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February 28 at 11:02am

Twitter Do or Twitter Don’t

I have been playing with my Twitter, not obsessively mind you.  I don’t want to go blind or get hair on my palms.  Mostly I use it to link to interesting articles that I don’t have much to say on, things I wish others would read too.  You know, the stuff I would like to have a conversation about.  Follow me and see where it goes…

I do find my mind changing due to the Twitter-phenom.  Maybe it is the combo of everything.  It feels like Social Network discourse and Twitter are for the distribution of raw ideas or promotion of the fuller meal.  Blogs are for the half-baked dish.  I still lean towards traditional media for the fully cooked offering.  Nonetheless, being only in month four or so of this experiment in communication, I feel like my brain is re-wiring itself for the sound-bite-esque concept, for whatever is needed to fit on the Twitter page.  It’s a bit discouraging.  I like the deep thoughts of days gone by.
Movie Marketing Madness touched in on the Twitter evolution and assorted symptoms.  It’s a nice collection of links and worth reading.
This article on Why You Should UnFollow Those Who Don’t Follow You is getting a lot of notice.  It’s written from the perspective of business first, and not surprisingly I don’t agree.  One thing I enjoy about Twitter is the unique information it brings me, working as a filter of news on my select interest.  I am not interested in what people had for breakfast or how their sick cat is doing.   It seems like Twitters might want to split themselves in two if they need to provide the personal details in an effort to gain followers of those who don’t want so much information.  We shall see shall we not?
And the WSJ has decided also to tell you How To Twitter.  They sum it up as a broadcast tool to promote yourself.


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February 27 at 11:08am

This Is How I Would Like It

But alas, I think I have to move to Brazil to get it.  I was reading in Variety, how a distributor (Rain) there has gotten all their art cinemas to go digital and use the same software management system, enabling them to get their films via satellite.  They then allow the audiences to organize themselves via a social network platform and select what films they want to see where and when.

Rain’s COD will allow moviegoers, grouped in online MovieMobz.com film clubs, to recommend what films play when and where over Rain’s digital cinema network.

Once exhibitors slot a film, virtual cinema club members can buy tickets, refer further wishlists to friends and, exploiting MovieMobz’s social networking system, let other people know what films they’re attending.

“For the first time in the market, we are offering new opportunities for the entire cinema chain: Consumers can choose their content; exhibitors can more efficiently program their screens; and content licensors can more easily find their audience,” Lima said.

MovieMobz will book film screenings of new and old features as well as niche content.

Ahh….. one day soon, maybe America will catch up.

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February 27 at 4:02am

The History Of NYC Film Production

I got a nice, and very well researched, reply to the piece I wrote for Tribeca on the NY State TV & Film Tax Stall-Out from  Alex Brook Lynn.  She gives a great overview of how we got in this jam.  Check it out over on The Arch.

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February 26 at 11:26am

Wassamatta With Indie Today?

I got this email from filmmaker/blogger Jamie Stuart, and thought it was a good spark for some discussion…

I just read your piece on the tax incentives and current state of NY indie film, and I thought I’d pass along a few general thoughts. I’ve observed for a little while now that there’s a generational shift going on in the community, and within that, there’s a host of issues.

1) The spark that fueled indie film in the ’80s and ’90s was the marketing concept of the “breakout” — first time filmmakers establishing themselves with trademark styles and no money. These filmmakers were the poster children for the movement. Now, however, the paradigm has shifted to a situation where filmmakers are making small, dirt-cheap movies for niches and their friends; the debut film isn’t as important so much as slowly building a track record. In this model, indie film has essentially become regional folk art. I think we need to return to the prior model, but there are some things holding that up. Like:

2) A lot of the pillars of the scene have fought their battles and moved up in the world. The “dependent” phase from the mid-’90s through the early ’00s gave a lot of people a raise in options. Instead of struggling to make a movie for 6-figures or for maybe $1-2M, budgets swelled to $6M as a low, all the way up to $15-25M (some even higher). In this context, I think a lot of these pillars are self-admittedly not as in touch with new talent anymore, and they’re glad they don’t have to do guerrilla scrambling anymore. I recall a panel with you and Christine at Tribeca a few years back, where you both admitted that you were no longer in a position to find and nurture new filmmakers anymore.

3) I think we need to re-think how movies are made. Micro-features and DIY productions use crews in a much different manner than movies made for 7-8 figures, and I think producers need to study what people like myself are doing. For example, the NYFF46 series I created last fall was a 4-part non-linear sci-fi/action mind-bender — it was made for an entire budget of $75, and at least 70% of the time, since I was shooting it while starring in it, nobody was even behind the camera. Now, I happen to think that under the circumstances, the project had pretty good production values. Not that I expect larger budgeted productions to use the exact method I did (they wouldn’t have to if they had money), but there’s got to be something that can be learned and adapted from what I and others have done.

4) Now, if you combine all of the above, you get another problem. It used to be that aspiring filmmakers started with a small budget, either on a short or a small feature, and that was used as a calling card to get a larger budget. The issue here is that due to the drop in budgets based on prosumer cameras and editing, producers don’t seem to take those projects as seriously. What they mistake, however, is that you’re getting an equivalent production value as before, only it costs a fraction of the amount. But producers aren’t saying: “Wow! Look at what so-and-so did for so little. Imagine what they could do with a larger budget? I want to work with him!” Instead, they seem to be looking at the budget, and on that basis alone, writing it off: “Let me know when you’ve moved on to bigger things, but for now, you’re a small fry.”

5) The internet is not the savior. The internet is great for sales and marketing, but it’s a lousy delivery method. The quality is terrible. I’ve never looked at the internet as anything other than a means to get exposure and establish myself — so I can get OFF the internet and make real features. However:

6) Internet filmmaking still isn’t taken seriously. It doesn’t matter how good my work is or how good it looks, there are people who simply, either by virtue of the size of the player, or through general snobbishness, don’t consider it serious filmmaking. I think a lot of the indie community still believes in the film festival model: If you’re a serious filmmaker, you need to submit to festivals. They seem almost fundamentalist in this regard. And it’s holding up progress.

All of that said, I’m still of the belief that the biggest problem in indie film right now is simply the product. When indie film was booming in the ’80s/’90s, young people like myself were drawn to it because it seemed to be the most creative arena in filmmaking. Not now. Young people look to big FX blockbusters as the most creative arena. People now equate indie film with poor production values, cheap-looking handheld photography, amateurish acting, etc. They look at it as a joke. I approached the prospect of DIY filmmaking from the view that ambitious films could now be made inexpensively — I’ve always used tripods, dollies, cranes, special FX. But DIY filmmaking on the whole went in the opposite direction — small, handheld slices of life. And while that aesthetic certainly has its place, it’s never going to find a larger audience, in my opinion. Until we shift out of this phase and DIY filmmakers start creating ambitious pictures at dirt prices, the movement will remain derided. And until the bigger people start lifting up the small, there’s going to remain a major class divide.

best,
-J


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February 25 at 4:11pm

Maybe New Eating Old Isn’t Such A Good Diet…

On his Indiewire blog, Anthony Kaufman made the kind of observation I love: simple, right before us all, but ignored time and time again by the mainstream.  His point is that all the corporate acquisitions of art film companies have only led to disaster, and maybe this extends to old school media companies too.  The problem seems accentuated when it is an entity with new media dreams that acquires the traditional media company; what once worked with steady cash flow limps its way into non-existence.

There was a faint echo of this in the NY Times recent article on the difference between Hollywood and Silicon Valley cultures.  The necessary change from a salary mentality to an ownership one is not the easiest transition.  I have repeatedly been surprised by how few producers even are willing to take true entrepreneurial approach to production.  Sure we slave without fees for years on development, but when the time comes to go forward most remain strictly fee based.  Sure, I can’t consider a back-end weighted deal when I need to pay my bills, but when that’s not the case, I can get more creative.
History has shown repeatedly that Hollywood, and even the movie industry in general, just don’t get new media.  Remember Pop.com? Before there was YouTube, there was Pop.com. It had it all: Dreamworks, John Sloss, Eddie Murphy, & Steve Martin. Here’s Business Week’s 9/25/2000 article on why they failed. Take a trip down memory lane here.
Frankly it’s also looking like new media doesn’t get the movie industry.  To me it comes down to the fact that film viewing is not a passive experience.  It is a collective community experience.  It is the aspects of community & collectivity that new media has to enhance when entering the film world.  And it is these very same aspects that we have to bring back to traditional cinema for it to grow vital again.  Ten years of impulse viewing and mass-market sell has destroyed the indie film culture.  We have to focus on developing audiences’ informed decision making behavior and the aspects that extend film culture beyond the simple viewing process.


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February 25 at 11:15am

South Korea’s New Model

HRptr had an interesting article on some experimentation going on out east.

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February 25 at 4:24am

Everyone Become Your Own Exhibitor

Since I was pushing the big 4K projectors on the exhibitors a few hours ago, it only makes sense that I now push pocket projectors on all filmmakers.  Who needs an exhibition hall when you can project from you iPhone for under $300?!  Me, I still like the old fashioned cinema, but I can also get excited about every abandoned building being transformed into a movie theater on the fly.


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