Hoodox Is Betting Hoosiers Will “Buy Local” For Streaming

A group of local filmmakers, film enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs is bringing something new to the crowded streaming market this week: Hoodox, a new service dedicated solely to content from Indiana filmmakers. The platform, with support from local film organizations including Heartland Film and Indy Film Fest, will offer documentaries, short films, podcasts, and other content geared toward all things Indiana.

The platform currently boasts over thirty Indiana titles, but it will accept submissions for new content on the website. Its films — mostly documentaries — will vary widely in content, tackling topics from sports to history to the arts and humanities.

Hoodox’s innovation is in its business model: it offers either a $10/month or $100/year subscription, wagering that Hoosiers will pay a premium for content focused on their community. They’re also offering three levels of founding memberships, ranging from $50 to $1000. Depending on their level of commitment, members can earn swag like t-shirts, recognition on the website, and a discount on their subscription.

A large portion of the money paid to Hoodox by subscribers will go to supporting local filmmakers. Hoodox will pay for the licensing of the films from Indy filmmakers.

Films available at launch include Larry from Gary, a documentary about a dance teacher and his students persisting after their school’s closure, and Black Unscripted, a look at the harmful effects of racial stereotypes, among others that can be viewed here.

Rocky Walls, Hoodox’s executive director, says the idea came to him during the pandemic: as beloved local restaurants closed their doors en masse, the importance of supporting the local community became all too obvious. Walls applied the idea to the arts, building a platform for those who want to support their local filmmakers.

Walls eventually brought on local industry partners including Heartland Film, Indy Film Fest, Film Indy, and Kan-Kan Cinema. He says there are plenty of great filmmakers in the Indy area, but it can be difficult for their work to break into major streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime. 

“Somebody could find a really incredible story in Indiana and create a documentary about it, but a huge portion of the people who would really benefit from seeing it are never going to know that it even exists,” Walls says.

Even when they do find their way onto larger platforms, less-traditional films hosted there might never reach their intended audience.

“A lot of what we’ve put on Hoodox are short films, they’re ten minutes long, fifteen minutes long, and they don’t really probably belong on Netflix,” Walls says. “They belong somewhere here in Indiana, where a lot of people locally can watch them and enjoy them and understand them in the context of being a Hoosier.”

Walls says he understands that Hoosiers aren’t likely going to subscribe because of what a great deal they’re getting. Hoodox is courting an audience they believe is passionate about supporting local filmmakers and their work—call it “buy local” for documentary film.

Greg Sorvig, the artistic director for Heartland Film, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit arts organization holding film festivals in Indy, is a member of the Hoodox board of directors. He described how Hoodox will be another piece of the ongoing effort to put Indiana on the filmmaking map.

“Usually, when people talk about filmmaking in Indiana, it’s [about] what we don’t have,” Sorvig says. “But I think Rocky has proven, along with the partners at Hoodox and the board of directors, that there is a lot to showcase here within the state of Indiana too.”