Waterborne: A movie debut success on Google Video?
Anne Thompson of The Hollywood Reporter writes on her blog that the Google Video debut of the indie feature `Waterborne' has been a success. (The bio-terrorist thriller nearly won an audience award at South by Southwest last year -- it was a runner-up.)
But there aren't a lot of hard stats - even though this is a worthy experiment by a filmmaker interested in selling movies directly to his audience ($3.99 for a download that you own, and 99 cents for a 24-hour rental. A streamed version was offered for free during the first 10 days of release last month.) Writer/director Ben Rekhi says in a press release that they've been getting "hundreds" of paid downloads per day. Um, like two hundred or nine hundred? What percentage of people paid the download-to-own price, versus the rental? Inquiring minds wanna know.
They do reveal that they've got pre-orders for 15,000 units of the DVD, which comes out Feb. 21st.
Not having seen the film yet, I'm not commenting on its quality when I say that I think it has benefitted from the novelty of being among the first features for sale on Google Video, and definitely from the attendant publicity. So perhaps it was a smart move for the filmmakers to pass up what they described as a $125,000 offer for theatrical distribution to join up with Google Video.
There's also a great interview with Rekhi, who just turned 27, on Rediff.com. Here's a passage:
Q. Why is Waterborne going to Google and DVD, and not into theatres?
A. Our film won a lot of praise at many film festivals but remember that many independently made low budget films do not get a theatrical release because they have no stars. And more often than not, distributors try to take advantage of such films and their producers see little returns.
We thought we would have control over the film by trying something innovative.
Q. And what is this innovation?
A. We are breaking the mould of traditional film distribution by applying the concept of music downloading, popularised by iTunes, to a feature-length film: essentially, cutting out the middle man by bringing product directly to the consumer via the Internet.
Q. How exactly are you doing this?
A. We have made the film...available for free streaming on Google Video the first week of release, after which it join Google Video's radical new download-to-own feature.
Then on February 21st, it will be released on home video, available for purchase and rental at all major retailers and rental outfits, including Netflix and Amazon.com
The quick turnaround to DVD is another aspect of the new distribution model to release it in the ancillary media while the film is still fresh in people's minds.
Q. What does this method say about the traditional distribution method?
A. Films will continue to be released theatrically and then go to video. It could happen to our next film, Car Babes. But as the traditional means of film distribution are dwindling, I believe that embracing online technology is the future for independent filmmakers.
The Internet will revolutionise the film industry just as it has the music industry.
I wonder: does anyone at a major Hollywood studio feel similarly?
Rekhi's now starting work on his fourth film.