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Angela Majette
by on December 11, 2019
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Netflix made awards show history by dominating the 2020 Golden Globes nominations, scoring its first-ever Best Picture nods for four of its films. The streaming service led the nominations in both film and television, with a total of 34 nods.

 

However, despite widespread acclaim, Ava DuVernay’s Emmy winning Netflix series “When They See Us” was completely ignored by the Globes.  In fact, the lack of melanin was obvious and telling.

 

Academy Award winner Mo’Nique has been outspoken against inequality in Hollywood since 2015 and she also called for a boycott of Netflix  following a pay dispute in which she says she was offered a fraction of what the streaming service has paid other comedians for their comedy specials. According to Mo’Nique, Netflix offered her $500,000 to tape a special for them—but reportedly paid Amy Schumer $13 million.

 

Due to the continued lack of diversity in Hollywood and the failures by the film industry to recognize the works and talent of people of color, Black filmmakers are widening their field of vision and redefining their pinnacle of success.

 

The success of film makers like Tyler Perry, Jordan Peele, Spike Lee, and Ava Duvernay have inspired many Black television and film professionals to look for alternatives to Hollywood.   And many have set their sights on Netflix to distribute their content - in large part because Netflix reportedly paid Chris Rock $40 million to produce two comedy specials.

 

With 65 million subscribers and 34 Golden Globe nominations, Netflix has grown into one of the most influential media streaming services in the world. According to multiple sources, Netflix planned to spend $8 billion on new content in 2018. The company also planned to spend $2 billion to market its service and content.

 

If you want a piece of the Netflix pie, here’s 3 steps that can put you on the right path.

 

The two most popular ways of getting on Netflix’s radar are:

 

  1. Have your film shown at a major film festival like the American Black Film Festival, Sundance, and South By Southwest and attract the attention of the Netflix acquisitions team; or
  2. Work with a distributor or aggregator.

 

Whichever route you choose, these 3 steps will come in handy.

 

Step 1 – Refine Your Pitch For Netflix

 

Because of Netflix’s large user base and big budgets, everybody and their grandmother wants a Netflix deal.  The market is flooded with content, which means you need to be creative to stand out and get noticed.  Ask yourself:

 

Has my film generated press or a strong social media presence?

  • Do I have any “names” or “influencers” in my film?
  • Does my film tackle a trending, ignored, or taboo subject?
  • Have others invested in my film?

 

Step 2 – Research and Interview Aggregators or Distributors

 

Once you have solidified an engaging pitch that accurately conveys the value of your film, your next step is to partner with a distributor or aggregator.  Distributors and aggregators handle the operational, editorial and financial processes for you with all leading digital platforms and retailers worldwide. This allows you to focus on your craft while they maximize your revenues, effectively and cost-efficiently.

 

These entities will evaluate your film to determine if your film and your pitch are a good fit for their company.   At the same time, you should be evaluating these entities and select one that understands your film and your goals, capable of achieving your desired results, and transparent in their communications, policies, and fees.

 

The distributor or aggregator you choose to work with should have relationships established with platforms such as Apple iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox, Amazon and Netflix, to ensure maximum global availability of your content on all key platforms.

 

Step 3 – Get A Response

 

After your distributor or aggregator pitches your film to Netflix, it may take a few weeks to get a response. If t Netflix is interested, they will negotiate directly with your distributor or aggregator.

 

Typically, Netflix offers to pay a licensing fee for one or two years. If you accept the offer, you will need to provide with all the necessary files (video, audio, artwork, etc.). Your distributor will then work with various vendors and encoding houses to deliver your film.  If Netflix chooses to license worldwide rights, you will need to deliver subtitles and localized artwork for each territory. Money to cover these obligations is usually taken directly from your licensing fee.

 

If Netflix is not interested in your film, you will likely not be given a reason or get any feedback.

 

Alternatives To Netflix Distribution

 

There are alternatives to Netflix that offer good exposure and involves less work.

 

KweliTV

 

KweliTV is a Black-owned streaming platform that offers high-quality content (independent film, news, web shows, kids programming, documentaries) produced by independent, globally diverse and unique filmmakers and journalists who aim to share their stories and truths with the world. 98% of KweliTV’s films have been official selections at film festivals and more than half are award-winning. 

 

The company welcomes independent filmmakers and video content providers to submit your film or show for review. The film or series must be directed by a person of African descent OR at least have one lead character who is of African descent.  The company states that 60% of its subscription fees goes to 200+ filmmakers on the platform.

 

Black on Purpose TV

Black on Purpose Television Network (BOP TV) is another Black-owned streaming platform.  BOP TV provides users with streaming content, enables content creators to build and monetize audiences. You can submit your content for review directly on the BOP TV website.

 

Started in 2013, BOP TV streams over 8,000 pieces of content (across 24 channels) to 4.5 million daily viewers around the world and has grown to become the largest African-American owned streaming network in the world.  The network can be seen on all major streaming devices including Roku, Blu Ray Players, Amazon Fire Stick and Smart TV’s worldwide.

 

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime has millions of subscribers and offers a great platform for discovery.

And unlike Netflix, Amazon Prime pays you royalties or licensing fees every time someone streams (buys, rents, or views)  your content.  Although, the royalties are minimal,  Amazon Prime is still considered more filmmaker friendly than Netflix.

You can distribute to Amazon Prime on your own via Amazon Video Direct. But you will need to meet all of the specification  To save time, you may want to work with an aggregator and encoding house to make the delivery.

 

Once your content is live on Amazon Prime, call on your cast and crew to reach out to family and friend to increase engagement.  Views, comments and shares can help you gain traction in Amazon’s ranking engine and build momentum for your film.

 

Stay Woke

The short-lived Lincoln Motion Picture Company was the first movie company owned and controlled by black filmmakers from 1915-1923.

Oscar Micheaux is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, a prominent producer of race film, and has been described as the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century.

Remember that when Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar in 1939 for her role in Gone With the Wind, she could not sit at the table with her fellow cast members and she had to deliver her acceptance speech in a separate room away from the main event because the hotel had a strict “no-blacks policy.”   And McDaniel’s role as a domestic in Gone With the Wind contributed to the limitations placed on roles that were offered to Blacks. McDaniels played a maid at least 74 times over her career.

 

The Takeaway

Create your own definition of success.  Explore your options and be undeterred by an institution called Hollywood that was not designed for your benefit. To paraphrase the late Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, never let a statue tell you how nice you are.