Thursday, March 24, 2011

Co-Founders Kathleen Wilson & Rick Pagano on The Rikaroo Film Collective

What is the Rikaroo Film Collective?

Rikaroo is a way to connect people who are making independent films with the audiences who want to see them. And yes, we’re doing it for love, not money, though eventually we plan to make some, for ourselves and the independent filmmakers who join us. It’s the creation of industry professionals, operated by industry professionals. Most important, it’s curated. By industry professionals.

Why did you decide to start Rikaroo?

Two quick anecdotes:

1. Four weeks ago, we went to a packaging meeting at a top Hollywood talent agency. As the topic came around to the realities of today’s packaging/financing process, the agent, a well respected, veteran, said to us, “Most of us didn’t go into the business just to work on four-quadrant studio blockbusters.” This from a man whose agency is popularly depicted as the real-life spawn of the Evil Empire.

2. A friend from high school (not working in show business) recently asked us, “Why do you guys in Hollywood always make the same old thing?” We answered, “We do make other kinds of films. You just don’t get to see them very often.” We explained to him that the mandate of studios and large production companies is not art, but commerce. That independent films, as a rule, don’t make the kinds of profits that justify corporate operating costs, marketing costs, or release costs.

These are just two people, one an industry professional, the other a “civilian.” But we’ve mentioned these stories because we believe that their voices represent a swath of those who make movies, and those who watch them. There are people who went into this business to, as producer Joel Silver once said, “to buy art, not to make it.” But there are many more (including our agent acquaintance) who know that most of us in the movie industry want the opportunity to work on high-quality, smart films.

Our big studio movies are suffering from the “four-quadrant disease”—Spiderman 4, Iron Man 3, Xmen 6, crops of buddy movies and formula comedies. Don’t get us wrong: We’ve enjoyed working on some of them, as well as even watching them occasionally. But a steady diet of studio fare isn’t good for our brains. And we suspect it’s not doing wonders for the brains of our children, over the long haul.

The gorgeous secret of the film industry is that, with little fanfare, many of us continue to work on smaller, independent films, often at a fraction of our usual salaries. Not just actors and directors; cinematographers, costume designers, art directors; grips, gaffers, caterers. Sometimes, for nothing more than back-end profits that usually never materialize.

Some people think we do it because we’re nuts. Most of us, however, know that we’re doing it for love. We do it because we want to keep making interesting, intelligent, challenging films. And because we believe there’s an audience out there that wants to watch them.

What are your backgrounds?

Rick Pagano is President/CEO of Pagano/Manwiller Casting with over thirty years of experience casting theater, motion pictures and television. He has worked with directors such as Oliver Stone, James Cameron and Jerry Bruckheimer, cast over 70 studio and independent feature films, including Drugstore Cowboy, Hotel Rwanda and Gas Food Lodging, along with television projects, including 24, Chicago Hope, and Picket Fences and literally hundreds of theater productions across the United States.. He consulted for the Sundance Institute from 1994 through 2001, and also writes and directs plays. Richard has a B.A. from Middlebury College, MA from Columbia University and has completed coursework for a PhD from Columbia University.

Kathleen Wilson is a digital media consultant and member of the Adjunct Faculty in the ITP Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with over twenty years of experience in digital media. Previously, she was the co-founder, VP, Creative Director of Viacom Interactive, Executive Producer at Paramount’s Media Kitchen in Palo Alto, Design Director at MoMA for the Museum Ed Consortium, Multimedia Director at Bank Street’s Center for Children and Technology and co-designer, SimTown for Maxis/EA. Kathleen has a B.A. from Middlebury College, an MBA from TRIUM (LSE-London, HEC-Paris and NYU-Stern) and a PhD Human Development and Psychology from Harvard. She is the author of Rumer & Qix, a futuristic eco-fantasy for young adults.

Who's on your Board of Advisors?

Our board of advisors epitomizes the intersection of the entertainment, academic and technology sectors that are carving the future of filmmaking: award-winning producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors; film school faculty; and digital leaders.

They include twice-Oscar nominated director Sergei Bodrov (East/West, The Mongol); Executive Producer Larry Estes (Sex, Lies And Videotape, The Waterdance, Smoke Signals); director Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes, Red Corner, Up Close And Personal); DP John Bailey (The Big Chill, Silverado, Groundhog Day); editor Arthur Coburn (Spiderman, The Mask, The Cooler); Executive Producers A. Kitman Ho (JFK, Born On The 4th Of July, Platoon, Hotel Rwanda); Bonnie Curtis (AI, Saving Private Ryan); Stratton Leopold (Mission Impossible 2, Sum Of All Fears, The General’s Daughter); John Morrissey (American History X); John Tintori (Chair, NYU Grad Film); Clay Shirky (Social Networking expert); Ed Evans (Prod Manager, ATYPON digital content delivery), Marc Weiss (Exec Producer, P.O.V. and independent documentary distributor); directors/writesr/producers Randall Miller and Jody Savin (Bottle Shock, Nobel Son, Marilynn Hotchkiss); actress Rose Mc Gowan (Monkey Bone, Grindhouse, co-host of TMC’S The Essentials).

What do you see as the largest obstacles to your mission?

We need to show filmmakers that their power comes only from working with other professionals, in a mission-oriented endeavor, to help sustain a truly industry-curated site that doesn’t own the rights to the films, that allow filmmakers to retain autonomy over the fate of their creations. Rikaroo connects filmmakers and their audiences with one another by aggregating "the best films you've never seen" in an industry-curated site.

We’re living in the confluence of technological, creative and economic forces that are severely limiting the upside of independent film production, especially at the delivery end (distribution), where many of the smaller distribution houses have closed over the past five years.

Even as we emerge from the Great Recession, the marketing of large-budget studio fare, video games, TV and other streamed on-line content will inevitably drive eyeballs to the destinations that are supported with the most marketing dollars. Which will of course load the dice against independent films, which by their nature have limited marketing resources.

Of course, filmmakers (and their investors) want their films to make money. The casts and crews who have worked on these films at fractions of their usual rates (or sometimes even for free) will be eager to see their deferred payments (usually a percentage of profits). So naturally, these filmmakers and producers will tend to sign on with “distributors” who will own the content in exchange for dubious guarantees of exhibition in small, remote movie theaters or at on-line sites that have limited viewership. In hindsight, most filmmakers wish they’d chosen other strategies in their pursuit of at least a break-even position, let alone a profitable one.

So Mission Number One is: get good films seen. Connect them with audiences looking for interesting independent films. Which means making Rikaroo a destination-site for audiences, and for the filmmakers as well.

How can filmmakers get involved with Rikaroo?

We’re in the early stages of our endeavor. But we need your help, right now. We want to find the 50 best feature films that have never been seen by audiences, other than a few possible festival screenings. That feature film that you’re so proud of, the one that is still sitting on your shelf. That’s the film we want to see. And maybe we’ll want to put it on Rikaroo.com when it’s up and running, within the next few months.

If you already have a site for your film, great. Keep operating it. Our goal isn’t to take away potential income from what you can do yourselves. Our goal is: to aggregate eyeballs. To bring an industry-curated independent film viewing site to the digital world. Our only rule is: we want films that don’t have theatrical or video distribution. We want to give exposure to filmmakers, not corporations.

The filmmaker keeps the rights to his film; we don’t want to own them. There’s not enough money to cover the sweat equity that’s been put into your films. But we can help you get seen, and as our site grows, we’ll split the profits from the viewings of your film online.

Our mission, simply put, is this: to bring an industry-curated independent film viewing site to the digital world.

How can filmmakers get in touch with you?

You can get in touch with us at rikaroo@rocketmail.com. Then, after we’ve had a chance to view your film, let’s meet, or talk on the phone.

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