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Bass Ackwards and the YouTube/Sundance Experiment

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik January 22, 2010 at 9:30AM

Bass Ackwards and the YouTube/Sundance Experiment
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Today, I plunked down $3.99 to watch Linas Philips's "Bass Ackwards," premiering in Sundance's NEXT section, on YouTube. This is the first time I've ever paid money to watch something online -- notwithstanding my Netflix subscription -- so I'd say this is a major coup for the publicity and filmmaking team behind the movie. "Bass Ackwards" producer Thomas Woodrow is a persuasive sort, and when he vigorously argued to me that they would treat "Sundance itself as the theatrical campaign" and make the movie simultaneously available on all platforms, I bought the pitch, literally. (Since I talked to Woodrow and wrote about the film for Filmmaker Magazine (When Does Plan B Become Plan A? Few Sundance Filmmakers Brave Alternative Distribution Paths), I was probably more invested than your average movie-consumer, but so be it. Last I checked, the movie had 63 views after being available for about three-quarters of a day.

I have little doubt that this approach is the best commercially for the film--the decidedly lo-fi, offbeat, rambling road-trip story of a slacker looking for direction in his life would not fare well in theaters.

But I still have my doubts about the cinema experience of watching a movie streaming on my computer. There's too many potential distractions and I had a number of brief streaming pauses--visual hiccups (what's the 21st century terminology for this?). Also, comedy doesn't translate as well at home verses a theater with a bunch of people. There's an early sequence that shows the protagonist working briefly at an Alpaca farm--for my money, one of the movie's best scenes. And while I snickered out loud during a moment where the character asks for love from a hungry alpaca, I suspect this bit gets big laughs in a theater--which would have been far more satisfying, not just for the audience, but the filmmakers, as well.