Joss Whedon will rent “In Your Eyes,” a movie he wrote and executive produced, directly from the movie’s website, joining the growing list of filmmakers who have experimented with self-distribution.
Whedon announced these plans in a video message displayed after the premiere of the movie Sunday night at the Tribeca Film Festival. He was not able to attend since he is in production on the sequel to “The Avengers.”
In the message, Whedon said that the Tribeca premiere was “not just the world premiere, but also its international release date.”
It is the second movie produced by Bellwether Pictures, the production company Whedon founded with his wife Kai Cole to support micro-budget movies. Bellwether’s first film was “Much Ado About Nothing,” Whedon’s adaptation of the Shakespeare play.
The movie is available for a 72-hour rental $5 via Vimeo’s video player, which is embedded into the movie’s site. At the Q&A that followed the Tribeca screening, producer Michael Roiff said it was also available on every site that rents films, and that it had been translated into five languages.
Self-distribution holds promise for filmmakers like Whedon, who has amassed a passionate following with hit TV shows and movies such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Cabin in the Woods” and “The Avengers.”
“Because Joss has such a connection with his fans we figured this was an opportunity to try something we couldn’t with other films,” Roiff told TheWrap. “The whole conversation that led tot his was ‘what’s the craziest thing we can do? What can we say in the question and answer that would be really different?'”
During that Q&A, Roiff added, “From the get-go, we always wanted to do something different with it. We said, ‘Screw it — we made it for the audience, and we’re taking it straight to them.”
Creative types of all kinds have opted to sell movies, TV shows, music and concert specials on their own, taking greater control over the dissemination of their artistic work – and its commercial upside. Technological innovations have made this easier, and the success of comedian Louis C.K. (among others) has inspired others to try it out.
Self-distribution has a particular appeal to independent filmmakers, who grow tired of paltry offers from independent distribution companies. Whedon and Cole founded Bellwether in part to make movies outside the studio system.
Vimeo is one of several companies that have stepped in to help filmmakers like Whedon, offering a product called Vimeo On Demand. Filmmakers can either sell the movie from Vimeo’s site, or, as in this case, sell it from their own site via Vimeo’s player. Vimeo enabled in-player purchases earlier this year.
“Joss has a huge fan base, and empowering filmmakers with fan bases like that to interact directly with audiences is a big part of why we did the embedded transaction player,” Greg Clayman, Vimeo’s general manager of audience networks, told TheWrap.
Vimeo appeals to filmmakers thanks to its high-quality player, which filmmakers already use to share their work. The company has been looking for films with pedigree and profile to help spread the gospel about its service and its embeddable player. Whedon is a valuable partner in that regard.
“I talked with a bunch of other companies, and I didn’t realize Vimeo was capable of doing this,” Roiff said. “It was the logical choice; Vimeo is what we use to share between ourselves.”
“In Your Eyes” was well-received by the Tribeca audience. The film is part long-distance love story, part comedy and part supernatural drama in the vein of “The Lake House.” While Kazan is as appealing as ever, and she and Stahl-David have palpable chemistry even though they are almost never onscreen together, the film is more likely a cult item than a strong commercial prospect.
Roiff said at the screening that the $5 rental will be available “for the foreseeable future,” and that the filmmakers were willing to explore additional distribution options if they became available.
Here’s the video message from Whedon delivered at Tribeca:
Steve Pond contributed to this report.