Diary of a Film Start-Up Part 8: Time to Go Live!

By Roger Jackson

Previously: New Mantra: Do More, Faster


Digital Hollywood
I spent today (10/15) at the Digital Hollywood conference, an event that happens in LA a couple times a year. Attended several panel discussions. One panelist argued that the film industry today will not only follow the same trajectory as the music business -- but that film now is only where the music business was at the time of the phonograph! Hmm, maybe. I certainly agree that in terms of massive disruption we have a ways to go. Had a bunch of meetings. The head of a group of angel investors suggested we pitch KinoNation “as soon as we have our MVP done.” MVP meaning “minimum viable product.” He said it doesn’t need to be pretty, it can be full of bugs and missing features, but, in his words, we need to “remove the technology risk” for people who might write a check. That is, prove we can actually build what we claim we’re building. Good timing, since we’ve just today launched the Movie Uploader and will roll it out to most of our Private Beta group over the coming days. The Beta is still open for movie submissions, by the way. Keep them coming! Meanwhile, another potential investor emphasized the importance of providing tools to filmmakers to help them market their films -- he suggested a “freemium” model -- meaning the basic service is free, with a monthly fee of 10 or 20 bucks for premium services. Comments...?


Down and Dangerous
Talking of the Private Beta, a couple new submissions last week that blew me away. Down and Dangerous is a crowd-funded thriller that raised $38k on Kickstarter in September 2011, went immediately into production, wrapped by December -- and looks like a multi-million dollar studio picture. Inspiring. And if it looks authentic, well, that’s because writer/director Zak Forsman grew up with a Dad who was also a coke smuggler! Write about what you know! In complete and delightful contrast, Patang (The Kite) is a New York Times critics pick that Roger Ebert called “Masterful.” Both these films should have a long and profitable life in the video-on-demand realm.


Time to Go Live
So we’ve just (today) rolled out the KinoNation Movie Uploader to our first 8 filmmakers, scattered among 5 countries. What I’ve realised over the past couple weeks of internal testing is that this is as much about psychology as technology. Let me explain. The digital files we need -- exclusively Apple ProRes for our beta -- are big. Actually, they’re huge, often 100 Gigs or bigger. And everything is constrained by the size of the “pipe” at the filmmaker end (at the KinoNation end it’s in the cloud, hyper-fast.) So with a really fast connection (e.g. post-house) at the filmmaker end that 100GB film might take 24-48 hours to upload. With merely a decent connection (big company office, university, etc.) it might take 50+ hours. And with a slower connection (e.g. home cable) it might take 100 hours or more. Not that 100 hours of uploading is that big of a deal. It’s happening in the background, you can still use email and stream from Netflix. And the upload can easily be stopped and then resumed from wherever it left off. You can even decide it’s taking too long from home, stop the upload, take your film on external hard drive to the office and re-start from there. All that said, I still think the “strangeness” of a multi-day upload may yield interesting results. Anyway, we’re excited. It really cuts out the friction, cost and aggravation of getting your film digitally distributed. No hard drives, no Fedex in the new KinoNation!  What do YOU think?


Next week: Post # 9: Filmmakers Festival Feedback

Roger Jackson is a producer and the 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. You can reach him at roger@kinonation.com.