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District 9 director wants Steam users to watch movies for free, but purchase DLC

It’s kind of like Patreon

Director Neill Blomkamp said there were a number of reasons he went with Steam over more traditional avenues for film like iTunes when choosing a platform to launch his experimental, community-focused film project Oats Studios.

Blomkamp, the director of District 9, Elysium and Chappie, sat down with Geoff Keighely during E3 Coliseum to talk about Oats Studios, his experimental film studio. When Blomkamp made the announcement, he said he wanted to focus on short films that could be supported, both financially and through potential collaborations, by the people who watch the films. It’s an interesting idea that’s been explored by other Hollywood heavyweights; Joseph Gordon-Levitt launched HitRecord, an online collaborative production company, with his brother in 2005. Since then, the brothers have released multiple short films, books, albums and more.

The difference between Levitt and Blomkamp, however, is the platform they use. While Levitt just uses his own website to produce and release projects, Blomkamp uses Steam. When asked by Keighley what brought him to the platform — does Blomkamp play PC games? — the director said it was due to easy it would be for distribution and feedback.

“So the thought process behind that is ‘what platform do you use to do that? How do you even go about doing that?,” Blomkamp said. “You think of iTunes but what you don’t get as readily as you can on Steam is like the first film we’re going to put out, or any of the films we put out, we’ll release the raw footage. We’ll release all of the 3D aspects we used to make the visual effects.

“We’ll put up the ability for audience members who feel like they have an idea of where another film in that series can go and we can curate that inside Oats. I actually want to work with this user to see where that stream can go.”

Blomkamp spoke at length about how he wanted to make sure that viewers could take the assets they released and remix the work Oats Studios was putting out. The entire foundation the company was founded on, according to the director, is having the creative freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Blomkamp added that while his studio was working almost completely independent of Hollywood, this wasn’t a “rally against big Hollywood studios.”

“I just wonder if there’s a different way to have a one-on-one relationship with the audience,” Blomkamp said.

The director said he wanted to use Oats Studios as a way to do the creative projects that he might not be able to otherwise and, in the process, surround himself with creative people that want to do the same thing. Still, Blomkamp is aware of the reality — and the high cost — that comes with trying to release high-quality short films. That’s why Blomkamp isn’t trying to sell the films his studio is making per se, but the additional content they’re releasing alongside it.

“If enough people online feel as though this is something that I want to watch more of, they can watch everything for free, but a way to support us to purchase all of the DLC extra stuff. I don’t want to charge for it, but our business model is to set fire to money right now, so it would be good to try and get something back.”

Blomkamp said Oats Studio had plans to release four or five different 20-minute short films over the course of the next little bit. Each “episode,” as he refers to them, is an insight into this sci-fi, horror world that they want to create.

“If the audience is with us enough, maybe we don’t have to make it traditionally,” Blomkamp said. “Maybe we can just make it with the users financially. But, you know, that’s difficult to do.”

Oats Studios first short film, Rakka, examines the world after a devastating alien invasion that has left humanity enslaved. The film follows each of these different groups as they try to cope with their new world. It’s less of a cohesive narrative as it is a series of experimental snippets, but the result is pretty interesting.

Rakka is available to watch right now on both YouTube and Steam. “DLC content” including 3D models, art and the script are available to purchase for $4.99.