- by Antony
Independent movie production is comprised of a vast array of artists on every level from the lone director on a shoestring budget to the mini-major studios working with "small" budgets of fewer than ten million dollars. Throughout that spectrum of film makers there are common goals. The producers of most indie flix will admit to wanting to reach the broadest audience even when they know a substantial lose of profits are associated with broadcasting.
Given that independent movie production is a business, there is always someone watching the bottom line, even if it is not the director. That person needs to leverage every tool available to them to reach that audience. A short-run duplication order of screener DVDs is usually high on the list of budget items. Once the average indie flix producer has wrapped production, it is time to start to court the film festivals, judges, distributors, and financiers. This is not the place skimp since the screeners DVDs often represent your first impression.
A big difference between one project and the next is whether they receive funding before or after production. Another is whether the project has distribution. Those two points make for a very different experience in the early life of a film. A non-funded project goes into production needing to attract a buyer and/or distributor to make it to that next step of reaching an audience.
The unfunded path normally makes its way through a series of film festivals or other film markets where the work is shown, or screened, for potential investors or business partners. Of course, the films are also screened for the general audience members in attendance and their reaction is crucial to the chances of the production team, but the check writers in attendance are the ones the artists really need to impress in order to gain momentum. When you think unfunded, do not think "no money" because that is not the case. Traveling and providing film prints or DVDs to all of those festival screeners and judges is not free.
One player in the independent film market that has made excellent use of short-run duplication is Passion River Films. Since 1998, they have been in the business of finding independent films that are ready for a broader market. By attending festivals in the U.S. and internationally, they have successfully marketed over a dozen films. One tool that is vital to the Passion River formula for success is the screener DVD. The press is able to request one directly from the companies website and short-run duplication allows for an on demand style of fulfillment. After all, you never know which product could turn into a bigger success than initially expected.