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September 30 at 6:18pm

Big Muckamuck: Hey Hollywood! Do What Truly Free Filmakers Are Doing!

Bill Mechanic, a man that is as responsible as anyone for building Hollywood as we know it and an incredibly smart man and passionate film fan at that, has been doing a lot of public speaking lately. Whenever he speaks, I learn something; I also understand our business better. Despite making far larger films than I can even dream of, he still knows what is critical to all film’s success (and our industry’s survival).

In the keynote speech he recently gave at the Independent Film and Television Production Conference, Mechanic chastised the mainstream movie industry by asking:
When was the last time you heard anyone either from a studio or an independent talking about improving their product, of creating positive buzz and expanding the audience?
Isn’t this precisely what we have been talking about for the last year here? Isn’t that what we need to do if we want to survive?
He goes on to advise:
An independent… should make movies individualistic and compelling… that actually do stand out and succeed because of their quality and their uniqueness.
Read Mechanic’s whole speech. It is full of great nuggets. It generated many of my morning’s twitter posts yesterday.

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September 30 at 11:17am

Wanted: List Of Websites That Post Trailers

When I spoke at IFF at TIFF with Festival Darling‘s Thomas Mai, he said there were 154 websites that posted film trailers. We need that list. Maybe Thomas will share it with us, but in the meantime with Sundance around the corner and Berlin on it’s heels, we can’t afford to wait to post. Let’s build that list! What sites do you know?

And hey, since it is my birthday, why not give out your knowledge as a gift? If not, I will settle for a good bottle of single malt…

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September 29 at 6:25pm

My Plea For A NYC Directors Support Group (on behalf of AFTERSCHOOL)

I sent the following email blast out this morning. Word’s got around and others have asked to see it. So here it is, albeit with a change or two….

Hey there NY Director Person,
Sorry for this group email but times are tough.
You are getting this email because you are one of 120 people whom I have identified as a film director residing at least part time in NYC. I know that there are a lot more of you than that, but hey, I am just one person standing in the forest without much beyond my laptop and a few minutes at my disposal as I drink my morning coffee.
You are also getting this because I am asking you to help facilitate some real change in the NY Indie Film World, and I know you can do it. Maybe not by yourself, but hey, you do have each other.
I know that you directors don’t really have a group that you are organized around. I know that this non-existent group doesn’t even have a name. But with receipt of this email I would like you to band together and make people go see adventurous & ambitious independent cinema again.
There is a great movie opening on Friday at Cinema Village. Antonio Campos’ AFTERSCHOOL debuted at the NYFF last year. When I saw it, I felt it was the strongest debut work to come out of NYC in a long, long time. It was counter to current trends, yet commented insightfully on our current culture. It took bold steps to find it’s own voice, but was aware and respectful of film history. It took risks on all aspects of its design and execution, but used each of the elements to build a united whole. It was aggressive in its approach but heartbreaking at its core. In short, it blew me away.
AFTERSCHOOL was one a small handful of films that inspired us to start our screening series at Goldcrest. I found it virtually criminal that great work was not being seen — particularly by those involved in film creation. We can complain about how tough it is — or we can actually do something about it. Right now as I understand it, IFC who is distributing the work, has no specific plans to take it beyond NYC theatrically. It will be however on VOD on Wednesday (is it a coincidence that is my birthday?) but it won’t see the glory of projection elsewhere if people don’t turn out here in NYC. It is a tough film, and not for everyone, but it is great work that should not be missed.
Please go see this movie in the theaters. Please publicize your appreciation for the work– that’s what Facebook and Twitter are for (in case you were still wondering). If anyone of you could write a few words of support for the film, I will eagerly publish it and promote it on one of my blogs/websites. Really, please do this. WE NEED TO SHOW COMMUNITY SUPPORT. Just send me your thoughts.
In fact, I suggest all of you director-folk utilize this new unnamed club of yours and put this kind of weight behind six films a year by truly free filmmakers. It would have considerable impact if this unnamed group of yours awarded six citations annually to new films. In these days of media over-saturation, we all desperately need filters. Who would the public trust most: unknown bloggers or artists whose work they already appreciate it? It’s up to you to preserve an active film culture in this country.

And there’s even more that you can do. See it once and then if five of you — ideally those have that have a huge fan base — could agree to lead a Q&A one night next week after a screening that could really make a difference too. I am going to do it on Monday night but I am sure it would mean more if you do it. We have to get people out to see this movie. We have to show that theatrical is still alive. Imagine if you did this with each of the six films you will now award annually. I know that time is in short supply, but we do need to vote for the culture we want — and the only way we have to do this is with our labor. This is my plea for you to exercise it.
But maybe you are not the writing type nor the public speaking type; maybe you are more the drinking type. I have an option for those of you too. I have arranged for Vanessa’s Mom’s bar, WINED UP (on Broadway between 20th & 21st) to offer a third drink free this Friday night after the first show (say 10PM) and Antonio is going to hang out and talk with anyone who shows. It would mean a lot to him if you were there. Please go as my proxy as I will be up in Woodstock for the film festival there.
If you like any of these ideas, or just want to talk about these issues with other directors, just let me know if I can share your email address with each other and I will try to put together an intro email for you to all speak. If you want Antonio to reach out to you, let me know and I will put him in touch. If there is anything I can ever do to help you, please also don’t hesitate to ask.
And just in case you are wondering, I had absolutely nothing to do with this film. Antonio is one of the guys behind Borderline Films. They are one of several new film collectives blossoming in our city. Antonio is now producing his producer Sean Durkin’s feature debut. Sean’s short is DORIS is online for viewing at their website. Jody Lee Lipes has shot all their work and has also directed an excellent doc: BROCK ENRIGHT: THE GOOD TIMES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Josh Mond has produced all their work and will continue to do so. Sure, these twenty-somethings have banded together and have each other, but they need you too. We all do. The whole world does. C’mon: Let’s save ambitious film culture.

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September 28 at 10:31am

Petitions For A Wider Release?

Well, it seems like petitions have worked to secure a low budget film a wider release. Morris: A Life With Bells On got 9000 folks to request the film and now they have 50 datesin the UK. Read about it here.

How about that? Add that to the arsenal of tools that you have to get your film booked. I wonder if anyone has used iPetitions.com or the like to similar effect. And if not, why not?

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September 27 at 3:02pm

Why Indie Film Industry Needs Producers

It’s not about just bringing the money…

Time and time again, I get the impression that the “Film Industry” generally does not value producers. I suppose I shouldn’t deduce that The Studios’ abandonment of Producer Overhead First Look Deals means that the business doesn’t value Producers, and just that The Studios need to control costs or that they have other ways of accessing content, but…

Well, it’s hard not to feel that it’s just that Producers aren’t respected. I suppose that financiers willingness to under pay Producers should not lead me to think that they don’t know how much a Producer does. Maybe they are just trying to get a good deal. I suppose that I could take it as flattering that experienced folks in the business, assume that my overhead is covered, that my assistant’s salary is taken care of.
So what is it that Producers do for the Film Industry at large?
  1. Producers bring new investors into the business, both in terms of sourcing them, and structuring deals that make sense from an investors’ perspective
  2. Producers look out for investors’ needs (substantially more than distributors do), as Producers think long term and need private equity to stay in the game.
  3. Producers provide development supervision to get the scripts right — and they usually get a lot more writing done without additional costs — because the authors know they are doing it to get the best movie made, and not just to justify their jobs.
  4. Producers inspire talent to embrace work for affordable yet just rates — because everyone knows that the producer is doing also for the love but for a whole lot longer.
  5. Producers counter-balance industry pressure to increase costs and keep movies’ budgets at levels that make sense — which is good for the industry.
  6. Producers innovate — be it in the search to deliver a better film or to control costs, innovation is in their blood.
  7. Producers develop talent and take the chances on emerging artists.
  8. Producers keep in touch with the audience, weighing where their tastes and habits are.
  9. Producers bring content, talent, technology, audiences, investors together.
  10. Producers help show the business and the culture where they might aspire to be going.

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September 27 at 1:09pm

Required Reading: NYC Indie Film Summit Wrap Ups

I hope to get a breath to give my thoughts on all this, but it more likely will come in the form of short subject posts, but I am really impressed with the wrap ups that greeted me this morning.

As much as I hope to address this in the weeks ahead, I am even more excited to hear from those that weren’t there. I have heard a plethora of solutions and reasons for hope in recent weeks — but from those in outside the film biz industry and those who have not been ordained into the establishment.
I am more energized than ever as I feel that although the business has changed we have a wave of new leaders about to claim ground. It won’t be the same old cinema, the same old festivals, the same old windows that it has been.
Sure it may mean my way of doing business is dead and I will soon be out on the street with my tin cup, but I guess that’s the price for thinking I was doing it right for too long. On the other hand, we have some movies going and I know my next group of films are even better than the ones I have made before so maybe I will get a few more years before execution.
Anyway, I would love to hear your responses to these articles.

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September 26 at 11:05am

Tools: Organizing Audiences

Mike Hedge pointed out to me that we now have a major distributor using Eventful to organize screenings on a local level. Back when Adventureland was released, I few fans found me to let me know that they had organized screening groups on MeetUp. Both of these are powerful tools, that the indie film community needs to make more use of.

And of course, let’s not forget where we first heard of this sort of thing. Arin & Susan paved the way for Dreamworks… ?! Let’s make sure this kind of thing becomes an indie filmmaker staple.
Imagine that when a filmmaker announced that their film is going to debut at a major film festival, that in addition to launching their trailer and going into a new phase with their blogging they also utilized these tools to aggregate audiences on a local level. There might be a film that was able to go on a tour immediately following the premiere taking the work directly to the core. I wonder what sort of impact it would have with the old school distributors to hear that a filmmaker already had thirty or more dates that the fans themselves requested.
Filmmakers could motivate fans to organize these screenings and to recruit audiences by offering a wide variety of incentives from exclusive music downloads to Skype Q&A’s afterwards. Film clubs could easily do the same. Heck, so could distributors. We have an Indie Film Promotional Army out there, already armed, and waiting for the call.
When I look at the number of tools we have at our disposal (check out the list on the right to start) that filmmakers are still underutilizing, I feel like we have all been given crate loads of matches but we still all live in the Dark Ages.
I would love to hear of some filmmakers direct experiences utilizing these specific tools.

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