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SXSW 2009: Reinventing the distribution wheel.

SXSW 2009: Reinventing the distribution wheel. (photo)

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Times are tough everywhere right now, but they’ve been tough in the indie distribution world long before the current economic downturn. Too many films, too high advertising costs, not enough arthouse screens, not enough time for titles to build up buzz before they’re bumped to make room for next week’s offerings — people bemoan the shift away from theatergoing, but theatrical releases have largely become just a glorified means of marketing a film’s DVD or digital release.

There are several attempts to break away from the traditional release method kicking off here in Austin this week: “The Least of These” is getting a simultaneous festival and online premiere via SnagFilms; our sister company IFC Entertainment’s putting five films on VOD via Festival Direct as they makes their premieres; Cinetic’s just put three films from last year’s fest that didn’t get theatrical deals up on Hulu, “We Are Wizards,” “Yeast” and “The Lost Coast.” And B-Side, best known for providing free websites with plenty of community components to festivals (take a whirl around their SXSW Genius site), announced yesterday that their first release as a distributor will be Brett Gaylor’s copyright doc, “RiP: A Remix Manifesto,” which is making its U.S. premiere here at the SXSW Film Festival. I grabbed a drink with B-Side’s CEO Chris Hyams and Paola Freccero, recently hired away from Tribeca to head up the company’s new distribution arm in New York, to hear about their model and why they were getting into the distribution business when everyone else seems to be getting out.

For B-Side, the idea is to skip the typical release method entirely and aim for something they call “quasi-theatrical” — venues, be they cinemas, bars, community centers, etc, can request a DVD of a film in order to hold their own screening, all of the proceeds from which they can keep. B-Side and the filmmaker make their money only from actual sales of the film digitally and on DVD, and via venues like Hulu, and they split the revenue 50/50. The company was inspired to take this initiative after being a co-partner in a similar release of last year’s pot comedy doc “Super High Me,” offering a “Roll Your Own Screening” initiative and reaching out via the likes of High Times, and in the end getting far higher DVD sales than any original estimates.

This model relies on films that have passionate, reachable niche audiences already in place, since little or no money will be put into advertising and promotion — “licorice films,” which some, even most people just won’t care for/about, but a smaller group will truly love. Partially because of that, it’s at the moment doc-centric, with only one narrative in the slate of recent acquisitions B-Side will be announcing over the next few months. It also means giving up on relying on coverage from the major press outlets, since this style of release almost certainly won’t include the requisite weeklong New York or L.A. run needed to guarantee a review. It’s not a concern for the company at the moment; as Hyams put it, the people who sought out “Super High Me” weren’t really worried about what Manohla Dargis would have thought of it. And Freccero noted that the number of filmmakers who insist on the prestige of that type of theatrical release are “fewer now than the year before,” and will be fewer still next year.

It’s an ambitious and notably web-influenced approach to putting out films (one that echoes the faith-based film market, which has been doing similar things for a few years now), not as much in its use of technology as in its long tailish conviction in the internet allowing specialized audiences to find what they’re looking for, with a little help. Any sense of sadness at the ever more devalued power of critics is probably felt only by me.

[Photo: Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, in “RiP: A Remix Manifesto,” B-Side Entertainment, 2009]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.