Oberhausen launches new video-on-demand platform

“Oberhausen Films Online”, the new video-on-demand platform of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, initially featuring some 270 short films and film clips, is now online. What’s special about this platform is that, unlike other forms of commercialization – whether internet, television or cinema – the full rights to and control over all works on offer remain in the hands of the filmmakers. Whether a film is made available for streaming or download and what price to charge is completely up to its author. The current stock of titles from Oberhausen’s recent festival programmes will be expanded on an ongoing basis. In addition, the platform offers an extensive short film database. The films can be found atwww.kurzfilmtage.de/en/videotheque.

The new portal represents not only a new form of self-distribution on the internet; the idea is also for the Oberhausen brand to serve as a seal of quality and orientation aid helping viewers to navigate the vast profusion of video material on the internet – which is why the offerings are limited to films from the festival programmes. The spectrum of works on view ranges from short fiction to music videos; selections from the festival’s own distribution catalogue are included alongside award-winners and works featured in special programmes at Oberhausen, for example films by Thomas Draschan, Jeanne Faust, Robert Frank, Ken Kobland, Jan Svankmajer, Jaan Toomik and Zelimir Zilnik. Over 5,000 new productions are to be added to the short film database each year from the festival’s market catalogues.

Partnering with the festival to present Oberhausen Films Online is Onlinefilm AG. In co-operation with Stiftung Kulturserver.de gGmbH, Onlinefilm AG developed the project www.onlinefilm.org, the technical basis of this project. The partners’ goal is to offer digital distribution technologies to filmmakers in order to expand the online film market and create a legal resource. Viewing charges can currently be paid via PayPal. Of the income generated, 51% goes to the film’s author and 49% to onlinefilm.org for setting up and maintaining the digital infrastructure. The works can also be accessed at onlinefilm.org and their various partners’ websites. Once their films are digitized, filmmakers can choose to embed them in virtually unlimited additional websites, for example those of film festivals, distributors or galleries. If required, payment arrangements with third parties can be made.

“With very few exceptions, film festivals today are commercialization platforms for films rather than film markets”, notes Lars Henrik Gass, director of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. “When film festivals no longer function as market, they must become a brand that refinances the films and filmmakers. The internet offers the historic opportunity for a new form of artistic independence: digital self-distribution by the filmmaker. An alternative must be found to the dilemma of the internet free-for-all versus the traditional licensing model of television. This is where Oberhausen Films Online comes in: as strategic partnership between filmmaker and film festival.”

For the launch of the new platform, the festival digitized approx. 270 films, whose administration will now be taken over step by step by the filmmakers themselves. The minimum presence for every film is a one minute preview clip: after processing by the filmmakers, the films are then available in full for streaming or download, either for free or for a charge. Downloads are based on Bittorrent software. In future, new films will be added from the current festival programmes as well as from the festival archive, beginning with the competition nominees at the 57th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.

“We want Oberhausen Films Online to help spread film culture in a way that directly benefits the filmmakers. We view the project as a vital step into the digital age of the film festival. Today it’s no longer enough to show films online solely for the purpose of documentation. Providing online access to films must be a component of both the festival’s own brand-building as well as the filmmaker’s self-distribution efforts. This is one way for film festivals to overcome the limits of space and time and to ultimately make a part of cultural heritage accessible to a new audience”, says Lars Henrik Gass.

Supported by the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia.


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