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January 31 at 7:00pm

Sklar & Workbook: Moving To Best Practices

Todd Sklar has finished has Range Life tour has a lot to tell you about what he’s learned. He’s posted it up at the indispensable Workbook Project: Part One, Part Two

Part One counsels filmmakers to build up their promo content and hold until the key release time.  He identifies two main tendencies to the contrary (and explains why you need to avoid them):
  1. You jump the gun on building buzz and then lose momentum and interest before it’s time to utilize that buzz.
  2. You jump the gun on your release and can’t support it with the necessary content or resources & planning b/c it’s a full time job just maintaining whatever momentum and interest your gaining from the film’s release.

In part two, Todd expands upon new rules:

  1. You need to have a solid website 5 minutes after you’ve written the script.
  2. You need to have a solid trailer 5 days after you’ve wrapped shooting.
  3. You need to release your DVD within 6 weeks of your premiere.
  4. You need to start making your DVD 6 hours after you’ve made your final cut.
  5. You need to do your theatrical release within 2-4 weeks of your festival premiere You need to implement a festival premiere into your release platform, and there’s no better/other way to do it than utilizing it as the springboard for your theatrical release.
  6. You need to look at the theatrical release as a brand building and audience building campaign and focus on exposure and press secondly.
  7. You need to be ready to make your next one before your release this one.
  8. You need to roll with the punches and remember to focus on your planning your work and working your plan.
  9. you need sell DVD’s during your theatrical release.
Read the posts.  We all need to.


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January 31 at 11:05am

It Could Be Getting So Much Better All The Time #1: Google For Film

Oh, if only we in the States had government funding for the arts!  I would settle for government funding for the infrastructure for the arts.  The UK has it and here’s a good idea that they funded that we could use here:

 A Google-esque application for film.  Check it out.
UK film buffs will be able to access a bespoke online search tool from today that will give cinema and TV listings, DVD, Blu-ray and download options for 34,000 films.

The £1m FindAnyFilm project has been developed by the UK Film Council over the past seven months and claims to be the first service of its kind to combine listings for multiple formats and links to retails sites and legal download services. It also includes more than 5,000 film trailers and an alerts service to notify users when titles are released in new formats.


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January 30 at 11:06am

It Could Be Getting So Much Better All The Time

What would you do to improve “indie” film?  Both the business and the films themselves?  This is not a rhetorical question; I would like to know, and I am sure you would too.

I am going to start a regular feature here on TFF on what can be done to improve things for everyone in the indie film space (perhaps starting by banishing that VC vernacular “space”).  I thought everyone would have a distinct opinion.  It may surprise you, but I certainly have a few.  I sent out an email blast to fifty opinionated and passionate filmmakers and got next to nothing back.  Maybe everyone thinks things are just dandy.  Or maybe people think they need to hang on to their ideas in hopes of making a buck.  Or maybe everyone just wants to play the fiddle as we burn down down down.
I honestly believe that it could be getting so much better all the time if we all just shared our ideas and energy a little bit more.  So here’s to hope for the future and to finding a few new ideas that could gain a foothold into the new year.  Be warned: I will begin posting shortly.


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January 29 at 11:09am

New Grants For San Fran Filmmakers

Nice time to be living by the Golden Gate bridge.  The San Francisco Film Society announced a new series of grants covering all phases of development and production.  

The SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants support films that through plot, character, theme or setting significantly explore human and civil rights, antidiscrimination, gender and sexual identity and other urgent social justice issues of our time.

Read all about them here.  What are you doing reading this? Go and start filling out the application!  The first application process opened yesterday!


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January 27 at 11:06am

Man, That Gets My Goat!

This past Sunday, the NY Times had one of those articles on how film “all of a sudden” looks like a good investment.  I am one of those who have always thought that film was a good investment when done properly, so you might think I was happy to hear them finally beating the drums.  Now, I could take it with a grain of salt and be happy that they are promoting what seems to be a good company run by good people and leave it alone at that.  At least that’s what I wanted to do, what I suspected I’d do, until I got to the last lines:

“If you can find the right film executives, people who consider themselves fiduciaries more than producers, it’s one of the best bets you can make right now,” Mr. Crown said.

“Just remember that it’s over when you start taking yourself so seriously that the project stops becoming a commercial movie,” he continued, “and starts becoming an art project.”
This is myth making.  There is no opposite to what Mr. Crown is talking about.  What is he inferring here?  That some producers will sacrifice the money for the art?  The producer’s job is to marry those two elements and one never needs to be sacrificed for the other.  To paint a picture that producers will leave the investors hanging, is not only wrong, but dangerous to the industry, the business, and the art.  
When he speaks of people not having a fiduciary responsibility, he certainly is not talking about any real producer I know.  Anyone that makes films for a living, who plans on making films for the rest of their life, knows that their films better deliver returns or else it is over for them.  Producers — people who actually make films on a regular basis — know that it is their job to deliver a return to their investors.  Producers can’t produce otherwise.  Each film is connected to the next, and not only the ones that an individual producer makes, but all of them that everyone else makes, are part of the same continuum.  We have to produce returns.
But then again, as the NY Times told us on Monday, it’s not Hollywood/Films that are the problem, it’s New York and Big Media that’s the issue.
To draw a line and pretend that there is a breed of producer who don’t consider themselves fiduciaries first is to try to discourage investment in film.  If you survey ANY handful of producers who have been making films as of late, you not only would find people well versed on what they expect their work to return, where they expect those returns to come from, and when they expect those returns to come in, but they also would know how they can build on those returns from one film to the next.  
And most importantly, they will know how it doesn’t require artistic compromise either.  Films are made to fit a budget, and a budget should be determined by what the market is.  Certain companies and investors can choose to reach above that, and great, truly remarkable work is generated that way, but for the rest of us mere mortals, this world demands that we be responsible.  My twenty years of making films has introduced me to an incredible breed of truly responsible people — and they are called “Producers”.  If the NY Times or others has a different opinion on what a producer is, I would be more than happy to introduce them to a few of my friends.


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January 27 at 3:16am

Win A Marketing Package For Your FIlm!

CrewCreative, who did great work for us on our film TOWELHEAD, are offering one lucky filmmaker a marketing package of a trailer, poster, and website for their film — provided your film cost less than $5M to make.  So what are you waiting for?!!

Read all about it here.  You have only until April 20th to apply.


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January 26 at 11:07am

The New Crew Positions

In a post entitled “Issues Of Sustainability” on the Filmmaker Mag Blog, Lance Weiler  talks about how we as filmmakers can produce for today’s evolving audiences. In talking to filmmakers, I still find they often don’t yet fully conceive what it means to adopt a “transmedia” approach to storytelling and marketing.  On the other side of the spectrum though is what made Wired’s recent post on “Why Hollywood Needs a New Model For Storytelling” such a gas  – they’ve got it and got it good.  Check it out.  We may not need to build the ARGs and seed the story so heavily on blogs and elsewhere as Scott Brown writes about, but we do need to give serious thought about how the hell to build audiences for our stories.  

Let’s face it: it just is not enough to have a good story well told anymore.  Sure I still believe in the basics first and building out you narrative on a cross-platform basis is simply not enough to cut it. And yes, the first step towards better filmmaking is to have good material that you have given serious thought to.   
I might harp a bit on the new approaches and filmmakers’ lack of thought there, but to be frank that’s because there still is a great deal of nothing going on in the old school department.  As good as I found this year’s Sundance batch, and as hopeful as I am for SxSW’s crop, how do we drill down to the basics and make sure we have our pants riding high?  I mean: what makes a good film good?  Some folks may know how to tell their story nine ways to Sunday, but it still won’t sing, if ain’t got that swing.  
I’ve have started a new series over on Hammer To Nail on “Qualities Of Better Film” and promise to go into over twenty such qualities that at the very least makes my motor run.  It may be basic stuff, but I still find these qualities in short supply.  Check it out over the next few weeks.  Let me know what I’ve missed.  I know that if everyone adopted the approach that I outline, I’d find more films I would want to give prizes to.  On the other hand, since I find it hard even to do that even with my films, maybe we all just need to wake up to how damn hard it is to make good films (let alone better ones), and slow the heck down.
But while I am on the self-promotion tip:  make a trip over to Filmcatcher where Christine Vachon and I hosted a couple of conversations with filmmakers and actors during Sundance (okay so only the teaser’s up now, but it tells you what you can anticipate).  But that ain’t all…. there’s more to come on that front, or at least one similar to it, too.  Stay tuned.


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