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Let me know what mattered most for you in terms of what was run here this past year on Truly Free Film.
Can Truly Free Film Appeal To Younger Audiences? (12/15/09)
What Does It Mean To Lead Well? (12/08/09)
Why The Indie Film Industry Needs Producers (11/30/09)
The 20 New Rules: What We MUST All Try To Do PRIOR To Shooting (11/23/09)
15 Ways To Show Your Collaborators You Appreciate Them (11/13/09)
Ten Filmmakers I Would Crowd Fund (11/2/09)
The Six Pillars Of Cinema: “Best Practices For A Complete Cinema (10/14/09)
Filmgoing Is A Necessary & Political Act (10/02/09)
Plea For A NYC Directors Support Group (9/29/09)
18 Actions Towards A Sustainable Truly Free Film Community (9/17/09)
How To Survive The Current Indie Producer Hell (9/8/09)
The Producer Credit: What It Means To Me (6/1/09)
The New Model (For Indie Film) 5/28/09
52 Reasons Why Indie Film Will Flourish(5/26/09)
38 American Independent Film Problems/Concerns (5/15/09)
A Producer’s Contribution (3 Parts)(3/15/09)
What Issues Are Facing Indies Today? (2/22/09)
The Filmmaker/Exhibitor Collaboration (1/15/09)
Earlier this year, while looking at Atlantic Magazine’s list of Brave Thinkers across various industries, I started to wonder who are of this ilk in our sector of so-called Independent Film.
- Franny Armstong – After making THE AGE OF STUPID via crowdsourcing funds, Franny also looked to the audience to help distribute her film, creating IndieScreenings.net and offering it up to other filmmakers (see The Yes Men below). By relying fulling on her audience from finance to distribution, Franny was able to get the film she wanted not just made, but seen, and show the rest of us to stop thinking the old way, and instead of putting faith in the gatekeepers, put your trust in the fans.
- Steven Beers – “A Decade Of Filmmaker Empowerment Is Coming” Steven has always been on the tip of digital rights question, aiding many, including myself, on what really should be the artist’s perspective. Yet it remains exceedingly rare that individuals, let alone attorneys, take a public stand towards artist rights — as the money is often on the other side.
- Biracy & David Geertz – Biracy, helmed by Geertz, has the potential to transform film financing and promotion. Utilizing a referral system to reward a film’s champions, they might have found a model that could generate new audiences and new revenue.
- Peter Broderick- Peter was the first person to articulate the hybrid distribution plan. He coined the term I believe. He has been tireless in his pursuit of the new model and generous with his time and vision. His distribution newsletter is a must have for all truly free filmmakers and his oldway/newway chart a true thing of beauty.
- Tze Chun & Mynette Louie – Last year, the director and producer of Children Of Inventiondecided that they weren’t going to wait around for some distributor to sweep them off their feet. They left Sundance with plans to adopt a hybrid plan and started selling their DVD off their website. They have earned more money embracing this new practice than what they could have hoped from an old way deal. As much as I had hoped that others would recognize the days of golden riches were long gone, Tze & Mynette were the only Sundance filmmakers brave enough to adopt this strategy from the start.
- Arin Crumley – Having raised the bar together with Susan Buice in terms of extending the reach of creative work into symbiotic marketing with Four Eyed Monsters, along with helping in the design of new tech tools for filmmakers (FEM was encouraging fans to “Demand It” long before Paranormal Activity), co-founding From Here To Awesome, Arin launched OpenIndie together with Kieran Masterton this year to help empower filmmakers in the coming months.
- IndieGoGo & Slava Rubin – There are many web 2.0 sites that build communities, many that promote indie films, many that crowd source funds, but Slava & IndieGoGo are doing it all, with an infectious and boundless enthusiasm, championing work and individuals, giving their all to find a new paradigm, and they might just do it.
- Jamie King – The experience of giving away his film “Steal This Film” lead Jamie to help build VODO an online mechanism initially built to help artists retrieve VOluntary DOnations for their work, but has since evolved to a service that helps filmakers distrubute free-to-share films through P2P sites & services, building on this with various experimental business models. Such practices aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for some — VODO has had over 250,000 viewers for each of its first three releases in 2009 — and the road is being paved by Jamie’s efforts.
- Scott Kirsner – Scott’s book Friends, Fans, & Followers covered the work of 15 artists of different disciplines and how each have utilized their audience to gain greater independence and freedom. Through his website CinemaTech, Scott has been covering and questioning the industry as it evolves from a limited supply impulse buy leisure buy economy to an ubiquitous supply artistcentric choice-based infrastructure like nobody else. His “Conversation” forum brought together the tech, entertainment, & social media fields in an unprecedented way.
- Pericles Lewnes – As a filmmaker with a prize winning but underscreened film (LOOP), Peri recoginized the struggle of indie filmmaking in this day and age. But instead of just complaining about it like most of us, Peri did something about it. He built bridges and alliances and made a makeshift screening circuit in his hometown of Annapolis, MD, founding The Pretentious Film Society. Taking indie film to the bars with a traveling projector and sound system, Peri has started pulling in the crowds and getting money back to the filmmakers. A new exhibition circuit is getting built brick by brick, the web is expanding into a net, from a hub spokes emmenate until we have wheels within wheels within wheels. Peri’s certainly not the only one doing it, but he brings an energy and passion we all need.
- Cory McAbee – It’s not enough to be a talented or innovative filmmaker these days. You must use the tools for entrepreneuarial activity that are available and you have to do it with flair. We can all learn from Corey. His films, his music, his live shows, his web stuff — it all rocks and deserves our following and adoption.
- Scott Macauley – some producers (like yours truly) write to spread the gospel, happy just to get the word out, not being the most graceful of pen. Scott however has been doing it with verve, invention, wit, and style for so long now, most people take his way wit words as a given. Not only is it a pleasure to read, the FilmmakerMagazineBlog is the center of true indie thought and appreciation. It’s up to the minute, devoid of gossip, deep into ideas, and is generally a total blast. And the magazine is no slouch either. And nor are his films. Can we clone the man?
- Brian Newman – After leaving Tribeca this year, Brian has showed no signs of slowing down, popping up at various conferences like PttP and the Flyaway Film Fest to issue missives & lectures helping to articulate both the problems facing indies these days along with starting to define how we will find our way out. Look to Brian to be doing something smart & exciting in the media world in 2010; somewhere someone smart should find a way to put this man to work shortly, but here’s hoping he does it on his own so we can all benefit from his innovative ideas.
- Nina Paley – In addition to successively adopting an “audience distribution” model for her film Sita Sings The Blues, Nina has been incredibly vocal about her experiences in the world of “free”, helping to forge a path & greater understanding for other filmmakers. And now her film is getting traditional distribution at the IFC Center in NYC (and our whole family, including the 9 year old spawn, dug it!)
- Jon Reiss – After adopting the DIY approach for his film Bomb It, Jon chose to share the lessons he’s learned in ever increasing ways, from his blog (and this one), to articles for Filmmaker Mag, to finally to the must-have artist-centric distribution book THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE. Anyone considering creating a truly free film, this book is mandatory reading first. Full disclosure: I penned an intro to Jon’s book.
- Mark Rosenberg – What does it take to create a new institution these days? Evidently quite a bit, because I can only think of one in the film space and that’s Rooftop Films. Mark curates and organizes with a great team of folks, who together have brought new audiences new films in new venues. NY is incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Rooftop’s work, but here’s hoping that Mark’s vision spreads to other cities this coming year.
- Liz Rosenthal – There is no better place to get the skinny on what the future for film, indie film, truly free film, artist-centric film, and any other form of media creation than London’s Power To The Pixel. Liz founded it and has catapulted what might once have been fringe truly into the mainstream. Expanding beyond a simple conference into a year round forum for future forward media thought, PttP brainstorms, curates, and leads the way in transmedia creation, curation, & distribution. Full disclosure: I was PttP keynote speaker this year.
- Lance Weiler – In addition to being a major force in both Transmedia thought, DIY distribution, and informative curatorial,with his role in Power To The Pixel, From Here To Awesome, DIY Days, & Radar web show but his generous “Open Source” attitude is captured by The Workbook Project, perhaps the most indispensable website for the TFFilmmaker. He (along with Scott Kirsner) provides a great overview of the year in tech & entertainment on TWP podcast here. It’s going to be in exciting 2010 when we get to see him apply his knowledge to his next project (winner of Rotterdam Cinemart 2009 prize and now a participant in the 2010 Sundance screenwriters’ lab). Full disclosure: This is that has signed on to produce Lance’s transmedia feature H.I.M.
- Thomas Woodrow – As a producer, Thomas has embraced the reality of the marketplace and is not letting it stand in his way. There is perhaps no other producer out there who has so fully accepted the call that indie film producing nowadays also means indie film distribution. He’s laying out his plan to distribute BASS ACKWARDS immediately after its Sundance premiere through a series of videos online. Full disclosure: I am mentoring Thomas vis the Sundance Creative Producing Lab.
- TopSpin Media – As their website explains: “Topspin is a technology platform for direct-to-fan maketing, management and distribution.” They are also the tech behind Corey McAbee’s activities and hopefully a whole lot of other filmmakers in the years behind. Founded by ProTools’ creator, Peter Gotcher, and Shamal Raasinghe, TopSpin is a “white label” set up thathas the potential to usher in the Age Of Empowerment for the artist/creator class. Today it is primarily a tool for musicians, but expect it to migrate into filmdom fully pretty damn soon.
- The Yes Men - The Emma Goldman (“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”) TFF 2009 Award winners for keeping both politics and film marketing fun, these pranksters hit all the fests, winning awards, and using it to launch their own distribution of THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD. Bravery’s always been their middle name, but they are among the first of rising tide of filmmakers willing to take for full responsibility for their film.
I have always supported the idea that you need to vote for the world you want with your dollars. I am the odd bird that believes in both optional and mandatory contributions to a better world; what’s all the beef about taxes? If our tax dollars really went to things I cared about, I would be all for more of them (as long as there was REALLY HEAVY penalties for corruption too that is). Hey, I’d even vote for mandatory conscription if it had more options than just military and if they provided some real training to the participants. But that’s a different subject, better suited for rants elsewhere. Let’s get back to the world of cinema…
Hopefully this will become easier to both identify and give in the new year with the rise of crowdfunding models.
Hopefully this too will become more widespread and easier with crowdfunding in the new year.
20 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere Part 1
by Jon Reiss
Author of Think Outside the Box Office
One of the biggest discussions that came out of @Jon_Reiss on twitter a couple of weeks was about filmmaker preparation to launch a film at a film festival. I talk about this in the Film Festival chapter of Think Outside the Box Office I gave out on IndieWire last week. This concept of initiating the release of a film at the film’s festival premiere was spawned by my talks with filmmakers who had had big splashes at premiere festivals, but were never able to generate the same level of promotion or interest eight months later when their film was finally released. Further, there are a couple of companies pursuing this course of action as a strategy – IFC Festival Direct and Snag Films have launched releases of films at film festivals. In fact, specialty divisions have recognized the buzz generating power of festivals and have been using them for many years to launch films.
Premiering at Sundance and Slamdance provides a film with one of the biggest world stages to launch a film. A savvy filmmaker might consider using the festival to launch a national release of their film. Even though I am a fan of this idea (especially for the films that have been developing their marketing and distribution plans for many months) I want to provide a bit of caution to filmmakers who might consider this path without being prepared.
I do not recommend attempting to initiate the actual release of your film if you are just scrambling to get it finished and have not prepared for distribution or marketing.
One alternative if you are not ready at Park City to launch a full release, is to do so at your next big festival 4-6 months down the line. This approach was used by Weather Girl to good effect last year.
I am going to break up this discussion into 2 different posts. The first is what I feel that every filmmaker should consider before going to their premiere festival especially if if they are not ready to launch the full release of their film. (I will refer to Park City below – but it is interchangeable with any premiere festival)
1. You need to develop a distribution and marketing strategy for your film. This does not mean “sell my film for $ 5 million to Fox Searchlight”. That is not a strategy. Your strategy should takes into consideration Your Film, Your Needs, Your Resources, Your Audience.
2. In evaluating your film: how likely is it that you will garner an all rights deal at Park City? (there were approximately four of these out of Toronto).
3. Have you created an alternate plan of action for your film in case a magical overall deal does not happen for your film? You should have a sense of what your alternatives might be before arriving at Park City so you know how to evaluate offers.
4. Very important: How will you use Park City to help enact that strategy? Perhaps the best opportunity at Park City is to lay the groundwork for a split rights arrangement. You should have a sense of what those pieces are and how they might fit together before you get to Park City.
5. What team will you assemble for Park City? The old school approach is a sales rep/lawyer and publicist. Concerning sales reps, Peter Broderick recommends (and I agree) that you should create your strategy before you engage a sales rep so you have a basis with which to evaluate what they are telling you (and so that you can use this mind set to evaluate who will be the best sales rep for your specific film). In fact in the new split rights world, strategists/consultants can be a big help. I will publish a list of some consultants who I have either worked with or know on my blog in the coming days – and I’ll announce the list on @Jon_Reiss.
6. Concerning a publicist – some publicists have also started to move into the distribution strategy realm – such as 42 West. Have you discussed with your publicist the desire to hold your press for release? Few publications will give you more than one review. As publicist Kathleen McInnis recs: You have to balance buzz building with having material to release upon release. Fest roundup coverage is great. But publicists can be expensive which brings up another issue:
7. How much money do you want to spend on “opening” your film at your festival. Sure you want hype – but I would strongly recommend keeping as much of your resources as possible for the proper release of your film. With the sales climate such as it is – does it make sense to spend $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 on Park City if you don’t even have that much reserved for the release of your film. Resources are limited – use them wisely. Resources also include the time you can request of your cast and of yourself and your team as well.
8. What do you want from your deals? How might you fit various offers into various split rights scenarios? Is your rep prepared to work with you on setting up split rights scenarios if there is no overall deal. Are you prepared to walk away from low ball offers. How do you choose various distribution partner(s) for monetizing different rights?
9. Are you prepared to engage the audience for your film that the festival will generate so that you can retain them in your fan base? This includes the following:
10. Do you have a website that invites engagement? Do you offer something to viewers to collect their email list. Check out onetoomanymornings.com (who sent me their website – as they were probably spamming it around – I recommend this – if you send me your site and I like it – I’ll tweat it). One Too Many Mornings offer a mix “tape” for your email address (but it is well below the “fold”. I recommend that they and you give people all a number of options of connecting with you “above the fold” eg in the top of the section of a website. This includes email list sign up in exchange for some kind of digital swag. Facebook, Twitter and Rss links. (the latter presumes you have a blog – which you should) Not everyone will want to give you an email address, some people prefer Facebook (tip from Cynthia Swartz of 42 West), others Twitter. Onetoomanymornings already has a robust Facebook fan page of over 1200.
11. Collect email addresses at every screening. Pass around several pads and pens and announce before the screening that you want people to sign up. Have pads ready outside of the screening for people who don’t want to wait for the pad in the theater. Keep a folder for each festival so you know where the email addresses came from originally. You want Name, Email Address, Zip, Country. (Another tip pounded into my head by Broderick)
12. Do you have a trailer? Many films at Park City last year did not have trailers in advance of the festival that could be viewed on line. The sooner you have one the better. But it should be good. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Do you have more than a trailer? Might you video blog from the festival or partner with your cast? Something unique that shows your imagination.
13. Key Art is important. A central compelling image speaks volumes for your film. See if you can get a someone with marketing experience to work on your “copy” eg the text of the poster. Get a good graphic designer to do the art. You can crowdsource this through crowdspring.com On-line postcards are very cheap these days but you should balance price vs shipping cost. Business cards are also cheap, making new ones with some graphical branding of your film is a good idea. Have all of the ways people can connect with you and your film on your card: email address, facebook page for film, Twitter, Blog.
14. Especially if you are doing your publicity DIY, or making a deal with a publicist so that you have to do more of the work: Consider putting your press kit, photos, compressed trailer etc in a drop.io account so that you don’t have to constantly attach those items to your emails. Set up an auto signature with the drop io link and you will be able to handle those multitudes of press requests with ease.
15. Are you going to sell DVDs? It doesn’t take much to author a festival edition and replicate 1000 for $1000. (You’ll need at least 200-300 for press and other festival submissions anyway). Say you are in 5 biggish festivals (which by virtue of being in Park City most likely you will be in at least that many). Say you sell 100 at each festival – a conservative amount – live sales are some of your best sales (especially if you make it a collector’s edition). That’s 500 dvds at $20. That’s $10,000 which should just cover your Park City publicist. Peter Broderick has been advocating this for years. We held back the sales of the DVD for Bomb It at our premiere at Tribeca and yet it was still available as a bootleg on Canal St. one week after the festival. If you have a film that might be very popular on pirate sites – you should think through selling your DVD and what your strategy to deal with piracy is going to be. I don’t feel that any DVD company worth their salt is going to worry about this level of sales from you (if they are worried – how many are they going to sell on their own for you.)
So that’s Part One.
I would love to hear what you think at www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss
All of the above points are covered more extensively in my book Think Oustide the Box Office. Come visit the brand new site at: www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com
- How can you help other artists with this film you are doing? Can you bring others into the process?
- Do something stylistically just because you like it. Allow something to be “outside” the film, something that doesn’t fit so right and is only there because you dig it. Why does it always have to fit?
- How can you help the world by the content of this film? How can you work for impact first, and business second (without ignoring those financial obligations, that is)?
- How can you have less environmental impact on the world with your process? Recycle. Use less paper. No styrofoam. Car pool. Carbon credits.
- How can you do more to show appreciation for your collaborators? What if you put people first would that change your content significantly?
- Are you really collaborating with your crew? Do they feel like you are? What if you listened more, and spoke less?
- You say it is a team approach, but what if everyone was treated equally? What if your equality carried over not just to financial matters, but also in terms of access?
- What if you completely demystified the process and opened it up to comment by all cast, crew, and fans? As opposed to the studio’s no-twitter policy, what if you made it a requirement>
- What would be a different business model? Could you give it away? Free it? Never plan to screen it theatrically? What if the movie was not the main event, but something else was?
- Place the bar higher & reach higher. What makes something better? What if you made sure you could answer any question as to why before you started? Or maybe this would be the opposite and you should answer no questions but hold it all within yourself…
- Is your work truthful? Is every action, emotion, reaction honest? Are the settings truly lived in? Can you extend only from your characters, their psychology and socio-economic situation — removing your own intent from the design?
- What if you built your audience base prior to shooting? And maintained significant communication with them throughout the process? How might that change your final work?
- Innovate. Try some new equipment on every production. Improve a simple process. Isn’t production about the communication of information in the service of art, as efficiently, economically, and aesthetically as possible?
The Art House audience is graying at a rapid rate. Indie Film has lost its marketing muscle in a way that Indie Rock never has. New film audiences aren’t developing in the same way that they once was. Why aren’t we all doing more to recruit new participants?
Perhaps the greatest contribution the AmerIndie scene has made to film culture has been the demystification of the filmmaking process. It once was a very closed-door operation, and as a result shut out many people from joining by sheer intimidation.
First off, let me just say: WOW! I was told that this was impossible but you are all proving it otherwise. It’s been a short prep with a tremendously ambitious schedule, and we’ve been making the days (54 set ups today!) and everyone has such a great attitude and spirit. I am loving this film, this crew, this town, this total experience. Thank you.Secondly though, let me tell you that by working on the film SUPER you are participating in only part of the experience. You now have the chance to get inside the minds of the cast, crew, director and producers — thanks to the miraculous and free broadcast platform know as Twitter.Did you know that our star Rainn Wilson is one of the leading Twitter communicators? Over 1.6 Million people receive his daily tweets. Mr. Gunn is no slacker himself in that department with over 20,000 receiving his feeds. And both these guys are really funny.Me, I use twitter primarily to try to figure out where our film business is going and to try to point it in the direction I want. Everyone on it use it to promote and spread the news, music, and information they want. Hey, even some folks I know have found their significant others on it.And know what? I found this project on Twitter when Rainn posted about it. This movie would not have happened because of it.Registering is free. Just go to http://twitter.com/ , select a screen name, and start selecting some people to follow. Or take my advice and write some tweets before you follow them, but really do what you want to do. You can find interesting people to follow by looking at whom your friends follow and clicking on them to follow.But here is where I think it gets really interesting: I have set up a SUPER group where I list the feeds of everyone involved in the making of the movie. I would like to add your Twitter Feed to the group. So if you join, email me and tell me what your Twitter name is and I will add you to the list.You can also find all the other Super folk there to follow.It will give you and the world a new perspective into the film. I am encouraging you to do this, because I have had a lot of fun doing it, and I think we will all learn from doing it. And I think it will be really cool to show the world SUPER from the inside out. But we need your help.I do request your confidence and discretion though. There are some things we may like to not reveal to the general public, like how the story goes or how things look, and we hope you can respect that, and after all you’ve read your contract and know what you can and can’t do any way, right?Anyways, thanks for working with James, Miranda, Lampton and all of us on this film. Together, we can make something really great that we will all be proud of. Let’s spread the word about what we are doing here.THANKS AGAIN!TedAny way check out the feed and you can see what it is like to be on set, sort of…