Interview with “Four Eyed Monsters” Arin Crumley

June 11, 2007

So for the last few days I’ve been following the release of the first feature-length film on YouTube, entitled “Four Eyed Monsters“.  A 71 min indie film chronicling the evolving relationship of Arin Crumley and Susan Buice, it has had nearly a quarter of a million views since been uploaded to YouTube a couple of days back. 

DVD Cover 

Originally, though receiving critical acclaim in the indie film and film festival circuit, Four Eyed Monsters could not find a place in major distribution circles as major distributors found the market for the short film to be to small as to be profitable.  So the aspiring filmmakers had to go the self-distribution route and, through video-podcasting the story of the film’s making via their MySpace pages, they have been able to acquire a following.  The film was also the first to be debuted in Second Life earlier this year, adding a new creative slant on the marketing of independent films. 

For a really good understanding of the project, you must check out the Four Eyed Monsters web site, watch the podcast, and definitely watch the film.  It’s an extremely interesting project.

One of the first things that struck me about this project is the innovative nature of its business model mainly in terms of its marketing and distribution.  I had the chance to do a short interview with Arin Crumley and ask him a few questions about this:

Justin:  Could you describe your business model for the making, release and distribution of Four Eyed Monsters?

Arin:  It was a model we invented as we went, which still needs to be done, because things change very day. But our current business model of the moment is this: Show the film free on youtube and make money from the spout banners with your YouTube revenue share. Get people to join Spout.com who has agreed to give us 1 dollar for every person that joins up to 100,000 dollars. Get fans of the film that discover the film on YouTube interested in buying the DRM free high quality downloads and DVDs we sell on our site. Encourage people to set up free screenings all over the world of our film that will drive more offline awareness of the film and bring people back to the site where they can buy DVDs, and high quality downloads. And if screenings do make money because the establishment wants to charge, then the person or company can simply send us via pay pal half of what they collect for screening our film. That is our new media model, and we are also working on some TV and typical theatrical and DVD options in and outside the US but only ones that can work concurrently with everything else I described.

Arin Crumley and Susan Buice 

Justin:  Was the model deliberately developed or did it naturally evolve from you guys’ desire to get the film out to the public? (I really like this answer!)

Arin:  It comes from the vision of how things should be in an ideal world distorted by what is possible in todays world. 

Justin:  How did your partnership with Spout.com come about?

Arin:  We’ve known Spout for exactly two years. Met Paul at the Waterfront Film Festival. He recently did an audio podcast interview with me where he recounts the whole way we met at the festival. We called Spout and recommended they talk to YouTube about the banners on the YouTube page of our film. They wanted to do it and came up with an idea to make the whole thing even better. They said, why don’t we give you 1 dollar for everyone you can get to join Spout. We thought, “hmm, thats a really good idea.” So we decided it would be best to plug this promotion at the intro of our film and while creating that we realized that there was a very practical chance to join Spout which was while they were waiting for the long as video to pre-load a little. So we recorded our intern Vanessa telling people to join, and it’s been going great, I feel she was the secret weapon, just telling people they should go do something and seeing so many people go and do it has been really interesting. We’ve even gotten comments on YouTube from people that hate the film but joined Spout to help us out anyway. I think fanning out the huge pile of credit cards in the intro helped people visually understand that, “hey guys, this film your about to watch is in the hole, the least you could do is join this site to help us out of debt.”

Justin:  How do you feel this will affect the film industry? What about the advertising industry? What about the overall level of digital talent found on YouTube?

Arin:  Well we made our content and then figured out how to monetize it. I think that’s the key still. If you have an idea, make it, be inspired, pick up a camera and do it. But when you want to release it, consider going a route of having it be spread far and wide and collecting small amounts that add up when the audience is large. And the audience doesn’t need to be huge. Four Eyed Monsters has been considered a niche film by every distributor that considered it and ultimately they decided the audience for it was too small. They didn’t know we could get a quarter million views to the film on YouTube and monetize it in this way and also sell high quality downloads and DVDs off of our site. But this stuff kind of hurts their position because it makes distributors not needed. However that said, a distributor plays a very important marketing roll for a film. Some day social networking will completely eliminate the need for marketing, our film being on YouTube is a step in that direction, but distributors can still take a film into their country, market it to the built-in audience base for indie films and monetize in traditional means. We’ve been getting a lot of emails and interest and are close to having an announcement for some countries the film will be released in by very forward thinking distributors who see there is a great opportunity in selling a film that has gone viral on the internet in retail outlets and booking it in movie theaters to capitalize on word of mouth that has now been spread wide and far all over the internet.

Justin:  Could you explain your feelings on the use of Second Life as a marketing tool? What are your feelings in terms of Web 2.0 applications in general?

Arin:  I dont’ think Second Life is a good marketing tool. It’s a great social experiment. You will learn from presence in Second Life. You can look at reality in a different way once you’ve had a Second Life presence. I basically look at it as a mind expanding exercise. And it worked. We showed our film in Second Life which went great, 500 people saw the film for free, we sold more DVDs and ended up thinking to ourselves, okay, well lets do that on a larger scale and now ended up bringing our film to YouTube. So our Second Life screening was definitely a proof of concept to what we’ve done on YouTube.

Thanks Arin for your time and your insight.  Maybe in your project we’re seeing the future of film!
 

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