A Guide to Distrify
What is Distrify?
Distrify is a viral distribution platform aimed at filmmakers, distributors, producers and rights holders, enabling them to find an audience for their film and generate sales.
In today’s world, the demand to watch films instantly has never been higher. Distrify capitalises on this and enables you to watch a film immediately.
Audiences can watch a trailer on the site, and if they like what they see they can pay to watch it, or purchase the film on Blu-ray or DVD.
Who can use it?
Anyone can use the site – from the budding short filmmaker, to the novice feature film director. Even famous directors have used the platform. Terry Gilliam for example opted to distribute his film, The Wholly Family, first via the site and The Guardian website (with whom Distrify has an ongoing relationship).
The director wanted to use the D2F (direct to fan) method, which is more commonly used in the music industry. Using the Distrify player, Gilliam was able to simply and effectively sell the film direct to those who wanted to see it without having to persuade a cinema to book it, a retailer to put it on their shelves or a broadcaster to licence and schedule it.
To give you an idea of the site’s pricing, at the time of writing, the 20 minute film would cost you £1.99 to watch.
Is it just films?
It isn’t just films Distrify offers – you can also buy a plethora of film paraphernalia, such as soundtracks, posters and t-shirts.
Get paid to network
Another unique part of Distrify is its networking community. As well being able to share a film with social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, it rewards viewers for sharing trailers with their contacts, giving a 10% share if any of those people become buyers. This is referred to as the ‘revenue-sharing affiliate scheme’.
Commenting on its sharing function, co-founder Peter Gerard says: "Anyone can set up their own collection and share it with the world, earning kudos and cash for recommending films that you love. Imagine you discovered an amazing British film from the 1960s – you are going to tell your friends about it, and via Distrify, you earn cash for sharing it legally."
Distrify also plays its fair share in social marketing for individual projects, so don’t be surprised if they retweet you.
If you add a film to the site, you can set the price to watch it. You can keep it the same across the world, or use different pricing depending on the territory. If you know a film will be in more demand in a particular part of the word, then it’s recommended to set the price higher.
Speaking at the BFI, co-founder Gerard said: “A Norwegian filmmaker who made a short documentary and set the price to roughly $5 to rent and $10 to buy – but in Norway he doubled that [because he knew people would pay that].” The filmmaker was right – and made a lot of money from this.
Similarly with a country like India, it would be worth setting the price low, as you can buy a film for about £2 there.
It’s not just about sales
Distrify is also a great marketing tool for a filmmaker. You can get a list of emails of people who have watched your trailer or film, and you can also find out which part of the world they are from.
A film doesn’t even have to be released, but feature a trailer on the site and you can track which parts of the world, or which parts of a particular country, are showing the most interest. So if you were a distributor, and found out there was a massive demand for a film in a particular region, you could put emphasis on cinema showings in that area.
As a viewer, if you were to watch a trailer for a film not yet released, clicking on a ‘coming soon’ icon gives your details to the site, and notifies you when and where it’s released.
The people behind Distrify
Distrify is a UK-based company, set up in 2010 by Peter Gerard and Andy Green, two producers. Gerard has 15 years’ experience developing online software combinations, and Green has experience in marketing.
The site is chaired by David Nicholson Wilkinson, founder of Guerilla Films. Disgruntled with online companies like LoveFilm, Wilkinson was bowled over by the company in his first meeting: “I'm naturally sceptical of VOD, but 12 minutes into my first meeting with Distrify I not only agreed to give them all my films but I wanted to join them.”
Distrify could also help combat piracy. In his article about the problems that exist with the current distribution model, Chris Jones, director of the film Gone Fishing, highlights that piracy comes with the failure to launch films immediately:
“If we create buzz and then fail to deliver an easy way for people to legally watch our films, we are simply begging people to rip and upload our films to share. I don’t believe these people think of themselves as pirates. This isn’t about money, it’s about us promising something amazing and then failing to deliver a way to watch the film legally and easily.”
There will always be people out there who will refuse to pay for a film and will find another way of watching it for free – even if it is illegal. Therefore it’s unlikely that Distrify will stop piracy completely, as the pirates always seem to find a loophole.
The most successful films on the site have come from filmmakers who don’t have a distributor, and have found the right audience for their film. As long as there is interest out there for the subject matter, and if it’s marketed enough, people will watch it.
The documentary End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless by Tim Delmastro became a huge success, mainly due to its marketing and knowing its audience. The team behind the film contacted bloggers talking about the subjects related to the film’s topic, such as the economic crisis, and the film was then embedded on the relevant blogs.
The film went on to sell in around 60 countries.
Tips on how to make the most of Distrify
In Ben Kempas’ top ten tips on how to get the best out of Distrify, he says engagement, not just sales, is the most important: “Start using Distrify for initial audience engagement while you have nothing to sell yet, as it will allow people to sign up for your email updates. Make sure all your allies and outreach contacts will embed the Distrify player rather than a YouTube trailer.
“I find it debatable whether you really need a trailer on YouTube or Vimeo to begin with. These may reach more people – but they only allow for simple likes or comments. You won't ever be able to contact those people directly later on.”
So to wrap up, how useful is Distrify?
With the success of internet based movie rental sites such as LoveFilm and Netflix, the method and demand for watching films has clearly changed dramatically.
These highly successful online rental platforms are great for your blockbusters or your rom-coms – but what about low budget, independent cinema? Distrify is the place to go for that.
So fans of independent cinema and short videos about yoga (yes, there’s a plethora of those) can get their fix.
But what about filmmakers? Distrify is clearly a useful tool for reaching an audience. Your film won’t become a huge success overnight, and you do have to put the work in to spread the word about your project via the social media platforms – but with the right amount of effort, even without a distributor, if your film reaches the right audience, it could reap rewards.