Streaming Media has an in-depth article on Vodo, and in particular how we provide “a lifeline for documentary filmmakers“. Mike Bonanno of The Yes Men, who released their comedy documentary The Yes Men Fix the World through Vodo, explains:
P2P distribution meant more revenue, more freedom, and more viewers than The Yes Men would have had otherwise.
“That’s how probably more people have seen the film than any other way. It’s been really rewarding for us, because we’re hearing from people all over the world who wouldn’t have seen it any other way,” Bonanno says.
He also talks about how Vodo can sidestep some of the film-industry caution which usually stops interesting projects getting seen:
“Right now there are sort of legal hoops you have to jump through. To do something officially through established big businesses—television broadcasters, things like that—costs a lot, and you sort of have to pay to play,” says Bonanno. “Releasing on peer-to-peer is a way around that, because it’s not like we were breaking the law with anything we were doing—it’s all fair use—but you still have to pay for a lawyer, or, in many cases, pay for rights simply if the insurer requires it.”
The same logic keeps all kinds of great content away from the public. Traditional distributors have massive costs, so they can’t take risks with unknown film-makers, with foreign-language content, or (as here) with films that annoy powerful groups. Vodo doesn’t have those costs, so we have much more freedom to share films we believe in.
In early February, VODO’s founder Jamie King presented VODO’s recent successes and some brief insights into its future direction at Persistence Resistance in New Delhi, India.
Persistence Resistance is an annual festival of shorts and documentaries. VODO took part in its seminar on crowdfunding and alternative financing models.
The annual festival was organised by the Magic Lantern Foundation and spearheaded by Gargi Sen. The Foundation is working with VODO to connect Indian films and audiences with VODO. Two films from the Foundation will be released on VODO shortly.
All the films from the festival can be seen at http://festivalonline.persistenceresistance.in/ by registering on the site.
PSFK has this write up on Sebastian Guttierez’ forthcoming A Girl Walks Into A Bar (to be released on the Web*) and VODO’s crowd-powered distribution:
Web distribution techniques are not necessarily new and Guittierez acknowledges the changing indie landscape enough to know that it’s ready for Hollywood to adapt to this sea change. Many will argue the marketability of distributing a film for free online, but evidence has shown that you can have a sustainable free model.
Similarly, the digital distribution platform VODO allows filmmakers to release their films for free via BitTorrent. Although the content is distributed freely users are given incentive to support the filmmakers whose work they download. Users are encouraged and rewarded for spreading the word about films they download and watch. It is a model built specifically the social nature of the online world.
* On YouTube, according to Wikipedia, sponsored by Lexus.
We recently had the pleasure of being invited to the wonderful Free Film Festival (Fria Filmfestivalen) at the Hagabion Cinema. Organised by Stian Rødven Eide in conjunction with Hagabion with the Free Society Conference, the festival mainly showcased VODO’s releases from the last eighteen months.
With over 250 people through the door in the one-day festival, it was considered to have been a great success by the organisers. We were happy to be invited to give a short talk on the history of VODO and why free-to-share is important to today’s creators.
One of the reasons the event was so well attended, Stian told us, was the free (as in gratis, and free from advertising) paper which had agreed to promote the event to the local community. People seemed to connect with the idea of free screenings with a donation: we’re not sure how much money was collected yet, but hopefully it will go to sustaining this cinema and its largely co-operative workforce.
We are hoping to continue develop the Free Film Festival in Europe in conjunction with Stian and his free-culture co-operative Gnutiken.
from Doculog [autotranslated: this needs proper translation]
Crowd Funding and documentary
“Crowd Funding will be the next thing, the next big thing. And next year on this festival will be a conference about it and everybody wants to be on it.There is going to be a transition period for the next five years as we get rid of the core dependency of single source funding. It will be interesting that we can ask the film agencies that are investing now: Can we use crowd funding as part of our budget “?
Peter Wintonick (Necessary Illusions / DOCAGORA, Montreal), moderator of the DOK Leipzig Crowdfunding podium on 21/10/2010
The 53th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film – DOK Leipzig is hardly over, and a catchword resounds more loudly: Crowd Funding. On the podium, “Crowd Funding – If the audience is the financier,” this alternative method of financing was discussed as a first exemplary alternative source of funding for documentaries.For here arise from pre-production to distribution opportunities.
The term Crowdfunding, on a construction of “Crowd”, English for the crowd and “funding” for funding, which embodies a principle, a project – financed by using fans or friends as supporters – such as the production of a documentary.Motivates the supporters to pay a small sum on the one hand by the fact that they are funding themselves part of a creative process and the other by small rewards, gifts they receive as a thank you. Crowd Funding platforms such Kickstarter.com Startnext.de in the U.S. or in Germany to make the process via the Internet.
Some examples of how Crowd Funding is used in the documentary:
The Age of Stupid (Franny Armstrong, 2009)
Franny Armstrong, filmmaker and activist from the UK, her film “The Age of Stupid” (2009), using donations, or mini-financed investments and budget of 450,000 pounds applied one. Those who invested 20 pounds, received a credit, and who is 5,000 pounds or more was in the movie was, this January with a distribution of profits expected from. The film was a huge success – first in theaters in Great Britain, and later on television (BBC in Great Britain, Discovery Channel in the U.S.) – and brought yet another innovation with it: the alternative distribution concept of fans or interest groups organized screening.
Energy Autonomy – The 4th Revolution (C.-A. Fechner, 2009)
With Energy Autonomy has recently financed a mass-documentary released in Germany made it: Energy Autonomy.
On the website for the film one was able to acquire film called blocks, as a private individual or as a sponsor.Consideration as it was a credit to the website and a free copy of the DVD. On the site is not to “Crowd Funding” is mentioned, but the principle is the same.
The above two examples have the Crowdfunding chosen approach to the production completely or partially to fund and does not need aggregator platforms. Energy Autonomy for Crowd Funding was a big part of the financing concept.
Blood in the Mobile (Frank Piasecki Poulsen, 2010)
The Danish documentary financed the documentary, which will compete this year in the category “Best Feature Length Documentary” at the IDFA, the recovery of raw materials for mobile phone production mainly in the traditional way – but experimented in the framework of the so-called Outreach Strategy that ‘ micro-donations “. The supporters for their donations were given a credit in the film.
TPB – The Pirate Bay AFK – Away From Keyboard (Simon Klose)
Director Simon Klose took advantage of the platform Crowdfunding Kickstarter.com,
to fund raise money for the post production of his documentary about the founders of The Pirate Bay. He had asked for $ 25,000 and more than $ 50,000 came together.The remedies ranged from a download link to the finished film for a donation of $ 10, up to a thank-you package including download link, copy the DVD, Credit in the film and screening with the director in a movie of your choice followed by a discussion of $ 5,000.
The embedded video is a so-called “Pledge” video – the video was on the Website of the kick only to see, but rather was including the home of thepiratebay.org embedded.
To follow the discussion in Leipzig, it became clear that not only these videos persuasive, that directors or – must be inclusive in focus – Project initiators to wider financial request, part of a new funding strategy, support the Crowdfunding something.
But what is even more important to the supporters to ensure the motivation: the return. That which gets back to the supporters. A small thank you, be it monetary value or a mention in the credits. Peter Wintonick (Necessary Illusions / DOCAGORA, Montreal), Moderator of the podium, calls the principle of ‘Micro Patronage’ (the term falls back to the Americans, Jason Kottke, of his blog funded by donations, which he calls micro saint.). In addition, important supporters to feel like the One film to be part of. Them is also convinced Jamie King, director of the Steal this film trilogy and operators of VODO.net.
Only after his return to the concept of the whole film is provided, in advance. Peer2Peer services on the films that have to be licensed accordingly in the public domain are distributed – free of charge. Who would then support the film financially, get a second “reward”: For example, the soundtrack to the film.
The Yes Men Fix The World (Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, 2009)
The documentary was the political activists Bichlbaum and Bonanno already see and buy. For VODO.net was cut and a special version with the free distribution via P2P in combination with the compensation in exchange for a donation in the first month already gathered $ 25,000.Consideration here: for $ 5 you could participate in a raffle for $ 500 was promised a credit in the next documentary. The film was downloaded over 670,000 times.
“What you really, really need is attention. And the more attention you have, the better things will get for you. The world starts to pave in a different way towards you as a filmmaker once if a million people see your film, its just a different playing field. “
Jamie King (filmmaker / VODO.net, London), DOK Leipzig Crowdfunding podium on 21/10/2010
Although the film at VODO.net ‘away’ is first – the publicity that he gets through the download rates has already led to television stations expressed for one or the other about VODO.net distributed film subsequent interest. With a proven audience interest can then negotiate easier. For the rest VODO.net monthly film released and up to 850,000 users will be downloaded.
What is clear in the current debate, with the demonstrated examples, and also after a evaluation of the discussion in Leipzig: Crowd Funding is more than a financing strategy. It’s about the supporters – a fan, friend, sponsor or philanthropists – to include part of the project will allow. In the panel discussion was Jamie King announced “It’s about connecting the audience to the lives of creative people. That is where the magic is AT. “A high-quality film, a good idea, a niche topic, presented by one of the project convinced the initiator of the unique enthusiasm, along with consideration that there is nowhere else, by supporters and with you involved spectators.
We are delighted to announce that tonight at 10pm CET, VODO will be hosting the BitTorrent premiere of English-language documentary California Dreaming, from Dutch public broadcaster VPRO. The film will be distributed under a Creative Commons, free-to-share license and co-incides with the premiere screening on television.
Directed by Bregtje van der Haak, California Dreaming is part of the channel’s Backlight strand, covering stories of prominent trends and developments from our globalized world. It follows five Los Angeles citizens whose lives have been transformed by California’s economic crisis. They’re not just survivors, but pioneers who are reinventing a new America.
We at VODO are delighted to be able to help a major European broadcaster innovate in its public service mandate by extending VPRO’s service to viewers all over the world. We hope all of our Distribution Coalition partners will get behind this release and promote it through their networks. VODO believes P2P has a great part to play in delivering the world’s media, and this trial is just the beginning of our co-operation with broadcasters– watch this space!
“We know that a growing segment of the VPRO’s audience is watching less and less television but continues to highly value this type of content,’ commented a VPRO executive on this release strategy. “By offering content for download, we are increasing the life cycle of these programs and enabling a whole number of new forms of re-use of our productions. As a public broadcaster we have the obligation to make our productions available to the public in an as flexible manner as possible.”
Paul Keller, Public Project Lead of Creative Commons Netherlands, who has worked with VPRO on this VODO release agrees. “The combination of Creative Commons licensing and BitTorrent-based distribution via VODO enables VPRO to reach new audiences without additional costs and very little extra effort. This presents a huge opportunity for public broadcasters with a relatively small home market to reach international international audiences.”
Watch California Dreaming tonight from 10pm CET at vo.do/californiadreaming
Behind the scenes, while bringing quality, award-winning releases like Pioneer One and The Yes Men Fix The World to the free-to-share world, the VODO team has been working for the last four months on what we nattily call VODO 2.1. This new version of VODO brings three main new features to VODO users:
Together, these features begin a new phase in VODO’s development.
A Little (Recent) History
One of our core beliefs at VODO is that “peer to peer” ultimately means that everyone is a distributor. To us, this is a really big and important change: it means we no longer have to rely on big media, big business, big anything to have our ideas seen and heard. We think a lot of interesting social changes will spin out of this single fact. And that’s why we’re working on VODO. Business people call it ‘disruption’. We prefer to think of it as transformation.
Up until now, we’ve been distributing in co-operation with what we call the DISCO (Distribution Coalition), an ad-hoc group of the world’s largest trackers, indexes and clients — including uTorrent, Limewire, Vuze, The Pirate Bay, Isohunt and many others. This has worked very well for our filmmakers, generating (for example) around 875,000 downloads for Pioneer One Season One, Episode One and leading to over $30,000 in audience sponsorship (exceeding our target by $10,000.) The Yes Men, multi-award winning filmmakers who’ve been distributed by major channels like HBO and Arte, told us that VODO has been their favourite distribution of their film so far. They received around 650,000 downloads of their release, and over $25,000 in donations.
We all have reason to be proud of this: it’s all of us together that make VODO work so well for artists: downloaders (who via the magic of BitTorrent, are all helping to provide the infrastructure that allows us to distribute hundreds of terabytes of content and still stay solvent), seeders (some of whom are providing truly massive amounts of data transfer), P2P site-owners (who are so important in bringing our release to the attention of P2P audiences), software producers like uTorrent and Frostwire and even commenters — each of us is a piece in the puzzle of this emergent, but already very powerful, distribution system. We are building it together.
So What’s An Influencer?
Every single Peer is important in P2P distribution: and increasingly, even a single Peer has connections, through his or her social networks, to hundreds or thousands of other people. This gives each one of us great potential to help promote and distribute new works. So VODO’s Influencer programme is intended to help people reach out to their friends, colleagues and families with free-to-share VODO releases. It’s pretty simple. Grab a VODO account and, connect your Facebook and Twitter profiles. From then on you can easily publish reviews of our releases with free-to-share shortlinks that allow them to be downloaded easily and immediately.
Socially and organisationally, we see this relationship between artists and ‘influencers’ as much more truly P2P than the way we’ve been doing things so far. We have high hopes for it. To date, our work with large indexes and trackers (as much as we love them!) has more reflected an Everyone is a Downloader than ‘Distributor’ mindset. We know that we need to produce attention for new artists — because it’s our attention that lifts them out of obscurity into a sustainable creative practice. But we shouldn’t rely only on the large, emerging players in P2P to play this role. It’s something we can, and should do together. Peer-ising the attention economy is a crucial step to breaking with the dynamics of the incumbent distribution model.
Initially, the social networks that we support directly are Facebook and Twitter — but we will add more as people demand it. In the meantime, feel free to grab your personalised short-links and place them anywhere you’d like to promote a release: we’ll still be able to tell that the visitors came from you.
The mighty Do
Actually, we know that individuals are out already promoting our work, and without any real recognition from us. We get serious amounts of traffic from Facebook. Pioneer One tweets were seen over a million times following our release. But we want to show you how much we, and our creators, value all this help. So we’ve created an internal currency, the Do, with which we’ll reward Influencers. Every time someone downloads a release because of you, visits an artist’s VODO page, signs up or sponsors an artist, you’ll receive a few Do.
There are two ways to look at Do: as a reputation currency that allows people to compare (or even compete on) how much value they have produced for VODO creators; and as an exchange currency that has actual value in the world. In time, you’ll be able to trade Dofor all sorts of offers, prizes and merchandise. In this first (experimental) stage, feel free to build up Do in preparation for later offers. But we’ll probably have to knock a few kinks out of our internal currency before it’s ready for prime-time. You can help us by gaming it as hard as you can.
Right at the start of VODO’s development, we put out a call for “Regular Supporters” for the VODO project. In return we were going to offer “behind the scenes” access to VODO, in an efforts to bring our supporters into the constant development behind the site and service. We’re ashamed to admit that we’ve totally failed to look after our Supporters so far. So we’ve put some thought into how to fix this. Apologies Regular Supporters. We will do better for you.
From now on, VODO will be running VODO Labs as a way to stay connected with the people who are supporting our development. We provide private updates for all members on our progress, information about new films and artists we’re hunting down, development updates, pre-access to new features — and hopefully a lot more over time. It’s a way of saying ‘thanks’ for supporting us, and bringing you closer to the development process. We’d like to try to build to a thousand VODO Labs members by mid-2011. To give you an idea, 2000 VODO Labs members would pay for the development of VODO at its current size.
But it doesn’t end there. We’re rolling out the same concept for all our creators through the VODO Studios feature. This will provide a membership infrastructure for artists to connect with fans throughout the creative process: providing clips from their work, taking suggestions from members, sharing new works they like and more. We know that of the many thousands of people sponsoring VODO artists, may will want to connect with them in an ongoing way. VODO Studios are a way to become part of your artists’ creative work — to the extent that their Studio Members will be name-checked on all their VODO releases.
The economics of Studios are pretty simple. If an artist can gather 400-500 Studio Members, they will have a monthly income that will allow them to focus more intensely on their work, and even consider giving up the day job. Many independent creators are juggling all sorts of work to allow them to produce the great content we enjoy — Studios should make this a little easier.
Finally, we are changing how we handle bringing new work into VODO. We’ve been a little opaque about how this happens, and many artists may have been frustrated by trying to work out how they can take advantage of our system. We’d like to take the opportunity to apologise for this, explain our thinking about bringing new work into VODO, and how things are going to change.
The background to our problem is that did not want to create a ‘competition’ environment on VODO. There are just too many competitions out there for filmmakers — many of them that they have to pay to enter, and by definition hardly anyone wins. We’re filmmakers ourselves. It’s a depressing business. But then, we can only promote so many films. So how do we deal with the demand to get works onto VODO?
Thankfully, the key lies in the Influencers feature we described above. From now on, anyone prepared to make their work available on a free-to-share basis will be able to upload works to VODO. From there, Influencers will be able to pick the work up to promote through their social networks. And when VODO promotes major works each month, the general traffic to the site (just under three quarters of a million page views usually) should bring new audiences to these new works.
So there will actually be a benefit to having your work on VODO: you can collect new fans, set up your sponsorship incentives, develop a Studio if you like*, and get downloads via Influencers. We’ll watch closely and see which works are generating the most organic interest from our users and off-site visitors, and use this data to decide which works we should get behind for our monthly releases. (We’re also going to be trying to make our releases more frequent, too, but not just yet.)
Please Break Our Site
Obviously a lot of thought, planning and work (and not a little chat) has gone into these new developments. But we are a small team and we get things wrong. Plus we’re releasing a great new film next week. So… if we’ve made mistakes, please help us find them and make them right.
We thank you all for support. Hope you enjoy the new features.
–– VODO team.
One of the VODO team just pointed out BackType, a Y-Combinator funded social media analytics company. Backtype is trying to help companies understand their social impact. It’s certainly helped us already, and we aren’t even one of the private beta testers, so we don’t have access to the juiciest information.
In a couple of searches on BackType, we found that the link to Pioneer One has seen 976,228 impressions on Twitter since June 1, 2010, from a total of 1,241 Tweets. That’s an extraordinary number, and it explains why Twitter has become such a prominent referrer for VODO. We’d been concentrating on the tweets themselves as the main metric, but not really bearing in mind that a single tweet can have thousands of readers, depending on who’s tweeting.
It’s very cool to be able to see who our top ‘influencers’ are (is that a BackType term, or an emerging convention?) BackType shows us that the biggest tweeters pushing the Pioneer One release out to their network were prominent film critic Roger Ebert (207,200 followers), blogger Mark Parent (78,700 followers), filmmaker/entrepeneur Kim Sherrell (71,000 followers) and social media marketer and John Newell (42,200). Between them, these guys have an audience of nearly 400,000.
The Yes Men Fix The World has scored an equally impressive 651,005 impressions since its release last month. Top influencers were teenage entrepeneur Josh Lam (96,900 followers), geek curator Maria Popova (25,100) and promoter/skater/punk Foo (20,200).
Influencers like these are obviously going to be key to the success of VODO’s creators. One of our beliefs here at VODO is that the ecosystem that makes VODO possible should be respected and utilised as much as possible — from bloggers, to trackers and indexes to Twitter influencers, we need to put the whole infrastructure to work for our artists to help promote their work and open up revenue opportunities for them.
Spotting who the heavyweights are is really great (thanks, Backtype!). It would also be cool to know how many retweets result from each tweet, because the raw impressions become most significant when they lead to further influence. An influencer with ‘only’ a thousand followers could be really helpful for creators if their followers really trust them, retweet and/or actually download the film, or if they’re very active tweeters themselves. It’s probably pretty hard for Backtype or anyone else to find out how many click-throughs a tweet gets, but these sort of retweet metrics would be pretty handy for us.
The question we’re consequently throwing around at VODO is: what’s the appropriate way to message these key influencers? In the old days, they’d have been taken on junkets, wined and dined, and so on. This feels like the wrong way to do things now. What feels right is that these influencers have actually just discovered our releases in the ether, and chosen by their own volition to push them out there. Interrupting that natural dynamic with aggressive messaging (“Mr. Ebert, would you like to tweet this…?”) seems to us like begging, and a lot less graceful than the way things are happening right now.
Some social media expert probably has ideas on the right way to approach these highly influential individuals, in a way that fits with networked media. We’d be delighted to have your guidance!
VODO’s release of The Yes Men Fix The World: P2P Edition has done very well, gaining around 250,000 downloads in ten days, with approximately $16,000 in direct viewer support. The film landed at number six in TorrentFreak’s list of the top 10 films downloaded on BitTorrent last week.
Given the popularity of this release, we’ve had a bunch of nice coverage on the big blogs, including BoingBoing, TorrentFreak, NewTeeVee, Mashable and Techdirt. This post contains some clips from a few of them.
new donations are currently coming in at a rate of $500 per hour.” “It’s going great,” he said, adding that there has been “tons” of e-mail feedback from viewers as well.
Bonanno told me that the duo had a hard time securing distribution deals for the movie, which chronicles pranks against Haliburton and Dow Chemical, amongst others. For instance, the film won an audience award at the prestigious International Film Festival in Berlin, but hasn’t gotten any distribution in Germany. There has also been only limited theatrical release in the U.S., and getting the movie even in a few theater oftentimes took a lot of work. “It’s just kind of amazing how much easier it is,” said Bonanno about reaching an audience via P2P [...]
The duo has already said that it will definitely publish its next movie on file-sharing sites again to give back to people who finance its production with their donations. But Bonanno said that they could also change their mind on other distribution methods, like theatrical releases or TV deals, depending on how much money the current donation campaign will bring in.
The duo is currently planing to sell its next movie to TV again, but doing so tends to add a lot of additional costs for legal clearances and similar issues. “There is a chance that we would just release it on P2P,” if enough money came in via donations, he said, adding: “We might consider it as a completely alternative distribution model.
Meanwhile, over at Mashable’s, Samuel Axon explained that one of the reasons The Yes Men decided to release this version via VODO was that they’re being sued by the US Chamber of Commerce for material contained within the film, and
None of the networks are willing touch it until the lawsuit is resolved.
The Yes Men didn’t just do this to give the impression that it’s not all about commercial gain. They also did it to avoid paying for E&O or “errors and omissions” insurance, which documentary filmmakers are often required to buy if they can’t verify that every detail in the fore or background of every shot is free of copyright infringement. The E&O requirement is a huge hurdle for independent filmmakers.
Obviously in VODO’s estimation, the Yes Men are doing nothing wrong by exercising their freedom to express dissent over the Chamber of Commerce’s stance through parody. We support their right to put their voice out there, and it is indeed interesting that traditional distributors and the old infrastructure apparently can’t compete in terms of speed or being able to stand behind something a bit riskier. Over at Techdirt, Mike Masnick picked up this theme:
It’ll be interesting to see if more indie filmmakers jump on alternative distribution platforms not just because they’re more efficient, but also because it gets them around having to deal with overbearing E&O insurance issues.
“If copyright was actually working the way it was supposed to, and protecting the authors that would be great,” Mike Bonanno told popular file-sharing blog Torrentfreak. “But that’s not how it works anymore – it just protects money; whoever has the most of it. And usually that means that the authors are fucked anyway!”
The release continues to enjoy great popularity on the BitTorrent networks via our support from partners like uTorrent, Mininova and others. This piece from UK TV Industry weekly Broadcast is interesting, as it picks up the major issues around the release while struggling to grasp the way our distribution system actually works. Hopefully next time they’ll ask us
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