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Part 3 of How to Make Money in the Age of Abundance
By Jon Reiss
Theatrical is Dead Long Live Theatrical. The holy grail of a theatrical release still rings as a delusion for many. Fighting words still for untold thousands of filmmakers. Who doesn’t want their name in lights – long lines around the block – a packed theater of adoring fans. I believe this live engagement with fans is crucial for artists. But traditional theatrical is probably not the way you are going to do it.
In the first post in this series, I indicated that filmmakers need to create scarce resources in order to compete with the abundance of digital. Today’s post will focus on events – or what I have termed Live Event/Theatrical. The essence of this renaming is for filmmakers to reformulate and to reclaim what the industry calls theatrical – for more on that see Think Outside the Box Office. (PS – I first said this was a two part series – then I said three parts – well I lied again and now it will be four parts – with Part 4 tomorrow).
When films were only available in a movie theater – that was a scarce resource that could be charged for – it was the only way to see films. [...]
Part 2 of How to Make Money in the Age of Abundance
By Jon Reiss
When I wrote the first post in this series, I thought this would only be a two-parter, but I decided to expand this to a 3-part series because of a little voice in my head that said I needed to talk about audience engagement more.
Yes, I said in Part 1 that I wasn’t going to address it in this series because I had addressed it before – sue me. The truth is, audience engagement is so central to this whole process that I needed to add my evolving thoughts on it. I think you’ll appreciate my change of heart.
Audience engagement is a term that I have recently come to use interchangeably with “distribution and marketing.” What else is distribution and marketing – if not enticing, conversing with, and ultimately wooing your audience? [...]
You are in, and now you have all sorts of wonderful problems — the kind most filmmakers wish they could enjoy. You know, you have to do all the things you have to do for a film festival. I have tried to collect the various blog posts I have written or have found written by others that will really prepare you. There’s a lot more to be written. But this is a good start: [...]
I posted my query last week whether we could truly build a class of TrulyFree / Indie marketing & distribution experts. Many people believe this can happen naturally. I think we need a unified industry effort to make this happen at the speed the all the great movies being generated these days need. Some beg to differ…
Yet, DIY/DIWO “guru” Jon Reiss has been witness to many of the efforts from this new breed, dubbed PMDs. Although, he and I agree on the need, we disagree on the term (but why squabble over semantics?). People need their films to connect with audiences. Audiences need to connect with each other, and films are a wonderful way to accomplish this. Can we hope that the market and filmmaker need & desire will solve our needs? Or do we need an intervention to solve this crisis? Jon has a front row seat to all that is happening, and today shares his observations.
I believe the amount of comments that Ted’s post last week (“Can We Create The Future Of Indie Marketing & Distribution—Or Is It Already Dead?”) indicates that this is a vibrant area of independent film and is in no way dead.
It is only 2 years since I coined the term Producer of Marketing and Distribution in my book “Think Outside the Box Office” and I continue to encounter people either working as PMDs such as Joe Jestus who is the PMD for a film production company; Amy Slotnick who functioned as the PMD for “The Business of Being Born” (she received producer credit for her work) and did outreach for “Red State”; Stephen Dypiangco who recently served as the PMD for “How to Live Forever” as well as the PMD for the Oscar winning short “God of Love”; Michele Elizabeth Kafko who is the first IMDB credited PMD for “Revenge of the Electric Car”; and Errol Nayci, who is a PMD working in the Netherlands. And there are more. Adam Chapnick of Indiegogo/Distribber told me that he gets several calls a week from people stating that they are “the PMD for _____ film”. I recently consulted with The Scottish Documentary Institute who via funding from Creative Scotland is hiring a staff PMD to work with all of their films.
I believe that the concept is taking hold because of the need for the concept. With an explosion of films (and media) in the past five years, side by side with the disruption of traditional models of media distribution, content creators of all kinds have been faced with the need to distribute and market their own work. But also they are privileged now to have access to a worldwide audience for a very low cost that was previously closed to them. However, many artists do not have the time, desire and/or skill set required to handle these new responsibilities and to fully take advantage of the opportunity. I don’t think there is an argument that if filmmakers are now responsible for distribution and marketing, then there needs to be new team/crew members to handle this new work – hence the Producer of Marketing and Distribution. There will need to be a number of other people working under or coordinated by the PMD just as there is a Line Producer for production who supervises the various production departments. Really in the best of all worlds the PMD starts with the director, writer, producer at inception and works hand in hand with all aspects of the filmmaking process – and hence the “Producer” of marketing and distribution.
But even though the need might be recognized, it is another issue for filmmakers to allot the resources to fulfill this need. I believe more and more filmmakers are allotting financial resources to distribution and marketing, realizing that no P&A genie exists or that raising P&A after the fact is starting too late. When I was in the UK recently, it was heartening to see that agencies in the UK are allowing film funds not only to be used for distribution and marketing, but also to be used for alternative distribution models that incorporate a PMD. I applaud film funds that support the distribution and marketing of independent film, but I feel that it is important for these funds to free filmmakers from an antiquated system of traditional distribution and to allow them to experiment with new models.
For territories without such funds (or for those without access to these funds), filmmakers need to find a way to fund it themselves. What is important for filmmakers to realize is that connecting to an audience can be as, or even more, expensive than making your film. Musicians who have had to deal with a changing distribution and marketing landscape for longer than filmmakers, have already realized this and recognize that it is a fact of being an artist. Many musicians also have people who help them distribute and market their work. Topspin has a team of staffers who do this work – and they are called “producers”. Musicians pay these producers to plan and execute their distribution and marketing. The sooner we as filmmakers follow the lead of our fellow artists, the better.
The flip side of having resources, is having a pool of talent to do the work required. As I indicated above, a growing talent pool of people skilled as PMDs is emerging. I do feel that organizations such as Sundance, IFP and FIND can do more to push this along as can film schools. I welcome the creation of a PMD Lab, just as there are directing labs, screenwriting labs etc. The IFP Filmmaker Lab, as the first completion, distribution and marketing lab, is a first step in this direction. This lab emphasizes distribution and marketing from day 1 and a number of the teams bring on PMDs. Ted and I also started to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum combining courses from film and business schools. Until this process becomes more uniform, it will take place on individual films. Sheri Candler and I have started training PMDs on specific films.
The shift towards a new paradigm is slow, frustrating and fraught with pitfalls, and will mean a mindset shift for artists which is painful to some, but I personally see more cause for hope than for despair. Assistance from schools, labs and funds would be great and would speed the process along – helping many artists in the process, but in no way are the new concepts “dead”. The purpose of creating the role of the PMD was to formally name this needed position within independent film so there would be a pool of people trained to help facilitate that process. I know the concept will not die because there will always be people who are too driven to create work and will seek out help to connect that work to an audience.
Jon Reiss can be found on Twitter and Facebook. His new book co authored with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler “Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul” launches at IFP Week September 19th, 2011. His forthcoming book on the PMD will come out in 2012.Tweet
I wasn’t sure what to call this post. “Top Posts”? “Most Popular”? They are not necessarily the most engaging, as they don’t always correspond with the “most commented” — if that qualifies for engaging that is… But I thought it would make some sense to see what was the most viewed. I thought I would learn from it.
One of the things that I am proud of regarding this blog is the fact that it has become a community forum. I learn from the comments people post. I have made new friends from such comments (and identified a few I hope to avoid!). It’s been really great how much people contribute, and I love that almost half the most popular posts are from folks other than myself.
So, what were HopeForFilm/TrulyFreeFilm’s most read post of the past year? Surprisingly, they are all quite recent.
38 More Ways The Film Industry Is Failing Today – With over 10,000 views this clearly hit a nerve. Everyone likes lists, but I like to think so many folks went to this for a dose of preventive medicine. We are going to conquer this right?
Ten Things To Do Before You Submit A Script – Getting your script read by the right people will always be a challenge. As will making the best film you are capable of. We all need advice, and I probably can come up with a few more posts like this. You certainly want it. I have listened. I hope the advice was helpful!
The Hard Truth: Filmnaking Is Not A Job – I aim to be 100% truthful about what I do. I want to demystify what producers do. I think the readers of this blog and the community around it that you have built wants us all to say like it is. I must confess that occasionally I let the struggle of getting movies made and seen, get me down. Fortunately I get great support from my wife and friends, yet nonetheless sometimes I produce posts like this one!
The Good Machine No Budget Commandments- Oldies can be [...]
What do Filmmakers want from film markets and what they can realistically get?
“Discerning the difference between a film that can actually sell well enough to justify having a third party sales agent and going to markets vs a film that is best served by DIY methods that should be planned and employed BEFORE the film’s first exhibition”
Guest post from Orly Ravid, Founder of The Film Collaborative (TFC)
We get questioned all the time by members and others about which markets should filmmakers attend and which sales agents should they go with. Having unrealistic expectations is dangerous. It sets people up to do nothing on their own but wait for some third party to make their dreams come true. [...]