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.