Mark Lipsky, the former Miramax, New Yorker Films and Lot 47 executive, had been happily self-exiled in Arizona for five years working with technology companies when his old friend Brian Devine of Gigantic Pictures called.
"I was thrilled to be away from both New York and the film business. But I knew that if I came back there would be an opportunity to do some interesting, creative things here," Lipsky says of his return to New York to start Gigantic Releasing, the film distribution arm of Devine's Gigantic family of companies. It also includes a film production unit, a post-production house, and a music label and recording studio.
The arm was launched a year ago and released Year Of The Fish and The Doorman into a marketplace that had become much tougher since Lipsky's original stint in independent distribution.
"Until I got my hands dirty in distribution again, I had no idea how bad it had gotten," Lipsky says. "You can either throw up your hands and say forget it, or you can think outside of the box and find some solution."
Devine and Lipsky's solution was digital releasing arm Gigantic Digital. "Technology has reached the point where you can deliver streamed entertainment in high quality, consistently," Lipsky says. "It's very clear to me this is how we're going to watch independent films in the future."
GiganticDigital.com is already offering two films for streaming at a cost of $2.99 per three-day unlimited access ticket (shorts are streamed for free). The first true test of the company's new day-and-date digital model will come on February 20 with the launch online and in limited theatrical runs of Morgan Dews' documentary Must Read After My Death.
"Our goal is to make our films available to as many people as we can, commercial free, at the highest quality we can and at a fair price," Lipsky says. The company's technology also allows it to block streaming to any city where a film may be showing theatrically.
For each $2.99 ticket sold, film-makers will receive half the profits after costs, for a minimum of $1 a ticket. Gigantic Digital is concentrating on digital rights and leaving producers with DVD, TV and other rights, but sometimes all-rights deals can be negotiated.
Working in other territories is also possible. "With Must Read we got all English-language rights, we can open the UK and Australia with little to no extra effort," Lipsky says. He would also like to add foreign-language titles to the company's offerings and encourages film-makers to submit via the website.
Lipsky says he is particularly energised to be working in both technology and film, and hopes Gigantic Digital represents the future of indie film: "Every day this makes more and more sense."