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The New Auteur

Independent Film in Times of the Internet

Category Archives: Is this how it will be?

Finally some experimenting with “Giving it away for free” from a UK cinema chain: Slackers Club (probably Michael Moore fans). Picturehouse Cinemas has teamed up with E4 to let students watch films for free – ones a month – and force everyone who shows up into alcoholism by providing them with a free Stella Artois – so they even got some sponsoring money.

This goes a bit against the notion of freely giving away infinite goods and charging for scarce goods. It follows another strategy: Create a free event and earn with ancillaries – sponsoring, food, drinks, etc. – and hope to create a future audience.

I wonder why cinemas don’t experiment more with free stuff:

  • Everyone who pays for the online premiere of a film (preferably a local indie production) will be able to watch it for free in the cinema.
  • Watch a film at the cinema (and pay for it) and get a free download (to rent or own) of that film.
  • Pay for a new film of a filmmaker and download an older film for free.
  • Pay a monthly subscription fee to have online access (probably streaming) to all films that are shown in the cinema this month (okay, there is not really a free option here).
  • Let people watch a basic version for free online and charge for an extended cut of the film in HD plus Q&A with the filmmaker at the cinema.
  • Give away deleted scenes and Making Of documentary online and charge for film.
  • Create an online audience and earn with advertising.

In general, I think, cinemas should try to use the internet much more to attach the audience to them. Create online events or contests. Have additional content online – not just a synopsis of the film but also trailer, deleted scenes, making of, director’s commentary, I-don’t-know-what. Let audiences vote on films they want to watch. Let them comment on films they have seen. Attract the audiences of local filmmakers by having slots for their films (Manchester Monday, Territorial Tuesday, Community Wednesday – I’m sure someone can put it much better).

Speaking of local: You are a cinema. You are a local thing. Sure, the blockbusters bring in cash – and that’s how it should be. So show them. But remember, everyone shows them. Start getting an identity by being part of your community. Bring together local film fans with local films and their filmmakers. Be special. Get a face.


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I just watched this video of a panel at DIY Days in Philadelphia. The discussion was around independent filmmaking and the internet, and, like so often, the question came up: How do we uses the internet to be successful? Nina Paley (who made Sita Sings the Blues) summarized her winning method with: luck. Well, that’s very selfless too say but not really what a researcher – who believes a bit more in measuring things – wants to hear. No luck for me here.

Arin Crumley (For Eyed Monsters) put it a bit better. He said that, in the future, the audience might decide how high the budget of a movie is. And I think that might be a great thing. Surely this might not happen for every film. Big budget productions will still rather control the audience taste through marketing than the audience controling them. But for low budget films this might just be the case. Though this still is not an answer to ‘how do we earn back our production money online and also make a living?’, Arin’s thought forbids this question. Maybe filmmakers should not put idea and script first and then raise the money they need to make their idea come to life. Maybe filmmakers should rather see what an audience wants. Let the idea be there first but then lets see who really wants to see such a film. And then decide about the budget. In other words, let the audience decide the budget (not literally though, but check the interest before deciding on the money part).

I like that thought for two reasons: First, it democratizes the film process a bit more. It is not a filmmaker who decides what story is told in what way but it is a decision based on interaction between a bigger group of people. Secondly, it might lead to less financial failures in filmmaking and more financially responsible movies.

Here is the video:
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