Increasingly, Netflix is the most important DVD distribution channel for ultra-low budget filmmakers (excluding -- if you put in the hard work -- your own website, a merch table at your screenings and perhaps, Amazon.com).
In the DVD rental world, Netflix is increasingly seen as the dominant force, at least until DVDs are dead. And Netflix is already positioning to rule that brave new "Watch Now" world as well.
So when your DVD is finally released, you'll be anxiously waiting to see the Netflix order come to you or your distributor. But what's more depressing than hearing that Netflix has purchased only a hundred copies of your DVD, or even just a dozen? Sadly, this is all too common for small indie and DIY films.
Understandably, you'll demand they buy more DVDs. It's a natural human reaction. Who do they think they are? Everyone feels that way. I'm sure James Cameron thought Netflix should have bought more Avatar DVDs.
Now we know how to make it happen.
At a recent Sundance Institute guru-fest, Netflix execs revealed how to get Netflix to order more DVDs. It's pretty simple: have all your friends and fans put the film in their Netflix queue.
As more people save the film in their Netflix queue, the more DVDs Netflix will order to keep up with demand. And this helps Netflix recommend the film to others, thus providing you with free advertising on Netflix:
When enough people save a title, Netflix buys and puts into circulation an appropriate number of copies, and as more people watch the film it gains traction on the “You Might Also Like” sections.
That's all well and good, but even pure-hearted, ethical DIY filmmakers might wonder (purely academically, of course): can you game Netflix?
Can you orchestrate a campaign to get Netflix to order more DVDs from you?
The answer might be yes.
Here's a mind game for you -- pure speculation based on what the Netflix execs revealed to the Indiewood greybeards at the Sundance summit.
What happens if you get people (a lot of them) to put your film in their queue and always keep it in their top ten next DVDs? Of course, this would be after each getting the DVD from Netflix and watching it once or thrice -- and rating it at five stars too, just for good measure.
If this was done as a sustained campaign by an army of dedicated zealot fans (I'm talking to you Iron Sky and Arin Crumley and yes, you too Cory McAbee...and if we're lucky In-World War someday soon), I'm willing to bet it would move the needle and result in more DVDs ordered.
The downside: Netflix may not look too kindly on such hacking -- excuse me -- creative marketing efforts. They might see through the manufactured demand and not place the order at all. Or, they might take punitive action and remove your film from Netflix entirely as punishment. And as an example to others to discourage similar behavior.
Naw, they'd never do that. Right? Right?
Who's got the chutzpah to test the theory?
Let us know how it goes in the comments.
Read the whole press release about the Sundance event, direct from the source: Sundance Institute: A new world order