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July 13 at 12:10pm

List: Blogs That Will Review Undistributed Films v1.0

All of these blogs got recommended to me as being open to reviewing unreleased film.

I have placed the name of the individual who recommended next to the blog.

http://brendonbouzard.com/blog/ Brendon Bouzard

http://cinemaechochamber.blogspot.com/ Brandon Harris
http://wwww.cinematical.com Tze Chun
http://www.cinevegas.com/blog/ Christophe Lepage
http://d2dvd.blogspot.com/ Bill Cunningham action,horror, pulp,sci-fi, thriller
http://www.filmthreat.com/blog/ Christophe Lepage

http://www.hammertonail.com/ Ted Hope

http://www.sf360.org/blogs Christophe Lepage
http://www.slashfilm.com/ http://www.slashfilm.com/
http://www.spout.com Tze Chun & Christophe Lepage
http://twitchfilm.net/site/ Tze Chun

PLEASE NOTE: I have not confirmed this acceptance policy with any of the sites. Please confirm on your own and let me know.
This will be an ongoing to-be-revised list. Check back for updates.

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July 10 at 5:43pm

Needed: List of Indie Film Blogs Open To Reviewing Undistrib’d Films

In response to the LOVELY BY SURPRISE post the other day, filmmaker Ashley Meyers wrote in with this suggestion: What Indie Film Blogs will cover undistributed films? Please help us build this list. Let us know which ones you know about. Or better yet, make a whole list and send it in and get the gold star of the day!

I know one, but it will only run the positive reviews. Check out Hammer To Nail (and yes, I did help co-found it).

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July 7 at 10:57am

DIY Distribution Tips: Use A DVD-Rental Store Approved Vendor

There’s a good post today on FilmmakerMagBlog by Jake Abraham on LOVELY BY SURPRISE, a film he produced and is now distributing. The only way DIY is going to really ever become a viable model is for filmmakers to do precisely what Jake is doing, and share the experience. You should definitely read the whole post, but I definitely appreciated this nugget:

we worked with Indigenous to make sure that every possible outlet, both retail and online, would carry the film. They set up Netflix, Blockbuster Online, Amazon.com, iTunes and all those other online rental and purchase sites. Also, as they are set up as a vendor with all the wholesalers that distribute to retail rental stores and purchasers like Target, K-Mart, etc., we have orders coming in from those guys as well. This detail can’t be overlooked. Working with an approved vendor is a key step to getting your DVD in rental stores all over the U.S. (yes, they still exist). Don’t wait until your DVD is pressed to do this. It takes months to get all of this set up properly. The consequence of delaying this process is severe, as your film will not be available everywhere you want it to be when your marketing push is on and potential viewers won’t be able to access it.

Of course this brings up the question:
Who are the approved DVD vendors for the remaining DVD rental stores? It would be great to create a list. Anyone know of any? This is the kind of information every filmmaker needs to have and needs to know where to access.
We screened LOVELY BY SURPRISE at our This is that Goldcrest Screening Series and the film went over quite well with our crowd. The most uniform response I heard was that everyone thought the film was unique and they had not seen anything like it. How great is that?!! I wished I lived in a world where this was the most sought out attribute from all filmmakers. To me such praise is gold. There should be a box where you can check that as your preference. I would join a film club in a heartbeat that promised originality on a regular basis.
Reading Jake’s column though, it reminds how early into the wilderness we all are. To forge a path requires a huge communal effort. There is so much I don’t know, and I would bet I know a hell of a lot more than you do (not to be smug, but…). But it is not intimidating; it is only reality. When I look at the work everyone did demystifying production, development, festival strategy, and initial sales — essentially the work of the Indie Film movement of the last 15 years, I know that distribution and marketing are conquerable too. Provided we share that is. So what are the next steps?
We should start a regular column here on DIY Distribution Tips. Let me know if you have any.
Like the DVD-Rental Store Approved Vendor List, also let me know of any further lists you think we need to build.
And check out the LOVELY BY SURPRISE website. It’s nice. One thing I think they did really well was the placement of the widgets to add the film to you Netflix or Blockbuster queue. Ditto the Amazon pre-order button. The booking link gets a bit lost due to the consistency of the font and structure, but neatness still counts for a lot in my book. Still since any true indie booker or theater will want this film, it would be nice if it popped a tad more for them.

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July 6 at 3:19pm

Map Making: Thoughts On Thinking "Free"

I should have known Free would be the mantra of the weekend. We were going to take Hope The Younger to freeload at Vanessa’s Dad’s pad by the beach for the 4th, but before we left, we had the op to share a cab back from celebrating Strand’s 20th with Indiewire’s Eugene Hernadez; under his arm, still in it’s protective wrapper, was Chris Anderson’s “Free”. Eugene had shelled out the $27 bucks for the wisdom of the nothing economy. Meanwhile, I was still hoping that Anderson would still take me up on my offer to send copies to the 4 most influential people I know, and thus provide with a copy for the price of the title. I guess heads of Hollywood and Indiewood studios don’t rank in his book. Back from the sea, sand still between my toes, I still haven’t read the meme of the moment, and now must live vicariously.

I once had a friend who said he preferred reading criticism than seeing or reading the real deal. I just may have to settle for that experience myself on this one, but luckily we all have the pleasure of both Malcolm Gladwell and Janet Maslin chiming in on Anderson’s book so we can still participate in the daily chatter.
Just so it’s clear — if it isn’t already — Anderson’s “free” is not the same “FREE” of this blog’s inspiration (and title). Here on TFF, free is used in terms of thought, execution, and means of distribution. Here I mean FREE in terms of content, not economy. Granted there is a lot of overlap, but basically I am hoping that by changing our economic model to adapt to the reality of our times, what once was mistakingly called Indie Film can be a far more diverse and participatory culture. But more on that later. Back to that other Free…
Generally the question everyone seems to want to know is how do you make money, let alone recoup your time and money, when you are giving the product away for free?
“The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity,” states Chris Anderson in his book. What does that mean for you the filmmaker?

Scott Macauley on FilmmakerMagBlog tipped me to Brian Newman’s powerpoint on moving beyond Free, and actually how to make a living with Free. Brian answers that question quite clearly & concisely.

Brian, borrowing from Kevin Kelly’s “Better Than Free”, points out where the added value comes in:
  • Immediacy: Give them something now
  • Personalization: To their needs
  • Interpretation: with study guide, or commentary
  • Authenticity: From you directly, signed by you
  • Embodiment: Speaking Fees
  • Patronage: Support the artist; Radiohead model
  • Accessibility: Make it easy to get
  • Findability: Work with partners who make you findable
The powerpoint is without audio, but pretty easy to follow if you have been following this blog.

To further answer this Question-Of-The-Moment, Janet Maslin points out in her review:

Mr. Anderson sees that consumers think not only about money but also about intangibles like convenience, access, quality and time.

Maslin, in contrasting Anderson’s “Free” with Shell’s book “Cheap”, also hits upon one of the plagues that runs amok in Indie Filmland:

Ms. Shell’s intangibles are different; she argues that moral accountability and responsibility are often sacrificed for the sake of cheap pricing.
They didn’t write a book on that because it would require two words: Bad Behavior. I find that even the filmmakers who adopt the “film-is-war” approach to production (more Bad Behavior), still struggle over these principles. People don’t like to exploit others, although sometimes they allow themselves to get distracted to the point such exploitation becomes a tad too convenient. Those that do have started to lose some of those human qualities. Generally I find the creative brigade would love to find ways to get their work made and seen without having to ransom moral accountability and responsibility. People will adopt good behavior if they are reminded or given the opportunity or have a gun held to their head (daily).
I think the gun is there along with the opportunity and the daily reminders.
Yet, the fear of there be no real business model there too, leads a lot to indulge in a less rigid sense of effects. It’s funny how survival leads many to cannibalize themselves. And as clearly as Gladwell deconstructs Anderson’s model, he too finds it difficult to unearth the money-generating Free model:
There are four strands of argument here: a technological claim (digital infrastructure is effectively Free), a psychological claim (consumers love Free), a procedural claim (Free means never having to make a judgment), and a commercial claim (the market created by the technological Free and the psychological Free can make you a lot of money). The only problem is that in the middle of laying out what he sees as the new business model of the digital age Anderson is forced to admit that one of his main case studies, YouTube, “has so far failed to make any money for Google.”

To makes matter worse, providing for Free, isn’t free to YouTube. As Gladwell points out “A recent report by Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube’s bandwidth costs in 2009 will be three hundred and sixty million dollars.” And then it gets even worse from there:

…in order to make money, YouTube has been obliged to pay for programs that aren’t crap. To recap: YouTube is a great example of Free, except that Free technology ends up not being Free because of the way consumers respond to Free, fatally compromising YouTube’s ability to make money around Free, and forcing it to retreat from the “abundance thinking” that lies at the heart of Free. Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube will lose close to half a billion dollars this year.

So where does all this leave us? Indie films been losing approximately two billion a year (guesstimate: 4000 features @ $500K avg. budget; all not distributed or recouping).Gladwell’s summation essentially comes down to that there are no easy answers — but that easy answers do sell books (or at least get you a publishing deal, and the 4th of July meme of the moment).

But talented artists still want to make movies. And to make good movies, we all need to focus on the movies first and foremost. But good movies aren’t enough in this world to get seen.
  1. A good first step is to work harder to make your film better and more distinct.
  2. The second step is team up and start to truly collaborate.
  3. Try following Kevin Kelly’s 8 Generatives for step #3.
  4. I think the fourth step is follow those rules via some of the methods we’ve relayed here.
  5. Let’s call the fifth step sharing your knowledge with each other in hopes that we will find a way.
Step by step we will get there. Let’s make this map together.
As Joe Tripitican commented below, the musicians are dealing with this all straight on. There’s a lively debate he tipped us to over on Jonathan Taplin’s blog too. Check it out.
And Mark Cuban wants to encourage all business-minded to avoid the freemium model as he believes any successful free-ium play will grow until it becomes to large, expensive, and retro. There will always be a Facebook to replace MySpace, and a MySpace to replace Friendster, a Google to kick Yahoo’s ass. Personally speaking I think all companies should plan to make themselves obsolete within five years, or they are not doing the public good.

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July 1 at 1:32pm

Social Media For Storytellers

Courtesy of The WorkbookProject, comes a power point overview of how one can use to social media to extend a story and generate a conversation around their work. In case you didn’t know already, in the end social media can be an effective way to build an audience / community around a project and / or a body of work.  Lance and his gang lay it out nice and clear.  If you aren’t a convert yet, what more do you need?

Social Media for Storytellers
View more presentations from lanceweiler.
And here’s the direct link:

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July 1 at 11:01am

Who Can Really Help Indie Film? #3: Small Film Festivals

Today’s post is a guest post from Mathew Seig of New York Foundation For The Arts.  We are thankful he’s picked up on this question and hope many of you also offer up suggestions.

Small film festivals, but they need help from larger ones.

Assuming that we care about films playing to a live audience in a dark theater, film festivals are the most likely venue that most independent filmmakers are going to have. For that purpose, the thousand or two thousand small U.S. festivals are as important as the largest. So instead of focusing solely on the large festivals that usually dominate our attention, let’s consider the small local and regional film festivals where independent films get most of their exposure. Large or small, film festivals have an important place in the changing world of independent film discussed by Ted Hope (“The New Model For Indie Film: The Ongoing Conversation”) at New York Foundation for the Arts on May 28, 2009 and then posted on TrulyFreeFilm.

As with so many of the independent films that they show, small festivals (and community micro-cinemas and similar venues) exist thanks to the largely unpaid efforts of serious film lovers. They don’t offer premiers of star-driven films or attract distribution representatives, but we increasingly rely on small festivals to nurture artists and audiences, and to bring personal and specialized cinema of all kinds to out-of-the-way communities. Yet small festivals share with filmmakers an urgent need to adapt to the changing circumstances of the entire business. Unlike the concern we regularly hear for filmmakers, distributors and theaters, there isn’t much hand-wringing about the fate of small festivals, or their quality, or much information about how they can keep up with the times, grow and improve.

Small festivals are largely staffed by people with a strong love of film but often without much knowledge of exhibition. To survive, prosper and grow, they need information, support, encouragement and useful criticism. The people who can best help them are those who have experience managing successful festivals, and who know how to develop relationships with audiences, sponsors, distributors and filmmakers.

Large festivals are some of the most logical places to institute this process. They provide important access to films, filmmakers and distributors, so they are already attended by representatives from smaller festivals. Adding educational programs, festival labs, and networking opportunities for their smaller cousins and for people entering the business would strengthen the entire community. A thousand healthy film festivals will help many thousands of filmmakers.

Matthew Seig
New York Foundation for the Arts

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