Anxietyville gets hybrid format release

Xenophile Media's Patrick Crowe on why the producers are releasing Anxietyville as both a web series and feature film.

A decade ago, when Xenophile Media began trying to sell the idea of Anxietyville, a satirical take on virtual worlds, the pitch was often met with vacant, quizzical expressions. Lots of them.

Since then, the project was shelved for a few years, the concept tweaked, the vision focused a little more, and the actual digital world has come to look not dissimilar to that of Anxietyville.

The project was relaunched and eventually greenlit in October 2012, when the required $800,000 financing was secured from the Canadian Media Fund’s Experimental Stream, the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Interactive Digital Media Fund, and a distribution advance from Duopoly.

Once video production on the project was finally underway in Feburary 2014, the producers of Anxietyville also wanted to use an alternate distribution strategy that was in keeping with the story’s theme of subverted norms. As such, Anxietyville premiered in a unique way on Vimeo on Demand – it was released on June 4 as both a 96-minute feature film and a 10 x 9-minute web series.

The story follows six neurotics who are unaware that they are trapped inside a computer generated simulation as part of an insane marketing app that controls people’s mind and makes them buy things. The target of both the webisodes and the film is the same – 18 to 35 year-old urban hipsters – and the content of both is exactly the same. The final draft of the script was written with a web series and feature film release in mind to utilize a hybrid distribution strategy, said Patrick Crowe, president of Xenophile Media and co-writer of the screenplay.

“We realized it would be possible for us to produce a video narrative that could be packaged with an equal degree of success as a short format series within our interactive story, as a short format web series distributed commercially and as a conventional feature film thereby opening new markets and revenue streams we hadn’t originally considered,” he said.

With the web series, the producers wanted to create a cross-platform experience using the technology Anxietyville is actually satirizing, Crowe said. As such, the producers launched a website and mobile game app that was created in sync with the series based on a game featured in Anxietyville called Consumer Hell.

With the additional film release, Crowe added, Anxietyville is poised to reach a broader audience than if it was released just via the web series model. For example, the feature film premiered at Sarasota Film Festival in April.

International distribution of the project is being handled by Duopoly. The first four episodes of the web series are currently available for free on Vimeo, with the remaining six chapters available for either $0.99 per episode or $4.99 for the whole series (both prices in USD). The feature film version is also available on Vimeo for rent ($4.99USD) or own (at $8.99USD).

The serialized version of the project has been licensed to Air Canada where it will screen until Aug. 1 on Air Canada VOD in-flight entertainment. Hulu has also picked up Anxietyville for U.S. distribution, through Duopoly’s channel partnership with the streaming service. As well, the show will be available on iThentic’s website. The release on these two platforms is being withheld in order to optimize the value of first windows for other broadcasters and platforms, said Crowe.

Anxietyville is directed by Rob Stefaniuk (Suck, Phil The Alien) and stars David Reale (Mean Girls), Al Mukadam (Spun Out, Radio Free Roscoe), Chad Connell (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Prom Wars), Barbara Mamabolo (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Suck), Natalie Lisinska (Orphan Black), Kjartan Hewitt (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Judy Marshak (The Stone Angel).

Production is by Xenophile Media, with executive production from Sara Diamond, Fred Fuchs, Catherine Tait, Mikhel Harilaid and Keith Clarkson.