SnagFilms reinvents film distribution

Steve Rosenbaum · October 17, 2008 · Short URL:

Movie, moguls and technology


The glorious past.
The messy present.
The emerging future.

I had one of those days yesterday where you see the world with incredible clarity.  OK, not world peace or the environment or anything like that.  But a business I love, and a world I know well.  Film.

I've been a documentary filmmaker my whole life - one way or another.  So spending the first half of the day with Ted Leonsis the Chairman of SnagFilms,  and the evening with David Picker and Scott Rudin.

Let me start with the evening and then we'll talk about Snag.

First of all,  David Picker is perhaps the most engaging gentlemen in the film world today.  He has been everywhere that you can imagine might matter,  including the storied United Artists where he was President from '69 to '73.  Quite a time to be in the movie business.  Picker was responsible for films including "Tom Jones", "Midnight Cowboy', and "Last Tango in Paris". He greenlit Woody Allen's "Bananas" on title alone. Good call. Scott Rudin is an iconoclast, a scrappy film producer  who'se made both "hollywood" and indie films.  His eclectic filmography of Producer credits includes "Zoolander",  "Searching for Bobby Fischer",  "The Truman Show" and "No Country for Old Men". 

So,  these guys really know the film business - as it was, and is.

At the PGA event last night, both of them mourned the death of a business where a single studio head could "greenlight" A film.  Rudin spoke with distain about the "greenlight" committee at the major studios that included 14 members including marketing, dvd and international sales.

Which brings me to SnagFilms.

Where is the new studio chief? An individual with passion, drive, a cause and the willingness to put his money and his name on the line. Well, Ted Leonsis comes to mind. He made the film "Nanking" because he wanted to tell a story. Was it "commercial"?  Probably not on paper. But it had an impact. And that turned Ted Leonsis the filmmaker into Ted Leonsis studio chief.

But not the studios that my friend David ran. A new studio. A mash up. Part technology, part community, but clearly open in its architecture. And with a total focus on quality.

Mr. Leonsis is building the kind of studio that Mr. Picker would like to make movies for. No studio financing, but new low cost filmmakers -  the democratization of the platform seems certain to lead to a revenue stream that is clearer,  more equitable and more sustainable.

The passion of film isn't dead.  It is evolving - one could even say re-emerging.  And as new platforms like SnagFIlms are created and spread,  there is more (not less) opportunity for storytellers to create engaging and important work.

When I met with Ted Leonsis, it was to thank him. Working with is remarkable team at SnagFilms,  I was able to release a film that might have otherwise not reached an audience.  It's called: "Inside The Bubble."  It's the tale of life on campaign trail with a Presidential Campaign that is sure they've got what it takes to win.  See if you think this cautionary tale is worth watching.  The LA Times called it:  "an intriguing look at the disastrous last days of Sen. John F. Kerry's Democratic presidential campaign."

As a filmmaker who has had films on big screens,  on TV,  and on the Web -  I can tell you the passion and drive that David Picker and I share isn't over.  In fact,  there's lots of evidence that it is just getting started.  When I started making "Inside The Bubble" I imagined that it would play in movie theatres.  But particularly for documentary, people tend to look for content around their passions and causes on thier own terms.  That means that for folks with an interest in Politics,  my film could be just what you're hungry for.  But that content may not be best viewed with a bucket of a popcorn -  and rather on your own terms  via SnagFilms.   So,  for  non-fiction filmmakers in particular -  distribution  solutions  that are now a reality could actually  signal the  emergence of a golden age for  documentary film.

Certainly things are changing - but for filmmakers and audiences alike -  the democratization of distribution can only mean more movies making their way to your screen.

And - to get you started,  here's my film - free,  whenever you want it.

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