Well, it had to happen. I knew that I was probably not the only one who had the idea for releasing chapters of a movie over time on the internet (and it's been done before). It's an idea that's as old as movies themselves, only the medium has changed. Filmmakers Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman have created an alternative-reality western in The West Side, a twelve chapter film to be released as segments are completed. The first episode is out now, and is a promising start.
I liked several things about what they are doing here. Just the idea is great. Money spent releasing a film this way can cover way more ground than at a handful of film festivals. Save the application fees and spend it on your movie, I always say. The only way to see the flick is to go to the website, which may cause you to to read all the supplemental stuff, including a blog. It's a bit sparse now, but should grow as more and more pieces are produced.
There are also some things that don't serve the filmmakers that well. By only being able to watch the movie on its dedicated site, they are cutting off lots of potential YouTube traffic. Lots of looks could potentially be had from surfers looking for something new, and embedded video is a powerful marketing tool. And where's the business model? There are no ads and no way to buy anything associated with the film. I still think the way to go is to finish the whole project, offering it on DVD before the first episode even comes out. That way, every regularly scheduled release makes for revenue potential. But that's just me.
Also check out Josh Oakhurst's blog entry about The West Side. It's pretty great, and compares this way of releasing to how Four Eyed Monsters went about it. Don't miss the comments section, as FEM's Arin Crumley responds to some of the criticism and makes very good points about how this is all experimental as of now, and we are all learning.
This is good news for all filmmakers, and I think we should all try it. The best news is that the word is getting out. I came across The West Side due to other filmmaking blogs such as FreshDV and Microcinema Scene. I look forward to the day when someone's chapter comes out and the whole web instantly knows about it. Now that's distribution.