Advice on Digital Distribution – Liam O Mochain
Throughout his career Liam O Mochain has written, directed, produced and acted. He is the writer director and producer of the feature films The Book That Wrote Itself and W.C, as well as the shorts Slip Up, Grand Opening and Covet. Liam spoke to Film Ireland about tackling the challenges of distribution by mastering digital distribution.
What are the challenges that directors face in distributing a film themselves?
Directors cannot distribute a film themselves without working with the producer of the film. As I was also a producer on W.C. I was able to get involved in the distribution of the film, which was great as it was a way to learn about newer means of distribution. W.C. had a simultaneous theatrical and VOD (video on demand) release in the US from November 2009. We had a limited release in cinemas and went out on cable VOD via the Film Buff channel. The film will be shortly available on DVD and download on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Jaman, blinkbox, Xbox, Netflix, LOVEFiLM and other platforms.
What is a must for every Irish director in terms of digital distribution?
Firstly, digital distribution covers VOD on cable, satellite and internet. It also covers streaming, download and disc-on-demand. Directors (with the consent of the producer/production company that own the rights to the film) need to work with a distributor who has a good relationship with the multitude of platform providers out there. This includes internet providers, never mind TV, cable and satellite. It is literally a new world of distributing and receiving film. You can distribute exclusively via digital or you can do it day-and-date with the more traditional forms of distribution (theatrical, DVD or TV). A good distributor will have access to all the providers and a relationship that can get a better deal than you would get by yourself and saves you a lot of time and effort.
With the film W.C., I worked with a digital distributor in doing press on a day-and-date release for theatrical and cable VOD. As W.C. is an independently-produced film about a day in the life of two toilet attendants in a late night Jazz club, its indie style and flavour suited these new distribution mediums. To help create a buzz for your film on the internet and other digital outlets, it’s essential to have promotional material like ‘making-of’ documentaries, film clips, press kits, good stills and a simple to navigate website as they are a huge benefit to selling your film. The ‘making of’ documentaries can be released simultaneously with the film or beforehand and it will help create interest. For W.C. we made a 19-minute documentary called Lifting the Lid.
What is the most exciting thing happening for directors in the online world at the moment?
When I started making films in the mid-’90s, digital filmmaking was all the rage with the dogme films. Ten years later and digital distribution is the big thing. It is harder in some ways now and easier in other ways. Getting the film made is difficult but getting a distributor is near impossible. All of the pre-existing indie film distributors are nearly all gone, so the digital means has become the brave new frontier that they’re exploring. Filmmakers now have to be more aware and more involved in all of the process from getting the film made through to distribution. There may be fewer distributors around, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any fewer opportunities. Digital distribution from VOD, streaming and downloads are all part of the new world of distribution. You can now split your film rights, giving digital to one company, TV and home video to another and sell the film on your own website. In the past, if you split your rights nobody wanted the film.
How can an Irish director create more of a presence for themselves online?
Just go and do it! Make films and learn about the process and distribution as you go along. To be honest, I don’t care how a film is made or how it is distributed and the audience certainly doesn’t care; what matters is what’s on the screen. However much it costs to make or however it gets out there, it’s what’s on the screen that counts for the audience. While many people feel that digital isn’t fully established yet, it is growing rapidly. In many cases, it’s the only way to capture certain demographics.
How do you see the future for distribution?
Synergy between traditional forms of distribution and the new world of distribution.
What is your advice to other directors?
Work on a film that you’re passionate about because, between making and then distributing it, you’ll be working on it a long time.
What is the unique strength of directors that they can bring to project/distribution that producers and funding bodies can not?
Directors work on one project at a time and can concentrate on creating synergies for that project across several mediums and technologies. They have a passion for and knowledge about their film and this is a key selling point for distributors, especially in the vast digital world where you need unique selling points and doggedness to achieve visibility.
Please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of?
Having my films shown at film festivals and cinemas all over the world, turning on the TV or internet and seeing something you created there, or overhearing people in a café talking about your film.
This Interview first appeared in Issue 132 of Film Ireland Magazine.