April 10, 2012
Meet Volta, Home of Irish & Worldwide Independent Cinema Online
Volta is the home of Irish and worldwide independent cinema online.
A little history and background is in order for how it got 'its' name. Volta was the name given to the first cinema in Ireland opened by James Joyce in 1909. Over 100 years later, the Volta name remains synonymous with the best of independent Irish and International film.
Today, for anyone interested in independent film and creativity, Volta is a great companion (a non-subscription companion that is) where you can rent or buy top independent titles and interesting and intelligent articles. They are developing the market for "on-demand" film in Ireland.
Obstacles for getting this to expand as fast as they'd like include the obvious ones that nearly every country faces: broadband proliferation outside Dublin and another major cities. That said, there's a huge appetite for cinema in Ireland according to Tom Lawlor who heads up their marketing efforts. He says, "on a per capita basis, the Irish go to the cinema more often than any other European country. There's a hunger, especially for Irish theatre."
Since they're not subscription based, they don't compete with the likes of Netflix, a service albeit useful and popular, releases films a year later or more. Volta is focusing their efforts on "on-demand" independent film. As for how fast they'll grow and whether they'll expand beyond Ireland?
Right now, they're focusing their energy on the Irish market. "We don't see ourselves as a start-up because we're part of a large film company," says Tom. Volta has been developed for the Irish market by Element Pictures as part of the Universcine network.
The goal in the next few years is to increase the number of devices where people can access content, i.e., Android, iPads, connected TVs and so on.
They're also exploring the "social movie watching" concept, i.e., a social channel where people can watch films together and share comments in real time or after viewing. Coming soon is a Facebook player where you'll be able to choose a film, making notes while you're watching it if you choose or later on, if you want to "gift it" it share it with others. Social content is obviously a driver of traffic so it's only logical given the "engagement" aspect of it.
How Volta Now Works:
Simply go to their site and choose a film, which you can do a number of different ways: by genre, by director, by year, by actor, by keyword, by title and even by country if you want to explore. My first "gut" inclination was to search by keyword, but perhaps that's because I live amongst social media geeks in Silicon Valley. My guess is that my sister would search by genre. If you're local and familar with the players, it makes sense that you'd want to search by actor or director.
Once you've made your selection, you simply click on “Rent” (to rent the film for 48 hours) or “Buy” (to download the film to own).I chose "Dance" in my selection since I love everything related to dance and had a choice of how I wanted to view a 'dance' film called Red Satin (great name, non?)
If you go the "rental" option, you have two ways to watch your rented film – by streaming or by download. A film can be streamed by both Mac and PC users but the download option is only available to PC users for now. When you purchase a film to own, you must fully download the film to your computer.
Another thing I love about their site is the ability to read up on various films and updates about the film world. The UI is easy-to-use and quick-to-access; headlines are chunked in boxes on one page, much simpler than many of the newer but quirky and creative blog formats. This section combines a "blogging format" with a catelogue style of viewing, which makes it useful for quick access and catch-ups.
Lastly, and this is something I learned through a little research and a conversation with Tom and a few others. Ever hear of Section 481? Unless you're Irish or perhaps European and in the world of Film and Television, there's no reason why you would have.
Section 481 is the Irish tax incentive for Film and Television made in Ireland. Projects can derive benefit of up to 28% of their qualifying expenditure and this incentive is guaranteed to folks in this space until December 2015. There is a ceiling on each project of money that can be raised (E50m), but for independent film makers, that is a pretty healthy incentive.
If you're a foreign producer and many people who will stumble upon this blog post will likely be from outside the country, you can tap into some of these benefits by teaming up with a local Irish co-producer. More information can be found on the Irish Film Board site and more information on how to discover new "Irish" cinema and talent, check out Volta to learn more.
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