If you want a one-stop-shopping place to see every single Sundance trailer available, there’s only one place to go. And, surprisingly, it’s not the official Sundance site. Prescreen.com, a new site, has collected all of those trailers for you. Founder Shawn Bercurson tells us that the concept started because they loved the festival.
“We’re big fans of Sundance,” he explains,” and obviously for a lot of the filmmakers and distributers we work with, Sundance is a big deal for them. As consumers we noticed there’s a big opportunity because we wanted a centralized place to see what was going to be at the festival, just for us to do business. We realized it didn’t exist, and so we realized how big of an opportunity it was and so we decided to build the tool.”
But is it really the only place? Can that be true? “Yeah, the only one that we’re aware of,” Bercurson insists. “At least aggregated and in an easy place to find. There are places you can search for and find these, like YouTube for example probably has most of them, but it’s hard as a consumer to go through them even if you have the names for all of the movies. Prescreen is all about discovering and streaming long-form content, so if you already know what it is, YouTube is a great search tool, but the discovery mechanism wasn’t there on YouTube. We love it; we actually use it for business, and it was something we would do anyway so we asked, “Why not make this consumer based?” It helps us do our job, so we felt other people would appreciate it.”
Viewers can see any of the films on the site for either four or eight dollars, depending on how quickly they hop aboard a particular film’s train. “If it’s a featured film it costs $4 on day one and $8 on days 2 through 60. The reason we do that is that we reward those who are willing to take the early risk, and then will tell their friends they should watch the film. We find that people are less concerned with money and more concerned with time. They ask themselves if it’s worth their time and if a friend is telling them it is, they’re more willing to take the leap. If we don’t have the exclusive license it will only cost $4, because we matched the lowest price where it’s available online. But for a limited quantity we offer it for 50% off.”
As another connection to the festival, Prescreen is filling its site this month with Sundance favorites. “Starting this past Monday,” says Bercurson, “and for the next three weeks, every single one of our movies was previously a Sundance selection. We’ve aggregated them into our all movies page. You can either see the trailers for Sundance or Sundance rentals, which have been featured on Prescreen and were previously featured in Sundance.” That fits right into the selections process Prescreen follows for its featured films, he explains: “We look for great contest whether it’s 10 years old or 10 days old. Basically it has to fall under one of three categories. It has to be educational, enlightening or entertaining, and if it is, we’ll feature it. We’re really agnostic about what the feature is, but people really like to be up to date on the fresh stuff, and it’s really hard to find the stuff that has been released in the last year or even made and not released. That’s really the stuff we’re trying to bring to light. Our rules around that are really loose. As long as we feel it’s a great movie that hasn’t found the love it deserves we’d be happy to work with it.”
Bercurson has a bit of a history in helping web concepts take off; he helped start a little company you may have heard of. “Yes,” he laughs, “I was one of the original employees of Groupon. I joined a group where we tried to monetize that platform and the rest is history. It was one hell of an experience. I learned a lot about everything from what it takes to run and start a company, and obviously how to create growth. I mean ,Groupon was the fastest growing company ever, so seeing how it happened and how to do it effectively really helped. And once you have people, how to keep them engaged.”
One of the things Groupon did very well was to analyze what Bercurson calls “the mechanics of consumer internet” and crafting great consumer engagement. That focus, which he honed both at Groupon and at other companies, leads to some pretty fun applications: “We have something called the Trend Spotter. Everybody likes to be the first to discover movies, books and music, but it’s really hard to prove that. So a lot of times we see a lot of people who really love bands when they’re small, but when they get big they say, “Oh they sold out I don’t like them anymore.” But if you can prove you were the 17th fan, you want them to get as big as they possibly can because you can prove you were the early adopter. So we give them advantages for being one of the firsts. We’re trying to work that into something that’s already inherently social in movies and trying to bring some of that offline mechanics and bring them online without trying to totally change the scope in what people do in their everyday life.”
How will Prescreen do that? “Well,” laughs Bercurson, “I can’t share all of it on the record. But my on the record answer will be—making it social. Allowing other users to make other recommendations for you. I guess the two-word answer is: social discovery.”