Distribber Bankrupt?

Back when I was first thinking about indie film distribution, I heard about Distribber. It was a well-known aggregator. That is, it was a company that could take an independent film without the power of a full distributor or studio, and ge it placed on outlets like iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and a bunch of other places.

Distribber’s model was that you would pay them several hundred dollars and they would submit your film. If they didn’t get the movie onto the platform, then you got a partial refund. Later they added a maintenance fee for titles, to help pay for the ongoing work to process payment. Because the outlets would pay Distribber, not you. Then Distribber would get around to paying you.

If you could afford the up front fees, this model sounds great to filmmakers. One time payment, and then all the revenue comes to us.

But apparently the model has flaws. Just from the outside, it seems like you need a constant influx of new films to keep the doors open. You would need that new income. If things slow down or something bad happens, this house of card will topple. But a few years ago, no one was worried.

I opted not to use Distribber because I didn’t have the up front cash, and I didn’t know how long it would take to recoup that outlay of funds. I did a few direct deals with outlets, and decided to go with FilmHub to try to get places i cannot go myself. Currently I’m letting them place the movie with TVOD places in the US, and everywhere around the world. FilmHub has no upfront fees (except $1200 with iTunes…) and takes 20% of any revenue generated.

Fast forward to this week. Rumblings and rumors abound about Distribber. Recent leadership changes and lack of communication are alarming some filmmakers. Alex Ferrari from Indie Film Hustle used to be a big proponent of Distribber. This week he came out and basically said he believed they are bankrupt. He received emails from Distrbber staff advising him to try to place fins using other means. And he sad he personally has thousands of dollars tied up with Distribber. They told him any refunds or payments will be handled through a 3rd party company during their “reorganization” which is often legalese for bankruptcy.

To my knowledge, Distribber has not said anything publicly about this.

Distribber’s website is live, but when you try to submit a film you get a message saying they are no longer accepting any new “orders”.

I don’t know how this will shake out. Any film submitted to a platform through Distribber will still be live and, until Distribber removes those titles, filmmakers are stuck. They cannot resubmit or remove the titles themselves. And they likely won’t get paid. At least not any time soon, if at all.

Business is a risk, and bankruptcy stinks for everyone involved.

My advice, such as it is- make deals directly with platforms and outlets as much as you can. It’s more work, but you limit your exposure. I only use aggregates to reach places i can’t on my own.

If indie filmmaking was easy everyone would do it.

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Facebook Ads for Indie Filmmakers: Using Facebook’s Funnel with Larger Audiences

I recently wrote about attempting to use Facebook’s funnel to drive sales of my recent documentary film. And about developing Lookalike Audiences.

My first attempt did not go well. But I think that’s because my initial audience is too small. To find out if this was true, I ran a similar funnel for my church’s Vacation Bible School, to see if this funnel would work with a larger audience.

Here are the basics:

We have over 8400 fans on our FB page, plus over 1100 Instagram followers. I also built lookalike audiences for both FB and IG followers. I have a FB Pixel installed on our website. I was able to track some behaviors specific to this funnel.

My ultimate goal was to get more kids to attend VBS. I was trying to do that by driving people to register online through our event web pages.

The Facebook Funnel is a 3-week plan That builds audience the first week, primes the pump the 2nd week, and moves toward conversions the last week.
I was employing this plan with a $200 total spend.

  • Week 1– Brand awareness. I only used the lookalike audiences within driving distance of our campuses. $30 Budget.

  • Week 2– Video interactions, separate ads by campus. The ads were geo targeted t with 25 miles of the church location. There was significant overlap. $80 Budget

  • Week 3– I mixed this up a bit. One campus I had traffic to our registration page as the only goal. The other I split the goals with traffic and conversions. Conversions I set as a lead- someone clicking to register from our website. $90 budget.
  • Results of the ads:

  • Week 1– I had a reach of almost 4,00 and Fb said we saw an increase of our audience by 260. Frequency was about a 2 (Meaning people saw the ad an average of twice.) In my previous attempt with a smaller audience the frequency got up to 7. That’s far too high.
    During this time we had 23 link clicks.Not bad considering I wasn’t trying to get any link clicks.

  • Week 2– Campus 1 had a reach of almost 1500 reach and a frequency of 1.92. 55 link clicks. Campus 2 had a higher budget and we saw a reach of almost 2500 with a frequency of 3.49 (a little high, but acceptable). 130 link clicks. Both campuses reported higher than normal online registrations.

  • Week 3– Campus 1 running a traffic campaign saw a reach of 1279, 54 link clicks with a frequency of 1.88. Campus 2 was running two campaign. The traffic set saw a reach of 2752, 129 link clicks and a frequency of 2, while the conversion set reached 1528 people, with 38 link clicks, a frequency of 2.41, and 13 people clicked to register. As I said before, there was a significant overlap in the geo targeting. There is a community between our 2 campuses that has people who attend both campuses.
  • Both of our campuses said they saw about a 25% increase in online registration. We had never had so many kids preregistered before.

    Using the Pixel tracking functions, I set up some tracking funnels in analytics. I tracked these across both campus location event pages, regardless of campaign.

  • New Visitors Entering at VBS Event Page
    Number People who had not visited the site since the pixel was installed (several weeks ago) who entered the site at the VBS event page: 144,
    Number who from that page initiated registration: 66 initiated registration.
    Conversion rate of 46%.

  • New Visitors Entering on Any Page
    Number of people who had not visited the site since Pixel was installed who entered at any page: Over 2,100
    Number of that group that initiated check out: 169
    Conversion rate of 8%

    But of course, the real measure of success was how well we hit our goal. Did we see an increase in attendance?

    Attendance of kids and adult workers on the first day of VBS was up 17.5%

    In the end we had 1184 kids and adults. The previous year’s high attendance was 981. We increased by over 200. But that number included adult volunteers. Our promotion could have impacted the number of adults as well as kids, but we don’t do this event for adults.

    I dug a bit deeper and pulled numbers from the previous year to compare kids attendance. In 2018 we had 675 kids in grades 1-6. In 2019 we had 826 kids in grades 1-6. That’s an increase of 22.37% in attendance.

    On one campus we had 110 more online registrations than the previous year. I was pointing people toward online registration. I’m sure some of them were found by other promotion. But it’s hard to argue with these numbers when the major difference this year was the focused advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

    The funnel works. At least if you have a big enough audience to begin with. Now, to adjust it to work with smaller audiences…

  • Facebook Ads for Indie Filmmakers: Lookalike Audiences

    I’m going to do a series of posts about using Facebook ads as a part-time, indie filmmaker. I don’t have a lot of money for advertising. Is it possible to use small ad buys to generate actual sales? I’m going to try to find out.

    So, I ran a couple of Facebook ads for my documentary film. The results were OK. I didn’t spend a lot of money, but reached a good number of people. I specifically targeted these people based on ages and interests that I thought would be good.

    But I wanted to learn how to use the Facebook Pixel that I put on my website. I wanted to run ads directed at conversions, directed at sales. I didn’t know how to make that happen. I was tired of throwing money away on brand awareness ads that didn’t lead to sales.

    A day or so later I got an email from Facebook saying they want to teach me how to do better advertising. So I click. The end result was a couple of 45 minus calls with a real live facebook ad trainer. Facebook does this because they make money from advertising, and hey want people like me to use facebook ads. So teaching me how to reach my goals through spending money on Facebook is in their best interests.

    So the first call was the real eye opener. We chatted a bit and I told the guy what I was hoping to see. Then he laid out their funnel for generating “warm leads” over cold calls and converting them to customers who buy. Prior to this I thought I understood how to place advertising on Facebook. But I was so very wrong.

    Enter the Lookalike Audience.

    Facebooks uses data that people give them voluntarily, to track behaviors and group people together. Then they allow me to access those audiences who look like my current audience.

    For example, I have an instagram page. It has a few followers. When I create a lookalike audience for that group, Facebook looks at my current followers and catalogs various demographics. They look at person 1 and see that this person is a member of these groups, friends with these people, lives in this area, is married, visits these website with Fb pixels attached, and more. Then they go out and find people that match those criteria. So, while my Instagram account doesn’t have a lot of followers, they find hundreds of thousands of potential fans, who have behaviors that look like my current audience.

    Then I can introduce my film to them. I built 3 lookalike audiences. One for my Facebook page, Instagram account and the Facebook Pixel I have installed on my website. The lookalike audiences look for people who look like those who have interacted with my FB and Insta pages in the last year, and with my Pixel in the 6 months.

    The genius of the lookalike audience is that it removes the cold calling aspect of FB marketing. I don’t have to try to guess what interests my audience likes, Facebook knows already. And can advertise to people who are like my existing audience.

    I did a very small lookalike audience ad campaign. Just $10.

    For that $10 I got 6,300 impressions, with a reach of 5,200, and a frequency of 1.22. Facebook estimated that 220 of those people would remember my ad, remember the movie. Remember, these are not cold calls but are people who look like my current audience.

    Next step was to retarget these people, and my audience, with a video interaction ad. For this I initially spent $30. But after a few days, seeing who the ad was reaching, I cut it back to $20 and shortened the run time. At one point my frequency was at a 5, and my per video view rate was almost $0.30 per view. People were seeing the ad too often (it would become annoying.) and the cost was climbing.

    I think it was because my audience is still very small. I was not using the lookalike audience, but people who interacted with my pages (which includes those 220 potential audience members.) It’s still a very small potential audience.

    The final step in the funnel is conversions. I just launched an ad campaign that tracks the use of my pixel, specifically an event that shows people who click to buy the film. (It took me a while to figure out how to do this, but it pretty simple- once you figure it out. Future blog post to come.) In order to get the potential results I wanted I had to use both my existing audiences and a lookalike audience from my instagram account. I’m hoping this will work better than just targeting my existing audience.

    FB estimates that 10-40ish people will convert to buy the film. If I get 10 actual sales, that will more than cover all of the money I’ve spent so far on this experiment. And if that result is scalable… Then I could be on the way to recouping what I spent to make the film.

    The 1-Man-Band Documentary Film: 6 Things To Think About Before You Begin

    As I’m putting the finishing touches on my documentary film, I thought I would write a bit about the process of producing, directing, shooting, editing, promoting a 1-man documentary- primarily things you should think about before you begin.

    1. Evaluate your resources and limitations before choosing a story to tell.

    There are many reasons someone might choose to produce a doc film by themselves, but one of the main reasons is money. A niche-market film iike mine most likely won’t generate revenue to justify additional crew. It was shot on the smallest budget possible, in the most efficient way possible. That means some sacrifices were made. But it also means I could go places a full crew could ever go.

    Much of my film happens during speech and debate competitions. I would not have had the access I did if I was not just one guy with a camera. So, while there are disadvantages and compromises to shooting alone, there can be advantages.

    Consider your limitations when choosing a story. If you’re doing a micro budget film, with just you as the whole crew, there are some stories you cannot tell. You cannot fly across the world to shoot B roll. And you cannot shoot elaborate re enactments of events. But you can do a lot. Find a story you can tell within your limitations.

    What do you have access to? Who do you know? What stores are local to you? What gear do you have? What technology can you employ to allow you to tell the story that interested you? Are you really interested enough in this story to do everything in order to tell it?

    What do you know? Or what do you want to know more about? They say you should write what you know, and I think you should shoot what you either know well or really want to know well. You will be the driving force behind this story. If you are not passionate about the subject, if you don’t like the subject, you will not finish.

    2. You’re alone.

    The very first thing you have to understand is that you’re doing this, and no one is helping you. All preproduction tasks fall to you; location scouting, getting permissions and release forms, gear prep, shooting, editing, building an audience… it all lands squarely on your shoulders. Luckily, if you work at being organized, you can make it happen.

    To be successful on the shoot you need to adopt a guerrilla style of filmmaking. Your rig should be small, and easy to manage. Lights will be limited, if you can use them at all. For many days of shooting I just had my Sony a6500 with a Rode Videomic Pro+ and Zoom H1 mounted on it. I carried a spare battery in my pocket. And a monopod with feet attached. That was it. Other times I knew I would be in the same general area doing a lot of impromptu interviews and I added a small 500 LED light panel on a stand.

    There are some benefits to this. A large crew or set up can make people nervous which makes them less natural on camera. And, for many locations, getting permission to carry a single, mirrorless camera around was much easier than getting permission to have a full crew on site.

    Plus, since you’re the producer and the editor, you know what shots you need. you will naturally shoot with the edit in mind. The shots you take will naturally fit into how you see the film.

    3. You’re not alone.

    As much as you have to do all the tasks, there will be people along the way who will help. They will donate money, they will offer resources, suggest interviews, and generally help out in some way. You can get so used to operating in 1-man-mode that you miss opportunities to let people who have caught the vision for your film into the process.

    4. You’re limited.

    You just are. You cannot have two camera ops at different places because it’s just you. You have to plan for and around the fact that you can only capture what you can capture. You only have the man-hours of one person. And if you’re doing a 1-man project then you likely have a day job to work around. You cannot go everywhere and shoot everything. You have limited gear and limited resources. So when planning and executing your film, you have to plan for that.

    One way I did this was to purchase and use a short zoom lens. I knew that during debate and speech rounds i could not move to get another angle. And I could not have a second shooter in the room. I needed different shots, framed differently to use as B Roll and main footage. Since I didn’t have another camera operator in the room, I used a short zoom to vary the framing during the round. It’s not perfect but it worked.

    5. There’s no excuse for quality.

    The viewer doesn’t care how limited you are. If the film is bad, it’s bad. They won’t watch it, they won’t recommend it to others, and generally it will flop. You cannot put a disclaimer at the front of your movie explaining how little money and time you had and expect that to have any impact on their expectations.
    Now, that doesn’t mean you have to shoot on a Red something or other, and look like a $100 million movie. But you need a good story, decent audio and decent video.

    Most consumer cameras, even phones, can deliver decent video if used correctly. So use what you have, and learn how to use it well.

    One thing people will not ignore is bad audio. Poor audio quality will make your video appear amateurish, no matter how good it looks. There are 3 scenes in my film that are critical to the story that have challenging audio. They were recorded before I had a good microphone. I have struggled in post production to make these usable. I cut them as short as possible. Used noise reduction, and generally tried to walk the line between too processed and usable.

    But more important than audio or video is the story. The story has to be good. It has to be interesting, and succinct. The first time i showed my film to anyone outside my family, it was 2 hours and 5 minutes long. The bones of the story were good, but there were some long and boring parts. In the end i cut another 20 minutes. That’s almost the length of a sitcom. But the story needed to be shorter, needed to move the viewer along.

    Not every documentary can follow the beats of a feature film. The hero’s journey, the Blake Snyder beats, the 5 major plot points- many movies have a generally established plot progression, something viewers are familiar with. My film actually follows them to some extent, but not every doc film can do that. But every story needs a beginning, middle and end. That’s non negotiable.

    6. Since you’re the one making the movie, then you’re the only one holding yourself back.

    This is key. You’re making you’re film. it will get started when you begin it. it will be as good as you can make it. It will get done when you finish it. It will be seen when you promote it.

    You have the green light! You don’t have to ask a studio for permission. You can start pre production today.

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    3 Reasons I’m not making Tutorial/Review/DIY/Test Videos on Youtube Anymore

    youtube noI have a love/hate relationship with Youtube.

    There is so much to love. It’s the great equalizer: the bar to publish is so low. Anyone with a computer and internet can publish content to the masses. The wide open nature of the platform is one of the reasons it is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.

    You can learn to do almost anything from Youtube. I’ve changed garbage disposals, replaced car door handles, and much more just by watching a video from Youtube. You can research almost anything before you buy it. Someone has reviewed it. You can find innovative ways to do things. I have a small camera jib that cost me $20 to make, and I learned how to build it from a Youtube video.

    I even have a few DIY/review/tutorial/test videos on my Youtube channel. But I’m not making any more. Here’s why:

    1. Youtube as a community doesn’t need my voice in this space.
    There are literally millions of people doing it, and doing it better. No one will notice that I’m not publishing this sort of thing anymore. No one will say, “man, when will that Scott guy make another how to video?” Instead they will find hundreds of other videos talking about the same things I used to.

    My voice isn’t needed in the space.

    Yes, I’ve made videos that help people. And that was very nice. But for every video I’ve made, there are many others out there doing similar things, reviewing gear, showing how to do DIY filmmaking- and doing it better than I can. Youtube as a community doesn’t need my voice in this space. And I’d rather not be on the other side of the camera, anyway.

    2. Youtube as a company doesn’t care about casual creators.

    The recent changes to Youtube’s partner program made it clear that they only care about a certain sort of creator. Even though I had been a good partner with zero strikes for years, they cut me loose. Why? I’m a casual creator. It’s not about the couple of dollars I lost, it’s about the respect in the relationship.

    I got the message loud and clear, they do not care about me. Even though most of the videos uploaded every day- the videos that make Youtube the size it is- are uploaded by casual creators or small creators, they only care about people trying to grow a large audience. I know those are the meat of their model, but that doesn’t make it easier to stomach the blatant disregard for the years I was a small contributor to the content library.

    So why should I work to help them?

    I know, seems petty, right? What about the audience? Why don’t I just make videos to help people? I considered doing that. Still making the occasional video. But them I got the latest batch of comments.

    3. Youtube’s tech audience is full of trolls.
    Seriously, I don’t need this.

    The comment section of many Youtube videos is a dumpster fire. I don’t just mean the TSIS sufferers. Those people are bad enough, but it’s worse sometimes.

    Comments from trolls who didn’t watch the video but want to criticize it.
    “You’re an idiot because you put music on an audio test video!” – Uh, I put music on the intro, but the actual test doesn’t have any, and you would know that if you watched it…

    Comments from people who think you did it wrong.
    “You’re an idiot because the camera settings are different, it’s not a good comparison.” – Uh, this wasn’t a comparison video…

    My favorite: Comments from jerks
    “You’re an idiot because your voice sounds funny!” – Uh, didn’t you ever heard the maxim- If you can’t say anything nice say nothing?

    Frankly, this is the main reason I’m done with these videos. I’m not doing anything unique, Youtube doesn’t care about me, so why would I put up with this junk? No one will miss my infrequent videos.

    I had gotten to the point where I just was turning off commenting. But that means the YT algorithm wasn’t showing my video because views, likes and comments drive it. So less people were seeing it, defeating the entire purpose.

    Don’t get me wrong, some people were totally cool. Even people who disagreed with a review or wished something was different. They were kind. And if I was someone building a big audience of fans, they could drive down the trolls and “haters” and such. but I’m not trying to do that. When I made helpful videos it was to help people. If no one sees them, or if they don’t need the help, why would I subject myself to this sort of idiocy?

    The internet troll thing is a symptom of larger societal problems. It’s not getting fixed anytime soon. I’m just done with it.

    So, I will leave up some of my videos. And I leave the rest of it to other creators.

    I will still use Youtube to post videos, just not those kind of videos. Expect to see trailers and teasers, and content I’ve made; BTS clips, stuff like that. Do not expect to see a tech review or instructions on how to do something. There is a vast array of content creators out there doing that. More power to them.

    The Reluctant Release: When They Don’t Want to Sign the Release Form

    Release forms. No one likes them. But you need them. You need releases for people, places and for materials. A lot has been written about this subject, so I won’t go into it here.

    What do you do when someone doesn’t want to sign one? I recently had this happen with a couple locations for my documentary project. Here’s how I tried to work through the problems.

    Be Patient.

    My first reaction was not patient, or helpful. Didn’t these people know I needed this? What was their problem? I’m nerdy enough that I almost always get a small shot of adrenaline when I get a form returned, or an email about a form. Weird, right? So, inevitably when I’m first reading it, I’m not calm and cool.

    And of course the real issue is: what is their problem? Why would they say no? In my case the locations didn’t say no, outright. Both offered ways to get permission, but neither were acceptable. As I reviewed both, it became clear that one location simply didn’t completely understand what was being asked of them. The other was, as I would find out, going to be rigid and over reaching in their requests. Let’s look at the first location.

    Try to get to the core issue. Get the facts. Why don’t they want to sign the release?

    Be Clear.

    I realized that the initial request had not been very clear. It had been handled through a 3rd party, so I was able to get into contact with the location myself and start to work through the issues.

    I explained what the project was. I showed them what gear I would be bringing (a single mirrorless camera, not a full crew). I talked about risk, the fact that I would be attending the event anyway. We talked about the fact that the event was the subject of the film, not the location. The camera I would bring is the same as I would bring if I were a parent. There was no additional risk to the location.

    Be Persuasive.

    Once I convinced them that my presence would not be a major risk, I began to ease their other concerns.

    It became clear that the location was concerned about being shown in a negative light. I’m not sure if they had a bad experience before, but I worked to put their mind at ease. I told them about the film, and why it was important. I sold them on what I was doing, on the purpose of the project. I reassured them that the location was just background for the film.

    At one point the location said they didn’t have the power to give me permission to shoot because they were just the venue. I explained that while I had permission from the event and the people involved, because it was private property, I needed permission to shoot there. They asked to get written permission from the event organizers, which I provided.

    Be Flexible. (Where you can.)

    The location asked me to change a few things in the location release. None of them were important. I felt they were overkill, but I could easily put them into the document if it made them feel better.

    I specifically limited the number of people in my crew to one. I specifically mentioned I would not hold them liable for physical injury to myself. (This was in addition to existing language already related to liability). They asked to only be shown in a positive light, but I agreed to not show the location in a negative light. I could do that because the location isn’t the focus on the film. I would be surprised if anyone could even identify it by the footage. The location is a neutral part of the film, just a venue.

    It’s not always possible to meet every demand or request. Don’t give up more than you should. Don’t agree to things that might compromise your film, your finances, or put you in a legal bind.

    Be Persistent.

    After I made the changes, the location representative said he would sign the release. And then went silent for 2 weeks. The shoot date was rapidly approaching. I had an email saying they agreed to the release, but no signed release and no plan to obtain one.

    I waited a few days and sent a email with a countersigned copy of the release. All they had to do was print and sign it. I suggested I could just get it from the office when I arrived. Whatever I could do to make it easy for them. About a week out from the event I sent another email, asking if they had seen the previous one and including the release again.

    2 days before the event I called them. I left a voicemail. I thanked them for agreeing to sign the release, and suggested I could just swing by the office and pick up a signed copy since I would be there already.

    1 day before the event I got an email saying the document would be waiting for me at the office. I had started a month and a half before the shoot date trying to get permission. It had taken almost 6 weeks to get this done. But I needed this location.

    Be Creative.

    While I was in limbo about permission, I started working on Plan B. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

    If the worst happened, I could go to the public street and shoot an establishing shot of the location. I could do interviews off site. I could fill in with B Roll from other locations. The only thing needed from that location that I couldn’t get without permission would be some recording from the award ceremony. My plan was to audio record it and then seek permission after the fact to use it. If I was not able to get permission, I would use voiceover to describe the events.

    That would not be ideal, but it would be better than nothing.

    If you cannot get permission, what can you get? Can you get a different person, different location, use a different audio element? What else can you do to communicate the same thing? We already know you’re creative or you wouldn’t be making a film. So be creative and work it out.

    Which brings me to the other location.

    This one I did contact directly. But they sent back my release and had altered about 80% of it. Most of the changes were things I was already doing, so it didn’t matter. But 2 parts were not OK. We went back and forth a bit, and it became clear that at least of of the points would not be something we could agree on. They would not bend and neither would I.

    So now what?

    Same scenario as before. Be creative. I was only looking for a few shots of awards, and to interview a few people who were going to attend. So I began to find other options.

    My film isn’t about a particular event at a location. There are multiple events throughout the year. My film is the story of these kids going through the season. So, not being able to shoot at one location was not the end of the film, or necessarily a big deal. I would have liked to shoot there, to use footage I captured there. It would have made things easier. But I went to work on doing what I could while I was in town.

    I contacted several other locations near the tournament, looking for a space to shoot interviews. There were some folks I was hoping to talk with who were available at this location, so I needed a place. In the end it was a contact made through someone I knew that opened the doors. Building relationships is important. I would be able to shoot my interviews in a location near the tournament, but out of the elements and in a relatively quiet space.

    I also shot interviews with students before and after the tournament. This won’t be the only tournament that wasn’t represented in the film. I only attended 5 others this year. The difference is that I was at this one and could have shot video. Even though this wasn’t ideal, it also wasn’t a deal breaker. I made the most of the situation and pressed on.

    Every project will have set backs. Every creative work will have hurdles, roadblocks, detours. The difference between finishing a production and giving up is how you handle the issues as they come up.

    Peculiar – Digital Access Soon to be Available on Christian Cinema

    B&W Peculiar Logo.jpg
    The changes in SVOD platforms have made me take a long look at where the series has been available, and where the people who would most want to see it are consuming content.

    I believe that even though the series is aging, the best outlet is Christian Cinema.

    Assuming all goes as planned, all 10 episodes of Peculiar will be available on ChristianCinema.com through the Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) platform. You’ll be able to purchase episodes or the entire series, and view it on your computer, TV or digital device.

    At the end of February, Peculiar will no longer be available on Amazon Prime Video. And it’s already been removed from Youtube.

    Check out the newly-cut-for-2018 series trailer for Peculiar:

    It’s my hope that making this content (which was made for a Christian audiences) available to people who are looking for Christian content, more people will see it. Instead of just throwing it out into the world through any outlet possible, this more targeted release will put the show in front of more people who might actually want to watch it.

    Peculiar Behind a Paywall?

    I’ve been writing about changes to Youtube and Amazon Video Direct. Two major outlet for indie filmmakers have changed… for the worse. I still have no idea how this will all shake out for these outlets or indie filmmakers.

    Amazon’s announcement of royalty cuts really frustrated me. You see, my series, Peculiar, was on both Youtube and Amazon Video. It’s an odd thing to have Christian content on secular outlets. On Amazon, every Christian who reviewed my show gave it 5 stars. Every non Christian reviewer gave it 1 star. It’s written for Christian audiences.

    img_2597 Right after the first 6 episodes were completed I landed a traditional distribution deal. I created a DVD, complete with a a set of Bible studies. For a brief time the DVD was available in actual brick and mortar stores. And through Christian Book Distributors and Amazon.com, and a few others. Then my distributor lost his access to the brick and mortars. And he was not interested moving the series to digital. I wrote about the success and lack of success before. I still have a few DVDs… contact me if you’re interested.

    We agreed to part ways, and I looked for ways to get the show in front of people. Initially, that was through Youtube. This wasn’t the first time full episodes had been available online. I knew I could get the series up, and make it available.

    So the show went from traditional DVD distribution to digital availability via ad-based delivery, and then Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) through Amazon Prime. It’s never been offered through a Transactional VOD service.

    And it’s never been offered to specifically Christian audiences digitally.

    So, I essentially skipped an entire distribution window. That’s understandable, self distribution was relatively new through TVOD and SVOD, and I just wanted the show out there.

    Here I am with an aging, micro-budget series. The show has always been generally well received by its target audience. But the retail offerings have been very limited.

    I’m seriously considering moving Peculiar to TVOD through Christian Cinema. It’s obviously the right outlet for the audience. But that means every episode goes behind a paywall. No more free viewing. (Except on the broadcast outlets STILL showing it…)

    I do like seeing the series available on Amazon Prime. But I don’t think a lot of people are seeing it. Less than 1000 minutes streamed over the past 12 weeks. There was even less time viewed when it was on Youtube.

    An outlet like Christian Cinema offer a niche market, for the right products. Amazon Prime has over 20,000 titles available while Christian Cinema has about 4,000. Sure, Christian Cinema has just 250,000 monthly users, but they are 250,000 users that are looking for Christian content and I’m trying to get noticed in a much smaller pool of content.

    Specifically, there are currently only a few hundred comedies available through Christian Cinema. Many of them are stand up shows. The only comedy TV series available is The Statler Brothers TV Show, and that’s a DVD- not a digital offering.

    Let’s do a reality check. Peculiar is micro-budget, and has all the issues that you find with that level of production. It’s old, with no new episodes since 2013. And it’s had a chance at Christian retail and failed.

    My desire for the show has always been for more people to see it. If offering it through TVOD on a Christian outlet will help that to happen, maybe that’s what I should do. Not a lot of people are seeing it through Amazon.

    It’s Not Me, It’s You…Tube

    Youtube is breaking up with me. But it’s not me, it’s You…tube.

    Last week Youtube changed the requirements of partner channels, effectively killing their partner relationships with all casual creators. This is my somewhat tongue-and-cheek commentary on the subject.

    Ok, that’s a bit satirically-sappy, but there are a couple of things that are serious.

    Youtube was built by smaller channels. The vast majority of the 300 HOURS of content uploaded every minute is uploaded to small channels. Without those channels, Youtube wouldn’t be the 2nd largest search engine in the world.

    Any channel, of any size, can upload content that helps or entertains others. Youtube should not ignore that. Partner status isn’t about getting money as much as it’s about Youtube recognizing that your channel contributes in a positive way to the community. We are literally partners. Casual creators can and have helped Youtube as a business and platform. This move signals a lack of appreciation and respect for those channels.

    That’s the big deal. I saw a few videos of people talking about how people shouldn’t be upset because the money they are losing is very small. They’ve missed the point entirely.

    I always looked being a Youtube Partner as being in an actual partnership. I contributed to that relationship in some small part, and Youtube appreciated that relationship. So they shared a little of what I helped them earn. Not because it was a big payout, but because we were partners.

    I felt a certain amount of loyalty to the platform. We were partners. I was a part of making it successful. They appreciated my videos, and I felt like I was helping people. And helping Youtube sell ads. My content was helping make Youtube a place where people could search for answers, or entertainment.

    Turns out, Youtube just doesn’t care about channels like mine. I didn’t change, Youtube did. Youtube doesn’t care about the very channels that help make up the massive amount of content that is searched and served billions of times.

    YouTube Drops the Hammer on Casual Creators

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    Got an email from Youtube today saying they are raising the bar on monetized channels. New minimum levels are 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours watched in a 12 month period. Pretty low overall… but it’s a hurdle for new/casual creators.

    I have (had) 2 channels that are (were) monetized. One was for my show from a few years ago. It saw decent traffic when it was active, but no new content has been posted in years. I was just leaving the episodes online so people could find them. Most people see them on Amazon Prime, not Youtube. That channel is losing monetization. it will never reach the new bar for views or subscribers.

    My other channel is more active, but I’m not sure I’m seeing 4000 hours of viewing annually. I’ve got several thousand views on some videos. I do not have 1000 subscribers. So, that channel will be de monetized soon, I’m sure.

    This move really hits casual creators. I’m never doing a daily Vlog. I’m busy, and only post occasionally. I have chosen YT as the outlet for that because it is the 2nd largest search engine in the world and every month my stupid, little videos give me a very small amount of money. (Think fast food lunch, or afternoon Coke.) But hey, free money. And maybe someone can use the content, or is entertained.

    So I put up with the overzealous content ID system, and the trolls and the ugly interface and the compression.

    Youtube says that 99% of the channels affected by the new changes made less than $100 last year. They make it clear that their priority is for channels making a living off Youtube. Casual creators like myself are not considered.

    I get why, to some extent. Youtube wants good, new, and consistent content to keep people coming back. more people means more advertisers. And after some advertisers to mad about being sown on some weird/bad videos, they have been working to protect that ad revenue. I can see why they would want more growing channels with larger audiences, and less small channels.

    I don’t have consistent content I post every week, but a few videos on my channel have been really helpful to viewers. A few simple tech tips about how to use old lenses on modern cameras, and testing video gear, etc., have really helped some viewers. Or so they say in my comments. Youtube is removing the incentive to make any more of these. Or at least, the incentive to post them on Youtube… (Vimeo anyone?)

    I wonder how this move will affect the ecosystem. Less casual creators, more intentional channels. Could be good, but will it, overall, lower the volume of video uploaded? Will that make it easier to have content noticed? What will be the fallout, if any?

    Personally, what stops me from switching to Vimeo? Is the search function on YT worth it? I’m not sure. Let’s see how things progress.