Shawn Bercuson on "What Filmmakers Can Learn from Tech Startups"

I've long felt that one of the most important bridges the Indie Film Community needed to build, was the one into the tech community. I've felt the ideas & know how of the tech sector held the solution to our neglected pillars of cinema: discovery, participation, appreciation, & presentation. I still do, but I realize now that I was narrowcasting my reasons.

Truly Free Film and Film Cutlure in general got a great boost last week when Prescreen launched. Audiences and filmmakers both found new ways to connect with great films. What I hadn't anticipated though, was how the process of this new venture's launch offered additional insight for filmmakers. Prescreen's CEO, Shawn Bercuson, offers up his lessons.
Until recently, my knowledge of the movie industry was limited. I come from a tech background and I’m completely addicted to using technology to find better ways to solve everyday problems. Prescreen is the 3rd business venture I’ve been associated with since the inception of the idea through the product launch – with the most notable one being Groupon. We built Prescreen to help movies find an audience they may not otherwise have the ability to reach. Like any movie, starting a business takes imagination, creativity, the ability to raise money, a terrific supporting cast, a deep understanding of your audience and, most importantly, thick skin. (Filmmakers – sound familiar?)

I officially entered the movie business this past February. I’m not going to lie, I quickly became overwhelmed by the information overload and the treacherous landscape that needed to be navigated in order to get Prescreen off the ground. To my surprise, I was delighted to discover the similarities between what we were doing at Prescreen and what the content owners to whom I was speaking with were doing with their movies. I quickly realized that launching a technology startup is eerily similar to producing, directing, and distributing a movie. That said, I also uncovered a few key differences. I’ll do my best to describe two things that I think are worth noting. Also note, these findings are not all encompassing. Many movie industry folks share my views and some techies do not.

Hustle. Here in San Francisco, there is a saying that “The currency in New York is cash. The currency in Los Angeles is celebrity. And the currency in San Francisco is ideas.” Perhaps it’s because it is hard to put a dollar value on an idea or perhaps it is the just the vast number of ideas that exist, but people in the technology business tend to move a few steps faster and work a few more hours than the people in the movie business. There are a lot of tech companies out there and probably a lot more movies. In order for people to discover your business or movie, you must out work your competition and leverage all the tools at your disposal. Keep in mind, people can only consume so much content in a day, month, or year. What are you doing to make sure that your content is the content that people are consuming? Kevin Smith is a terrific example of someone who hustles and uses all the tools at his disposal in order to create signal out of the noise for his movie.

For us at Prescreen, we’re confident in the product that we’re building but we know we still need to leverage our entire arsenal of tools in order to get people to know who we are and use our service. Everyday, we use all the tools at our disposal including, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, and email to reach an audience that may otherwise not know about us. We just launched last Wednesday, but soon you will start to see us using or creating tools that help build our audience. Have you heard of the Prescreen TrendSpot feature? Check it out (Click here. To bypass the signup process, click the Prescreen logo. The TrendSpot is the phrase that says “Earn Free Movies” on the left side of our homepage once you get beyond the signup page. Click on it to expand it).

Ecosystem. Don’t get me wrong, people in the movie industry often collaborate and find tons of success, but I’ve heard too many stories about nightmarish relationships that only breed animosity and resentment. What goes around comes around and in a world with this much transparency and access, those relationships are just not sustainable. The technology space, however, is often referred to as an “ecosystem.” We view our industry as more of a living thing with mutually symbiotic relationships than just transactional business relationships. We know that the more people who use each other’s tools, the more chance we have for success.

Unfortunately, to the general public, the term “independent film” often carries a negative connotation. As we all know, this is a travesty. There are too many entertaining, educational, or enlightening stories that never find a home. We need to work together to change the public perception so that we can all benefit. Yes, people can only consume so much content, but there are a lot of people out there and every movie has an audience (some just harder to find than others). 1st time filmmaker, Kenton Bartlett does a terrific job with this YouTube video trying to mobilize his audience to work for him by giving access to a special behind-the-scenes video about his film, “Missing Pieces.”

We started Prescreen to help build the ecosystem within the movie community. Movies are inherently social, but there was no tool that existed that brought real-life conversations about movies between friends to the digital world where we can connect to millions of people around the world who share our interests. Our goal is to help movies find a home leveraging this ecosystem and provide the tools necessary for moviegoers to share them with their friends, coworkers, and relatives.

I’m more excited then ever to be a part of the rapidly changing landscape of the movie industry and help cultivate an ecosystem that will benefit all of us. There are now more tools than ever before to successfully market a movie and put the right content in front of the right people at the right time. Remember, you don’t need to use all of them, just the ones that work for you.

-- Shawn Bercuson

Today, Prescreen featured it's first world premiere with "Missing Pieces". Prescreen launched nine days ago, and will offer a new film every day going forward.

Check out the trailer for Missing Pieces:

Prescreen Debuts as a Social Movie Discovery Platform

Prescreen was featured on our MUST READ list of the New Platforms. Sheri Candler also did an overview for the community on this site. Now they are launching. Their press release is below, but to understand just what they are doing, watch this short video before.

Are you excited? I'm excited.

Prescreen Debuts as a Social Movie Discovery Platform

Prescreen will embrace a curated daily email service to leverage the social web to give movies blockbuster exposure on an indie budget

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – September 14th, 2011 -- Prescreen, an innovative movie marketing and distribution platform, will officially launch today to give filmmakers and distributors an alternative to traditional advertising and distribution channels – through the mass marketing of curated content that is then shared by users through social media.

Prescreen offers users the ability to subscribe to a daily email alert, view trailers and rent movies to stream on demand, as well as earn rewards and discounts for sharing movie information on their social networks. Their daily email service highlights one movie per day, enabling their featured films to reach a wide audience.

Prescreen also delivers a Prescreen Performance Report to each filmmaker and distributor whose movie is featured on Prescreen. The report offers aggregated analytics and demographics about the audience for each featured film.

How it Works: • Consumer subscribers receive an email alert featuring one new movie each day. • Users watch the movie trailer for free and can purchase a rental to view the entire movie to stream on demand for up to 60 days. • Users can earn discounts and rewards by sharing the film through their social networks using Facebook, Twitter, etc. • Prescreen aggregates the purchasing data, protecting the privacy of each user, and delivers valuable demographic and analytic information back to filmmakers and distributors for future marketing and distribution efforts.

Prescreen’s intuitive marketing report includes all of the relevant information from the purchasers, allowing the content owner to use the detailed information to make informed decisions about continued distribution and marketing efforts. Prescreen allows content owners to maximize profits by marketing and selling via the Prescreen platform.

“Movie goers are increasingly consuming premium content through new digital channels including downloads, streaming, and video on demand (VOD), generating new revenue streams for the movie industry,” said Shawn Bercuson, CEO and Founder of Prescreen. “Prescreen will help movies of all shapes and sizes receive the love they deserve by leveraging the social tools that exist today to market and distribute movies more efficiently.” One of Prescreen’s first films will be Kino Lorber’s “The Robber;” a story of a champion marathoner who leads a double life as a serial bank robber, sprinting between heists and escaping from police in epic chase sequences. The film was directed by Austrian director Benjamin Heisenberg and features a riveting central performance by Andreas Lust (Revanche).

“Prescreen has developed an exciting and innovative digital platform for film distribution, and we are happy to be one of their first content providers,” said Richard Lorber, CEO of Kino Lorber. “We have one of the largest, most essential libraries in the United States and with Prescreen’s curatorial team so committed to high quality cinema it was a natural fit. In this rapidly changing digital distribution landscape, increasing market penetration means thinking outside the box –which is exactly why we're working with them.”

Prescreen is now accepting full-length feature film applications on a variety of topics and genres. To submit, visit: prescreen.com/submit. To sign up for the daily email service, visit: prescreen.com

About Prescreen Prescreen is a movie marketing and distribution platform that helps filmmakers and distributors efficiently reach audiences they otherwise would not have the ability to reach, and identify which audiences would provide maximum opportunity for continued growth and revenue. Prescreen offers users the ability to subscribe to email alerts, view trailers and stream movies on demand, as well as earn rewards for sharing movie information on their social networks. Visit prescreen.com for more information.

Sheri Candler on "New Online Distribution Service: Prescreen"

Don't you love it when you see something new and it all makes sense. I had the opportunity to view the new distribution platform PRESCREEN and I dug it. I was all set to tell you all about it when I learned they sponsored the book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul , and as a result Sheri Candler spoke to them and quizzed them on what they were up to. How sweet is that: all the info you need, clear and simple, and I don't have to write anything. Love it. Check it out. Prescreen is just one of many new exciting new tools and partners coming for indie filmmakers who want to step into Direct Distribution.

The following post first appeared on the Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul blog to spotlight Prescreen as the Presenting Sponsor of that soon to be published book.

Prescreen was recently launched and is now taking film submissions to be considered for their service. Thus far, if you visited their web page, you were asked to submit an email address to be kept informed of their activities. Prescreen curates films and distributes them via a daily email to an opt-in audience. While they have started accepting applications for films to be showcased on their site, but they will not accept every film. “Unlike some of the other services that currently exist, we will not be a sea of titles. We will do our best to try and create signal out of noise,” said founder and CEO Shawn Bercuson.

What will PreScreen mean for the indie filmmaker?

“For the indie filmmaker, Prescreen means you now have a viable alternative to distribution. That said, we do not intend to replace any of the existing channels, we are merely a tool to help make the marketing and distribution efforts much easier. Being featured on Prescreen means revenue instead of marketing spend, analyzing demographics of *your* audience instead of looking at the audience of comparable titles, and increasing the potential to go ‘viral.’ We give the filmmaker and distributor relevant information that they can use to maximize the success of each title.”

“We believe there is a lot of great content that exists that never finds a home or has a hard time reaching the right audience. As we all know, movie distribution has historically been a very arduous and risky endeavor for filmmakers, distributors, or studios alike; however, we now live in a world with exciting technology that enables us to communicate in real time with...everyone. If you use these tools correctly, the supply vs. demand curve can be shifted. Whereas, before content was created, money was spent, and hours of work were completed prior to the release of a film trying to create demand for a title; we can now gauge demand at the beginning of the process such that the entire endeavor is more efficient.”

Will the service cost anything, either for filmmakers or for audience? If so, what?

“For moviegoers, it is free to signup to receive the Prescreen daily email. If a movie catches your eye, you have the opportunity to ‘rent’ the movie to stream. Each movie we feature lives on Prescreen for 60 days. On Day 1, the movie costs $4 and you'll have up to 60 days to view the film; while on Days 2 - 60, the movie costs $8 and you'll have 60 - (x days) to complete the film. Though a moviegoer has up to 60 days to complete the film, ‘renting’ on Prescreen is similar to that of any other the other mainstream steaming services and you'll have 48 hours to complete the film once you start the stream.”

“Why only 60 days? Movies live on Prescreen for 60 days for many reasons. First, to allow a film to capture (and capitalize on) the word-of-mouth exposure that organically ensues throughout the social graph. Movies are inherently social. If all my friends are talking about a specific title, I don't like to be left out of the conversation and I'll want to partake. 60 days allows people to join the conversation. The second reason is piracy. As iTunes has successfully proven with the music industry, people are happy to pay for content as long as they have access to it. For example, if a movie is screening in 6 cities not named Omaha, Nebraska and I live in Omaha, my only option is to illegally download that title. 60 days allows access to content that people might otherwise be forced to get through illegal means.”

“For filmmakers and distributors, there is no out of pocket charge at any point throughout the entire Prescreen process. Prescreen is only successful if the movie is successful. Prescreen will send the filmmaker a check for 50% of the revenue generated from the sales on Prescreen along with a 'Prescreen Performance Report' that details all of the relevant information a filmmaker or distributor would need to continue to reach the targeted audience including: a Prescreen performance summary, detailed demographic information, the size of the addressable market, and suggested continued marketing plan.”

*NOTE*: Prescreen has a strict privacy policy that protects all of the personal information of its subscribers. All information shared with the filmmaker or distributor is aggregated and does not compromise any personal or contact information that could lead to any unwanted use or abuse.

“At any given point in time, Prescreen has up to 60 films featured on the site: 1 featured film and the 59 previous featured films. As one movie enters our library through their feature, another one leaves. After 60 days, the filmmaker should have enough data points and insight to continue to market their film effectively and reach the right audience.”

How does one sign up for an account?

“For filmmakers and distributors, visit prescreen.com/submit. Here, you can submit your film to Prescreen to be the 'Featured Film.' The featured film is the highlight of our daily email that goes out to all of our subscribers and will also be the only film on our homepage for 24 hours.”

On what devices is the service geared toward viewing?

“We believe that movies should live where moviegoers want to see them. Because of this, Prescreen plans to be platform agnostic and live on the web, mobile, and other connected devices like streaming TV's, gaming consoles, and set top boxes. However, as any Prescreen engineer will tell you: ‘Rome wasn't built in a day’ so we'll start on the web and prioritize platforms based on where our audience is telling us to go.”

If you are interested in having your film considered for the service, please submit it here before August 12. For more information regarding Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, please visit the website, Like us on Facebook and follow our Twitter stream #syfnotsys.