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in Filmmaking
on Mar 12, 2007

I’m on the Narrative Feature jury at South by Southwest, so I can’t really write about the movies I’m seeing down here. (Or, at least, I can’t until after Tuesday night when we give the awards.) But I’ll try to post on some of the panels and other events I’m attending.

Yesterday I checked out Cinematech’s Scott Kirsner and his New Media and Film panel. If you read this blog you’ll know I’m a fan of Kirsner’s reporting on the business and technology of new media.

In addition to Kirsner, the panel consisted of David Gale, exec. V.P. at MTV New Media; Rick DeVos, CEO of Spout; Seth Nagel, V.P, Content and Acquisitions, iKlipz; and Scilla Andreen, Co-Founder of Indieflix.

While a lot of topics were discussed, people kept circling back to one topic: how do we generate revenue by distributing our movies over the internet? Kirsner argued that that’s the wrong way to formulate the question. It should be, he said, “What can you build that can be supported in this new environment?” He added, “It’s not going to be a $1 million dollar feature film.”

Andreen advised filmmakers to explore all forms of digital distribution until the distribution medium shakes itself out. “Different people have different viewing habits,” she said. “Bittorrent, Joost, etc. — until we see which one is going to hit, I think it’s wise to put your film up in as many places you can.” (I wondered what Joost is and by writing the hyperlink above I just learned that it’s the new name for The Venice Project, which I’ve written about before.) There was also talk about unconventional platforms for film content, such as the online Second Life game world.

When conceptualizing content for new media, Gale said, “You have to think not only about your audience but also their behavior. The younger audience is the first adopter but they are the most likely to steal your content.” Gale went on to say that he didn’t think “the traditional long-form film is going to be where it’s at” in the emerging web video arena. He said that “the people who can make money are the consolidators,” the companies that create sites that sift through posted material and categorize it for both consumers and advertisers.

There was also much talk of who is going to dominate he digital distribution world. Said Kirsner, “In the old world of distribution, you could get Fox to pick [a film] up and put it in 3,000 theaters. We haven’t yet seen who is gong to control the giant distribution machine in this new world. It might be iTunes, or Netflix could be the player to beat.”

Citing the example of the Dimitri, the San Francisco comedian who is the subject of a series of short films financed by Microsoft to only vaguely promote the new Vista operating system, Gale concluded with some advice to filmmakers. “Stop thinking movies,” he said. “if you want to do movies, that’s great. But if you can start as creators to think of new ways to create content, to use your skills as storytellers, then I think you can get the economics to work.”

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