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May 27 at 12:24pm

Jon Reiss on Proper Prior Planning Prevent Perplexing Problems

By Ted Hope

Today’s guest post is from filmmaker / hybrid DIY distro guru, Jon Reiss.

Over the last several months an argument has arisen within the independent film community as to how much (and whether) filmmakers should focus on the distribution and marketing of their films.

I am rather surprised that there is an argument.  I am very surprised that lines have been drawn in the sand, armies joined and deployed.  I feel that the discussion to date misses two very important points.  First – there is no one kind of independent filmmaker.  There is no one kind of filmmaker.  Never has, never will be.  Thank god.  Each person who is involved in independent film has his or her own desires, interests, passions, loves, hates.  Each filmmaker has different motivations for making a film.  Some want to make a statement, change the world – whether it is social or artistic.  Some want to make money.   Some want to express an idea or emotion to as many people as possible.  Most filmmakers want it all.   However if push comes to shove, filmmakers will prioritize what they want from their films.  And these desires are different for different filmmakers.

Similarly not everyone in independent film wants to be a director, or a writer-director, or a writer-producer-director.   Some filmmakers just want to direct and prefer to collaborate with scriptwriters and producers.  Some filmmakers don’t want to direct, but want to be producers, DPs, editors etc.

Second, the debate implies that directors or multi hyphenate writer-director-producers should be primarily responsible for these new tasks.   I will always be among those that directors should not be solely charged with the distribution and marketing of their films.  As a filmmaker, I know how incredibly difficult this is (especially while making a film) – Frankly one of the reasons this blog post is perhaps a bit late to the debate is that I have been involved with shooting Bomb It 2.

However, I do believe that distribution and marketing should be woven into the filmmaking process just as preproduction planning, casting, scriptwriting, editing, sound mixing are all a part of the filmmaking process.  Just as you don’t consider the sound for your film when you are about to mix or even when you are editing dialogue.  If good sound is important to you as a filmmaker, usually you are considering the sound for your film no later than the tech scout, and often from the script stage. Similarly I feel that filmmakers will be helped both logistically and creatively to incorporate distribution and marketing into the entire process of making their films.

It should be understood by our community that distribution and marketing are not about tailoring your film to an audience that you feel you can capitalize on (however if the sole goal for your film is to make money – perhaps this might be a path for you).

A better way to view this process is that distribution and marketing are about finding the audience that already exists for your film, your vision.  (I credit Marc Rosenbush with this keen perspective).

This process of audience engagement takes either a lot of money or a lot of time.  Most independents do not have much of the former, and so must rely on the latter.   It also takes knowledge.

Knowledge can either be learned through experience or through education or a combination.

A year ago, I felt compelled to write a book about distribution and marketing for my fellow filmmakers as a guidebook to this process.  I did this  so that they could learn from my experience and the experiences of others and so that they wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel each time anew.  (How awful would it be that every time we shot a film we had to relearn how different lenses, different lighting, different editing affected the emotional quality of a scene).  It is time to compile our knowledge and share it with each other so that each new filmmaker does not have to waste his or her time to relearn tools and techniques that have been tried by others before them.

I have begun a number of other educational initiatives to which I will devote most of the next twelve months.

I do this not to load more work onto the backs of my fellow filmmakers.  The work frankly exists even if you are one of the lucky few to have a distributor swoop down with a check to relieve you of this burden.

I do this for five reasons:

1. To provide a systematic way to train a new cadre of crew people to be responsible for the distribution and marketing tasks on a film.  I call these new crew people Producers of Marketing and Distribution.

I gave this crew position a name because only with a proper name will the work be recognized, rewarded and most importantly trained for.

Few directors want to do every job on their films.  Many don’t want to be multi-hyphenates.  They are happy to find a brilliant script to bring to the screen.  They are happy to work with a brilliant DP or Production Designer.  They are happy to collaborate with a creative producer who will help them realize their vision.   God knows I am.

Just as filmmakers are eager to collaborate on what has been previously thought of as the work of film, directors and producers should be eager to collaborate with additional crew people who will carry out the numerous tasks of distribution and marketing.

I hope by the time I make my next project, I can put out a call for a Producer of Marketing and Distribution on Shooting People, or Mandy and I will receive a flood of emails.   I hope this for all filmmakers.

In order to create these new crew people, we must provide a way to educate them. Toward this end, I am now working with film organizations around the world to create a variety of educational opportunities to teach this material in the form of classes, labs and workshops.  I am also in the process of creating an online tools website so that filmmakers can share information about distributors, screening networks and the like (kind of a marketing and distribution yelp for filmmakers).  This website will eventually grow into an online academy to teach these tools to filmmakers (especially to create a cadre of PMDs for filmmakers).

I applaud the others who are engaged in this teaching – Peter Broderick, Lance Weiler, Ted Hope, Scott Macaulay, Sheri Candler, Scott Kirsner, Tiffany Shlain, Marc Rosenbush, Thomas Mai, Sandy Dubowsky, Caitlin Boyle, Stacey Parks, IFP, FIND etc.  We should embrace this education as a community – not eschew it.  (I do agree that panels are a poor way to educate.  Go to any university (or any school) and you find very little education being done via panels. )

2. Filmmakers who have no intention of shooting their films still take classes in (or read books about) cinematography so as to understand the art.   Similarly, I feel that filmmakers should at least have a sense of what is entailed in distribution and marketing a film so that they can understand that process.  This does not mean that they have to devote their life to this education (or to the work).  But with knowledge comes power.   I advise my film directing students at Cal Arts to learn the basics of budgeting and scheduling, even if they never intend to produce, AD, UPM or line produce.  I believe by learning the process, they will however acquire the tools to look at a budget and schedule and understand where resources are being allocated so that they can have an informed discussion with their line producer about said resource allocation.

3.  As independent filmmakers, we need to be prepared to take on any task in the filmmaking process, because we are never sure if we will have someone else to do that task for us.  You might not be lucky enough to have someone shoot your film, edit your film, help you with the distribution of the film.  Hence any of these roles might fall to you.  I can’t afford to take a DP with me around the world to film Bomb It 2 (or a producer or sound person) – so I am doing it myself.   Independent filmmakers have always been Jacks and Jills of all trades.  Distribution and marketing is one of the trades we thought we could hand over to others.  We know now that this (fortunately or unfortunately) is not always the case.   As I learned from my odd 7th grade math teacher: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Perplexing Problems.

4. Maybe, just maybe, in learning about distribution and marketing you might discover some new creative way to express your vision that you did not previously know existed.  I love feature films.  I love great shorts. I even love great television of either conventional length.    But these are four forms that have become ossified in the filmmaking world for too long as the only forms.  I feel that great creativity will come from expanding filmmaking – nay media creating – forms.   Why slaughter your babies in the editing room?  Find new life for them.  Why not create multiple babies in the script stage to express your thoughts in a myriad of new directions?  And still make a feature film if that is your passion.  Why not collaborate with other filmmakers to help you create these new forms of content and reach those audiences, if your goal is to focus solely on making the feature?

5.  Maybe, if you are interested, you might create a long-term relationship with a core audience, that might help to sustain you as an artist.

The central point is this: Don’t limit yourself.   Open up your arms to the vast amount of creative potential that awaits you, and do so with the collaboration of others who are eager to help you.  I believe this should be the model for us as a community to face the new financial realities of our world.   There is too much work to be done for those in our community to vilify others.  It is a time ripe for great opportunity to create and engage with audiences as we have been doing as a species since we first sat around fires telling stories.   The form will change, the meaning to us, as human beings will not.

I am doing a workshop in conjunction with IFP on June 5th and 6th. Instead of panels, we are having a cocktail party for participants to meet with distributors and other distribution and marketing service providers.

I will be doing another workshop in Vancouver on June 12 – 13th.

Finally for June I have collaborated with the LA Film Festival and Film Independent to create a three-day distribution and marketing symposium.  A day and a half boot camp for the competition filmmakers, and a day and a half open to the public focused on 1. Tools instruction  2. Exploring the potential available to us all.

For more information:  www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

Or www.jonreiss.com/blog

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  • http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org Jeffrey Winter

    fyi…if any filmmakers are seeking distribution resources….you can click here:


    There are several parts of the site that are membership protected, but if filmmakers need access…we can make them available!

  • http://www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com Jon Reiss

    The Film Collaborative are very cool! They are non profit and super helpful, knowledgeable etc. I use them to negotiate all my deals now. It is one of the best concepts going. Check out their digital distribution guide.

    Jon Reiss

  • http://www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com Jon Reiss

    Jon. I think you could greatly benefit by Caitlin Boyle's community outreach guideance. She only charges $250 now for a consult (I paid her $400 for the same for Bomb It and it was someof the best money I spent). I say this because I looked at your site and felt that your film specifically could benefit from it. You could just read the chapter in the book she collaborated with me on. But I think that small $ is worth it for her to taylor the discussion for your film. RE a PMD. I'd rec Mandy.com and post as a director's asst to start with the potential of advancing to Assoc producer/coproducer full producer depending on time and committment . Lot of up and comers out there who want to break in and sink their teeth in on a film.

  • laurabot

    see M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Jon Raymond

    Thanks Jon

  • http://www.jbmovies.com John W. Bosley

    The best comment I can make about this post was a guest post I had on Film Courage blog: http://filmcourage.blogspot.com/2010/03/true-ga… Specifically I would point out the bottom of the blog post where I talk about Satellites. I stated
    “Think about each film like launching a satellite into space and keeping it orbiting around the earth. In order to do this a satellite needs to be big enough to stay in orbit and it also needs to go high enough to break the stratosphere. Many films, sadly never make it high enough in impact to be remembered or even noticed at all.

    The main focus people have in the Indie film business is the marketing/distribution side. In recent years, Indie filmmakers have complained because the distribution process has left them out in the cold. However, maybe we're focusing on the wrong thing. If you create an innovative, bold, courageous project than the statement it makes will draw people to see your project. Why did people go to see AVATAR when it first came out in theaters? Because of the trailer? Because it was in 3D or IMAX? No, because it was all you heard about it. You want your project to be so great that people can't shut up about it!”

    My point is that marketing does make up probably over 50% of the success of your film (commercially), but it's the innovative, original, thought provoking “head turning” films that gain the best financial success. If you're going to make a film, come out with the most unique piece of art possible. But don't forget to start marketing before you ever start shooting.

    Btw, key influencers are a HUGE key to your success. A film maybe about the story, but the film business is about “who knows you and who knows your project”. Get attention ASAP by people who would love to talk about your film. There are many reasons for someone to talk about your film. Maybe it's someone's friend who's starring in your film. Maybe it's the topic, the style, something new and different you're doing. Whatever it is, get the people who would talk about it to talk about ASAP.

  • http://www.gregorybayne.com Gregory Bayne

    Thanks, Jon. Again, I say this being, for all intents and purposes, in agreement with you, and as person (and artist) that is marketing and distributing my own work. But I feel it's important to state the difference between this new advent of 'filmmaker self-help', and screenwriting courses, or film school is that there are actually experts in these fields (or crafts). Other than yourself, or Lance Weiler (who is very open source in his approach to sharing his knowledge, and harnessing that of others), there isn't a large number of actual experts in this new world of distribution, primarily because everything is so new, and changing constantly.

    That said, there seems to be no end to the people claiming this very expertise, and charging very real $ for this supposed expertise. Yet, many of these self proclaimed experts don't make or distribute films for a living, or if they have, the experience is limited to usually one project, one success. This, in my opinion does not represent expertise.

    I appreciate what you are doing Jon, and see a lot of openness in your approach as well via your blog, and participation in events across the country, and globe. I find your book to be valuable and full of information that transcends the simply anecdotal. Just pointing out that there appears to be a new pack of vultures in town preying upon the fragile hopes, and in many cases, desperation of filmmakers who are looking for genuine help, and real answers…only to be taken for dollars they do not have, charged for information they likely already had, but just lacked the empowerment to act upon.

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Jon Raymond

    zahra, You might check out this video from Cannes: http://www.livestream.com/guerillafilm/video?cl
    Near the end is an interview with a distributor who talks about what sells and what doesn't and why they turn stuff away. Maybe you already found this out. But if not, it is enlightening and might help you figure out how to do a recut or alter your film enough to make it marketable.

    I'm not one to compromise art for business. But it can't hurt to take it into consideration. This is really inline with what Jon says here. But it's not pushing your stuff onto people with a PDM. It's pushing it onto distributors. There's something about that I find much more appealing. Besides, you can always hold onto your current cut and redistribute it later as a redux version.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1060285062 Jun Kitatani

    I think you might find this interesting


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1060285062 Jun Kitatani

    The link is about our innate need for challenge, mastery and making a contribution. The purpose motive vs. financial motive.

  • http://twitter.com/fnafilms zahra

    Hey Jon (Raymond)

    Thanks for the link. I had seen that – but the sentiment is much appreciated. I am pushing my film to distributors too, but as I said way back when I think having a PMD right now while we are still developing the film is only going to help. The girl who is my PMD (recruited just this past week) is just about to graduate with a degree in media and communication, and her dissertation was on building business through social media. To me that is the perfect skillset for her to start out with… she has an understanding of film/ media but her passion is social media and networking. Obviously being a PMD is unchartered territory for her and having a PMD (Jon Reiss's blog on the duties of a PMD http://bit.ly/bYJmgY) is new for me. But even in a traditional model where we are making a film solely with the intention of passing it on to a distributor we still have a number of deliverables that we need before we get paid. Having someone working with me to help make sure I get all of these assets (and that I have copies) is going to be invaluable – often a lot of that responsibility would fall to the post-producion supervisor – but on a low budget (as with everything else) it would fall to me the producer.

    There are a number of reasons why a film may not get the viewers that we hope for – obviously the film not being any good is one of them. But for the sake of this argument let's say the film is good – but the audience is not one who frequents theatres – knowing that before launching an expensive theatrical campaign is most valuable. So we're not going to go theatrical – how else can the audience see the film? DVD, Pay TV, VoD etc etc. In the UK the big supermarket chains (where a ton of people buy their DVDs) won't stock a DVD unless you've had a theatrical – and so we are already looking at a distribution paradox – no DVDs in the supermarket without a theatrical, but the theatrical is gonna be a waste of time! Traditionally we as filmmakers haven't needed to know this as we've had a distributor to handle it for us… but now I know things like this I can make an informed decision as to whether I want to spend money on a theatrical if my audience doesn't go to cinemas.

    Even if I get a distributor (which I'm not ruling out) I am better of knowing where my audience consumes their media to decide if the distributor is making best use of his/her P&A budget – which will need to be recouped before I get a penny. I know this all smacks of business – but at the end of the day if I'm spending someone else's (my investors) money then I believe I have a duty to look after that money and not fritter it away.

    This is what makes me think like a business person – I have yet to find a wealthy benefactor who will give me the money to make my films and who isn't bothered whether they get that money back… They also aren't that keen on the “if I make a great film people will find it” argument – they want to see facts and figures… a bloody business plan! So I have no choice if I want to make my films at the budget levels I believe they need to achieve the artistic quality necessary then I have to be able to show that (and here's the business clincher) the market will support my proposed budget. I HATE it as much as the next person – but if that's what it takes to get my film made then that's what I have to do.

  • http://www.robertamunroe.com Roberta Munroe

    Here, here Gregory!

    Recently I've had several conversations with industry folk about the ridiculous cost of workshops/seminars/consulting.

    People might think that my fees are super low because I work primarily with short filmmakers. Not true. They're low because I find it immoral to charge what essentially amounts to half a person's rent to attend a workshop where they're simply finding all the information they could find online or in a $13 book organized in an 8 hour (or 16 hour) session.

    Yes, all of us 'experts' should certainly be paid for our time – but what I believe to be the foundation that guides my price points is something we all know. Out of 35 workshop attendees perhaps 5 will go on to make a successful film and truly gain financially based on what they learned at our workshop. The other 30 will not. Am I prepared to charge hundreds of dollars when I know most of you will probably NOT make that money back? I'm not.

    And am finding it increasingly more difficult to keep my mouth shut about those who do.

    I've attended several filmmaker workshops (master classes, seminars) and listened to what everyone else had paid upwards of $375 to hear and asked a few attendees during the lunch break if they thought they were getting their money's worth. None said yes.

    Filmmakers *must* research these so-called events thoroughly before spending huge amounts of money that they may never get back.

    Workshop hosts *must* create an affordable way to share their expertise (if in fact they have it) that doesn't limit the attendee demographics. $375 is a significant amount of money for most of the kind of filmmakers who are lining up to attend these workshops.

    If you really have a burning desire to share what you know with the rest of us – cast the widest net possible, and you do this by creating a fee structure that almost anyone could afford, inviting special guest speakers who have had more than one success and using an easily accessible location for the event.

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Jon Raymond

    But Zac, that's exactly my point, if it were good you wouldn't need the link. You'd have sought it out for yourself.

  • Jun Kitatani

    John Wayne (Bosley), You hit the nail on the head.
    FYI for readers: AVATAR had a gazillion in publicity and marketing, Jon's (Reiss) addressing the independent film community. With no $$$ and major studio backing, the current “Industry” business-as-usual is have you bend over, and you ask “how far?” Quality story-telling is a premise to Jon's (Reiss) argument too. Jon's (Reiss) book, website and workshops give you the practical know-how and resources to get what John Wayne (Bosley) comments on accomplished, if you're interested.

  • Jun Kitatani

    One of the best.
    A good database is “Cinando.com is the database dedicated to cinema industry professionals. It offers an extra large panorama of the film industry: contacts, profiles, film for sale, projects in development, and screening schedules during the main markets… it’s all there!”
    Also from Jon Reiss “A resource and community site for filmmakers to help each other find the best solutions for their distribution and marketing needs.”
    “I am also in the process of creating an online tools website so that filmmakers can share information about distributors, screening networks and the like (kind of a marketing and distribution yelp! for filmmakers). This website will eventually grow into an online academy to teach these tools to filmmakers (especially to create a cadre of PMDs for filmmakers).”

  • Jun Kitatani

    Astute comment, Jeffrey.
    “Pure Artists” exist, and they still do. No independent in documentary or feature claims to have the business acumen of a Wall St. executive, although some come fairly close. Trail and error and/or do-or-die conditions may have pulled out the innate “business person” residing in some of us.
    Hence: “A year ago, I felt compelled to write a book about distribution and marketing for my fellow filmmakers as a guidebook to this process. I did this so that they could learn from my experience and the experiences of others and so that they wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel each time anew.” (Jon Reiss)

    For cutting-edge transmedia/cross-platform success stories in the Indie arena, look to Lance Weiler:
    “The WorkBook Project is for those who want to be creative in the digital age. An open creative network that provides insight into the process of funding, creating, distributing and sustaining from one's creative efforts.”

    Also: “Seize the Media is a media company dedicated to the development and exploitation of media properties in the Transmedia domain. We develop, produce and market original creative works and Transmedia programs. These works derive from our own intellectual property and from licenses that we have acquired from third parties.”

    A basic visionary.

  • Jun Kitatani

    Solutions I see to the few problems you see:

    1. What Jon Reiss et. al. suggests is not launching a marketing campaign of Studio standards. Particularly the Net marketing campaigns of Email blasts, social media promos and sales, one-way fan pages and walls plastered with self-promotion. Case in point: the indie community abhors this. You are absolutely correct. Underground is underground. Word of mouth. Trust. In this approach, the audience will never feel “marketed” to. With this approach, the creator/filmmaker make a personal connection to people who have passion for lifestyle choices and creative choices that resonate with the filmmaker's aesthetic sensibility. This connection is a ripple effect that spreads-out from the die-hard core community directly involved with the subject/genre/cause of the artist/filmmaker, to larger circles of communities that share similar interests. This is what they mean by audience building. Not the one-size-fits-all approach to targeting audiences that is the studio solution to mass appeal.

    The talking to people is indispensable to this approach. To know who your audience is, where they are, what they're connected to, what communities and what social circles exist, no matter how underground it is. The artist/creator/filmmaker's responsibility is to make a personal connection and outreach to all of them. Unique to the project, and unique to the audience. A grassroots system of targeting, building trust and love along the way.

    2. Modernization of old ideas is exactly the problem. The inability to get beyond rehashing old systems is the problem. Hence: Think Outside The Box Office. Outside mass appeal, only possible with millions in publicity anyhow, outside this-it-the-way-it's-always-been way of doing things. Jon et. al. are pointing to different possibilities through adopting new tools for adaptation, change and true independence from the one way take-it-or-leave it deals of studios, that leave all of us all in debt and force us to cut our losses so we can move on or just quit.

    You're absolutely correct. Forcing change is a waste of energy. We are creative, solving problems, ingenuity and blazing new trails is the birth right of the artist. We'll not only cope, we'll actually thrive in this new environment.

    3. Again, you are correct. Budgets range from nothing to several millions. Here the POV is budget for marketing and distribution at inception. Not just $$$, but the investment in time to discover, create identity with and build the mutual trust and confidence that manifests in true community. All grass-roots/word-of-mouth, these communities that that join will have faith in the artist/creator/filmmaker. They'll feel supported and personally involved in the generation of the community. Screenings will be decided and attended by them and the live community experience of film will be the norm, no longer the exception. Star power is star power, no matter what. Let's be clear: you're right. audience-friendly pandering is definitely not the approach forwarded by Jon et, al. Yes on curing the disease, but by targeting the cause, and not just getting rid of symptoms. Ice cream recipes are best when it's home made, when you Do It Yourself. Even if that means asking the help of trusted experts/friends and colleagues (not Do It All Yourself).

  • Jun Kitatani

    The theatrical experience is ritual, it's religious, it's communal and intrinsic to film. However, picture a packed venue with die-hard fans and enthusiasts who attend a limited-run engagement in a place voted on and selected by them. This venue can be in a theater, outdoors, on a roof top, museum, place of worship, even a place that's suited to the genre of the film. The communal experience is heightened at these venues. any place will book a screening with attendance like this. It's a far cry from the lonely experience of sitting in an empty muliplex to see a movie you have no particular vested interest in. This is planned for at inception as “marketing and distribution” (in the new way of doing things).

  • Jun Kitatani

    You are absolutely right. Marketing is not the solution. It's just a distraction, but only if it's an after-thought after the movie is made. Everything you say is true, but only in the old way of doing things; the way things are done up until now. This system no longer works. It has collapsed. This is Jon's point.

    If we learn marketing, even if we aren't the ones who do it, we'll know enough to spot con-artists and charlatans. Just don't work with them. We will have all our own marketing and distribution plans set-up in advance at inception, and properly budgeted for. We'll have trusted confidants carry out the plan. Crewed-up in this way there is no leeway for the medium to select the wrong type of filmmaker. You are the filmmaker, and those that don't do it this way will perish anyway. It's “selective” adaptation, survival of the fittest.

  • Jun Kitatani

    Your idea of internet marketing is not in line with what Jon Reiss is talking about. You're clearly and succinctly describing the old systems of marketing and distribution applied to the new digital landscape. Jon's PMD does not serve that function.

    A film has to be first and foremost a great story. No one is arguing that point. A great story sells itself.

    Zahra is making excellent points on the topic at hand. FYI Teaching Zahra about the “realities”of making money viz. your assumptions about what Zahra is referring to about marketing and distribution is clearly out of context, and you're missing the point. That's why you're disagreeing with pretty much everybody on this thread.

    You did a lot of homework so you can write a great story. This is about doing some more homework about marketing and distribution in the new landscape we are all facing. It's just about owning-up to and adapting to the changes. The starting point of the discussion has already shifted to a place where you're not at on your comments.

    Jon et. al. aren't saying we have to agree or go with it. Just that if we don't, no matter how many cuts or changes we make to our stories, we're not going to make it. Financially or otherwise.

    A new system is being discussed here. It takes some open-minded reassessment of what we've come to accept as the standard modus operandi. Zahra's discussion is operating at that newer level.

  • Jun Kitatani

    Brilliant article. Very practical and to the point. All the resistance to the concept of the PMD in the comments are good. It's hard to see what you describe looks like. It's a very short article compared to your book, and your workshops show how things really apply and affect us. We are limited to the exposure of our past experiences. The knowledge gained through the school of hard knocks makes for a pretty tough crowd. For the most part it's a crowd that finds it hard to see the vision behind your words at first glance, unless we've been through similar circumstances to yours, or just relate to it in some way. Otherwise it just sounds foreign and “wrong.”

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Jon Raymond

    I don't disagree with you, Jon or Zahra. I just have a few points of contention. Nothing is clearly black or white. Yeah, I'm taking about the old school distribution because that has a track record of working. PMD's do not. Show me a film marketed by PMDs or social networking that grossed eight figures, that did not also have traditional P&A. How about seven figures?

    Having said that, I embrace the PMD concept, and everything Jon talks about. But it's hardly earned a rep worthy of what traditional distribution has done.

    So, I see where PMDs can maybe save a low budget project that can't make it otherwise. Or PMDs may be a new career field for people who want to help Hollywood crawl out of its technologically bankrupt hole.

    But you state my case when you say, “A film has to be first and foremost a great story. No one is arguing that point. A great story sells itself.” If you truly believe that, why would you ever need a PMD? The problem with your statement is that you (and pretty much everyone else playing follow the leader) ASSUME we are talking about great or even good films. That is not a given. And if that is step one, and it is not a given, then that is where the crux of the problem lies. We are not making great films.

    But again, the word GREAT is up for interpretation. Does it mean marketable, money making, or what? Does it mean great in the sense of classic greatness? This is the discussion we are not having and that I think we desperately need to have. Pure and simple, if you truly make a good, great or marketable film and show it to a few of the right people, you will see it became successful. PMDS are not going to save a bad film. I do not believe there are hundreds or thousands of great films languishing away forsaken by the traditional distribution system. That is pure rationalization to escape and not face reality; the reality that your film sucks. And I include myself and my work in that statement.

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  • Jun Kitatani

    Well said. I figured this is exactly where you're coming from. Your intelligence is evident in your commentary, you obviously have a lot of real life experience, including filmmaking, R&D and reading about and viewing films. Clearly and succinctly stated.

    I only reiterate the premise to Jon's (Reiss) logic in all my comments. e.g.

    “There is no one kind of filmmaker. Never has, never will be. Thank god. Each person who is involved in independent film has his or her own desires, interests, passions, loves, hates. Each filmmaker has different motivations for making a film. Some want to make a statement, change the world – whether it is social or artistic. Some want to make money. Some want to express an idea or emotion to as many people as possible. Most filmmakers want it all. However if push comes to shove, filmmakers will prioritize what they want from their films. And these desires are different for different filmmakers.” (JR)

    You're right. There's absolutely no discussion on story and story-telling principles here whatsoever. Yes, there's s a desperate need to discuss it. Exactly like you say, it's the core. An original and well structured story within the constraints of the design selected (the most common arch-plot, the art-house minimalist plot and the avant-garde anti-plots, etc.) will entertain, sell and enjoy a long life, for it's specific, intended and targeted audience. If we have tons of $$$, there is no need to read TOTBO, because we'd be in the BO, hired by a major studio. (fyi, Peter Jackson is suing Newline because he did not make any money on TLOTR; Hurt Locker is the lowest grossing Academy Award winner to date).

    The premise (again? geesh!) here is we have a quality screenplay; we're not signed with a major motion picture studio; the reality that nobody's picking up films by the handful, not even if it's a killer film; we're indie and don't have a Hollywood budget to work with.

    What options do we have? Lots of indies are turning to TOTBO, DIY Days, Hope for Films, etc. If you want it, and if you need it, it's here. It's tons of extra homework and all the work is labor intensive. DIY, but not DI-all-Y. This is where to find the resources, network and community. Connections exist that let you crew up with software developers, visual artists, lawyers, distributors and bookers that specialize and have working knowledge in this area. Our audience is changing anyway. Expectations, needs, etc. We're changing to meet those needs. It's all here so we can have other options and choices.

    I assume you know this all. I just reiterate for the sake of clarification. You're very smart and your passion and enthusiasm comes through your writing and commentary. I can tell you're right in everything you say, but I know there are people out there who'll dismiss the content of your words because of the emotionally provocative way you chose to write them. Clearly you're not just being trite and contrary, but it's an easy thing to assume. Especially on comment threads like these.

    BTW, best of luck with all your projects. Share your successes, knowledge and insights with us. Good to meet you online.

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