Jean Cocteau once said that film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper; thanks to smartphones and social media, it’s safe to say that’s the case. The Vancouver film industry should be very proud of Cinecoup. The Top 10 films, for whom voting begins next week, includes all six Vancouver-based projects of the Top 15.
The startup has been described as American Idol for indie filmmaking, but another fair parallel to make would be to Project Runway. Over the course of the contest, the competing filmmakers are challenged to feature scenes with no dialogue, create marketing materials, hype their projects, and prove that their IP has legs beyond the film.
Cinecoup itself is Vancouver-based. Its founder and president, J. Joly, spun the project out of dimeRocker, the production company he founded in 2009. The love of film is strong here in Vancouver: all six of the Vancouver projects from the Top 15 made it through to the Top 10, and "Grade Nine," a 80s-period piece about violence in high school, is currently the fan-favourite to win.
Five of the six films share a thread of violence between them. The straight-from-the-headlines "The Mill and the Mountain," the 70s cinema tribute piece "The Fall," the siblings-gone-wrong crime drama "BAD," and the crime piece "SCAM" all share Grade Nine's taste for the criminal. The Granger twins’ "Alien Abduction," a zany sci-fi comedy, is a bright exception.
J. Joly’s desire to see change in the film industry has inspired dozens of teams to try their hand in Cinecoup. In his eyes, it’s no wonder that the film industry has been staggering in the way it has.
"Just because a cultural funding body gives you say, twenty thousand dollars to develop your script that is not an endorsement that it is a marketable script," he explained to Techvibes. " If the subsidies went away, many could not sustain themselves from a revenue perspective. There are those that feel entitled that their annual overhead is paid for through these grants, even though the previous years they did not deliver films, be they commercial or cultural, that broke even or even got to market.”
All the teams I spoke to are in it to win it, but J.Joly wants his support for all of Cinecoup’s participants known. As is fair. Cinecoup has proved successful enough to inspire Cinecoup to secure the rights to Telecoup and Sonicoup for pilots and soundtracks, respectively.
“Just because we back away from it, that doesn’t mean it’s not a viable project. It just might take six months more. At no point do we want to say ‘If you’re in the top 60, you’re a shitty product. You just might need more development,'" says Joly. "Here’s an easy way to use a tech analogy: this is a film accelerator, and we are the angels behind it. We want to invest in film entrepreneurs."
"The great thing about this fund is that it has a built-in audience, packaged films, and I believe at least one or more will be in Cineplex, because they’re very bullish about support," he continues. "If you participate in Cinecoup, you’ll get your movie made. We’re not a destination. We’re a launchpad.”
Matt Granger of "Alien Abduction" shares Joly’s enthusiasm.
"Back in the 80s, the Australian film industry were making these gritty Australian films, and these guys are making these outlandishly cool films because they were able to," he says. "We were never able to, we were caught up in this government crap, nobody could make a movie if they hadn’t made thirty thousand: this could be a revolution. This could get attention worldwide. This is the tip of a very, very large iceberg that J.’s started, and that’s been the biggest surprise, that there’s a group of people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, and make it happen."
"If we could be a service industry to our own productions, that would be great," Granger added. "J’s a rebel; in his word, he’s disruptive. Win or lose, I applaud the guys doing this. There’s people out there who will support it.”
There are indeed, and Cinecoup depends on them. They’re looking to have a second round begin this fall. As for Joly’s main pointer for any potential entrant to one of next year’s Coups?
“See what the successful people did the first time," he says. "The teams that did the best were the ones that had traditional members and a media person, right up front. There’s a few teams that didn’t think like entrepreneurs. Be authentic. Don’t try to be clever and cheeky and say it’s beneath you, don’t break your social contract with your audience. They want people who are passionate about what they’re doing. Look at the quality of what the audience pushes to the top.”
With days until voting on the top 10, we’re nearing the end of the first Cinecoup—but it’s plain that something great is just beginning.