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10 MPH DIY Manual: Digital Downloads

We felt that our audience would be very tech-savvy and have a tendency to download the movie if it were available digitally. When we first started the expedition across the country, we had tons of traffic from major techie blog sites like Slashdot, Engadget, and C|Net. Our hope was that these sites would send a lot traffic to us with our launch. While that happened, it wasn't as strong as we'd hoped for, but we did get a lot of download purchases and as best as we could tell, it wasn't impacting our DVD sales, which were making a higher profit margin.

When we explored the digital download model, we looked at various options out there. We would have loved to get iTunes to pick us up, but they weren't doing anything with independent films except for a few from a deal with IFC. So, we decided to encode a file of the movie into the iTunes format and brand it as an iTunes compatible file that people could use in the same way as the files they get from iTunes. When we launched, this file was available for $9.99 on our website. About a month later, we hooked up with Custom Flix, which is now called Create Space and got our movie onto Amazon Unbox, which offered a downloadable file that only worked on PCs. They offered a version available to purchase and one to rent (viewable for 24 hours after you push play). When the Amazon Unbox version launched, we lowered the iTunes version we offered on our website to $7.99 to be competitive.

E-Junkie was a key to making this all happen. They offer an online storefront that makes it pretty easy to sell downloadable files. While their target market has been musicians, we saw a perfect opportunity to sell the digital version of our movie through them. We were also very intrigued by all their additional shopping cart perks (discount codes, affiliate marketing, customized emails, Google and Paypal options, etc.) and easy set up. The best part about working with E-junkie was of course finding a solution that sent a link to the downloadable product allowing us to set parameters on how many times the file could be downloaded or how many hours it would be available to download after purchase. Once the file was downloaded, though, it had no digital rights management.

Our download rates have been very successful. We've had close to 800 downloads in our first few months of availability. It's very difficult to figure out how the digital rights industry is going to play out. Distributors are asking for a lot of years on rights and trying to create catalogs of products they can sell digitally. Cable deals now are often combining digital rights because of Video on Demand. So, keep a close eye on this sector and if you are self distributing, don't be afraid to step out of the box. You just might get noticed. Just a few days ago, we decided to do something similar to what Radiohead is doing. With the launch of their latest album (In Rainbows), Radiohead told the world they can pay what they want for it. It's a big move for big-named music talent to do something like this. We were thinking of a similar idea and this helped compel us to move forward. We've set a pricing structure on all our products now that asks customers to pick the price they want to pay. In the first few days, we're seeing a lot more downloads and DVD sales and people are actually contributing additional money sometimes. I've realized that getting your product out there and finding ways to share it with people is often more valuable than making 10 bucks off a few people. If people are aware of who you are and the film(s) you've made, you'll get more opportunities later to make the money to sustain yourself in this business.

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DIY Resources

Other DIY films
+ Four Eyed Monsters
+ Tijuana Makes Me Happy
+ Head Trauma
+ The Talent Given Us
+ Guatemalan Handshake
+ Book of Caleb
+ Black Gold
Film Festivals & Distribution Books
+ The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution (Stacey Parks)
+ Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide
+ The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook
+ I Wake up Screening: What to Do Once You've Made that Movie
Filmmaking & Production Books
+ Planning the Low Budget Film
+ The Complete Film Production Handbook
+ Clearance and Copyright: Everything the Independent Filmmaker Needs to Know
+ Film Scheduling: Or, How Long Will it Take to Shoot Your Movie?
+ Film and Video Budgets
+ Filmmakers and Financing, 5th Edition: Business Plans for Independents
+ The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers
+ Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from Concept Through Distribution
Key websites
+ IndieWIRE
+ Greencine
+ Spout
+ Workbook Project
+ cinematech.blogspot.com
Major Film Festivals
January
+ Sundance Film Festival
+ Slamdance Film Festival
+ Intl. Film Fest Rotterdam
February
+ Berlin Intl. Film Festival
+ Miami Intl. Film Festival
+ True/False Film Festival
March
+ SXSW
+ AFI Dallas Intl.
April
+ The Gen Art Film Festival
+ Full Frame Doc Festival
+ Hot Docs
+ Tribeca Film Festival
May
+ Cannes Intl. Film Festival
+ Seattle Intl. Film Festival
June
+ Los Angeles Film Festival
+ Silverdocs
September
+ Telluride Film Festival
+ Toronto Intl. Film Festival
October
+ Sidewalk Moving Pic Fest
+ New York Film Festival
+ Woodstock Film Festival
+ Hamptons Intl. FF
November
+ Amsterdam Intl. Doc Fest
+ AFI Fest
+ Denver Intl. Film Festival

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