Big changes to the indie film biz give Europa Distribution delegates (who rep 110 indie distribs in Europe) plenty to talk about at their annual conference, which takes place Oct. 6-9 during the Lumiere Festival in Lyon. Top of the agenda this year is the shift to digital distribution.

The same issue also drove the discussion at a recent Europa Distribution workshop in Locarno, where the objective was to share information about what works best and how much it should cost.

Some distribs reported that they had been misinformed by technology companies about the requirements of the new systems. For example, distribs have learned that they don’t need one computer drive for each booking, because they can move the drives between theaters.

Also, they found out they were being quoted different virtual print fees (VPFs) in different territories for access to the digital master of the same pic, with prices ranging from €300 ($425) to $21,300.

Independent distributors are at different stages in the digital switchover in Europe, so it’s critical to share knowledge and experiences so that we aren’t entirely led by the digital providers,” says Edward Fletcher, managing director at U.K. distrib Soda Pictures, who moderated the workshop.

Many distributors are stuck between the old world and the new as the digital rollout is still a work in progress in most territories. Soda’s “Norwegian Wood” opened in March on 33 screens, with five taking 35mm prints and the rest opting for digital.

Digital offers distribs the ability to be more flexible and adopt innovative release strategies, but many feel they are constrained by the VPF contracts, which they claim were drafted to suit the needs of the Hollywood majors and traditional release strategies.

Digital has created new release patterns, which sadly are threatened by the rollout of the VPF model,” Fletcher says.

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