At ZoomTilt, we love working with independent filmmakers. Why? Because we believe that opportunity is the only difference between our filmmakers and today’s major motion picture director. Why do we feel this way? Take a look at history.
Easy Rider paved the way for independent film success
After the 1967 success of Warren Beatty’s Bonnie and Clyde, Hollywood studios began to relinquish creative control to a new group of filmmakers who would form the New Hollywood movement. This line of thinking would lead Columbia Pictures to distribute Dennis Hopper’s counter-culture classic Easy Rider, the first independent feature to be distributed by a major studio. Easy Rider went on to become the third highest grossing film of 1969, grossing over $41 million while costing a paltry $360,000.
The film production aide who turned a $12,000 opportunity into a $4 billion entertainment empire
Fresh off box office success Finian’s Rainbow, Francis Ford Coppola was not an independent film director by the time he started work on 1969’s The Rain People. However, Coppola did dedicate the film’s $12,000 still photography budget to a 25 year-old production aide to produce a documentary about the making of The Rain People. Humbly titled Filmmaker, the aide’s work was later praised by Coppola, who reflected that the documentary “may be better than [The Rain People].”
Sadly, the aide never made another documentary. He did however remain active in the film industry, working on some of the most successful and beloved film franchises of all time. That humble aide’s name? George Walton Lucas, Jr., who recently sold his studio, LucasFilm for $4 Billion dollars.
Today’s biggest names in film started as independents
Name some of today’s big time Hollywood directors. For me, Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, and James Cameron immediately come to mind. What do these successful filmmakers have in common? All three started as independent film directors.
Jackson’s first feature film, Bad Taste, was completed after four years of weekend filming in his hometown of Pukerua Bay, New Zealand. In 1987, Jackson brought Bad Taste to Cannes, where rights to the film sold to twelve countries. While you may have never seen Bad Taste (I haven’t), Jackson was able to leverage this early success to become the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, grossing $2.92 billion to date.
Before Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy grossed over $2.49 Billion worldwide, he was best known as the creator and director of another trilogy, the American Horror film franchise The Evil Dead. The first Evil Dead film was produced with an estimated budget of $375,000 and has a box office gross of $29.4 Million (as of 2008).
After seeing 1977’s Star Wars, Cameron decided to quit his job as a truck driver to pursue work in the film industry. While ill with food poisoning, Cameron had a nightmare about a robot sent from the future to kill him. Expanding this idea into a screenplay, Cameron found studios were interested in the concept but not a director with little prior experience. Eventully, Cameron found a partner in Hemdale Studios, who bought the script to The Terminator for one dollar. Not a bad price for a movie that grossed $78 Million in theaters, and became a hugely popular entertainment franchise.
The former script reader who turned three days of writing into an Academy Award
A long time script reader, Michael Arndt decided to take the plunge into screenwriting in May 2000. In three days, he had written a script following the journey of a motley family on a road trip from Maryland to Florida (later changed to New Mexico to California). Over five years and 100 revisions later, Arndt’s Little Miss Sunshine debuted at the 2006 Sundance film festival, where it inspired a bidding war for the distribution rights. Little Miss Sunshine went on to gross over $100 million at the box office, and Arndt won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his efforts. Since Sunshine, Arndt wrote the screenplay for Toy Story 3 (2010) and was just named the writer for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII (2015).
Where is the next George Lucas / Peter Jackson / Michael Arndt?
That is an easy question to answer! They are in ZoomTIlt’s network amazing filmmakers, whose numbers have surpassed 300 as of this writing. Our filmmakers are as unique as they are talented, are full of ideas and ready to pitch!
Are you a brand interested in original web entertainment to tell your brand’s unique story? Drop us a line here. Are you a filmmaker looking to embrace your creativity while embracing ? Sign up to pitch on our homepage!
Bryan Ryczek is the Director of Sales at ZoomTilt, and wants to help your brand create top notch online branded entertainment.
A new episode from Boston comedy dating web series “617: The Series”
The first advertiser-supported web series was Scott Zakarin’s The Spot, way back in 1995. The fictional Real World-style show took full advantage of the Internet’s ability to draw in viewers on several platforms. The characters blogged before there were blogs, posted photos and videos, and e-mailed with viewers, who would discuss the show and give feedback on thespot.com.
With ZoomTilt heading to SXSW as one of eight Entertainment tech startups, it’s clear that the world of web entertainment is expanding. So much so, that most web series sink in the sea of series. How can viewers like you find content like ours?
Sure, there are The Streamys, The Webbys, and all kinds of Fests; but how do we find the shows of our dreams? With the Internet comes a wide array of niche audiences. Web series must break away from the streamlined Hollywood plots of preexisting TV shows by getting creative and getting weird. The key is to do what you can’t do on TV, by avoiding overdone plots and also taking advantage of the world that entertainment now lives in. Whether people are watching it from a mobile device, their computer, or their plain old tube, a web series will succeed when it is coupled with strong viewer engagement by offering “extras.”
This is a huge part of what makes web entertainment so enticing – the immediacy and interactivity of it all. People want it how they want it, when they want it. What if you didn’t have to wait and tune in next week ever again? Netflix has decided to see what happens when they release their own entire web series at once. This may work for Netflix, but for most independent filmmakers and small production companies, maintaining an engaged audience over time and spreading a series to several different social networking sites is crucial to the success of a new show.
It’s one thing when companies like Netflix and Intel launch online TV, but the bulk of web series are being created on a tight budget. Despite the cheap and quick nature of the Internet, a web series will only take off with an original and well-developed story line. Getting original ideas in motion is necessary. ZoomTilt reaches into the pool of independent filmmakers to produce fresh content for brands. Another collaborative website, The Republic, hosts the Reddit Comedy Project, allowing the audience to crowdsource the premises and rank the pitches.
In the words of media mogul Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message.” Sure, you can take a TV show and distribute it on the Internet, or take a web series and slap it on the television; but the success of web series today relies on originality, quality, and maximizing the interactivity of the Internet.
Mystery-Romance “Connection Lost” – brought to you in partnership with Equal Exchange
Today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our newest filmmaker opportunity in partnership with Vistaprint: the Reality or Fiction? Independent Business Owner Web Series Competition. Vistaprint, a global leader in affordable, high-quality products for small and emerging businesses, is looking for both narrative and reality show web series that will captivate viewers with the unique emotional highs and lows of being a small business owner or entrepreneur.
Starting today through February 24, pitches are being accepted at ZoomTilt.com. Interested filmmakers can pitch to Vistaprint’s narrative brief, reality show brief or both – best of all there’s no limit to the number of times you pitch! Multiple finalists will be selected and funded to produce pilot episodes of their series, and if Vistaprint (not to mention your audience) loves your pilot, you could win a $15,000 per episode web series deal! For more information, visit ZoomTilt.com - and feel free to forward this opportunity to friends and colleagues if you think you can handle the extra competition.
Good luck – and may the best filmmaker win!