- Matt, I’m talking to different filmmakers and producers about their experience with distribution as it stands today.
A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same. Distribution continues to evolve as the lifestyles and viewing habits of customers and audiences change. Obviously, for a long time we have been moving away from the traditional theatrical model as the primary market for a film—and in most cases, there is not much of a serious theatrical market left for anything that is not a “tentpole” film (e.g. big budget 3D action/comic book movies). Paying for a ticket to see a movie at a brick-and-mortar building is a 20th century notion, and there are whole generations of young people out there who have rarely or maybe even never gone to the movies. But for content providers (meaning producers, directors, writers) the goal is consistently the same—to reach the widest possible audience as possible and to generate income and profits. How we do that is the hard part. We do know the way in which we distribute films to that viewership has radically shifted to less of a communal public experience to more of a private or personal on-demand experience. For us producers, we have to really try and understand where the most value and revenue can be obtained, and that means trying to anticipate—from the very beginning, before we’ve shot a single frame—how to make the right film for the right price, and what the market is for that film in all the distribution platforms that exist now, or in the future?
- How does the act of developing an audience on the internet interact with or parallel casting and choosing source material in theatrical release?
It all depends on what kind of picture you are making. Most of the time, we are leaning heavily on a particular pre-existing intellectual property such as a book, graphic novel, video game or prior originals to nurture and encourage an audience that’s already out there. Then we rely on packaging the movie with marquee value, e.g. recognizable or famous actors or celebrities, star directors, etc. That, we hope, also brings an audience. So by the time you go to the internet to cultivate an audience you already have a very specific business plan in place, and you pretty much know who your audience already is. But the internet can also affect your casting choices from the other direction. For example, on a recent picture I co-produced we were told by a casting director that we should cast a particular YouTube celebrity in a minor role just to imbed the picture with someone who has two million Twitter followers. Scary. But that’s what we did.
- What role is episodic TV playing now?
TV is where all the action is now. Forget the cinema. Last year, the MPAA reported that movie attendance dropped by 23%. And it will continue to drop as VOD and SVOD get better, and as we all start living in the cloud and not owning published copies of DVD’s, etc. TV is filling a critical gap that was left when the studio output for movie theaters ramped up to almost exclusively ‘tentpole’ content, i.e. giant 3D IMAX Experience super blockbuster movies aimed at the central 13-18 male dominated moviegoing demographic. The smaller fare, the riskier movies, the indies, the specialized product, just can’t make the business model work anymore. There is simply no money left in it, as a primary theatrical market. So what’s happened is the risky stuff, the hard-to-sell items or the niche stories are increasingly turning to the episodic short form because it’s the gold rush—as the appetite for original short form programming goes up and the pipeline demand is ever increasing——there’s no such thing as a crazy idea anymore. It’s the wild frontier where shows like Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black just broke all the rules, and there are innumerable other examples you can name. But because it’s all up online, worldwide audiences can tap into the shows with subject matters that particularly interests them. There are more eyeballs out there watching computer screens of various types than ever before, and because technology has created this incredible convenience and affordable cost, the demand just goes up and up and up.
- Is any of this different for shorts?
Short films in and of themselves don’t have much of a market today, but when it comes to YouTube we are seeing more and more successful shorts going viral and really capturing people’s attention. A lot of the time when a good short becomes a phenomenon on the internet, there’s not much profitability in it, but again because of the democratic nature of the internet it can be incredibly useful for marketing emerging talent
- What words of advice would you give film students today?
Make a really polished, professional looking short. The shorter the better. Demonstrate that you know how to tell a good story, how to get good performances from your actors and where to put the camera. Get that film out there, anyway you can. Festivals, online platforms, whatever. Then have a polished TV pilot with a first season bible under your arm when you engage in those publicity and marketing activities. Maybe the short is also serving as a pilot for a 24 minute comedy you can pitch to Amazon!
MATTHEW MYERS – BIO
Matthew Myers is an American film and television producer. His first professional film job was as a production intern on The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Since 1995, he has produced over 30 commercial features and TV movies for independent production companies, major studios and networks, including 20th Century Fox, Showtime, HBO, Sony, Lionsgate and Universal. His films have won major awards and international honors at the Cannes, Toronto, Berlin and Sundance film festivals. He has worked with Academy Award-winning talent (Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Dustin Lance Black, Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Harvey Keitel, Glenn Close, Kathy Bates and Bette Midler). He has earned membership in the Writer’s Guild of America, Director’s Guild of America, the Producer’s Guild of America, the Independent Feature Project and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Holding a Master of Fine Arts in Film and TV Production from New York University, Matt has also delivered lectures, seminars and workshops around the globe. As a production consultant, he works for American studios and networks, as well as international clients. Matt taught production management, film financing and distribution and producing coursework while serving as Chair of the Graduate Film Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts-Asia in Singapore. He lives in Fargo with his wife Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, Associate Professor of Religion and Director of the Forum on Faith & Life at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN. He has four new films being released this year: Catch Hell (starring and directed by Ryan Phillippe), Ned Rifle (directed by Hal Hartley and starring Aubrey Plaza), The Great Gilly Hopkins (directed by Stephen Herek, starring Kathy Bates, Glenn Close and Julia Stiles) and The Deviants (directed by John Mikulak for Troma Studios).
IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0616804/
SOME TRAILERS OF MATT’S FILMS:
THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS:
THEN SHE FOUND ME: