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February 28 at 7:53am

How We Solve Problems Today (and a whole lot more…)

Bruce Sterling has a great post in Wired on “Atemporality for the Creative Artist”.It speaks accurately of the present, and offers a great prescriptive for what comes next.  What’s “Atemporality”?  Look at how problems are dealt with these days.  I know I come fairly close to what Sterling lays out here, and it goes a long way to answering that first question:

‘Step one – write problem in a search engine, see if somebody else has solved it already.

Step two – write problem in my blog; study the commentory cross-linked to other guys.

Step three – write my problem in Twitter in a hundred and forty characters. See if I can get it that small. See if it gets retweeted.

Step four – open source the problem; supply some instructables to get me as far as I’ve been able to get, see if the community takes it any further.

Step five – start a Ning social network about my problem, name the network after my problem, see if anybody accumulates around my problem.

Step six – make a video of my problem. Youtube my video, see if it spreads virally, see if any media convergence accumulates around my problem.

Step seven – create a design fiction that pretends that my problem has already been solved. Create some gadget or application or product that has some relevance to my problem and see if anybody builds it.

Step eight – exacerbate or intensify my problem with a work of interventionist tactical media. And step nine – find some kind of pretty illustrations from the Flickr ‘Looking into the Past’ photo pool.’

[...]


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February 18 at 1:04pm

Miao Wang On The Secrets of Her Kickstarter Success

We have a guest post today from Miao Wang, director of Beijing Taxi, set to premiere shortly in SXSW.

A number of people have asked me for my secrets in regards to Beijing Taxi’s successful recent Kickstarter campaign. Frankly, the campaign’s success far exceeded my expectations. As is often the case, I simply had no alternative. I had gotten the last of my rejection letters from the post production grants I applied for. I had just received my invitation to have BEIJING TAXI’s world premiere at SXSW. It gave me a much-needed boost of energy and a deadline to push for! I knew having SXSW’s world premiere would be a crucial element in the fundraising effort, yet it was a couple of weeks before I could publicly announce it. The pressure is on! It was either get into mounting debt for the post production expenses, or do my best to raise as much as I can! It seemed like a win-win situation. I had heard about Kickstarter a few month ago, but didn’t manage to find an invitation to post a project until the last minute. Luckily my friends at Argot Pictures came to the rescue and helped me secured an invitation. I was due to start color correction and sound mix in two weeks! [...]


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February 17 at 8:40am

Display Your Value: You Are Different From Them

I was reading on Estsy an article by Stacey Brooke that gives  recommendations to their community on how to help buyers recognize what they are getting when they purchase a hand-made item, and I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of it is readily applicable to the world of Truly Free Film. We are talking about hand-crafted personal work, not assembly line market-driven product. Truly Free Film is “a different thing entirely” from Hollywood.  Brooke sums it up well:

Your products aren’t the blue arugula created on an assembly line by workers paid far too little and shipped across the country to big box warehouses who take all the money and credit for your blood and sweat. You make things and sell things you put your soul into. You need to impart that message to your buyers. You need to show them — it’s a whole different thing.

What she discusses is also so true about truly free film.  Brooke & Etsy suggests to their sellers to document their process and post videos.  In the film world, this is our “behind the scenes” video.  Generally filmmakers just call this “additional content”.  Yet, as pointed on Etsy, these videos help audiences and buyers recognize why a work is distinct.

They encourage their community to “bolster their descriptions” about what they are selling, to explain the process in detail.  With a complex work like a feature film or cross-media project, this is not simple by any means.  Yet the more we understand what an artist set out to accomplish, what they discovered, what their influences were, how things shifted over time — the more we are allowed into the creative process — the more we will feel intimate with the artist(s).  The move we feel intimate with the artist(s), the more we are likely to promote  and curate their work.

I personally love it when film gets personal.  It’s one thing to do it with the content, but for me, being of the mind that cinema is really everything that surrounds a particular feature, it’s something a whole lot more, when the personal is illuminated in the process.  I love the post that Matthew Porterfield did about his film PUTTY HILL because it felt truly heartfelt for me.  It was intimate.  That is another thing that all these Kickstarter campaigns do for me: they keep it intimate.  I see their success and failure measured

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February 16 at 1:12pm

Solutions: New Breed’s Pt. 3 (and Pt. 2)

Part Two left with my cliffhanger.  Zak & Kevin have come up with several answers to the questions (along with raising the bar for whatever you’d call the quick release group discussion centered around a common event).  Watching this I was very won over by Sultan Sharrief ‘s efforts.  I sit with so many filmmakers who remain willing to put their trust in the old way of getting stars and expecting them to bring out the fans, finance, and distrib’s appetite.  It is very refreshing and inspiring to see folk like Sultan Sharrief accept the world as it really is and not let it stand in the way of their creative efforts.  And thanks to Sabi Pictures for helping to spread that energy and reality.  Check out their whole series if you haven’t.  You will be glad you did.

NEW BREED PARK CITY – Exploring The Solutions, Part 3 from Sabi Pictures on Vimeo.

When you think of it, why has it taken twenty years for the filmmaking community to take advantage of a location specific event like Sundance, and gather together people to discuss what it going on in our community at this time?  Zak and Kevin at Sabi do it so well, here’s hoping that other festivals recognize how this type of film can launch their festivals to the next level and should employ these guys to make these films regularly!.

Oh, and since I forgot to post Part Two, here it is:

NEW BREED PARK CITY – Exploring the Solutions, Part 2 from Sabi Pictures on Vimeo.

You can also see Part One here, or check out all of Sabi Pictures posts on Vimeo.

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February 16 at 8:16am

Press/Pause/Play: The Change In Production, Distribution, & Consumption…

Press/Pause/Play is a new documentary work-in-progress “about the change in production, distribution, and consumption of creative works”.  Obviously it is subject that interests me.  The filmmakers came by my office to interview me a while back.  Check it out.


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February 11 at 12:43pm

New Model: Bit Torrent Fee Sharing To Content Creators

Scott Macauley of FilmmakerMagBlog tipped me to this.  He writes:

Peter Sunde, one of the founders of the torrent site The Pirate Bay, has launched his venture, Flattr. Basically, on a monthly basis you commit to an amount of money that you’ll disperse to content creators. Then, as the month goes by, you click on their Flattr buttons and at the end of the month the service divvies up your funds and gives an equal amount to each person you’ve clicked.

Flattr.com – How Flattr Works from Flattr on Vimeo.


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February 10 at 8:00am

Matthew Porterfield On Truly Collaborative, Egalitarian, & Economical Filmmaking

Matthew Porterfield directed 2006′ HAMILTON.  His new film PUTTY HILL debuts in Berlin on February 18th.  I was really impressed with Hamilton and leapt to the call when I heard he was using Kickstarter to finish the film.  I also asked him what he was up to.  The following is his response, and represents TFF’s first joint post with HammerToNail (additional photos available there).

2009 was the summer of my liberation. After three years developing a script I never made and marketing it to a sleeping industry, I declared independence and made a film without permission.

This film, my second feature, Putty Hill, will premiere this month in Berlin as part of the 2010 International Forum for New Cinema. It marks a fresh approach to American regional cinema that stands apart from the romantic, anthropological, and formally conservative examples that have emerged on the art‐house circuit in the last few years. This has little to do with my talent and everything to do with our means of production. Truly collaborative, egalitarian, and economical, the traits of our model appear in stark contrast to the division of labor and totalitarian authorship characteristic of most film productions, even those made on the smallest scale, still beholden to a model developed off the Pacific coast and commodified in the dead shadows of Manhattan.

As a commodity, independent film has failed. Yet, regional cinema, of all the arts, has the greatest potential to achieve something close to objective reality, if such a thing exists. Its ontological value cannot be denied. Yet, in order to reach its potential, regional cinema must be freed from the confines of the old marketplace and made in a manner that honors its subjects, its audience, and their environment as authors and players in a collaborative process of production and distribution.

Perhaps this is nothing new. We’re learning as we go. But, I’ll proceed as if our process is novel in these times, and for the sake of argument, if nothing else, detail the progression of Putty Hill from conception through development and into the early stages of distribution.

Putty Hill was born from the ashes of a full feature script called Metal Gods, which chronicled a week in the lives of a group of marginalized kids in Baltimore City who live and love heavy metal. I wrote it with my collaborator Jordan Mintzer. Determined to make our sophomore effort a memorable one (after our critically‐ acclaimed but relatively hidden first feature, Hamilton), we worked hard on developing a regional story with universal themes. In 2007, we began casting and assembling the ingredients to shoot in the summer of 2009. Money was a big concern – our low budget estimate was $350K ‐‐ and we peddled the project to everyone we knew and many we didn’t, inside and outside the industry.

In September of 2008, the screenplay was accepted to participate in IFP’s Emerging Narrative Program at Independent Film Week. This opportunity provided us with a chance to sit down with independent producers and financiers, and we had many meetings, friendly and informative, which resulted in broad smiles, handshakes and even some business cards. We followed up as best we could, but unquestionably, the most valuable thing that came from the week was a grant in the form of a camera rental from IFP and Panasonic. Going into Putty Hill, when we finally put Metal Gods aside, this was all we had: a camera, $20,000, and 12 days to shoot.Because we couldn’t find financing, our hand was forced, and there wasn’t the time to develop a new feature‐length screenplay. We decided instead, since we had cast, crew, and locations in place from our time spent in pre‐production on Metal Gods, to move forward with a five‐page treatment crafted from the experiences and environments familiar to the team we had in place. I hoped it was a feature, but was hesitant to call it one, having not directed such a brief and open scenario before.

In essence, Putty Hill wasn’t much on paper. It was an outline, a skeleton that my dedicated cast and crew, and the community at large through their unending support, brought to life. Each of us on production, from my students at the university where I teach, to my cinematographer, Jeremy Saulnier, were equally invested and involved in the success of the project. Every actor was non‐ professional; our AC was also the Head Gaffer; one of my producers had never worked in film before, neither had our script‐supervisor; my wife was the costume designer; our editor had never cut a narrative feature; local businesses donated food, services, and equipment; people took off work and didn’t get paid. Writing this, I realize I’m describing the familiar clichés of the low‐budget indie film experience ‐‐ it’s nothing new. Where this project differs from the norm can be seen onscreen, in the product, which honors the contribution of every component member of production. If nothing else, I’m confident of that. Plus, it’s sexy as fuck.

Though we’ve been invited to premiere at the Berlinale and SXSW, Putty Hill is unfinished. We’ve amassed over $10K in credit card debt, none of which has gone to compensate our post‐production team for their services. In addition to debts owed, we have large festival and marketing expenses mounting, upwards of $20K.

If our production followed the Pedro Costa model, let’s say, our post and distribution strategy follows the Four Eyed Monsters model, thanks in large part to Kickstarter, a site developed under the influence of the fundraising and marketing strategies originated and implemented by Arin Crumley. In keeping with our objective to focus on the local while reaching the widest audience possible, we’ve mounted two successful fundraising campaigns in Baltimore, Maryland, which have raised over $5K. These, in conjunction with the Kickstarter campaign, have helped us reach our projected goal of $10K in just one week. But that’s less than half of the money we estimate we need to complete Putty Hill and ready it for exhibition.

Ultimately, our methods of working and our limited resources have allowed my team the freedom to stay open to the potential for magic, which only appears when things are left to chance. There are no rules to follow to guarantee the emergence of magic (which, in turn, leads to an audience’s experience of surprise), but there are a list of things to avoid. I won’t go into them here, but you might guess what they are. Or maybe they’re different for each of us. As in life, when we wish to be free, we must be willing to break the rules and work outside the system, even in the face of poverty and obscurity. I make $20K a year, yet I’ll continue to pay my collaborators first. How about you, filmmaker? What do you make?

– Matthew Porterfield


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