Here’s how she profited from her do-it-yourself model: the movie had a limited theatrical release in a Los Angeles theater, aired on cable television through Showtime Networks Inc., can be rented at Netflix, downloaded on iTunes, and found on DVD via the film’s Website and retail vendors. Through these various channels, DuVernay’s film, budgeted at $50,000, generated three times that amount in revenues—without a studio partner.
She expects to increase sales through international distribution company Bitterbeat, to release the film in Japan, a part of the world where underground hip-hop is hugely popular.
The film, nominated for a Black Reel Award, has been well received by her targeted audience. DuVernay is using profits from the documentary to make her next film, I Will Follow, a narrative drama starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Tracie Thoms, and Blair Underwood.
“Indie filmmakers can effectively distribute their own movies with more agility and precision than studios,” says DuVernay, who teaches a class on self-distribution and is in discussions with Agate Publishing to write a book on the subject. “Do-it-yourself film distribution—that is the new era. Digital allows directors to create films without studio funding, and digital distribution helps us control how our films reach the public once they’re made.”
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