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by Dana Harris
March 15, 2012 10:48 AM
8 Comments
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The 8 Film Startups You Should Know From SXSW

If you're a film person on the SXSW Interactive trade show floor, it's easy to leave with a complex. Film, to put it mildly, is not a priority for tech people -- and these people, easily identified by the orange lanyards attached to the all-important badges, are everywhere. (As one said when meeting a film attendee, "What's the blue one for?")

And among the endless rows of companies hawking the latest and greatest way to share, tweet, sell, upload, download and otherwise ensure you're connected within an inch of your life, there were just a handful of entrepreneurs interested in solving problems in the film space. 

To be fair, the relative absence of filmcentric products among the overwhelming preponderance of geek booths doesn't necessarily mean they aren't being developed. As tech icon Robert Scoble told me, "SXSW is a terrible place to launch a product. This is spring break for Silicon Valley. It's more a reward for having launched." 

There's another factor at work as well: Like many industries, Hollywood is slow to adapt to change -- tech change in particular. When agency and studio heads are still having one of their assistants type and print out their emails, it's not surprising that we aren't seeing more innovation. 

So before I launch into my roundup of film tech for SXSW 2012, here's my wish for next year: I'd like to see a startup incubator entirely devoted to problem-solving for the entertainment industry. Having Interactive run in tandem with Film at SXSW is a terrific asset, but that crossover needs to become a permanent condition. 

And with that, here's the contenders. Note: If the pitch contains a quote without attribution, I've taken it directly from the copy on the website.

Tugg

The pitch: It's crowdsourced exhibition: Create an event, get people to sign up and show the film. As Indiewire wrote about Tugg late last month, "The most compelling elements of the Tugg model are what it could mean for indie films that do and don't have distributors. For example, will Tugg allow small cities to see indie films that would otherwise pass them by? Better yet, could the site provide a new distribution model for self-distributing filmmakers?"

The backstory: Although not part of the trade show, Tugg was embedded with SXSW through its Buzzworthy Screenings, which lets you vote for the movies that deserve an additional screening. However, the real buzzworthy winner is Tugg itself, which became a familiar talking point as the festival went on. No one's entirely sure if this will work, but there's a long line of companies - from theatrical distributors to VOD companies to film societies -- who are willing to find out. 

JuntoBox Films

The pitch: "JuntoBox Films is a global, collaborative film studio that unites a social media platform with a traditional film production process."

The backstory: The privately funded JuntoBox launched at SXSW last year; they've recently relaunched the site and announced Forrest Whitaker as co-chairman. In 2012, JuntoBox says it plans to invest $2.5 million in five films. 

Fandango's Movies With Friends

The pitch: It's a Facebook timeline app that allows you to add clips from movies you watch and rate. "I think movies are inherently social and so now (timeline) amplifies behavior people have always done, talk about movies, go to movies together," said Nicholas Lehman, president of Digital Entertainment & Digital Networks at NBCUniversal (Fandango's corporate parent), in an interview with USA Today.

The backstory: This app wasn't part of the trade show; Facebook hosted a launch event at its Austin offices, since it was announcing nearly a dozen new timeline apps for the site. At this point, Facebook has nearly 3,000 of these opt-in apps and surely there's more to come; will this lead users to adopt Fandango's app as convenient, or reject as being part of the noise?

Indiefilmz.com

The pitch: "Financing and distribution are the two biggest obstacles facing most emerging filmmakers. We launched IndieFilmZ to help talented directors and producers clear these hurdles in a snap and gain instant access to a worldwide audience of film lovers and supporters."

The backstory: Filmmakers upload short films to the site and sell their films for $1.49; $1 goes to the filmmaker. While it's straightforward enough, it's hard to see how the site could gain the necessary audience. (And the design doesn't help.)

Moviepilot.com

The pitch: "Moviepilot.com is a new home for upcoming movies – and a home for the movie fans around the globe who care about them."

The backstory: Berlin-based, Moviepilot lets you "subscribe" to upcoming movies to build a "personal news stream," discover new projects based on your likes and discuss them with others, Doesn't sound terribly compelling yet, but the Moviepilot crew appears to be comprised of serious tech geeks who could develop some interesting ideas. 

Milyoni.com

The pitch: Milyoni.com products include Social Cinema, a Facebook-based, pay-per-view service that allows viewers to communicate with other friends and fans while watching a movie.

The backstory: The first film they released was "The Big Lebowski" and most of their content currently comes from Universal, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate. The library isn't impressive at this point -- 167 titles -- but it's also accessible to any filmmaker who has the rights to show the movie, which could make it potentially interesting if Facebook distribution takes off. 

Filmaster.com

The pitch: Filmaster "recommends what you should watch tonight at your local theater, on TV or Netflix based on your unique taste in movies."

The backstory:  The Poland-based company launched at SXSW last year as an iPhone app; this year, they're adding a website and Google TV interface. Currently they're only integrated with the Netflix API, but they're planning to add many more. 

Veam.co

The pitch: "We truly believe monetization should be as easy as posting a video and slapping a price tag on it. Veam will take content creators closer to this reality."

The backstory: Upload your content and set a price; Veam creates an app -- one that doesn't require the internet to watch -- for you to distribute. They appear to be well financed; not only have they launched a "Veam Dreams scholarship contest," they also sponsored the SXSW Film awards ceremony. 

8 Comments

  • Laurie Kirby | March 16, 2012 12:19 AMReply

    Tugg had a booth-that's how I discovered them and it is like Eventful +++ as they have it all worked out with the theater, the film and the venue. Cool stuff!

  • Borys | March 15, 2012 10:25 PMReply

    Filmaster is not only a consumer servive but a b2b one as we'll. Check out http://filmaster.tv for details on how you can use the movie&shows recommendations in the cloud for your VOD servive, cinema chain or digital TV platform.

  • Justin | March 15, 2012 6:40 PMReply

    MoPix doesn't seem that compelling to me. They're a CMS that lets you make a DVD-like package of your film in the cloud. That's a highly repeatable model and unless they get some serious traction with the studios, they won't succeed. In fact, with UltraViolet, it's almost assured they won't. So while this may be great for indie filmmakers, that's a niche market. Because, at the end of the day, it's about distro AND content.

  • Lew | March 16, 2012 4:16 AM

    MoPix will succeed where UltraViolet doesn't because it isn't just the same thing repackaged. Their model provides a fully customizable experience and user interface, which is severely lacking in innovation from the studio side. Their lack of focus, ne care for the digital ancillary will give MoPix the content, and filmmakers will awaken to the value of further control. MoPix IS the future now.

  • Lyla | March 15, 2012 3:10 PMReply

    Unfortunately you missed a big one...MoPix - who was a finalist in the SXSW Interactive Accelerator and beat out Tugg in advancing to the finals. MoPix didn't have a booth, but if you attended the Interactive Accelerator event you would have definitely covered them in this article. They just participated in 500 Startups and are backed by some very well-known VCs. Perhaps you can delete my comment and revise your article.

  • Celeste North | March 15, 2012 12:53 PMReply

    We are a startup based in Mexico City looking to bring Alternative Films to Latin America, there aren't On Demand services for these films in our country. We didn't have a booth but did some networking and scouting for next year.

    An incubator named MediaCamp, powered by Turner was recording pitches at the event, they'll focus on media startups, this might be the kind of incubators we need.

  • Chris | March 15, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    After talking with many of these booths, I doubt the writer was even at the tradeshow. Tugg had a well-sized booth on the tradeshow floor decorated with movie posters. You couldn't miss it. JuntoBox Films is more about users submitting films and other users pushing the projects through a leveling process, which ends in financing.

  • Dana Harris | March 15, 2012 11:51 AM

    Thanks for the correction, but I walked up and down every row. I don't know how I missed that booth, either. In any case, Tugg's presence was well established at SXSW, above and beyond the trade show.