With its growing U.S. presence, it seems inevitable that London-based Pulse Films would expand its operation stateside. On May 21, Pulse Films cofounder Thomas Benski will announce the opening of offices in New York and Los Angeles, to be run by Cedric Gairard, in a joint venture with Caviar Content. “For media companies of the past, the infrastructure dictated the output,” says Benski. So a TV company would make a TV show and a movie studio would make a movie; but seven years ago Benski founded Pulse Films in order to listen to the artists and determine how best to express their vision, in whatever form that takes.
Pulse’s multimedia work is exemplified by Shut Up and Play the Hits, the Sundance hit that was picked up by Oscilloscope. The combo concert film and intimate portrait of LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy plays out through the indie electronica outfit’s ambitious farewell concert at Madison Square Garden. It came about after Benski approached Murphy (before the final concert had been announced) about creating something that captures LCD’s unique sensibility. “We approached him because we thought he was an incredible piece of talent,” explains Benski, who quickly started collaborating with Murphy on a film that is not quite a biopic, not quite a concert film. “It has a much more playful edge to it and kind of blends different genres, from documentary to scripted to concerts, to tell a universal story, of a man at the crossroads of life.”
The movie will get a theatrical release in July but it will also have a social-media-driven, on-demand component. The folks at Pulse will be asking LCD Soundsystem fans whether they want to see the film theatrically in a given city. “If that audience exists, we’ll get there.” Benski plans to bypass traditional media channels, using Facebook and Twitter to power theatrical on-demand.
That will be followed quickly by online access, thus narrowing the traditional wait for home consumption and giving easy, early access at a low price point for an audience that is “very hungry” for it.
Then, of course, there’s the traditional DVD release. “Everyone says no one wants to buy DVDs anymore,” says Benski, “but this is exactly the kind of fan base that wants to own something premium, and have the feeling that they’re getting a product that is special. So the physical product is premium.”
Pulse will construct the movie’s messaging around those discrete experiences. Because this is an artist-led project (“James wasn’t just a subject,” says Benski, “he was a true creative collaborator”), the LCD fan base is already engaged. “The audience is very generous towards it because they are already converted. They will help you spread the word, they will help advocate the project.”
It’s that kind of two-way dialogue with fans that has given Benski and Pulse Films the confidence to enter the U.S. market. “That’s maybe easier for us to do than a much bigger network or bigger distribution house who are not really set up in that basis that kind of have a much more conversational relationship with the audience. The audience was part of creating the content.”
In its work with Google Maps and in creating Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, which Pulse conceived and handed over to Paramount Pictures, the company is focused on creating content that is geared towards the audience more than the client. Says Benski: “I think that’s what everyone is trying to figure out.”