Indie moviemakers take note. With everyone’s focus on where the next avenue for indie distribution will be, a brand new site called itzon snuck a step ahead. The site streams a lineup of independent film content which viewers can watch for free like they would a TV channel. That’s great for indie movie fans, but moviemakers themselves can use the site to gain exposure and compile data on who their audience is and what they want to see. As an added benefit, they can also make a profit by participating in itzon’s monthly online film festival.

itzon’s main focus is to showcase independent films using an easily accessible format that includes some little details important to moviemakers. itzon’s display reads as a traditional television broadcast with a “What’s On Now” and “Coming Up Next” feature, with the full weeks’ programming listed in color categorizes based on genre. All films are broadcast in high definition, and instead of using traditional mode of streaming films online (which usually involves the video being smothered on all sides by ads), itzon’s films start in full-screen mode the minute you enter the site. Viewers can read about what they’re watching and send the moviemaker a message directly from the site. And best of all, like water to the parched lips of any indie moviemaker, it’s free.

For more on itzon visit

MovieMaker met up with Head of Content and Scheduling at itzon, Hannah Vincent, to discuss this revolutionary step for independent moviemakers.

Siobhan McBride (MM): Different companies have taken a crack at Internet-based TV in the last few years, but there hasn’t been one platform that’s broken from the pack and become the standard. What makes itzon better than others?

Hannah Vincent (HV): We’ve been asked a number of times, “Why create a linear stream?” A few years ago the Internet’s “on-demand” availability was predicted to be the death of linear appointment TV. Yet the amount of linear TV watched has grown each year to reach an average of 5 hours per person per day in the USA in 2010, compared with an average of just 58 minutes of on-demand video viewed online. We believe that the answer for consumers–and content providers–is the marriage of the two systems, not the replacement of one with the other.

On-demand video expects the consumer to do all the work. With current online video delivery, as much as 60% of a user’s viewing session can be spent searching and only 40% watching. They first need to search for a video, watch it, then when it’s finished search for something else to watch, and so on. Linear appointment TV does the opposite, providing the consumer with a curated and suggestive schedule and powerful hooks that keep audiences watching. itzon provides both VoD for viewer flexibility and a linear programming of films running 24 hours a day, compiled to compliment each other as you might find at a film festival. Our primary focus with itzon is to make sure the platform is flexible enough for viewers to watch what they want when they want, but also create a valuable space for filmmakers to showcase their work. We were clear from the start that we did not want to create a website where the video was placed in a small window on a crowded and busy page that detracts from the experience of watching the film.

Films run on a seven-day schedule, meaning they are shown once a day for seven days on the linear stream in different time slots to maximize audience figures for our filmmakers and offer flexibility to our viewers. itzon’s vision is to play our part in helping independent productions get distribution deals, be acquired for mainstream TV broadcast and to help filmmakers create co-pro opportunities, commissions, increase film sales, get recognition and build a global fan base for their work.

MM: In addition to the TV and Internet video aspect, itzon also functions as a film festival. Explain a bit about what the film festival is and why you decided to include it.

HV: Our monthly film festival is a chance for our audience to make their voices heard. If a viewer enjoys a particular film, not only have they voted with their feet by watching, but by clicking on one of the vote buttons in the live stream or VoD they have made an actual impact on the success of the film in the festival. One difference about the itzon festival is that we don’t require a film to have been made in the last 12 months. Our philosophy is that if a film is great it’s great forever, and where a film may have done well on the traditional festival circuit in past years, we know we will be bringing it to a whole new and wider audience. Filmmaking is a hard, long and thankless process much of the time, so we want to offer as many opportunities for filmmakers to receive the plaudits they deserve.

The itzon monthly festivals will include all of the films first shown in that particular month. They will receive votes in the linear stream and the VoD over a 30 day period. After the first time a film is shown on the linear stream it then also becomes available in the VoD system, where it continues to receive views and votes. After 30 days the votes for each film are collated to find the top three films in each category: Animation, Documentary and Fiction. The top three in each category are viewed by a panel of industry professionals and a winner is awarded in each. Winning filmmakers will be awarded up to £1,000 in cash prizes, hardware and software to support their future projects. We also offer them additional slots on the linear stream and a featured article in our features and listings magazine, Whatzon. If a film receives exceptional support, viewing figures and feedback we make sure that we alert key industry professionals to its success in the hope that we can help the filmmaker secure future projects, commissions or funding.

MM: How do you see online distribution changing over the next few years? What are your plans for the future of itzon? Are you thinking of creating your own original content at some point down the road?

HV: Online distribution has really been driven by the needs and innovations of individual filmmakers whether they are embarking on DIY distribution or DIWO. It’s great that filmmakers are holding out for better distribution deals and wanting more control over how their films are shown and marketed. We hope to see more fully crowdfunded projects getting both traditional cinematic and digital distribution, because at the end of the day what every filmmaker wants is to see their film on the big screen, being watched by a captivated audience. We hope to collaborate with independent cinema groups across the globe to ‘tour’ selections of the films featured on itzon. We hope audiences embrace the need for platforms like ours, which use ad-generated revenue to pay and support filmmakers–’cause not everything online can be delivered for free. But it’s also important to remember that not everything should be used to spin a profit from people. Offering good value and good service to every person using the site, whether they are providing or consuming content, should be paramount.

Our plans for the future of itzon are numerous, and many suggestions have come from the active involvement of the thousands of filmmakers who embraced the project from the very start. We’re already looking at object recognition software for enabling audiences to interact more deeply with film content, and we will be developing analytics services, which means that filmmakers who use itzon can then approach other distributors with an arsenal of information showing exactly who their audience is, where they are and what they’ve said. We will also be constantly developing features that can provide additional revenue streams for filmmakers, such as to-order DVD/Blu-ray printing and pick-and-mix DVDs/Blu-rays for viewers to create their own compilations of features and shorts. Commissioning original content for itzon is certainly a goal of ours for the future, and making an online presence central to the creative brief will be a really exciting way to explore all the interactive possibilities that immersive transmedia storytelling offers.

MM: What’s the process for moviemakers to submit their film to itzon, and what’s the benefit to them from doing so?

HV: Filmmakers can create an itzon account for free, and they can use their account to submit and upload their films directly to us. It’s free to join for filmmakers and viewers alike, and there are no fees to submit films. We also ask filmmakers to upload posters and trailers so we can market their films in our digital listings magazine. Films are scheduled a month in advance, and we send filmmakers confirmation and notification of their acceptance and listings in plenty of time to help them spread the word. In this way the filmmakers and itzon share the responsibility of promoting the films, making it a truly collaborative effort. Since we do not require films to be exclusive to us or to have been made in the last 12 months, our filmmakers can bring older films to a new audience, and our viewers get a great mix of new and classic. Ad revenue and revenue from the credit viewing system is shared 50/50 with content providers based on viewing figures, and filmmakers can monitor their earnings in real time through their accounts.

MM: Anything you’d like to add?

HV: First off, on behalf of the whole (exhausted) itzon team, we want to say a huge thank you if you’re one of the thousands of filmmakers that have helped bring this project to fruition. Whether you helped by contributing films, ideas, feedback, testing or anything else, it’s all been invaluable. We’re also really excited to announce a fantastic line up of judges for our first month: Merlin Crossingham, creative director of the amazing Wallace and Gromit at Aardman Animations, Chris Jones, filmmaker, author of The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook and producer of “The Production Office LIVE,” and Nolan and Adam Lebovitz, who made the films Tortured and Unrest. We also have some brilliant partners on board sponsoring our prizes including Doddle, Quick Film Budget and Music Revolution.