Video blogger Christiaan Van Vuuren and Nick Boshier, one of the creators of Beached Az, are in advanced discussions to partner with Fandependent, the company being set up by Thomas Mai and Josh Pomeranz to help finance and commercialise Australian content online.

The filmmaking pair plan to use crowd funding to finance a feature film, to be directed by Van Vuuren, about “a dubious character” from the Sydney western suburb of Punchbowl.

“He’s already got 146,00 fans on Facebook, YouTube and other online sites,” said Boshier. “I’ve been accused of being this character but fervently deny it. In fact I think it’s insulting because I’m much better looking!”

The animated Beached Az started life online and 21 one-minute episodes were subsequently shown on ABC TV. Since then, Boshier and Van Vuuren have created and distributed 16 episodes of the live action Bondi Hipsters series online – and have another 10 in the can. Episodes are one to three and a half minutes in length and have garnered 1.5 million views and nearly 5,000 Facebook fans, and television networks in Australian and abroad have also requested treatments for a full-length version, Boshier said.

The fledgling Fandependent has $200,000 from Screen Australia’s innovative distribution program to identify and work with 10 creative teams over the next two years. It is part of the agency’s remit to build sustainable businesses.

“The beauty of working with someone like Thomas is that he’s all about empowering the filmmakers, helping them to control, own and engage the fanbase,” said Boshier.

Mai is a former sales agent and online media expert and has sold films from Lars von Trier, Susanne Bier and others. He relocated to Australia last year, sponsored by Pomeranz, managing director of post facility Spectrum Films. They get emails daily from filmmakers wanting to acquire the skills to access funds and fans a mouse click away.

There are no rules about what elements a project has to have to guarantee high online potential but perhaps a character is already well-known on YouTube or already has a fanbase, or perhaps the subject particularly suits a niche but big and enthusiastic audience.

“Europe has a problem because there are so many languages but Australia has the huge strength of being English-speaking, although with a funny accent,” said Mai. “There is a global audience now available with no restrictions and no borders … Some see yourselves as isolated but the internet means you are now connected … Filmmakers have to learn a whole new set of skills and have to learn how to communicate with an audience.”

Fandependent will get an executive producer credit and a percentage of the money it helps to raise. The company is expected to also educate the wider film community as part of the Screen Australia deal: a full-day workshop is being held from 9.30am this Saturday (April 21) at Open Channel in Melbourne and on May 5 in Sydney.

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