Where Internet and Film Collide - "Watch" - June 5, 2008
IndieGoGo along with IFP and Filmmaker Magazine co-presented Where Internet and Film Collide, a program held in conjunction with Internet Week NY. The modus operandi of this presentation was “watch” and “learn.” The “watch” portion came in the form of a series of short films created for viewing on the Internet or mobile devices, at IFC Center on Thursday evening. And coming this Sunday will be the “learn” part when a panel discussion at Apple Store SoHo will explore online media's future trends and actions to take now.
(L to R: "The West Side" directors Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo & Zachary Leiberman, Filmmaker Magazine's Scott Macauley, "Drawn by Pain" director Jesse Cowal and IndieGoGo's Slava Rubin)
Slava Rubin, IndieGoGo founder, introduced Scott Macauley, Filmmaker Magazine editor-in-chief, who moderated the discussions with the filmmakers after each film, which started with Green Porno, a series of shorts that can be seen on SundanceChannel.com about the sexual behavior of insects directed by and starring Isabella Rossellini. The episodes shown were “Snail” and “Praying Mantis.” Sundance Channel’s Christopher Barry said Green Porno was conceived about a year ago when Sundance Channel was doing a series of 10 shorts called “The Art of Seduction.” He approached Rossellini about making a series of shorts for small devices with thee conditions—1) Keep them short; 2) Keep them green; 3) Make them stand out. Did they conceptualize these shorts to guarantee huge traffic because of the word “porno,” Macauley asked. Barry said Rossellini has always been a maverick and she wasn’t thinking of search engines. For her, sex was a natural element to explore, but she didn’t want it to be ridiculous, just funny. Within the first two weeks, there were approximately two million page views. Were there any unexpected avenues for distribution that came up, Macauley asked. Barry said the whole process has been an experiment, but their main strategy was to start on SundanceChannel.com, then syndicate out to other sites like YouTube. They even got a call from the Mobile World Congress to present the films to mobile operators in Barcelona. The challenge has been figuring out how to monetize and aggregate the films and attract dollars to make your next projects.
Next on the agenda was Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo’s and Zachary Leiberman’s Webby Award-winning The West Side, as an online episodic urban western. They saw an opportunity to make something on the Internet without spending a lot of money. Lieberman said they are big believers in keeping the serial on their own website and drawing traffic to it. They’ve seen a spike in viewership because of the Webby award, but they didn’t do any PR. It’s all been word of mouth. Bilsborrow-Koo said if you make something of quality, people will watch it.
A trailer for Jesse Cowal’s Drawn By Pain, another Webby winner, followed. Drawn By Pain is described as “a dramatic action packed 12-part series in a sea of comedic web content…(that) engages its audience by leading them through an episodic spiral into one woman’s search for salvation as her animated madness fights for her sanity in the real world.” Cowal said that for his first web series in 2003, YouTube didn’t exist, but since then technology has caught up. His goal is to make Drawn By Pain a branded entity on multiple viewing platforms. “You have to whore yourself out,” he said. “It’s a brutal universe, but what’s wonderful about it is that it’s very honest.” What are some steps or tactics to building audiences online, Rubin asked. Cowal offered this advice, “Just keep telling people till you’re blue in the face. Be passionate, be nice and establish partnerships.” By partnering with other websites, there’s a greater opportunity to be seen by their viewership.
The next filmmakers showcased were Jamie Stuart with NYFF45: Part Two (featuring Nicole Kidman from the Margot at the Wedding press conference) and 12.5 Second Later (shot in my neighborhood of Astoria, Queens), and Ari Kuschnir and Scott Thrift of M ss ng P eces (yes, that’s right, but in case you’re wondering, it sounds like “missing pieces”) who presented TED, and eight-minute short about TED, an “idea” conference in Monterey, Calif., and Reset, a series of shorts in development with Sundance Channel. Macauley asked Stuart what his creative process was for NYFF45: Part Two. Stuart said there really isn’t any preproduction done on his film festival videos. They are a combination of improvisation and editing. How did M ss ng P eces come about, Macauley asked Kuschnir and Thrift, who said they got together in film school in 1999. Around 2005, they found that traditional filmmaking didn’t make much sense anymore. They’ve since then made about 200 short films. Rubin pointed out that the three fellas’ films seemed to be grounded in reality and asked them if that was a conscious decision on their parts. Stuart said he has no interest in reality. His goal is to pervert reality in one way or another. Surrealism has been on his head a lot lately, but no intentionally. He never trusts people who tell him he’s developing a film language; it’s the form he’s messing with. Thrift noted that TED encompasses everything he and Kuschnir want to say in a film. The idea is to get that kind of commentary and weave a story from it.
Finally, Lance Weiler, director of the DIY cult phenomena The Last Broadcast and Head Trauma, presented an episode of Beyond the Rave, an online series from Britain’s well-loved Hammer Films, for which Weiler developed a an extensive game world. How was this developed for Myspace, Macauley asked. Weiler said the shorts were released episodically on Myspace by Hammer, and after they had seen his “Hope is Missing” alternate reality game (based on Head Trauma), brought him in to develop something similar for Beyond the Rave. He created a game world around the films. Each episode is layered with subliminal frames that contain clues to the game. Viewers, often in teams, play and pause the films to find the clues. The game created very high levels of engagement where people would spend anywhere from six to 20 hours a week playing. How do you know if your film is right for an engaged viewing experience, Rubin asked. Weiler replied that some of the best things that are happening right now come from the independent game world such as World Without Oil funded by ITVS. It all depends on the kind of conversation you want to have. Viewers want the ability to touch something and be a part of it. The film is one thing and all the stuff around it something to drive in revenue.
The conversation continues on Sunday at Apple Store SoHo, followed by a party later in the evening at Chinatown Brasserie.