Distribution: A Freedom That Takes Work

    I’m starting to get excited as the deadline I’ve given Kenji’s distributor approaches. Here’s why:

    ALGORITHM’s distribution has been delayed for way too long! I was supposed to get the DVD/Blu-rays out around April—that’s yet to happen. 

    There’s something that’s almost as important to me as the delivery date and it’s a matter of conscience. The financier/distributor is an executive at Walmart and I really don’t like the way Walmart does business. I don’t like the way they come into a town and undercut all the competition. I get that low prices are a natural part of capitalism (I don’t like capitalism either, but I’m not going to go into that here) but their size gives them an unfair advantage and almost represent a monopoly on a way of doing business.

    If those issues weren’t enough, they don’t pay their employees a living wage, causing many of their employees to qualify for food stamps.

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    I have to pause this entry here because I really need to be working on outlining the basic physics of Beta. I’ll be back later.

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    It’s later. I’ve outlined the physics of Beta. I wrote a series bible outline which I’ll be sharing with my collaborators when we meet soon. Now, it’s time to get more into where ALGORITHM is at.

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    Yesterday another distributor contacted Mandi asking about ALGORITHM. She forwarded the email to me and I did a few minutes’ research and said no. I might have said yes if I’d heard of the distributor, but I hadn’t. And again, I’m starting to really feel the need for urgency so unless something amazing happens, I’ll be doing the distribution myself.

    The cool thing about having to do the distribution myself is that I pretty much figured out everything it’s going to take before Kenji expressed interest. Now it’s just a matter of doing it all.

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    A few months ago I switched my web hosting company from Squarespace to Dreamhost. However, Dreamhost is slow. They had me on a shared server, which meant that the response was slow. It also meant that if I generated anywhere near the amount of traffic I got on ALGORITHM’s sneak preview day, the server would crash.

    I can’t let that happen.

    The other really crumby part about my Dreamhost setup was that I hadn’t purchased an certificate for a public key, which is required for my site to enable encryption (ssh, ftps, https, etc.). If I couldn’t have https, I would never attempt to sell anything online.

    Further, running Wordpress, which basically amounts to the least secure server software, and asking people to fill in personal information…? 

    Yeah. That’s not something I’m gonna be doing.

    Self-distributing means selling from my site. That means I need encryption. Yesterday I switched my site back to Squarespace. It’s prettier. It’s faster. It’s on a stable server that I can’t crash. And it allows for encryption!

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    I want to sell 3 pieces of ALGORITHM from my site: a digital download; the DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack (which will technically be sold by Amazon (I’ll get more into that in a minute)); and the soundtrack.

    Squarespace has a maximum upload size of 250MB. Since the most compression I can accept applying to ALGORITHM before the colors start to break down still leaves me with a file over 4GB, Squarespace can’t host it.

    It turns out, a lot of pretty big companies are using Dropbox as a file hosting service. The companies sell access to the Dropbox file link, which is protected by a password. That’s what I’ll be doing for the digital downloads.

    It should do everything I want to do and it should only cost about $40 a month, which is pretty amazing, considering what it allows me to do.

    Amazon.com has a service they provide called Fulfillment By Amazon. This service has me press the combo-packs and then ship boxes to Amazon’s warehouses as needed. They take care of shipping, including all the hassle that is involved in shipping things internationally.

    Fulfillment by Amazon also puts my combo-pack on their site. I don’t know how their recommendation engine works, but any cross-pollination that happens is a good thing.

    Another cool part about Fulfillment By Amazon is that I can embed the sales side into my site. That means people don’t even have to go to Amazon.com to buy the combo-packs. They can buy it straight from my site.

    I’m really excited about all the things I’m putting into the combo-pack. It’s going to be a dual-sided DVD. Once side of the DVD will be NTSC, the other will be PAL. Neither will involve restrictive region encoding.

    Included in the pack will be a Blu-Ray disc, also without restrictive region encoding.

    The goal of this is so that people will keep one version and give the other one to a friend. At least one of the discs will work in any disc player, anywhere in the world. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, but it’s something that’s pretty awesome. Since I never licensed ALGORITHM to any regional distribution, I can distribute it any way I want, anywhere I want, at any price I want.

    On every version of the disc, there will be every language subtitle I currently have on Youtube, as of the most recent pressing. They will have the behind-the-scenes footage Serafina shot and edited. They will also have 2 commentaries, a writer’s commentary, and a director’s commentary. There will also be a 2nd ancillary video that explains the various easter eggs I put in the movie.

    The only downside is that I’m having trouble figuring out how much everything costs. To be safe, I’m going to set the starting price at $19.99. If it turns out I’m making more than 2x what it costs me, I’ll drop the price until it gets to 2x. 2x allows me to order 2x as many disc with each successive pressing. When I reach 10k combo-packs/pressing, I’ll stop doubling and start distributing the money to the cast & crew.

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    The real beauty of the structure of my setup is that almost the entire process is automated on my end. That means all I have to do is set it up and occasionally order another pressing and ship Amazon the next box(es).

    That gives me the time and freedom to work on Beta.