By Liz Shannon Miller
The biggest thing the web video world faces, in these current days, is the question of what the length of a video should be. Some companies have rules. Some companies treat it as flexible. And some companies, such as Vuguru, find a balance between both.
The latest example of Vuguru’s approach is also a landmark one — the company has just celebrated the premiere of “Deep Powder,” a feature-length film directed by Mo Ogrodnik, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival this year.
Normally, Vuguru productions seek digital distribution through sites like Hulu, but “Deep Powder,” a narrative feature about two teenagers who go from skiing to drug dealing, caught the interest of chief creative officer Kristin Jones, who initially read the script while serving as Senior Vice President at Miramax.
The key with “Deep Powder,” according to Vuguru CEO Larry Tanz in a phone interview, was making it fit with Vuguru’s other titles, which work with an expected pattern: a total runtime of 90–100 minutes, which can be broken up into chapters for digital distribution.
Thus, while “Deep Powder” initially premiered as a feature film, it’s not at all restricted to that format: while Tanz said that “Tribeca was a place to showcase [the film],” it was likely to find digital distribution.
Currently “Deep Powder” is set up in terms of international plans: Rogers Media, which has a long-established relationship with Vuguru, will handle distribution in Canada, while outside of North America BBC Worldwide International has signed up.
Meanwhile, plans for the North American release have not been settled; options include VOD/cable and even theatrical release. As Tanz explained, pursuing a combination of VOD and theatrical release work well together, especially as theatrical distribution can help a title’s listings in the VOD listings.
That said, Tanz said that of the many platforms Vuguru has used to distribute content, subscription services such as Hulu Plus have been very successful for them, as they found with the award-nominated series “The Booth at the End.”
Key to that might be international reaction to the project, based on past Vuguru projects. For example, “The Booth at the End” was released internationally before it found domestic release on Hulu. First, it was distributed in Canada and the UK, which led to an positive review in the Guardian; after the Guardian review, Tanz said, Hulu “was all over it.”
And “platforms like Hulu in particular ARE good for driving high CPMs and high view-through rates — we know they can drive an audience, and if the content is good people will watch the whole thing,” Tanz said. “The return can be very favorable.”
So right now, the question is figuring out what’s next for “Deep Powder”; one key issue is the fact that its two stars, Shiloh Fernandez and Haley Bennett, are gaining in profile right now: Fernandez just starred in the box office success remake of “The Evil Dead,” and Bennett has a number of projects lined up.
“Our two leads are only getting bigger by the day — we’re sitting on something pretty good, and we want to play it right,” Tanz said.