On Demand Summit: Grenier Says Day-And-Date Key For Docs

Director/Producer Says Platform Affords Documentarians Fiscal, Creative Options
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New York -- Adrian Grenier was in the house at the On Demand Summit here Wednesday, but he wasn’t talking about entourages, other than in the context of the prospective audiences that can be reached via the platform.

Grenier, perhaps best known for his role as Vinny Chase, the acting star at the center of the circle of friends in HBO’s Hollywood buddy series, Entourage, discussed  the influence of on-demand  platform on How to Make Money Selling Drugs, the film written and directed by his longtime collaborator and friend Matthew Cooke. Tribeca Film acquired the U.S. rights to How to Make Money Selling Drugs -- which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival last year as an examination of how street dealers can rise through the ranks, while exposing the “war on drugs" -- and will flank its theatrical release on June 18 with an on-demand platform debut across the U.S.

The film, which unfolds from the perspective of former drug dealers, while featuring interviews with hip hop moguls 50 Cent, Rick Ross, Freeway and Russell Simmons, as well as rights advocates Susan Sarandon and Woody Harrelson, will then become accessible on other platforms five days later.

Speaking with B&C executive editor Dade Hayes, Grenier, who heads Reckless Productions, said that with the on-demand platform documentaries have a way to reach a younger, bolder audience where they are.  He said that "young people are at the forefront of technology," and many are not inclined to see the film at the theater out of the gate. “They will only see it on demand, see it where and when they want it,” he said.

Grenier said the exposure afforded by on-demand platforms is beneficial to him as independent because it allows him to say what he wants to an audience directly through film without “the distraction of [studio] marketing campaigns and bottom line. The technology allows me to do that.” 

Asked by an audience member if he would produce and/or star in a series that only would be distributed on-demand, Grenier quickly replied “absolutely,” and then queried “Are you paying?” He said that regardless of distribution point, it takes a certain amount of money to produce quality projects.

Grenier emphasized that on-demand platform is providing documentarians with greater opportunities. “Documentary filmmakers in many ways have a thankless job” because without major theatrical releases, there isn't a way to see immediate fiscal return, until the DVD is released. He noted the growing relationship between documentaries and day-and-date window on-demand platform will “break the mold.”

Looking out two to four years, Grenier believes a big studio film will have a day-and-date, on-demand release. "They will follow suit, see how successful we are," he said with a laugh. "We invite them to follow us into the wild, wild west. We're betting on ourselves, betting on Tribeca" and on-demand to "prove a new model."