Cinecoup Film Accelerator: Turning Independent Filmmakers into Tech-Style Entrepreneurs

At first, filmmakers and entrepreneurs may sound like an oil-and-water kind of situation. Or as a web developer I know joked, “a match made in hell.”

Yet making an independent film in Canada is very similar to how most of us start our first businesses. You have a fantastic idea but lack the network or a platform to attract investors, build a customer base, and distribute your product to market.  Now what?

For most Canadian filmmakers, the next step is to head out, hat-in-hand, to government funding bodies to kickstart financing for your project. These bodies give grants according to cultural criteria and government policy, which make them the default regulatory bodies for the kind of films that can be made in Canada.

Now picture how regulations in the form of content restrictions would impact your business. Imagine a successful Canadian startup like PantyByPost being told by an investor that they can only sell umbrellas. It’s mind-bogglingly anti-competitive.

The options for new and emerging filmmakers in the 20 to 35 year old cohort, who want to make movies and make money, were limited until the Cinecoup Film Accelerator launched in December 2012.

For example, to make a living, my business partners and I—who are participating in Cinecoup’s 2013 accelerator program—would have to make campy comedies or dysfunctional-family dramas here in Canada or try our luck in California.

“I want to make international films that happen to be made by Canadians,” explains J. Joly, the CEO and founder of Vancouver-based Cinecoup. “The true measure of success for me will be if the accelerator puts some money in your pocket and you can pay your rent at the end of the process.”

Joly also believes that it’s the very first film accelerator of its kind, both domestically and internationally, to use the tech industry accelerator model.

He says that “instead of training producers and mentoring script writers, Cinecoup gives filmmakers a real platform to build their audience, crowd source their concept, develop a marketing strategy, and the funding necessary to take their product to market.”

As the cofounder of a production company that specializes in online video marketing for tech clients like Teligence and RewardLoop, this is an approach to filmmaking that finally speaks to both my artistic and entrepreneurial background.  This is why my Vancouver-based filmmaking team submitting a concept trailer for The Mill and the Mountain—a movie we feel wouldn’t be made the traditional way in Canada.

Brad Pelman, Cinecoup’s Head of Distribution and Industry Advisor, believes that the 2013 accelerator will provide a level of promotion and audience connection that no film distributor is currently providing anywhere in the world.

He says that Cinecoup will result in “a data base of true film fans. Their preferences and tastes will be very valuable in pinpointing how to market specific films to specific groups of people. Currently [print and advertising] strategy still wastes 30 to 40% on the wrong eyeballs or no eyeballs at all.”

One of the 90 teams participating this year will qualify for a $1 million production budget via a social selection funnel and a 2014 theatre release for their project with Cineplex.

The public portion of the accelerator program launched last Thursday on February 28. You’ll be able to view, share and vote on what Canada’s independent filmmaking industry could look like if it was unhindered by federal and regional cultural watchdogs until April 28. A finalist will be selected in June.

If preliminary metrics are any indication, I may just be in a position to make my filmmaking dreams come true.

In its first 72 hours, generated over 100,000 project views and averaged nearly one new user subscription per minute (approximately 3,900 new signups). More good news: over 15% of this viewership was international, which suggests there may be an international market for Canadian independent film after all.

“Not too shabby for Canadian independent film, “ Joly admits.

Not too shabby indeed.

Sean Horlor is a filmmaker participating in the 2013 Cinecoup Film Accelerator with his film The Mill and the Mountain. He is an award-winning author and the co-founder of Steamy Window Productions. You can view his concept trailer here: