Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari have made millions selling their own stand-up specials online thanks to their fame, but the average filmmaker struggles to find an audience without a big name to push the project.
Enter Yekra, a new digital distribution platform that connects filmmakers with partners that can deliver millions of fans who will buy or rent a movie. It just raised $3 million in financing through a Series A round led by Las Vegas angel investor Maurice Gallagher, UK-based Bray Capital and angels Shay O'Brien and Michael Rogers.
A filmmaker or studio can partner with select websites, blogs or outlets on distribution, and spread their film using Yekra's own video player. Fans can rent the film, buy it digitally or buy a DVD.
Take "Tattoo Nation," a documentary about modern tattoo artists, and the next film that Yekra will help distribute.
Producer John Corry chose to work with Yekra because of the potential to connect with tattoo fanatics through affiliates like Tattoo.com that have massive followings on Facebook.
When "Tattoo Nation" launches on Thursday, Yekra's video player will be embedded on Facebook pages of Corry's partners, and will then spread to other affiliates. Yekra holds the exclusive digital rights, but places like Amazon will still be able to sell the DVD.
"Other options out there allow you to put a film on a website and you can charge people to see it. That's all well and good, but the idea that you can pass around a player like you would a photograph, that was an eye opener," Corry told TheWrap.
"Not only was tattoo an untapped market but the market was sizably larger than anything I've ever seen before. There were communities out there with 1, 2 and 4 million fans. So I have my audience already."
A plethora of different companies, such as Chill and Vimeo, have entered the digital distribution game promising filmmakers an outlet to distribute their films and a heftier cut of sales than they would get from a studio. Chill launched with the rights to several projects while Vimeo just closed a deal for its first movie, Neil LaBute's "Some Girl(s)."
Yekra is similar to those in that it permits filmmakers to choose how much they want it to cost and how long it is available. Yet Yekra differs in that its platform is built around the player. While Chill and Vimeo have transformed into online stores, Yekra tries to make a film available in as many different places a possible.
The company launched in beta in 2011 for the distribution of "Thrive: What On Earth Will It Take?" and has since distributed "Sirius," which made $250,000 in its first 48 hours. The company must continue to build out its library of titles, but president Lee Waterworth emphasized its success it not dependent on a massive library but on the success of each film.
"We're not meant to be a destination but a network for distrbutors, rights holders and producers to build audience," Waterworth told TheWrap. "Filmmakers can reach viewers by genre and by interest and it's about going straight to audiences who care about the product the most. It's got exponential audience scaleability."