CHAT Aaron Koenig, founder and managing director of Germany-based Bitfilm, believes that technology has democratised filmmaking
Last year was the first time the Bitfilm Festival came to Bangalore to host their closing event. This year, the festival opens in the city. But that’s not all that’s new about it.
What’s new this time is the Bitcoin, a new digital currency that Aaron Koenig, founder and managing director of Germany-based Bitfilm, believes could be a working alternative in the weakening economic scenario.
“The great thing about it is that you don’t have to have a bank account, you can download a free software that transfers money internationally for no cost. It’s an advanced technology and it is not so well known. We like it and we want to promote it, so we used the festival as an experimental stage,” says Aaron.
Since its inception in 1999 (the first screening was in 2000), the Bitfilm Festival has been a platform for films that make use of digital technology, which in today’s case includes 2-D, 3-D and hybrid animation and filmmaking via video games.
“The idea is to show films that creatively use digital technology. All the films are online so the whole world can see and vote for them. So we are a very democratic festival,” explains Aaron.
“This year, the online voting combines our fascination for the new digital currency, people can give small amounts of Bitcoins to each film. Each film has its own account, the film with the most Bitcoins in each category will win and the money will be distributed.”
Aaron originally planned to set-up a community of filmmakers through Bitfilm, but after it did not take off commercially, the organization decided to work on a film festival as a marketing event for the community.
“It turned out that the festival became much more popular than the community and we got some good sponsors. It was at the cutting edge between film and interactive media.” At the time, the company’s main focus was on licensing; they sold films to internet, mobile and cable operators. “It went on well for some years, but now films are everywhere on the internet so nobody would be ready to pay to buy them. So we now work on commercial production.” Aaron usually writes and directs the films, which are mainly intended for internet audiences.
“Most of our customers are European companies and the films we make for them usually explain their products and services. We specialize in working on complex and abstract topics and our challenge is to convert them into fun, entertaining and interesting films. Everybody wants these films on their website to pull in audiences because once there is awareness, people will spend more time on the website.” Bitfilm sometimes identifies talents from the film festival and works with them on their commercial productions. They have already worked on two projects with Indian animators based in India and are working on their third.
“In the last 10 years, technology has democratised filmmaking. Earlier, filmmaking involved a lot of investment, on expensive equipment, a professional studio and an editing suite. You can do the same thing now with a camera, laptop and software. Filmmaking has become more accessible to everybody. That does not mean that everybody is able to make better films, but that the barrier is not the money, but talent and love.”
He marvels at the fact that anybody from around the world can make films sitting at their homes. He is also fascinated by the way that he can work with animators in India simply by sending an e-mail. “The internet is great but human beings are greater, it is much better to be in personal contact. But I cannot be in India all year long, though I’d love to.”
This is why, technology is not the only criteria in the Bitfilm selection process.
“That the film is technically well made is taken for granted. But that is not what counts. What counts is that it touches us, there’s an emotional value that makes us forget about the way it’s made. It’s not technology that is interesting, it’s what the technology makes possible.”