SnagFilms’ Movie Matcher a Gift to Movie Lovers

SnagFilms.com is one year old tomorrow, and to celebrate, the website devoted to distributing documentaries online is launching a snazzy redesign and an online film festival. That’s cool. But the most interesting new feature is something they’re calling Movie Matcher. It’s brilliantly simple and presumes that movie lovers need help thinking of new movies to […]

SnagFilms.com is one year old tomorrow, and to celebrate, the website devoted to distributing documentaries online is launching a snazzy redesign and an online film festival.

That’s cool. But the most interesting new feature is something they’re calling Movie Matcher.

It’s brilliantly simple and presumes that movie lovers need help thinking of new movies to see. (Which we do –  how many hours have you spent wandering the aisles at Blockbuster in vain? Except almost none of us go to Blockbuster anymore?)

Movie Matcher, which goes live on the homepage Friday, lets you decide on films based on what kind of movie you’re in the mood for: light or heavy, inspiring or controversial. You click on those words, and a slot-machine-like counter at the top of the panel quickly scans the site's 840 documentaries and offers you an array of options.

You can then further filter the film by categories that are subject-oriented: technology, poverty, human rights, race. Or they’re oriented to genre: biography, sports, student filmmakers.

For example, I clicked on light, inspiring and women.

The Matcher spun and gave me 12 options, including: “Reel Works: A Girl Like Me,” about the self-image of young African-American women; “Life After Tomorrow,” which pulled together interviews with 40 women who’s played the lead in “Annie” over the years; and “Sisters of Ladakh,” about women’s views of Buddhism.

If I click on one of the films, I get an ad before the movie begins;  the films are all free.
 

In a year, Snagfilms claims to have achieved over 1 billion page views via more than 25,000 web pages in its first year. The service allows anyone to upload a movie widget for free and feature it on their web page (that goes for an individual user or a huge portal like AOL), using the viral nature of the web to distribute film titles.

The films are supported by interstitial ads; filmmakers make incremental revenues each time their movie is watched. It’s still not evident that this is a distribution platform that allows filmmakers to support themselves, but Snagfilms argues that it is a new revenue stream that is vital in the age of declining options for independent filmmakers.

I say, if it works, fantastic.  On that one, the jury is still out.

But Movie Matcher is a no-brainer, useful in the most practical of ways.

 “It’s a combination of human beings and technology,” said Snagfilms CEO Rick Allen. “We took a look at various ways we had meta-tagged our films, we went through it to figure out how people thought about all this, and decided on each film which tag to use.”

The technology  involves a complicated algorithm and sophisticated user interface, but the most complex part involved tagging the films., which was done by a handful of Snagfilms folks, from executives down to interns.

Personally, I appreciate it. To me, Movie Matcher reflects real thinking about the problem of choosing a movie from the perspective of the movie-goer who constantly wants to find another like the last one they liked, but completely different.

Netflix, like Amazon, has used the approach of if-you-liked-this-you’ll-probably-like that to suggest new movies or books to customers.

Movie Matcher is not the only service out there using filtering technlogy and tagging to create a super-sophisticated search process that acts more like a curator might, or a really knowledgeable film geek.

Hunch.com does much a similar job, not only for movies but for all kinds of leisure activities or products. But that requires your answering a series of questions before working your way toward a bunch of options. I liked it. But it felt like work.

Snagfilms, Matcher made it extremely simple. Thank you.

Now can they build a tagged archive one of the thousands of existing feature films too?

Happy Birthday, Snagfilms.