Recently I watched the new movie IN YOUR EYES on my large screen TV in HD. I paid $5 to rent it from Vimeo and stream it on my Apple TV. The movie was very good and the experience was seamless.
The idea that you can rent a movie on the Internet and watch it on your TV is still a very new one, especially on a mass scale. How long have we been doing this? A year? 5 years, tops?
And it is remarkable for those filmmakers who create and sell their movies online using platforms like Vimeo. In the past, to sell a film to any audience, they had to rely on a series of gatekeepers. Now they can sell direct-which means they keep a larger part of the revenue.
When I pay $5 to Vimeo, 90% or $4.50 goes back to the filmmaking team responsible for the film. Traditional gatekeepers take from 30% to 70% of the revenue and hold onto all the information about the customer.
Here is the promise of the Internet. It reduces the friction and cost within the artistic economy.
The customer gets direct access to the content easily at a reasonable price. The creative artist gets to the consumer easily and keeps the lion’s share of the money paid for his/her work. Both sides win; one through reduced prices and the other, through higher revenue.
Yet all of this is now at risk.
In the coming months the FCC is going to decide where they really stand on the issue of net neutrality.
What is net neutrality? Let’s quote from Wikipedia.
“Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.”
If the FCC decides that paid “fast lanes” can be created on the Internet, net neutrality will cease to exist. Data will not be treated equally. ISP’s will be able to charge whatever they want, without restriction. Discrimination will rule.
When you create a fast lane for web services that can pay more dollars to get their content delivered faster, web based services that don’t (or can’t) pay will watch their services degrade.
This means that the great experience I had renting and watching IN YOUR EYES would be threatened. It means that it might be a bad one-not a great one. And why would I rent another independent movie directly from the filmmaker when the experience is so bad?
And this is why net neutrality rules that protect the open Internet are vitally important to any filmmaker.
The Internet will be the major engine of growth for independent film over the next decade and beyond. It will become the main way that most filmmakers will reach their audience and get paid for their work.
This is why all the organizations that support independent filmmakers should support net neutrality.
These film organizations should signal their support by joining together and speaking with one voice about the need for an open Internet. They should recommend that the FCC stand up for the principles of real net neutrality.
Let’s start the list: Film Independent, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Independent Feature Project , Los Angeles Film Festival, Sundance, San Francisco Film Society, South by South West and the Tribeca Film Festival.
Who else should we add? I am sure I am missing someone important.
And what leader from among these organizations will pull them all together?