Where Internet and Film Collide - "Learn" - June 8, 2008
Where Internet and Film Collide
Internet Week NY
June 8, 2008
(AJ) Alex Johnson – Freelance Digital Strategist (formerly of Deep Focus)
(SWB) Saskia Wilson Brown – Current TV
(BC) Brendan Choisnet – Director, Cult of Sincerity (first film to have its world premiere on YouTube)
(TH) Ted Hope – Producer, This Is That Productions
(JB) Janet Brown – Cinetic Media
JB: How does the Internet affect the process and stages of filmmaking and the final product?
SWB: The Internet is changing the format because films are more accessible. A lot of content is adjusting to be quicker and faster paced.
JB: What are you seeing with the collaboration of advertisers and producers?
AJ: Product placement in the movies is matching a film personality with a brand. My interest is in the webisode world. There’s a lot of talk of people only watching short content online, but that’s not always the case. There’s been crossover from Myspace to television. For example, the series Quarterlife, which didn’t work well on TV. The filmmakers were quite frank about it. The models are changing. At Blip TV, they have an advertising model where you can opt into a 50/50 revenue share.
JB: What was the process of getting Cult of Sincerity onto YouTube?
BC: It was a little bit of luck. We entered a contest for the movie Juno. We had to follow certain criteria and had only six weeks to make a movie. Our film placed in the top 20. YouTube expanded their short format to allow the entire feature to be played. The prize was to meet with Fox Searchlight executives. YouTube was very frank that they couldn’t pay us, but they were open to allowing us to explore alternative distribution opportunities.
JB: How do you view the ability of the Internet to reach audiences?
TH: I am astounded by how slow change has come. The promise has been there for a long time. I had a conversation with our marketing staff about how we could use the Internet to build audiences. For Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we put up some hoax sites to expand the universe of what the film is offering unique, exclusive content. My son says a movie is just a DVD, but what about all this other stuff? We don’t even know how to describe all that yet. To me, that’s what a movie should be. It’s so slow. That’s why independent film is going through changes and an incredible paradigm mind shift.
AJ: Building an expanded universe around a film is incredibly important, and we’re not doing nearly enough. It’s about people spending time with a brand. Television is doing a good job with that. FOX did a promotion on Myspace where they updated character blogs every few days. DIY filmmaker Lance Weiler worked with Hammer Films on Beyond the Rave to create subliminal messages for an alternate reality game creating a social experience.
JB: How can you make money on the Web?
SWB: Current acquires content. It’s rare in the online filmmaker landscape, though YouTube is on our heels. We work mostly with documentary filmmakers. We tend to find them easily, but to keep them, we have to provide them with some asset like money. There are other new models coming forward, like sponsorships.
BC: We’re working with a partner site called AmieStreet.com, an online community for people who like music. You can sign up on their site and get $2 of free music and for $3, you get a download of our movie. They pay us for every person who engages with what they ask them to do.
JB: You have experience dealing with traditional film distribution models. The Internet is disrupting this flow. Is there an opportunity for filmmakers to take greater control of their work now?
TH: It’s evident that this business has been in complete chaos for a couple of years now. The whole model of investing in films seems to be over. Some of this parallels how the Internet has been slow to deliver. The promise to get niche films on computers or TVs has been slow. Traditional ways have completely withered. The problem with films on the Internet is people have short attention spans. As a producer now, you not only have to find a good cast, crew, and money, but you also have to build an audience.
SWB: We have total control of our audience, but it relies on doing a lot of work. We can go online and aggregate our audience.
BC: We emailed all our friends and made a list of bloggers to promote our films. It’s difficult. FOX Business was the one place we got any major media recognition.
AJ: We’re in this in between stage. In the music industry, there’s always been trusted word of mouth that’s not happening inside the film world. From Here to Awesome is an online film festival where filmmakers are a part of the distribution process.
SWB: The problem with film festival is there is a huge amount of content. From Here to Awesome creates a new model of distribution. At Current, the big thing is the concept of curration. That’s what From Here to Awesome is also doing.
AJ: We’ve got to the stage where filmmakers just have to be good marketers. There are so many tools out there for them to use such as TubeMogul.
TH: I was inspired by Four Eyed Monsters. They were able to organize screenings based on people who requested them on their website.
BC: The Internet has also made the filmmakers themselves more accessible.
JB: What are some of the changes on the Internet in the future that you look forward to happening?
SWB: Current is excited that television and the Internet are merging. We’re doing live judging of pods (short-format). I don’t know how this will work for long formats.
AJ: Ad sharing revenue models will be interesting.
TH: There’s going to be a complete and total revolution. Big media corporations will win and put an end to net neutrality. People will get pissed. I don’t think anyone is doing enough to stop this from happening.
BC: At the end of the day, there’s still story. I’m excited to continue to have new opportunities to tell stories.