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TOP > LOUNGE TOP > INTERVIEW/COLUMN > LA interview / Interview with Roberta Munroe

INTERVIEW/COLUMN

LA interview / Interview with Roberta Munroe

Roberta Munroe

Roberta is a former Sundance Film Festival short film programmer and movie consultant. Movie director. Magazine writer. Currently she is a consultant for analysis and editing of feature and short film scripts. In addition, she advises on the finished product in movie exhibition and distribution.


Possibility of Short fi lm business on the internet.

In addition to the Sundance Film festival, Roberta has an extensive career as programmer in many film festivals including the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF). As a producer for films and as a consultant, she is very experienced in feature and short films content as a business. We questioned her in regards to the state of short films as a business on the internet and sites that she is paying close attention to. Roberta brought up one website in particular that, currently in the U.S., has short films as content, www.hulu.com. Hulu, by using an advertising business model, streams for free TV shows of the major networks like NBC, FOX, and ABC. With “anywhere, anytime” as the slogan, the site was started up as a joint venture business in 2008 by the 3 major networks mentioned above. Currently it can only be viewed in the U.S., streaming from outside the U.S. is blocked.

oberta also raised www.babelgum.com as another site. Like the above-mentioned hulu.com, babelgum.com uses advertising as the main source of income where programs can be viewed on-demand as on-line and mobile phone entertainment It was started up in 2007 and in September of that same year, the very first on-line indies film festival, the “Babelgum Online Film Festival” was inaugurated. Spike Lee was the jury president. Short film transactions are made on a per-minute basis.

As the established website, mtv.com streams music videos as the main attraction and the music channel content can be viewed there. Short films and other content are bought by MTV for an average $3000. In these cases, MTV, as part of their contract, stipulates that MTV has exclusivity for 3 years. The short film directed by Roberta was sold to German TV for $3000 and to British TV for $1000. She adds that in the U.S., she was able to sell the film as a videogram for $2000 under a 3-year contract. Other than the internet, Roberta states that in terms of short film as a business, there has been a marked increase in the participation of companies and other entities. To take one as an example would be Film Independent (www.fi lmindependent.org). It’s a non-profit, membership organization that supports independent filmmakers. With over 4,000 current members, support is given throughout the year in various forms including camera rentals and screenings in theaters. Every year in February, the organization holds the“ Spirit Awards” with a $5,000 prize going to award winners. At the Los Angeles Film Festival held every June, the Film Independent“ Spirit Award” is sponsored by companies like Banana Republic giving short films an image as“ brand name” entertainment.

As an example of brand name entertainment, Pepsi is holding a “Pepsi Challenge” competition campaign. This contest is open to all genres of art, not just short films but written materials, anything to generate new ideas. The winners of the Pepsi Challenge are awarded anywhere from ¥200,000 to ¥1,000,000. Other sponsors who are aggressively using brand-name entertainment campaigns include Doritos, Dr. Pepper, and Snapple. In these campaigns, the producers and directors are given direct financial support from these companies through product placement in their short films. However, at Sundance or Academy Award® accredited film festivals, these films with strong sponsorship imagery are essentially not likely to be selected.

There are good reasons for businesses to support short films and art. #1) In the U.S., there are very few established systems for financial support of art in general. #2) Businesses are able to discover wonderful talents at a very reasonable cost through contests and competitions. They can raise or improve their image without paying an enormous amount of money. As an example, until 2005, Fox Searchlight Pictures was holding workshops called the “Director’s Lab.” Roberta’s own film was produced here at the Lab with Absolut as a sponsor. Fox, in a tie-up with the sponsor, provided $2,000 in cash, a free camera rental package in cooperation with a production company, and Kodak provided 35mm film. However, Fox would retain the rights to the finished film. Many of the films made through Fox’s Director’s Lab were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. (Incidentally, at the American Short Shorts, which was the original version of the SSFF, we had received submissions of this kind as well).

Regarding YouTube

There is a strong impression that anything can be seen for free on YouTube but currently there is a pay channel called “screening room” that’s being created right now to show contents where copyright fees are paid to the filmmakers. On this site, a person can watch every Friday, short films, with the permission of the filmmakers, in a film festival like format. Here, a copyright fee of an average \500,000 is paid to the filmmakers. There’s also a plan available where the revenue is based on the number of times a film is a chosen. This is not the place to make a huge amount of money. The delivered films are programmed together just like in film festivals, so the tendency for this channel to become a brand is certainly there.

People are searching for ways for short films to make profits through various media channels, including the internet. Finally, Roberta ended the interview by stating that the era of cable television was finished.