Docs

SnagFilms turns one

Just over a year ago, one-time AOL president and chairman Ted Leonsis founded the uniquely titled SnagFilms as a way to give indie docs a new way to distribute online. Created to both address the bottlenecking in distribution and to spawn 'Filmanthropy' -each film is paired with a charity - one year later SnagFilms is celebrating its anniversary with a bang, complete with an online SummerFest and partners like Sundance Channel coming on board.
July 27, 2009

Just over a year ago, one-time AOL president and chairman Ted Leonsis founded the uniquely titled SnagFilms as a way to give indie docs a new way to distribute online. Created to both address the bottlenecking in distribution and to spawn ‘Filmanthropy’ -each film is paired with a charity – one year later SnagFilms is celebrating its anniversary with a bang, complete with an online SummerFest and partners like Sundance Channel coming on board.

The website has shed its ‘beta’ designation, and CEO Rick Allen asserts that the company is just at the beginning of a quest to make online distribution the most exciting platform for filmmakers. Quite modest for a company with over 840 documentary titles and counting, a billion page views and over 25,000 web affiliates which have embedded SnagFilms’ widgets, ranging from AOL channels, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Politico.

Allen recounts that at the launch of the company, Leonsis predicted that they needed to get in front of a billion people. ‘I said to Ted, ‘You are thinking of your AOL days, this is a new start up business, there’s just no way.’ He said we’ll be able to do it and he was right. It shocked the heck out of me. It’s significantly more reach than I ever expected in that first year.’

The company is continuing to innovate with a new homepage complete with a ‘why didn’t anyone think of this earlier’ Movie Matcher search mechanism. EVP Stephanie Sharis explains, ‘We wanted to think of a way to engage and explore in a more innovative way than searching a topic or typing in a key word. Our operating assumption was that for documentaries you may not be driven by a star name or by a blockbuster title, but you’re coming because of a passion for a certain topic and that you’re interested in engaging based on your mood.’

Thus, the Movie Matcher lets the user choose if they’re into a political film and from there they can decide if they want something quirky. These two clicks narrow the film selection down from 800+ films to nine.

Another anniversary highlight is SummerFest, which kicked off on July 24. SummerFest will debut one previously unreleased doc a week, and will create a fan base for a film that is about to head into a theatrical release or television in the fall. The first selection is Jonathan Bricklin’s The Entrepreneur, which was brought to SnagFilms by Morgan Spurlock, who executive produced the project.

The second film of the series, announced today, is 45365, the Grand Jury Award winner for best documentary feature at this year’s SXSW. The film will be available starting July 31 and concludes on August 6, on SnagFilms.com and on SnagFilms’ network which includes Hulu.com and new partner Fancast.com.

There’s other breaking news involving Spurlock, the director whose Super Size Me is the most popular film on the site. SnagFilms and Spurlock have worked together to create Super Size Me Selects, short excerpts from the Oscar-nominated doc that specialize in eating-related health issues. Individual websites can stream the lessons from Spurlock’s film.

SnagFilms also recently announced that the Sundance Channel has become a new content partner, and Allen attributes the creation of the new alliances to being part of the Web 2.0 community, ‘which means we’re inherently a lot more collaborative than a traditional model.’
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About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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