Speaking yesterday from his second home at Sundance, Mark Duplass was direct about the catalyst for his success:
“Getting yourself into theaters is great. Getting a big VOD pop is great, but my first movie made a grand total of $220,000 in theaters but about 5 million people have seen it on Netflix because they can click on it and they can try it out. And so I really recommend to get your get goddamn movie on Netflix. It made my career.”
It’s difficult to see the flaw in Duplass’ logic here, especially since most indie filmmakers would be thrilled to see any kind of distribution online, let alone on a platform that commands 34 million members.
However, it could be a boon to the network itself, and Netflix would be wise to piggyback on the comments to tell indie filmmakers, “Get your goddamn movie on us.” Except more eloquently. Maybe less creepy.
Of course it doesn’t solve Netflix’s biggest problem, but actively pursuing filmmakers who make a splash at festivals (and those who pick up their films for distribution) would double down on the kinds of properties that make for a healthy discovery engine (hello, Upstream Color). Plus, it’s a group that’s sought after by a robust cinephile community that doesn’t always have access to an arthouse theater. The entire set up would be mutually beneficial.
That is, if we’re not all busy holding hands with Netflix in a sit-in aimed to save net neutrality. The company made its own bold statements recently, using an internal memo to stockholders to clarify that if internet service providers decide to throttle download speeds or base charges on what sites people use, they’ll encourage the 10% of the American population which pays them monthly fees to push back against those providers.
Still, indie filmmakers should be eager to get their work on Netflix and Netflix should be keen to make their movies available to the searching masses. Even if the threat of buffering is in our future. The question is whether indie filmmakers can let go of the prestige that comes with a theatrical release if its necessary to embrace the practical, potential explosion of their work on streaming sites.