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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 


"—to whom a particular film is relevant—"

Claire Harlam

Gathr is a self-described "love child of Netflix and Kickstarter." Its self-described core service is "critical mass ticketing." It's basically a platform for crowd-funded screenings of finished films (old and new), much like Tugg. (Here are descriptions of the two platforms in tandem--sorry, I couldn't find an actual comparison. When I get to the in depth platform analysis stage of my research, I'll try to pinpoint the respective services and company dynamics that make the two platforms distinct. All I can tell from the surface is that Tugg is farther ahead in its collection of titles and relationships with established exhibitors.) Gathr's mission is plainly dope. They are providing the tools for filmmakers to (comfortably) stop asking permission of a system that is "archaic, inefficient, top down, and completely misaligned with the interests of the vast majority of filmmakers and their investors" to get their movies seen. But they also might be overestimating how currently well-suited our internets are for a filmmaker (or his team) to promote a movie adequately enough to achieve the tipping point for a screening. More on that in a bit (a little bit more in this particular blog post and a lot more in my CRI research project).

Fanhattan is (from what I can tell--it's currently only available for the iPad that I still don't think I need for whatever ridiculous reason) a pretty sophisticated and helpful aggregator of aggregators--it's like a pimped out, user-friendly CanIStreamIt. No, it really isn't anything like CanIStreamIt except that both share the daunting goal of bringing order to the chaos of content streaming and renting/purchasing. Fanhattan integrates not only with Netflix and Hulu but HBO, TV Everywhere (Time Warner and Comcast's platform for cable customers to get exclusive online content), and most TV networks (ABC, NBC, CW, etc.).

Fanhattan is further integrated with Facebook's Open Graph, but I think their implementation of the graph seems (again: no iPad) more thoughtful than the ubiquitous and eerily reductive "like" and "comment" features on which most Open Graph integrated platforms settle. Fanhattan's implementation seems more thoughtful because it is in service of its "watchlist" function. The watchlist is a curated list of movies and tv shows (old, current, in production) that Fanhattan's users create in order to receive updates about when and where the content becomes available. Users can also share watchlists, which renders all that liking and commenting meaningful since in this context, these functions can actually lead to someone discovering something or some similar kind of serendipity. People don't want to "like" your shit; people want to talk to each other about why they like or don't like your shit. (And it's really not all that clear to anyone why a high number of "likes" is at all meaningful. Unless I'm missing something--please comment if I am.) Communities function on meaningful experience, and meaningful (online) experiences are implicitly social.

Here's an interesting article on Gathr.

And one on Fanhattan.

From the Tribeca Future of Film blogpost on Gathr:

[Box office statistics are] a real shame, because word of mouth, online media, social networking, and traditional marketing ensure that millions of people nationwide—to whom a particular film is relevant—will have heard about a film’s theatrical release.

I like the concept of "relevance" these days as little as I like the word "niche." Enough case studies definitely exist out there which prove that if you can just tweet enough to that fervent network of neocon surf enthusiasts, you will be able to Gathr and Tugg them enough to pay your investors back. But the goal shouldn't be to (only) acknowledge the myopic few to whom your particular film is relevant, but to find the folks who care about your work because it's authentic and good (oh yeah, by the way, I'm totally assuming that your work is authentic and good. If it isn't, it has as little business being Gathr'd or Tugg'd as it does being platform released by Fox Searchlight).

Gathr and Fanhattan are completely different tools, but for either to survive as platforms or have any real value, it needs to recognize how its users (its community, perhaps--I still need to figure out what this means) want to play with its offerings and thus which tools it should offer to quietly facilitate that playtime. Fanhattan's "watchlist" is an inherently social and useful tool that may place a necessary focus on user interaction and subsequent discovery. Gathr might need to recalibrate its tools in order to service the filmmakers and fans who don't or don't care to belong to niches. Gathr's founder himself notes in the Tribeca blogpost: "After all, there are 343 cities in the U.S. with 100,000+ people, and there are more than 3,300 towns in the U.S. with 25,000+ people." That's a whole lot of people to whom tons of particular films may or may not be relevant--how can we empower them to talk, share, and figure out for themselves what they want to see?

The more I explore this question, the scarier our delimiting social networks become. But, more on that (and the Slow Web, and the fact that You Are Not a Gadget) in another post soon.