Enzo Tedeschi on "Distributing Films via the Ipad" (aka Tool Review: MoPix)

I don't know about you, but I am pretty astounded by all the opportunities before us for Direct Distribution. If you recall, I have listed 32 different Platforms and Tools that filmmakers can now utilize. One such tool is the MoPix. I am excited that the Truly Free Film Community is coming together to try inform each other of what works (or doesn't) in this plethora of riches. Today, one of the producers from the great experiment in both Free & Crowdfunding, The Tunnel, is here to tell you about the mobile & tablet App building tool MoPix. Ladies & Gentlemen, Enzo Tedeschi:

Distributing The Tunnel as an iPad app using MoPix.

In making and distributing The Tunnel, my co-producer Julian Harvey and I have broken a few traditions. In fact we kinda threw out the playbook, from crowdfunding by selling off the frames of the film, to direct-distributing as much as possible, as globally as possible, and as close to a day-and-date release as possible. Our theory was simple - if our audience could find our film simultaneously on as many platforms as we could muster, the film would have its best chance at success. And one global platform that seems to be growing in audience at a rapid rate is the iPad.

Pricing up the development of a custom mobile app in Australia was discouraging. At $10,000 - $20,000 AUD to get it done properly, that was simply not going to happen on our paltry budget.

We were only a few weeks out from release when we heard about MoPix – and we got excited. These guys had built a platform for iPad, iPhone, and Android that would enable us to create an app to distribute The Tunnel directly via the App Store.

Talking to Ryan Stoner at MoPix, we were able to get in during their beta stage, and in a matter of weeks we had a custom-branded app that did everything we needed it to. The Tunnel was now going to be the first Australian film ever to be , and we were going to be able to do it alongside our other release platforms.

The process from our end was actually quite painless, and involved cropping a few images to size and sending those and the video assets over to MoPix. An iPad app came out the other side.

The benefits for us seemed obvious – the film was presented in a very slick way, completely branded so that it felt like OUR product, not theirs, and we could circumvent the pain that just about every indie filmmaker knows – trying to get our film into the iTunes store. The feature set was simple, but had everything it needed to feature an equivalent to our DVD extras. It also let us add a really slick behind-the-scenes photo gallery, which gave us a point of difference from all the other avenues in which the film was available.

If you think about the marketing and distribution of your film in the long term - which we always try to – App updates also create a way for you to keep your audience active. Soon, we’ll be updating the Tunnel app to include in-app purchases. This feature is great for two reasons. First, it enables us to keep selling content to our audience who have already purchased the app. Someone who has already put money on the table for your film is far more likely to keep buying, than someone who hasn’t invested at all. Secondly, when we push out the update, the act of downloading it to see what features have been added creates another interaction with our audience. It’s another small part of the ongoing conversation we’ve been having with our fans since the beginning – even before we had a film.

And while we’re on the subject of marketing – another thing that an app can do for you brilliantly is combine your marketing and distribution into one.

For our next project, we’ll be going back to MoPix to create an app that, unlike The Tunnel, is free to download. The audience will still need to buy the film in order to watch it, but we will create a free app with compelling media-rich content which basically serves as marketing material for the film, which will then be accessible via the in-app purchasing mechanism. Once again, if you can get your audience engaging with your ‘brand’ – your film – they are much more likely to part with their hard-earned.

I will say though, that being in the beta stage, it’s not a perfect solution just yet. It would be cool to see some more platforms integrated, like logging into GetGlue while they are watching The Tunnel on their iPad. But knowing how switched on the guys over at MoPix are, I’m sure they’re working on it. For now the ability to tweet a photo from the gallery, for example, or post it on Facebook directly from the app works great.

MoPix are currently still looking for films for their beta slate – and even though we haven’t set the world on fire with sales of our app just yet, we’ve sold more than enough units for the endeavour to have paid for itself. All in all it has been very worthwhile.

You can learn more about The Tunnel at www.thetunnelmovie.net The Tunnel App Store link - itunes.apple.com Facebook – www.facebook.com/thetunnelmovie Twitter – @thetunnelmovie

Enzo Tedeschi is co-founder of Distracted Media along with Julian Harvey. Together they wrote, produced and edited The Tunnel - a project whose innovative approach has seen it hit international cinema screens despite being crowdfunded and given away for free online.

Before Distracted Media, Enzo co-produced and edited the controversial independent feature documentary Food Matters in 2008, a film which is still enjoying success around the globe, having now sold over 200,000 DVDs. He produced and cut the epic World War 1 period film Ghosts of War, and the award-winning short The Last One with director Carlo Ledesma.

As an ASE Award nominated editor, Enzo has worked on numerous television series, documentaries and award-winning short films. Recently he edited and oversaw the post-production path on Channel Nine's observational documentary series AFP for Zapruder’s Other Films.

Guest Post by Ross Howden: "How Do You Sell A Film That's Being Given Away?"

The most important thing for filmmakers is to have an audience. Survival (aka Economic Returns) probably falls next on the list. Using the available tools to distribute and aggregate, are these two pursuits compatible? I just got back from a very successful Cannes (hence, my inability to post for the last couple days -- my apologies!). Among my pleasures there was hosting a Producers Roundtable. I was fortunate enough to have a great group to discuss the state of film with, and among them was producer Ross Howden, who is doing something truly bold with his latest film, The Tunnel. And it is working well. I am excited that he is now sharing his experience with the rest of us. Read on!

A few days before leaving Australia for Cannes, I agreed to sell Australia’s first crowd funded feature film: The Tunnel (www.thetunnelmovie.net). In another first, the film is legally being given away on BitTorrent the week of the Festival. The Tunnel is a compelling thriller/horror about a female reporter who takes a crew down to the deserted tunnel system beneath Sydney to investigate why homeless people are disappearing. My business, ScreenLaunch (www.screenlaunch.com) is an Australian sales/distribution/production company that specialises in low budget features and innovative distribution models. This particular model was very innovative, even by our standards.

On the plane over I was asked “So how do you sell a film that is being given away?” It's a good question – one I'm in the process of answering.

A friend once told me the secret to selling is to first find out what the buyers want. We already knew people wanted to see the film - the audience had paid for its production. Co-producers/writers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey developed the "135K Project" model, raising the film’s budget of $135,000 by selling each frame for $1. This acted as a great way to finance the film and gave a chance of profit share for less than the price of a lottery ticket - with greater odds of success.

So the audience wanted the film. And logic dictates that's what buyers would be looking for - a film that has an audience. But there is an inherent risk in this model – won't people just download the torrent version? In Australia, the traditional distribution channels took a different view. Transmission/Paramount bought the DVD, and Showtime bought the Television rights. The special extra footage on the DVD and the ease of a TV on demand purchase was valuable to them despite the fact it was being given away.

Armed with this good pedigree of attached local distributors, we hit the Cannes sales booths and a round-robin of meetings.

The first lesson we learned was that the film is not being "given away." We found the best way to explain things was that all rights are available but only 'non-exclusive' internet rights are available. Part of the deal with the crowd financing model is that those inclined can download the film legally for free. The producers were clear that this was a promise to their investors that they were not going to break. And they haven’t. It is released on Thursday, 19th May.

But it seems the Cannes market is not so forgiving of alternative online distribution. One of our salespeople got this crude response from a Cannes sales agent: “buying a film that has been released on BitTorrent is like going to a brothel and paying for a hooker that is giving services out for free.” Oddly, we've found that many other sales agents particularly from companies promoting a multiplatform interest didn’t actually know what BitTorrent was. Others acted if we had sworn at them and went looking for the skull and cross bones above our heads.

The response was curious, if not a little disappointing in a market that prides itself for the breadth of its thinking. We all know that the models are changing; surely there would be greater interest in at least exploring the options around new distribution models?

We certainly don’t support piracy or want to get involved in “windows wars." We just want people to see our film. And, we're keen to start moving closer to a distribution model that embraces new audience habits and choices – before those habits become so overwhelming that it's a game of catch up with the crowd.

Many buyers liked that the film was finished yet they didn't have time to watch it. Some wanted DVD screeners to view later (or toss in the bin when reducing their luggage weight.) The producers didn't want us to hand out screeners of the film, which some buyers found ironic given they could download it on Thursday. (Assuming they knew how!)

We concluded some buyers might think we have something to hide – or that the movie had problems. We knew the film was great, so we decided to screen the film in a theatre. And now we are busy handing out invites to buyers for a film that we believe can easily be as big as District 9 and Blair Witch (perhaps better as something actually happens!)

Tuesday night, 17th May at 8pm, The Tunnel, the first film legally released BitTorrent film associated with a major studio screens for sales in the Palais at Cannes. I already have post-screening meetings booked to discuss a sale, so the minds may be opening. Is this a small step towards the distribution model of the future? We will know on Wednesday.

How do you sell a film that is being given away? My answer? Make sure it's a good one, and stay open to the wisdom of the crowd.

Download the film now at: http://vodo.net/assets/torrents/The.Tunnel.2011.720p.x264-VODO.torrent

Contextual Links to sites: http://www.bittorrent.com http://vodo.net/thetunnel

-- Ross Howden

Dr Ross Howden is founder and Director of ScreenLaunch - a sales, distribution and marketing company for innovative digital screen content. Prior to establishing ScreenLaunch in 2010, Ross spent fifteen years in the entertainment industry as a film producer, sales representative and entertainment technologist.

BREAKING NEWS!: The Tunnel just got a month of theatrical screenings in Sydney at Hoyts the main theatrical chain -- a rarity for Australian independents. The BitTorrent release also got a great article in Cannes Market magazine: http://www.lefilmfrancais.com/cannesmarketnews/cmn7/index.html