Rocky road to distribution on Amazon Video Direct
Dear Professional and Semi-Professional Video Director,
There’s a great opportunity to distribute your videos – but you’ve got to be slick to make full use of it.
Why am I excited about Amazon Video Direct? As a video professional I own thousand of hours of content on video tapes stored in a cupboard. It’s costly to pay for the transfer of this footage, that’s why I love home transfer video to computer kit. Filmmakers in America, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom are going wild for Amazon Video Direct, but this fantastic opportunity starts to frustrate within hours of reading the closed captioning requirements.
Prime Video Direct is aimed at professionals and large companies
Cash-strapped film-makers have no or very little budget left to pay others to revive ancient projects for viewing on Amazon Prime. Samuel Goldwyn Films were the top providers of movies on Amazon Video Direct in 2016. According to Variety the company had 10 out of 50 titles on the top performers list. Peter Goldwyn, Samuel Goldwyn Films, president said making the films available on Prime has given them a second life. As a result it’s provided a fresh, new Prime audience for films “I Capture The Castle”, “Bad Ass” and “Tortilla Soup”.
Profits would be lost if films were left in storage, gathering dust
I’m speaking as a producer recycling video shot by a professional camera person 11-years-ago which I hardly remember. But the production date doesn’t matter many viewers want to see the content if it offers something different and unique to watch. The trailer tells the audience what to expect, codec’s, captions and key art bring the episodes or series to life. Well designed art and witty synopses are like the pretty wrappers and boxes of any loved branded item.
Perseverance is essential to distribute films
I interviewed Haile Gerima and Brian Bonaparte both told me distribution of minority interest movies was difficult! The fight to make films about stories that resonate does not end when the final cut is delivered to the sales agent. Haile Gerima said he had to garden to support the distribution of his film “Sankofa”. He drummed up audiences using a variety of strategies including cajoling them into supporting a film about a collective experience.
Brian Bonaparte questioned why he didn’t get films with African-American leads as first run at his cinema, The Electric, on Portobello Road? Even though the cinema was known as a champion of films showing the black experience it was not considered a suitable theatre to release the film “Bad Boys” starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.
Broadcasting may leave you rubbing your ears saying “Woosah”!
But it’s worth it to avoid the obstacles placed by distributors and exhibitors in the film industry designed to keep some films exhibited in libraries, festivals and museums or supporting education programmes. The rewards are showing your niche films to a wider audience around the world desperate to watch fresh content, free and with the option to own.
I was determined to upload to Amazon Video Direct, and I did
In April 2016 I uploaded a poetry collection called using Amazon’s self-publisher CreateSpace. It’s probably the easiest Content Management System in the world – it’s certainly the easiest I’ve ever used. The hardest task was choosing which poems to leave out and after a frank chat with an Editor friend, Josie I used the Microsoft Word template provided to upload a 60 page book. Unexpectedly I received a great marketing plan written for publishers of poetry books and a guide to reformat for the eBook version. Emboldened by this experience I began planning a cookery DVD about the phenomenally difficult process of making yummy, melt-in-the-mouth roti. I believe it’s the most exciting mix of African and Asian cuisine – and I consider the preparation of the flat bread one of the best kept secrets of great Trinidadian and Guyanese cooks. The video footage was shot over 11-years-ago; the idea of editing and distributing on YouTube or DVD didn’t appeal to me as I’d paid the cook and camera person. I became aware of Amazon Video Direct when my original DVD files were transferred from CreateSpace to the newest, video retail store in the world.
Most of what I learned about Amazon Video Direct is available on chat forums, blogs and YouTube! I would unexpectedly come up against a simple problem in the early stages which had nothing to do with Amazon like transferring the rushes shot on analogue DV tape for editing. The hiss of a pressure cooker stewing cowheel for souse is shot through the tape alongside dancehall and soca tunes. To make the episode available on Amazon Prime closed captions had to be added. I tried to upload the captions and video file the way suggested by Amazon one or the other wouldn’t work. In the end I joined Amazon Web Service (AWS) and got the video uploaded there after a few days trying to figure out how to create a folder. I learned how to link my Amazon Video Direct and Amazon Web Services accounts – a simple process which I found complicated! I contacted three closed caption companies for quotes but bulked at sending my exclusive content over the web. A friend pestered me to pay someone to upload the captions I’d created on Premiere Pro. I emailed around to enquire about the process and price to see if they could help. SubPLY asked me to send over my captions file to see if there was anything they could do to help. I did this immediately and Chas explained how to correct the poorly coded Premiere Pro SRT captions into a file that was ready for me to upload to my Tidyup Media Channel instead of restarting the whole closed captioning process again! It was so much quicker than I’d anticipated.
Shucks it was the best feeling ever seeing the green half circles fill out completely first in America, Germany and the United Kingdom. “Hip, hip, hooray I said as I jumped with joy! I’d read online that longer videos usually took days to upload and I patiently waited for the Japanese region to move from half moon to fully green. Then I could put all my energy into marketing the episode across Amazon stores. As soon I opened my laptop I looked to see if the disc was green it reminded me of when I would check my phone looking for a text from my new handsome chap – the anticipation and excitement was just like that. The green was the colour of an Irish four leaf clover and I was waiting to get the full set of four – on my Amazon Dashboard – I wanted to shout “BINGO! I’ve won!”
I told Amazon Customer Service that Japan was taking ages to upload the operative said he’d look into it. He told me that there was a problem and that he was sorting it out and that he’d be delighted to help more if he could. I had a nosy around the Japanese site and quickly decided it was a marketplace I wanted to sell a lot of videos in. I wanted to make videos that were attractive to the Japanese market which I had never tried to sell to before. I asked myself some questions “Why don’t you upload all your films to Japan first? You don’t need to add closed captions for this regions and the audience is ideal for your brand of vintage video and music. Why don’t you take up Haile’s 21-year-old challenge to become a distributor?”
It was something I wanted to do but didn’t have the confidence or money to set up, at that time I had a three-year-old child and was in the final year of film school. So when the chance to distribute and exhibit on Amazon Video dropped into my email box I clicked on the link. I checked out the costs of distributing my videos and initially found out that the costs are minimal. There’s a small fee for using the Amazon Web Service around two dollars a month. I looked at the cost of distributing other people’s professional videos giving their films a new lease of life too.
I swam and imagined what shape my business should take and came up with the idea of recycling video and I thought “why not name the business Tidyup Media?” I could finally set up the distribution business and create a service for non-professionals to rediscover outrageous, funny and poignant stories from yesteryear. The idea’s been a huge hit with family and friends – the videos have produced a lot of happiness, laughter and some tears.
You’ll be Amazed By What You Find On Your Tapes And So Will Your Audience!
You’ll stumble upon forgotten footage which will add sparkle to your life making you forget the daily grind, taking you back to past good memories with plenty to reminiscence about with friends. Hark back to times when things were simpler, see fashion through today’s eyes, children will see Mum and Dad’s life before they were a twinkle in their eyes and long gone Grandparents will cheer them up. Rediscovering analogue video brings so much affordable pleasure to family, friends and audiences on Amazon Prime, empathy-evoking family reunions or super-funny films can add to everyone’s enjoyment and quality of life for years to come for less than the price of a single ticket at the cinema.
If you take delight in sharing video with others I hope you’re tempted to embark on your own analogue to digital journey, joining the tribes of analogue lovers converting miles of tape, to stream along the digital highways of the worldwide web. In your quest to tidy up your cupboards your tales can wing their way around the world spinning yarns of pure gold. Who can resist streaming great tape to digital fun?
Your analogue gal on the worldwide web,
Saving tape before it vanishes
P.S. We provide personal VHS transfer and can do this in your own home if you can’t pop along to one of our local events. Complete the online form with your address and telephone number so we can let you know when we’re in your area. One Love!