Power To The Pixel, the UK-based outfit which helps independent film-makers make the most of the opportunities offered by the new-media world, last week hosted a digital distribution and film innovation forum as part of TheTimes BFI London Film Festival.
More than 400 international delegates were introduced to and reacquainted with talent helping to change the face of the global film industry.
‘Most independent films don’t get a release,’ says Liz Rosenthal, founder of Power To The Pixel and producer of the event. ‘Once you start thinking your story no longer has to bend to the traditional format, you can build a more substantial audience in a different way. The next generation of film-makers is very experienced at building audiences outside traditional film-making platforms.’
Through workshop sessions, one-to-one meetings and screenings, film-makers and entrepreneurs discussed digital distribution as a means of reaching audiences by cutting out the middle man, and retaining control of rights and profits.
‘Traditional distribution is starting to crumble because of the internet,’ said US film-maker M dot Strange, whose animated feature We Are The Strange premiered at Sundance in 2007.
Slava Rubin, co-founder of online social marketplace IndieGoGo referred to ‘fragmented audiences’ resulting from the consumption of film across different platforms. ‘The old revenue models are breaking down,’ he suggested. ‘No-one wants to pay to consume content.’ To combat this, he argued, film-makers need to engage with audiences through multimedia and in turn film-makers will benefit from the audience’s direct involvement through the subsequent promotion of the film.
Arin Crumley, a US film-maker who, with Susan Buice, directed the film and online video series Four-Eyed Monsters, suggested it is not for the licensors, the distributors or the exhibitors, to solve the problems of crumbling distribution platforms. He called on the creatives to work together to find solutions in the form of new business models. ‘If the creatives band together, we stand a really good chance.’
M dot Strange claimed there is nothing to stop film-makers from becoming their own distributors and creating their own demographic. He spoke of teaching and empowering audiences, about gaining their faith, which he suggested he did by demystifying animation via explanatory videos on his website.
Finnish director Timo Vuorensola advocated community involvement. He discussed audience contribution to film-making and said there were gains to be made, not just in terms of finance but also in terms of creative input and participation. He encouraged film-makers to start promoting their films well in advance of principal photography.
Adam Erlebacher of the newly launched, New York and Los Angeles-based Place-Vine spoke of the benefits of forming brand relationships via technology platforms and cited the collaboration between Somers Town director Shane Meadows and Eurostar. He said the aim of PlaceVine was to link film-makers with brands that could provide support and financing.
Peer-to-peer distribution is the best form of business model according to film-maker Jamie King. ‘If a film is free, there’s no barrier to consuming it.’
He mentioned the benefits of embracing the pirates and using what they do to work in favour of the film-maker. King, who worked directly with internet file delivery company BitTorrent, said: ‘They can help your work to be seen.’ He also echoed what many speakers had said in terms of distribution: ‘We are all distributors now.’
With a generation of online social networkers poised to come of age, film-maker Lance Weiler suggested ways to cater for their desire to communicate and share experiences. ‘Audiences want to engage more and film-makers need to open up the data,’ he said. Film-makers would provide viewers with additional information beyond the film itself, such as the GPS location for certain frames. In that way viewers could go to the spot where the film was shot, upload photos and discuss it with others.
The event also saw the launch of Project Forum, a marketplace for cross-media stories. Set to be held during the 2009 London Film Festival, it will enable financiers, distributors and promoters to link up with new film-makers and will host content spanning film, TV, online, mobile and gaming.
‘The aim was to get new people in the room who could be involved in this new world,’ said Rosenthal of the launch.