Reelhouse Named a Digital Partner for Sundance Institute’s Artist Services

By Devon Glenn 

Every year, the Sundance Institute partners with tech companies on an Artist Services program that’s designed to help filmmakers continue to reach their audiences once the Sundance Film Festival ends. Kickstarter, Netflix, and YouTube have all participated. One of this year’s partners, announced today, is the video sharing community Reelhouse.

Other new Sundance partners include Tugg, VHX, and Vimeo.

In the spirit of iTunes and YouTube, Reelhouse gives independent filmmakers the tools to publish, distribute, and market their videos on their own terms. But according to the site’s co-founder, the experience is a lot more tailored to an emerging artist’s needs.

“We’re not really like Netflix or iTunes in the sense that mainly, we’re open,” said Reelhouse CEO Bill Mainguy in an email, “meaning that virtually anyone (since we’re curating during our BETA) can use our platform to self-distribute. We don’t have length or genre restrictions, i.e. Web series are fair game.”

Reelhouse also doesn’t require licensing or distribution deals just to use the service. “It’s your page, you’re in control,” he said. “You decide, when, how, and for how much.”

Just like Louis C.K. self-published his comedy special for his fans to download or live-stream from his site, indie filmmakers on Reelhouse (even if they’re not quite so famous) can charge per stream or download, or accept donations from viewers instead of relying on ads. They can also customize their storefront with different colors and backgrounds and use it to sell other items. If they’re not in it for the money, the creators can also just use it as another venue where people can watch their videos for free.

Notable users include the makers of Urban Outlaw, a documentary about a hobbyist who rebuilds and customizes classic Porsches. The video received 30,000 views in 48 hours and 50,000 views in three days, according to Reelhouse. The film’s star, Magnus Walker, ended up on Jay Leno’s web series after the talk show host saw the documentary.

Currently, the videos can be viewed on any PC, mobile phone, or tablet device, but Mainguy said that native apps for Roku, Boxee, Wester Digitial, Xbox, and PS3 are coming soon. Viewers can also access the site if their media centers or television sets have internet browsing capabilities.

In addition to Reelhouse, Sundance Artist Services also connects filmmakers to iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, SundanceNOW, and YouTube. Launched in January 2011, the program runs on the support of The Bertha Foundation, the nonprofit organizations BRITDOC, Cinereach, Film Independent, the Independent Filmmaker Project, and the San Francisco Film Society; and pro-bono legal services from the law firm O’Melveny & Myers.