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Indican Embraces Digital Delivery

14 Dec, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

As do other independents, Indican Pictures looks at the digital realm as an opportunity to get its product out to a wider audience.

But this supplier is coming up with strategies that will single out a download from any other type of release, something even the major studios have yet to try.

Indican, which has distribution deals with Akimbo, CinemaNow, EZ Takes, Google, Movielink, Polar Frog and Vongo, is creating exclusive content for digital releases, most of which won't be available on the traditional DVD release.

Indican titles will start appearing on download services in January, including Drama Face, which will include a music video exclusive to Vongo.

On Akimbo only, the download of Indican's documentary American Storytellers, which features interviews with filmmakers Harold Ramis, Forest Whitaker, John Sayles and John McNaughton, will come with a mini-documentary on animal rights, featuring the interview subjects from the main piece.

The documentary Hybrid, which tells the life story of Milford Beeghly, an Iowa farmer who was an early developer of hybrid seed corn, will come with a download extra featurette shot at Beeghly's funeral by his grandson.

“It kind of finishes out his story,” said Randolph Kret, Indican VP.

“We've encouraged some of our filmmakers to make alternate trailers, mash-up clips, different things we can make available,” he said. “We're looking at initially making them available to CinemaNow, but we're trying to give exclusives to each of the sites.”

Akimbo will get an exclusive on the company's $12 million-budget kids title Captain Sabretooth, when it arrives on DVD and Web sites at the end of February.

The download version will come with such extra features as virtual coloring books and digital games, tailored for the kids. The DVD will carry making-of featurettes, content more tailored to adult viewers who are interested in the whys and hows of animation, Kret said.

For now, creating all the separate extras hasn't been that costly because it's mostly using things the filmmakers already have at hand.

“A lot more of the filmmakers are way more savvy about creating extra things,” Kret said. “This newer breed of filmmaker is much more up on the challenges and is excited about digital.”

For the future release Little Erin Merryweather — which Kret describes as “like Little Red Riding Hood, except she's the murderer” — Indican will release three different endings the director shot.

The director's favorite, rather dark ending will be on the DVD, another more “commercial,” or happy version, will appear on one download site, and another more “open-ended” take will be on yet another download service, Kret said.

Indican also is translating well-suited DVD extras to its download cache. On the Carlos Castaneda: Enigma of a Sorcerer DVD was a link to a Web site that unlocks access to field notes from the author and modern-times philosopher, written in his own hand, the only known to exist. That extra feature easily carries through to a download, Kret said.

Indican's most edgy title Shaye and Kiki — a collection of animated shorts based on a model who lost her legs in a car accident and created a burlesque-type lounge act out of attaching different doll parts to her body — also has a unique space in the digital world, Kret said.

Clips of the ongoing series are already all over YouTube.com and MySpace.com, he said. And Shaye St. John, the aforementioned model, continues to work with Eric Fournier filming strange situations.

Indican can release short bursts of content such as this digitally instead of waiting for a year to have enough content for a DVD release, Kret said.

Overall, the appeal of the digital market for an indie supplier is that it is a fairly level playing field right now, he said. The big content suppliers haven't made too much noise or too many rules, and the digital providers are eager for content, he said.

Akimbo and CinemaNow, for example, are taking Indican's entire catalog of releases, something traditional retailers rarely if ever have the space to do, he said.

And it's not just about jumping on the digital hype bandwagon, Kret said. This is a real business for independent suppliers.

“For us right now, we're thinking it's going to make up 10% of our bottom line, maybe 15%,” he said. “Down the road, I have a feeling it will be closer to 50%.”

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