After first signaling that he was ushering in a new era of filmmaking and distribution, Paul Coelho is apparently re-thinking the distribution plans for Experimental Witch.
When I first heard about it, I looked forward to following Coelho’s crowd-source filmmaking experiment for Experimental Witch, when he announced his plans to solicit MySpace friends to help make the film, and then distribute the film in partnership with MySpace. The plan sounded innovative and fresh, and his announcement of the winners of the MySpace competition signaled this might really work. I had visions of a new model for filmmaking and film distribution. Very exciting stuff!
Turns out, the monumental shift I was anticipating may be a while coming. Coelho appears to be sliding back towards the classic ‘festival first’ mentality. It seems a “major European Festival” is considering accepting the film as long as it’s not shown anywhere else first, including on the internet. Coelho, hoping to grab critical attention, as well as a possible theatrical distribution deal, by showing the film at major festivals, announced he’s delaying the MySpace premiere while he woos the festival circuit.
This is turning into to a textbook case of old-world film distribution clashing against, rather than embracing, new-world approaches to reaching audiences:
Old-world: Exclusivity. Filmmakers allow their films to be trapped by a festival vs. New-world: Open and accessible. Filmmakers insist on distribution freedom.
I wonder if the day will ever come when festivals drop this archaic requirement of our-festival-first exclusivity, and realize that festival audiences are not necessarily the same as global audiences, and that one doesn’t negate the importance of the other.
I can only imagine the MySpace filmmakers that contributed to Experimental Witch, not to mention Coelho’s fans, are disappointed in the delay. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.