Last week at SXSW Film, I moderated a panel looking at the role of P2P distribution for filmmakers. It really was a case study session, where we tried to look at different things that fillmmakers have done in embracing file sharing, including some things that worked, and some that didn't. You can listen to the whole panel on the SXSW website, including me with my nearly missing voice (SXSW will do that to you). The focus of the panel was really targeted at indie filmmakers who would likely have difficulties going a traditional route in getting their films out to the market. The panel consisted of me as moderator, Ray Privett, the founder of Cinema Purgatorio, Shahi Ghanem, the Chief Strategist from BitTorrent Inc., and Jamie King, the founder of VODO. Privett kicked us off with a preview of a film that he's helping release via BitTorrent and Vodo, called Zenith. You can see the preview below:
A couple days after the panel, the first part of Zenith was officially released, via Vodo and BitTorrent. There were a few very interesting things about the way this is being done. The first is that releasing it via BitTorrent really fits with the nature of the film. That is, the film is a bit of a conspiracy theory about a product that has been lost... and then found. So distributing it via BitTorrent really fit with the nature of the content of the film. On top of that, the film is officially by "Anonymous," trying to build into that sort of internet mythology.
The second part that's interesting is that they're trying to release the film in segments, where the latter segments aren't released unless there have been enough donations for the first segments. It's not clear what will happen if enough donations aren't raised, but it's still an interesting strategy. Others have done this on a production basis, where they say that they need a certain amount to conclude production of later segments. In this case, the entire film is made, but they're trying to release it in sections. I really don't know if this kind of strategy works for films, but it's worth watching.
With Zenith, they are offering typical tiered offerings for people who donate different amounts, including the ability to meet with a character in the film. At lower levels, donors can get their names on the future releases as either a thank you or as an Executive Producer credit.
Anyway, Zenith is another case study worth watching. I have no idea if it will succeed with its current strategy, but in a world where most people tend to think that a film has to be released as a full and complete work, it'll be worth watching to see if it works as a "serialized" film instead.
In the debate over business models that embrace file sharing networks, one of the more interesting projects to watch has been Vodo, which is a platform for filmmakers who wish to release their works via file sharing setups, and to enjoy a promotional boost for doing so. Movies released via Vodo have done quite well, both in getting attention and in getting monetary support. The company has now updated its system and has added an interesting element: an internal currency, called "Do," to encourage people to promote the works.
That is, if you point people to a download -- you can earn some "Do" every time someone visits an artist's website or downloads the work or even agrees to give money to a content creator. This could be interesting to watch, though I do wonder how well it will work. On the positive side, as we were just discussing in our Dark Helmet case study, one of the most important things in getting modern business models to work is to get your biggest fans to help promote you. However, at the same time, we've also warned about the risks of artificial incentives to promote some content, you run the risk of people questioning the motives for the promotion. If Vodo can balance this, it could be quite nice, but that balance is very much an open question. I agree that it's important to make people comfortable promoting you, but I worry that creating such incentives leaves it very much open to gaming, rather than legitimate advocacy.
While some continue to insist that there's nothing good or legal that comes from file sharing sites, many content creators who have embraced those sites have found them to be wonderful tools for distribution and promotion. Now, it looks like a bunch of them are teaming up to do even more. Mininova, The Pirate Bay, isoHunt, Miro, Vuze and Frostwire have all agreed to work with a new project called Vodo, which will help promote indie films. Filmmakers can offer their films through Vodo and get promoted on the various file sharing sites -- and the system is designed to let people easily donate. While I'm not a huge fan of a pure "donation" business model, it should be interesting to see how Vodo evolves over time. Certainly, it could be a valuable tool to indie filmmakers who recognize that obscurity is a much bigger threat to their efforts than piracy.
Rikuo: long story short, guy is wrongly named as a taxi far evader in a video, and the judge orders it deleted WORLDWIDE from all sites to be more accurate, he was named in the comments, not the video itself dennis deems: Jay, thanks for that reminder Christopher Best: Andrew Stack was not a member of the Tea Party movement. He was a disturbed individual, and a disgruntled software developer. There's explicit tax law that treats software developers very unfairly if they try to work as independent contractors... yaga: that's very true CB Alana: AJ Seriously just compared arguments against copyright infringment to rape. ... Yeah, nobody should take him seriously at this point. err, against copyright* silverscarcat: seriously? Jay: Glenn Beck asking for a 9/12 movement isn't the least bit suspicious? Along with all of the other issues with the IRS right now? Ninja: I am honestly amused that the community is marking the comments of that "horse" guy as funny silverscarcat: Who takes Glenn Beck seriously? Jeff: did the 'new' comment color bars go away? dennis deems: ya I hadn't noticed until you said that. I don't recall seeing them the last couple days. Mike Masnick: new color bars ran into some big technical problems. :) we took them down while we fix them. fix is currently going through testing and should be back (and better than before) soon. dennis deems: yay! the color bars rule! Jeff: whew! Thought I was going... wait for it... "Color Blind" thanks! I'll be here all day... :-) Jay: @ssc I'm talking more in 2011 at the peak of TP hysteria