Kevin Smith premiered his latest movie “Red State” at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, January 24th. But it wasn’t the movie that caused the controversy this time. After the screening, he had announced that he would auction off the distribution rights for the film to the highest bidder. The bidding opened, Mr. Smith offered $20, and they proclaimed the film was sold.
But this wasn’t a joke. Mr. Smith started the hype for “Red State” in December when he blogged via Twitter that he wouldn’t talk to the press about the movie before the film festival. When the festival started, word got out that instead of waiting for distributors to bid on the film, he was going to auction off the film, which he did – to himself.
Declaring it the start of “Indie 2.0,” he will self-distribute the $4 million movie with his production company SModcast, advertised only by word of mouth. He plans to use Twitter, free press coverage and podcasts to generate interest in the film. “True independence is schlepping” the movie “to the people yourself,” he told the theater on Sunday night.
He plans to take the film and its stars on a month-long tour around the country. Screenings will start in NYC at Radio City Music Hall on March 5, with a total of 13 cities on the tour. He’s hoping for a national release on October 19 (coinciding with the 17th anniversary of the release of “Clerks”).
Mr. Smith has always been very savvy at knowing how to market himself directly to his fans, through his podcast and on Twitter where he has more than 1.7 million followers. Now here’s a way for him to build on his existing fan base to promote his movies directly to the consumers.
Now there are plenty of people who have been working on releasing their films this way, but these kinds of new distribution models have exciting potential for independent filmmakers.
You can argue that this was all a publicity stunt cooked up by Mr. Smith to generate buzz for a film that he knew would receive mixed reviews. But it starts to make you think beyond Mr. Smith and what would happen if another well-known or perhaps even more well-known filmmaker decides they want full control over how their films are distributed. That could have major implications on the landscape of film distribution.
And if you think that’s too far-fetched, why don’t you ask the record labels or Barnes & Noble what they think about that.