ITVS’s Rebecca Huval discusses research, news, and trends that come out of ITVS’s IndiesLab.
While DVDs fade in importance and profitability, how do filmmakers manage? Two ITVS directors offered their perspectives: Isaac Solotaroff, director of Wham! Bam! Islam!, and Anne Makepeace, We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân, have used different coping mechanisms.
Both directors agree that educational DVDs make up a large chunk of their profits. Each educational disc is sold for as much as $500, and libraries will require physical objects for the foreseeable future.
But consumer DVDs? “I’ve absolutely given up on making money selling my project to individuals,” Solotaroff said. “If I make money on the back end, it’s selling to screening and educational institutions.” He half-jokingly added: “When you finish a film, you have DVDs made, and they sit on your shelf, you give them away as a souvenir, and use them for coasters.”
A better option is directing individual viewers to online streams, Solotaroff said. As a self-distributor, it can be prohibitively expensive to mail DVDs. But online streaming to consumers pays a fraction of what DVD or educational sales do. In total, Solotaroff estimates he’s sold 1,000-1,500 online streams and 30 DVDs to educational distributors. Still, the two have earned him about the same revenue.
In contrast, Anne Makepeace said she has sold more DVDs (including educational and consumer) than online streams for Rain in a Dry Land and We Still Live Here. “I haven’t really promoted the digital streams,” Makepeace said. “It’s more in my interest to sell DVDs, frankly, especially until I run out of DVDs of my oldest films.”