Every summer, SnagFilms offers up SummerFest, a slate of online world premiere documentaries for free, on-demand streaming. For every Friday in August (starting today), a new film will be available for two weeks on SnagFilms.com and the Snagfilms iPad app as well as on the company's distribution network, including Hulu.
On tap for the online event are: John Scheinfeld's rockumentary "Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?" Ben Steinbauer "Winnebego Man, " on the '80s viral-VHS phenomenon and the man behind it, J.L. Aronson's "Last Summer at Coney Island," which chronicles the theme park's redevelopment and unique history, Lin & Larry Pardey's "Charlotte," a boat-making documentary, and Marc Cousins' documentary "The First Movie," a film made from footage shot by children in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
“This is our strongest slate in the three years we've been doing SummerFest," said SnagFilms CEO Rick Allen. "This is a great group of films that are very eclectic in terms of subject matter, which reflects the breadth of the 2300-plus films in our library and also gives you a sense of what you'll see when we start offering narrative films in September."
"Summertime is usually infested with big blockbuster films and it's great to be able to bring a great selection of indies as an option for people who want an antidote to that content," added Snag COO Stephanie Sharis.
According to Allen, the strategy behind SummerFest selection "is take films that have critical pedigree and a certain audience and attention and expand that and build buzz behind the film. In previous years that's allowed people to have a stronger theatrical roll-out than they otherwise would have. Instead of having to pay print and advertising to build an audience behind the film, this provides a complimentary way of getting buzz that makes a filmmaker money."
Both "Winnebago Man" and and "Harry Nilsson" were licensed from Kino Lorber. “ ‘Winnebago Man's' roots started online with YouTube,where he became a cult hit and it is appropriate that the fans who made Jack Rebney famous will be able to watch their anti-hero online larger-than-life thanks to SnagFilms Summer Fest," said Kino Lorber CEO Richard Lorber. "Harry Nilsson was also a man of his times who would have embraced the potential of viral to reach his core audience. We are thrilled to have two of our most popular docs included in SnagFilms SummerFest 2011."
"It's great for audiences. You want choice, and particularly you want choice when it's unbelievably hot out," said Allen. "You don't want to leave home and you've watched as many exploding cars as you can cram into your head, so it's something that's enjoyable and easy to do. You just press play."
SummerFest 2011 lineup with descriptions provided by SnagFilms:
"Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?"
This wildly entertaining, star-studded documentary about The Beatles’ favorite American musician delves deeply into Nilsson’s artistic process. The film combines compelling interviews with Nilsson’s family, friends and colleagues with rare and never – before-seen archival footage, home movies, and excerpts from a recently discovered oral autobiography.
Appears on the SnagFilms network Friday, August, 5, 2011– Thursday, August 18
Jack Rebney, a.k.a. “The Winnebago Man” – an ‘80s RV salesman’s hilarious, profanity- strewn, on-the-job meltdown was captured on video and passed around on VHS tapes, before exploding into an Internet phenomenon seen by millions. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer journeys to find Rebny, discovering him unaware of his fame, and capturing his response to his unintended celebrity.
Appears on SnagFilms network Friday, August 12, 2011 – Thursday, August 25
"Last Summer at Coney Island"
Coney Island is known throughout the world as the birthplace of the hot dog, the roller coaster and – broadly speaking – popular culture. This playground is now facing a monumental redevelopment plan. This documentary juxtaposes images of the past and present with interviews and observed scenes featuring many of the key players in the transformation.
Appears on the SnagFilms network Friday, August 19, 2011 – Thursday, September 1
Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin established an extraordinary boatyard in 1980 on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway with the purpose of designing, building, and maintaining traditionally built wooden boats, and in the process, they transformed Vineyard Haven harbor into a mecca for wooden boat owners and enthusiasts. After a long career of designing and constructing boats for others, Nat embarks on building a 50 foot gaff rigged schooner for use by his family and friends – her name is Charlotte. Through close observation of the everyday activities of the boatyard, the film emerges as a meditation on tradition, craftsmanship, family, community, our relationship to nature and the love of the sea.
Appears on the SnagFilms network Friday, August 26, 2011 – Thursday, September 8
"The First Movie"
One of the first of its kind, ‘The First Movie’ is a “magic realist” documentary that reveals life during war through the lens of children, when they were given cameras to film what they liked. Rather than focusing on the suffering of war in Kurdish, Iraq, it shows how much suffering co- habits with other things such as wonder and imaginative development. This critically acclaimed film received the prestigious Prix Italia for best Arts Documentary in Turin.
Appears on the SnagFilms network Friday, September 2, 2011 – Thursday, September 15
Brian Brooks contributed to this article
[Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of indieWIRE]