Hammer on the web
Web of terror
Henry Northmore witnesses the rebirth of film studio Hammer and looks at how the internet is changing film production and distribution
The internet has irrevocably changed the way we consume media. ‘Instant’ has become standard and even institutions like the BBC have taken to OnDemand in a big way. Access to downloadable films old and new is increasing and, of course, piracy and filesharing is rife. But these are films created for the cinema or DVD while there’s a new wave of film produced via, and for, the internet.
An increasingly common practice is to offer movie shorts that fill out or add to the main product, creating hype and giving more back to fans. The Grudge 2, for example, offered Tales from the Grudge (www.sonypictures.com/movies/thegrudge2/site) a three episode self-contained story, while Hitman threw up an animated prologue (www.hitmanmovie.com).
The net is a great showcase for getting product direct to consumers. Babelgum (www.babelgum.com) is hosting an online Film Festival to be judged by Spike Lee with the winning shorts in each of the seven categories receiving 20,000 Euros at an awards gala in Cannes on 20 May.
Horror and sci-fi seem to be at the forefront of the movement with passionate media literate fans. Perhaps the highest profile project is the relaunch of the legendary Hammer Films with Beyond the Rave (www.myspace.com/beyondtherave), currently being broadcast on MySpace in four-minute segments with two new webisodes posted every week. For a web film, the production values are astounding and will certainly get the film into the consciousness of fans who weren’t even born when the last full-scale Hammer production was released.
‘We wanted to expose a new audience to the Hammer brand, while satisfying our legion of loyal fans,’ explains Hammer CEO Simon Oakes. ‘So we set out to combine Hammer’s horror knowledge and Pure Grass Film’s experience in multi-platform content with strong music and interactive game elements. The only platforms on which you could pull all these strands together and broadcast to a guaranteed user-base are the social networking sites. MySpace had the experience with content, the technical expertise and a real understanding of how we wanted to position the Hammer brand online.’
Posting the film on the net also opened new possibilities. ‘Two important elements in our thinking were how to give the soundtrack an organic feel and how to integrate the ARG (Alternate Reality Game),’ says Oakes. ‘We sorted the music pretty quickly when legendary DJ Pete Tong came on board as executive music producer. The second key element was interactivity. We chose US company Seize the Media who have just the right balance of genre savvy, cutting-edge technical know-how and real passion for pushing the boundaries of how you develop online content.’
Though perhaps Massify (www.massify.com), who have teamed up with After Dark Films, are pointing towards a new user-created approach to film production. Their ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ project certainly lives up to their ‘connect, collaborate, create’ tagline. Unfortunately only open to US residents, it’s still a truly innovative idea. Users upload synopses, full scripts are fleshed out by professionals, users can post audition tapes and everything is voted for by the Massify online community with the final products being made into horror features by established professionals.
The internet offers possibilities and audience participation on a far greater scale than ever before, combining all these elements to create a more immersive viewing experience. Where film goes next will be determined by technology’s evolution.