The buzz around the Canadian film community centres on CineCoup and its “up to $1 million in production financing and guaranteed release in Cineplex theatres in Fall 2013.”
Per CineCoup’s website:
The CineCoup Film Accelerator is a disruptive new model for filmmakers to develop, market and finance their feature films. Filmmaking teams apply to CineCoup with a two-minute trailer. They advance through a gamified selection funnel that’s designed to package their projects and build audience support on the CineCoup social web platform. The Top 10 projects will be optioned for development and one will be selected for up to $1 million (CDN) in production financing and guaranteed release in Cineplex theatres in Fall 2013.
CineCoup and its founder Jason Joly, who doesn’t seem to have a track record in feature film financing, are currently crossing the country charging people to attend a Q&A (though in all fairness there’s apparently good grub). While I have NOT had a chance to attend one, I spoke to a good friend who was at the Toronto session and some acquaintances at the Montreal session. I’ve also read several articles, twitter feeds, and perused CineCoup’s web site.
I’m all for a “disruptive new model for filmmakers to develop, market and finance their feature films” and I really, really hate to be a skeptic, especially with regards to a new Canadian initiative that can help get more Canadian movies made and seen, but a few red flags jump out me. I’m going to list them in point form below for the sake of brevity and clarity…
- Right off the bat, the fact that CineCoup charges $15 to attend a Q&A session doesn’t sit so well, even if there’s some food. Fifteen dollars for an info session?! Really? And then $150 to enter the contest. Is it a money grab? Is that money going into the “up to $1 million (CDN) in production financing?”
- Speaking of the “up to” $1 million (CDN) in production financing…this means that even if you win, CineCoup does not have to give you $1 million dollars, it could be $150 plus some service deals, if that. The words “UP TO” give CineCoup a lot of legal lee-way.
- Filmmakers on the shortlist will be required to build interest in their project — and crowdsource some of their funding — via social media. What does that even mean? Is that through Facebook? So now the filmmakers are raising their own money? Huh? Is that included in the “up to $1 million (CDN) in production financing?” How is that going to be collected and by whom?
- The guaranteed release in Cineplex theatres is great in theory as most micro-budget movies (Canadian or otherwise) don’t get any sort of theatrical release, but this is super vague. How many theatres? 1? 10? 15? How long is the run? 1 day? 5 days? 1 month? Is it a guaranteed theatre in Toronto, Montreal, or Swift Current, Saskatchewan? CineCoup did mention in the Montreal Q&A session (and possibly others) that it would use the data of “voters” to determine where the winning film would play, but not only is that still very vague there’s also presumably going to be some data mining going on.
- The fact that there’s little to no emphasis placed on the screenplay, which is the blueprint for a movie, is puzzling. On CineCoup’s web site it lays out 6 steps in its process and only in the fifth step (the second to last step before “Cineplex Theatrical Release”), dated May 2013, is there any mention of any script development. Rather, the emphasis is first placed on submitting a 2-minute trailer by January (with no script?!) and then on projects gaining the most votes, combined with input from an UNNAMED industry panel (whatever that means) wins.
- How much creative freedom will the filmmakers retain? Who specifically is helping them develop it? I’ve heard no mention of this.
- The fact that if you’re one of the 10 finalists but don’t win, your project is still under option for 2 years. Two years is NOT an unreasonable amount of time to option property at all, but 2 years at an undisclosed fee after you pay $150 dollars to enter, drum up all that buzz yourself, bust your ass creating a two-minute trailer, “execute weekly missions to develop and package your concept, promote your project across social networks – and beyond…build an audience to help you advance, and submit a marketing strategy for free pay”, CineCoup can sit on your project and do nothing with it. For 2 years! And you don’t even get the undisclosed ”industry jury” to evaluate your project if you place 6-10 — only the Top 5 project packages and team performances get evaluated. And what does that evaluation even entail?
Is this really the best use of filmmakers time? Up to you to decide.