nullVimeo has partnered up with the Toronto International Film Festival to launch of what the service calls a one-of-a-kind program that will offer the Festival’s world premieres a $10,000 advance for distributing their films via Vimeo On Demand

The program requires that Vimeo be the premiere digital window, but gives filmmakers flexibility to combine the Vimeo On Demand offer with traditional distribution including theatrical runs.
Direct digital distribution is gaining momentum every day as both an alternative and a complement to traditional film distribution,” said Vimeo’s CEO, Kerry Trainor. “Vimeo is focused on empowering filmmakers with the highest quality platform to control the distribution and monetization of their content in any territory, on any device, at any time, and across a wide range of price points. Our partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival allows us to test the addition of financial support to the power of the Vimeo On Demand platform.

Premiering your film at the Toronto International Film Festival now comes with the additional benefit of Vimeo’s distribution offer,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Festival. “For any independent filmmaker trying to connect with an audience and who isn’t? this is a terrific new opportunity.

Films accepting the open offer will be released from their online exclusivity after a period of 30 days, or as soon as Vimeo recoups the $10,000 advance. After the advance is recouped, Vimeo will provide a 90/10 revenue split, with 90 percent going to the filmmaker after the deduction of associated transaction costs. Filmmakers will still be able to pursue traditional distribution vehicles as well as other online platforms after the exclusivity window.

Vimeo On Demand allows filmmakers the control and flexibility to set price, viewing format (stream or download), and geographical availability, while allowing the creator to retain full ownership of the film. 

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the filmmaker gets $10,000 upfront, allowing Vimeo to stream the film via its On Demand service, exclusively – meaning, you can’t screen it anywhere else, online or offline, during the exclusive period, which ends either after 30 days, or after Vimeo recoups the $10,000 it paid the filmmaker for the exclusive rights to exhibit the film on its website.

After that period, the filmmaker can explore other distribution options, while the film remains on Vimeo, with the filmmaker receiving 90% of revenue (after “transaction costs”) generated from the film.

Vimeo is currently in talks with filmmakers whose films will screen at TIFF, which runs Sept. 5 to 15, 2013, and will present 366 films, including 146 world premiere.

Let’s see if any of the films on our TIFF watch-list sign up for this deal. It could mean that we’ll get to see them a lot sooner than we would otherwise, if they were to go through conventional distribution means – waiting for a pick-up by a distributor, setting a release date, etc, which, as we all know, could mean waiting for a lengthy period of time for a film to finally come to a theater near you.

Although I wonder if traditional distributors might be put off by the idea that a film they’re interested in acquiring release rights to, has already been screened online by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. I wonder if this is a strategy that could devalue a film in the long run.

But for those films that typically struggle to find distributors, this could be a worthwhile option to consider. After all, it’s about getting your film in front of audiences.

Let’s see who bites first.