Written by: FFT Webmaster | September 22nd, 2011
The Toronto International Film Festival, which concluded this past Sunday, provides a unique opportunity to check the pulse of the international film scene. While the films on display are of paramount importance, the companies that flock to the event, some spanking new with innovative concepts for film funding, distribution and exhibition, mark a clear direction for where the industry is heading. For me, one such company was the newly minted FilmFunds, a new web- and mobile based service with a unique concept. The company, based in Los Angeles, came to Toronto as one of the event’s industry sponsors, providing exhibiting filmmakers gratis research and marketing services. The service aims to work with indie film producers, distributors and Hollywood studios to test market nascent film and television projects, while giving fans an unprecedented opportunity to be part of the green-light process. Add to that the company’s access to a database of 60 million moviegoers and it becomes instantly clear how the service can animate crowd-sourced market research to replace the costly live test-screening models that have been an industry staple for decades.
For producers, distributors and financers, the company’s mandate allows for projects to be “pre-qualified” via scalable diagnostic tools so that audience appeal can be tracked at a very early stage of the production process (e.g. synopses, trailers, artwork, work-in-progress scenes). FilmFunds members can review these materials and choose whether to “Like” a project, with positive results predicting an audience for it down the road. “What immediately drew me to FilmFunds is the idea of creating a virtual marketplace where filmmakers, fans and financiers can all intersect – like a film festival held 365 days a year,” co-founder & CEO Sean Stone declared at the company’s TIFF launch. “The process is also highly democratic, allowing anyone with a concept, a script, a teaser to reach out directly to the public, without being at the mercy of traditional gatekeepers”. The openness of the relationship is in alliance with the populist stream of social media networking and the audience’s innate instinct of what they find interesting and appealing. And they do this via the mobile apps and social networking sites where they already spend a good amount of their time online. Think of it as the Nielsen opinion polls for a new age.
“We are working on a rewards benefit program for our users which will allow them to accumulate points towards gifts and the ability to attend sneak previews, red carpet events and cool VIP after-parties”, Mika Astrom, the company’s energetic Creative Director shared with me during an interview at TIFF. “Aside from its use as a marketing tool by people who make and distribute films, the site is also a creative, interactive environment for people who are passionate about films and television programs, and gives them an outlet to express their opinions and share them with friends, family and a greater community”, Astrom enthused. “With the way that social media explodes, I predict that within a year that we will have many examples of projects that found their way into the marketplace because they could use our services to show that definite interest was already there and ready to be tapped.”
Headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in New York, FilmFunds is guided by an executive team that includes Sean Stone (Co-Founder & CEO), an actor, director and documentarian who brings a broad perspective to his work in the entertainment industry both as a Princeton history graduate and son of filmmaker Oliver Stone; and Ron Yuan (Head of Content & New Media), a respected actor, director and producer who bridges the Hollywood and Asian film worlds and whose award-winning feature and short film work has premiered in more than 35 festivals worldwide. For more information and to get with the program, visit: www.filmfunds.com