Why did you want to get involved with the programme'
Justin: It was an instantly interesting prospect for us. There is only one future and that is digital. We have really tried to experiment ourselves, feel in the dark, off our own backs. For us as a private company, we would never have been able to afford to hire the services of Huge [digital consultancy firm, who will be mentoring Revolver over the next year], so this was a great opportunity, which we would have been crazy not to jump at.
The fact that the results are published at the end of the 18 month programme is also really interesting. It means the film industry may have a bit of a road map by the end. This is a public resource, and it needs to be that way.
How will the Take 12 Programme help with your strategy going forward'
Justin: The question we have put to our innovation partner is; the world is changing, and we are an all rights distributor, how do we ensure we remain an all rights distributor, and how do we make sure we add value to the process'
So far we have talked about what is out there, who the players are, what the technologies are and just really confirmed our knowledge base in terms of what the digital world is. We want to make sure that our understanding of the digital world, and what we think we know about new technologies, is correct.
While we may not get a bible at the end of it, it does mean that we have got a lot of people who have a vested interest in the future of the film industry, sharing ideas and talking. Discussion is a good thing.
What impact will the 'digital revolution' have on the film industry'
Justin: Everything that people believe about the way things should be done, is changing. The whole landscape, by the time we get through this, is going to look completely different. And for us, the important thing is getting through to that dry land.
When will the revolution happen'
Justin: The ultimate change will be when the studios finally act. We have no say over how or when or if that will be. But I know for a fact that the experiments we undertake are watched by those bigger companies, because on the whole we are doing things that they probably would like to do but can't because they have more restrictions. The bigger the project, the bigger the caveats. For example, if a studio has just made a movie with Tom Cruise, he is not going to be happy about it premiering on a mobile phone.
What are the challenges facing an independent distributor like Revolver'
Justin: As an indie distributor, it is getting tougher for smaller films to play. Films we distributed a few years ago which would have had long releases in the cinema, today will only play for three weeks at the most, or may not play at all, because there are so many more films out there and it doesn't make sense for the cinemas to keep them going.
People say the cinemas should be playing our films. But these cinemas are businesses. We can't bear them any grudge. There is so much more commercial pressure out there on everyone. But we are more understanding than some of the other distributors about their needs, perhaps because we have only been on the theatrical film side of the business since 2005, so we came in with no preconceived ideas about the way things should happen.
Cinemas are always going to do what they need to do, and where we can't work together with them, we just need to find another ways.
Was this the thinking behind the Mum and Dad collapsed window strategy'
Justin: Sometimes films don't work at cinema, not because they are not good, but for other reasons - it could be that something bigger came out on the same week, or the sun came out for first time in five months, or it was Glastonbury and the whole target market had gone there.
Then when a film arrives on DVD, the first thing the retailers ask is how well they did at the box office, and if it didn't do well, it gets marked down.
So by adopting the collapsed windows strategy, it is much fairer and it allows these films to have a chance. It means they won't be judged and then dismissed just because it was, say, a particularly hot weekend!
With Mum and Dad, we took a micro budget movie made for £100K, and instantly made it more accessible to a far bigger audience than we ever could have done via the traditional route. Traditionally, someone sitting in North Wales may have read all the press about the film, but if they were lucky, it might have come to their local cinema for 2 nights, if at all. This way, for the first time ever, we were saying to the consumers - watch it your way.
And it has turned out to be more profitable for everyone involved, because we just had one concentrated spend, as opposed to the traditional method, where you have to promote the film when it comes out in the cinemas and and then when it is on DVD and then VOD.
To me the most interesting thing is not how well it did, but how big a potential audience was there. And in terms of making Mum and Dad a far bigger deal than it ever would have been it was hugely successful.
What other projects are you working on'
Justin: We are working on the marketing for basketball feature Freestyle - another example of us using new innovative techniques to make a small film into a bigger deal. Our target market is the young teen audience, which is a tough audience to reach, because they don't necessarily have great attention spans.
We wanted to begin the marketing of the film, before the film was even made. So we teamed up with Bebo and the NBA to begin an audition process to find people from the UK to star in the film.
The audition process is up on the Bebo site, and we plan on maintaining the site all the way through the production process. We will be announcing who has won and putting up video diaries. We are trying to entertain through the process. We have had 20,000 unique users visit the website and we haven't even named the cast list yet.
When the time comes for the film to be released (in October), hopefully we will have a strong enough fan base which will then play a part in marketing the movie.
With Indie films it is very much a case of word of mouth. For instance, a film like Tell No One worked because people saw it and then told their friends to see it.
Will Freestyle be a collapsed platform release'
Justin: We evaluate everything on a case by case basis. It really depends on the film and what is best for it.
We have chosen to go down the traditional route with Freestyle, because we really want people to see it on the big screen. Freestyle is a like a British version of one of those US urban success stories. This is one of those films where at the end people will be cheering at the end. When was the last time you went to a British film like that'
Is this the way Revolver is going'
Justin: This is the first time we have been involved in a project this early. It has been great for our company - a really fun opportunity. Going to the first casting and watching those kids playing around with a ball, you really got a sense that we might have something special here.
In terms of the future, I think it is inevitable that we will try and do more projects like this. Whilst we are not producers, we are very willing to bring the marketing and distribution skills that we have to the table as early as possible. In fact it benefits us, because we can control more of the opportunities for publicity.
Especially with indie films, producers are so swamped trying to actually make the film itself, sometimes the publicity and marketing get overlooked. So we can come in and handle that side, and let the producers get on with making the film.
How is the recession affecting Revolver, and does it make being 'innovative' harder'
Justin: Because we are independent, and because we have grown organically (we don't have a rich parent company), we are pretty experienced with dealing with hard times. We are trying to be smarter about what we do, and we have to make sure the numbers add up. Because the most important thing is to survive.
I spend my time trying to mitigate risk. I love what I do and want to continue doing what I am doing, but I also want to make sure that if we release something and it fails, that we still will come into work on Monday morning.
But if anything, this pushes us more towards being innovative.
For the first three years of Revolver, we only made and sold our products directly to the consumers, which meant we could really target niches. These films achieved massive numbers - they took more than films which played at the cinemas and then went to video as well.
I think we have come full circle. Once again, it is all about re engaging the consumer, especially in a landscape where retail is fragile. There are fewer customers, so we need to have more of a direct relationship with them. I love the thought of re establishing these direct connections with customers and giving them more control and choice.
What are the challenges facing the film industry'
Justin: Consumers have more choice than they have ever had before. The generation coming through now in their late teens are not willing to be dictated to by schedule. The i-player shows how true that is. People want to consume their entertainment when it suits them. If they specifically want to see a film in cinema, then they will do that, because it is still the ultimate way to see it. But it is all about flexibility. Especially with indie releases.
The States are ahead of us. The first film to collapse all the windows was Steven Soderbergh's Bubble, in 2005. The US also has more players (VOD, cable networks), and so there is more opportunity than there is here. As things emerge more on the VOD side here, hopefully we will catch up at bit.
The desire for films is not going to go away. But the questions are going to be 'What is the mechanic to pay for them, and how will they be served'' The most important thing we can do is not to be playing catch up.
It is no good saying this is the way it has always been so that is how it always should be. We have to be willing to adjust, ultimately, to what the consumers want.
We want to keep experimenting, until a new model emerges. The interesting thing will be to see how that new model will look.
There will be casualties along the way as a result. There will be those that by the time they arrived the new model will have emerged and it will be too late. But overall, I am excited about the future of film.
Are you optimistic about the future'
Justin: I feel like we are pioneers, and we are out there trying to find the new route through. For example, last year we released U23D [which ran at the British Film Institute's London IMAX cinema, proving a box office hit]. It was the first live action 3D movie in the UK. To be ahead of the studio curve was amazing.
Maybe I am just a naïve optimist, but I think you have to be positive otherwise what is the point' If I really thought things were that bad, then we wouldn't be taking part in the Digital innovation programme and I wouldn't be sitting here.