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Some Indie distributors are practicing out-of-the-box ways to stand-out from the pack

While the major studios (also called corporate studios) in the motion picture industry are releasing franchise productions with big bucks to release them, a small group of independent banner distributors (also called Indies) are releasing exceptional well done films with award season on their minds, often with success at these award ceremonies as well.

These independent banners have established themselves as the film industry’s most forward-thinking distributors by releasing the kind of midsized, stylish, quality films that seemed on the verge of going extinct, transforming them into a collective theatrical experience, and aiming them squarely at a demographic that would rather watch movies on their phones. These Indy distributors are like startups that bridge the gap between the micro-budget independent studio products and the major monolithic studio products.

Surprisingly, these unique companies seem to have the money to acquire films for a steady state of releases, the right business model to support them, and the necessary talent/skills to make each one of their releases a mini-phenomenon. People who work here have clear roles and responsibilities, typical wearing multiple hats, but no designated titles. They are typically comprised of a small core group that often works in a huddle. They typically use the social media heavily on everything. For example, they might choose to partner with a social marketing agency in order to more precisely reach its target demographic. On the most literal level, a film released by these Indy distributors is budgeted from anywhere between $1 million and $20 million. The project is far more likely to be female-driven than a film released by another company, and it is typically directed by a major filmmaker or a filmmaker on the cusp of becoming one with great potential. Films released by these companies have an affinity to undermine a celebrity’s established persona allowing them to inhabit some breakthrough character roles. They sometimes engage with the production team way earlier than during post-production.

Much of their campaign is done by their audiences, by word of mouth (tweets, facebook posts, etc.). They are able to change course in relatively short time frame because they use agile principles in their processes and decision making. They see marketing as a creative act that could be entertaining in and of itself. They think out of the box, trying something newer and maybe more radical with their approach. That would give their film the breakout release they seek. They are visionary and diligent about what their differentiators are in the films they release. So these medium-sized movies have a great hook and stand out in more than one way – that is having a marketing budget twice as much as the production budget. These Indy distributers have to think hard about their business model, as they are constantly shifting in the industry as well. At the same time with the industry volatility and disruption that is everywhere, these companies will have to keep sharp on being innovative and agile as well. Some examples of such companies that exist today are - Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, IFC, A24, etc.

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