Yes, I admit it – I am a film junkie! Growing up in the bush in Australia back in the 60s & 70s, I didn’t get to the cinemas in the big cities as often as I wanted to; I did, however, get to see Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen which changed my life – I had to be…needed to be…a part of the cinema world. Thank goodness for the local library (Kalamunda, just outside of Perth WA) where I devoured all the books on film stars, filmmaking and the history of Hollywood (years later, I taught Film History at a film school here in Toronto so all that geeking out paid off in the end). Back then everything was all about Hollywood, Tinseltown, the centre of the film industry universe. But now, thanks to everything being online, the biz has changed…well some of it has. There are still barriers for emerging writers, directors, producers to get their work shown in cinemas or on tv – it’s all about the $s and access to the suits. Sure, there is a global market for film with active film communities in just about every country – ever heard of Nollywood? Nigeria is second only to Bollywood (India) for annual production output leaving Hollywood in the dust but people still think California is the place to conquer professionally.
For the past few years, I’ve become so homesick for Australia that I’ve searched for Aussie-based platforms for films and tv series that we just don’t get up here in North America, apart from the odd Indigenous show (eg: Mystery Road, Total Control), thanks to channels such as APTN in Canada and PBS in the US. Every time I clicked on videos or film industry news broadcasts, I always got the geo-blocked message on screen: “not available in your territory”. Urgh! Isn’t the world wide web supposed to give us access to stuff from around the world?? Then I discovered VIDIVERSE, a streaming platform out of Australia created by award-winning filmmaker ALEX PROYAS (pictured below) best known for directing I, Robot, The Crow, Dark City and numerous music videos including those by Sting, Mike Oldfield and one of my fave Down Under bands Crowded House with whom I worked when they toured Canada.Alex realized there was a huge online opportunity for indie short filmmakers whose work is often the stepping stone to feature work and big-time careers. He knew he could make a difference when he launched Vidiverse and saw the audience numbers grow exponentially along with a loud buzz within the film community – there was suddenly a greater respect for short films, especially those in the specific horror/thriller/chiller genre. I became a member and have spent many hours viewing a variety of shorts – some make me laugh, some scare the bejesus outta me, others illuminate issues I’ve not had to confront up here in Canada. I knew I had to talk to this talented filmmaker to learn about his decision to step up and kick open the doors for all who share his passion….
Alex, you’ve enjoyed much success throughout your career as a filmmaker, director and writer, both critically and at the box office, so why get into the streaming biz with Vidiverse? The mainstream of film is broken right now – and less accessible to brave new voices than ever before. I wanted to encourage indie filmmakers and more importantly filmmakers who are attempting to build a new way forward. I was writing and directing my own short films and I found the only place I could share these films was on YouTube, a site that pays a pittance to anyone who doesn’t have millions of subscribers or views, and where great work is at the mercy of the algorithm and can get lost, buried beneath so much rubbish. What hope is there for up-and-coming filmmakers if they have nowhere to showcase their work, so they can continue to create? Vidiverse is my attempt to change that.What excites me about your streaming platform is that it’s not geo-blocked here in North America like most, if not all, of the Aussie platforms (incl. the tv networks and festival outlets). How did you manage that? I feel that to improve the situation for indie filmmakers it needs to be a global effort. We don’t just want to showcase Australian filmmakers to Australian audiences. Vidiverse is evidence that across the world there are unique, rich, unheard stories from filmmakers that deserve to be shared globally. We simply can’t claim to champion indie filmmakers if we’re limiting their potential audience. A few of our films are blocked in some territories due to existing licenses already arranged by the filmmakers, but these are very few indeed.Many of the films listed on the site maybe “cool” but are definitely outside of the norm (or “genre” films) and would probably never make it into traditional cinemas – why is it important to support and champion these films? We are about diversity in film. Whether that be in style, content, structure, ethnicity or culture. Filmmakers grow and learn and change. When you provide a platform for their work, they can build their fan base, they can earn money, they can develop their unique style of filmmaking and ultimately add more value to their own brand. Nothing changes if nothing changes and by highlighting different films, we open up an industry that is trapped in a cycle of using the same actors, filmmakers, directors, stories, etc, told from the same perspectives. It’s a monopoly of sorts, that is almost impossible to break into without the finance and the connections. Vidiverse is about building an alternative.
Since its inception, I’ve seen more and more indie filmmakers add their films to Vidiverse, how did you reach out to them and convince them this was the most ideal & targeted platform for their projects? And how difficult is it to curate specific genres or subjects? I, fortunately, have very committed followers, many of whom are filmmakers themselves, and it was with their help that we initially launched Vidiverse and secured our first lot of submissions. Additionally, blogs like yours, podcasts, social media, etc. are how we generate further submissions. In terms of ‘convincing’ filmmakers it’s the most ideal platform, I’d say that little convincing was necessary. We offer a place for them to showcase their work and generate potential financial return to put back into their craft. It will also increasingly function as a way for them to build their own individual brand – we are ‘creator-centric’, we don’t boost individual videos like Youtube – we are about encouraging and rewarding those filmmakers who have a body of work on Vidiverse. On top of that, our contract is non-exclusive. We don’t want to limit our filmmakers and if they want to share their work on other sites and streamers, we won’t deny them the potential opportunities they might find through those sites. Though I hope they will increasingly view Vidiverse as the best possible way to showcase their work. Again, at the heart of Vidiverse is the desire to improve the situation for all indie filmmakers, and though we have a long way yet to travel I hope we’ve already shown we can and will succeed.Like the “big boys” (Netflix, Prime, etc,) Vidiverse plans to help finance and produce projects for indie filmmakers in the future. How difficult is it currently for filmmakers to get their projects from page to screen Down Under? Hugely difficult. Funding for shorts is almost non-existent, or out of reach for most filmmakers. Here in Australia, we are very much an entire industry built on the indie model – we don’t have studios here, and the number of streamers or TV concerns that are in a position to finance content are limited and often produce extremely conservative stuff for mass consumption. It can be difficult to engage investors for anything challenging and ground-breaking, even in the ultra low budget indie world of Aussie movies. Australia has some incredibly talented filmmakers with great ideas but it’s a long road to improve it. But this can all be applied to the larger indie world – as I say, the model is pretty much broken worldwide. A good film is always a kind of miracle, every film has odds it’s trying to beat – but in Australia a good film is a very special kind of even more rare miracle. We need to pull together as filmmakers, and build our own alternative model – one that services the artists as well or better than the commerce.Your website’s “Hope” page says…We want to represent the broadest spectrum of voices possible. What we lack in deep pockets to stream the mass-market and narrow-minded, we make up for with embracing the open-minded, the challenging, the brave, the original. What advice can you offer to indie filmmakers around the world who want to showcase their work on Vidiverse, and are there any specific submission protocols for doing so? The only submissions requirement is that the submitter owns all rights to the film. In terms of advice: get out there and make something! It’s films made with passion and dedication that capture our hearts. You don’t need to have lots of money to make a great film, you just need to work at your craft. And make the films you want to see, not the films you think others want to see. Creating with that mindset will give you more clarity in your decisions, and no doubt create a better film than if you made it with the hope of external praise. Just start, make a film, and keep making them no matter what anyone tells you, whatever negative criticism you might get. Passion is all you need.
Thanks, Alex, good luck as you build your portfolio of short films produced by talented filmmakers from around the globe. And a big THANK YOU for being such a patron of the artform and emerging fellow filmmakers. So, attn all filmmakers around the world – if YOU have a project that needs to be seen by audiences, why not reach out with a submission?
You can follow Vidiverse and select films and filmmakers to view here: https://www.vidiverse.com/
And follow Alex and Vidiverse on all social media platforms @vidiverse