Getting a movie made is hard enough. Finding the resources to market that film and get it out to the masses is a whole other puzzle.
Telefilm Canada understands this dilemma and is in touch with the digital age. Chances are, if a feature film has come out of this province in the last 10 years, Telefilm Canada helped fund it.
The Atlantic region office is in Halifax, and over the last 25 years the organization has invested $17.3 million in the Newfoundland and Labrador audiovisual industry.
The first funded film 25 years ago was "Undertow," from well-known local producer Paul Pope.
"There's an old Broadway expression," Pope said in a phone interview, discussing the nature of our increasingly digital society. "'You are either appearing or disappearing.' Audiences are migrating to various (digital) platforms, and if you don't follow them, you will die."
On Jan. 15, Telefilm hosted an intensive workshop in Halifax for industry professionals, in line with the organization's corporate plan, From Cinemas to Cell Phones. Social networking sites have altered the face of film and television, changing the way we receive information. Telefilm's goal is to educate and inform industry professionals of ways to maximize the potential to reach and increase audiences.
Gordon Whittaker, regional director of business development in Telefilm's Atlantic office, says that despite the array of new platforms for showcasing and marketing film and television, content and audience are things all filmmakers and producers still have in common.
"Beyond marketing, which is at ground level, we at Telefilm need to look at new ways to build audiences, and the digital world is a great way for clients to expand their audiences and to market content. Also, content can be displayed in a variety of platforms (in addition to traditional television and movie theatres, which are fading). So the workshop was partly about marketing films, but also about the consumption of new and different content for different platforms."
One example of different content is bonus material, Pope explains.
"We're developing a show right now, which is a standard show, but on the website is additional material that you wouldn't see in the actual episode. So, for example, if in an episode you and I had a fight, but at the beginning of the next episode we've made up, the juicy bits of how we made up would be on the website," he explains.
"So it's brand new material. I really have to congratulate Telefilm, because their mandate is to eye-open us to the fact that we have to take this development seriously."
Internet-based information consumption is now the primary source for many people, so just watching "30 Rock" from week to week is not enough. The NBC website is blocked with web exclusives - the "30 Rock" dating game, behind-the-scenes features with various guest stars, and oodles more. This is becoming the norm; anyone who watches "Lost" knows it's not enough to just tune in weekly. The show is damned confusing and engrossing - we need the website in a feeble attempt to gain clarity and satisfy our craving for more Sawyer pics.
But I digress - essentially, such additional content for both television and film can potentially suck audiences even further in and make viewers more invested in the story. That and, instead of plunking on the couch to watch conventional TV or films, many people go to the Internet for first viewings of shows or movies.
"Canada is lagging behind the States in terms of embracing opportunities that the digital world presents," says Whittaker.
"Over the last 12 months, there's been a lot of information and sharing of open sourcing. Online discussions on how to take your content and get it to audiences in different ways on different platforms has been very common, and that's borderless, but it seems to originate out of the States and I'm not sure why.
"They've got an independent film scene that is so much larger. They're generating that much more interesting information on this aspect of audience-building. It's not necessarily a bad thing. We're all sharing and benefitting from that information. We've got a smaller volume of feature films, for example, so it's hard to build up that kind of history. But we're getting there. The future is bright and we're doing what we can with our clients to give them a more enhanced view."
"Grown Up Movie Star" is a locally written, directed and produced film that will be screened at the Sundance Film Festival in a few days. Pope, who produced it, explains that plans are well in place to blog, Tweet and Facebook the entire 10 days they're at Sundance.
"Adriana (Maggs, the film's writer and director) will be handling the Facebook and blog site, and Shawn Doyle (cast member) will be handling the Twitter posts. But it will all be linked from www.grownupmoviestar.com. Adriana's agenda is a full 10 days of live blogging, Tweeting, Facebook-ing, etc. So, essentially, audiences have the opportunity to vicariously experience Sundance."
The trailer can be found on YouTube.
Whittaker adds that in the larger context of Telefilm, the organization "has a really strong relationship with clients in Newfoundland, especially over the last three or four years. We are very impressed with the material coming out of there."
Heidi Wicks writes the blog "Wicks on Flix" on www.thetelegram.com
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