"Digital by Design" Panel at Tribeca Film Festival

On April 26th, 2011, the Tribeca Film Festival held a panel that covered the online business opportunities that are currently of interest to filmmakers.

As reported in this April 27th, 2011 recap in the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Digital Entertainment president Tom Lesinski saw social media sites as "real destinations for video consumption." Lesinski pointed to Paramount's Facebook app that allowed users to download a Jackass film as a harbinger of things to come: "That technology will create even more opportunities for movie consumption in places you would have never guessed."

In addition to predicting that Facebook could evolve into a platform for watching movies, Lesinski also spoke to the power of fandom as represented by Twitter followers, observing that Paramount tracks the social media profile of talent. According to Lesinski, Justin Bieber's millions of Twitter followers were a key piece of the huge opening for Never Say Never. And the founder of indie power Cinetic Media, attorney John Sloss, spoke about the paradigm-busting Twitter oomph wielded by his client Kevin Smith: "A number of people have 1.8 million followers on Twitter, but I always say, with regard to Kevin, he is the first person those 1.8 million people think about when they wake up....He has been saying this to me for years -- that he doesn't have to work for the studios, because he works for his public."

On the negative side of the new digital equation, Miramax CEO Mike Lang spoke to the technical challenges holding back digital content usage. Because delivery platforms and devices are not standardized, and the wireless web is still building out, content is not available at a reasonable price and accessible everywhere. Without that, Lang said: "I don't see how as an industry we will ever really drive a digital purchase economy."

Finally, John Sloss spoke to the rise of VOD. At Sundance 2011, according to Sloss, many movies were sold with VOD in mind. "That's the business that IFC and Magnolia are in where they can back-stop their purchases, knowing that they'll get a VOD number on it, and they can offer a certain amount of money... I would say 80% of the transactions that took place at Sundance this year were driven by that model."

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