With Apple's announcement of its new video screen iPod just one day old, independent filmmakers are already eyeing how the device (and its supporting software iTunes) might help them distribute their own work. Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, who recently spoke with indieWIRE in a profile exploring their unique distribution ideas, are jump-starting their video blogging plans and next month will debut a series of clips that can be viewed on the new iPod or on a computer screen.
With a strategy that is a twist on the now common practice of releasing DVD extras, Crumley and Buice will distribute bonus footage in advance of their film's release, as a way of building momentum for the distribution of their first feature, "Four Eyed Monsters." Executing a strategy that began when they started video blogging from SXSW back in the spring, the filmmakers plan to distribute their short clips on November 1st as part of a video podcast series on iTunes and the MySpace social networking site. The five-minute video segments will begin with present-day intros created by the filmmakers and include footage from each of the festival's they have attended thus far.
A promo clip for the series available via iTunes includes footage of Buice and Crumley's fest screenings, on camera audience reactions, details of their distribution woes, footage of their financial hardships (Buice asks on camera, "Do we go to this festival, or do we pay our rent on time"), and scenes of their decision to move to Massachusetts to live with Buice's family.
"Each episode will recount our fumbling mistakes as first timers and maybe even enlighten filmmakers on how to avoid those same mistakes," offered Buice, responding to a few questions via email from her mother's house, where she and Crumley are now staying. The two have been particularly open about their struggle to secure distribution for their low-budget feature, in keeping with a movie that candidly explores how the two met online.
In an email message to indieWIRE just hours after Steve Jobs' Apple announcement Wednesday, Crumley proclaimed that the news would "dramatically affect what Susan and I are doing as well as eventually the independent film world at large." The filmmakers are not working directly with Apple on the initiative, however. They are pursuing, in a more guerilla style, ways to use Apple's new tools and software to further their own goals. Buice added in a follow-up email, "This is the true democratization of media, creating content has become more and more accessible, but that's useless if nobody sees it because of the gate keepers that decide what is released and what isn't. "
Crumley feels that Apple's decision to incorporate video podcasts along with TV programs, music videos, and short films (not to mention the move to debut a new iMac with a remote control), all open up new outlets for film and video distribution.
"What Apple is doing is changing the media landscape and if there was any doubt about whether they'd become the center of online distribution of video content, today's announcements have pretty much solidified that the answer is yes," explained Crumley in an email to indieWIRE, putting aside any frustrations he may have felt with Apple in the past. "So it behooves everyone involved in independent film to get behind and support what Apple is doing."
PC or Mac users with iTunes 4.9 or later (and Quicktime 7) can subscribe to the "Four Eyed Monsters" video podcasts and sample the two-minute preview clip now. The new episodes will also be available via the "Four Eyed Monsters" MySpace video blog to capitalize on the word-of-mouth marketing possibilities offered through the social networking site. Buice and Crumley have set a target goal of getting 100,000 people to subscribe to their free video podcast, aiming to create an audience to which they can market their finished feature.
"iTunes users are going to really start being the VJ of their viewing experience like they've become the DJ of their music experience," added Buice, with Crumley noting that computer users can opt to watch clips full screen in the new iTunes. "In the very near future people might find themselves kicking back and watching an episode of our experience on the festival circuit, a short film, an indie trailer, and then some daily video coverage of a festival all acquired by the user through various subscriptions on iTunes and all for free.
"This means if somebody cares about a particular subject they will subscribe to a video podcast about that subject just as they have with audio podcasts and with no gate keepers in the way," added Buice. Continuing Crumley quipped, "We are pretty excited and pretty glad Apple finally did what we predicted would be happening and they coincidentally did it the same day we launched our intro episode for our video podcast series."
As a way of encouraging other filmmakers to pursue similar online distribution strategies, Buice and Crumley have posted a tutorial on their website including details on creating a MySpace.com video blog, compressing video, and creating a video podcast that is iTunes compatible. Buice encouraged filmmakers to start posting shorts as video podcasts in iTunes and on MySpace.com as a way to promote their work. And more importantly, she added, to "allow other people to promote it for them."
Clearly the filmmakers are quite enthused about the potential for harnessing these emerging new technologies and there many new outlets for short content. But the question, of course, is how these opportunities will fuel legitimate distribution of feature films.
"Long form is still a puzzle that needs to be solved," explained Crumley in the email to indieWIRE, with Buice adding, "So basically we still don't have distribution and in a way are still at square one." Crumley concluded, "But we have a plan to mobilize our audience and hope the rest will follow."