As GET LAMP spreads around the internet and attracts various waves of interest, a number of similar comments tend to appear under the stories, assuming the stories allow comments. Many of these are the hypothetical assumptions made by people who have not seen the actual product speculating on the quality, worthiness and content of the product. I don’t see much reason to address these, because my response is, essentially, the product.
However, another very specific line of comments (and there’ve been e-mails too) are along the lines of “I am waiting for it to be on Netflix” or “Why is it not on Netflix”.
To be clear: I have no plans for the film to be on Netflix or iTunes, at least not for the foreseeable future. For some, that’s the end of the conversation, making them file out the door. But for the greater good, let me explain the thinking.
First, it’s best to delineate iTunes and Netflix.
iTunes is more of what you would call a digital download store, where you connect a client to a service (that is rather easy to use) and pay money to get the ability to watch or listen to media. My reasons for not being on iTunes at the moment is that it’s rather an unpleasant experience as an independent filmmaker to get onto iTunes, and it involves signing away a lot of things I don’t like to sign away. It is not possible for individuals to pay some fee or otherwise do “stuff” and find themselves on iTunes, selling their media, and get a check in the mail or a deposit in a bank account.
To get most anything onto a “standard” broadcasting or download service requires E&O insurance, where you pay thousands of dollars in case it turns out that Steve Meretzky was referred to as a poodle or you claim that lamp oil is safe to drink or whatever. That’s money right out the door. But also, you need to go through a distributor. iTunes won’t work with individuals, like I said; you need to have a distributor. And I don’t like distributors. More on that later, I’m sure, but let’s shorthand it by saying that there’s very little a distributor would do for me for the amount of money they would take out of sales to do it. So iTunes is out.
Netflix is a whole other animal.
Netflix is a rental store, essentially, renting you DVDs. Don’t confuse the streaming aspect of it as being something other than an extension of the rental – the contract Netflix has with companies that agree to do streaming is that they essentially have real DVDs somewhere, or have paid for instances of the DVDs to exist, and when you watch the DVD, you are holding a “slot” in some bank of machines representing those paid-for instances or DVDs.
Rental stores are not a filmmaker’s little buddy, on the financial side. They buy one copy and give it to many, many people. The same situation exists with libraries, of course, but there seems to be less confusion about the nature of libraries – nobody thinks the filmmaker is making bank off the copies libraries buy, but instead realize these are situations where the libraries themselves are providing access to their membership. Well, the same situation exists with Netflix, except replace “membership” with “customers” and “access” with “sales”.
Netflix has a form where you can request copies of a movie be available. If you want to do that, go ahead – if Netflix contacts me and wants X amounts of copies of GET LAMP I will sell them to them. I don’t think they’ll do it, but go ahead and do it, you have my full support in doing so.
Recently, Netflix put up an option to allow filmmakers to directly submit films to Netflix. But the fact is, that’s not what’s going on – in fact, they’re taking names and then submitting the incoming forms to a distributor, and as I said, I don’t want to work with distributors. I did 99% of the work on the film and I don’t feel like paying someone upwards of 50% to do the final 1% of work. (That’s just my thing, but probably not a surprise if you’ve been watching this weblog and production.)
I realize some people want the ability to download the movie and eschew the whole “package” thing, and I will probably create a high-definition downloadable version of the main feature in the future (and as per the upgrade guarantee, my current customers will not pay a dime for this digital download version). But as it stands, I much prefer the DVD version, with its multiple audio tracks, the roughly 30 features (including a half-dozen self-contained documentaries of various lengths), the subtitles and the DVD-ROM section.
So there we go. I’m always willing to talk about it, but that’s what’s going on on this side. People are ordering the movie quite a lot at the moment (and I thank all of you) and the Creative Commons license means that you can certainly share the movie with your friends (so go ahead and everyone go in on buying a copy and sharing it), but I’m not seeing a Netflix streaming version coming soon.
And there you go.