Non-paywall options such as YouTube, Reckart said, interrupt the crucial relationship between artist and audience by foisting ads on a viewer before a film. Paywall options, such as iTunes and Amazon, are even worse. “[T]he power of Internet distribution depends so much on curiosity and shareability.”
Reckart suggests that crowdfunding platform Patreon is a promising model to monetize Internet distribution, built as it is on the artist-audience relationship.
Reckart has been burned before in earnest attempts to attract more eyeballs to Head Over Heels. In the lead-up to the 2013 Academy Awards for which he was nominated, Reckart released the short online, which irked the film’s theatrical distributor Shorts International. He eventually removed the short at the request of the distribution company.
It’s no wonder Reckart chose to take the fate of the short in his own hands, setting out to make the Head Over Heels website essentially “an online DVD.”
“Artists want to say something, and that’s only worthwhile if there’s an audience out there that can hear and appreciate what you’re saying. Art depends on that relationship. So that high level of engagement from the audience is really at the heart of why any of us are doing this, whether or not it makes us any money.”
As an enticement for viewers to stick around, the Head Over Heels website includes a selection of special features, such as Reckart’s commentary track, an audio featurette exploring composer Jered Sorkin’s soundtrack, and a version of the film flipped upside-down. Reckart likens it to DVD extras and director commentaries, which have not been successfully integrated yet into streaming services and video hosting sites like Netflix and Vimeo.
“Head Over Heels was never supposed to make any money, so my goal has always been to get high quality engagement from the audience, rather than income,” Reckart said. “That’s easy on the festival circuit, with the self-selection that happens with festival audiences, but online it’s tougher because there’s always a tab immediately to the right, and a 10-minute short just can’t compete with Facebook updates.”
“I hope more filmmakers will start doing this, which will happen if animation culture has that expectation,” he said.
Check out the Head Over Heels website.