As told to Ned Ehrbar:
I will be the first person to say that when Radius mentioned the VOD release for "Everly" a month before its theatrical release, I was like, "Is that the right way to go?" Especially when you have torrenting and the stigma of direct-to-video. My first movie was a direct-to-video film, so I knew exactly what that stigma is. But we live and die based on the word-of-mouth and the social media element. Radius said, "Look, the best word of mouth we can get is going to be the people who are dying to see this movie, and if we give it to them now we're circumventing the torrenting in way." And let's be honest, no one's really going to a theater now unless it's a huge, tent pole, four quadrant, blockbuster-type film. For most smaller films, theaters are almost becoming window dressing at this point. Ultimately the movie is going to live on the cloud, in someone's home.
There's the idea that VOD is really taking over the industry, and it is. It's the best and most reliable way to get your film out so everybody can see it, and it allows people to take a chance on movies where they normally wouldn't. It's smart and progressive. So far, the fact that the movie had a month to build what is I guess a buzz right up until the theatrical release is great. Then people are like, "Oh, I've heard about this movie!" Whether you love it or you hate it, you've heard about it. The traditional kind of exposure of throwing a bunch of billboards up and maybe getting an ad at 11 o'clock at night on one of the late night shows isn't progressive anymore.
You have to be aware of it, whether you’re a filmmaker or a distributor or an audience member. You have to know that things are changing in a way where the accessibility of a film is becoming greater. It's also becoming, unfortunately, dangerous. Back in the day when you used to pop in a VHS tape or a DVD and it would give you the giant FBI warning, there was the fear of God put into you before you even watched the movie. Now none of that applies, so if you can get away with it, great. But if you want to feel good about supporting the artist and you want to get the best version of it — not a compressed version of a compressed version of a compressed version — it only costs you six bucks. I've heard the argument about torrenting that it's good for word of mouth, but when they're counting numbers and considering the filmmaker's next endeavor, if the numbers from the profits are not there it's going to hurt that film. Every buy-able legal click does count because they are watching.
No matter what, there's always going to be those guys on the street corner selling stinky bootleg Thai versions of your movie. You're never going to get away from that. It's just now that everything has become so quality-based, where you can rip something off of iTunes with no loss, no shaky camera or some dude's head in the front. You can "enjoy" a movie for free just as much as if you bought it on iTunes. So it's a moral quandary for people. A lot of money goes into these things, and if there's no return on investment there's going to be no more movies that are made like this. They're only going to go with the safe bets, and as much as I love superhero movies, it can't just be about those.
"Everly" director Joe Lynch has an interesting tradition: From the moment a film of his has a release date announced until that day actually arrives, he doesn't shave. And the results can be impressive. "The day that it premieres I can finally sheer off this massive Sasquatch-ian beard and make myself feel young again by going, 'Oh yeah, that's right, I used to be a little kid who used to love movies. That's why I do this,'" Lynch says. "Not, 'Oh my God, is it a f---ing Big Foot sighting?' But it's gotten unruly." And true to form, he sheered his face on Friday.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick