In 1997 — the year Netflix was founded — DIY films were almost entirely locked out of the big box stores, such as Blockbuster. Then along came Netflix, buying up every indie film in sight.
For roughly the first 10 years of its existence, Netflix provided a venue for truly independent filmmakers. But getting a film into their catalog became steadily more difficult from 2008 to 2010. In 2011, it’s next to impossible, but at least two local filmmakers are doing all they can to get their films into that red envelope.
“When Netflix started, what they needed was titles. It was fairly easy as an indie feature with limited distribution to get your title added to their library,” says Katharine Clark Gray of A Chip & A Chair Films, a three-person production company in Philly. “But as they grew, it became easier to get content from the major providers, so now they don’t feel the need to appeal to indies.”
Because A Chip & A Chair has a distributor, Vanguard Cinema, they were able to make their latest, “If You Could Say It in Words,” available on the Netflix site. But they were surprised to discover a new hurdle when customers attempted to view the movie: It is only available to “save,” not to watch. These days, Netflix waits for an indie title to have an unspecified number of “saves” before they actually make it available.
“Let’s face it, they’re the belle of the ball. At this point, they’re very important to how we as a country consume media,” says Jamie Moffett, of the Kensington-based Jamie Moffett Media and Design. “Their success has created a bottleneck for indie films, because they can sit back and absorb the studio material.”