Your new project Black Flag TV - would you care to describe
it in a few phrases?
Black Flag TV is a viral TV station. We're all familiar with viral
advertising, where people would contribute to and repost a given
commercial to each other and share on their social media and blog pages.
That is the pattern used by Black Flag TV. It's a live TV stream that can
be posted anywhere, people can adapt the TV screen just as they would a YouTube video. We end up broadcasting on
Facebook, MySpace, Blogger,
several personal web pages and so on. Some folks watch the station from
forums, bulletins, or right off an e-mail they received from friends. The
station spreads exactly in a viral pattern. We have no control on where
the station is being viewed, how it is being used and displayed, and that
There are many sites that offer
movies (even for free and legal like your site) out there on the net -
what makes Black Flag TV special?
TV is definitely in a class of its own. No kidding, I haven't seen any
other thing like this anywhere else - yet. We don't really offer movies on
demand, we are a TV station, with a schedule, movies timeslots and so on.
There is no on-demand content, it's a 24h/7 continuous stream of
programming and indie movies. We are not just a site where you go to watch
movies. Actually there is very little traffic on our website, most people
watch the station from the free desktop application, you don't need to use
a web browser. Several users are watching from Facebook too, and from
MySpace as well. The audience watching from our web site represent about
5% of the entire station's ratings. So this is one big difference from
other sites offering movies. Most of them are making sure the audience are
watching from their pages and feed them with banner ads and promotions.
Another big difference is that people can watch our station without
registering, or entering any personal information. No username, no
password, wherever Black Flag TV is being shown, it's all free of charge,
the window opens and you watch the films. The desktop application works
the same, you launch it, and the programming kicks in, no question asked,
no login, nothing. As simple as it gets.
you choose the very traditional, old school television approach with Black
Flag TV, with fixed schedules and everything?
find it's better suited for discovering movies. It's a vintage broadcast
method that might seem outdated to some, but having no option to pause,
rewind or fastforward gives another viewing experience. And the mission of
Black Flag TV is much different than those standard video-on-demand or
YouTube channels. You discover films on the station that you wouldn't
anywhere else in VOD channels, because, well, you would need to look for
it first. If you don't know something exists, you don't look for it. Many
of Black Flag TV's audience tune in and 'leave the TV on' during long
periods of time, in the corner of their computer screen, while they work
on something else or browse the internet, taking a peek every now and
then, and end up being hooked to the film playing. Just like the TV in
your living room basically. The server's analytics reveal some users are
watching for over four hours in a row.
on the internet, running a TV-station costs quite a bit of money. How is Black
Flag TV financed?
Black Flag TV is funded like a
regular TV station: with commercial breaks. There is no banner ad, no
pop-up windows, no video pre-roll, the commercial breaks are inserted
every 15 minutes or so, just like regular TV stations. We also get some
Paypal donations which is much appreciated.
How did you dream up Black
Flag TV in the first place, and could you talk about its evolution
from first idea to first broadcast for a bit? And what was your first ever
Well when I was a kid I was keeping telling
myself, while watching some lame cartoons, "If I was running this TV,
I would only put good stuff on!" Of course back then it was just a
kid's thought. Today's technology brought this dream to reach, and opened
possibilities we could only dream of not so long ago.
So the idea of a TV station grew in my mind a few years ago, when I
started distributing DVDs. I had a very cool catalog of independent titles
that I wanted to be seen, yet DVD sales are running very slow, so more and
more the streaming media was appealing. I didn't want to have something
like the other sites, video on demand, pay per download or PPV and so on.
People hardly buy something they don't know first hand, and most of the
stuff I had were little known gems. So the continuous TV feed was a good
option, and I started building the structure with the computer resources I
had in my office, and my limited knowledge in the matter of broadcast
media. There was a lot of trial and error, sleepless nights, web searches
and phone calls to make it all work, but eventually I ended up with
something I could upstream from my office, and display it on someone
else's computer screen. There are commercial services doing that already,
but I wanted something much more flexible, with no hidden or unexpected
monthly charge. The only option was to build my own server and broadcast
from my desktop computer.
My first ever broadcast was… well
it was a NHL hockey game. Montreal Canadiens vs. Lightening. Habs were
being torn apart by Tampa Bay that night. The game was on the TV sitting
next to my computer I was running tests on, so I routed the cable into my
computer, and forward the signal to the video encoder and then stream to
my testing website. There I was watching hockey live right off my own
website. I called a couple of friends to invite them to check my website
and tell me if it was working, and it was all fine everywhere. From there,
the broadcast pattern was working, the rest consisted in preparing the
films I had under contract to be airing on the station, prepare a method
of scheduling and so on.
Now the station is all automated, I programmed an Excel spreadsheet to
build the schedule from dropdown options, the script outputs the schedule
to the broadcast software, and upload in the same task the schedule to a
Google Calendar that's displayed on the website. The Google Calendar has
notifications turned on for every event listed, and these notifications
are sent to my Twitter account, letting know the subscribers what film is
currently being presented on Black Flag TV. The station's controls are
also accessible remotely, I don't need to sit next to my computer to work
on the station, it's fully accessible from my Blackberry tablet, and I can
operate the system off my iPhone. I've setup a series of useful commands
in case of emergency, for example I can reboot the computer by sending an
e-mail with a password to a specific address, that turns off and then on
the computer's UPC power unit, all the software suite automatically launch
at the computer startup, and resume the broadcast schedule. I made the TV
station to be run by a one-man army. The more it is automated, the more
time I can spend in making films and acquiring content for the station.
The films you broadcast on Black
Flag TV are mostly of the indie horror and indie science fiction
variety. Why is that, and what is in your eyes the appeal of indie films in general?
really, deeply love independent movies, those with bigger budgets and
those with no budget. Indie movies explore territories that are too risky
for large studios. When these big boys invest over 50 millions in a film,
they want to recoup their investment so they're likely to stay in known
market, stick to proven recipes. Indies dare to jump in the water and
create something bold, and come up with something new. Their financial
investment is typically much lower, and most of the time, they make films
out of passion rather than for the purpose of filling a business gap in a
theatrical release calendar. As for the genre I favor on Black Flag TV,
sci-fi, horror, action and martial arts… Well that's stuff I love
myself, and that I want to share with the world. See, that's the same
pattern here as the independent filmmaking's: Indie films are made on a
shoestring budget, by passion-driven filmmakers. Black Flag TV is also
tiny budget and passion-driven, and that makes the station a bold TV that
does not conform to the typical broadcast standards…
If somebody wanted to submit a
movie to be shown on Black Flag TV, where would he have to
turn to, and are there some quality guidelines for submissions with Black Flag TV?
enough, just visit www.blackflag.tv
and drop by the contact page! We're
always looking for new, exciting content, be it short films, full
features, series, you name it! As for quality guidelines, it's taken case
by case. But if I have a recommendation to make, that would be: "Take
care of the sound!!" This is usually where it hurts for independent
movies. Too many filmmakers do not take care of the sound when they're
filming. It results in a film that's hard to release on DVD or on TV. I
see great movies, but if the sound is not well recorded and peaks
everywhere, there's nothing we can do…
Also, please make sure the music you use have rights cleared! Same goes if
you use images or footage from other films, you need permission to use
these excerpts in your films. These are the most common problems I see
with some films being submitted.
of the films you show on Black Flag TV are actually
distributed on DVD by your own company,
Black Flag Pictures. Aren't
you cutting into your own profits with your TV channel?
quite! People who really like the films they see on Black Flag TV tend to
buy the DVD anyways, just to watch the film without the station's small
watermarked logo, see the film without commercials, and have access to the
DVD bonuses. In the other hand, people who like the films but not enough
to buy the DVD… they still take time to watch it on Black Flag TV
anyways. We're all like that actually, we're often watching films on
mainstream TV that we would not buy on DVD. But we still enjoy watching
them when they air.
Interestingly, too, I realized a few times that some folks placed an order
for a DVD after seeing parts of the film on Black Flag TV. They said they
thought the film seemed promising, and wanted to own the DVD instead of
catching the next broadcast. How cool is that?!
and speaking of Black Flag Pictures: What can you tell us about
that company of yours?
Black Flag Pictures
is the main
company that owns Black Flag TV. The films and original productions are
created and funded by Black Flag Pictures, and the company also takes care
of licensing movies as well as distributing physical goods. That's the
mother of all evil.
Back to Black Flag TV:
Highlights you've had on your channel so far?
We got some
great stuff on the station, it's hard to point one in particular. Still I
can name this amazing film called Pandoras's Sphere (La Bille de Pandore
in French). An epic action / science-fiction that was shot over a period
of seven years, with name actors. The film is a professional production
with a tiny five figures budget, and runs for 2h15. Remember that's an
independent film, the producers had very little to make this film come to
life. It's simply spectacular, and Black Flag TV is the only channel
showing it. We also distribute the film on DVD. So that's just one film
among the many, many great titles you can see on the station.
films/shows/whatever on Black Flag TV you're excited about?
do have lots of films in negotiation right now, but the most exciting
stuff we're working on lately is to bring Black Flag TV to people's
television in their living room. We're working on a scheme to bring the
station out of the internet, and bring it to additional platforms. Still
free all the time, that's the goal. But to keep the station free of
charge, people have to watch it. Ratings keep us going. There will be
annoucements made this spring regarding the arrival of Black Flag TV to
standard television channels.
all the talk about Black Flag TV, we mustn't forget that
you're quite an accomplished genre filmmaker yourself. So what can you
tell us about your upcoming film Silverblood?
wouldn't say "accomplished", but thanks for the kind word!
Silverblood has been in the making for quite some time now, we shot most
of the footage during fall 2010, I originally intended to edit and release
in 2011 but have put the film aside, just the time needed to launch Black
Flag TV. Now the station is pretty stable and eats less of my time, I came
back at the editing of Silverblood a few weeks ago. I hope to be able to
release it this summer. The film is pretty surrealistic, very strange
and bizarre, LSD-driven 70s looking, but with a solid gothic feel to it.
The story is about a sexy girl having terrible nightmares, in which she
sees herself as a vampire killer. But soon we realize that she may or may
not be dreaming, there are clues for both sides, and it's driving her
totally insane. It's a very twisted story, one would say I was high on
grass when I wrote that. Even I, after two years, I re-read my script
while editing and I'm like "Man, what's wrong with me?!"… So
yes, it's going to be a rather curious and troubled piece. As soon as it's
completed, you'll see it on Black Flag TV.
projects beyond Silverblood?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I do have a couple of
ideas to put forward, but for the past 24 months, launching Black Flag TV
and driving Silverblood upfront was pretty demanding. I'll wait
Silverblood is released before I browse my folder where I keep my movie
station's website, facebook, whatever else?
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
about it I guess, but I can't stress that enough, Black Flag TV is
ratings-driven. We need as many people as possible to watch it for us to
keep it free of charge. So visit us often, and share the station with your
friends and on your social networks! There are plenty of links available,
we also have a page on our site with ready-to-use HTML code to add the
channel to your site or to your Facebook page. Use at will! The link many
people use in their e-mails is the direct video feed:
So the best way to support indie movies and Black Flag TV is to watch the
station! It's midnight movies 24h a day...
for the interview!
Thanks to you Michael!