I Love Amazon Video Direct (and you should too)

Industry Creatives Testimonial Update – Chris Gill

“Amazon Video Direct” might just be the greatest distribution opportunity for indie filmmakers, ever.

OK, Youtube is the behemoth but audiences aren’t flocking there looking to buy content. VIMEO offers incredible video clarity, but the peeps on the street have never heard of it.

So, what is “Amazon Video Direct” and why should you be looking at it for your film?

First, a little back-story.

My film, “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL” is a mockumentary about a disastrous low-budget film production. It was shot in 2005, and it’s only now that it’s finally got the online distribution that I always wanted. We came close with a few studios, and very close with a few small distributors, but nothing I was prepared to sign off on. The best deals we were offered were essentially for poor, unestablished companies to help us take the film to larger ones and then we’d get a small share of any proceeds. I may as well self-distribute, I thought. It’s taken me a looooong time to find a service I’m happy with.

I wish that Amazon Video Direct had existed a decade ago (social media, crowd funding and the internet as we know it now, would have helped too).

There are many distribution sources out there for film, each with their merits and issues. The truth is, you need to go where the audience is, and for me, that’s AMAZON. Netflix and other services also deserve a mention, but the challenges of currently getting in, and the lack of control make it difficult.

So, why AMAZON? Well, it’s the biggest retailer on the internet, with the largest customer-base and it’s now geared up for filmmakers to sell their films, directly. No middle men. It costs you nothing at all to setup your film on Amazon (other than any costs you may encounter in getting your media assets ready). Wow.

It is worth pointing out that “content providers” receive 50% of sales, but I actually see that as a very fair price to pay, especially as you can set your prices yourself.

Once you’ve set up an account, you upload your assets (film, trailer, closed captions, thumbnails) and input all of your descriptions. Amazon then process the film and make it live. You choose which regions to sell it in and how much rentals and downloads cost. People are now able to search for “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL” on Amazon and can rent/buy the film in US, UK, Europe and Japan (the 2 disc DVD with 8 hours of extras is also separately on Amazon).

Was it easy? Sadly, no. Not for me at least. My broadband is terrible and I had a lot of failed uploads before successfully uploading the film from a faster location. I don’t think this will be an issue for most users (I live out in the woods). Once uploaded, your film will be “processing”. This is very unclearly represented by a series of green semi-circles. Once these are full and round, you’re live. This takes days, not minutes.

Once I was live on Amazon UK, I paid to have closed-captions created for the film (this is a requirement for Amazon in the US). I spent a while shopping around and by far the best deal I sourced (for a competent result) was www.rev.com who did a staggeringly good job, for $1 per minute of video. This worked out as $98 for “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL” which nobody else came close to matching. I then uploaded the captions and had to re-publish the film, the dreaded green semi-circles were back…

Then, AMAZON rejected my film!

A comedy about filmmaking disasters was having one itself!

Amazon helpfully auto-told me it “could be” for one of a list of multiple issues. As none of these issues were apparent with “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL”, I contacted them and their customer service was excellent. They explained that a “behind the scenes feature couldn’t be sold on Amazon, except alongside a main feature”. I had to explain to them that this was the main feature, that my film simply emulates a “behind the scenes documentary”. They agreed, apologised and re-published the film. This took over a week to go live from there.

For me, the process of getting the film live took almost eight weeks. I’d imagine that with capable broadband and a more standard film project, it would be live in a fraction of this. I can see Amazon, and potentially other services emulating this model, really being massive game-changers for the indie filmmaker. I’m a huge fan of the results and will continue using the service in the future. The internet is the modern filmmaker’s best friend, and that now translates to distribution as well.

My film is actually an older project, something I need online to accompany my impending filmmaking book www.hollywoodhates.com

I can now tell people that “Behind the Scenes of TOTAL HELL” is live on Amazon, for a global audience, and that they can check out the trailer here: https://amzn.com/B01K0LDSYS

I’d very highly recommend Amazon Video Direct for all low-budget indie filmmakers who are self-distributing. You can find out more about me and my work at: www.atomicfilmmaker.com

Good luck with your distribution adventures, please tell me all about them!
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