Ten years ago, Ryan Nadel was a rookie journalist in the Middle East, moderating comments at the Jerusalem Post during the Israel-Hezbollah war. To his surprise, most came from evangelical Christians in Texas.
“What I saw was this energy online trying to engage with content,” says the 32-year-old Vancouverite, who has been thinking about the relationship between user and content ever since.
Once he had graduated from the Centre for Digital Media, Nadel’s interests and experiences eventually dovetailed in 20 Year Media, a company he cofounded that is dedicated to, in its own words, “optimizing the movie business”. In January 2015, 20YM purchased New York–based film distributor Emerging Pictures.
“They always refer to us as ‘the Canadians’,” Nadel says with a wry smile during a chat with the Straight at a Yaletown café. The point of the acquisition, he explains, was to test 20YM’s “technology-development mindset” in the no-mercy climate of meatspace.
“Emerging Pictures was a pioneer in delivery of film digitally to movie theatres, so we realized this was the perfect platform to start to validate some of our concepts,” he says. “It’s easy to try to develop innovations in isolation, but until you’re selling tickets and working with exhibitors and living and dying by the success of that process, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve gotta get your hands dirty.”
The idea is to better match product—including recent titles like Embrace of the Serpent—with Emerging’s network of theatres and partners like Vimeo. On the consumer end, Nadel envisions a text-based form of marketing more attuned to a generation with its eyes locked on those all-important devices.
“Independent-movie marketing style has not changed much in the last 20 years. It’s still a two-minute trailer, a poster, a press release, and that’s not how you wanna communicate with that audience,” he says. “Basically, I would know what types of movies you like, I would have a release coming up, and I would say ‘Hey, do you want 10 percent off for tomorrow night?’ The same way that Uber has made getting a car totally frictionless—that’s the goal.”