Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Brave New Film Distribution Model

I met Robert Greenwald, filmmaker, at a pilates studio several years back. Well, "met" is not exactly right. He was working out next to me with his trainer, who told my trainer and me to shut up because we were talking too much and disturbing his session. He was having back problems and trying to strengthen his core which apparently must be done in silence according to his trainer, who displayed the worst of certain eastern European stereotypic behavior. Robert, for his part, did not say anything so I do not know if he agreed (I like to think not but I understand noise can be annoying). In any event my trainer and I complied with his trainer's request-cum-command.

I have watched Outfoxed and parts of his WalMart film on DVD (until my DVD copy stopped playing which actually as I think about it may have been the player rather than the DVD--I should try again) with great admiration and interest. Robert may be further out there politically than I am but his documentaries are much more watchable for me than say Michael Moore's. Now Robert is making his films through his company Brave New Films and distributing them over the internet for free. I am not clear how he supports this endeavor, which includes paid staff but is classified as a 501(c) organization. He asks for donations and sells DVDs (which he also characterizes as a donation) but if you want to watch his latest film, Rethinking Afghanistan, you can see it entirely for free by linking from his website to Youtube.

I spent some time yesterday discussing film finance with two of my colleagues. I do not understand it well but enjoy learning about how we project revenues and how we finance films, although as my colleague said, these days you should have a big box of tissues handy when you discuss film finances. The home video market has gone to the dogs (no offense to the pups) and apparently the first affected were the direct to video movies which explains why no one in this country could feasibly distribute that new Darwin movie, a perfect candidate in years past for direct to video. So how in this marketplace does Robert Greenwald find the money to make and distribute his political films, particularly when he encourages people to share them and watch them for free? Is a mystery. But I am glad he does.

No comments: