The BitTorrent Interview: Drafthouse Films

Next Friday, Drafthouse Films and FilmBuff will bring their upcoming horror/romance mashup Spring to BitTorrent Bundle. The project marks the first Drafthouse Films feature to be distributed on Bundle, and our fourth film collaboration with the good people of Alamo and FilmBuff. We talked with Drafthouse Films Brand Manager Jon Stobezki about the true story behind Spring, and what it takes to make original filmmaking sustainable.

BitTorrent: What drew you to Spring? What do you hope viewers get out of the film?

Jon Stobezki: The feedback from Spring’s premiere at TIFF was huge. One reviewer compared it to Richard Linklater (Before Midnight) by way of H.P. Lovecraft. That’s a juxtaposition you don’t see every day. And the comparison turned out to be pretty dead on. Spring is a movie about two people falling in love, and it’s crammed with a shocking eldritch aspect. These are two things you wouldn’t expect to work together, but directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead make it seem effortless.

The beating heart of the film is genuine love on display. And, later, the guts.

I think viewers will be surprised by the authenticity, the poignancy, of the relationship between leads Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Louise (Nadia Hilker). They’re so perfectly written, so perfectly performed, with bravado, humor, vulnerability… they form a connection with the viewer almost immediately. The enigmatic aspects of Spring will draw you in further from there, but the beating heart of the film is genuine love on display. And, later, the guts.

BitTorrent: What makes a film a Drafthouse film? What’s your criteria when it comes to distribution or programming?

Stobezki: Our mission is to share the films that we love with the widest audience possible, and it’s a manifesto that we’re fully committed to.

We only ever work on films that we love and are excited to share with our fans. At the end of the day, there’s no worthier criteria as a distributor.

The throughline that connects our outrageous gross-out comedy Klown, unearthed ‘80s cult classic Miami Connection, Academy Award® nominated documentary The Act Of Killing and Spring is that they’re simply fantastic films.

BitTorrent: How do we ensure that original voices in film, the art house, the grindhouse —are preserved? Is there hope for a post-franchise film culture?

Stobezki: There’s only room for improvement. Filmgoers are bemoaning a lack of originality on screen; truthfully, though, there’s plenty of originality out there. The real issue is its accessibility. Which is why platforms like BitTorrent, iTunes, VHX and Vimeo are playing vital roles in getting these original voices onto the screens they deserve. If we’re lucky, we’ll see a paradigm shift in the films that make it into theaters.

BitTorrent: What has been behind Drafthouse’s approach to distribution?

Stobezki: It all goes back to our fundamental mission. Loving your releases doesn’t make the job easy, but it does make it a hell of a lot more rewarding. And it creates a relationship with our fans, since they know we’re working on something we feel passionate about. From there, it’s about building audience awareness and engagement and producing killer content. We work with our films on a case-by-case basis to determine the best course of release in terms of VOD availability to get them to the widest audience possible.

BitTorrent: Spring marks the first paygated feature from Drafthouse to be released on Bundle, after three prior film campaigns. What’s been the impact of this collaboration? Why did BitTorrent make sense for Spring?

Stobezki: BitTorrent has been at the forefront of content delivery tech for years, and working with them on our campaigns for The Act Of Killing, Cheap Thrills and Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo, let us to deliver exclusive content directly into the hands, and the screens, of fans worldwide. Those Bundles performed exceptionally, with millions of combined downloads.

We reached the conclusion that the average BitTorrent user is someone who respects the creative process, the final product, and anything and everything in between, and found that behind-the-scenes stuff, like Michel Gondry’s storyboards for Mood Indigo, were especially engaging.

With Spring, we were again thinking of exclusive content, specifically of the sort the BitTorrent community would appreciate. Luckily, Benson and Moorhead, who have their hands in practically every aspect of their productions, had tons of content at the ready that simply needs to be seen, and the only way you’ll be able to see them is in the BitTorrent bundle.

We cherry-picked two of the most enthralling segments from the filmmakers’ Spring archive, about special effects and music, both of which speak to the BitTorrent community’s passion for film and music. And what’s really exciting about these pieces is that they’re far more personal and playful than the average “Making Of...” doc. Creative users looking for inspiration and insight into filmcraft will really enjoy them.

BitTorrent: What do indie filmmakers need to do to build a successful release?
Stobezki: Know your film, and, I mean, really know it. Know what makes it unique and blow out those strengths. If you’ve got something good, make sure everyone else knows about it, too. Don’t stop until they do.