There has never been a better time to be an independent filmmaker. As filmmakers, we have the great fortune to witness the convergence of digital technology and the Internet. These technologies are rapidly changing the face of the industry in a massive power shift from the old guard of Hollywood to emerging independents. Technology is opening up new tools and markets, with the rewards of the new economy being heaped upon the most daring innovators. Fortunately for the independent filmmaker, some of the most significant developments are rapidly changing the areas where independents have traditionally been weakest: development, marketing and distribution.
Most Hollywood studio executives have tried to ignore the Internet, to downplay it as a fad or treat it as simply a promotional tool. But, when AOL purchased Time-Warner, they realized that the Internet was their future. It became apparent that the economic strength of the Internet was going to surpass their revenue potential. The Blair Witch phenomenon was the second blow in a devastating one-two punch. When a few 20-somethings with a clever web marketing campaign can compete with Hollywood, it calls into question their entire system of production, marketing and distribution. This has caused more than a little anxiety with the studios.
Independent filmmakers, ignored and excluded for decades by the industry, are now building web sites at a frenzied pace. Many of these sites deal with the traditionally creative pre-production, production and post-production phases of filmmaking. However, many sites are now forging ahead with projects that tackle the difficulties of finance, marketing and distribution. Filmmakers can now reach out directly to potential investors with story ideas and scripts, with producers pitching their concepts straight to the source.
There is also a plethora of online distributors, venues and festivals where independents can market their works to a global audience and deliver the digital media directly to viewer. Ambitious producers can even start their own web community as a nerve center that revolves around their film (or vice versa, depending on your viewpoint).
The fact remains that the market is now wide open and completely democratic. The pioneers are making up the rules as they go, and we all know that those who make the rules win the game. It will be these innovators that will conquer the Internet and digital moviemaking.
In future columns, I will discuss in detail the methods and techniques, groundbreaking trends and outstanding case studies of innovative independent filmmakers online. Script development, online film equity, marketing, festival strategy and digital distribution and other topics will be outlined in plain language with straightforward, practical applications. In the fast-paced environment of the Internet, these rapidly evolving techniques are critical to the filmmakers who wish to be successful in the "new economy" of the film industry.