March 17, 2008
Self-Distribution and Me

About an hour ago, I was able to articulate what I wanted my thesis topic to be, and I'm writing this blog post to celebrate. My aim is to study the self-distribution models that are currently being developed here in the US and figure out how that can translate into Latin-American and international distribution.

All the guys that lead the From Here to Awesome Festival have innovated in that realm. They created spaces of dialogue with their audience that enabled them to show and monetize their films. It seems that there is space to be innovative within the US market, but, even for them, once films begin crossing borders, it's back to traditional distribution paradigms, sales agents and a total disconnect from their audiences. So my first question would be, how could these self-distribution approaches be expanded upon?

I like it because it's practical on one end, but, because these models are intensely participatory, the discussion opens up to wider issues of globalization, community building, publics, technology access, and private and public policies, to name a few.

For instance, I will have to find out what makes independent Latin-American film and independent U.S film similar and what makes them different. For instance, Latin-American financing is heavily reliant on public funds and coproductions, which means that these movies have an assured market in the countries they coproduce, but this also forces them to enter a more traditional financing and distribution model that could make a film's budget oscillate between $350,000 and $1,000,000. Does this happen in the U.S., too?

Not all films work well in self or independent distribution. It's certainly not a formulaic process, so finding answers to all the questions that keep coming up will not be easy. I'm excited about understanding and hopefully participating in this somewhat utopian process of reappropriating and shifting paradigms.

My first thesis topic was "The Illusion of Authenticity Across Media and Across Borders," although I still think that the title rocks, I've come appreciate my sanity, (what's left of it), too much to stick with it as it was originally conceived. The idea there was to study how tags like "authenticity" or "autochthonous" alter the way that creative goods are produced, distributed and consumed. A long chat with C3 consulting researcher Grant McCracken led me to understand that what I was really interested in was not that initial altering process, but actually how to break out of those tags--an inspiring idea that I hope I'll be able to address to a certain extent with my current topic.

I've still got a year to work on my thesis, and since this is a Master's degree, it's still very early on in the process. My approach and scope are bound to change substantially, but luckily, that also means that this is the moment for you to pitch in. Any and all suggestions or comments will be more than welcome. Since our comments are tentatively up again, you can speak your mind right here, or, you can drop me a line at