Film Industry Test Drives ‘Tough Love’ Business Model

The Mill and the Mountain, a B.C.-based entry in CineCoup

A film accelerator program disrupts the norm in how films are marketed, packaged and financed

Vancouver media entrepreneur Jason Joly wants to change the way films are brought to audiences. CineCoup Film Accelerator, a three month long competition for Canadian filmmakers, is a film accelerator program (based on the highly successful tech accelerator model) that is out to reinvent how independent films are produced and packaged.

Here’s how it works: 90 teams from Halifax to Victoria pitched ideas and two minute trailers to an online audience. Since, the audience has followed each filmmaker’s progress as they engage in weekly challenges from finding new ways to use special effects to getting their project covered by local media. The winning film-in-progress snaps up $1 million in funding from CineCoup, a screening slot at Cineplex Theatres and a digital marketing push.

“We looked at the sub $5 million independent feature film model, and realized that by bringing in our technology and big analytics we could really disrupt the way in which it was packaged, marketed and financed,” says Joly.

The concept comes down to a reversal of the traditional formula, which is to select a script, shoot it and then market and distribute it. CineCoup says market your film first, then make it. “We don’t even want to see a script initially,” says Joly.

CineCoup stands to significantly disrupt how feature films are produced, and could regenerate a creative surge, says Warren Carr, a producer and veteran of B.C.’s film industry. “Some people get it, some don’t. I think it’s a generation issue. There’s a traditional approach to film making that people need to be shaken out of, and those of us who recognize the impact of transmedia and social media see value in this endeavour,” says Carr.
The competition started with 32 teams from B.C.
In late February of this year, 270 participating film makers posted two-minute concept trailers on the project’s website. The projects continue to solicit fan support and feedback via social medium channels over 15 weeks as they advance through a selection funnel that narrows the competition from 90 to a top 10 (30 films have already been axed).

Audience votes provide performance metrics to the selection jury, but also give filmmakers insight into which ideas work, and which they need to take back to the drawing board.

“It offers a totally different way to connect with an audience,” says Sean Horlor, writer and director of The Mill and the Mountain, a local entry inspired by a 2011 murder case along Northern B.C.’s Highway of Tears. Horlor says that the weekly challenges help expose his team’s mystery-thriller to the highly sought 18 – 34 year old male demographic, and test ideas before committing resources.

The winner will be announced on June 10 at the Banff World Media Festival, and their final feature will be released in theatres nationwide in early 2014. Joly also has plans to bring a selection of the top 10 to the Cannes Film Festival in May.

CineCoup has its roots in Joly’s digital agency, dimeRocker, where he developed social media strategies for the CBC, Disney and Weinstein Co. Joly recognized social media as a broadcast medium in need of high quality and engaging content, and says he has already received offers to export his model to the U.S.A., Australia and France.