Like I’m sure a 1,000 other filmmakers I’m for the first time venturing into Amazon Video Direct. I read a lot of articles and blurb and ended up being more mystified than ever – you know what the Net’s like, full of a load of reviews done by people who have no experience of what they’re talking about, presumably having read other people’s reviews and the manufacturer’s blurb!
Well this analysis is different – I NEED something like Amazon. I want to SELL my film and Amazon is an attractive platform in that there isn’t a cost up front and I don’t have to do things like produce DVDs in advance. So having not being able to find out the whole story and tired of hearing everyone telling me why I shouldn’t do it I just went ahead and did it! And now my movie DEAD AND AWAKE is out there!
First off I want to blow one myth out of the water: That you have to pay an affiliate company to Amazon to get your movie up there. This simply isn’t true. There are a few companies out there that lure you into Amazon’s attractiveness and hen at the end say you need to pay $1200. Not so. All the upload should cost you is time (‘cos stress etc is thrown in for free!)
So What Do You Need?
First of all you need a copy of your film and you’ll need it in some pretty stringent form basically the largest possible and then some! It’s ridiculously big, DEAD AND AWAKE’s a feature film and it ended up being 32 GB! It’s silly. We’re talking a 4 day render on my equipment which couldn’t take it so I broke it down into 4 sections then stuck them together and re-rendered the whole lot again. If you don’t have the equipment of Warner Bros then this technique is something I’d well advise you to do. It took a few days to sort this out so it took 10 days all told! The data flow is ridiculously large and not applicable for most (it’s like saying you must submit a photo with a resolution of 10,000×7,000 when the original was 1280×720, having the 10,000 version doesn’t give you a better piccie but it does give a massive file, so if you’ve shot on a 5D (like me) there’s not much point. Later on I re-submitted due to a slight change at a much lower data flow rate and they accepted it so it looks like they do have leeway though.
Here’s where you’ll find the specs: https://videodirect.amazon.com/home/help?topicId=201979050&ref_=avd_sup_201979050
And the fun doesn’t stop there! Amazon has decided in its infinite wisdom that all films have to have closed captoning! A lot of you aren’t going to know what this is. It’s those words that come up under a video so you can watch it in pubs when they don’t have the sound turned on. Another way of putting it is that people who can’t hear can enjoy your film too. It’s not the same as subtitling in that it’s a separate film. Most types of editing software can produce it. You basically grab your script, chop out the non speaking bits, wack the remainder into Excel and then you can shove it into your film so you position each phrase where it should be then export it out again. Not that difficult but for DEAD AND AWAKE another 3 days of fun. Hmm…
Same goes for a trailer, then you’ve got all the video bits raring to go! Now the fun really starts…
Uploading Your File
Such a massive file requires a massive upload! My broadband EE, couldn’t hack it. Neither could 2 other friends’ WiFi’s (just asking them was something of a major favour – we’re talking parking a computer for at least a day and using their internet.) So I contacted Amazon, they got back pretty quickly, couple of days but it’s that old armchair expert stuff I spoke of earlier; these guys haven’t been out in the field so they just gave standard responses and I’m sure there’s a lot of people with EE so they must have heard it before. More delays!
The solution was to get on my bike and keep on trying people’s WiFi’s. Eventually I had joy with Virgin Media – the UK’s fastest and only cable provider (ie. Not using a telephone line). Narking that it was such a problem, even more narking that it was my mother-in-laws! The upload took 2 hours of mental torture! (“mother-in-law” is not an anagram of Hitler Woman for nothing!). Not really – she’s lovely.
The Waiting Game
So that’s the big part the only other thing is pretty small a thumbnail for the cover again with very specific dimensions. You’d think if you were a bit out they could resize it a little but no they just throw it back in your face and reject the lot! And that again is somewhat annoying since they make you wait 5 weeks before they say yay or nay to your submission and if like me you get the thumbnail a little out they reject it and it’s another joyous 5 weeks!
The waiting itself I can quite understand though since someone must have to physically sit through it to make sure there’s not something sick in the film. I’m not one for the nanny state and believe not just in freedom of speech but freedom of expression but let’s face it if Amazon Video Direct was totally unfettered modern day Charles Mansons would be all over it!
There are some other bits to fill in but common sense should be enough to guide you through. We’re talking about things like synopsis etc, and once the movie’s up there these can be changed so you can relax a bit. Same is true for price, but it was only then that I noticed something that had totally been swept out of sight under the carpet – Amazon Video Direct only sells in USA, UK, Germany and Japan! Weird combination huh? Must be a territories thing rather than languages, so maybe if you’re in Canada or Australia you’ll have your own options (I did mine from the UK). Still it’s better than nothing and hopefully a bit of money will come in and I can afford to put it onto Vimeo to open other English speaking markets (costs getting on for £200 to do this though). That or maybe I can find someone in those territories to upload for me.
Once you’ve done all of this here’s what the finished result will look like! (click link to see page):
DVD COPIES (UK ONLY): [BUY NOW]
But, but, there’s still something we haven’t covered….
The Biggest Question Of All!
Just how much do Amazon give you for each upload and when do you get it?
This is another area shrouded in mystery. One camp will say you’ll get 80% another 5% and just about anything in between! And Amazon say they pay monthly, but do they? Another good reason why I decided to just go ahead and launch and find out by baptism of fire!
Amazon saying monthly payments implies you’ll start seeing something coming in 30 days, well DEAD AND AWAKE was launched on September 8th 2016, it’s now 21st November 2016 and I still haven’t got anything! I’ve been in touch a few weeks ago and they said to expect something towards the end of November (how’s that a monthly payment?!).
On the plus side there are helpful sales feedback info you can access so you can get some idea how many people have bought your film, and even estimated incomes. For some reason though it only gives out the minutes watched of films rather than number of sales. Curious. It does give you some idea though of how your promotion campaign is coming along.
Amazon Video Direct is a major step forward to indie filmmakers, particularly those on micro budgets who want… no NEED… to get their films out there! Possibly it’s the first step to getting rid of the external distributers system who often handle things badly since your film is just part of a catalogue and they can only really do something with it if a sizeable marketing budget pops into view (one of my other films FODOR’S HAMLET had 150,000 views on YouTube due to the distributors giving it to a company as a taster – I never received a penny!).
For you though your movie is something personal to you and you’ve got the whole social media network to try and get the word out. You’d be nowhere though if no one could buy and Amazon Video Direct gives you that opportunity.