Jamie Wilkinson started the website Knowyourmeme.com, which encourages people to educate themselves on the viral sensations creeping across the Internet. His frequent collaborator Casey Pugh has developed for Vimeo and boxee. The two have worked together on the fanboy sensation “Star Wars Uncut,” which won a Creative Arts Emmy.
For a year now, the two have been hard at work on their new company VHX, which creates a platform for filmmakers to sell their film to stream and/or download through the film’s own website.
VHX houses its own design and development team, hosts the video on its servers, and helps develop a strategy to maximize online audiences for films.
So far, VHX has done the digital release for Aziz Ansari’s stand-up special “Dangerously Delicious” and James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot’s Sundance award-winner “Indie Game: The Movie.” nlimited streaming and downloads are available on the film’s respective websites for $5 and $9.99, respectively. According to Wilkinson, VHX has deals signed with a half dozen projects to release films over the rest of 2012, with more deals in negotiation.
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The distribitution model — selling your film on your own website — requires healthy traffic to your website or a hearty list of Twitter or Facebook followers that can easily be driven to the website. And so, as Wilkinson tells Indiewire, “It’s not for everyone… yet! You’ll have a tough time finding a film that’s not marketing themselves online these days. And with the work that goes into branding a film and all the energy and money that goes into filmmaking, when you get it to a distributor, you hope that it gets the full attention it deserves. With VHX, you can do it yourselves. Our whole thesis is that cast and crew [if they’re working hard to promote the film] can command as many eyeballs as distributors can.”
For VHX’s first two high-profile releases, having an online following was no problem. Ansari has made waves as a stand-up comedian for the Twitter generation, and he’s a star of a popular sitcom, “Parks and Recreation.” The “Indie Game: The Movie” filmmakers did a great job of tapping the indie gaming community for their Kickstarter campaign and were blogging updates on the film throughout their production schedule. Those filmmakers were actually introduced to Wilkinson through a common Twitter follower when they were approached with traditional distribution deals at Sundance. “With the deals they were looking at, the film wouldn’t be released online for two years,” Wilkinson says. “We had a site designed for them in ten days.”
Wilkinson explains that Hollywood is not seeing the Internet as a viable distribution platform. But who needs the old system? “The expectation of the audience is that they find out about a film and they should be able to see it online, globally,” he says. “Physical constraints [like DVD regions] no longer apply.”
The first experiment in this kind of release with a filmmaker with a deep Internet following occurred with Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” which debuted in three installments on Hulu in 2008. Louis C.K. then made a huge splash last year when his own self-distributed stand-up special grossed him more than $1 million.
The deals with Ansari and “Indie Game” were especially attractive because they allowed the producers of both films to make deals on other channels. “Dangerously Delicious” made a broadcast deal with Comedy Central, and the “Indie Game: The Movie” filmmakers managed their own theatrical distribution and distributed online using iTunes and game platform Steam. Wilkinson attributes the success of both to the synergy created by their multi-platform releases.
“We’re cognizant of the restrictions in the system [e.g. release windows],” adds Wilkinson. “At the same time, we have a strong preference for the way these things could be done, more direct to consumer.”
For now, the VHX team isn’t focusing its efforts on a centralized marketplace. Instead, it’s working on a network model, where a common VHX login can give the viewer instant access to whatever films he or she is interested in but no one place lists the entire roster.
Go HERE to reach out to VHX.