When Graham Leggat said (Enric has some video) at the press conference announcing the lineup for the 50 San Francisco International Film Festival that some films would be available on Jaman for a limited number of downloads, I didn't realize how limited.
They had hoped to announce the films at the press conference, then 10 days before the festival began, but the names of the films weren't released until a few days into the fest. The six films would be available for a day for up to 100 downloads.
Unfortunately, that is understandable. While technology has been changing rapidly, most theatrical distributors won't pick up a film which has been available online nor will most television channels.
The Key of G was available on Jaman only outside of the US and Canada because it will be on PBS in October. Sundance made some of the short films they showed available for free online and/or for $2 on itunes. After he was on a panel at SFMOMA in February, I asked Jay Rosenblatt why he didn't include his Sundance short I Just Wanted to Be Somebody (which will also screen at Frameline in June). He said his film was being considered by a cable channel which wouldn't have permitted it to be shown online. Filmmakers may also only have festival rights to footage and music in their films before they are picked up for distribution or television.
And while Jaman is a great service (I've been beta testing it for a few months), it does require registration and downloading a player. And the files are large, around a gig or more (though they download relatively quickly on a fast
internet connection). Tribeca has also been offering free films for about a week each with no limit on downloads (one film is still available through the 9th and another through the 11th). Still, one film was downloaded 128 times, one 106 times, and another 63 times according to Jaman's most downloaded page.
The SFIFF50 film All in This Tea was downloaded almost 80 times in one day. When I asked Les Blank last week why he participated, he said, "Why not?" He said he was experimenting with online distribution including making his 1973 film, Dry Wood, available at the free streaming site, Folkstreams.
More theatrical distributors and television outlets should have that attitude. Seeing a film online may help build an audience in theaters and on television. When Sundance asked the filmmakers of The Tribe to put it online as part of the 2006 festival, they were hesitant. But being online actually helped their DVD sales (when they had to have Sundance take the film down during Tribeca last year, sales went down).
Next year, I hope the festival will also make short films available (they are smaller downloads) and make the feature films available for a longer time.
Originally posted on tigerbeat.vox.com