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February 22 at 4:16pm

Goodbye & Please Join Me: I Am Migrating To A New Home

Today marks my last post here on “Truly Free Film” at HopeForFilm.com. Starting tomorrow you can find both my rants and ravings, and all of those of our contributors, over at IndieWire. My hope is that we can all use this opportunity to expand our community and goals in the year ahead. We can truly bring about some change if we work together to build it better.

I started this blog for many reasons, but chief among them was [...]


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February 22 at 8:30am

My New Home Means…

Today is my first post on IndieWire. I think it is going to be a great home, and like any home most of the value comes from opening it up to guests. As we now reside on a platform dedicated to expanding its reach, our collective voice just got a whole lot louder. It’s time to expand our community.

I got into the habit of defining HopeForFilm/TrulyFreeFilm as part of my experiment in social media. When I got started blogging, the media mattered a great deal more to me than the social. As I begin my experiment v2.0 the social matters more to me than the media.

There were a lot of reasons why I felt I needed to step forward and begin blogging. Business has been bad in the film world for several years, but opportunity still remains great. The potential to have a sustainable culture and community dedicated to diverse and ambitious voices, free from mass market dictates, grows daily — what I define as Truly Free Film. Social media is second only to the film community’s desire in terms of being the necessary foundation . The community still lacks leaders with experience dedicated to an open and transparent film culture that embraces the audience and the artist alike. In fact, the majority of participants in our film culture remain dedicated first and foremost to their own individual work rather than the health of the community at large. I remain committed to the belief that we all benefit when our focus moves away from ourselves and towards true unity. Independent is the antithesis of what I hope non-corporate filmmaking can become. Artist-driven for sure, but community-centered.

I have always been a generative sort. I have enjoyed having an outlet that encourages community but doesn’t require perfection. Blogging has exposed me to new ideas, new processes, and new friends. It has given me a front row seat to an ever expanding community of Brave Thinkers and committed artists. My greatest rewards have come from contact with other bloggers and offering up this platform to the community at large. The conversation we have here and the diverse ideas and methods we have are truly the initial steps towards building it better together.

The strength of a society can be seen in the culture it creates. Corporate filmmaking, driven by profit only, rarely any more gives rise to the sort of movies that inspired me, helped me empathize with people from all walks of life, connected me to individuals and communities of ambition for a better world, or exposed me to the expansive and transformative nature of the human spirit. Independent film — as we can build it to be — will never die out, but it desperately still needs our help to gain the foothold that can allow it to really flourish. Those days are before us, but it takes more than just lending a hand. We determine the culture we have. It requires stepping up and giving voice.

It is my sincere wish that HopeForFilmv2.0 continues to expand well beyond my own musings. I am easy to find. Let me know what needs to be said and say it. This will not be my blog. I want it to be ours.

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September 23 at 8:44am

How Can Indie Film Appeal To Alternative Youth Culture?

Sunday September 19th, as part of Independent Film Week, the IFP invited me to a “Cage Match” with Jeff Lipsky on Indie Film’s relationship with youth culture.  The discussion was spurred on by a post of mine “Can Truly Free Film Appeal To Youth Culture “, and the robust discussion everyone had in our comments section to that post, and then still further by discussions on Filmmaker Mag Blog and Anthony Kaufman’s column.  It was a good discussion before IFP even proposed the CageMatch, but I appreciated the opportunity to give it more thought.

You might have missed it but it’s been summed up pretty well by Robert McLellan on GlobalShift.org (thanks to Shari Candler for tipping me to that), Ingrid Koop on the FilmmakerMag Blog, and Eugene Hernandez at Indiewire (although I don’t agree, or believe I said, that Indie Film is aimed at white women over the age of 45 — although they are the dominant audience — but that we have to prevent Indie Film from being the province of the privileged, old, and white (i.e. me!)). Jeff and I could have blabbed for hours. I have plenty more to say on the issue.

As both a community and an industry, it is critical we look at both the creative, infrastructure, and societal factors for answers of why we have so failed to develop the alternative and youth sectors.  Every other cultural form has a robust young adult sector that is defined both by it’s innovation and opposition — yet in film that is the exception and not the rule.

To me the issue comes down to the fact that unless Indie Film appeals to the under 30′s, Indie Film will continue to marginalize itself into the realm of elitist culture like Chamber Orchestras and Ballet. [...]


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March 21 at 7:42am

Lipsky’s Indiewire List on Why He Loves Theatrical Distro

Cassavettes’ former distributor announced last week that he was going back to his old ways and taking other people’s films to the people. This week he (Jeff Lipsky) did a must read article to try to explain why. It’s in the pop form of a list and after each bullet point he goes into some detail to back up his assertion. Check it out. I post the list (w/o the explanation) below.

There is some food for thought in Jeff’s positions and I look forward to discussing it further. I have always believed in a collective sub-conscious; is there really a new? In reading, Jeff’s list it reminded me of several points from filmmaker Michael Barnard, who’s thoughts on the current state I am posting today and tomorrow. Stay tuned…

The whole article is on IndieWire and you should read it. Jeff’s bulletpoints are:

1) My number one job as a distributor-for-hire is to run a collection agency.

[...]


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September 21 at 7:25pm

Required Reading: The Ten Principles Of Hybrid Distribution

A new model is emerging and Peter Broderick is here to explain it all for you:

Writer/Director/Blogger John August endorses Peter’s approach with examples of what he encountered on The Nines:
(thanks @andrewbrotzman)


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September 15 at 11:10am

TIFF IFF Discussion: DIY, DIWO, But Just Do It

Eugene at Indiewire caught the essence of the public conversation I had with Thomas Mai of Festival Darlings to kick off the IFF at TIFF the other day. I particularly like the photo, so check it out here.

In a nutshell it came down to the fact that we seem to be fighting for the role of Nero as our culture burns down around us. The audience were producers with great projects, maybe 50 or 75 were there (invite only). Only one of them had a blog. Only one of them curated a film series. Only one of them had a project priced at under $1.5M. Maybe 10 were on Twitter. About 25 were on a social network.
It’s kind of shocking how the film biz is such a luddite culture. Innovation has been the key to my survival and it’s never been because of things I invented, just utilized.
THE WEDDING BANQUET is often said to have been the first narrative feature cut on an Avid. Granted it meant working on AVR Level 3 and having as a result 8 out of focus shots in it, but that didn’t stop it from winning the Golden Bear in Berlin.
LOVE GOD was one of the first films originated on video and output to film, and although it never secured distribution, it never would have made it to Sundance and beyond without Sony & Apple both granting us free tools and processes to make the film.
Good Machine may have been the first American-based producer-driven international sales company, but regardless of whether it was or not, it capitalized on the obvious (that our full film’s cost could come from overseas) at a time when the status quo was something else, and ultimately gave us something to sell beyond the films themselves.
I got some of my initial breaks because I had built a budget program when they weren’t yet commercially available, explored product placement prior to agency involvement, and other early adoptions that were available to anyone with their eyes open.
I have been a beneficiary of others’ slack behavior. I got full advantage of an inefficient, lazy, inbred, elitist system. I have gotten to make over 60 films in 20 years. It gets much harder from here. I am doing what I can to help and there are some others that are out there doing the same, even a few doing more, but it is not enough. We have work harder to increase the reach of our web, to shrink the holes in our net. We have to get our comrades to adopt and utilize the tools before them.


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July 6 at 3:19pm

Map Making: Thoughts On Thinking "Free"

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.

I once had a friend who said he preferred reading criticism than seeing or reading the real deal. I just may have to settle for that experience myself on this one, but luckily we all have the pleasure of both Malcolm Gladwell and Janet Maslin chiming in on Anderson’s book so we can still participate in the daily chatter.
Just so it’s clear — if it isn’t already — Anderson’s “free” is not the same “FREE” of this blog’s inspiration (and title). Here on TFF, free is used in terms of thought, execution, and means of distribution. Here I mean FREE in terms of content, not economy. Granted there is a lot of overlap, but basically I am hoping that by changing our economic model to adapt to the reality of our times, what once was mistakingly called Indie Film can be a far more diverse and participatory culture. But more on that later. Back to that other Free…
Generally the question everyone seems to want to know is how do you make money, let alone recoup your time and money, when you are giving the product away for free?
“The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity,” states Chris Anderson in his book. What does that mean for you the filmmaker?

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.

Brian, borrowing from Kevin Kelly’s “Better Than Free”, points out where the added value comes in:
  • 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
The powerpoint is without audio, but pretty easy to follow if you have been following this blog.

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.
They didn’t write a book on that because it would require two words: Bad Behavior. I find that even the filmmakers who adopt the “film-is-war” approach to production (more Bad Behavior), still struggle over these principles. People don’t like to exploit others, although sometimes they allow themselves to get distracted to the point such exploitation becomes a tad too convenient. Those that do have started to lose some of those human qualities. Generally I find the creative brigade would love to find ways to get their work made and seen without having to ransom moral accountability and responsibility. People will adopt good behavior if they are reminded or given the opportunity or have a gun held to their head (daily).
I think the gun is there along with the opportunity and the daily reminders.
Yet, the fear of there be no real business model there too, leads a lot to indulge in a less rigid sense of effects. It’s funny how survival leads many to cannibalize themselves. And as clearly as Gladwell deconstructs Anderson’s model, he too finds it difficult to unearth the money-generating Free model:
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).

But talented artists still want to make movies. And to make good movies, we all need to focus on the movies first and foremost. But good movies aren’t enough in this world to get seen.
  1. A good first step is to work harder to make your film better and more distinct.
  2. The second step is team up and start to truly collaborate.
  3. Try following Kevin Kelly’s 8 Generatives for step #3.
  4. I think the fourth step is follow those rules via some of the methods we’ve relayed here.
  5. Let’s call the fifth step sharing your knowledge with each other in hopes that we will find a way.
Step by step we will get there. Let’s make this map together.
As Joe Tripitican commented below, the musicians are dealing with this all straight on. There’s a lively debate he tipped us to over on Jonathan Taplin’s blog too. Check it out.
And Mark Cuban wants to encourage all business-minded to avoid the freemium model as he believes any successful free-ium play will grow until it becomes to large, expensive, and retro. There will always be a Facebook to replace MySpace, and a MySpace to replace Friendster, a Google to kick Yahoo’s ass. Personally speaking I think all companies should plan to make themselves obsolete within five years, or they are not doing the public good.


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