While the Oscars already happened this past weekend, we missed this one bit of insanity in the lead up. Apparently, Carter Pilcher, CEO of distributor Shorts International, made the rounds last week telling all of the nominees for "best animated short film" that they needed to take their films down from any online site
. Why? Because, apparently, online stuff is too lowbrow, and no serious filmmaker would ever
promote their films online. From the letter:
The fact that all the films were put online is perplexing as Academy voters have other and better means of viewing the films, including through the Academy-provided DVDs of all the Live Action and Animated short film nominees sent to all voting members. Making the films available online creates no competitive advantage.
Unlike Webbies or Ani's, the Academy Award is designed to award excellence in the making of motion pictures that receive a cinematic release, not an online release. Since 2006, we have built theater audiences significantly and created widespread interest in the films themselves and their place in the movie theater. This release of the films on the Internet threatens to destroy 8 years of audience growth and the notion that these film gems are indeed movies--no feature length film would consider a free online release as a marketing tool!
First off, that last statement is pure hogwash. A large and growing number of feature length films have been released
online for free as a marketing tool. There's a whole company called Vodo.net
that has helped filmmakers do that. All the way back in 2008, we wrote about director Wayne Wang (who has directed movies like The Joy Luck Club
and Maid in Manhattan
) releasing his latest feature length film... free and online
. Another success story involved a relatively unknown indie filmmaker who got his film on Hulu (for free), where it became the most watched
thing on Hulu for a while. And, of course, Nina Paley famously released Sita Sings the Blues
for free online. The idea that no maker of a feature length film would ever use the internet to release it for free is simply untrue.
And, in many ways, it seems even dumber to remove these
short animated films from the internet. As many people have noted, obscurity is a much bigger threat to most content creators than anything else, and one way to guarantee further obscurity is to make sure your work cannot be found or seen easily. Somehow, I doubt that any of these animated short filmmakers are seeing that much money from whatever limited theatrical release Pilcher is able to give them. And yet, by taking their works offline, they may be missing out on building a much bigger and more loyal fanbase, which can help support future projects (Kickstarter, anyone?). The idea that no real filmmaker would promote their films online is something that comes from the viewpoint of an obsolete industry, not someone who is looking out for today's filmmakers' best interests.