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by ornana films
Over three years ago we started having conversations delving into the story that ended up on screen at South by Southwest in March and is now on Vimeo in full, for free. Between those points, we spent thousands of hours working through this story to turn it in to a film. However, I think the more interesting part is not what we did, but what we didn’t do. [...]
Today’s guest post is from producer Smriti Mundhra. I confess I have been slow in my posting and should have run this last week!
If the sun came out in New York City this past Saturday, I didn’t see it. Instead, I spent the day in Columbia University’s Uris Hall with about two hundred fellow filmmakers participating in The Conversation, an all-day conference about the future of independent film funding, marketing and distribution. There was a lot to talk about.
The program for The Conversation consisted of panels, discussion groups and breakout sessions, each featuring both indie fllm stalwarts (Eugene Hernandez, Scott Macaulay, Bob Hawk) and new media trailblazers (Lance Weiler, Arin Crumley). But it was Ira Deutchman, CEO of Emerging Pictures and professor at the university’s graduate school of film, who dropped the first bomb in his opening remarks when he quoted a businessman with whom he recently had lunch: “Film? That’s not a business, that’s a hobby.”
Today’s guest post, like yesterday’s, is from filmmaker Michael Barnard. Yesterday, he covered how we slipped into our embrace of “free”. Today, he writes of the deadly results.
I used to read Daily Variety online religiously. Now I don’t. When I click on my fifth article (or whatever the tipping point is) and am denied access, I resent it. Yet, I know that if Daily Variety does not succeed somehow, I am either going to have to become my own journalist (“JOURNALIST”, not merely an observer or repeater) or I am going to have to rely on agenda-laden, word-of-mouth bloggers.
This situation is also affecting indie filmmakers. Indie filmmakers have to deal with the very worst form of free: theft by piracy. They have to deal with distribution outlets that want their films for free. Even REDBOX, with their $1 DVD rental kiosks, a pet peeve of mine, is an enemy of the indie filmmaker.
The success of REDBOX comes from ripping off filmmakers. In fact, you have to admire REDBOX for achieving something few ever have: [...]
Today’s guest post is from filmmaker Michael R. Barnard. Michael had written to me on Facebook after I had tweeted about the end of film industry trade papers. I felt he had some interesting thoughts on the subject, and the bigger issue for filmmakers on the “free” economy. Today’s post is 1 of 2, with tomorrow’s set to look at the inevitable end from the culture’s embrace of “free”.
The New York Times reports on the malaise hitting the very-important-to-Hollywood trade papers, especially Daily Variety. (See online at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/business/media/15variety.html?src=twt&twt=nytimesmovies)
Daily Variety is suffering the fate of many news publishers (even the New York Times), but attracts attention because of its reactions to its problems. This important trade paper recently fired staff critics, now favoring freelance critics. The paper is also one of the first to duck behind a paywall. You can no longer read the entire paper online free.
Everyone, including me, chafes at this. [...]
I should have known Free would be the mantra of the weekend. We were going to take Hope The Younger to freeload at Vanessa’s Dad’s pad by the beach for the 4th, but before we left, we had the op to share a cab back from celebrating Strand’s 20th with Indiewire’s Eugene Hernadez; under his arm, still in it’s protective wrapper, was Chris Anderson’s “Free”. Eugene had shelled out the $27 bucks for the wisdom of the nothing economy. Meanwhile, I was still hoping that Anderson would still take me up on my offer to send copies to the 4 most influential people I know, and thus provide with a copy for the price of the title. I guess heads of Hollywood and Indiewood studios don’t rank in his book. Back from the sea, sand still between my toes, I still haven’t read the meme of the moment, and now must live vicariously.
Scott Macauley on FilmmakerMagBlog tipped me to Brian Newman’s powerpoint on moving beyond Free, and actually how to make a living with Free. Brian answers that question quite clearly & concisely.
- Immediacy: Give them something now
- Personalization: To their needs
- Interpretation: with study guide, or commentary
- Authenticity: From you directly, signed by you
- Embodiment: Speaking Fees
- Patronage: Support the artist; Radiohead model
- Accessibility: Make it easy to get
- Findability: Work with partners who make you findable
To further answer this Question-Of-The-Moment, Janet Maslin points out in her review:
Mr. Anderson sees that consumers think not only about money but also about intangibles like convenience, access, quality and time.
Maslin, in contrasting Anderson’s “Free” with Shell’s book “Cheap”, also hits upon one of the plagues that runs amok in Indie Filmland:
Ms. Shell’s intangibles are different; she argues that moral accountability and responsibility are often sacrificed for the sake of cheap pricing.
There are four strands of argument here: a technological claim (digital infrastructure is effectively Free), a psychological claim (consumers love Free), a procedural claim (Free means never having to make a judgment), and a commercial claim (the market created by the technological Free and the psychological Free can make you a lot of money). The only problem is that in the middle of laying out what he sees as the new business model of the digital age Anderson is forced to admit that one of his main case studies, YouTube, “has so far failed to make any money for Google.”
To makes matter worse, providing for Free, isn’t free to YouTube. As Gladwell points out “A recent report by Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube’s bandwidth costs in 2009 will be three hundred and sixty million dollars.” And then it gets even worse from there:
…in order to make money, YouTube has been obliged to pay for programs that aren’t crap. To recap: YouTube is a great example of Free, except that Free technology ends up not being Free because of the way consumers respond to Free, fatally compromising YouTube’s ability to make money around Free, and forcing it to retreat from the “abundance thinking” that lies at the heart of Free. Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube will lose close to half a billion dollars this year.
So where does all this leave us? Indie films been losing approximately two billion a year (guesstimate: 4000 features @ $500K avg. budget; all not distributed or recouping).Gladwell’s summation essentially comes down to that there are no easy answers — but that easy answers do sell books (or at least get you a publishing deal, and the 4th of July meme of the moment).
- A good first step is to work harder to make your film better and more distinct.
- The second step is team up and start to truly collaborate.
- Try following Kevin Kelly’s 8 Generatives for step #3.
- I think the fourth step is follow those rules via some of the methods we’ve relayed here.
- Let’s call the fifth step sharing your knowledge with each other in hopes that we will find a way.
I posted today at InfoWantsToBeFree on what should be one of the top concerns of all Truly Free Filmmakers in this coming year.