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BitTorrent backs indie filmmakers through Discovery Fund

Director of creative initiatives Missy Laney says the struggle for creators to get noticed online is real, which is why marketing matters.
August 9, 2016

Emerging VOD platform BitTorrent has set out to make a name for itself among indie filmmakers through its new Discovery Fund.

The new funding program, which invites filmmakers from around the world to apply for cash grants of varying amounts, was announced Aug. 9.

The program was conceived by one of the company’s newest hires, former Sundance veteran Missy Laney. Laney, pictured, now serves as director of creative initiatives at BitTorrent.

The new funding program is designed to make digital a more artist-friendly ecosystem by bringing “creators to a transactional platform and giv(ing) them a way to reach new audiences,” she told StreamDaily.

BitTorrent has already had some success attracting high-profile projects to its platform — such as Arrested Development star David Cross’s comedy project Hits and Indigenous Media’s buzzed-about “Snapchat movie” Sickhouse. 

The new grants, meanwhile, are aimed at artists who haven’t quite become household names yet.

To that end, the grants are to be used for marketing, not for the technical or creative aspects of creating new projects.

“This isn’t the kind of grant that will just allow people to work on their color correction,” said Laney. “It’s for creators who want to create robust advertising campaigns on a modest budget.”

One of the earliest recipients of the grant is Dan Schoenbrun’s anthology film Collective Unconscious, which takes a surrealist look at dreams, nightmares, volcanoes, suburban paranoia, and the state of race in America. Schoenbrun initially released the film in a series of shorts on BitTorrent, but through the grant, he’s now set to release the film as one piece, with a marketing campaign financed by the grant.

Laney welcomed comparisons of BitTorrent (which recently re-branded its BitTorrent Bundles transactional platform as BitTorrent Now) to Vimeo, which bills itself as an artist-first platform, allowing creators to directly upload content and set their own prices.

“We’re not creating a culture of uploading cat videos — not if you’re going to pay to watch,” said Laney. “Our goal is for creators to just use this (grant program) as a calling card, instead of just doing something like uploading to iTunes, getting stuck behind a paywall and never being found.”

Last year, BitTorrent surveyed 200 creators who used the platform to gain insight into the challenges of the industry.

“Unsurprisingly, 59% of them said getting their work discovered was the biggest challenge. The advent of direct-to-fan distribution has really opened up and eliminated gatekeepers, but we’re now in a world where 200 million pieces of content are uploaded every single day,” said Laney.

BitTorrent is implementing a rolling deadline on the Discovery Program in order to attract as many applicants as possible.

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