Withoutabox Shutting Down Operations October 30, 2019

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Withoutabox Is Shutting Down?

Withoutabox has released a notice that they will be discontinuing their submissions service in October of 2019.  The exact notice reads as follows:

 "After more than 10 years operating the Withoutabox film festival submission service, we have decided to phase out the service over the next year. We are working with current film festival customers to fulfill Withoutabox’s commitments through October 30, 2019 and are working with filmmakers to ensure their submissions are properly processed during this transition. We are grateful to all the filmmakers who have shared their stories through Withoutabox and the film festivals who have discovered talented artists around the world using our service. Additional details can be found on our help pages.

 

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Withoutabox Is Going Out Of Business?

It's hard to believe it, but it's true. We started using Withoutabox back in 2008 for the Houston Comedy Film Festival. I remember back then, that we had to pay a setup fee, a deposit and a higher commission on our submissions and we were forced to buy a mandatory marketing package. It was a significant investment at the time. We held a fun event and received really outstanding submissions through Withoutabox. At the time,  they dominated the Film Festival Submission business. Over the years, more competitors popped up and Withoutabox lowered their commission rates, marketing requirements and eliminated the setup fees. I guess it took a toll on their overall profits and they couldn't make the adjustment.  It's hard to believe that a company owned by Amazon would be having money problems, but I guess they just couldn't make the adjustments necessary to stay competitive in the market.

 

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Did FilmFreeway Destroy Withoutabox?

In many ways, the competition from FilmFreeway had to be hard for Withoutabox to handle, but we are still getting great submissions every day from both portals. Out of our 12 partner film festival events, Withoutabox made up about 25% of our submissions in 2018. Down from 40% in 2017. The Oregon Short Film Festival actually gets about 60% of it's submissions from Withoutabox for some reason. Especially the drama category. The Portland Comedy Film Festival, Houston Comedy Film Festival and Austin Comedy Short Film Festival get many more submissions on FilmFreeway by far. Part of this, is because of FilmFreeway's Top 100 rating system, which ranks Film Festivals in a way that Withoutabox never did. New filmmakers and screenwriters are always asking the question, "What are the best film festivals in my area?" Or "What are the best comedy film festivals in the world?" The rating system really helps give film festivals like ours, visibility.

 

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5 Things FilmFreeway Offers That Withoutabox Never Touched

Agility is a key business term, when people talk about a company's ability to adjust to the market. There are 5 key things that FilmFreeway embraced that Withoutabox never offered, and I truly never understood why.

  1. A Festival Rating System - When thousands of festivals exist, it's hard to tell which ones are good and which ones aren't. The rating system helps. Having an opinion from other festivals about your festival can really help eliminate some of the festivals that aren't run as well.
  2. Screenwriter Photos and Presskits - When one of our partner festivals accepts a screenplay or film, we post about each film on social media. Facebook (See the Oregon Scream Week Facebook Page), Twitter and Instagram are useful tools for us and we need pictures to post. As a screenwriter on Withoutabox, there is no way to upload a headshot, poster or artwork to represent a screenplay. We would spend hours, emailing screenwriters for materials on Withoutabox, which is something that is really easy to find on FilmFreeway, which gives all submissions the ability to add a photos free of charge.
  3. Film Festival Photos - On Withoutabox, only a small 105x66 pixel photo was allowed to represent your entire festival! As you can see, by viewing the Oregon Documentary Film Festival FilmFreeway page, they allow banner ads and plenty of photos to help market the festival. The internet is a competitive and visual place. Withoutabox really missed an opportunity here.
  4. Direct Filmmaker Email - FilmFreeway offers a system that allows Film Festivals to send filmmakers direct email. This is really useful for film festivals. Sometimes, we need to send out a few hundred emails to update our filmmakers about a change and when using a 3rd party email service, our delivery rates can be less than 50% sometimes. Communication becomes an issue when a festival trying to make "first contact" with a filmmaker. If you email one by one, your emails start going to the junk folder, which is never a good thing. FilmFreeway solves this problem, because filmmakers have already opted into their system, making it easy for festivals to use the FilmFreeway system to contact filmmakers.
  5. Festivals Offline Until The Event Date Has Passed. - This is a big problem and a massive money loser for Withoutabox in my opinion. I will explain what this means. When a festival notifies filmmakers about their decision on the notification date, Withoutabox would not allow the next season of the festival to be relisted until the event date passed. This would take some of our festivals offline for 45-60 days. FilmFreeway allows you to relist your festival for the new season any time you want. Therefore making it easier for festivals to start accepting new submissions, while simultaneously working on the upcoming event. This means that our partner festivals are only open for submissions for 10-10.5 months on Withoutabox vs 11.5 months on FilmFreeway. If we hold our festival twice per year, the difference is even more staggering. The Austin Comedy Short Film Festival was only open for submissions on Withoutabox last year for about 9 months vs FilmFreeways 11 month listing. Why would Amazon continue this rule, I'm not sure. But whether they realize it or not, it cost them a lot of money in the long run.

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About the author
Mikel Fair

Mikel Fair

Mikel Fair My name is Mikel Fair. I am the Director of Film Festival Circuit Inc. First of all, we are a company that manages film festival events in Texas and Oregon. Furthermore, we like to have fun and celebrate independent film. I worked for 15 years in the television and film production as a location sound mixer and production manager. I have also worked in post production as an editor, post sound mixer and composer. Above all, watching independent films and reading creative screenplays is my passion.

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