Butterknife is an episodic web series starring real-life couple Ronald and Mary Bronstein and featuring a cast of their real-life filmmaker friends. The series, a collaboration between Joe Swanberg and the Bronsteins, was commissioned by Spout to promote some of the creative personalities the site is dedicated to supporting.
According to Spout’s content director, Paul Moore, the show was conceived by Ronald Bronstein, who directed Frownland, and Hannah Takes the Stairs director Swanberg as a tribute to Robert Altman’s neo-noir The Long Goodbye. It features Ronald dealing with the unromantic banality of private investigator work during the day and the romantic banality of his relationship at home during the evening — which is a lot of deconstructed banality, but then, such is life.
Spout is probably best-known for giving a dollar to Four-Eyed Monster creators Arin Crumley and Susan Buice for every sign-up that was spurred by views of the film, which was the first feature film ever posted to YouTube. That membership drive helped build up the community of users to 120,000 since the site launched at South by Southwest in 2006. (Full disclosure: NewTeeVee contributor Karina Longworth is a regular contributor to the Spout blog.)
With a focus on the hundreds of films that show at festivals but never see the light of distribution, Moore told me over the phone that Butterknife is “part of our core mission [of] ‘Let’s get [the] word out about emerging filmmakers.'” By stacking the players with filmmakers, the show serves to “try to get exposure for all these guys, as a whole movement, in releasing this web series.”
The chances that the series will go “viral” are slim, as quiet meditations on life as 30-something urbanites coming to terms with work and relationships isn’t the type of spectacle that finds broad audiences online. But as a touchstone for critics looking for an inspired collective of fresh-faced filmmakers, it serves well.
Three more episodes are due to be released each Monday in March. A deal with MySpace garnered the show some promotion on the popular social network, and the debut episode got a little over 2,000 views on MySpace and 14,000 on YouTube. As for plans for more sponsored productions from Spout, “Butterknife‘s an experiment, so I think we’re gonna wait until the dust settles on this web series,” Moore said.