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How Valve inspired Neill Blomkamp to start his own movie studio

How Valve inspired Neill Blomkamp to start his own movie studio
From Engadget - July 15, 2017

The concept for Oats Studios is pretty bold. After years of making big-budget movies, how did the idea for this back-to-basics approach come about?

I think the core place that Oats came from was just me wanting to be more expressive and free to play around with ideas. I want to paint montages, not to fit into the rigid system that filmmaking has become. It's been really cool because it's very outside of directing in a traditional sense.

As well as giving you independence, Oats obviously uses the internet to connect you with audiences directly. What inspired the more collaborative approach?

The analogy that I think is quite fitting is thinking of [Volume 1] like an album. Films cost so much money and they are so regimented that a lot of experimentation and passion gets removed from the process -- because it is all so militaristic and hierarchical in how it's executed. And it has to be like that because so many dollars are being spent.

Yet [albums] do not require that level of cash, so [artists] can be freer to kind of play around a bit more. Short films also allow for that sort of experimentation. It feels really cool to be able to do that because you can start to tell when something is working and when something is not. And once all of the pieces that you feel do work get put out there, you can see whether the audience rejects them or whether they are actually kind of into them. That can really inform which films, as full-scale features, you can feel confident about making.

Was it always the plan to distribute these shorts free online, or did the ideas for the films come first and then YouTube and Steam come further down the line?

The initial idea was Steam. It was an extremely Steam-centric project, and, well, it could still be pretty Steam-centric. But regardless of the actual distribution method, what felt very strange to me was the idea of charging the audience for something that typically is not charged for. People are OK with digesting something for free, but if you are going to charge them for it, there's an expectation. Whether it's like a one-hour kind of HBO-style piece, a two-hour feature film or, you know, a 30-minute network comedy, they know what they are getting and they can prepare for it and not feel ripped off.

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