Don and Mark become entranced with a YouTube video called “Trolol” and the resulting podcast is appropriately all over the place, until talk turns to the value of film reviews over more in-depth stories and the current status of Film Threat’s film submissions for review process. But, if you just want more “Trolol,” check out Mark’s picks for the Top “Trolol” Videos on YouTube below…

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  1. Mark Bell says:

    Ha! I was writing my lengthy reply while you posted the second comment, so I missed it. My thoughts on online screeners:

    I think that any online system can be hacked if someone really wants to do so. If you put your film online, even password protected and under a ton of security settings, chances are that someone could rip it. HOWEVER, for someone to do that, they need to know that you have an online screener. If you don’t tell anybody, the film reviewer DEFINITELY shouldn’t be passing around the news. The reviewer should be professional enough not to share a link to a film they specifically were asked to view (in the podcast, for example, while I mentioned watching an online screener, I refused to share the name of the film or the filmmaker so no one knows what to look for, let alone what password). But that requires trust.

    In keeping with this theme, if you are a small indie film looking for a review, and no one knows that your film can be viewed via online screener, they probably aren’t looking for it. Obscure films that no one has heard of don’t generally get pirated. If your film is pirated, it means there is a demand for your film. If the demand is that strong, though, no screeners at all is your best option, because a DVD can be ripped and uploaded as easily as a file can be ripped from a site and re-uploaded for peer sharing. In my opinion, the security risk of an online screener and a DVD screener are equal, because it still relies on demand. Even when the effort to pirate is low, you’re not likely to run into scenarios where people are pirating films no one has heard of (and that’s assuming all films available on screener are good) for the hell of it. So, to me, if you trust a outlet to review a DVD screener, you can trust them with an online one.

    I mean, no one thinks twice about sending in a screener for film festival programmers to look out (and I think Withoutabox has an online option too), and the risk is the same. If you cold submit a film to a review site that you have no knowledge of, or has no history that you can research ahead of time, you’re not doing your due diligence. Longevity and credibility mean something when it comes to trust. In the screener issue, that goes for film review outlets, PR companies, sales agents, distributors and film festivals alike.

    As for how it could affect a festival run, specifically if it was pirated ahead of a premiere, again, I see it as a question of demand. If no one knows it’s coming, few worries. Fests usually don’t make the “no screener” policy (many fests have screeners in the press office prior to premieres for reviewers to watch when at the fest anyway; it’d be hypocritical to say “don’t send any screeners out” and then request screeners for the press office). I think, with fests, the concern is more of a public display issue. It’s really a PR and filmmaker call who they share the film with privately.

    Again, the piracy risk is always there, and if you have a film that is that in demand, kudos to you for having so many people interested in your film. I think you then have to consider the screener security on demand, and then do you best to lessen the possibility of disaster (password-protected, track who you’re sharing with, take the screener down after a set timeframe).

    In the end though, to me, a screener on DVD is as much a security issue as an online one (those who know how to pirate effortlessly can do it either way). All things being equal, if you do decide to go the screener route, at least an online option removes postage, DVD burning, packaging, press kit printing and other physical media cost. Plus, you can control an online screener better (put it up, take it down) whereas you have to trust, with a DVD screener, that the person you sent it to is going to destroy it afterward. But that goes back to the trust issue, and if it isn’t an issue… then what’s the problem?

    I am rambling now…

  2. Mark Bell says:

    Yeah, I have been thinking along those lines as well, especially because there are very real costs that come with getting the various films out to the reviewers and, if nothing else, I would really like for the those costs to be covered. If each film paid for itself in that regard… life would be easier.

    I do have similar concerns about people thinking that if a cost is attached to a film submission for review, then they will think that they’re paying for the review itself, specifically a positive review (when it would be more like a processing/shipping/handling/maintenance-type fee). But you make a good point that negative reviews generally garner complaints regardless, and, honestly, when many filmmakers submit for a review, they assume a positive review anyway. I know that due to the number of emails I get requesting me to review certain films so that they can have a quote (which, you know, assumes they’d get a positive quote).

    The pros to this idea, particularly to the concerns expressed in the podcast, are that this would cut done on the clutter submissions, and would also stop the machine-gun review submission process from DVD distribs. And if it lowers the submission number, that’s fine, review times turn around faster because there are fewer films to work through.

    Right now, the alternative to a working solution, potentially fee-based, is that we’re not accepting submissions period. That isn’t good for the filmmakers or the readers. If a fee helps solve the submission issues, then even if everyone but five filmmakers hates the idea… at least those five filmmakers will get a timely review. If the worst case is no review submissions… well, we’re at worst case right now.

    Truly, thank you for your comment. As I said, I have been thinking along these lines, but the cons of potential misunderstanding (people thinking they’re paying for a positive review) and the burden of history (we’ve been doing submissions the old way for as long as I’ve been involved) has slowed me down a bit. Hearing your feedback, specifically that you had a similar experience in a different field, and that the solution works, is very helpful.

    If anyone else has other feedback to this idea, or the concerns in the podcast, please post them here.

  3. Bwakathaboom says:

    I agree with your sentiment about having online screeners available but I keep reading stern warnings that you absolutely, positively MUST NOT allow your film to be leaked online. Festivals are so neurotic about being “first” or “exclusive” that you could destroy all your chances just by having some clown leak clips onto YouTube.

    Is a password protected Vimeo file safe to do without destroying your chances of a festival run? Even though the password could be shared and with a simple Firefox plug-in I can rip Vimeo content and do what I want with it?

    What if my film is ripped from Vimeo and posted in its entirety on YouTube? Am I done for?

  4. Bwakathaboom says:

    I used to write videogame reviews for an independent gaming site. Their solution to the flood of submissions (since, like film, ANYONE can make a game these days) was to charge $15 for reviews.

    It feels a bit shady but the logic is sound. If you don’t have $15 dollars for a targeted review then you don’t have a proper PR budget and you likely aren’t submitting to many festivals or pursuing acquisition execs. Charging real money goes a long way towards separating out the hobbyists.

    The only complication was that about 20% of those who paid for reviews assumed they were paying for a GOOD review. Some had the nerve to openly ask “What did I pay for, if not to get a good review?!” even though the site specifically stated that the fee had nothing to do with the rating they would receive.

    We got a few angry letters and blog posts but you typically get those writing ANY negative review, with or without a fee.

    Look at it this way, the worst case scenario is that you get 1,000 DVDs on your doorstep with $20 dollar checks attached…or you get none. Either way, you’re ahead!

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