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Aussie docos go global with VOD

Video on Demand (VOD) is providing docos with a global platform to get their films noticed and experts are calling it a “no-brainer” for Aussie filmmakers.

For Australian documentary makers, Video on Demand (VOD) is an exciting new frontier – a “game-changer” whose potential is only just beginning to be realised.

This according to producer Roger Jackson: a co-founder of the cloud-based VOD distribution platform Kinonation, who was recently invited to speak at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC).

Why? Because he thinks every Australian documentary filmmaker should be looking at VOD.

Jackson says with VOD, it’s not just Australians or festival-goers that will see your documentary, but people in China, Germany, the US, Canada and more.

“The audience is always going to be bigger on VOD,” he says.

“A typical social impact doco that we would get might have been seen by a few hundred or maybe a couple of thousand people at festivals and grassroots screenings.

“We’ll put it onto Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Google Play, iTunes, Presto, Stan and within 24 hours it’s been watched by 50,000 people.”

Data from Screen Australia showed at least seven Australian documentaries have been picked up by Netflix for its services in various countries, including:

But according to data from Gyde, once you factor in all the other international VOD services, that number is much higher.

Gyde data shows there are 40 Australian documentaries available on seven overseas VOD services, such as Amazon, Indieflix, iTunes and Netflix**.

That’s only five less that the number of Australian documentaries on local VOD services, which have 45 available*.

“(VOD is) a game-changer in the documentary space more than any other space,” Jackson says.

In the Kinonation catalogue, around a third of their 6,000 films are documentaries.

“Docos are great for VOD because docos always have a very clear affinity group, meaning a clear core group of people who are interested in that subject. And you can reach those people much more effectively via VOD than via a theatrical release, because it’s available anywhere,” he says.

With cinemas, he estimates one out of 100 films shown is a doco (seven Aussie docos were released in local cinemas last year) and even then, the reach is limited.

“A cinema release for a doco might be in Melbourne, but if you’re 200 miles north of Melbourne you’re not going to be able to access it,” he says.

“VOD changes that game because it’s global access. It’s genuinely access potential from seven billion on the planet.”

And it’s still evolving.

“VOD is just globally overtaking DVD in terms of sales and VOD is massively eating into the audience of broadcast TV networks. We are definitely heading toward a world where every movie ever made will be available in every language to everybody on the planet.”

For Australian documentary filmmakers, Jackson has a few words of advice.

The first is to begin thinking about global distribution as soon as possible, even in pre-production.

“There will be people in every country on the planet interested in your subject matter. You should think about how that translates and about investing in subtitles for at least the major language groups.”

The second is to just go for it.

“It’s such a new world for most doco producers, the only way for them to find out how well they can do on VOD… is to dive in and do it,” he says.

At Kinonation, they have tried to eliminate any of the risk involved in signing with a distributor – getting rid of fixed term contracts, making it non-exclusive – for that very reason.

“Because if they don’t go for it, they’ll never know,” he says.

“It’s absolutely a no-brainer.”

Source: Gyde; compiled by Screen Australia
Titles may be counted twice where they are available on both Australian and overseas VOD services
* BigPond Movies, Dendy Direct, FetchTV, Indieflix, iTunes, Netflix, Quickflix, SBS On Demand, Snagfilms, Stan
** Amazon, Indieflix, iTunes, Netflix, Snagfilms, Starz On Demand, Xfinity On Demand