Mark Duplass To Young Filmmakers at SXSW: ‘Don’t Be Afraid of VOD’

At a keynote speech on Sunday morning at SXSW, Mark Duplass told young filmmakers not to worry about theatrical distribution.

“God bless VOD,” Duplass said. “This is a great thing for independent film. Please don’t reject VOD. Please don’t be afraid of it. Please don’t be attached to your early films playing at theaters. You will have no more money to make movies.”

Duplass’ talk, which was told in the second person, was instructional about how to break into the business. Duplass not only touched on acting, directing and producing — he first came to SXSW with 2005’s “The Puffy Chair,” which he made with his brother Jay — but also the expanding role of television.

“We’re going to talk about the bad news and the good news of independent film,” Duplass said. “It’s mostly bad news. Where are the cool $5 million movies that used to break out of Sundance in 1998?”

He told aspiring filmmakers to start shooting movies on their iPhones for cheap, and to use the festival circuit to make connections with actors who are looking for creative challenges.

“This is a hard career,” Duplass said. “Don’t eat out. Don’t buy clothes.”

Duplass didn’t have much faith in the studio system, saying that the creative sacrifices required might not be worth it — and that all directors are required to jump through hoops that could stall their careers. “It’s not an offer,” Duplass said. “It’s an offer to fight for it. You’re going to spend a month … and you’re not going to get it.”

He estimated that a lucrative VOD deal could be worth anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000, and said TV was replacing a void. “As the death of the middle class of film has happened, it’s been rebirthed in television.”

The Duplass brothers, who created the HBO series “Togetherness,” recently announced a movie deal with Netflix. “The budget for all four of those movies equal one fart bubble for Netflix,” Duplass said. “For me, it’s a ton.”

He also shared an important trade secret about writing. He said not to use screenwriting software for a first draft, and to dictate the dialogue into a tape recorder.

“Speak out your scripts,” Duplass said. “It forces you to get a draft out. You’re going to get impeccable pacing — your body knows how to pace a movie.”

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