Magazine article Filmmaker

Diy Is Not Dead

Magazine article Filmmaker

Diy Is Not Dead

Article excerpt

A number of people in the independent film world have been saying lately, "DIY is dead" - more specifically, that do-it-yourself (DIY) distribution and marketing is dead, that it's no longer useful or practical. As a filmmaker and distribution consultant who has been accused of being a proponent of DIY, I thought it important to respond to this claim because it can be harmful to our community in a variety of ways.

DIY is a concept, a philosophy, a prime motivator. It's a phrase with a lot of historical power and roots in the punk rock movement of the 1970s, as well as the pioneering work of filmmakers such as John Cassavetes. But it was never meant as a literal solution to film distribution problems. Very few filmmakers create work entirely themselves, and fewer filmmakers release films completely on their own. Film is a collaborative medium, and film distribution and marketing is collaborative, too.

So, what is this DIY people are criticizing? Simply put, it's any alternative, hybrid or collaborative form of distribution and marketing that involves the filmmaker in a significant way. It's any form of distribution occurring without the kind of distribution sale that enables filmmakers to walk away with someone else handling the entire work of a film's release. DIY distribution can include everything from a filmmaker traveling on the road, from one microcinema to another, to a filmmaker "splitting the rights" and using funds from a broadcast or streaming sale to hire a theatrical booker to arrange dates in a few cities. Or, it can simply consist of a filmmaker releasing their film digitally and promoting it themselves off the Web or a Facebook page.

In the Spring 2003 Filmmaker cover story, Anthony Kaufman wrote about the increasing number of filmmakers pursuing split rights deals. But the most recent wave of DIY distribution occurred after 2008, when new digital technology enabled filmmakers to market and digitally distribute their films themselves. (I wrote a number of articles for Filmmaker in 2008 and 2009 telling filmmakers how they could embrace these DIY strategies.) Quite a number of methods, companies and platforms then sprung up to support these filmmakers, and DIY turned into a business.

But, in the "professional" world of film distribution and marketing, DIY was used as a slur as much as an indication of possibility. More than once, I was disparagingly referred to as "that DIY guy" by gatekeepers who had vested interests in maintaining their own bottom lines.

Using DIY methods, have there been filmmakers who didn't achieve their goals? Of course. But did these new methods provide avenues for filmmakers that would not have been possible before? Of course. The paths to connecting films to audiences are as varied as there are filmmakers and films, and this should be celebrated, not condemned.

One disservice to referring to all of the alternative methods of distribution as DIY is that it perpetuates the myth that there's no middle ground between an all-rights distribution deal and filmmakers doing it entirely themselves. While a great deal of education has happened in the past eight years in the film community around this topic, two fears remain for filmmakers: that DIY distribution work will take away from their own craft and creativity, and that they are not suited to the actual work of distribution. …

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