Vimeo Offers Toronto Films Direct Distribution

'The distribution landscape has been blown open'

If the ever-expanding range of movie-viewing options is enough to make your eyes water and your laptop billow smoke, spare a thought for the distributors having to compete with aggressively innovative video-on-demand channels. Vimeo, one of the newest players in the VOD space and an official Toronto Film Festival partner, is taking advantage of the festival to offer filmmakers the chance to skip the costly distribution process altogether.

While Empire's man on the ground, Damon Wise, wires back from the festival with first-look reports of The Fifth Estate and other Toronto premieres, we quizzed Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor on his plans to take over the world - or at least part of it - by offering the 150 films premiering at Toronto $10,000 to distribute exclusively via Vimeo On Demand, as well as a 90/10 profit split in favour of the filmmaker.

"It's an option for filmmakers to go direct to their audiences," Trainor explains. "We're making an open offer to all films premiering at the festival to receive an upfront payment for having the film come to us as its first digital window. We're also eager to learn how filmmakers start to use direct distribution."

Earlier in the year Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival launched its own video-on-demand service, and Toronto's move into the VOD space is likely to be followed by others, suggesting a brave new world where major film festivals become online events in their own right.

"The distribution landscape has been blown open," says Trainor. "Steven Spielberg recently went on record saying that the traditional model for theatrical distribution is changing under our feet. It's a pivotal time, and we're seeing the effects of technology coming to roost."

Vimeo is bullish about carving a niche for itself, particularly with indie filmmakers. Surely the Netflixes, Amazons, iTunes et al make that task all the harder? "It is a crowded marketplace," concedes Trainor, "but I think there is enough viewer demand, attention and revenue to go around for many different platforms."

The 2013 Toronto Internation Film Festival runs from September 5-15.