Digital media innovations disrupting film distribution models

By Jodi Szimanski, Student Success Office

A new documentary, ‘Day Job’, follows five Canadian startups and will be released in 2013. It’s on track to become a big online success – and it’s using a new online distribution platform: Matinée.

Matinée is a startup in the VeloCity Garage co-founded by Ross Robinson (Math, ‘11), Gareth MacLeod (Math, ‘11) and Trevor Creech (Math, ‘12) to help indie filmmakers distribute, sell and market their movies online. As filmmakers realize that the studio model is outdated, they recognize that they can profit using the internet to distribute their films. The internet allows filmmakers to build their own audience and build loyalty to the film’s brand. It’s predicted that in 10 years, the majority of video content will be consumed online. (In 2011, consumers spent an average of 23.8 hours/month online around the world as reported by the Stratford Report 2012.) And Matinée is at the head of the distribution pack.

Matinée sets up a customized website for a filmmaker’s project; they handle the technical side – web hosting, design and video hosting so that filmmakers can concentrate on their film and its marketing. The website allows filmmakers to sell a digital download of the film, streaming, posters and other promotional materials. They can even syndicate their film to iTunes®/Netflix® as well as sell DVDs.

“We’ll feel like we’ve really succeeded when we see our friends and their friends regularly watching independent series and movies served by Matinée,” said Gareth MacLeod. “We’ll know that their enjoyment and the filmmaker’s income, were all made possible by our hard work.” As the digital media industry continues to grow at exponential rates, the University of Waterloo offers programs like VeloCity Residence and VeloCity Garage with a focus on technology to encourage innovation in the field and even created an entire campus dedicated to digital media in Stratford.

The Waterloo Region’s startup community is heavily involved in digital media and is the headquarters of the Canadian Digital Media Network. Matinée has found that the relationships it’s been able to develop in the region through the VeloCity Garage invaluable. Located in the Communitech Hub, Matinée has access to companies at various stages for mentorship, partnership and support.

“Matinée wouldn’t exist if not for VeloCity,” said MacLeod. “It’s an environment that values trailblazers and the creative spirit above all else. We wouldn’t be where we are today, doing what we’re doing, if Waterloo hadn’t provided us with that community and atmosphere.” That environment inspired them to create the only place on the internet where filmmakers can set up a website to sell their film directly to fans without any upfront costs and without being overshadowed by the production or distribution’s company branding.