A “gear head” and a filmmaker since “way back when,” Edward Boettcher is merging his two childhood passions with the founding of Cinema Perfecto, a local startup that is hoping to take the filmmaking world by storm.
The company, which Boettcher describes as “an online home for digital filmmakers and professional videographers,” includes an e-commerce store selling filmmaking equipment, editing computers and data storage devices; a free (advertising supported) online magazine; a free (advertising supported) member forum; and a production company, as well as an educational component with distance learning and filmmaker education consulting services.
Boettcher has definitely come a long way from his first film: a stop-action movie featuring toy dinosaurs. He worked for more than a decade in high-tech industries — primarily in online advertising and marketing for companies like Microsoft, AudienceScience, ValueClick Media and Fastclick — and observed what he calls the “pre-echoes of the digital revolution in film.”
“When you go to Vimeo you start to see ... people are taking these new tools and high-powered, less-expensive desktop editing solutions,” he said. “Lighter weight equipment, carbon fiber tripods, smaller crews, etc.”
It fascinated him.
“We are at the event horizon for a significant shift in how films and video content are created, edited and distributed,” Boettcher explained. “A complete reset for the industry has taken place, brought about by the filmic look of this new generation of affordable, video-enabled, high-definition digital SLR cameras; more powerful and less expensive editing workstations; and the proliferation of online distribution channels.
“While the traditional Hollywood model has plateaued in recent years, the indie film scene, professional videography and online content creation is exploding. Film schools like USC are seeing year-over-year increases in applicants of over 71 percent.”
Adopting a philosophy of “if you want to be a leader, find a parade and get in front of it,” Boettcher saw his opportunity in online advertising, video advertising and streaming video advertising.
“It was $200 million four years ago and now it’s a billion dollars a year going into video online advertising,” he said.
Cinema Perfecto aims to put all of the pieces together through the online magazine, with filmmaker/managing editor Karen Nedivi at the helm.
“We want to write about the stories from a perspective that nobody else is doing,” Nedivi said. “We’re not just writing about this stuff, we’re using it out in the field.”
“I think everybody can be a filmmaker,” added Boettcher, a Montecito resident whose favorite subject at the moment is his almost 2-year-old daughter, Alia.
“Anybody who is telling a story with anything that’s capturing video is a filmmaker, so if you are shooting your friends at a skateboard park and you’re 17 years old with an iPhone, you’re a filmmaker. We want to help them be better filmmakers. ... It’s a hobby that anyone can do. If you’re 16 years old up to 80 years old, you can take a camera and you can tell a story with it.”
Not everyone is as quick to grasp how powerful that is.
“I talk to a lot of angel investors and that kind of investment community and ... a lot of times the first thing they’ll ask me is, ‘What problem are you trying to solve?’” he said. “I always find that a hard question for me to answer because this isn’t a problem. This is an opportunity, this is an amazing thing.”
Cinema Perfecto uses a “guidance system” to break information and equipment into three separate segments. Level E is entry level, level P is professional videographers and level I is independent filmmakers, Boettcher explains.
“There’s definitely crossover, but we’re trying to guide people to say, ‘Well, this is a good place to start.’ If you’re an entry-level filmmaker you don’t need our Everest Series workstation ... but you do need a workstation that does certain things that you are definitely going to need it to do. We tailor the equipment for what you are trying to do.”
Showing off his impressive warehouse full of “gear” at the company’s Goleta headquarters, Boettcher’s excitement is contagious.
“I love this stuff,” he exclaimed. “Much to the chagrin of my wife (Rebekah Altman, a writer and editor), there’s always more and more gear for me to learn about and buy and use.”
Boettcher said the store has a “member-driven philosophy” that allows the company to do things larger companies can’t.
“We can keep things really lean,” he said. “We’re just going to offer the best the stuff that’s really in demand.”
Boettcher grew up in Boston, went to the University of Vermont and started a software company Back East before moving to Santa Barbara in 2001. He sees the South Coast location as an advantage for his new business.
“The whole concept of Cinema Perfecto is that Santa Barbara is on the fringe of L.A.,” he said. “We’re close enough that when we have our film festival, we get top name stars, but we’re not L.A. With Cinema Perfecto, we’re close enough to the film industry to be able to learn from it ... but we also think there’s an opportunity here for fresh perspectives in filmmaking.
“What’s really exciting is the fact that there are going to be 100,000 new filmmakers in the next five years. Even if 90,000 are terrible filmmakers, we’re going to have 10,000 amazing filmmakers. Any time you get a massive expansion in an art form, you’re going to get a different way of looking at it. I’m looking forward to seeing some of that.”