Filmmakers behind 'The Comedy' record offering while movie's still in theaters

Commentary tracks aren’t strictly for homevideo anymore.

For the release of the controversial dramedy “The Comedy,” Tribeca Films paired up with filmmakers Rick Alverson and Tim Heidecker to produce a podcast, available exclusively through Apple’s iTunes store, that gives audiences insight into the making of the movie.

In the past, distributors waited until the release of a DVD or Blu-ray to offer commentary tracks as a way to encourage consumers to buy the discs. But more indies are starting to see the recordings as a marketing tool and inexpensive incentive to boost sales considering it’s free to post a podcast on iTunes or other digital platforms.

“The Comedy” became available on demand on Oct. 24 and has been rolling out in theaters since Nov. 9. It expands its run to 13 locations across the country through Dec. 9.

While the 90-minute podcast is considered bonus content to promote “The Comedy,” Tribeca also saw the commentary as a way for auds to further connect with the film — and encourage second viewings — rather than have to wait until its homevid release.

“It creates a unique viewing opportunity that isn’t normally available in the first release window,” said Neil Marks, Tribeca Films director of marketing.

After the pic played the fest circuit over the past nine months, with screenings followed by Q&As with Alverson and Heidecker, the commentary enables auds to replicate the festival experience and discuss the movie at home since “it’s a very provocative film in the way it uses comedy to push buttons,” Marks said. “The commentary was a way to bring a unique experience to the living room. If there was ever a film that requires additional discourse, it’s this one. It’s such a challenging, polarizing film. The audience (at festivals) enjoyed it, but you could tell they were a little shell-shocked afterward and wanted to talk about the experience.”

In the pic, Heidecker plays a middle-aged Brooklyn hipster who has become restless with his complacent existence and tests the limits of acceptable behavior.

The podcast is meant to be downloaded and listened to as the film unspools, but can be played separately on its own, as well.

While iTunes does not offer up download figures, “The Comedy” podcast ranked 25th among podcasts on Monday, while the film has been selling well among indies.

Alverson and Heidecker recorded the podcast via Skype through their home studio and were given few rules by Tribeca other than not to be libelous or infringe on copyrighted material. No changes were made to the final recording. An earlier version was recorded by the duo while in bed in a hotel room during South by Southwest, but “we thought that was terrible,” said Heidecker, who also produces the “On Cinema” podcast.

“It’s a simple thing to do,” Heidecker said. “The technology exists now where it’s so easy.” In the future, he said, multiple commentary tracks could be recorded for a film, even some by hardcore fans. “It’s a really fun enhancement to the experience,” he added. “When the movie is really small and needs all the help it can get, this can be a natural fit,” especially as people buy fewer and fewer DVDs.

Their podcast isn’t the only commentary track available for a film playing in theaters. Rian Johnson also recorded one for “Looper” to encourage repeat viewing. Tribeca is now considering simultaneous commentary tracks for other upcoming releases.

“We’re not a studio,” Marks said. “It’s an interesting tactic and has been successful so far. But it needs to be right for the right film. We really want to challenge consumers and if there are ways we can give them a deeper experience that’s what we’re here for.”

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