Distribution upstart aims for indie flexibility

Cheryl Dunye’s Panorama screener “The Owls” is the latest indie film to find a home at the recently launched non-profit distribution platform the Film Collaborative (TFC).

The group just sold the pic to U.K. distrib Peccadillo Pictures at the European Film Market.

Launched at this year’s Sundance, TFC hopes to fill a much need niche in a market being reshaped by economic crisis, increasing technological possibilities and a growing demand among filmmakers for more control of their intellectual property.

“Everything has changed,” says Dunye. “The money is gone. Indiewood is dead. Long live indie. It’s an all new world. We don’t need the fat. People are getting back to basics. And this festival acknowledges that. It’s the perfect launching pad.”

Orly Ravid, who runs TFC with co-director Jeffrey Winter, said filmmakers “can choose from a menu of services. It’s meant to be end-to-end, full service. Any distribution need a filmmaker has can be achieved through the organization in a non-profit, totally transparent structure that allows them to decide themselves which things they want to handle themselves.”

TFC, which is also handling Sundance award winner “Undertow,” by Javier Fuentes-Leon, and “Eyes Wide Open,” Haim Tabakman’s gay love story set in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, facilitates distribution directly inhouse or via its partners, which include Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, iTunes, TimeWarner Cable and Comcast.

Response has been strong, said Ravid, adding that filmmakers with titles at Sundance have come to TFC for help in figuring out the commercial potential of their films. “We analyze it, talk about the big picture and then decide what they need from us. Filmmakers who were made offers come to us to analyze those offers and to help them either make them better or find better ones.”

Ravid said a main component of TFC’s strategy is “carving up rights and no longer allowing for all-rights and all-media for some ridiculous amount of time to one company. No more of that unless the company is really putting a big guarantee down or committing in a very significant way that’s truly safe.”

She stresses that it’s not “anti-distributor,” just “anti the traditional crappy deal and definitely not about the three layers of middlemen in the middle of the revenue.”

As a non-profit org, TFC uses the status to get media sponsorship and low-cost marketing and relies on its partners for services that cannot be done in-house. “We don’t want to become a burdensome, bloated organization — then we’re going to be fundraising just to keep alive. The partners execute specific services that they do really well that we have vetted and given our gold seal of approval. They can get onto iTunes, Netflix and Amazon or cable VOD through us in a much-less-expensive way than any other option available to them.”

TFC’s current titles include Judi Krant’s “Made in China,” which premiered in SXSW, Ari Gold’s “Adventure of Power,” Josh Fox’s doc “GasLand” and Matt Dunnerstick’s “A Custom Mary.”

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