The film industry has an audience problem. Sure, Hollywood knows who its audience is, but what steps is it taking to really engage with them? At best, diehard fans get free tote bags at Comic-Con and a 30-second teaser that shows up on YouTube one day later. There’s no reward system for the hardcore, the folks who argue at message boards about whether or not Ben Affleck will be a good Batman.
As a result, the film industry is largely in the dark about its micro audience. I’m sure execs have reams of stats on the average Superman fan, but beyond “ages 18–35” and “primarily male,” how detailed can they really get? Yes, you’re going to tell me that focus groups and early screenings give more detailed statistics. And yes, those stats are important, but what about a community built around a specific film?
Summer-blockbuster-turned-US-flop, “Pacific Rim” currently has a massive audience on Tumblr. Would things have turned out differently if Legendary Pictures mobilized and rewarded that audience in some way? It’s a question that we’ll never have an answer to and one that Hollywood probably won’t ask themselves for a while; the current model works just fine, why toy with it?
Digital video platform Chill wants to shake it up, however; they want to flip the current film model and give fans and creators something they’ve never had before — the opportunity to build a community months before a movie’s official release. It’s called Insider Access, and it dropped at this year’s VidCon in conjunction with upcoming feature-length film “Camp Takota.” The film, which will launch exclusively on Chill, stars YouTube sensations Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, and Hannah Hart. As far as community-building potential goes, “Camp Takota” is a MJ in his prime glass-breaking-slam-dunk.
Here’s how Insider Access works: You’re a filmmaker, you put your project on Chill.com then enable Insider Access. From there, fans can sign up for free. The only caveat is that when you sign up for Insider Access, you voluntarily give permission to be contacted via your email. That part, the email part, is the lynchpin of why Chill is different from YouTube or Blip. Helbig and the Harts could have released “Camp Takota” via Vimeo’s VOD service or even on YouTube, but both of those options don’t offer this Insider Access service. From here on out, the “Camp Takota” crew has a list of email addresses from fans who love them exponentially. It’s their community, landing right in their laps courtesy of Chill.
According to Chill’s head of entertainment Marc Hustvedt, Chill is anything but a YouTube replacer. In fact, he suggests the total opposite: “I don’t suggest that anyone wholesale leave YouTube at all.” Instead, use Chill as a distribution model. Here is a way to build an audience and give them early access to behind-the-scenes photos, videos, and merch months before the actual film goes live. In the case of “Camp Takota,” after photos circulated of Helbig and the Hart sisters wearing Camp Takota tees, the shirts became hot ticket items. Something as simple as a t-shirt has spread like wildfire across the web netting over $50K in sales, according to Hustvedt.
Insider Access is available to all filmmakers looking to release their movies at Chill. For Chill’s part, the video platform shares a 70/30 split with creators. It’s an appealing number, especially as YouTubers continue to grumble over that platform’s 45/55 split (an industry high).
Still, Chill says it isn’t a replacement for YouTube. It just wants to, in its own way, help YouTubers find another source of revenue — a problem other (recently launched) platforms are also trying to solve.