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January 22 at 3:02am

Arin Crumley Responds To Art House Convergence Keynote

Four-Eyed Monsters’ Arin Crumley commented on my recent speech over at IndieWire.  I reprint it here for your reading pleasure:

Great Talk Ted!

So here are the big picture to-do items from this talk:

• We need a third party entity to handle payments between exhibitors and filmmakers. (Note this is a very delicate thing as it has the potential to be totally corrupt if it’s not a non-profit organization or some how decentralized.)

• We need a repository of information that filmmakers share with each other. (workbookproject.com is the start of this.)

• Exhibitors need to get digital projection and digital delivery systems installed. There are some missing standards still since DCI seems like overkill. But it is possible to have dual systems, DCI for big films and plug another cable in to bypass that system to play back WEB delivered HD content.

• We need to protect the open freedom we currently have on the internet so that it can be used build social connections around film and so it can be used to get HD files to the theaters. We made a video about this you can see here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP_3WnJ42kw

• We need the mechanism in which exhibitors and filmmakers can mine audiences and know who sees your film or comes to your movie theater.
In my mind this is simple, we just allow people to bookmark films they want to see and review films they’ve seen and have all that data be structured along with geo stamps. That way anyone online knows the films in each city people want to see. Then those people could ask to be notified based on variables they define. So they could set a service up that looks at the films they want to see and the local calendars and they could set an alarm that goes off when the two synchronize.

All of these ideas have been part of the think tanks we’ve been doing with From Here to Awesome and DIY DAYS and are simply awaiting sponsorship or funding to actually build the above missing components. Anyone who wants to jump on board with this effort should email fromheretoawesome (at) gmail (dot) com with your thoughts and what you can contribute and lets make this happen.

Ted can give us hope, but only if we all work together can we make these ideas a reality.

Arin Crumley
co-founder
From Here to Awesome
co-director
Four Eyed MOnsters
Director
As THe Dust Settles

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January 21 at 11:21am

Hope For The Future pt. 12: The List #’s 47 – 52

Fifty-two reasons to be cheerful.  Enough to get through all the weeks ahead, and even some that have already passed.  We complete our list just in time to not let Sundance get you down even if you didn’t sell your film.  I didn’t even list that are so many good films to discover at the festival.  Well, here’s to a good year.  And to finding at least another 52 reasons in the months ahead.

47. Actors are truly embracing indie film and seem to be doing it because they love it. We know they don’t do it for the money or just because the schedule is short and shooting quick, but when you know they are getting offered bigger paydays and chances for true stardom and yet they still keep on doing indie movies, you have to accept they do it because it is the kind of cinema they adore. Michelle Williams , Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Peter Skaarsgard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sam Rockwell. Quality actors delivering quality work time and time again.

48. The Jacob Burns Center in Westchester has raised over $20M for a Media Literacy Center and it looks like an incredible addition to our culture and a wonderful model for others to follow. Imagine if every community had something like this! Check out the press release at:http://www.burnsfilmcenter.org/news/newsimages/MediaArtsLab_pr.pdf .

49. Power continues to decentralize. Time and time again it is proven that a good idea can triumph and change will follow it. Frank Leonard’s brain child, The Black List, the annual report that lists executives favorite scripts, has been instrumental in getting unique (dare we say “quirky”) projects appreciated, bought, and even made. Sundance was once the be all and end all of festivals. Virtual festivals like From Here To Awesome give everyone a chance at being seen now.

50.We are getting new film movements faster and faster. 2007 was the year of Mumblecore. 2008 was the year the neo naturalists broke (Wendy & Lucy, Chop Shop, Ballast, etc.). The speed of which common aesthetics form speak of better communication. Multiple filmmakers working in the same vein can only lift the conversation higher and raise the bar for technique. Work will progress faster and the audience will again benefit.

51. Life sustaining tools slowly are proliferating. The Freelancers Union Health Care program offers a good option for indie filmmakers looking to have basic health care coverage. Creative Capital alum Esther Robinson’s brainchild Art Home Online, offers artist financial planning services and consultation on home buying. As we live in a nation without real government support for the arts, creators have to assume they will be partially financing their work themselves — developing the wherewithal to plan for the future and not put oneself at significant financial risk is part and parcel to being able to choose what stories you will tell.  Of course if we simply had state health care, not only would we be less at risk, but we’d have a significant percentage of our incomes that we could devote elsewhere.

52. The great beacon of hope I find in the film horizon is the often TFF-cited Lance Weiler and his gang of collaborators at The Workbook Project and From Here To Awesome. The open source generosity and advocacy stemming from their platforms provide a plethora of information and point to the real possibility that artists everywhere can not only create the work they want but have the ability to find, access, and join with audiences everywhere. They show that power is not in the hands of the establishment but in the community. Lance and his team having taken a host of good ideas and put them into action — and it appears to be just the tip of an iceberg that we can expect to come from them. The revolution is being podcast; it’s time you got the URL tattooed onto your soul.

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January 17 at 12:40am

If Words Were Not Enough

The video of almost all my keynote address from the Art House Convergence just got posted.


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January 15 at 5:15pm

Art House Convergence Closing Keynote Address

I had the honor of being asked to give a closing key note at the Art House Convergence today in Salt Lake City.  I have to admit, it was really inspiring and informative to hear it from the exhibitors’ perspective.  And they really wanted to hear from us too, and where we thought that it was all headed.  Well, I had a few thoughts, so it was nice to be able to offer them.  This is my address to the exhibitors.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: Next Year’s Filmmaker/Exhibitor Collaboration.

ARTHOUSE CONVERGENCE CLOSING KEYNOTE ADDRESS
SALT LAKE CITY
1/15/09

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: Filmmaker and Exhibitor Collaboration

In case you haven’t heard, our business is in the midst of a transformation from a limited supply gatekeeper entertainment economy based on impulse buys to a new paradigm
based on creator-controlled content and an ongoing dialogue with the audience. This affects all of us: filmmakers, exhibitors, distributors, and film lovers.

It once was that distributors generally only made available films that fit their pre-existing marketing model. Their marketing spend was not based on the film’s content – but their acquisition or production of a film was based on justifying that pre-set marketing spend. We (both the filmmaking and film exhibiting community) are now just learning how to determine, and to access, what an appropriate marketing spend — based on the film that was actually made – is, and in the process, we are learning how to prepare for, access, and exploit what have far too long been under-utilized tools and practices: community, collaboration, and appreciation.

Community, collaboration, and appreciation. These tools are the new tools. These are the good old tools. These tools are where our marketing money also now needs to be spent.

But let’s ALL step out of The Hell Of Now, and instead let’s imagine the future. Let’s imagine next year. Let’s imagine what the production/distribution/marketing/exhibition alliance could be like in a very short time. Let’s imagine what it would be like if we established a “Best Practices” for filmmakers and exhibitors alike and thus clarify what audiences can expect. These three entities –filmmakers, exhibitors, audiences — that want to create, exhibit and appreciate diverse high quality specialized work to the fullest.

Let’s imagine that next year is actually right now. So what does this present (formerly the future) look like?

  • Each side recognizes each other as a partner – a critical partner – a partner that wants to inspire the other to the highest level of work and experience.
  • Filmmakers recognize that completing their film is only half the work. 
  • They recognize that the other half of the job is both marketing their film and maintaining a dialogue with their audience.
  • The filmmaker is taking responsibility for their work through the end (aka forever). 
  • They no longer entertain dreams of riches exchanged for rights. 
  • They no longer anticipate surrendering control of their film to distributors.
  • The filmmaker now thinks of their ultimate creation as what will be their body of work. They no longer look at each movie as a stand-alone entity. They recognize it is all a continuum.
  • They no longer see themselves contained with a single form of medium. They make long and short form work for different platforms and different audiences.
  • They look at all their work as an ongoing dialogue with an evolving audience.
  • The filmmaker has already established at least one platform from which to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their audience(s). This platform will be: Blogs and/or Social Networks. They maintain regular – daily or weekly – contact with their audience. They reward them, and visa versa.
  • The filmmaker is no longer an isolated individual who only looks out for his or her own singular work. The filmmaker is a curator, championing others’ work. And others champion their work in return
  • The filmmaker is an “expanded” collaborator who encourages audiences/fans participation, both or a richer dialogue and to mine their desires. She considers exhibitors’ needs in terms of reaching an audience. 
  • The filmmaker thinks for the long tail and they ask how their film will be discovered in ten years. They ask how will their film be relevant in ten years.
  • The filmmaker recognizes that their action affects others, and they will either build on success or be burdened by others’ failure. They recognize that financial outcome is one measure of success but that audience and infrastructure building is another. Mostly they want to encourage good behavior in others.
  • The filmmaker knows that power is a collective experience not a private one. They believe in an “open source” culture. They share information with others who share information.

How does this filmmaker work? Before the filmmaker shoots a frame, before she raises any money, this filmmaker identifies the audiences for the film and where those audiences can be reached. This filmmaker finds where the discussion of the issues within the film are taking place, identifies possible promotional partners for the film, be they brands or advocacy organizations.

Again before the camera is turned on, this filmmaker builds:

  • A team of passionate soon to be experts
  • A website specifically for the film;
  • Blog(s) addressing the issues within the film;
  • Blog(s) addressing the audiences for the film

And this filmmaker prepares to build the film beyond the 90 minute border by creating shorts, ARGS (Alternative Reality Games), a Graphic Novel, various books, IPhone Applications and Casual Games, truly anything and everything to drive audience’s attention to and their appreciation of the film at every step.

During production, the filmmaker is looking for new ways to expand the audience ad the audience’s participation. This filmmaker provides the audience with access to production particulars, be they production information or location specifics. They grant true fans access to the script and encourages them to go shoot their own version. The filmmaker tries to increase the audience’s rewards for their appreciation, and provides for them exclusive behind the scenes footage or maybe the filmmakers’ journal. Really what ever they can do, the filmmaker provides their true fans with access to the process in an unprecedented manner.

After the film is shot — and before it is ever publicly screened anywhere –the filmmaker has:

  • Listed the film everywhere online (IMDB, Wiki, Databases)
  • Tested the film themselves before audiences
  • Cut a trailer and put the trailer on their website and elsewhere. This filmmaker is even prepared to refresh that trailer upon release.
  • Designed a poster (or several) and put the poster on their website and elsewhere/
  • Designed a collectors’ edition DVD complete with lots of additional material
  • Manufactured unique merchandising items
  • Written a film clubs’ study guide
  • Selected a stills collection and put some stills on their website and elsewhere.
  • Selected clips and put the clips on their website and elsewhere.
  • Manufactured DVDs and offered them for sale personally at early screenings.
  • Locked a DVD manufacturer and fulfillment center.
  • Locked a Digital Download partner.
  • Locked an Online Streaming Partner.
  • Built a highly selective festival strategy and is prepared to both execute it and support it.

After the first festival screening, in order to facilitate and grow positive word-of-mouth the filmmaker has:

  • Set a pre-release publicity building speaking tour.
  • Built a chain of Living Room Theaters through non-retail DVD sales.

During the release of the film, the filmmaker is prepared:

  •  To travel to anywhere that covers their expenses, even in part.
  • To collaborate with other filmmakers in a traveling festival road show.
  • To provide an I-Chat dialogue with audiences.
  • Maintain dialogue with the audience throughout the release.
  • Release new short-form work to heighten interest in the long-form.

What does this filmmaker want? The same thing as the exhibitor, the same thing as the audience. This filmmaker wants to make movies an event again. And you know what? This isn’t the future. This isn’t even next year. This is right now. This is how filmmakers are currently thinking. And the question we all need to ask is how do we collaborate with them?

******************

So let’s look at how can the filmmaker and exhibitor collaborate? The exhibitor should redefine the theater in the audience, filmmaker, and industry’s mind that it is not just for exhibition any more. So what is it?

  • An Indie Merchandise Store selling T-shirts, collectors DVDs, and indie film specific publications.
  • The Theater is a gallery displaying traveling exhibits on indie history, and film-based artwork.
  • It is a Preservation Center, leading the charge for preservation of indie and digital film. From this platform, the theaters will facilitate the vote for indie works in the National Film Registry.
  • The theater is the community’s Media Literacy Center forever asking how can filmmakers further contribute?

What new practices will earn exhibitors the filmmakers’ love?

  • Data-mining & transport. Filmmakers want to learn the details: Who comes to the theater and why? What gets an audience at a particular theater. Exhibitors who share this data back and forth with the filmmakers will be rewarded with the filmmakers’ loyalty.
  • Throw out the old way and bring more filmmakers in earlier for shorter terms. Book your own “festival”. Utilize Filmmakers pre-release publicity tours. Set a subscription model with your audience freeing you to pursue the distributor-less film on your own.
  • Recognize that your audience, your community, is your greatest asset, but respect their indivuality and recognize their loyalty to you. Facilitate access to and dialogue with your audience by the filmmakers. After all, you can’t keep them secret or hidden. Sooner or later, everyone will eventually find each other.
  • Create your own social network. Supply it with new information regularly. Share it with Filmmakers. Share it with other theaters. Build this network that the Art House Convergence has brought together.
  • Establish A Third Party Collections & Remuneration Agency so you don’t have to deal with filmmakers on payment and other back room issues.
  • Establish best practices on what Exhibitors want from filmmakers and then get that word out to them (I would be more than happy to help).
  • Establish an info on your community’s film tastes so filmmakers know what won’t work at your theater.
  • Filmmakers are like any other entity. Dialogue with them does not have to be painful or intimidating. Good fences make for good neighbors, right?

What additional exhibition practices will filmmakers reward?

  • Think Big. Don’t internalize the last two decades of neglect and despair. Share your dreams of growth 
  • Think Differently. You don’t really need to screen the same movie all week long, no matter what the distributors say. Build audiences for the classics. Ask local notables to program. Give them what they can’t get at home.
  • Focus on community building. Can Monday be dedicated to Community programming at all the art houses. Share your mailing lists with filmmakers if they share theirs. Encourage others’ choices, reach out, and mobilize.
  • Design for the audiences needs with flexible screening schedules. Shouldn’t the moto be: “What they want, when they want”?
  • Communicate with the filmmakers and let them know want you & when.
  • Accept the mutual responsibility to build the new infrastructure. Be willing to test the new infrastructure.
  • Find new and build new alliances, be they Advocacy Groups or Corporate Sponsors. Use them for or Screening series and for Specific Films. These groups come with their own audience and a desire to build further upon it. Every theater should have ongoing media alliances so when a filmmaker visits they expect that they will go on radio show and record a podcast for a local website.
  • Whatever you can do, invest in technology. Whether it is digital production or Digital Delivery everything points to that the physical will soon be gone. Costs will come down and new opportunities like more flexible programming and booking policies will become expected.
  • Whatever can be done to wean oneself from Specialized Distribs Hit menu represents freedom. It is not healthy for anyone to be so dependent on a singular supplier.
  • Fight to preserve Net Neutrality. It will soon come to a vote and an open internet is necessary to source, inform, and aggregate audiences. 
  • Educate and encourage people to make a choice, not an impulsive decision in all they do. Isn’t that one of the definitions of art film? A film that people must decide to view ahead of time.

With all that has occurred, all that has gone wrong, with the devastation that has been wrought on this country and our culture, WHY DO I REMAIN HOPEFUL?

Last month as the year ended, I asked myself that question, and in one hour came up with 52 reasons, one for each of the weeks to come (and all are available on TrulyFreeFilm.blogspot.com).  And truly, the main reason, is right here in the room, at the first meeting of the Art House Convergence. It is all of us. It is we who have come here and it is the reason why we came here. We recognize the potential we hold. And now that potential is becoming a reality.

I believe in – and I know you do too, or else you wouldn’t be here now:

  • The power of organization.
  • The influence of collective action.
  • The incredible results of collaboration. 
  • And all that entire great cinema inspires.

I know there is a great new era of art film on the eve of occurrence. I know this
because I have met the new generation of filmmakers and I know who they are.
And I can tell you that these filmmakers are:

  • Individuals with far more diverse stories to tell than we imagined.
  • Artists with a commitment to quality and innovation.
  • Not just feature orientated.
  • Recognizing that making the movie is only 50% of the job and that the other half is marketing.
  • Early adopters of new technology.
  • Committed to Social Networks.

And I know these filmmakers want to work for YOU, the exhibitors.

And I know we aren’t going to run out of great movies. Last year was the best year ever for American film made for budgets of under $1M. Internationally, new directors produced exciting new work and established auteurs expanded their range. Not only are these great works not currently reaching audiences, but now with the major corporations stepping out of the specialized space hopefully will give a chance for this harvest to really bloom!

Theaters are often said to be our place of worship – but they are really our community centers. Theaters are where we all come together to share our dreams, to experience what it means not to be defined as a demographic but to be recognized as the expansive, passionate, engaged, and connected individuals we are. As far as I can tell, exhibitors have been left to their own devices for all these years – and so maybe there’s hope for indie film because you have managed to survive, even prosper. And now you are working together. You are working with filmmakers. Wow. What’s to come?

I love movies. Obviously.
And: I love making them, but even more: I love watching them, but even more than that:
I love talking about them, sharing them.

Let’s stop thinking of theaters in terms of exhibition and instead recognize them, you, the theaters, for what they truly are – the heart of our community and our life line to the audiences.

Thank you. I can’t wait until next year.

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January 4 at 11:04am

Sundance Trailers

2009 can already be marked as the year that filmmakers and distributors launched trailers prior to Sundance and Slamdance. We won’t yet have the majority of filmmakers being truly prepared, but new ones seems to debut daily.

I imagine next year the festival catalogue might link to the trailers. Hopefully at least the online version. Maybe they will link to clips too. For now though, we have to be content to find them ourselves.
A few weeks back we posted about Cinematical’s growing list. We can now add six more to it:
Dead Snow; dir by Tommy Wirkola (hat tip: TrailerSpy)
Disturbing The Universe: William Kunstler; directed by Sarah & Emily Kunstler
Manure (teaser); directed by The Polish Brothers (hat tip: /Film)
Roseancrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead (slamdance); directed by Jordan Galland

Taking Chance; directed by Ross Katz (hat tip: /Film)

We Live In Public; directed by Ondi Timor (hat tip: Thompson On Hollywood)
Once again though it should be noted that The Workbook Project is on it for you.  For those of you that are thinking of next Sundance already, Zak Forsman has a post on how to cut an effective indie trailer.  Check it out.


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January 2 at 11:02am

Printing: Posters & Postcards

As mentioned a few days back, our Film Festival Strategy brainstorm continues…

Jon Reiss offers this up:

A very necessary expense in your publicity campaign are postcards and posters. These can be expensive but fortunately there are a number of on-line printers that are relatively inexpensive (eg 4000-5000 postcards for $100). One hidden cost when it comes to printing is shipping so I do recommend using a printer near you – so before you buy – make sure you include shipping in your cost estimate. I actually send an assistant or intern to pick up my printing from “Next Day Flyers” since the shipping almost costs as much as the printing. Sometimes your local printer will even match an on-line printers prices – or come close enough to make it worth your while. But they won’t cut their prices unless you have a comparison price.

Regarding Postcards – they are cheap enough online that you could print them for each festival or theatrical screening even if you only print 500 at a time. The old way of doing this was to order a ton and then use stickers for your specific screening time. Unless you have some slave labor around – buying new postcards for $50 is going to be cheaper than paying someone to print and apply stickers to each post card – you have better things to do with your time.

Three important notes about posters:

1. Most on-line printers will not print one sheet size posters.

2. Printing standard film size posters – 27″x41″ – is very expensive (for film festivals you only need one or two which will cost about $50 each – but for a theatrical release you will need more than that). The reason that these posters are so expensive to print is that they are too large for standard offset printing (the cheapest kind of bulk printing). However nearly all theaters (all the ones that I dealt with) will accept posters that are 24.5″x37.5″ which is the largest size that you can have printed offset. This will save you thousands. (Although the best price I found was $1200 for 2000 posters – a pretty good price).

3. You can get a lot of mileage from 11×17 posters. Most storefronts won’t put up a standard or near standard one sheet when you are promoting in a town. But they will put up a 11×17 poster. And these are much cheaper. You can get a 1000 for around $300. They are also good for wildposting/wheatpasting as they fit on most electrical boxes. (18x24s are also a good size for this) But be careful with wildposting – you can be fined thousands of dollars for illegal posting if there is anything on the poster that will track back to you or the theater!)

Printers:

Next Day Flyers based in Compton California

Got Print based in Burbank California

jon@jonreiss.com


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January 1 at 5:00pm

What Got This Blog Started (For Me)

The conditions were there.  People were already talking.  Everyone over at The Workbook Project and FH2A were already leading the charge.  More voices were needed though.  And I was asked to give this talk, see…

Now you can truly see how much I need my hands to be able to speak.  This is just part one of six.  And  yes, it is my way to stay nasally through all six.  The rest are all there on Vimeo — so I just learned.  Check them all out, or not.

What of course will keep this blog going in the new year will be your participation.  We have so much ground to cover.  What is working well?  What isn’t? What are the goals and what are the steps to take us there?  We can’t wait for someone to lead us.  We must collaborate.  
Independent film culture — its content and its infrastructure — is at stake.  
I tell my son that it is a great time to be young because there is so much exciting stuff that MUST get done to save the planet.  Okay, so I give him a bit bigger agenda.  All I want from  you is to save indie film.  Happy New Year!


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This site could not have been built without the help and insight of Michael Morgenstern. My thanks go out to him.

Help save indie film and give this guy a job in web design or film!