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Monday, January 28, 2008

Avid demo from Sundance

While at Sundance last Wednesday, I got a quick demo from Avid employee Matt Feury of a new feature they've got in their MediaComposer editing system called ScriptSync. It lets you link your shooting script to the material you shot, so you can click on a line of dialogue and then examine each of the takes you're working with.

I shot some video of the demo, which took place in the shadowy confines of the New Frontier on please excuse the lighting. (It was edited with the iMovie, the editing tool I use most...)

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Windowing experiment... Direct to DVD... 'Toy Stories' in 3-D

- The documentary 'Kicking It,' about a World Cup soccer tournament where all the players are homeless, screened at Sundance this year. It was just picked up by Liberation Entertainment and Red Envelope Entertainment, Netflix's DVD distribution arm, according to The Hollywood Reporter. They're going to try to rearrange the traditional release windows: theatrical first, then simultaneous release on TV, DVD, and Internet streaming on Netflix's Web site.

From the press release:

    Under today’s announcement, Liberation will be handling North American and Central American theatrical, DVD and ancillary rights to the film. Breaking with traditional release windows, the ESPN television premiere will follow theatrical release, and the film will be provided by REE to Netflix subscribers to rent on DVD or watch instantly on a PC, day-and-date with the ESPN premiere, when DVD sales via Liberation will begin. REE will also promote the ESPN telecast of KICKING IT to Netflix subscribers via their iconic mailers.

- Even if you're not buying direct-to-DVD movies, someone is, according to the NY Times. The headline of this story says it all: 'Direct-to-DVD Releases Shed Their Loser Label.' Focus is on the 'American Pie' series, 'Garfield,' 'Get Smart,' and 'Scorpion King.'

- Disney/Pixar is planning 3-D releases of 'Toy Story' and 'Toy Story 2' for 2009 and 2010, according to Variety.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Two Favorite Films at Sundance

I only got to see 5.25 movies at Sundance this year:

    - "The Deal"

    - "The Wackness"

    - "Man on Wire"

    - "American Teen" (.25 of it)

    - "Mysteries of Pittsburgh"

    - "Towelhead"

Hollywood farce "The Deal" was too similar to the much better comedy "State and Main," which also features William H. Macy. I simply didn't care for any of the characters in "The Wackness," a two-hour-plus drug trip (purported to be a comedy), or find any of the plot points believable. Somehow, though, "The Wackness" won the audience award for best drama.

My two favorite films were "Man on Wire," the documentary about Phillipe Petit's walk on a cable strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and "Towelhead," Alan Ball's directorial debut.

In the first, director James Marsh creates a really gripping portrait of an artist who clearly lives in the same world as all of us, but relates to it very differently. (During the Q&A after the film, someone asked Petit how he financed his adventures, and he essentially replied, 'What is money?') And the destruction of the WTC is a subtle undertone throughout the film; it's sweet to be able to blend the memory of Petit's timeless performance on his wire to all the tragic shards of 9/11.

Here's a video interview from Sundance featuring Marsh and Petit.

"Towelhead," the story of a 13-year-old girl's sexual development, is incredibly difficult to watch...If you didn't know what to expect (as many audience members at Sundance didn't), it could be nearly impossible to process, or sit through. It's not as well-rounded as "American Beauty," and the character of the girl's Lebanese father could use more dimensionality, but it's the kind of story that has never been told before on the screen. And it lends itself to deep discussion afterward; on the bus back to the Salt Lake City airport, I debated with the woman sitting next to me whether "Towelhead" is an exploitative look at the main character's sexuality, or an exploration of the tension between pornography, abuse, and a healthy sexual identity (my view).

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Sundance Panel on Digital Opportunities for Creatives

This afternoon's panel at the New Frontier was a heap of fun. I especially enjoyed the interplay between Maria Maggenti, a writer/director in the true indie mode (her last movie, 'Puccini for Beginners,' was made with InDigEnt and shown at Sundance two years ago), and Evan Spiridellis, co-founder of JibJab, a digital "microstudio" in Venice Beach.

Maria talked about her experience making a three-minute film for cell phones -- she loved it -- but asked Evan a lot of questions about how JibJab has cultivated an audience (and an e-mail list) over time, and how they're making money from their work.

A few bullet points that stood out from the conversation (and the audience questions):

- It's still hard to find industry types who "get it," and are willing to experiment with new production/marketing/distribution models. Evan referred to Walt Disney's embrace of TV in the 1950s as a way to promote his movies... and I think it's still unclear which studio will follow in Disney's footsteps with the Net.

- Though Paramount and its MTV Films division could be a good candidate. MTV Films released 'Jackass 2.5' in December directly to the Net, as a full-length streaming feature. The Internet release (free, but ad-supported) was followed by a DVD and paid download offering. (The movie didn't have a theatrical release at all.) David Harris from MTV New Media said that there were three issues they encountered with the experiment: first was that someone posted the film to BitTorrent almost immediately, which meant that Paramount/MTV lost control over it (no way to tally views or deliver ads); second, that the site's age verification process created hassles for viewers; and third, that to watch the movie during its Internet premiere required downloading a new bit of software (Microsoft's Silverlight video player.)

- Evan noted that JibJab's goal when it makes its short animated music videos is to have one visual and one textual joke in every line of the song. I mentioned "Kirsner's 10-Second Rule of Internet Video," which says that if you don't give someone a reason for continuing to watch in the first ten seconds, they're going to close the window, and you've lost them for good. (Think about TV, typically thought of as the medium for short-attention spans. But when a sitcom or drama is starting, you likely give it a minute or two to get you involved. Not so on the Net.)

- David talked about the idea of navigable documentaries...MTV and Electronic Arts are working on one about videogamers, in which viewers will be able to dive deeply into topics (and games) they care about, skimming over those they don't.

- Someone in the audience asked about subscription models for indie content. We couldn't really think of any great examples (beyond porn and sports) of someone who is cranking out content and charging a monthly fee.

- John Pattyson with Ustream Entertainment sounded like he was happy to leave the world of Nielsen ratings behind; he and Evan agreed that it's nice to have real data about how many people are viewing your video on the Net (even if most sites still don't have good data about how much of it they're watching, versus just starting to watch.) Evan also said that having comments from viewers is nice, but the real sign that you've done something great is when they decide to pass it along and tell others about it.

- We reinforced the importance of collecting e-mail addresses (and perhaps ZIP codes, too) from people who express any sort of interest in your work. When JibJab's first viral video took off in 2004, they already had a list of 130,000 e-mail addresses that they could notify whenever they released new work. I likened it to LL Bean and Crate & Barrel: catalog retailers understand the importance of maintaining a mailing list; creatives are just starting to.

- Not every filmmaker is going to want to become a DIY demon and take control of their own destiny... there's a spectrum of entrepreneurship, and some will be game to think creatively about business opportunities, while others will want someone else (a studio or distributor) to do it for them.

- We talked about the model of releasing work on the Internet and then producing a DVD. JibJab did that with some success, and so has AskANinja.

- A filmmaker came up to me afterward and asked a few questions about promoting a documentary that won't be out for another year or so. I suggested that there was no downside in starting plant seeds around the Internet, sharing clips or full interviews (longer than what will end up in the film) with communities that care about the topic (it's about a paralyzed fellow -- didn't get much more than that.) Sharing this free content is a way of building interest and buzz, and also collecting e-mail addresses of people who'll appreciate a notice when the doc is available on DVD, or being shown on TV or in theaters.

- Joel Heller from Docs That Inspire was in the audience, and I saw him wielding a recorder -- so he may have audio at some point.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thinking about pigeons and cardinals, at Sundance

I arrived in Park City yesterday afternoon, and I've been trying to pack in as many conversations and meals with people as possible, since my stay at Sundance this year is much too short.

The theme that keeps coming up (and maybe it's always me bringing it up) is an idea that I think of as "pigeons versus cardinals."

Have you ever looked at a pigeon and thought, "What a remarkable bird that is?" Probably not. Pigeons blend in. You often encounter them in flocks: dozens of pigeons, all moving the same, all looking alike, all pecking at cigarette butts on the sidewalk.

Cardinals stand out. It's hard to imagine the environment that they're designed to blend into, and you usually see them alone. It's hard not to notice a cardinal sitting in a tree branch.

For film- and video-makers releasing projects in 2008, the good news is that the distribution channels you need now exist. Without much work, you can find sites that will host your video for free, sell downloads, replicate DVDs, or insert advertising into a stream. With a little work, you might be able to get your work sold on iTunes, or delivered digitally onto TVs and mobile phones.

But that means that everyone else can use those distribution channels, too. Which creates far too many options, too many choices, for the viewer looking to be entertained or enlightened. We're in the midst of a "big bang" of video content. In the same way that desktop publishing made it easy for anyone to put out a 'zine or newsletter, and the Web turned everyone into a blogger, and MP3s made it easy for musicians to widely distribute their work, we're witnessing a real explosion of visual expression: one-off political videos, comic episodics, and full-length features -- we even see some mega-epics, I'm sure.

In 2008, standing out is now the challenge: getting people to first notice that your work exists, watch it, and then tell others about it. (Don't expect the number of choices your audience has to diminish any time soon.)

(In Park City, you pass bulletin boards where flyers promoting movies are stapled one over the other. There might be ten layers of flyers, and someone is inevitably stapling up another one as you stand there. That seems like pigeon thinking to me.)

There isn't going to be a formula that works for everyone. Creating a Facebook group might work amazingly for one project. Giving away the entire movie for free, in ten-minute snippets, on YouTube and other video sites (but selling the full work on DVD) might work for another.

One key is going to be focusing on communities of interest that might care about and support your project -- they undoubtedly exist online. Work with enough of these communities, and you'll have a core audience. (The major studios don't think so much about these niche audiences; instead, they try for big, broad demographic groups, like men under 25.)

I think we're going to see a lot of successful solutions this year to the problem of standing out and building audiences in a very noisy media environment. (If you've seen an example, or been working on one, post a comment or drop me an e-mail.) I also suspect that everyone who succeeds is going to do it by figuring out how to be a cardinal, not a pigeon.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

More color on last Tuesday's Apple news

I did some post-MacWorld analysis for Variety, focusing mostly on the addition of movie rentals to iTunes. (Diane Garrett also wrote this piece a few days later.)

The big things that could hamstring Apple's move into rentals: the breadth of its selection, and the fact that rentals won't show up there until about a month after the DVD release. Both those limitations, in my mind, still favor Netflix.

Let me share some interesting studio exec comments that didn't make it into my piece...

    - Jim Gianopoulos, chairman of 20th Century Fox, told me that his studio had eventually gotten comfortable with Apple's DRM system, Fairplay: "Nothing's perfect, but they've worked hard. The better the content protection, the easier content flows... and the more comfortable content providers are about handing over their titles." He said that digital revenues simply won't grow in the presence of rampant piracy: "None of this works if there's a parallel flow of freely-available content."

    Gianopoulos also said he didn't think that digital rentals from Apple and others would necessarily undermine bricks-and-mortar rental chains, or services like Netflix. "People make choices, and they make choices that are most convenient to them. We're in all of those businesses, and we want to support all of them. It's up to those providers to provide good value."

    - Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment, told me that last week's announcement from iTunes "will be the beginning of a significant digital media business." He added that Apple "learned a lot from the original Apple TV, and changes in the 2.0 version will get a lot of people interested in digital distribution in the home. It's a very easy-to-use product, and they lowered the price."

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Launch time for 'From Here to Awesome,' a New Twist on the Film Festival

Three of the most thoughtful and high-energy DIY filmmakers around -- Lance Weiler, M dot Strange, and Arin Crumley -- have launched a new kind of online festival.

Called 'From Here to Awesome,' they're accepting submissions of full-length features and shorts right now. As with all festivals, the goal is to bring more attention to deserving work -- and the FHTA crew plan to use the Internet to achieve that, rather than, say, inviting a couple thousand friends to a snowy ski town in Utah.

There are no submission fees, and the festival will connect the "top ten" filmmakers with scads of distribution opportunities. (Most of these are distribution opps that any filmmaker can take advantage of without being part of FHTA, but the festival has prizes -- like free DVD replication of your movie, or free E&O insurance.) There will also be a "virtual conference" later this spring.... which seems like something to stay tuned for...

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Monday, January 14, 2008

IndieGoGo: A Social Network for Filmmakers Raising Money (and Their Backers)

Almost a year ago, I wrote about IndieGoGo in Variety, as part of a new wave of efforts to use the Internet for film financing. (Back then, the site was still mostly a concept, and it was called Project Keiyaku.)

Now, the site has officially launched.

I do want to see someone succeed, and create a networking hub where filmmakers can raise money. But I think filmmakers and financiers are right to be skeptical... you can see some of the debate about the model on this earlier post about IndieMaverick, a UK-based financing site. (One thing that would make me more comfortable with IndieGoGo would be an actual address, and names listed on the site of who is behind it. I know the principals, and that they're based in Berkeley, Calif., but I'm not a filmmaker or financier coming to the site for the first time...) What will it take for someone to succeed? A well-known filmmaker successfully using one of the sites to raise money for a project.

From IndieGoGo's official press release:

    “DIY has been long the mantra of independent filmmaking and financing. At IndieGoGo, we push that to the next level with DIWO, “Do It With Others” which more accurately reflects the active communal process required to launch film projects”, said Slava Rubin, IndieGoGo Founder and Chief of Strategy and Marketing. “Using the tools IndieGoGo offers, we aim to empower artists to realize their goals and bring more relevant films to the people. Online fundraising is accelerating, the cost of production is falling, social networking is approaching mainstream, and user-controlled media is the future. As these trends accelerate, IndieGoGo offers a new marketplace to turn ideas into film, and fans into insiders.”

    ...In its pre-launch phase, IndieGoGo sought developmental feedback from a wide range of filmmakers and industry leaders. FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER, directed by Irena Salina and produced by Steven Starr, was selected by IndieGoGo to be its first Showcase project and was subsequently selected to World Premiere in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Other noted filmmakers planning to include projects on the site include Christopher Roberts (THE BELIEVER), Lance Weiler (THE LAST BROADCAST, HEAD TRAUMA), Michael Roiff (WAITRESS, AMERICAN SON), M dot Strange (WE ARE THE STRANGE), Michealene Cristini Risley (TAPESTRIES OF HOPE), Brett Gaylor (BASEMENT TAPES), Beth Murphy (BEYOND BELIEF), and Yung Chang (UP THE YANGTZE) which is also featured in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

    ...Slava Rubin will represent IndieGoGo on the GOING IT ALONE: DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION FOR INDIE FILMMAKERS panel at the Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday, January 23, 12:30 pm at the New Frontier on Main Microcinema.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Netflix gives users unlimited movie viewing online

A few days before Apple is expected to announce some enhancements to the movie department of iTunes, Netflix is getting rid of the limits on its movie streaming service, Watch Now, for all but its lowest tier of subscribers. (Those pay just $4.99 a month.) PaidContent has a wrap-up posting.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

WGA Members Start Drafting Own Destinies

The LA Times takes another look at Writer's Guild members starting new ventures to take control of their own destinies. From Joseph Menn's story:

    At least three start-ups, each with a different business approach, are unveiling their corporate monikers and the names of their founders as they intensify the search for venture capital and top management. With names such as Hollywood Disrupted and Virtual Artists Inc., these new ventures have lured investors such as the Oscar-winning writer of "Rain Man" and the Emmy-winning scribe behind "Homicide," along with prominent software developers and technology executives.

    These new ventures are incubating in the fiery glow of the 2-month-old strike by the Writers Guild of America. ...

    Some writers are now taking matters into their own hands, using their downtime to meet with venture backers, other writers and technologists.

    "We should show the studios some gratitude for getting us together," said "Rain Man" coauthor Ron Bass, a member of the WGA's negotiating committee and an investor and director of Virtual Artists. "This is not just an Internet play, but the beginning of what the future is going to look like."

    About 20 entertainment and software writers are investing an average of $10,000 for a chunk of Virtual Artists. ....

Here's the earlier LA Times story, also by Menn.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Sundance's Tech-Related Panels for 2008

Here's the official schedule of the panels being held at Sundance later this month. I'm making a very quick trip, but panels on New Filmmaking Technology, Hollywood Adapting to the Web, and Digital Distribution for Indie Filmmakers look good.

Plus, on Monday, January 21st, BAVC genius Wendy Levy is doing a panel on Alternative Storytelling for New Digital Media Platforms.

And on Friday, January 25th, I'll be doing a panel at 12:30 called "Collision Course: Content Providers And The Creative Community Chart A Course For The Future." (Description and speakers listed below.) Say hello if you're in town...


Collision Course: Content Providers And The Creative Community Chart - A Course For The Future

Friday, Jan 25, 12:30 PM
New Frontier on Main (MICROCINEMA)

In 2007, Hollywood chose to stop production over unresolved new media revenue issues. Instead, we at Sundance 2008 look forward. How do we quantify the distribution models? How do we share? Join industry and indie prognosticators as we examine subscription models, targeted advertising, rev-sharing, and other emerging business strategies. Moderated by Scott Kirsner of Variety. Panelists include John Pattyson (UStream Entertainment), Gregg Spiridellis and Evan Spiridellis (JibJab), David Gale (MTV New Media), Tiffany Shlain (, Maria Maggenti (writer/director and

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Variety's CES Coverage

Here's the collection of stories that Variety staffers wrote from the Consumer Electronics Show this week, updating you on Blu-ray, Google, NBC, and the FCC.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What's Up Today: More Hybrid Devices, Distributed Video, Apple News

- Comcast is partnering with Panasonic to make a portable DVR and a TV that has a built-in set-top box (negating the term "set-top"), according to the Wall Street Journal. From Dionne Searcey's piece:

    ...[C]onsumers won't need to lease a separate box or a separate remote control from cable operators. By the time it's on the market later this year, it will be compatible with major cable companies' technology in most markets. Panasonic did not release pricing or other details about the TV.

    The portable DVR allows consumers to take their TV recordings with them when they travel, for playback on a plane, in a car or on a TV set away from home. Including 60 hours of recording capacity, it can also play CDs and DVDs, and will be available in early 2009. While Comcast is offering the device to its customers, Panasonic says it can be used on the systems of other cable operators.

- Viacom's MTV Networks subsidiary is following a strategy of making its video available on a wide range of sites, according to Reuters. Sites include Dailymotion, GoFish, and Veoh.

- BusinessWeek looks at the negotiations between Apple and the movie studios over adding more movies, and movie rentals, to iTunes. From Ronald Grover's story:

    Getting the studios to give Apple their movies for online rentals has been tricky. [Steve] Jobs wants new movies available for download "day and date" with DVD releases so that iPod users can rent them the same day the DVDs become available at Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, and other rental venues. Studios generally won't make their latest releases available for rent electronically—mostly through video-on-demand services on cable systems—until about 30 days after the DVDs hit store shelves.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Variety CES Tech Impact Report

Variety has a special report that coincides with the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this week. I wrote the lead-off story, which begins:

    For the thousands of people who converge on Las Vegas every January to gawk at gadgets, the annual CES is all about size.

    But for the industry insiders who meet in hotel suites and schmooze at private cocktail shindigs, one topic of discussion is likely to be whether the "walled garden" is about to be overrun by a new wave of technological openness.

    Signs are everywhere that closed, proprietary devices and services may be on the way out.

(The NY Times wrote about another open device on Sunday.)

There's also a list of 30 people "who are shaping the future of entertainment tech." I had the opportunity to profile Albert Cheng of ABC, director James Cameron, Michael Eisner, Steve Jobs, Blake Krikorian of Sling Media, and Jeff Bezos -- which was fun.

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Cinital's new take on green screen tech

In Sunday's Boston Globe, I wrote about a small company called Cinital that's trying to bring down the price of high-quality, real-time green screen compositing. What's novel about their approach is that the camera can move anywhere it wants -- or change focus -- and the background responds appropriately.

From the story:

    Ordinarily, it's hard to tell what live actors will look like once these digital backgrounds are laid in; that work, called "compositing," is usually done afterward by visual effects specialists. But the concept behind Mack's company is to mix the actors and the backgrounds in real time, so the director can see what the final shot will look like by glancing at a high-definition monitor - and reduce or eliminate the costs of all that laborious, after-the-fact compositing.

    Mack's Cinital system could be used on as many as 20 TV productions and a handful of feature films this year, says Sam Nicholson, chief executive of Stargate Digital, a South Pasadena, Calif., visual-effects firm that bought the first system. One of the first projects to which Cinital contributed is NBC's new made-for-TV movie "Knight Rider," which airs next month.

    "This year is going to be a watershed year for us and this technology," says Nicholson, whose company has contributed visual effects to movies like "Charlie's Angels 2" and TV shows like "Heroes."

So far, the prototype system has been used for pre-viz on the forthcoming "Knight Rider" TV movie and an episode of "Saving Grace."

I also shot some video of the system, and Cinital founder Eliot Mack.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Blu-ray Triumphant: News Round-up, and What Happens Next

So the rumors were true: Warner Bros., which dominates the home video biz, is going to exclusively release movies in the Blu-ray format as of June 1st.

My take: after trying to introduce a disc that would carry both formats last January (TotalHD, which didn't get traction), Warner Bros. realized it just had to pick a side to get high-def discs adopted. A Variety story had the most revealing WB quote in it: the studio realized that consumers were buying high-def TVs, but because of the confusion between Blu-ray and HD DVD, they weren't getting new DVD players to go with them. From the piece:

    "The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger," Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer seconded.

Essentially, every day matters now. Digital delivery of high-def movies is becoming a viable option. High-def is starting to show up on some Internet movie sites...and some next-generation set-top boxes like Vudu (iTunes and Apple TV in HD probably aren't far behind). Studios probably don't have a decade to squeeze nice profits out of Blu-ray disc releases, as they enjoyed with the original DVD format.

I expect by this Christmas, consumers will realize that the skirmish between Blu-ray and HD DVD is over, and start buying Blu-ray players in respectable (though probably not overwhelming) numbers. I'd love to hear your comments below...

The headlines:

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Workbook Project: Year in Review Podcast

Lance Weiler of The Workbook Project invited me and Woody Benson of Prism Venture Works to yammer a bit about what was important in the world of digital media in 2007, and what we see ahead in 2008.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Netflix and LG announce a hybrid set-top box

A lot of folks I've spoken to lately are pessimistic that any stand-alone set-top box can make a dent in the market...including products from Apple, Vudu, or Building B. These people are of the opinion that the only boxes that can succeed are those deployed by cable and satellite companies.

I have a sense, though, that one way to succeed in the stand-alone set-top box market is to sell a hybrid box ... one that slices and dices, serving several two (or more) purposes. I own a Toshiba-made box, for instance, that plays DVDs and acts as a TiVo. What would get me thinking about upgrading? A new box that plays high-def DVDs, sucks down Internet video, and also acts as a TiVo.

Netflix and LG Electronics are heading in this hybrid direction with their announcement today that new boxes from LG will support streaming movies, delivered over the Net, from Netflix's service. CNet says the box will also play Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. From that story:

    [Netflix CEO Reed] Hastings said the LG partnership was the first of many such deals for Netflix. "We'd like to see a hundred Netflix-capable boxes," he said, noting he also was exploring partnerships with makers of Internet-connected game consoles, cable and satellite companies.

Netflix has about 6000 movies available for streaming today, compared with 90,000 DVDs available for rental, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the NY Times coverage, Hastings says, “Eventually, as TVs have wireless connectivity built into them, we’ll integrate right into the television.”

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year Linkage

- The LA Times lists the best and worst online marketing gimmicks of 2007.

- Fortune mentions Blowtorch as an example of an innovative entertainment company. From the story:

    Having nailed down exhibition deals with 600 theaters near college campuses, Blowtorch has an edge over other would-be film companies: hard-to-get space on the silver screen. You'll hear a lot of clicking in the theater on Blowtorch nights. A typical evening might feature a festival of user-generated short films built around a theme - skateboarding, say, or football, or tango. People in the audience will be encouraged to pick up their cellphones or fire up their laptops to vote, text each other, and send messages to the producers - all while the show is rolling. The short film that gets the most votes is screened with the next Blowtorch feature or included in a DVD. The first Blowtorch movie, a twentysomething comedy called You Are Here, debuts in April.

The Blowtorch site is here.

- Mike Curtis deconstructs the latest article about the Blu-ray/HD DVD stalemate, from the NY Times.

- Bill Mead looks at the state of digital cinema in Asia in Film Journal International. (Bill is the editor of

- Anne Thompson points us to a story in the LA Times about the marketing of 'Be Kind Rewind,' starring Jack Black and Mos Def.

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One more Internet film financing site: IndieMaverick

I wrote last March about several attempts to help filmmakers raise money online, none of them very successful yet.

Just before the holidays, a press release went out announcing, a new financing site based in the UK. Here's their explanation:

    Filmmakers provide their script, budget, poster and links to any previous films etc up on the website. Investors search for projects they are interested in, read the scripts, watch the previous films. When they find one they like they invest for as little as $25USD. Once the filmmakers reach their desired budget their monies are released and they go into production on their film. All profits the film makes are split 70 percent (investors) and 30 percent (producers). takes no profit from the sale of the film. Filmmakers have total creative control over their project and can sell it wherever and to whomever they want. does reserve the right to offer the film for download from the site once the film has completed any cinema or DVD run. Every investor receives a limited edition DVD of the film.

The site is here. How will IndieMaverick make money, if not by taking a piece of the film's revenue? "Through advertisements on the site, uploading costs and through interest from investment." They're not very clear, though, about what the uploading costs are...

The biggest drawback with all of these sites is that it'll be hard to attract enough $25 and $50 investors to fund a $100,000 or $250,000 movie. But there are other problems, too -- how will the sites guarantee that a movie gets made, or audit the filmmaker's income afterward to ensure that investors are getting their fair share?

I think there is exactly one way for one of these Internet financing sites to take off: by roping in a project by an established director, or with an established star in its cast. That'd feel bankable enough to thousands of would-be film investors.

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