Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Movies on the Internet

Submitted by Peter John Ross

Two years ago, the word on the street said that all the undiscovered talent was on the internet. Sites like ifilm.com and atomfilms.com were getting unknown talents onto A-list movies. Lately, we aren't hearing anything like that. Is the internet dead for distribution? Hardly. Broadband and other faster internet connections are making it even more viable to get your movie seen. Everyday more people get faster internet connections which means you can put higher quality movies on the net and generate an audience.

Movies like 405 The Movie, Troops, and George Lucas In Love, showed that the internet can elevate unknown filmmakers into the stratosphere. All of those filmmakers landed feature movie deals. And the bmwfilm.com lot starring Madonna, Clive Owen, and Mickey Rourke showed that Hollywood bigwigs, like directors Ang Lee, John Frankenheimer, (R.I.P.), and Guy Ritchie are willing to do short films for the internet in style.

Is the internet good for feature films? Not yet. There are already some sites such as movieflix.com and cinemanow.com streaming feature length films, but the quality is dreadful. Both sites do buy the distribution rights to independent films, but the price is so low it's not going to reimburse your craft services bill.

The internet is ripe for short films, even movies shot on digital video. Since they are shorter, you can make a manageable, easy-to-download size file that even people with a 56K modem (you know, the Amish) can download. Virtually every single editing software package now includes some kind of output for the web feature.

Why put movies on the internet?

No, you won't get rich, at least that isn't likely. People are leery of the pay sites, unless it's a porn site. If there is a site offering you money for your movie, that's cool, but it won't be much. Most offer a "revenue sharing" program which means with each paid viewing, you get a percentage. That means you have to share that five dollars a month with that company and their overhead. Don't lose any sleep waiting for the check.

So where is the power you ask? The power is in getting exposure. You need to be visible to be discovered. If you have that magical talent that Hollywood is looking for, you need to be somewhere they can see you. Even if they don't see your work online in horrible real video quality, there is a validation that someone, somewhere liked your work enough to host it on the internet for you.

It's not the same when you host all your own movies on your own web page. Any moron can do that. To get "selected" to have your movie played makes a movie executive or an investor think, "someone else liked their movie too," and that means they are more likely to consider your work.

Will putting the movie on the internet instantly make you a star? Hell no. Getting your movie on the internet is only the half-way mark. Getting people to know it's there is the other half.
At the very least, you will get unadulterated feedback. It's funny how the internet can empower people. Some little weasel of a guy in Iowa who's never been assertive in his life will make up a screen name like "BUBBA_BAD_MUTHA" and rip apart your movie because he can safely hide behind anonymity. Get used to bad reviews. Not everyone will love your movie. But you might learn something from these relentlessly honest viewers.

There is also a benefit of ownership. If some other site, other than your own, hosts your movie and someone else rips off the idea, or steals elements, you have an unbiased third party that can prove when you had your movie online. It establishes your idea and date and time.

What are the pitfalls?

Some sites, like ifilm.com, want to get you to buy your exhibition package. It's only $150 for three months of hosting. What a scam. Since several other short film sites went under, and they had exclusive rights on 405 The Movie, they started charging everyone to host their movies. You are a filmmaker, and you should never pay someone else to host your movie.

The other thing to be careful of are the web sites with exclusive contracts. Be sure and read all contracts carefully. Some of them want all rights to your movie (like atomfilms.com, who wants DVD rights, television rights, theatrical rights, everything). If you are willing to give these up because it was something simple you did in the backyard with a camcorder, then go for it, but be aware of the consequence. You just gave away all rights to a movie you wrote and directed. Read the contracts on their web sites carefully before signing. Each site is different with different needs and wants.

Why wouldn't you want to get your movies online?

You increase your exposure, you get honest reviews, and have an excuse to let the media know you have a movie, and virtually every site lets you submit your film for free.

List of Sites

http://sho.com/alt - Showtime's Alternative Media Festival.

http://atomfilms.shockwave.com/af/home - Atom Films.

http://www.bijouflix.com - Bijou Flix , also does a "Best Of" DVD.

http://www.thebitscreen.com - The Bit Screen.

http://craptv.com/co_info/submissions.html - Crap TV.

http://www.ifilm.com - The big baddy of short film sites, ifilm.com boasts the most shorts and the best success ratio of filmmakers going from rags to riches. You can see their "success stories" articles on the site. It's also the most annoying with horrendous pop up screens.

http://www.inetfilm.com - Internet Film Community.

http://www.movieflix.com - Movieflix is one of the coolest new sites and has a broad range of titles of royalty free old movies and new independent short films.

http://www.neokino.com - NeoKino.

http://www.pepper-view.com/en - A French run web site.

http://www.reelscreen.com - The British web site run by the magazine Total Movie and Total Film. Several submissions wind up on their monthly DVD that goes out with the magazine.

http://www.rewindvideo.com/artman/publish/index.shtml - Rewind Video Magazine reviews and links to movies online.

http://www.robofilms.com - Robofilms is silly but fun. Check out the "robo-manifesto."

http://www.shorttv.com - Short TV out of New York also has a TV show counterpart in New York City.

http://studiocities.net - Studiocities has a ton of movies and a great layout.

http://indie.hollywood.com/submitfilm.asp - Indie Film from Hollywood.com, anyone who's been in an AMC theater in the last eighteen months will recognize the name, Hollywood.com, which has theater listings and showtimes. They bought a small formerly Cincinnati based short film site called "alwasyi.com" and converted it to their own.

http://www.undergroundfilm.com - Saving the best for last, Underground Film was recently purchased and will soon be run by the University of Southern California. Underground Film is one of the best independent film sites in the world.

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