Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Festival Apps - Quick Thoughts
The annual trek to Park City is about to commence, and lo and behold, both Sundance and Slamdance have apps in the store! That's great, and I'm happy for them both, but I wish they were better - there's a few problems, and more to be explored. I love both of these orgs, so this is to be considered friendly criticism.
First, Filmmaker Magazine recently ran a review of the Sundance app, and you should read it because I am not downloading it. Why not? It ain't free. Yes, they argue on their site that the $4.99 helps support the Sundance Institute, and as a former exec of a few nonprofits, I can understand the need for support. But hello....this is a promotional app, it is there not just to help you, but also the filmmakers. Getting it downloaded as much as possible would be good for you and the filmmakers, and your audiences. Charging for it is ridiculous. Serious mistake, a missed opportunity to lead the field, and I hope they change this in the future.
But at least Sundance did one thing right and have the app for both iPhone and Android. Slamdance missed this opportunity with their app only being on iPhone (probably their vendor's only choice). Again, a missed opportunity - Android has now outpaced iOS in the marketplace and you need to be on both. Both should also have Blackberry apps. I know their system stinks, but I'm willing to bet a significant number of the film execs up in Park City, and those sitting it out for other things, are on corporate Blackberrys and would use the app.
These two quibbles aside, I am glad festivals are moving into this arena (a few of them, and some beat these two to it, I am sure). I'd like to see more, however, as these apps seem to be primarily based around what's going on at the respective fests. Self-promotion mainly. Sure, it's nice to get maps, see what's going on in town and mark your schedule (on Slam not Sun-Dance) and maybe watch some trailers. It would be better to be able to push out these reviews to your friends and followers. Even better if these folks could go ahead and add each of these films to their Netflix queue, or register to be notified when the film goes on theatrical (or other) tours. Even better if they gave you the option to share your interest and info with the filmmaker (opt-in, of course) so they could contact you when the DVD or VOD is available. Heck, it would be useful for filmmakers to just know how many people clicked to view their film, and from what zipcodes, but I bet most of this data will remain the property of the festival (or not be collected at all). I'd also like to see both fests extend these apps later to give new content year-round (their programmers reviews of films at other fests, for example).
Anyway, these are just a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I contemplated spending $4.99 on that Sundance app, but thought better of it. Hopefully, these apps will only continue to improve and might, in the near future, allow these festivals to extend their experience year-round and help filmmakers connect with audiences. When that happens, I might spend more than $4.99 (even though I shouldn't have to).