A Creative Commons-licensed film produced by thousands of people. Released at the same time on theaters, TV, VOD and for free on our website. Enjoy the experience at www.cosmonautexperience.com
There are things one should never get to write. Like a necrology of someone you love.
Today we have to write this post. The last one. The final point after six years of sensations, dreams, love, fights, reconciliations, tensions, happiness, goosebumps, critics, prizes, conferences, inspiration, tears, laughter and a roller-coaster of emotions that got us here.
This time we have less desire for the epics, but more to tell how we feel now, and perhaps the word that defines it best is frustration. Or grief.
Frustration, not because the movie didn’t reach a good economic result. This risk has always been there and, in spite of the fact that we couldn’t pay back to our investors, we still believe we did something beautiful that was worth being created and, no matter how cliché it might sound, there is a part of all this that was worth it. Even though we lost money.
And it’s not the sadness for the good or bad criticism the movie got. Many people didn’t like it, others keep writing to us to tell they became speechless and very moved after watching it. Again, we knew what we were dealing with when we decided to create such an unconventional movie with a parted story-line, weird, unusual, with a high dosis of poetry. We knew not everybody would like us but we still are proud of each shot we had produced, even if they didn’t produce unanimous critics.
It’s frustration and sadness, not because the project is coming to an end (after all, everything has it’s circle and at some point we have to leave behind the things of the past and look into the future, as we are trying to do now) but because of how this end is.
It’s frustration and sadness of having to conclude this beautiful project that dragged, excited and moved thousands of you, in such an ugly, distorted and unpleasant way.
To cut the story short:
Three years ago we asked for a subsidy from ICAA for our transmedia project. They gave it to us and assured us personally that the special conditions we applied to the production of our project would be no problem regarding the basis of the subsidy. They did’t keep their word, and a year later came to claim the refund of 74.000€. So we went to court to defend what we believed fair, spending the humble resources we had left.
There were two possibilities. None of them great, but one of them, given the bad situation, seemed natural. The other one didn’t. The other one was a disaster. A disaster, because it would prove that, in this country we live in, the obsolete politics and the bad governmental practices kill everything they reach. Everything that stands out or is looking for an alternative way. Because it would show that we survive in a ill-raised system where no support is given to the novelty, and there the word, the honor or the support of the culture is less important than sterile bureaucracy.
And what happened was the second one. We lost at court where we didn’t even get the opportunity to defend ourselves. And the ICAA, again, claimed their money. And this time, the interests raised the amount from 74.000 to 83.000 €.
(you can read more about this here: http://www.thecosmonaut.org/blog/?p=547)
That same week we had to declare bankrupcy, forced by the circumstances. And now that’s it, there is no way back.
Since the company has no economic resources (we invested up to the last penny in the film and we are selling the equipment to be able to pay por the latest expenses), the creditors (ICAA) won’t be able to eet anything back. The worst thing is that the investors can’t do so either, since even the mere possibility of that doesn’t exist.
The value of the film today is close to zero, since it hasn’t produced any income in months. Everything will keep going as usual, only with one tiny detail: it would cost us thousands of euros. And the rights of the film and the shortfilms, that you and us produced with so much effort will get lost in a complex legal void from which there might be no way out.
And so, without ceremonies, the state gives a mortal thrust to the project that brought to Spain a great deal of things that sounded absurd five years ago, like crowdfunding, like the day&date premiere, or like the creation of a transmedia universe around the film, that today are becoming or have already become the standards of the movie industrie.
That’s the reason for the sadness. That’s the reason for the frustration. That’s the reason for the anger of knowing that won’t want to undertake another venture of that kind here.
Because it’s not fair to end up like this. Not for us, nor for the thousands of you guys who have kept us company on this trip, nor for the film.
Having said this, all of us who called ourselves “cosmonauts” during more than four years, we don’t have any other option left then to put our heads up high, to look back with pride and to say outloud that we had tried. That we had managed to do it. That, in spite of all the tremendous difficulties, we made it to the premiere of the film that we created all together, and hundreds of thousands of people were able to watch it, be a part of it and get inspired. With a little bit of luck, we will be able to go on with our lives to think about new projects.
It has been marvelous to travel to the Moon with you. Probably the best adventure we will ever live.
PS. As always during the past years, we shall keep telling you here absolutely everything that is going to happen in the next months in this process to all of you who would like to read it.
The Cosmonaut Pulp Cover (Leolux, CC By Sa Nc)
Imagine being pregnant for 5 years. If it hurts when it lasts 9 months… you can have an idea of what is it to premiere a film like The Cosmonaut.
The last months have been a rollercoaster of wonderful moments and terrible moments.
Of course, as we’ve always done, we want to tell you everything about it. That’s our compromise, even though we haven’t got a lot of good news.
In this post we will try to analyze what meant to premiere the film and what happened after. We will give you the general and particular numbers. We will brief you about all the good things that happened and also the not so good ones. But above all, we will try to give you as many details as we can so you can judge by yourself.
A candy, a slap:
The Cosmonaut (the feature film) has been watched by many. Around165.400 people if we take into account all the sources (and almost 322.600 if we count the audience as the ICAA does because usually one IP means more than one person)
The exact numbers, by platform
1. Movie Theaters.
During the week of the premiere the film was shown in 14 countries, in more than 80 premieres that were organized by ourselves (in Madrid twelve hundred people atended), by fans, by institutions or by film festivals.
Unfortunately, as much as we tried, most of the cinema owners and exhibitors declined to premiere the film. We were also unable to convince any brand to jump on board and sponsor the premiere.
Our ideas about experiential premieres with Q&A’s, actors playing live and other things had a great reception from the audience but there wasn’t many people willing to organize that kind of experiences and we didn’t have the funds to organize them on our own.
Till today, more than 8500 people have watched the film in movie theaters but since most of these projections have happened inside film festivals or non profit events, the income is practically non-existent.
In Spain we negotiated with a lot of VOD platforms and almost all of them were receptive to our model: the movie behind a paywall, offering as added value the spanish version of the film and several webisodes.
The number of views in all these platforms have been 26.915. Most of them came from Yomvi, which was part of our deal with Canal+ and therefore didn’t generate any revenue. We are still closing the numbers with all of them but we can tell you that the approximate revenue that came from this sources was about 1800€, about the same amount that the aggregator charged us to convert the film to put it in those very same platforms. We will keep updating the numbers as they grow.
The entrance barriers (preparing the materials to deliver, negotiations, contracts) are high for the return income if your film is, either a very popular film (after winning a Goya, having a famous cast, or else) or a big promotion budget to get people to know about the film and generate buzz. We had neither of those.
3. Official website.
Our website haven’t performed much better.
The film was watched by many people but, even though we knew our idea of distribution was risky (“Share it in order to watch it and then pay what you want, having access to additional material if you pay above 5€”), not even in our “worst case scenario” the numbers were as bad as they have been in reality.
At the official website the film was watched by 17580 people. Only 2,5% decided to pay for it. The average amount was 3,55 euros (which is not bad, but not enough because of the very few people who decided to pay).
We have thought and thought about the reasons for this: was the model too new and innovative? Was it because paying online is still a hold back in Spain? Was it a moral issue because people might have had the feeling that they had already paid for the film because it was crowd funded? Was it because not enough people liked the film? Or even because not enough people have watched it? Maybe the incentives to pay for it weren’t enough? Maybe it’s a cultural issue?
We haven’t found a single answer and probably the most reasonable thing to do is to think about a combination of almost all of them. And there will always remain the doubt of thinking if this would have worked better in a couple of years, when many of the changes that are happening in the industry and people’s behaviors have matured and developed. Or maybe we weren’t able to find our audience. To reach out to them.
Maybe someone tries something similar again in the future so we can compare and see if there are other ways as we thought.
In the meantime, although in pain and frustration about the results, so far away from our expectations, we still have a healing pride of knowing we tried. Being sure that something like this needed to be done at least once to see if it was possible. And knowing that, at least, we have opened many roads for the next innovators to come and learn and try new things.
As a side note, some of you asked why didn’t we put advertising on the website or a pre-roll. From the beginning we announced we wouldn’t do that because we considered it aggressive for the spectator, to whom we preferred to reach in a friendly way and ask him to pay what he wanted after having watched the film. As we have told you, this friendly approach didn’t work as expected. Anyhow, seeing the amount of views we have had, the income that a pre-roll would have provided would have been close to zero.
4. P2P and link websites.
We can’t know how many people have watched the film through P2P networks or how many decided to pay afterwards or buy something on our website. We know, though, that Frostclick, who helped us with the P2P distribution, counted more than 47.000 downloads.
Of course, many websites uploaded the film or linked to pirate versions of it. Some users uploaded it to youtube (the most viewed has 38.000 views).
To most of them we asked, not to take it down, but to link to our website, where we were able to encourage people to pay for the film or buy merchandise. To those websites who did it, thank you very much. It was the beginning of some kind of balance where we could all benefit from the possibilities of the internet. To those who didn’t listen to our pledge… we still try to understand the reasons.
It’s pretty nice the bet that Canal+ has been doing lately to support the new spanish films, webseries, low cost movies and small formats. It’s also amazing that they decided to support The Cosmonaut too. Although negotiating with them was hard they ended up buying the film. Unfortunately, TV networks aren’t able to pay what they used to for small films like ours in order to make it profitable.
But leaving out this question, they supported us greatly during the premiere and dealing with them has been a pleasure.
About 4000 people watched the film in Canal + Xtra in the different reruns and several thousands more watched it on Yomvi.
Here we haven’t got good news either.
Thanks to two brave and extremely generous private investors we managed to produce an extremely nice crafted dvd/book special edition of the film. We also made a USB that became the collector’s edition we would have liked to have of any film we loved.
It’s impossible to be prouder of the design, craft and contents of these two pieces of merchandise. But again, with pain, we must say the results weren’t what we expected.
Produced units: 1.500 dvd-books and 500 USB.
Units sold: 505 dvd-books and 81 USB.
After being turned down by several distribution companies because our day&date strategy and deciding to premiere online at the same time, we decided to self edit. This was incredible because we managed to make the exact editions we wanted, with the quality we wanted. We also managed to premiere it how we wanted and make the first total day&date in all platforms that we are aware of (dvd, internet, tv and cinemas at the same time).
But it prevented us from making a commercial distribution. The big retailers (Fnac, Mediamarkt, malls…) didn’t accepted because we had no distributor, we didn’t get feedback from online shops nor we had enough infrastructure to negotiate at a local level with physical stores in order to sell it.
The dilemma that every independent filmmaker confronts once they arrive to this phase is kind of terrible: doing exactly what you believe in, taking care of the edition and not the expenses in order to make the best possible piece of merchandise in exchange of having a lot of handicaps when it comes to put the film into the market or accept a poor 15% of the total income and leave all the process in other hands?
It’s sad and really hard to admit that after this experience… the second choice seems much wiser.
After the poor results and in order to try to at least recover the investment, we’ve decided to sell the DVDs and USBs at the price they cost to produce. You can buy them here. We thank you with the heart to all of you who bought it at it’s original price.
7. Film festivals.
This is probably the sweetest part of the whole process that the distribution of The Cosmonaut has been. Since we premiered it we’ve never ceased to receive selections and awards. We’ve introduced the film in many festivals, from New York to Kazajstan, Moscow, Marseille, Guatemala, Switzerland, London, Stockholm and dozens of other places.
The film has been well received in all of them and we’ve been awarded 14 times from best film to best script or best cinematography.
We’ve also received good and bad reviews and many audiences fascinated with the film and many who didn’t get it or liked it, which we think is good.
The bad news is that almost all of these festivals are from outside Spain, our country, where only four festivals have decided to host the film. We don’t know the reasons for this and we will never know if it was a merely artistic decision or something else related to the innovative model we used for distribution. And also the fact that sendind the film to festivals is really really expensive and we’ve had to put it on hold because our very limited resources right now (and because we thought it wasn’t moral to keep spending money on this while neither our team nor our investors have seen any return yet).
8. International sales.
While all this things happened, Imagina International Sales, one of the biggest and most powerful sales agents in Spain, with a very conventional profile, decided to bet on new things and to try to sell The Cosmonaut worldwide.
Berlín has been the first market they attended with the film and from here on it starts a journet that usually lasts two years, to try to seel the film to different territories.
We don’t know how this will end up doing, what will be the income or if it’s gonna be enough to pay our team and then pay back our investors but we’ve passed the last few months with our fingers crossed hoping that it does, that all of that happens, and happens as soon as possible.
As far as we know, the film has being difficult to pitch to distributors because our distribution model. It generates doubts and fears. We want to thank them though for the huge effort they are doing and the care they are putting into the film.
When the three of us (Bruno, Carola and Nicolás) started The Cosmonaut (in 2008) we were 21 years old. It’s been five since then.
The story started as a small short film we were going to shoot at the back alley of our faculty and it turned out to be a giantic and ambitious project. Sometimes… too ambitious.
During this journey, we produced a feature film and 34 shortfilms that we shot along 14 weeks in 3 different countries, with more than a 100 locations and 142 shots with special effects on them. We produced dozens of videodiaries, making of clips, audiocommentaries and posts with useful information for film students and curious people. We also wrote a book and edited two of them. We created a Facebook fiction with eleven characters who interacted with you during six weeks.
Later, we uploaded to the internet 140 hours of raw high defition footage to be used for free, thousands of pictures, posters, designs…And also all the code of our website for everyone to use on their own, even with commercial intentions.
We also turned upside down the traditional system, we were crowdfunding pioneers in Spain and we did the first total day&date in the world, premiering at the same our in every possible platform. We invented new models, we changed things. Some of them were good, some others… not so much.
Good luck blessed this project and turned it into a case study in universities, film and business schools all around the world. We were invited to give more than two hundred conferences in four continents and we ended up inspiring a lot of people who started projects by themselves or gave a turn to the ones they had thanks to some of our ideas.
During this process, where we turned from students to professionals, where we learned how to write, produce, finance and distribute a feature film, what is a transmedia project, how does the industry and the market work, where we have met a ton of wonderful people and others not so much, where we have connected, created magic moments and reached out to the heart of a lot of people, where we have received as much help as to be in debt for the next thousand years and where we’ve helped people at the same time, people who thanks us over and over again…during this process a lot of other things happened, such as growing up, leave our parent’s homes and build, little by little, a career.
And even though this five years have been the best years of our lives and we have enjoyed almost every moment of them, it’s also fair to say that it has been extraordinarly intense and difficult. And it’s also fair to say that in five years, our only source of income has been our external jobs and the help from our families.
Till the day of the premiere, the small amounts of money that we were paid for every conference was invested in the film. We’ve dedicated an average of ten hours a day, during four years, to the project.
We had to make this while we were working on different things to be able to pay the rent. We made ads with our production company, Riot Cinema Collective, and worked another 8 hours a day to survive.
All the money we, Carola, Nicolás and Bruno, earned every month for all those years was under the minimum wage and didn’t come from The Cosmonaut. Our production company paid for all the expenses of our offices, which was very much needed for the project, and also for a huge part of the stuff we needed for the film. Many months we were in the verge of bankrupcy, without enough money to end the month, putting in some personal money or giving up to our salary.
Not having had the time to make Riot Cinema grow as a company because of the film lead to a situation where we had no savings and no back up plan.
From The Cosmonaut, what we got was a wonderful experience, a certain name and the luxury of having been able to make the film we wanted to make, but no money at all.
We also decided to renounce to our personal differed payment and share of the profits. To date, the share that the production company has of The Cosmonaut, as a company, is only 7% and last on the recovery order of payments.
We’ve invested around 10.000 hours each in the project and renounced to a lot of commodities and well paid jobs.
And don’t get us wrong. There’s no complaining on this words. Nor excuses. At all.
When we started we didn’t imagined that this adventure was going to be so difficult, but it was our election to embark on this journey. What we feel the most, in the end, is that it has been so disatisfaying on the economic side so far, specially concerning our team and investors.
After all the obstacles, unfortunately, we still find handicaps. There’s one, in particular, that we want to talk to you about, because it might affect some of you directly.
After six years working as a company, many tears and many laughs together, dozens of projects and having lived the biggest adventure of our time, a few months ago we decided to cease the activity of the company.
There were many reasons for this but money was probably the main one. Riot Cinema never had profits and just had enough income to survive. The economic crisis and other things made it more and more difficult to keep it alive.
We told you about this a few months ago and told you that this wasn’t a break up. Each one of us have followed it’s own path but we’ve worked together in several projects since then, and we remained together in everything related with the film.
Of course, we decided to keep the legal structure of the company up and running to manage everything related with The Cosmonaut but, without any income, it was more and more difficult every month. In spite of it all, we managed to save enough money to keep the company running long enough for the film to go through all it’s selling processes and recover as much money as possible. Unfortunately, some unexpected events have made us change our plans and we have initiated a legal process to dissolve the company.
This means a lot of things in legal terms for us and all of you who have an investment contract in the film. But don’t you worry, we will do all the necessary arrangements in our hands so every single penny that the film earns arrives to all of you.
But, as we told you before, we’ve been forced to make the dissolution earlier than expected because of something that happened a few months before and that have put us in a very very delicate situation. It’s something that can completely change the final life of the film (and our personal lives too):
ICAA (National Film Board of Spain)
Almost three years ago the ICAA published the first and last call for a grant destined to projects which were going to be distributed online using new technologies. We were granted 99.500€ for the transmedia project. It was a brave effort from a national institution supporting innovative projects. It was the first aid given to a project which was going to be distributed for free online and under a Creative Commons licence.
Back then, it had a lot of problems because the rules were based on previous grants that weren’t adapted to these innovative projects. Among those problems, there was a delicate one: the producer needs to put in at least 30% of the total cost of the project and you can justify it with any kind of expense, including the salaries of the team.
The problem? As with most of low cost independent films…our team wasn’t getting paid until the film earned some profits. Most of the people working in The Cosmonaut had decided to differ their payments and not get it until we broke even (if we did). So, we had those salaries assigned… and signed on a contract… but we hadn’t delivered any real cash yet.
So, long before delivering the final papers of the grant, we explained this circumstance to the comission who got to decide who was going to get the grant. We explained to them that this was the only way for our film to be made and they told us that there wasn’t a problem to present those payments as the producer’s investment. Later, the commision, knowing this fact, decided to give us 99 points out of a 100, the highest rating in the whole country.
We assumed that the problem had been solved because of it’s innovative nature and the nature of our project.
The money, of course, was spent on the production of the webisodes that had been subsidized.
But, oh, what a surprise, two years later, in the process of justifying the expenses, a letter arrived from the ICAA telling us that they could admit those differed payments as the investment of the producer because they hadn’t taken place yet. There was also another part of the expenses they didn’t admit because we made them in Latvia, through our production service company, whom of course made a bill to our name, but didn’t put every ticket to our name but their’s.
We went back to talk to them in person and in several meetings, again, they told us the same: “don’t you worry. We understand the situation. We know you’ve done things the right way. Obviously this is a mistake of the combination of a very innovative grant build under the rules and regulations of the old model. We understand how important The Cosmonaut has been in Spain and that it needs to exist. We will fix this.”
A few months later… none of this proved to be true and we were asked by the ICAA to give back 73.000€ of the 99.500€ that they gave us in the first place.
Riot Cinema was practically created to make The Cosmonaut. During five years we fought to make this project possible with all our heart and we’ve worked more ours than is humanly healthy to keep it alive and be true to our promises. But as we told you, we never had a big income, we were always in the verge of bankrupcy and we haven’t had other asset than the film itself.
This means that putting together 70.000€ it’s absolutely impossible for us.
But that’s not the only thing.
In spite of it all, we are sure that reason is on our side and that we have enough evidences of it to prove us right but in order to do this we’ve had to prepare our defence with expert lawyers, who had charged us almost all the money we still had in our account to keep the company running for one more year. We are at a very complicated situation, on the verge of having to put the company on hold and cease payments (the law enforces you to do it when you have no money left) and that would have lead to a situation where somebody external would take care of our assets (the film) and start liquidating them, eliminating any possibility of generating any income and paying the team and our investors back.
Besides the enourmous amount of money that this process costs and that we don’t have a way to pay other than with our personal wealth, which is quite small to be honest, not to say non existent.
So, we have initiated the process of dissolving the company, a voluntary process agreed by the partners of the company, and in which we will keep being able to control the life of the film while the legal process with the ICAA finishes.
From now on, one of two things can happen:
- Option A: if the ICAA wins the trial and we are commanded to give back those 73.000€, since we don’t have them, we would need to be declared in bankrupcy and the assets would be handled by the ICAA, who would get their money back (if they manage to sell the film), leaving small possibilities for the film to obtain any profit to pay the team or our investors.
The consecuences of this would be very complicated for us at a personal level because the judge might decide to make us responsible and to have the nedd to respond with our personal assets.
- Option B: if we win and the judge determins that we do not own that money to ICAA, the production company would be out of debth and we would be able to finalize the process of closing down the company.
At this point, we would figure out a way (to the extent that the law allows) to give the rights of the film to all of our investors and team. The percentage that the company owns would also be shared with them, withour keeping any part or share for us.
From this moment, even though our investors and team would be the legal owners of the film and the company would have been closed, we will still manage every aspect related to the film at our investors and team convenience, and we will keep our compromise of being there till the very end, following their directions on every decission related to the film.
All this said, allow us to be a little less technical for a couple more lines.
In conferences, debates and talks we’ve proclaimed many times that The Cosmonaut wasn’t just a film for us.
Inspirired by the changes in the Statu Quo that generations like the Nouvelle Vague or the New Hollywood achieved, by those who challenged the norms and bet on the new, who proclaimed themselves different, who chose the difficult path… we decided to live our own adventure.
The only rules that we decided to commit to were simple: we were going to make a project without limits. The very project and our strengh and ambition would be our only ceiling. We would never say no, never think “we are not going to try that”, never say “that can not be done”. There would be no impossibles. Getting the support from a soviet cosmonaut who have travelled twice to space and came back to Earth in flames at 900km per hour? Why not. Shoot in Star City, the epic place where dozens of cosmonauts have trained for years since the sixties? Of course. A period feature film with a ton of different locations and special effects who can compete proudly with big budget films? Absolutely.
But not only that. We also wanted our project to be everything we would have wanted other films to be when we were students. We wanted to share everything we learned on the way because, in the end, this was about making a film but also about living and incredible adventure and learning on the way. Learning with the curiosity of the fools or the kids, with our eyes fully opened and, oh boy, that we achieved.
Along the way we’ve tried to share it all so you could travel with us too, so it was useful for you too.
And, young and irresponsible as we were when we started, our ceiling was the sky. We didn’t want nor could put limits to our ambition of creating something beautiful, big, profound, epic.
And that’s the reason why we created all the shortfilms, why we explored new narrative formats that even today are difficult to understand and that might never be understood but thanks to which we learned things and understood things about life and film. That’s why all the distribution strategies turning the traditional model upside down, to try things, to challenge ourselves, but also to build a bridge towards the industry to use our project as a lab, as a place to explore new strategies and see how does it work to connect to your audience, to engage, to talk to them face to face and give them things where, how and when they want them.
And many of these things worked, and many didn’t.
We tried a million strategies and we suceeded and failer on equal parts.
In the way we lost fans who didn’t like the film we made and thanks to that we also gained others who have never even heard about the project but who felt in love with our images. We renounced to many things to gain others and while we missed some opportunities on the way, we finally arrived. We arrived to the end of the road, exhausted, eroded, older and less innocent than when we started, but we arrived.
We made The Cosmonaut as we promised and dreamed. The film that shouldn’t exist, like many people called it.
And because all of that, the journey is sweet. And because everything else, bitter.
Because in the end, we feel happly frustrated. We look back and we can see how we put everything we got out there. How we were the best we could be but maybe that wasn’t enough.
We haven’t managed to pay our team yet. Or give back our investors their money. And that’s hard. And makes hesitate about many many things: was it really enough? did we do enough? maybe it wasn’t the time or the project to expect a return? were we too ambitious? naïve maybe? did we dreamed too high?
Since the very beginning we believe in this model based on Creative Commons, day&date, on releasing the film for free online and in crowdfunding. We never changed that and when we shouted outloud that we saw a business model on this system, we truly believed it. So…were we wrong?
Sometimes, this questions drown us. They fill our heads with desperations and a terrible felling of debt. Of moral debt, not monetary.
That’s why, besides thanking you from the very heart, we also want to say sorry. To ask for your forgiveness. To all of you to whom we haven’t complied with our compromises yet.
We are working on it. As hard as we can. Until the end of the world if necessary.
And now… the only thing to do is to cross our fingers in order for all this to be solved soon, so the failures can be compensated by the successes and so some day we can say that we did it. That we finished, and everything turned out ok.
The journey… continues.
Bruno. Carola. Nicolás.
As many of you know, last year we got a grant from the Ministry of Culture to help increase the legal offer on the internet of digital cultural content and help the modernization and innovation of the cultural and creative industries.
Thanks to that grant we were able to make our website and make available all our contents, just as we wanted it: creating a universe, a timeline, offering free webisodes and extra content, behind the cameras material, videodiaries… Everything together, in the order we wanted.
Something like that is the dream of every indie filmmaker that wants or has to take charge of its own distribution, but not everyone can spend the 60.000 euros a website like this costs, or access the grant.
The thing is, as many of you’ve said, those 60.000 euros were paid by everyone. And because of that, we want everyone to be able to use it.
Thanks to the people from Tecnilógica, who programmed the code, and to our designer, you can now download the code of our website and create your own version. Though the landing page of Kolibri Tools is in Spanish, all the info is in English here.
If you’re not an expert, you’ll need someone to help you out (we calculate that with a programmer and a designer to personalize it would be enough) but you’ll be able to skip all the hard work (we had a team of 10 people working for five months).
All the code (and the base PNGs designs, editable on Fireworks) is available at GitHub, a huge open code website, where you can download it or open a “derivate”, so you can make available for the community your own versions.
We’ve also created a repository for all the movies that use Kolibri Tools or that share our philosophy: Kolibri Cinema. Because, as when we uploaded all the raw material of the film, we can’t wait to see the amazing things you do with Kolibri Tools.
The Cosmonaut has not only been a movie, but also a “laboratory”, with over a hundred people working on it on its four years of development, leaving their personal mark and helping it grow. Now we open its doors so you can touch it all and get into the kitchen.
Welcome. We’re sure you will amaze us.
We know many of you are eager to know the final date for the USB deliveries, and we hope we’ll be able to tell you this week, but meanwhile, be wanted to explain a bit more why it’s taking so long (for what we’re really sorry).
Basically, we’re perfectionists. The USB shaped as the Kolibri module was one of our first ideas, it was one of the products we were more excited about and after being so closed to renounce to it, now that we have the chance to make it… we want it to be 100% like we imagined. We want it to be perfect and we want you all to be as surprised for its quality as you were with the Book-DVD.
The problem is that it takes a lot of time, because the US manufacturers have to make a prototype, they have to show it to us, we have to make the corrections, then a new prototype, more photos… So far we haven’t been completely satisfied with the results and we’re worried that the final product won’t be ok. That’s why we keep insisting on improvements.
But while we wait for a new version and for the final date, we wanted to tell you about this, apologize once more, and, also, show you the last images we’ve gotten, so you can get an idea and give us your opinion.
One of the most crazy things we decided to do with the movie was saying, four years ago, that we would upload all the material we shoot. Everything. Every take. The good ones, the bad ones, the ones that haven’t been seen not even in the Eastern eggs…
And we’ve done it.
When we were students, we dreamt of “re-editing films”. Making that the bad guy got away with everything. Deleting that shot that (youthful arrogance) didn’t belong there. To change the meaning of a scene. Deleting a subplot. Transforming something cute into something sinister.
With a lot of skill, some people have done similar stuff. Like the chronologic version of Memento, or that legendary “Star Wars: Episode III.5: The Editor Strikes Back”, that sums up in just one movie the three prequels of Star Wars.
Nevertheless, there’s a huge difference between ripping a movie and cutting and pasting (it’s also f* difficult having the music contaminating the dialogs) and getting all the video and sound takes shot during a month and a half to live the same experience as the editor.
Ey! That scene is not on the movie!
After a lot of hard work and thanks to the exhaustive tagging and classification that Daniel Garcia did with the help of Arturo M. Antolín and Daniel Cascales, all the video and sound material is now, as promised, online on the Internet Archive servers (another people who are simply amazing).
There are many hours of unseen material.
This is the first time in history, that we know, that a feature film does something like this.
Do you want to edit your own version of the movie?
Do you want to transform it into a short film, like Topher Grace did with Star Wars?
Do you want to make a parody, deconstruct it, get to know its secrets?
Do you want to use our HD images for your personal project?
Now you can.
If you know about FX you can get crazy and edit a completely different movie.
Download the guide written by Daniel Moreno and you’ll see how easy it is. Every sequence has many takes (and the audio files that go with each one of them) but here it’s all very clear: find whatever you want with the over fifty keywords and the script pages, scrolling through the stills, or by sequences. You can look to the whole movie or look just for what you want.
You have the XML files that will help you synchronize the audio of almost every sequence using Final Cut or Premiere (you’ll have to explore them a bit, but not everything can be so easy).
As soundtrack, if you have your K-Pass, you already know that on “Behind the scenes” you can download the first release of music: the alternative soundtrack by FK Digital Records.
When you have your creation, add it to the group “Cosmonaut Remix” on Vimeo and let us know on twitter. We want to make it the Weekly Remix so every fan sees it.
You’re going to be blown away by how many different endings you can create.
It’s been a month and a half since the premiere and, though time seems to pass in a strange way now that the movie has been released… we still have a lot of stuff to tell you. This post is, somehow, a summary of lots of things and four years of really, really hard word, so if you’re in a hurry we recommend you to make coffee and read it with time.
Before starting, we wanted to contextualize things a bit. The truth is that the premiere has been like a roller coaster and even being aware of what we had on our hands, people have been more critical than we expected. We don’t question it, things are what they are, but instead of getting all blue because things weren’t as happy as usual, we’ve decided to look back and see why we are here today and everything we’ve done during this journey. We believe it’s an exercise worth doing, whether you liked the movie or not, whether it was what you expected or not, and whether you are a fan (thanks!) or not (thanks too!).
The movie that should not exist
That’s what the video before the movie says, as does this section of our web.
“Some time ago we wanted to make a movie, and on the way, reinvent how films were financed, produced and distributed. Search our own path and engage the audience.
They said that we were crazy. That it was impossible. That it was not realistic and that it would never work.
We didn’t believe them.”
But without needing so much poetry, the reality is the following:
When we started The Cosmonaut we were three friends who went to university and had no idea of cinema. On the way…
- We’ve become one of the biggest and more successful crowdfunding projects, starting a trend in Spain that nowadays keeps growing.
- We got thousands of you to get involved, participate, follow us daily, discover all the secrets behind the cameras, save the shooting in just three days.
- We’ve done an extremely ambitious film, not just because of its unconventional narrative but because its incredibly good technical side: sound, visual effects, cinematography, actors… A lot of people is still surprised to see that, specially being a team so young, and the budget we had, because…
- We’ve done it with 860.000 €. The average budget for a feature film in Spain is 3 million, but not only that…
- It’s not just a feature. We’ve produced more than 250 minutes of content: a feature, 34 short films (yes, that’s right), a facebook fiction and a book. And more than 30 pieces of behind the cameras, and audiocommentaries, and photographs, and…
- And what’s more, we’ve done it all. Just us. Usually there’s an external marketing company. Another one edits the DVD. Another takes care of screenings and festivals. Another distributes the movie and commissions the website to someone else. Or licenses the merchandising and that’s it. But not us. We’ve done all this ourselves.
The effort this has meant has been monumental. Epic. And don’t you think we are flattering ourselves, we just want to thank from here our team because they’ve done an exceptional job and so many sacrifices that they deserve a monument.
We’ve never calculated it exactly, but doing this the traditional way would have costed several millions.
And all this stuff is not to justify anything, far from it. We’re terribly proud of the movie we’ve done and of getting it done. As we said on the beginning, this movie should not exist and, nonetheless, it does.
So now that we all know where we come from, let’s get to the point: where we are and where we’re going to.
We’ve had over 80.000 reproductions of the movie on our channels. To this you have to add the two thousand people that went to the premiere in Madrid and Barcelona, plus the +70 screenings all over the world, and the festivals that have screened it, and the VODs data that we don’t have yet. On Canal+ about 10.000 people more watched it.
We’ve already sold, without being in any retail store (that’s it, only on our website) over 400 DVDs.
If we make the numbers as the Ministry of Culture does (2 people per DVD and online reproduction), more or less, the movie has been seen by 175.000 people.
The transmedia episodes have 80,000 reproductions. We multiply by two and that’s… 190,000 people watching the 34 short movies.
· Is that good or bad?
It’s A LOT for a movie that hasn’t invest a single penny in promotion nor has followed the commercial circuit and was released just seven weeks ago. To put it in context, in its first weeks Carmina o Revienta was seen by 70,000 people (counting as we have). In the two years that’s been online, Porque hay cosas que nunca se olvidan, the most awarded short film of all time, has been seen by 300,000 people on youtube.
· So does that mean that you’ve made as much money as Carmina o Revienta?
Far from it. You have to take into account that we haven’t had a movie theater or DVD distributor, that our movie is online for free encouraging viewers to choose how much to pay, if they want (what has blocked many commercial options) and that we are not Paco León (a million followers on twitter against our 8,000).
· Ok, we want numbers.
Of course. We’ll publish them as soon as we’re done doing the figures of this first stage and then every few months. Most of the income will come on the second stage, when we start the international sales of the movie (we’ll tell you more on that later). What we can infer from the figures we have so far is the following:
- The “share to view” system has been a success, getting lots of people to know about The Cosmonaut, but it still has to grow a lot more. We’re going to do everything we can so millions of people watch The Cosmonaut, not just tens of thousands, though it’s a job that takes a lot of time and effort.
- The “pay what you want” model works, but worse than we expected. This can be because of a million (literally) factors. What do we think? That it’s a combination of two things: the movie is not a mainstream movie (we knew that already) and it’s a model still too new that needs time so the viewers understand the repercussions of a new relationship between creators and viewers and what that means on an economic support level. This will take its time and we hope to see this change applied to our movie. As in other many obstacles we’ve faced, being the first one has its risks.
It can also be related to the fact that many of those viewers already helped financing the movie, the way our website is designed (always respectful, without getting bothersome, without asking for things twice or trying to “trick” the viewer) or the percentage of people who are used to pay on the Internet.
The percentage of people that has chosen to make a donation through our website is of 0.38% and the average donation is of 4.41€. We’ll see how this figures evolve on the next months.
- That our tools to ask for the movie in your city and organize a screening also work well: over 70 screenings in 12 countries, people paying to watch the movie, unique experiences created for those screenings… But the promotion needed to get more screenings and the management for each one of them is enormous and, unfortunately, we’re less and less people on the team as the time passes.
- That all the innovative aspects of the project (crowdfunding, where we were pioneers; transmedia, where we’re also being pioneers; distribution, the same) is interesting for a lot of people and that makes that (besides all the universities and cinema and business schools where we already are case studies, and the books and thesis written about us, and the people that talks about us) there’s a lot of interest from festivals to screen the movie and putting on the table these issues. Just on september we’ll travel to Stockholm, Malmö, Marseille, Paris, Toulouse, Almería, New York, Kazakhstan and Moscow (again). This makes the movie keep growing.
The release of the movie was a small earthquake. Two things have happened:
- We’ve received savage reviews. Most of them, we understand. We’ve done a non-narrative film, which not everyone likes. It’s also a kind of poetic movie, far from the commercial conventions. Far from it for us to want to be pretentious, as some people has said. It’s a movie that comes from a personal view, which you connect with or you don’t, and lot of people hasn’t connected to it. We understand it and we’re sorry some of you haven’t liked it.
- On the other hand, we’ve also gotten some incredibly amazing reviews. People that has come to us after the screenings, moved, to congratulate us. People that has been deeply moved and has seen the movie several times, immersing themselves in the universe we’ve offered them. The reactions have been very extreme on both sides so it’s quite difficult to assess if we’ve done a good or a bad movie. Time will put it in its place but it’s been and keeps being an amazing experience to see how much some people have liked it. Though it’s always difficult to face bad reviews, every good one makes up for them.
We are truly proud of something and it’s that every single review says the same: “On a technical level, the movie is impeccable”. Sound, music, direction, acting, visual effects… the most heard commentary is “everything works perfectly, except the script”.
And why are we proud of something like this? Because we feel that with the “basics” we’ve done our part and everyone agrees that in those aspects the movie is good, even above the average. So we feel we’ve done a good job on that part, as not everyone can like a movie, and there’s a very personal and subjective element both while doing it as while enjoying it.
A transmedia project. Rethinking how to tell a story.
What we believe:
- We believe the Internet, the different screens we interact with, how disperse and chaotic information is and lots of other factors related to how information moves and gets arraigned… it’s changing the way we watch thing.
- We believe that this, plus the possibility of using different platforms and formats, opens enormous possibilities to a new way of understanding stories. We can tell stories somehow else. Rethink the old ways. Explore new ways.
- We believe this new narrative will be big in the future. It’s not going to replace the conventional narrative, but coexist with it. It’s already doing it.
- We believe that exploring a story from the point of view of a “universe”, where every star or planet has its own entity but also form galaxies and systems and can be understand together or individually, it’s equally or more important than doing it on a lineal way.
Why people wrongly think The Cosmonaut is a transmedia project:
- The Cosmonaut is not a transmedia project because we got in over our head and shot crazily and then we didn’t know what to do with all the material.
- The Cosmonaut is not a transmedia project because we didn’t know how to tell a conventional story in 3 acts.
The way we tell the story was a choice. And we’re really happy of having had the opportunity to explore this new and brilliant way.
What we are sorry for is that so many people is not giving the same importance to the transmedia contents as to the movie. Maybe we can say that’s our fault, because, maybe, we haven’t insisted as much on communicating that The Cosmonaut is not only a movie, but a story told during 3 hours through 36 pieces. And we know this because some people has told us “Wow, after watching all the transmedia contents… I understood a lot of choices… I liked much more the movie and now I feel like I have seen a single movie. Like a unity”.
Is this way of telling a story right? We don’t know. Does it fit in the current way of telling stories? It doesn’t seem so. Does it makes sense? Will it become something normal in the future? We have no idea. As we said, time will put the movie/project in its place, for better or worse.
Which doesn’t mean that we consider the movie is perfect. We can see its defects and we’re trying to contextualize both the good and the bad comments. To learn. To understand. To do it better next time.
Anyway, like with everything new about this project, we keep going patiently. Bit by bit. Without losing the thrill of all this time.
Where do we stand now?
What we have going on right now is the following:
- We get about 30 mails everyday. Some of them are related to some shipping issues we solve. Others are to invite us to talks or festivals and others are about stuff that ends on strategies to keep bringing the movie to more places.
- We’re coordinating all the screenings that will take place from now until october, on all the places we’ve mentioned before and some more. Usually on september everything comes back to life and if two months before september looks complicated, we don’t want to imagine what it will really be like.
- We’re also shipping the Book-DVD. Lots of you already have it at home. Soon, when we have a bit of time, we’ll start negotiating with retail stores (the bigger ones: FNAC, MediaMarkt… and also smaller ones: comics and books stores…). If you know someone who might be interested in selling the Book-DVDs or the USBs, send them our way, please.
- Soon there will be someone new on the team: Pablo Lara. Pablo is going to help us in this new stage of social media. We’re going to think new strategies and look for new viewers wherever they are.
- We’re also getting ready some new events: a remix competition with Innovation Cathedral, VJ Spain and Mira festival; a screening-experience during the Bilbao BBK Live; a weekend project with Vimeo and different special screenings on DIY Days Paris or the New York Film Festival.
- And, specially, we’re working on the distribution strategy of the film.
We want to be honest: there’s something we did wrong. We did it wrong because there was no other way of doing it but now that we’re dealing with it it’s being difficult.
On The Cosmonaut we’ve always worked with the minimum. That means, so you get an idea, something like working eight hours a day for the movie without getting a single penny (and no, no one supports us, to that you have to add the hours we worked everyday on other jobs that allowed us to eat or pay rent).
Obviously, the more important thing for us was finishing and releasing the movie. That was our principal goal because that’s what we owed you all. The problem is that the effort we did for that was enormous. We burned many bridges and now that the movie has been released, as it’s normal, we’ve had to let go bit by bit the team, who need to look for other jobs.
This means that right now our team is even smaller than a few weeks ago. Where there should be 20 people, there’s “3″. And we can’t even be working full time on the movie because, as we said before, we need to pay the bills.
We think it’s also important to tell you something: after six years living adventures together we, Bruno, Nicolás and Carola, the three founders of Riot Cinema, have decided to not continue making projects as a producing company. We feel the need to put some distance and take different paths. It’s been a very intense few years, we’ve grown, matured and changed together and now is time to keep growing apart from each other. We’re still together in everything related to The Cosmonaut and the company will still be legally open to keep managing everything related to the movie even though we’ll be starting different adventures. Maybe in the future some project as amazing as this one we’ll make us come together once again.
Anyway, don’t you worry about the film, we keep being 100% committed to it and we’re not stoping until we’ve tried every single option to take the movie to every possible place on the planet and to try that our team can be paid and our investors can get their money back. That’s our commitment.
This is the distribution stuff we’re dealing with right now:
Lots of festivals hear about us and invite us but we’ve decides to be more active from now on. We’re working with Promofest, a feature film distributor for festivals, and they’re going to help us send The Cosmonaut to every possible festival during the next or maybe two next years. Feature films have a long live on the circuit and with any luck we’ll get some selections and maybe some prizes.
We’re also trying that big festivals like Sitges, Gijón, Sevilla or San Sebastián pay attention to us and screen the movie.
We’ve signed an agreement with an american aggregator called Gravitas Ventures. Aggregators work on getting your movie on all the possible VOD platforms. We’ve already negotiated directly with many of them (Filmin, Yomvi, Nubeox, Filmotech, Wuaki and others) but doing it at an international level is a monumental work and many of them (iTunes, Netflix) don’t even let you do it if it’s not through one of these companies. Thanks to them we’ll be on platforms from all over the world.
- International sales
We’re negotiating distribution agreements on Italy, Colombia and the ex-USSR republics and Russia, but from now on we’re going to leave this to the professionals. We’re closing an agreement with an international sales agent (when it’s closed we’ll tell you about it, we’ve actually had several offers) who is going to try and take our movie to all the possible markets and sell it in all the possible territories. Of course, it’s going to be twice as much work, for they not only have to sell the movie, but also convince local distributors and tv’s of our new model. They’re going to have to invent new ways but they’re as excited as us to try different things and see what happens. On the next months we’ll begin to see the results. As with the festivals, this is a slow process and can take up to two years.
- Blockbuster vs Arthouse
As some of you know, for it created quite a bit of controversy, a famous journalist has been insistently asking us for figures through twitter, almost as if the economic success or failure of the movie, and even worse, the model, depended on the first weekend results.
We want to tell him and everyone else with the same doubts something: on cinema there are as many distribution models and results as there are movies, but you could say that there are two trends in distribution: the blockbuster and the arthouse or indie.
For the blockbuster the results of the first weekend mean everything. Depending on how many people go to those first screenings, you get back much of the invested money. Because of that they spend incredible amounts on promotion (sometimes more than 40% of the total budget) so that first weekend is a success.
In our case, of course, that’s impossible. First of all because our movie is, conceptually, one of the so called arthouse or indie films. As we’ve already said, the risks we’ve taken narratively, aesthetically and monetarily, make it a small circuit movie. Also, because our promotion budget is zero.
The good part is that with zero we’ve got way more press coverage than any other movie of this kind. The bad part is that some people were expecting blockbuster’s results.
The Cosmonaut is going to have a slow growth, an organic one. It will expand bit by bit. It will be screened in lots of places, as it’s already happening. And, if everything goes as it should, it will have returns: sales, guaranteed minimums, screening sales, merchandising…
We’ll tell you all about it, as often as we can. Any doubt or question, you already know where we are. Any idea, the same.
Meanwhile, we wanted to thank you all. Thanks for being there these four years. For the support (economic, yes, but specially moral) and for making possible a project that, we’re sure of it, will keep making noise, as Stas’ transmissions, for a long time.
The last stage of The Cosmonaut begins.
We’ve received about 40 mails like that one, complaining about the delay with the DVD and the USB. All very polite, but stern.
We have to thank you for several things: first of all, how understanding you have all been in your mails; secondly, that you have waited this long to start getting nervous (people usually lose their patience way sooner); and finally that it’s been 40 and not 400 the mails we have received (because we know that even if you haven’t written to us you’re all equally impatient).
Ok, let’s get to it. Dates and why the delay.
DVD – Book
The last page of the book gives us away: it’s been printed for weeks! But, how come it’s not on your bookcases already? Might it be because we’ve complicated everything and we have now to put the DVD inside it? Argh, yes.
We’ve had to synchronize two workflows: editing the DVD (authory, compression, testing it so it works perfectly in every single one player) and printing the book. The books have been printed for a few weeks, but they have arrived just today. The DVDs will arrive next friday. That means we’ll spend the next weekend gluing the DVDs to the books with a lot of care. We promise we’ll post photos.
You’ll beging receiving your collectors edition DVDs during the week of the 17th of june. There’s not much mystery or uncertainty now left (except that our office gets burn down or a meteor destroys the truck that will bring us the DVDs).
This has been more complicated. Designing the usb-ship has taken us a lot of time. We couldn’t get all the detail we wanted originally and you know us: we don’t do things half-assed. So we’ve been working on it for weeks until every detail was as perfect as possible with the budged limitations we had.
Our heads and computers have been working full time on it, we can assure you.
Once the design was finished, a week ago, and with the final colors and materials chosen, it’s been sent into production.
Meanwhile, in Madrid, we’ve produced the fist 16GB USB with all the material at the maximum quality possible. Everything we promised you, and a bit more. It’s all been sent to the manufacturers a couple hours ago.
The first USB we’ll be done this month. To that we’ll have to add the packaging: something really amazing that you won’t threw away, for sure, and some other surprises. With all this, it will all be done and ready to be shipped on july 1st. You’ll start getting them a few days later.
Summing up and apologies
We’re not going to complain again about how difficult it’s doing your own editing, how few people we are and all that stuff. Truth is, this time, we haven’t been up to the task with the timing. But this is also true: when you have them home, you’ll feel it’s all been worth the wait. We are sure of it.
As you all know already if you receive our newsletter, the K-Pass is now in full effect, granting access to our website and all the fiction content, behind the scenes clips, video diaries from the shoot, project timeline, soundtrack, the digital book and many other things we will be adding the next weeks.
To gain access to most of this stuff, you will need your K-Pass information. To get it, you will have to do the following:
1. Go to this link.
2. Type in the email address you gave us when you became a producer.
3. Check your inbox, there will be an email waiting for you there. If you don’t receive it, please check the spam folder.
4. Click on the link that you will find.
5. You will get a new mail with the password. To change it, you need to log in at the store and go to “Personal Information”.
An important tip: when you are watching the film and you are logged in with your K-Pass we don’t ask you to share the link or donate (of course!) But if you close the window, you will return to the request screen. This is solved by just refreshing the page. Reload it, and when you press “play”. The screen won’t appear again.
And that’s it! With your email address and password you will be able to log in to the K-Pass and all its web content. If you have any problems (like it says your email doesn’t exist), you can write to this email and we’ll try to solve it asap :)