybe, it is too late for Vimeo to change course now. Yet, another video uploading site like a Vimeo or a Youdube with some moxie and plenty of bandwith could come along in the future and try the complete paywall approach for all uploaded videos.

1 Trackback or Pingback for this entry

  • Vimeo’s $10,000 Advance | Washington Filmworks - Blog

    [...] 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? Continue reading here. [...]

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