Diary of a Film Start-Up Part 7: New Mantra: Do More, Faster

By Roger Jackson

Previously: Late Nights and Early Breakthroughs


Latest & Greatest

Lots more great films submitted to our Private Beta launch this week. The quality and diversity of the filmmaking is impressive. Every time we watch one of the trailers we’re reminded of why we’re building KinoNation -- to make it simple for movies like these to actually get released, exhibited and watched “on-demand” by the global audience that undoubtedly exists for them. I talked to Marianne Hettinger, director of the delightful Mango Tango. Marianne submitted her award-winning film to KinoNation at least partly because -- unlike traditional distributors -- we’re not seeking a “lock-up” commitment of 10+ years. In fact, there’s no lock-up at all, beyond what is required by any VoD platform that selects a KinoNation movie. Meanwhile,Peter Anthony Farren sent us his debut black comedy Kenneth, whose life definitely isn’t going according to plan. Both films are out of the mainstream, and both have been created from that incredible mix of drive and passion that allows filmmakers like these to complete first-time features. Keep submitting your features and docs, please -- there’s absolutely no cost, risk or obligation, and great upside.


Fifty Thousand Films?

As we talk to potential investors, I’ve been trying to verify the oft-repeated claim that 50,000 feature length films are produced each year, globally. We want to paint a picture of a vast international treasure of unreleased -- and unexploited -- movies, just waiting for an online audience. But it’s important that our numbers are accurate and verified. The 50k a year number comes from Chris Hyams, but a little more digging into IMDb Stats shows (after subtracting documentary shorts) that a more accurate and verifiable figure is around 15,000 feature films and docs produced annually. More detail here in a spirited online debate between Chris and I over the weekend. But it’s entirely possible that my analysis is flawed -- there may be thousands of films -- particularly from outside the USA -- that are completed but never listed on IMDb. What do you think?


Transcode Engine

Klaus is busy and intensely focused on the technology at the core of KinoNation. This is the “transcode engine” that processes the film master file uploaded by the filmmaker, and encodes it to customized video-on-demand specs each time a VoD platform selects that film. There’s not much standardization around VoD -- actually there’s huge variation in film formats across the platforms. And since there’s over 100 platforms, well, you can imagine the complexity. The film storage challenge alone is huge -- with an expectation that KinoNation will ingest thousands of films, and average file size around 100GB, we need hundreds of terabytes of virtual shelf space. Even a couple of years ago this would have been prohibitively expensive, but now with cloud computing, we can store each massive film master file (e.g. ProRes) for about a buck a month, and automatically trigger the encoding and delivery process whenever any VoD platform says “we want that film.”


Hobbits & Dwarves

Now and again I take my head out of the indie film world. Last weekend I had the pleasure of hanging out with the super-talented Graham McTavish, who plays the dwarf Dwalin in the upcoming Hobbit movies. The scope, scale and sheer logistical challenge of shooting three giant feature films, back to back, blows my mind. Worth remembering that director Peter Jackson started with ultra low-budget indie films -- like his 1989 cult hit Meet the Feebles. Genius!


Next week: Post # 8: Time to Go Live!

Roger Jackson is a producer and co-founder of film distribution start-up KinoNation. He was Vice President, Content for digital film pioneer iFilm.com and has produced short films in Los Angeles, documentaries in Darfur, Palestine and Bangladesh, a reality series for VH1 and one rather bad movie for FuelTV.