8 STREAMING MEDIA July/August 2017
behind the screens
How Netflix and Amazon Are
Changing the Indie Movie Business By Troy Dreier
Do they go for the money or the prestige? That’s the choice some first-time movie directors face these days. When they
bring their creations to film festivals, they’re
hoping an indie-loving movie studio will take
a chance and pick up the distribution rights.
They’re thinking about theatrical openings and
red carpets, with their names tossed around
as talented up-and-comers. They’re thinking
about audiences falling in love with their films
and spreading the word, and they’re even thinking about award consideration. They want to
follow in the footsteps of movies like 500 Days
of Summer and Whiplash, which were plucked
from the festival circuit and found mainstream success.
What they sometimes get, however, is an offer from Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu that includes
a fat check and no theatrical opening. No theatrical opening means no red carpet and no
So do they take the money or the prestige?
They usually take the money.
“If you’re an independent producer, you
want to make movies and you want to make
your next movie,” explains attorney Lisa Callif.
“When you’re paying your investors back, that’s
a big deal.”
Callif is a partner at the boutique entertain-
ment law firm of Donaldson and Callif in Bev-
erly Hills, Calif. She’s worked in the field for 12
years representing independent television and
film producers. Her practice used to be primari-
ly film, but now all her clients work in TV as well.
She describes her office as one-stop-shopping
for indie producers, since it handles financing,
production, and distribution, as well as conten-
tious issues like life rights and trademark use.
Netflix’s and Amazon’s Deep Pockets
While over-the-top (OTT) services have been
snapping up top indie movies for a few years
now, it became especially noticeable to Callif at
this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January.
She saw Netflix and Amazon bring deep pockets to the event and buy the rights to several
in Icarus, which
by Netflix for a
whopping $5 million
for exclusive rights
[Photo credit: Netflix]