Fans of Joss Whedon got pleasant news this morning—his film In Your Eyes, an indie effort he wrote which was directed by Brin Hill, can be watched today for the low low price of five dollars on Vimeo. After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Zoe Kazan/Michael Stahl-David "paranormal romance" is skipping the whole slog of finding theatrical distribution to self-distribute online. This is, of course, prompting some renewed chatter about how indie movies are marketing themselves in the internet era.
Who knows how well In Your Eyes will do, and its reviews are mixed, but it has something going for it that most of its Tribeca brethren do not—Joss Whedon's name. Many of his loyal fans will certainly check the film out and give it a healthy little internet box office bump. It may even made its $1 million back. But it's worth noting that several other Tribeca films are similarly being released on demand today, and we will never be hearing from then again.
Those films are The Bachelor Weekend, Bright Days Ahead, and Beneath the Harvest Sky, and they are just a few of a whole slew of indie and foreign releases that get fired into the VOD wilderness. This is not to say that such films really would have a better shot in a world without internet releases. Sure, you can be out in the ether, but it's that rare unknown indie, especially ones that lack stars, that actually catches fire on iTunes.
Even with all that said, a lot of articles about the release of In Your Eyes seem to think Whedon's done this kind of thing before. But Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a triumphant bit of indie TV made during the 2007-2008 writer's strike, premiered on Hulu and was supported by advertising. In Your Eyes can be rented on Vimeo and is following the typical rollout for all these VOD releases, except it gets written up in USA Today because the director of The Avengers was involved.
Even Whedon's footprint might not be enough to drag In Your Eyes across the finish line financially. But whatever happens, much like the Kickstarted success of films with built-in fanbases like Veronica Mars and Zach Braff's Garden State 2: The Re-Gardening, should be viewed as an anomaly. "From the get-go, we always wanted to do something different with it. We said, ‘Screw it — we made it for the audience, and we're taking it straight to them,'" the film's producer Michael Roiff told The Wrap. That's exactly why this model is so frustrating: films made for a waiting audience can exploit it, but what about the films that are trying to find one?