This is a continuation of wrap-up notes from the mega-panel known as “Is There a Doctor in the House?” It was moderated by Eugene Hernandez, indieWIRE Editor-in-Chief; and Peter Broderick, head of Paradigm Consulting and sage in the new distribution landscape. You can find Take 1 here. In a radical panel format there were four rotating groups of industry experts, filmmakers, and strategists exploring concrete visions and case studies of the new distribution paradigm. The second group included Andy Bohn, Matt Dentler of Cinetic, Jon Fougner of Facebook, Sarah Pollock of YouTube and filmmaker Lance Weiler.
YouTube Rentals of Sundance 2009 and 2010 Favorites
Pollock: YouTube is always about transparency. You can go up right now and see the number of views that are there. Looking at the numbers so far over the weekend it looks like each film was rented 200-300 times. For us this is all brand new so trying to figure out what’s successful on this platform will take a little time for us. My feeling is that there are so many films that go unseen this year which is why we decided to launch this initiative. Filmmakers who are willing to jump into this experiment with us is fantastic. Every person who could see the film on YouTube who couldn’t see it here at Sundance or anywhere else is a step in the right direction.
NEXT Films Not Involved with the YouTube Rental Program
Pollock: We went into this with not too many expectations since this is so new. All the filmmakers were excited to do it, but once they talked to a sales agent they came back and said “I really want to do this, but my sales agent said we should explore other opportunities.” To each his own, every person has the right to see what works for their film. I would never try to say this is the new answer and this is the only thing you should consider. I do think that is a easy and accessible way for any filmmaker to find their audience. In working with us the filmmaker can set their own price, can set their rental window, it’s totally non-exclusive and we don’t require that they work with an aggregator so it’s something any filmmaker can do.
Dentler: We don’t try to shoot any film in it’s foot. We were part of a film called Barking Water that was in Sundance last year. That was a situation where their expectations were “let’s see what the traditional opportunities are before looking at digital opportunities.” We ended up doing nothing with the film since Richard Lorber acquired the film. That was fine because that was what their expectations were, that’s what their needs were. One film in particular that we have on VOD now is called Collapse. The director Chris Smith didn’t quite know what to do with the film. After speaking to a few possible buyers he decided to do a day and date release of the film in theatres and VOD. Chris saw what we saw in the opportunity, and that was harnessing the critical acclaim the film was getting at the Toronto Film Festival. Chris said it himself: “If it’s a choice between putting it on VOD right after Toronto or waiting to see if it gets into Sundance or some other film festival six months from now, I would go the VOD route.” He had to pay for the theatrical release himself, but he’ll get money from VOD and on top of that he’ll get home video revenue and on top of that a separate digital revenue stream. So to be able to chop up the film in that many streams is great.
Film on Facebook
Fougner: The most creativity and enthusiasm we’ve seen with the Facebook Fan Pages product is from filmmakers. Some good tactics in using our Pages product is firstly creating one for free and being sure to give it a vanity url like facebook.com/yourfilm which makes it easy to promote. Secondly is creating a community. “If you build it and they will come” is not true, there’s a bit of work involved in that. Thirdly is budgeting for Facebook advertising to drive viral messaging to targeted users. There was a project two months ago called “Mass Animation.” Their goal was to create an Academy Award level animated made only with user generated content. They created a Facebook Page and created Facebook ads that targeted users who had the word “animation” in their profiles. From that they got 45k Facebook Fans and 2k of those fans were animators. Those animators, who were not being paid, submitted 15k shots of the different shots involved in this 5 minute short. All of those shots were voted on by Facebook users. What came of that was the short was attached to Sony’s animated feature Planet 51 which came out in November.
The Currency of the Future
Weiler: First and foremost what’s most important is having control of the data. That’s the currency of the future. I’m very interested in data portability and transparency. It’s very important when you’re gonna play something on a third party network that there’s some way you mirror that activity, that there’s some way to get that data. I’d like to collect info on who my audience is in more thorough ways. The new project I’m working on is a small app that’s one feature of a larger game. People can opt-in and within two weeks we had 8k people who opted-in. The value I got from the app is GPS coordinates and where they were, their email address, phone number, the amount of time they spent on it, the phone they were using and the OS of that phone. That in itself is incredibly valuable. On a lot of platforms that’s an important currency. Right now there’s a lack of infrastructure. There’s all these different platforms that are islands. What needs to be built is what connects them. The thing I keep seeing is that we’re re-designing the wheel over and over again. 12 years ago I was sitting in the same seat talking about the same things. We day and dated our film 12 years ago. Unless we look forward and say “where is the currency?” our content will keep dropping in value since we can’t provide consistent information.