One of the recurring topics of conversation in modern film is how filmmakers can use the power of the Internet to break out of the traditional, studio-bound ways of funding and distributing movies. There have been various answers to this question, including crowdfunding and distribution through streaming services like Netflix. Now Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, a hard R-rated reboot of Short Circuit) has waded into the fray with his own model: Oats Studios.
Here’s the deal: Blomkamp and Company will release a series of short films for free on YouTube. While I’m sure these films will bring in some money via YouTube’s advertising model, what differentiates Oats is that movie watchers will also be able to pay for the films through the game distribution network Steam. Why would anyone pay for something they can get for free elsewhere, aside from the pleasure of being a patron of the arts? The Steam version will come with bonus features, something that I know I’ve missed in the age of streaming, including concept art, effects footage and even 3D models. Neat!
While I certainly wish Oats Studios luck in their endeavor, I’m a tad cynical about how successful they’ll be. While a certain segment of the population will clamor for this kind of behind the scenes stuff, it seems pretty niche, and this stuff doesn’t look cheap. Speaking of which, here’s the teaser trailer for Oats Studios Volume One:
My first thought is that I’m not sure what Oats means by “experimental films.” To me, this looks like straight ahead genre fare with Blomkamp’s trademark gritty and violent aesthetic. I’m sure there will be some lovely production design, as that’s his strong suit. As Lewton Bus’ own Kevin Kuhlman observed, it “looks like Gorn meets Aliens,” which seems pretty accurate. The only thing experimental here is the business model. At any rate, I know I’ll be forking over some money for this out of curiosity if nothing else. What do you guys think?