Presented by HBO, the 14th annual New York Latino Film Festival (NYLFF) kicked off last Wednesday with the Futuro Digital Conference, a series of panels sponsored in part by Driven Society. Digital industry executives, influencers and content creators spoke during the sessions about the power of social media, new avenues of distribution and the importance of brand partnerships.
Film and television actor, writer and producer Allen Maldonado (pictured below) was on the panel titled “Distribute Me!” and spoke about Everybody Digital, his new app for filmmakers to stream their short films and short-form media to reach a wider audience beyond the film festival circuit.Maldonado has appeared in the films Dope and Straight Outta Compton and ABC’s black-ish and will be seen opposite Tracy Morgan in TBS’ upcoming sitcom The Last OG. He also serves as a writer on Starz’ Survivor’s Remorse and has written, produced and directed several short films, a particular passion of his.
“Everybody Digital was created out of heartbreak,” he told the audience. “Any filmmaker out there knows that when you make a short film you basically take a wad of money and throw it in a fire.
"You just light that thing up,” he said jokingly, as many of the young filmmakers and actors in the audience nodded in agreement.
“I’ve had success in film festivals, I’ve won several awards with them but after that 12-15 month span, I could go nowhere else with [my short films],” he continued. “There was no home for [them]. I found that many other filmmakers were dealing with that same issue and heartbreak.”
(Pictured above, left to right: Maldonado with fellow panelists Edwin Mejia, Head of Content at The Vladar Company and Co-Founder of Generation Iron; Natalia Saavedra, CMO of Driven Society; entrepreneur and investor John Henry, and Kathleen Bedoya, co-creator and producer of Hulu's East Los High.)
Other than YouTube and Vimeo, there is no other platform of note for filmmakers to upload their original content to be seen by a wide audience, and they are continuously increasing the requirements for creators to monetize their videos. For example, Maldonado said, YouTube channels are required to have more than 10,000 lifetime views before they have the option to monetize their videos. This is particularly difficult for a channel that’s just starting to create original content and depends on monetization earnings to continue creating.
“I wanted to create a platform for not only audiences to view them but also for filmmakers to make money off of their short films,” Maldonado explained. “We want to resurrect short films. Some are ten years old, some are Academy Award-winners, but they’ve just been sitting on someone’s computer for ten years.”
Maldonado hopes that Everybody Digital not only peaks the interest of filmmakers, actors and writers but also the general public to see new, original and quality content that has otherwise only been seen by a limited audience. “We want to reintroduce short films to the masses,” he said. “They used to play in theaters before feature films would play but for a long time now they’ve been replaced by trailers and previews.”
Maldonado went on to explain that most film festival attendees are already in the industry, assuring a smallish audience for short films. This was further proven later Wednesday night when potential TV pilots and short films were screened at NYLFF for a public audience, but the majority of people watching were directly involved in the projects, or friends or family of those involved, or press, or employees and volunteers of the festival.
“With mobile devices, it’s makes new media such as short films easier to consume,” Maldonado said. Though the Everybody Digital app launched just a couple of weeks ago, the team has been curating submissions for over a year, going through every project that filmmakers have submitted. Currently, ten new productions will be available on the app every month. That number will increase as it gains in popularity.
Maldonado told me that although the app is ad-free, he foresees monetization options for filmmakers, future licensing agreements to pay filmmakers to create their films (much how Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have their own exclusive series and films) and advertising opportunities for companies to reach target audiences and key demos. “For the past year we’ve been partnering up with film festivals like NYLFF and others across the country,” he said. But they are about to go much broader. “We have some marketing campaigns coming up early next year, along with my new show with Tracy Morgan; we’ll be piggybacking off of that and some big promotions we have with TBS and TNT during the NBA All-Star Games and March Madness.
“This all came about two years ago,” he recalled. “I remember walking a friend home and halfway there, I suddenly thought to myself, ‘I wanna make a platform for short films.’ Then I just walked off and forgot I was walking her home,” he added with a laugh.
“We started building up the catalog of projects to feature as soon as we launched and we’re still getting submissions every day,” he continued. “I want to create a new industry for short films that hasn’t been done yet. Everyone really enjoys their snack-size content right now and it’s really excelling in new media. Short films are seen as a stepping-stone rather than an actual career, so we have structured Everybody Digital in a way that the filmmaking community can come together in one place while also putting it in the hands of the average consumer.
“You know, you go to McDonald’s and know you’re gonna get a Big Mac. When you go to Everybody Digital you know you’re gonna get some great short films. We want to bring notoriety back to short films,” he concluded.
Everybody Digital is now available on iOS and will be made available for Android users next month.
Photo of Maldonado by JP Dolly.
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