“Social Cinema” @ Brooklyn’s Northside Festival
Brooklyn’s premiere discovery festival began its entrepreneurship leg June 14th with panelists in industries from ESPN to Etsy. The first panel of the day at a ripe 9am was a two-part series entitled “Social Cinema” focusing on film criticism, curation, discovery, and distribution in the age of social media, a topic which has become increasingly vital to stay up to date on given the online world of viewing, distributing, and funding.
The panel included industry big dogs like Matt Spangler (Tribeca Enterprises), Brooke Tarnoff (MTV’s NextMovie) Sara Keiner (Film Presence), Christopher Rosen (huffington Post), and David Larkin (Gowatchit). The conversation essentially revolved around the influence—good and bad—that social media has played in the development of films today. Basically, if your film is not online in some way or another (whether it’s a VOD or a simple Facebook page) then you’re not going to find much success.
From the production side of the film world, social media has enabled film-makers to truly feel the birth of grass-roots independent filmmaking. With websites like Kickstarter and other fundraising platforms allowing filmmakers to forgo the classic ways of distribution and simply: self-distribute. Just like Matthew Lilard did with his personal project, “Fat Kid Rules the World”, filmmakers can now have the release that they want granted they meet their funding goals. It’s a shift that means smaller independent films can cater to their specific demographic (forget about targeting women, think local and close to the subject matter) by having smaller releases and limited distribution in the hopes of spreading the word and eventually making it into theatres. There’s even a website to make sure your film gets to a theatre called Tugg.
“Tugg is a new platform where fans can select the movie, theatre, and then create an event to screen that film there,” said Keiner, who works directly with distributing documentaries through grass-roots movements. “It’s up to the person to sell the tickets because if they make money, Tugg will book a night to screen the film and move forward to perhaps more screenings.”
This means anyone can get their film screened in an independent theatre as long as they get the backers to help them do it. In an age where major movie theatres like AMC and Regal Cinema refuse to screen films that have already been released online (an incredibly limiting criteria since most films are going straight to VOD) the theatrical release is quickly becoming a fairy tale of the past, similar to my generation’s idea of the “drive-in movie.” This means Tugg could help preserve the movie theatre magic for a little while longer.
The theatrical release is reserved for those big budget films which can afford to take a hit in profit, our little indies, can’t. But, Keiner reinforces the idea that a theatrical release is much more about building a relationship for the film.
“The emotional connection is so profound,” said Larkin. “People will watch the movie and tell their friends and then the film gets distributed before it’s even made.”
Tugg (and Kickstarter… and all those other funding platforms) seem to be some sort of saving grace, enabling the filmmaker to take charge over their product and give it the attention it deserves.