Every year, countless short movies go unseen due to lack of exposure. But what if one ended up available for download on iTunes? That would change everything for the moviemakers.

Centigrade, a short movie made by actor Colin Cunningham and actor-producer Madison Graie, is the first-ever Canadian live-action short available internationally on iTunes. The movie, about a man trapped in a trailer that has been hijacked by a mysterious pickup truck, now has widespread exposure, qualification for the Academy Awards and a chance to make actual revenue. The success of this short, which was shot entirely on a handheld camera with an extremely low budget, is an inspiration to independent moviemakers everywhere and a lesson in 21st-century distribution.

MovieMaker spoke with Cunningham and Graie about their award-winning film, their reaction to the film’s success and advice for up-and-coming moviemakers.

Kristin Forte (MM): Centigrade is the first-ever Canadian live-action short to be made available for international distribution on iTunes and it is now qualified for the 2009 Oscars. What were your original expectations for the film?

Colin Cunningham (CC): We learned a long time ago that in this business having “expectations” is the surest road to suicide. That said, our hope was to simply make the best movie we could. That goal was high enough. Seriously, to be able to make a giant piece of crap is almost a miracle. But to end up with something that’s worth watching? It’s quite the trick.

Still, I remember when Madison called me and said, “I’ve got good news and great news.” Okay… “The good news is we won Best Short at Cinequest!” Awesome! What could possibly be better than that? And she said, “It’s an Academy Award qualifier.”


Seriously, few words can really put such a thing in perspective. And no, I’m not going to be “cool” and downplay it. My ego’s not that big. I flipped out. That said, look, we’re not kidding ourselves. The odds are still pretty tough in terms of actually getting a nomination, but wow. How incredibly cool is that? So we’ve had a bit of bragging rights for the last six months. We qualified for an Academy Award. But not just us, it’s for the whole crew and anybody who’s helped out on Centigrade. I mean, in a lifetime, how close will any of us ever get to that again? It is, quite simply, wonderful.

As for iTunes? And our film going “global?” Unreal. We joke that Centigrade could possibly become the highest grossing film of all time. Six billion people in the world at $2 a download? That’s $12 billion. Not bad for a 15-minute movie.

MM: How do feel about this enormous success?

Madison Graie (MG): Proud. Humbled. Validated. Anxious. Grateful. Lucky.

MM: How did you acquire the deal with iTunes?

CC: That came about through signing with Shorts International, which was a trick in itself, then by making it through the additional judging process that takes place in order to be considered for iTunes.

MM: Do you have any advice for short or independent moviemakers on using the Internet to their benefit?

MG: The advice we give to anybody out there who has got the guts to follow their dreams is this: Ask for people’s help, never their permission. Nobody’s been put on this planet to stop you. Stay humble and remember that there are few doors in the world that can’t be opened with a bottle of wine. As for using the Internet? That, I’m afraid, we’re still learning.

MM: How do you think the Internet age will affect the movie industry?

CC: In terms of the big studios, it will decimate them… if the studio heads don’t get on the ball very soon. Not only will they be out of a job, but their big studio back lots will be turned into car parks. There’s some young kid out there who’s going to kick the studios right up the ass. He or she doesn’t need the studios, the studios need him. But there’s a lot of studio people out there in very cushy positions. The old guard is terrified of losing their parking spots and so they’re afraid of taking chances. Time to wake up and smell the broadband.

MM: What do you hope to gain from your movie’s global exposure?

CC: Exposure, exposure and more exposure. That is the new gold. Madison has already been hired to produce two new projects, I have just finished up shooting a Webisode pilot called “What If” for [movie and video game producer] Jace Hall and HDFilms and there’s more on the way. But the biggest news perhaps is that Centigrade will become a feature. Madison and I are now putting the finishing touches on the financing and the creative. Creating this short, in short, has changed our lives.

For more information, visit www.centigradethemovie.com.