One of the biggest problems that movie distributors have is that they never know how much interest there is from the movie-going public in a particular movie, especially those that are not big budget or produced by movie houses. However, filmmaker and software developer Brian Chirls has developed an interesting web tool called Crowd Controls to help filmmakers, musicians and other artists find where their audiences are located around the world and hence guide distribution (i.e. convince distributors to sign on their movies).
The premise of the service is relatively simple. It essentially consists of a web form that is implemented on a film’s or artist’s site, where fans can vote to show interest. The data is then gathered and displayed as an easy-to-read map showing the spread of fans in a given vicinity. The system also gives the artists and filmmakers other statistics, and since fans will leave their emails addresses Crowd Controls also makes a good way to send targeted information to the fanbase.
“Filmmakers are beginning to realize that they can’t always count on a distributor to deliver an audience,” says Brian Chirls. “The ability to collect and visualize audience data eliminates much of the guess work in releasing a film, making it more valuable to distributors and exhibitors or enabling a DIY release. Crowd Controls also empowers the fans to make themselves visible to filmmakers and each other, particularly in places that might have otherwise been considered too small or remote to justify a release.”
Chirls built a prototype of the system for the creators of the independent film “Four Eyed Monsters”, which successfully showed their film in dozens of cities around the United States. It has also been adopted by the upcoming science fiction comedy “Iron Sky”, directed by Timo Vuorensola (whom I met when he was in town for Singapore Digital Media Fest 2008).
“It’s a great way to reach fans in a certain area and to contact them directly,” says Vuorensola. “For example, we are arranging a fan meeting during the Berlin film festival, and with Crowd Controls, we can reach out to our fans in Berlin with invitations. That kind of personal interaction gets fans excited about helping to spread the word and makes for a richer experience with the film.”
Check out how the system works in this YouTube video: