How Indieflix CEO Scilla Andreen Re-Invented Film Distribution


We’ve written countless posts about studies which show the film industry is no where near an equal playing field for women as it is for men. Women are given less opportunity to be in positions of power, and we are under represented both in front of the camera and behind it. Stereotypes still exist and persist.

Thankfully there are some alternative routes into the business proving to be quite fruitful for women. Crowd-funding platforms and indie films have seen a larger percentage of women’s stories being made and brought to life on the big screen.

While there are more opportunities to make a film, what about getting it out to the masses? Sure you can use social media and word of mouth, or if you’re lucky, get a write-up in a big newspaper or magazine. But for those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of the film industry, distribution is seen as the hardest nut to crack, and it is essentially the gatekeeper between making your film a fan favorite, or having it shelved in obscurity.

Distribution costs a lot of money, and studios spare no expense with their blockbusters. But because of this the filmmaker is often the last person to ever get paid. It seems like a complete waste of time if you go about it in the traditional sense. But there is one woman who has literally turned the old, impenetrable film distribution method upside down, and has created a model that allows filmmakers to make “the lions share” of the money.

Scilla Andreen is the CEO of Indieflix, an online movie streaming service similar to Netflix where you pay a monthly fee ($5) to access their library of over 8000 titles. The Seattle-based power woman started the company in 2005 and is defying Hollywood standards left, right and center.

Scilla is a filmmaker by trade but started out studying Political Science at NYU. She fell in love with a director and dropped out in her sophomore year to start working in the entertainment industry as a stylist/costume designer. Fun fact, she has been nominated for an Emmy Award in costume design for her work on ‘The Wonder Years’.

During her years dressing actors, she started producing her own short films and going to film festivals. She realized this was her passion and discovered a common thread amongst her fellow filmmakers.

“No one had distribution, and those that did, didn’t make any money.”


Scilla eventually made her own feature film, and got distribution offers from 3 major Hollywood studios, one of which offered her a $100,000 advance. When you are an up-and-coming filmmaker that amount sounds like you’ve hit the jackpot. But it bugged her that in the contracts she was presented, the deliverables cost a lot of money, and the studio would own the film.

“My friends told me I was insane if I didn’t take the deal, but when I looked closer at the fine print, I saw that there was no cap on expenses to release the film. Which meant potentially I could technically owe money to the distributor, and never see a dime” she said.

It works a little like a record deal, in that a studio (or label) will give you an advance and pay for all the recording, producing, marketing and distribution costs, and once the product starts making money, you have to pay back all their costs first before you start earning anything.

In the end Scilla did not take the deal, and instead came up with a rough idea for a company that would change filmmakers lives.

“I started Indieflix with 36 titles, and today we have over 6000 titles with worldwide rights. We stream globally on Sony, Xbox and Roku. You can watch IndieFlix on any internet-connected device from anywhere in the world including China.

Initially filmmakers were reluctant to have their films be part of the Indieflix library. The internet was scary. Online distribution was new. Piracy was a big issue and not a lot of people in the world were watching films online.

But the world has changed. Today Indieflix streams globally and fans have access to award-winning, features, documentaries, web series, TV shows and short films from around the world. Indieflix has become a major player among streaming services.

“There is no licensing fee, minimum guarantee or ad revenue. We pay filmmakers for every minute watched. They get 30% of the gross monthly revenue,” says Scilla.

Today Indieflix costs $5 a month that’s slightly less than a large coffee at Starbucks, cheaper than Netflix, and way more cost effective than paying to view and stream one single documentary on another platform.

What Scilla has done is genius, because she has ensured filmmakers can make the optimum amount of money from their films, while still being able to pay her employees plus the cost of digitally encoding, uploading, storing, marketing, building apps and streaming films. It only turned into a pay-per-month subscription service in 2013 and has proved to be a very successful formula that often leaves those men in the boardrooms scratching their heads.


“Sometimes when I’m in meetings with Hollywood executives presenting my business model they act surprised. They ask me ‘who came up with the idea?’ and I say, ‘I did but they can’t seem to fathom that.”

This is coming from a woman who dropped out of college, who doesn’t have an MBA or a business background, but yet has cleverly navigated her way through the loopholes and gaping spaces in the industry to allow filmmakers to take back the industry.

Of course, Indieflix’s success is dependent on subscriber growth, and Scilla’s business-savvy, mind which is now razor sharp, she’s been doing this for a long time, has seen what works and what doesn’t. She’s clear on what needs to happen next.

Aside from streaming on your own device, Indieflix is available in over 350 public libraries around the world. If the success of Netflix and Amazon are anything to go by, where creators, filmmakers and production companies are flocking to create original content (think ‘Orange Is The New Black’ on Netflix and ‘Transparent’ on Amazon) Indieflix is set to do the same thing for independent filmmakers around the world.

We asked her whether the industry will change whereby crowd-funding and indie films aren’t the only path for women to break into the industry, and she had an awesome response.

“I have this theory that speaks to me from my fashion days: ‘from the street to the runway’ meaning it is the indie film world which will eventually dictate how Hollywood is going to change. It is the indie film that will evolve Hollywood.”


“Right now there are no barriers for women in the indie film world. It is a great place to make our mark then grow it from there,”

When you talk to Scilla you can’t help but vibe her strong and passionate energy, even on the phone! We got into the topic of sexism in the industry and barriers and although it is something she has faced (such as the boardroom meetings mentioned above) she doesn’t let it stop her or make her feel less valuable.

“Since I travel so much for work men in the industry often ask me who looks after my children? I am sure they don’t get asked the same question,” she says with a laugh.

“Pre-conceived gender roles are all about checking a box, but that shouldn’t be how we identify ourselves.”

In the same breath, Scilla believes it is a very necessary conversation to have because it is an opportunity to show someone something new. She applies the same principles and challenges of women’s empowerment to filmmaking.

“Women aren’t compensated fairly in the workplace. It is the same with filmmakers I have dedicated the last 8 years of my life to changing this.”

“What we created with Indieflix has now, with the help of technology and filmmakers around the world, become an entirely new eco-system in the film industry. Filmmakers are empowered to be their own gatekeepers.”

Aside from the titles Indieflix acquires for the general library, they have the IndieFlix Distribution Lab where they create original content which fit in line with what the company is all about: making movies that can change the world.


Three standout titles right now are Finding Kind, The Empowerment Project, and Living on One Dollar. Finding Kind is an anti-bullying documentary created by two girls Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul (married to ‘Breaking Bad’ actor Aaron Paul, who often uses his stage time to tell audiences about his wife’s non profit, Kind Campaign.) which tackles the issue of girl-on-girl bullying, featuring interviews from girls around the US sharing their stories.

For the past 4 years Molly and Lauren have been traveling around the United States speaking to school about bullying and screening their film Finding Kind. It has become a full time job for them, and they have also raised enough money (thanks to Aaron Paul’s promotion at the Breaking Bad finale live event in Hollywood in September 2013) to do a few tours where schools in lower socio-economic areas don’t have to pay.

The Empowerment Project, who we have been big supporters of since their Kickstarter campaign in 2013, are now embarking on a similar model to the Finding Kind team. Their film is aimed at women of all ages, and features a long list of trailblazing women from a range of different industries with the message that ordinary women can do extraordinary things and change the world.

The documentary features the first ever four-star general in the Navy, Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriweather, Vy Higgins an African American playwright who has the longest running musical off-Broadway, athlete Kacey Cleveland who is the first woman in inline skate across the US, a female brew master, a female architect and a slew of other women breaking barriers, with an emphasis on STEM careers.

Scilla says these films are unique in that they drive conversations in an inclusive way. They have realized the impact and longevity of their documentaries, so they launched the Indieflix Foundation to help underwrite school screening and to assist in creating materials to keep the conversation going for these films and a host of other projects that can make the world a better place.

What Scilla has created with Indieflix is not the only inspiring part of this story, because Scilla herself is a pretty amazing woman. We mentioned before how she applies the same principles of female empowerment to filmmaking, so we asked Scilla to share her wisdom and lessons she has learned.

“Everything you need you already have,” this is the mantra her Chinese grandmother used to say, which has stuck with her all these years.

“We are all extraordinary and we are all role models to someone so choose to be the very best version of yourself always. What we put out into the world, we get back.”

If only more people would recognize the extraordinary within them; the world would be a different place!” she says emphatically.

As for roadblocks in the industry, Scilla doesn’t view them the way most of us do. She sees them as signs giving direction and pointing the way to success.

“It’s like a road trip. When you focus on not having enough gas in the tank or maybe getting lost, you don’t enjoy the ride.”

One of the key things she believes in is community. When you come together with like-minded people, great things happen.

Scilla also gave up two words in her vocabulary: “can’t” and “try”.

“Can’t makes you sound like a helpless victim. Try is living in the void,” she says. “Doing is more present.” Try removing those words then brace yourself for the change in your life!


In all of our interviews we like to ask our subjects “what makes you a powerful woman?”

“I feel the most powerful when I have contributed to someone else’s success or victory.

When asked if she has any regrets, without hesitation she says “no”, but admits there are perhaps some things she would do differently.

“Because I didn’t have a degree or an MBA I gave up my power thinking everyone else was smarter than me. Thankfully I asked a lot of questions. It is our duty to ask questions and to get answers that make sense and then take action when it feels right.

Her story wouldn’t be the unique, powerful and impactful story it is had she followed traditional paths, and Indieflix would not exist had she not been pushed to find a way to fix something that has plagued filmmakers for decades.

The model of Indieflix, the types of films she takes on, and her life story all embody what Scilla Andreen’s message to the world is:

“All the misfits of the world, our time is now,” she says before adding one final piece of advice.

“And for God’s sake lets be there for each other!”



Visit Indieflix to become a subscriber and get a free two-week trial. Find out more about The Empowerment Project and Finding Kind and information on how to book a screening.


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