Self-Publishing (Movie Edition)

So the news broke from Sundance last night that Kevin Smith is distributing his new film, Red State, himself.

He had been telling everyone that he was going to auction distribution rights in public after the screening — and handed that over to his co-producer to officiate. As soon as bidding began, Smith bid twenty bucks, and the auction was closed. He’ll make deals with theaters himself, renting the space and pre-selling tickets. As Smith pointed out, with his 1.7 million Twitter followers and his Podcast audience, he’s been able to completely sell out venues (including Carnegie Hall in NYC) without spending a dime on traditional marketing.

The link to the site, above, features the current tour dates and a button that allows you to request a screening in your home town.

In the press release (also linked on the site), Smith says: “Don’t hate the studio; BECOME the studio. Anybody can make a movie; what we aim to prove is anyone can release a movie as well.”

Of course, the traditional media outlets are pretty dismissive of this whole thing. This, though, is one of the more balanced bits of coverage.

Most outlets are deciding to run with stories concentrating on smug “mixed reviews” for the film — but Neil Gaiman has said: “It’s the best thing he’s ever done. Left me shaken and grateful and wanting to make art.” I think I’ll trust Gaiman’s opinion, rather than conglomerate-fellatists like Drew McWeeney.

There’s no denying that Smith is able to do this because of his existing fame, built via the traditional model. But it’s a matter of scale — and it’s quite obvious that somebody without as much exposure could do the same thing on a smaller scale.

Publishing Houses, Film and Television Studios, Record Labels — they’re all relics of the last century.

Storm the gates.

4 Replies to “Self-Publishing (Movie Edition)”

  1. @Drew — Yup. Or what the “Paranormal Activity” guys did before getting their distro deal. It’s the 60-70-year-old concept of “four-walling”, making a come-back.

  2. Yeah, my writing partner’s been doing this for years. He helped pioneer early digital distribution.

    Problem then and the problem now is that small filmmakers won’t yet be able to puncture that big theater distro bubble, not unless they go and do the Paranormal Activity thing which is, y’know, get a studio deal.

    You do the tour and do the circuit, but not to embrace some kind of DIY distro — you do that to get a deal from the bigger studios.

    Not that this is a bad thing: it allows you to make the film you want. But it’s not quite what Smith is aiming to do (at least, from what I can tell). I don’t think smaller filmmakers have that kind of pull to get solid distribution with theaters or theater chains. Hell, I don’t even know if Smith really has that pull yet.

    Excited to see how it comes out, though.

    — c.

  3. @Chuck — He’s admitted earlier that he’s got a left-over prejudice towards putting things in theatres rather than digital distribution — but admits that the whole thing would be far easier (and possibly just as successful) if he did some kind of digital release to people’s home theatre gear.

    I think that’s where the true ‘Indie 2.0’ that he talks about is headed. Deals with Netflix or Amazon for delivery. Or Smodcast, for that matter — since he’s said that when he stops making films (after the next, supposedly), he wants to start some form of distribution network to get other indie filmmakers stuff out there.

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