3530 St-Laurent boulevard,
Montréal (Québec) H2X 2V1
October 23, 2006
DAY THREE - PETER WINTONICK's DIGIMART BLOG
As we rounded the corner and headed into Day Three of Digimart, we are promised and delivered a deeper understanding of the nuts and bolts, nets and zolts of digital cinema distribution. The eye-opener is a solo piece de irresistible argument from Peter Buckingham of the UK Film Council, who brought a proper dash of British savoir faire to the stage. In so many ways, the Brits have advanced far along the Watchtower, much more than most. A strong public purpose, good State support, money to fund research and private caps and pounds to roll-out - many in their next media, film and broadcast industries seem to have their collective act together. Peter Buckingham is the Head of Distribution and Exhibition at the Council which encourages cinema-going audiences, films and infrastructures, through such proactive measures as its P&A Fund and the well-known Digital Screen Network. Peter has worked with FilmFour, Virgin and Oasis Cinemas and was responsible for the release of some great films, including, if you will allow me for a second, The Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles. Peter’s session proposed these questions: What catalysts are driving the revolution? What are the significant changes over the last year? What hurdles are the industry facing in the short and long term? Who is seizing the opportunities and leading the way?
Peter began by echoing Screen International’s Mike Gubbin’s opine from Day Two that Digimart was the place to be in the industries’ socialnet calendars. He referred to last year’s now legendary brainstorm session which took things well into the belles heures and slips du l’aube, the wee hours of the morning, so to speak, at Digimart05. In that all-nighter a tissue paper on a table laid out the schemata for the tensions and issues around the future of digital in the cinema. The napkin should be located and saved for the Digimart archives of the Future. As Peter’s presentation software booted up, I half expected to see the original doodles and squiggles. Instead we were all pleased to be offered a conceptual grid of understanding for what is really going on here in the land of Digital cinema distribution. I hope they can get a grab frame up here, but if you can visualize the points and quadrants of a compass, you can quickly see the continuums of low equipment cost versus high image quality is on one axis, and a crossline ranging from open audience access models to closed shop pirate free secure models in on the other axis. Now, you can begin to see the picture. Hollywood, in this case was on the right, and at the bottom. Perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come, to misquote Orson Welles.
With a few quick flicks of his magic mouse, Buckingham talks about regeneration, social cultural entrepreneurs and old and new business modes. One startling fact in the old model: of the 430 films put out into the UK’s cinemas last year, the top 10 films took in 35 percent of all the grosses while all the rest had to share 65 percent. Any future has to be brighter. With online plans coming hard and fast from everywhere, with a US major signing torrid deals with bit-torrents, with piracy still a titantical affair, with consumer programming on the rise, the real digital divide is not about the over-developed world versus the developing world, but it is the rift between those who are in the know, and those who don’t know. So get wise! Which is the real message of conferences like Digimart, where that kind of thinking about thinking is facilitated.
The next panel was a chance for others to respond, emote and promote different versions and visions for the digital cinema future. It was chaired by Cinematech’s Scott Kirsner, who’s written for Wired and many other pubs. It was his second time moderating at this Digimart, and as someone who helps organize conferences and panels around the world, I would say he was the perfect referee for the baseball match of a session which was to come. But in this particular case, the goal of the game was to hit digital pixels off a satellite hovering up there somewhere then to move through some lazercable onto a state of the digital arts projector back into our themepark onto the large display screen in a thing we once called a cinema, a drive-in or a theatre. Not so much as a game but a way of cinematic thinking so that many people can have a live, albeit illusionary collective experience. In other words digital cinemas.
In this friendly, competitive yet collegial game, Ira Deutchman, the CEO of Emerging Pictures was the first to step up to the plate. He responded by situating his innovative company right in the middle of Buckingham’s theoretical grid. The middle ground is the high ground in this new world. Ira is a vet, from Cinecom to Fine Line Features, this CEO who is also Chairman of the Independent Feature Project has long been a supporter of indie vision with more than a hundred films under his belt. Deutchman is also an Associate Prof at Columbia’s Grad Film School so was able to use the fine art of rebuttal, and his own Powerful points to illuminate some of Buckingham’s earlier visions. There is no black and white in this new world, he offered, but there are all kinds of solutions. His vision of digital cinema offers genuine flexibility of programming and a track record of success. He cites the recent rollout of Scorsese’s Dylan doc, No Direction Home. On Tuesday it was on a Screen, on Wednesday it went to DVD and on Friday it was broadcast on the U.S.’s Public Broadcasting Service and everyone still, made money. With the advent of digital distribution there is simply no excuse for distributors to justify the current economic model, he said. He sees hope for a new breed of distribs and programmers, where the role of the “curator” will be significant.
Next up to bat was the wonderful and affable Kees Ryninks, who works with CinemaNet Europe in Amsterdam, who stepped up see if he could get Ira from First to Second. Four years ago, the prolific feature doc producer started DocuZone, equipping ten Dutch cinemas with the best digi equipment Euros could buy, in order to show theatrical documentaries. Gotta love that. I caught some of those screenings. They were way ahead on the new doc wave. In 2004, the concept expanded under CinemaNet Europe, the digi distribution network for European artfilms. Kees is also the Head of Documentaries at The Netherlands Film Fund, which, if it is like Doc funds in other places I know, never have enough money, despite the fact that docs are the hottest film form in the world right now.
Sitting in the audience for the first two days, Kees mused, had made him feel for a moment that even the newest initiatives like digital cinema theatres were a bit like digital dinosaurs, when compared to the idealistic, superfresh, guerrilla innovations that the young filmmakers on earlier panels had visibly embodied. I really liked what he brought to the session with his case study of CinemaNet Europe and specifically, the Dutch examples. I get to experience them first-hand living in Amsterdam several months a year working for the greatest docfest in the world at IDFA. We’re going to launch a mini version of a digimart-like day there November 30th, strictly for new forms, new platforms and new ways of funding digital documentary. We’re calling it DocAgora.
CinemaNet Europe has five autonomous national organizations, which all bring ideas and coordination together under the support of MEDIA in Brussels. Each organization has their own business model. They can do pan euro releases of many docs every year, or release domestic fiction films in each country. The sky’s the limit. He outlined the various ways they are adding extra value at the exhibitor, distributor, producer and audience levels. The notion has reached its critical mass, to the point, Kees says, that we living it and have stopped talking about it. The figures, which I won’t cite here, seem to prove it. And we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that they’ve only had a technical problem in 2 out of thousands of screenings, which is less than I can say for my short-lived life as a projectionist. The real savings in all of the models cited during the day were those of the digital print fees as opposed to average print fees in the old dull order.
There’s lots of room for alternative content in this system, which is what I love, and you can get interactive even to the point of going live online with question and answer sessions with available filmmakers. You can even programme live opera for those who still love that ancient artform. Even films out of the back catalogue of opera films are popular enough to fill the room with mozart lovers – and make money. It’s about make cinemas back into centres for culture, where you can bring a date, watch a movie, have a coffee or a meal, all in one place. And then bike home along a canal.
One of the genius things I also like about it, is that is co-owned by theatres. distributor, investors and management, so everyone’s got a stake in it, as well as a stock in it. So there’s still room in a real room for the collective experience of watching moving pictures on big screens with lots of other people who you can hear laughing, crying or sniffling, enjoying those real sticky floors, big seats and popcorn.
At the wrap of the session Babe Ruth then came out of the dugout, but this time he’s not with the New York Yankees. He’s now from Brazil, a place so enlightened and wired that the great musician Gilberto Gil, is the Minister of Culture. In this new era, the next grand slam hitter, the new Babe Ruth of Digimart is channeled by Don Ranvaud, a sweet man whom I’ve know for years in his incarnation as a topnotch international producer and proselytizer in the feature world. The man is a walking library, speaking about seven languages, which has helped him survive the festival and market wars at Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and South America where I’ve watched him work. Since 2005, Ranvaud has headed International Relations with Rain Networks in Brazil. But in earlier lives, Don taught film in England, founded indie filmmag Framework, and freelanced for illustrious journals like Sight and Sound, the Cahiers du Cinema, and American Film. I could only wish. With Renee Goddard, he began the European SCRIPT Fund. As producer, Ranvaud has worked in several countries before they became the flavour du jour, like China (Farewell my Concubine) and Latin America (City of God, nominated for four Oscars in 2004). Recently, he was Fernando Meirelles’ Executive Producer on The Constant Gardener. As Buena Onda’s Chief Vision Officer, Ranvaud is devoted to empowering filmmakers. I would vote for him as a saintly ambassador for the newest Latin American cinema. If I believed in Saints, or voting.
A few years ago Ranvauld just about had it up to hear with the old ways of doing things, the lies and deceit-cheats, the general amoral disorder of business as usual and usual and usual. But instead of settling back in Italy or wherever, he wrote a challenging manifesto, which will, in time, come to be seen as the idea that tipped and tamed the wild ways of the distribution world. In much the same ways that Lars von Zentropa’s provocative Dogme 95 did for production. Don is now involved in the Rain Network. In his session, and in an hour long interview I had with him over lunch, and through their literature on the Rain web, there’s not many holes I can poke into this model, which is always a good sign from a romantic skeptic like me.
Like all great things in the technological world, its not about technology, but about the network, about building trust and audiences. It’s really about developing a true system of satellite delivered, safely encrypted films into the remotest corners of such vast countries as Brazil which is almost the size of Canada, but with far less penguins. It’s also about giving an advantage to locally produced film, and other media, made by a movement of makers who are emerging into a new world at home and abroad. They are reconverting long lost spaces back into cinemas, for heaven’s sake! When was the last time you heard about that happening? The cinemas are open for business, but also for niche, even educational screen uses all day. Local economies are thriving. Mayors love it. The key to it all is transparency. Everyone seems to benefit, Distributors book their own rates, exhibitors are given more choices, producers and investors get paid immediately. In a way, all the traditional old walls of the old silos where all the roles of all the varous players, and all the conventional definitions are being broken down. In the old world order the roles were fixed in stone.
Now, in a way, the new houses of ‘worship’ are the cinemas, true places for congregations to congregate. The idea is catching on other continents too. I think it would be perfect for Canada. My own long-neglected Maple Leaf Manifesto from the 1980’s, which sought to preserve Quebec and Canadian screen culture, now could be embodied in such a project. But for the moment, Don leaves us with an image for the future where cinema is ubiquitous, and in real space. Somewhere in California there is an Iranian American entrepreneur, who knows nothing about the lofty goals of lofty cinema, who is now showing big screen projections of specialized films in his California furniture showroom. People come into buy chairs and end up watching films. The longer they’re in the store, the more likely it is that they’ll buy the furniture, Maybe I show my next film from a lazybody chair in this guy’s store and sell people the dvdoc and the dowload key.
At any rate, the session’s match had ended. Everyone - the audience here, there and everywhere is now, it seems, a winner. Care for a chair?
Now, I must admit dear blogging readers, that I missed most of the panel after lunch, I had a soup with Dabble’s Lisa Rein and others, then ran down the street to pick up my accreditation for the Digimart’s “sister’ event, the Montreal Festival of New Cinema, which is pound for pound, year after year, the best fest in North America. Over my 30 years I have been to over 200 festivals, so my glowing assessment also includes great places like Sundance, Toronto and Vancouver. This year the Festival du Nouveau Cinema is in its 35th year, Its a jeweled gem jam mix mash of the feeling and content of the Rotterdam Festival, South by South West, and Berlin’s Forum. After lunch I had one of those horrible long distance conference calls where everyone at the other end of the call forgets you are there. It was with our Board of the Documentary Organization of Canada, a group I’ve seen grow from 7 filmmakers 20 years ago to 700 doc makers across the country. DOC initiated Hot Docs, another festival I love, and POV magazine for which I am the International editor.
Self serving messages aside, my next Digimart experience encapsulated ironically what was happening with some new media. Sitting outside in the lovely courtyard at Digimart’s host complex, the Ex-Centris, which in itself it a monument to all things independent, and half way through the remote confernce call, on my expensive by the minute mobile, my battery died. How techno of it. I couldn’t get to a landline, so I missed the rest of the board meeting. I would have been better off using the newest of the newest com tools,and now my fave – Skype. But missing the call was an all for the good object lesson because I was able to catch last part of the New Producer Business Models panel.
This featured Jason Kliot of HDNet who is a prominent producer based in New York film. Jason, Joana Vicente and Donny Deutsch, of Deutsch/Open City Films, develop quality independent features. With Vicente, Jason is also co-President of HDNet Films, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s new high-def prodco, which produces HD features and docs. For HDNet, Jason produced Alex Gibney’s highly successful moral tale, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, and Steven Soderbergh innovative, Bubble which burst all the norms with its instant crossmedia release strategies. South African producer Jeremy Nathan, who runs DV8 Films with Joel Chikapa Phiri, was the second part of the panel. Jeremy has produced an array of media, features, docs and dramas. His latest, SMS Sugar Man by Aryan Kaganof is a feature shot on cell phones. I myself have done a bit of work suporting young docmakers in South Africa, but never yet for cell phones, There’s always a firstime, though, even for old digidogs like me, and I know Africa is a hotbed of innovation just waiting to happen. In that effort, Jeremy is also working with SCRAWL (South African Scriptwriters Laboratory) to produce promise for the future.
We ended the formal part of our day with Asia. and more particularly China.
What are the trends and are they really leading to sustainable business models for the rest of the world to emulate?
Eric Priest let us into a whole new world of with a massive consumer base of 400 million mobile users, where mobilentertainment is big big BIG. A Resident Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, Eric is a Mandarin-speaking Asia expert on digital media, the Internet, and intellectual property issues. He also oversees the center’s digital media initiatives in China and such initiatives as Noank Media. In his extra-legal pre-law life he worked as a musician and music producer and as a creative consultant to Rock Records in Beijing. There are many ways mobile media is monetized, to use that horrible word. Mobile is seen as an extension of personality, with ring back tones, hold tones and mastertones all ringing in the yuan.
This is a world with 60 million, or was it billion? blogs. Once site he cited, moviv.com is the youtube of cell phone movies. Millions served. There are even government sponsored cell phone movie film festivals. The Back Dorm boys are a lipsynching, lipsmacking download dream, and hot, or at least for the weekend. The Song of Pig, an innocent online vid-ditty from a village girl which I actually knew about, was as you guessed it, an Ode to her favorite swine. It goes like this: “Pig you have two big ears, Pig you have a curly tail you cannot run without...” la la la la. Almost one billion people downloaded that. Dowload me. Monetize me.
Unusually, Eric skipped the usual contradictions and restrictions of doing business with such a closed net system, where US based new tech companies, transcorp search engines and others are so willingly complying with overly suspect government requirements. On the rosy side, the slightly wider opening of the gates of democratic, peaceful internet as a source of alternatives cannot be discounted. I’ve been to China several times, especially to meet the adventurous new visions and voices emerging in their documentary culture, and it is a place to be.
In the end Eric was reassuring, it’s not that they are that more innovative in Asia, He observed that many of the examples and case studies which had been brought forward at this year’s Digimart could meet the Asian initiatives interface to interface. In short it is already happening, every where, every ware, Digi this and digi that. Near and far, here and there. Hear and now, now and zen.
In the wrap-up, we got to recall instantaneously what wonderfilled wonders we’d all been through here in Montreal. A treat in the form of a video montage of everything we’d seen in three days bundled together in four minute made by young students from the University of Quebec at Montreal. Media is the new memory.
In closing remarks, Digimart’s Sheila de La Varende reminded us that the conference was able to uncover the evidence of a new kind of marketplace. One that is embraced and seized by indie filmmakers, producers, theorists, innovators and adventurous funders. The art of Discussion is at the heart of all change, she said, ideas are the seeds for the marketplace. She could hardly wait to see what effects would ripple out from our assembled group to the larger, real and virtual communities. She thanked the panelists and pioneers from all over the world for their inspiration and illuminating curiosity, and for creating a space with their generous socializing and networking where everyone felt welcome.
Of course, we all should thank her determined and dedicated team of permanent and voluntary workers who all helped Sheila keep it all working naturally. She and they deserve a round of drinks. What I do know she regretted not saying publicly in the emotional closing, though had said many times in her heart, was that a great round of appreciation was due to Digimart’s hardworking co-programmers Peter Broderick and Liz Rosenthal. Although they had been invited up to add a final word and modestly declined, I would not be out of order to say to them on behalf of everyone present, that a good part of Digimart’s success was also due to their absolutely stimulating programming, structuring of panels, choice of guests and months of detailed programming research.
Coupled with active interest from visionary founders like Daniel Langlois, the Digmart conversation will continue to flow and grow throughout the year.
Now, normally, after such an exhauting conference, I would’ve gone home, which is actually just a few blocks away, to sort out all those business cards. But instead, a group of Digimarters who I now call DigiSmarters all ended up having a nice meal in the Melies and then heading off to the opening film for the New Cinema Festival, Congorama. It’s a marvellous, moving and fantastic Quebecois film, co-produced with Belgium. It’s about art, family, memory, appropriation of ideas, the electric car all wrapped with a beautiful sense of cinemagic realism evoking the best of the new Mexican and Latin Cinemartists. Congorama had some success at Cannes and I wish it well everywhere. At the opening party for the festival which was the closing party for Digimart, I had a great filmfan moment when fest director Claude Chamberlan introduced me to experimental film master and pioneer Kenneth Anger, who is the subject of a new doc, Anger Me, at the festival. Meeting Kenneth Anger for me, for those who know film history, is like meeting a Chaplin, or a Welles, or Cocteau, in terms of his impact on the language of experimental visual form, which is what we are all talking about now. In a gush of fandom, I brushed Mr. Anger’s arm spilling my beer. Thinking I had just made a fool of myself, it was just the opposite. We had a nice conversation which ironically gave what we had all been talking about at Digimart some real perspective. Anger is angry that someone had taken his films, without his permisison, and put them up on YouTube, without attribution. The father of experimental film, who doesn’t own a cell phone, nor do e-mail, was almost speechless. I was too. One day artists will be respected, within and without the digital domain. One day self-sufficient artists will make a fair living, instead of having other people live off their work. But then again, some would argue, one day, giving away your art, or your software, or your search engines, or you music or your movies for free, may, in the end, lead to better, more egalitarian and living economies for everyone, in my digitopia.
Stay tuned in.
October 18, 2006
DAY TWO - PETER WINTONICK's DIGIMART BLOG
Day Two of this global summit on digital distribution got off to an early start gulping down two cups of coffee and talking to producer Sylvie van Brabant about a proposed green code that film and media companies, producers and makers can adopt to make simple little changes in their own office practices and production processes while their out there trying to change the world. Just those little things which might make them a little more environmentally and ecological and economically friendly. I always love experiencing the arc of ideas that happen across a festival or a market, which you can only experience if you are able to be there, in the flesh to witness it. So, far it has been very stimulating for my old brain and bones. The main thematic Digimart programmers Liz and Peter were serving up today was distribution.
In the first session, On Demand - Anytime, Anywhere, Anyplace, the UK’s Mike Gubbins from Screen International summarized what we’d all experienced yesterday, the considerations of customer demand and democracy, adding to our understanding by talking about the digital divide. Mike is a first-rate writer, thinker and journalist. He declared that Digimart is now the most important of all such digital and technology events in the world because it offers up a thinker’s churn of ideas and next trends.
He took us on a global virtual airline, with whistle-stop looks at the development of on-demand film and video services and markets around the world. From Eastern Europe to the exciting VOD revolution now emerging from China, Korea and the New Asia, which he insists everyone should REALLY pay attention to, to India where technology has jumped generations Mike ended his paraglider flight in pan-national Africa which is here and now, in reality, already mobile. He asked us to consider how VOD relates to our own work as indies and as members of national film and media cultures. How ready are nations and regions for rapid development of such services? On demand is not about the nation state, it is a challenge to the nation, as the walled-marts, telecoms, apples, microsofts etc., of the transcorp world catch onto the notion.
In the Contagious Media presentation Buzzfeed’s Johah Peretti outlined his experimental adventures in netroots, (which is what I term grass-roots networking) bottom-fed marketing. He began with his own story of trying to get Nike to make him a pair of shoes with the word ‘sweatshop’ emblazoned on them. The ensuing viral email brouhaha phenom brought him to consider how to reach the ‘bored at work’ movement, who are the real engines of the instant world of instant fame. Other iterations he cited were their New York City Rejection Line and FundRace.org.
Sometimes, it might seem like magic, he cautioned, but for every viral success story hundreds of others fail. People are wary of what he called payload or secondary heavy messages, and he outlined concepts like survivor bias, stickiness, and the rise and crash nature of viral. Don’t just rely on it; mix it with traditional, he suggests. Update your content, offer social tools, offer quality to keep people there for the long term. This philosophic entrepreneur (or is he an enterprising philosopher?) posed questions about the future which might include services good at layering and emulating social webspaces, while at the same time learning how to control one’s own work
After a nice lunch in the Ex-Centris Cafe Melies, named for the first true film artist, Scott Kirsner chaired the afternoon session on how to both engage the online world, attract audiences and make money. The thinker blogger of cinematech.blogspot.com is one of the founders of the annual Nantucket Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation (www.nantucketconference.com), and Future Forward: The New England Technology Summit.
He has long considered the relation between old school and webschool. Monetize was the term du jour, a word that generally makes this writer turn and run for cover or the automatic teller machine. It’s feels a bit like the new Klondike digital gold rush, my friend Alain Mongeau of the ground-breaking Mutek electronic music and arts festival, said to me during the coffee break. Some of these positivist case studies in this session were positively infectious, not old dust, but gold-dust pushing out into the world by the grace of good old American ingenuity and a bit of venture capital.
The biggest cybertainment story in the general ether this year was the mammoth growth of social networking sites and user-generated UGen, customer-driven content.
A Canadian success story came via Jeff Macpherson the producer, director and creative mind behind one of the Internet’s first and more successful video podcasts: Tiki Bar TV, a podseries of funny, quirky skits. Jess has figured out how to run faster than the other guy when a bear is chasing you. His webisode series was originally so low-res that the actors had to bring their own props to the shoddy shack set; now rapid success has brought high production values to the web-bar. I’ll drink to that. Apple’s Steve Jobs used Tiki Bar TV to introduce Video iPod during his keynote speech in October 2005. Tiki has just ended a 6-month promotion in Apple stores worldwide, so its easy to see why Forbes called Jeff “one of the first breakout stars in the world of Internet television”. I am waiting for someone to monetize me in a similar way.
To bring us back to earth, Drazen Pantic was the founder of OpenNet, which was part of one of the world’s most hopeful alternative media success stories, Radio B92 in Belgrade. For his cyber support for that political media movement, and other open access initiatives, Drazen won the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award in 1999. Now Drazen is playing with open-PLAYER LLC (open-PLAYER.com) - an integrated Web 2.0 platform for production, publishing, distribution and playback of art video over the Internet and TV which can also project into real, live spaces.
In terms of figuring out video on the net, of course we have our GooTubes and our Revvers and all the other perfectly great initiatives. But from me, byte by byte, Dabble is the next great thing, the next great think. Co-founder Lisa Rein presented a run-through. She is a multi-talented coder, podcaster, musician, re/mixmash artist and co-founder and first Technical Architect of Creative Commons, and the XML world’s “it” girl. That’s it as in I.T. If I was an enlightened patron of the electronic arts, or a venture capitalist, and I’ll never be because I am still waiting for money to become open-source, Rein and her team at Dabble have cottoned onto something with vision which answers my age old consumer question: How can I get my head around and manage all that video that’s out there on the web? Dabble provides an elegant, innovative answer. It zooms through literally millions and millions of clips and video videos out there and brings it all back to us at our little home/work stations. It scans, searches, organizes and indexes it all. It searches, makes sense and shares. But the real genius is that it doesn’t actually need to bring in video from all over the place, it points to that content that partners and creators have out there and lets your keyboard fingers do the rest in a few easy steps. Like all great new things it makes the complicated simple. The nice thing about Dabble for makers and owners of content, is that its not a spider, and the original creator sources are attributed. And for all of us social networkers, which includes a few social not-workers too, Dabble’s bookmarklets, playlists and all sorts of value added features really do add connective value.
Fritz Grobe juggles the cyberworld in many ways. Based in Maine, USA, he has actually won five gold medals at the International Jugglers Championships and briefly held a world record for juggling way too many objects. In June 2006, Grobe and Stephen Voltz juggled their way to instant web fame as they launched EepyBird.com featuring their viralvid “The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments”. Their choreographed fountain has been viewed online over 6 million times, for which they have been amply monetized.
One of the most appreciated Digimart presentations, Maximizing Audience was from Digimart’s co-programmer, Paradigm Consulting’s Peter Broderick, who gets my vote as one of the nicest, most generous digital thinkers on the planet. Peter took us through a number of really imaginative and successful distribution stories, many of them documentaries. He cautioned distributors and filmmakers, suggesting that they should first effectively target specific niche audiences rather than vague and amorphous generalist audiences for their work. It is only when the core of the concentric circles of audiences is assured that we may expect real crossover flow into larger audiences. While Peter took us through a range of possibilities: service contracts, self distribution and community supported initiatives through such things as house parties, he also reminded us that filmmakers are in control of their own destinies. They should always try to retain as much as they can, at least the ability to sell off their own sites.
Broderick is an eloquent defender for the role of the filmmaker as someone who can bring the forces of personal vision, creativity and yes, even commerce to the big picture. He cited hopeful stories including films from Tyler Perry and others about Grand Prix Motor-racing, the joys of being a pilot and the National Film Board of Canada’s Being Caribou, made by an environmentalist filmmaking couple. He amused us with a story about the choice one filmmaker faced when armed with warnings his director peers were giving him about making a deal with a particular distributor. His peergroup advised that his best bet was to go into a hardware store and buy a long enough piece of rope to hang himself. As the alternative to that scenario, Broderick proffered that filmmakers and financiers should seize the day and take and made the opportunities open to themselves in this cultural shift. This is not futurism, this is the history of the present. (see www.peterbroderick.com)
Broderick interwove an exclusive Digimart remote interview he did with Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed, Uncovered, Walmart: The High Price of Low Costs, Iraq for Sale) who chimed in with the good news that you can do it on your own, without the gatekeepers. He explained how such things as house parties and e-mail outreach software have helped to build both a reputation, as well as large participant audiences keyed to social change and understanding. His films are not so much about the piece of precious cinematic experience itself, but the discussions the work engenders after a screening. They are meant to build a sense of community for people, removing us from a sense of isolation. This is necessary because the main mass media are not doing their job. He is so successful at building core personal audiences that he was recently able to raise about 200,000 dollars on line from small individual donations in about a week, essentially creating thousands of people-producers for his current film.
FILMMAKERS DO IT. This is the good news garnered from the day’s last panel. One after another case studies, in the form of passionate, innovative do it yourselfers came to the mike. They testified and taught us how we can all survive at the other end of production, passing through the ghosts clouds of info overload and possibilities, to successfully distribute one’s work.
Honoured as one of Newsweek's "Women Shaping the 21st Century," director Tiffany Shlain’s wonderful short film, The Tribe is a multi-textured meditation of the Jewish experience, which branches outward so everyone in the audience can start to consider their own collective experience. Shlain, who founded The Webby Awards, the leading international honors for web sites, got down to brass tacks in her role as a producer and director, sharing price points, festival strategies which in her case got her to Sundance, educational outreach, fulfillment (both personal and of the film itself) and affiliations. A woman with as much moxie as anyone, she ended with a quote from Goethe we can all take to heart: “Whatever you dream, or think you can do - begin it.”
Self-distributors Susan Buice and Arin Crumley are co-creators of the feature film and podcast Four Eyed Monsters. They charmed us with the story of their personal romance, which began online at the Time Out New York personals listings, but also of their idealist, almost utopian, yet net savvy understanding of how to best make social nets work in your favour to get your work out. These two innovator generators are on a road show of consumer generated demand to get their film shown in theatres, and they are only most happy to provide other filmmakers and content producers with advice online, ongoing open dialog and sharing of information. Their duet presentation used such things as NASA maps and zip codes, database of theatre contacts, and RSVP community building, all pointing to the digital, organic possibilities of getting which all drive their film to beat average attendance figures handily.
Lance Weiler, a filmmaker who had his feature, Head Trauma screening at Digimart and a pioneer in getting digital features digitally out there. Wired called him “One of twenty-five people helping to re-invent entertainment and change the face of Hollywood.”
Co-founder of market-leading Withoutabox David Straus outlined just how well his very democratically friendly service company had progressed and adapted to these new times. I was an early adapter to withoutabox which, amont other things, helps filmmakers find and submit to festivals, but its now branched out to include 100,000 rights holders and 600 festivals in 200 countries. It is now signing up 3000 new filmmakers a month. He considered new ways of doing business for an indie’s tomorrow: things like critical mass ticketing, fulfillment, socialnet sites for makers and audiences, fan base sharing, cross pollination and market connectivity which will take us wherever we need to go. His presentation and his services are offering a wide array of tools and widgets for marketing and reaching those audiences online, through DVD and other methods.
All in all, it was, by everyone’s accounts at the evening cocktail a fab day. I ended the evening with a lovely meal with some of the other Digimart pioneers at a dinner graciously hosted by Digimart Founder Daniel Langlois. Late into the Montreal evening we all reconstructed our own visions of Digitopia. And the future history of digital life which is yet to be written, and in my real day to day life, the only assumption we can make today is to assume the answers of tomorrow will always keep growing.
October 17, 2006
Digimart - Your Space on My Tube : how to engage with the online world and make money
Panel discussion with Fritz Grobe (eepybird), Jeff Macpherson (tikibar TV), Lisa Rein and Drazen Pantic (Location One). Moderation by Scott Kirsner.
Starts with the Mentos/Coke project, posted on Revver where they got 30000$ of ad revenues (1000 views per hours after one day). They got on Letterman, O’Brian and NPR… it 3 days. They wanted to do that more progressively but it took off fast.
Eepybird’s focus on “succesful minor league teams”… people doing interesting stuff and making money with it. Revver pays 0.75/1.00 per client (about 5$/CPM). More info on the Cinema Tech blog (Scott’s blog)… Lisa adds that Revver sold the “mentos” tag to Coke and Mentos…
Jeff (who was one of the first to use the “video podcast” term) talks about producing Tikibar TV, from the perspective of a film producer… Can’t compete with big budget… but they can drink while doing the show! This is filmed in 24p and distributed on the internet and on the Apple iTunes store.
Started as an one man show (bottom up). Now they have 21 episodes… How many hangovers? Good thing he edits his own show… Well too many hangovers. There is a problem with the distribution of his feature film on iTunes (Apple does not return the calls of independent film makers, just for independent podcasts).
Lisa shows Dabble a web based tool to promote videos online but it’s an aggregator not a video hosting site (see also the Dabble Blog). Looks a lot like what Collectik is doing for audio… Every Dabble page is a wiki, with tags and modify the “record” of a movie. Check out the Video search angle of Dabble in this blog post… They have a bookmarklet available also. The Dabble model is to index RSS feeds, they don’t crawl the web.
Drazen presents open-player (ha! just found out he is also behind the open source streaming alliance and unmediated, my favorite new new media blog!) Open player really makes me think about the HAL project (and here on Michael Lenczner’s blog), but from the art video / gallery perspective…
There is a good question from the audience about professionals movie makers on the internet… The quality is going up, people are starting to get better at using the tools of the digital media age… Lisa uses the “gesture” pre-buzz-word (its coming check for it!). The internet is still a risky proposition.
I comment about the fact that attaching a big plasma or LCD screen (your TV) is still hard. The other excellent comment from Lisa is about the distribution deals…
Another good question about how the mentos/coke video was copied and put on youtube (without the revenue from revver)… Fritz talks about how it got impressions (about 1 per second at peak) both on youtube and revver at the same level… that’s a trade-off, brings less revenue but much more exposure. Talks also about how it was ripped by ebaum’s world (watermarking it as their own - see article in wired)
We get to see a special preview from the next eepybird video… wow.
There is another question about monetizing… check out Scott’s list, it’s really comprehensive.
This entry was written by Sylvain Carle