Thursday, August 29, 2013

What could possibly make Telluride Film Festival better? This app.

The 40th Telluride Film Festival starts today, and the lineup is looking fantastic. Check out the lineup here. We wish we were there to rush around and see the new films in rooms full of cinephiles like us. One of the challenges on the ground at any film festival is keeping track of the schedule, getting wind of schedule changes, and having some idea of whether you can get a seat for a show or not. 

Luckily for TFF attendees, developer Peter Nies and FatFractal President and CEO Kevin Nickels built a mobile app that does all that and more for the Telluride Film Festival. Their app helps festival-goers figure out what to go see next by showing seat availability at upcoming shows, offering a preview of behind the scenes seminars and courthouse conversations, and profiling activities happening between screenings. Click here to check the app out in detail.

Kevin and Peter kindly agreed to take some time this week and talk with us about what inspired the app, their love for movies, and their connection to the Telluride festival.


Jaman: Where did the inspiration for this app come from?

Peter: I had the idea in Berlin, at the Berlinale, probably in 2008. My wife and I were walking around the city with the Telluride Film Festival Directors, freezing cold and lugging like 5 pounds of paper programming for the Berlinale. I suggested to these guys, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the phone that we’re all looking at anyway could hold Berlinale program?” Some people said great, some people didn’t.

Julie Huntsinger from Telluride was one of the people that got it and then a couple years later she reached out to me directly and said, “Look, this year we want a mobile app for Telluride." I started to do the whole thing myself, but luckily I was introduced to Kevin at Fat Fractal, and used their awesome platform to host the application data. Dave at Fat Fractal has built the front end for the iOS and Android handset applications.

Kevin: At Fat Fractal one of our founders is a long time friend of the film festival and so he just sort of said, “Hey, we should do this,” and so this is our second year in a row. We tried to make some meaningful improvements this year for a better experience, which basically means we do whatever Peter tells us to do!

Jaman: Can you say more about your connection to Telluride? 

Peter: I lived in Colorado myself for years about 7, 8 years and would go to Telluride mainly in the winter for ice climbing and skiing and the summer for the Bluegrass Festival and rock climbing. My wife Alessandra went to visit her friend for a baptism in Telluride and they gave her a ticket to go see a movie at this local film festival. It happened to be the first showing ever of Sling Blade, if you remember that movie.

She fell in love with the quality of the film and the quality of the people at Telluride, and she hasn't missed a festival since. I think this is her 17th or 18th year in a row. And during that period she’s befriended the founders of the festival and now they’re like extended family. And not only that but she brings her parents. This is their 15th year. Our group keeps growing and so this year we’ve got a couple little compounds of friends in town for the festival. It’s kind of an extended family vacation. We are fortunate to be part of it.

Kevin: With Fat Fractal, we’re basically a software platform. We’re a bunch of geeks and one of our staff is a long time Telluride Film Festival fan. We just have a lot of fun with it now so when every year comes around we’re looking forward to what are we going to put in the app this year. It’s sort of a labor of love for us and Peter’s just awesome to work with. We find that we work together well and it’s a real high-enjoyment kind of project, so nothing but good comes out of that.

It’s been a labor of love and the amount of traffic it generates is enormous. Last year it was slamming our infrastructure really hard. This year we’re a little bigger and farther along so we’re a lot better prepared for it.

Jaman note: Seems like it's working! The blue line shows the traffic rush to their festival app today:

Kevin: We’re thrilled that the people like it and that they get value out of it. FatFractal helps you build apps like this remarkably quickly, so long as you have a good designer that is clear about what the end use needs to be and how it needs to look. After that it’s pretty straightforward to program this stuff.

Our story [at FatFractal] is we help people do this kind of application super fast. Telluride is interesting technically because not only is it a mobile app with a cloud backend but it’s also interfacing the sales for the RFID ticketing system, so you could check in. You’re integrating with various systems.That stuff used to be so incredibly painful and over the last 2 years I would say it’s gotten just massively easier and better in terms of capability of putting those things together. It’s a great example for us technically and it’s a cool app.

Jaman: Is there a movie that you love that either premiered at or is somehow related to Telluride Film Festival that you would recommend to the folks that are going to read this?

Peter: I saw a first showing of Slumdog Millionaire there.

Kevin: Last year the big one, the big hit was Argo after the show, right?

Peter: Yeah, last year Argo was a sneak preview. I think it was never shown before an audience. Some industry people had seen it probably, but they were showing it for the first time in front of the public audience at Telluride last year.

Jaman: Beyond Telluride are you working with other film festivals? Are you looking for film festivals who are interested?

Kevin: Telluride’s a real special show and so it’s kind of our first love. But yes, we would love to work with other festivals and are absolutely open to it. 


If you're heading to the Telluride Film Festival or just want to see what a great film festival app can look like, definitely check this one out. And if you're using it, tell the creators thanks on Twitter at @fatfractal and @nieskowitz

Otherwise, have a great festival!

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