IndiesLab: Supporting Independent Filmmakers in the Digital Marketplace

Posted on January 12, 2010

Happy New Year and greetings from IndiesLab! My name is Davin Hutchins and I am the new director of this exciting joint initiative of ITVS and PBS now entering its second year –– the Independent Digital Distribution Lab –– or IndiesLab for short. What is IndiesLab? It’s an ITVS-PBS initiative designed to help filmmakers navigate this marketplace and to generate revenue streams while also having a social impact. Many independent documentary filmmakers are unfamiliar with the lab, but we think that’s about to change. We’ve had some great achievements in our first year in raising the online profile of independent documentary films. Today, we are looking forward to implementing some ambitious digital initiatives in 2010 –– all in the spirit of advancing the mission of social issue, public interest documentaries, and the independent producers who create them.

A few first-year achievements include:

The digital marketplace is complex and constantly evolving. We are taking these challenges head on. We have already opened the door for indie filmmakers on all major online platforms -- iTunes, Amazon, NetFlix, Hulu, PBS Video, and SnagFilms -- and we will constantly look out for new partnerships to generate audiences and revenue.

As the Lab’s director, my role is part digital strategist, part alliance builder, and part student of the changing marketplace. I make it a point to track dominant and emerging trends –– ad-supported versus rentals, social network marketing, mobile video delivery, Internet-compatible set-top boxes, and TVs. As a community we need to gauge which way the winds are blowing. We will share important trends and developments on our IndiesLab Twitter feed, and in future postings right here on the Beyond the Box Blog. We will share best practices for filmmakers to pre-market their films online and develop online distribution windowing strategies with us. 

The IndiesLab team and I talk regularly with our partners –– iTunes, Amazon, NetFlix, Hulu, PBS Video, and SnagFilms –– to ensure independent documentary is reaching the communities that need to know about our films. Many challenges lie ahead for us and all documentary filmmakers. Online revenues are growing, but not a viable replacement for traditional forms. Platforms come and go and often overpromise what they can deliver. We will regularly discuss the ways in which we navigate this landscape on Beyond the Box and the IndiesLab Twitter feed. Here are the guiding principles for IndiesLab in year two:

  • Achieve double bottom-line success –– Increasing revenues and social impact in measurably verifiable ways.
  • Secure prominent placement of the PBS Indies collection –– Ensuring our filmmakers who want to participate are featured under the PBS Indies brand across all platforms.
  • Expose films through social media campaigns –– Using ITVS and PBS online communities to drive traffic to films (more than 600,000 Twitter followers and Facebook fans).
  • Get more films online more quickly –– Fast-track our lab films in the pipeline.
  • Maintain filmmaker-centric attitude –– Open doors to filmmakers to answer questions, to educate, and to listen.

If you’re a filmmaker and want to learn more about IndiesLab, please contact ITVS’s Associate Director of Broadcast, Sreedevi Sripathy. I welcome you to IndiesLab and our ongoing conversation about the future of independent documentary online. Good luck, and wish us the same! Davin Hutchins Director, IndiesLab


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