June 29, 2020
A small Hamilton-based media streaming company is punching above its weight on the global stage by playing a big part in the Cannes Film Festival and other similar events this year.
The Cannes Film Festival, which has just opened, is an on-line virtual event, like many other festivals, thanks to Covid- 19.
Hamilton-based SHIFT72 has become the go-to people for festivals around the world, not only in Cannes but also in Melbourne, Copenhagen, New Zealand’s Doc Edge and upcoming International Film Festival.
SHIFT72 Director John Barnett said that the firm’s business has more than doubled in size over the past three months since lockdown.
New clients knock
After saving a documentary event in Copenhagen by putting it online when Denmark went into its own lockdown, new clients had come knocking at the door.
The Video-On-Demand platform provider has been in the business for years, established by its Chief Executive David White, a leading expert in digital film distribution.
It provides secure video on demand platforms to the entertainment industry and its technology enables clients to distribute content directly to a global audience through its own branded online storefront.
“It began in 2012 with David White… I got involved in 2013 along with a group of investors. The company has grown considerably since then. David has been very much at the forefront of both strategy and development of the company,” Mr Barnett said.
White has become a leading authority on VOD distribution, digital film marketing and the film industry’s paradigm shift from physical to digital.
Streaming festivals have been a big focus for the company, which has been with the Cannes film market for several years.
Mr White has been in various markets and talked about the secure platform that he has been developing. The contacts and trust that he built has led the firm to sign up big clients who put security as top priority.
“What people needed to know was that it was secure and that it would operate no matter what. Security is an enormous issue because most of the films that turn up at the Cannes market as opposed to the Festival, have not been seen by anybody before,” Mr Barnett said.
“Each of Festivals has a slightly different issue that they have to face. With South by Southwest, there with the films they are screening, but there is still so much more going on. So much great music and other events that many people can get to see, obviously at the same time. So, if you have the right tickets you can watch the film at a time that suits you.
“At the Cannes and American film markets, there are so many titles. Whether you went to Cannes or Los Angeles, you race from one cinema to another but watch only ten minutes of a film. Then you come back, negotiate and determine whether your market, the platform that we have given allows the buyers and the sellers to put up their content. But the buyers can look at all the titles before they negotiate. They would have seen the whole film.”
Jasmin McSweeney of the New Zealand Film Commission said that establishing a virtual Cannes Festival has generated excitement, even though an online version cannot capture the magic of the real thing.
“We will have a delegation of 100 producers attending virtually this year. They do not have to pay for their travel or accommodation. Nothing can ever replace the one-on-one meeting because the industry is about creating relationships and trust and a bond, if you can work with those people because there is a lot of money, a lot of time that goes in to creating a film. But using the expertise from SHIFT72 has created an online version of Cannes that everyone Is excited about,” she said.
SHIFT72 is currently working with 150 festivals to stream their content.
Mr Barnett said that the Cannes film titles will go up, starting with a movie premiere, followed in some instances Questions and Answers.
Thereafter, the film will remain online for people to watch at their leisure.
You can buy a Festival Pass, or entry to a particular movie.
It was a format that received praise after it was used at short notice to save a big Festival in Denmark earlier this year.
“This came about in part because, earlier this year in Copenhagen, there was a big documentary Festival called CPX DOX and they were due to go physically live from March 24, a few days before which they were shutdown like everybody else,” Mr Barnett said.
“We were able to give them a solution within 48 hours and it all went really well and they told the whole world how good it had been and how easy it was. People just kind of flooded through.”
Such has been the success of these events during Covid-19 restrictions that events such as the Cannes Film Festival are seeking to make the streaming side of the events a permanent dimension.
“The Festival aspect is very interesting because most of the Festivals have come to us and said, whilst the demand this year is clearly evident, they want to keep using it next year so that they can offer more tan the premium screenings and they can offer the Q&As and the interaction.”
It also means that smaller Festivals, which have smaller budgets, can now afford to bring many directors to participate online, instead of paying for only a few to come over and take part physically.
The Hamilton company has partnered with global giant Vista, which is expected to open more streaming avenues and prospects for growth.