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IF You Film It, They Will Download

Sundance Panel Ponders Video Podcasting and The Role Of Independent Filmmakers By Andy Verostek

By creating a new tool in the lifestyle of cool, Apple Computers video iPod has also created demand for content tailored to the device that has left filmmakers, advertisers, television executives and ?preditor podcasters scrambling to take advantage of this new medium. On January 22, 2006, a panel of pod-experts gathered at the Sundance Film Festivals Film Center in Park City, to discuss the new technology and its affect on the entertainment industry.

Jason Calacanis, CEO of Santa Monica, California-based Weblogs, Inc., moderated the panel which included independent filmmaker Susan Buice of Four Eyed Monsters, Mika Salmi of Atom Entertainment, tech journalist and consultant Ken Rutkowski, and Anni Rudegair, a.k.a. Soccergirl, whom Calacanis called the Howard Stern of podcasting.

The discussion offered key advice for independent filmmakers: dont rely on video-podcasting as a steady and stable revenue stream to support your filmmaking. Instead, use the medium as a marketing tool to build a strong loyal fan-base and loyal advocates of your creative talent. The video podcast should compliment, not replace, the other forms of delivery that you are currently using to reach your audience.


Jason Calacanis, CEO of Santa Monica, California-based Weblogs, Inc., moderated the panel which included independent filmmaker Susan Buice of Four Eyed Monsters, Mika Salmi of Atom Entertainment, tech journalist and consultant Ken Rutkowski, and Anni Rudegair.

All on the panel were convinced that the new iPod will continue to revolutionize the way in which audiences access and enjoy media content, though there was disagreement as to the way in which filmmakers can tap into this potentially lucrative portal.

Apples iTunes has become the tour de force in delivering video content, as it has done for audio content over the past few years. Apple has sold well over 8 million video iPods since its release in mid-October 2005. Providing content for those consumers has been a priority at Apple, which started at the top of the proverbial content food chain by reaching to the Television Networks first.

The fact that hundreds of thousands of television episodes have been downloaded at $1.99 apiece when the same episode can be watched or even recorded at home for free - suggests consumers are driven by more than simple fiscal practicality. This device is cool. Watching shows on it is cool. And, watching shows on the iPod answers other practicality issues, such as portability and the on demand needs of the consumer.

Rutkowski noted that the networks currently receive, on average, 42 cents per viewer in advertising revenue for their free broadcasts on television. At $1.99 per download, even taking into account Apples 20% commission on iTunes, the iPod more than triples their revenue on a per-viewer basis. For the Networks, this is easy money that also furthers their competitive initiatives.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and independent filmmakers can expect to ride this wave, if they pay close attention to how this technology can be used effectively within their own means. What works for the networks and their branded programming cannot work for the independent filmmaker who is struggling just to get noticed.

Buice and Rudegair, who represented the voice of independent filmmakers and podcasters on the panel, talked about leveraging lifestyle sites such as MySpace.com, industry blogs and a filmmakers own website to drive traffic to watch and download their content.

Rudegair who has produced 96 episodes of Soccergirl, has struggled on iTunes due to the explicit content of her video podcasts even though those casts are listed as explicit on the iTunes site. Nevertheless, her show remains very popular and traffic to her site comes from more from her fans driving that traffic. But making it in the top 20 on iTunes is key to making it in the podcasting world.

Buice and her colleagues at Four Eyed Monsters have had over 50,000 downloads of one episode, due largely to fans promoting their films through MySpace and other sites. Her strategy

The end result for filmmakers is that this like everything else is not easy to break into. What a filmmaker can do though is create versions specifically for the iPod that showcase the talents and scope of their work. Allow this content to be available free, and allow other people to post the content on their sites. This will drive interest in your work, get you noticed and may provide you with loyal fans who would be more likely to order a DVD for $20, once they have come to love your work.

For filmmakers, this means not only being creative and telling a good story, this means thinking ahead about marketing strategy, website development and business planning something not all filmmakers are good at doing.

For content created specifically for the iPod, filmmakers will need to think outside of the box. Mika Salmi of Atom Entertainment offered some hope in the realm of future advertising revenues for filmmakers. ?There are a ton of sponsors out there, but it is tough. He added, ? If it is cool, then theyll be involved. Tapping into the culture of cool is what advertisers and ultimately audiences are looking for. Once again, the onus is on the filmmaker to create great content.

The 2006 Sundance Film Center Digital Forum series of panels was presented by Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Company, Intel Corporation and Sony Electronics, Inc. Free and open to the general public on a space-available basis, the Digital Forum is part of the Sundance Film Festivals broader mission to provide filmmakers and audiences with access to the cutting edge of creativity. The 2006 Sundance Film Festival ran from January 19-29. More information on the Sundance Film Festival is available at: www.sundance.org

Links Related to this article:
Jason Calacanis: www.calacanis.com
Susan Buice: www.foureyedmonsters.com
Mika Salmi: www.atomentertainment.com
Ken Rutkowski: www.kenradio.com
Anni Rudegair: www.soccergirl.podshow.com
 


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Related Keywords:video podcasting, iPod video, filmmaking, Apple Computer video iPod

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