Canadian Film Financier Out to 'Moneyball' Hollywood With Social Media

CineCoup founder J Joly insists he has a matchmaking algorithm that uses online likes and favorites to drive the right homegrown movies to the right audiences.

TORONTO - J Joly is doing more than offering Canadian filmmakers as much as $1 million to finance their next movie.

His Vancouver-based competition-style accelerator, CineCoup, aims to make social media, rather than government money, the driving force behind Canadian film.

“I’m trying to moneyball Hollywood,” Joly said, putting himself in the mindset of Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager who defied the system to find World Series success in the Michael Lewis book and the 2011 Brad Pitt-starring movie Moneyball it inspired.

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What on-base percentage as a performance measure is to Beane, social media likes and favorites are to Joly.

“Let’s not debate taste. Let’s measure it,” he explained.

And by doing so, Joly insisted Canadian movies can compete at the local multiplex against Hollywood tentpoles many times their budget.

So his black book solution for Canadian film is, by understanding what domestic cinema-goers prefer based on their social media buzz, you can devise a matchmaking algorithm to drive the right movies to the right audiences.

Here’s how: young indie filmmakers are competing with a two-minute trailer for a proposed movie and a $150 entry price to get online audiences to buzz about their concept on Twitter and Facebook accounts linked to a CineCoup app.

The competition will then see filmmaking teams go on “marketing missions” over another nine weeks through the spring.

CineCoup will then option ten projects for development, before an industry jury ultimately picks one winning filmmaking trio to receive $1 million, including tax credits, to make their film.

And Cineplex, the Canadian exhibition giant, will release the indie picture in January 2014 at the local multiplex.

But Joly’s moneyball strategy calls for more than having Twitter and Facebook users star in his filmmaking process.

As CineCoup’s proprietary app sorts and sifts through social media data generated by online users and communities, Joly is creating a giant data-base of cinematic super-fans.

“I’m looking for sentiment. I want to see how people share things. Then we can influence their decision-making,” he said of using his statistical model and metrics to identify hard-core fans of homegrown horror thrillers or other commercial movie fare.

“We’re trying to find super-fans. They drive the other 80 percent of fans. So identifying the 20 percent of early adopters, the influencers, and you have a chance,” Joly added.

So as CineCoup entices wannabe filmmaking trios to compete in its selection process, Joly is also building a social web launch platform to which film titles it produces can be pushed well into the future.

“This year is for learning, and next year is for earning,” Joly said.

CineCoup isn’t new.

The major studios have their own analytical engines to predict the market potential for a movie.

But Joly is standing on new ground in Canada, at the intersection of film, finance and social media, as he looks to profit from the ever-closer proximity of one to the other.

“Canadians love indie pictures. I’ve found a way to identify them early, package, produce and release them in a first window, which then becomes a launch pad,” he insists.

Here the traditional Canadian film model of tapping government subsidies to make movies, and then finding an audience that passively consumes content, is being replaced by a new production model driven less by bureaucrats and taste-makers than by the crowd.

Joly came by his gamification strategy to create and drive an audience suited to a film after building an online platform that had Canadian online voters choose a community to receive $100,000 in hockey arena upgrades and national TV exposure as part of the CBC’s Kraft Hockeyville national competition.

“In Kraft Hockeyville, the focus is the community arena,” Joly said.

In CineCoup, the focus is on film.

“The local movie theater is the other hub of activity in a small town,” after the hockey arena, Joly argued.

So CineCoup collects social media data generated by film enthusiasts to ultimately black box the Canadian film market.

“We want to fail early and fail fast to see if ideas actually connect with an audience,” Joly explained as he aims at long-term compatibility between a filmmaker and their audience.

“Think like a start-up,” he added, advising filmmakers to first pitch their friends and family, before building out their audience as they refine their movie concept.

“This is a tough love program. If you can’t go forward, you fail,” Joly insisted as he looks to wean local filmmakers off of government money.

Fail they might, but Joly is confident CineCoup will succeed in having choice Canadian filmmakers eventually connect with appreciative audiences.

“We’ll know when our first film comes out. Then I want to create a product cycle,” Joly insisted.