FilmBuff's 'The Wild Hunt' and 'Zonad' Go Digital Before DVD (Exclusive)

"The Wild Hunt"

Matt Dentler, the producer who made SXSW Film Fest famous, surfs the future of movie marketing with a two-fisted release strategy.

FilmBuff, the movie label of John Sloss' Cinetic Rights Management, will use a VOD-then-DVD release strategy for two films, Alexandre Franchi's 2009 Toronto Film Festival prizewinner The Wild Hunt and the 2010 Tribeca fest film Zonad, director John Carney's follow-up to the Oscar-honored Once. FilmBuff's best-known 2010 multiplatform release was the Oscar-nommed Exit Through the Gift Shop.

"I can't think of another example where a company has decided to do a VOD premiere a few weeks prior to a DVD release -- and that's not just me being competitive," says Matt Dentler, who quit as SXSW producer in 2008 to become FilmBuff head of content. The Wild Hunt is on cable and broadband VOD April 19 and DVD on June 7. Zonad hits VOD on June 21 and DVD July 19.

"It's lazy to treat a DVD release the same as a VOD release," says Dentler. "Conventional wisdom has led studios to believe you do one marketing campaign for home video that's gonna hit everybody: cable, VOD, iTunes, DVD. But VOD is much more driven by online, blogs, social media. DVD is much more traditional: getting reviews, feature articles, maybe a little ad buying. But it incorporates these new tools available in the digital space. What we're trying to illustrate is the possibility to create two separate press and marketing campaigns, because thery're different audiences. You catch the casual fans on VOD and diehard fans on DVD. That enables a one-two punch."

He chose the films because "they lean genre, but they can cross over. Wild Hunt is about fantasy role-playing. Zonad is about a guy who thinks he's an alien. But both are also grounded in reality, not too fantastic. On one hand, it's genre fantasy, on the other an indie film, gritty, naturalistic. The duality in each film speaks to the duality of this release."

Newsday film critic John Anderson thinks digital's impulse-click audience is ideal for Zonad. "Its unhinged qualities and total disregard for time, space, propriety, or the dignity of the Irish people will give it a life as long as folks get wind of it. And given that it celebrates drunk-and-disorderliness its greatest appeal will be to audiences that want to expend the least effort, which means VOD."  "We're definitely marketing both films to both VOD and DVD," insists Dentler.

Can indie filmmakers actually make money the FilmBuff way? "Yes, there's money to be made," says Dentler. "It is currently in the high six figures and occasionally low seven figures. For the medium to smaller indie productions, documentary or fiction, this is a very viable way to recoup your budget. We're like an agency with 40 output deals. We work on a distribution fee. We're lean, mean, filmmaker focused, and don't take ownership of films."

"When you have a film on iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter, they can click a link and start watching," says Dentler. "And they do."