Monthly Archives: May 2009

Andrew Whittaker Mirrors Indiwire’s Coverage of Tribeca Indi Film Dist Panel

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Indiwire’s coverage of my Tribeca panel was mirrored by Andrew Wittaker in a 3 part series. Here’s Part 3 but you can go back to part 1 & 2. I’m in tip 6 & 9. Enjoy.

Snag Films Overview in Fortune Magazine

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Every blog becomes a cinema
Leonsis-backed start-up wants users, not studios, to distribute documentaries.

NEW YORK (Fortune) — Former AOL executive Ted Leonsis was frustrated: He’d produced a critically acclaimed documentary called Nanking, a film that looked at some Westerners who had protected Chinese civilians during a brutal, six-week attack by the Japanese army in 1937. But he was pretty sure the film, which premiered in 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival, would reach a relatively small audience.

Only a few hundred movie theaters in the U.S. will even show documentaries, and even those cinemas don’t always give non-fiction films prime spots on their schedules. Distribution is a source of aggravation for many documentarians.

Unlike most filmmakers, though, Leonsis, who stepped down from day-to-day management at AOL at the end of 2006, had the wherewithal to do something about the situation. Last year he launched SnagFilms, a company that aims to distribute documentary films via the Internet. But rather than just stream its library of 650 titles through the SnagFilms site, the company is enabling portals, news sites and individual fans to share the movies through their own Web sites, blogs, Facebook home pages and other sites.

“Everyone talks about user-generated content,” says Leonsis, who also is majority owner of NHL’s Washington Capitals. “Let’s talk about a new category called user-distributed content,”

Leonsis’ Nanking, which will be available online for the first time Memorial Day weekend, is the centerpiece of an 10-film slate Snag is presenting during the holiday; each of the movies commemorates the heroism of soldiers and civilians during periods of war and conflict.

For films released in theaters Snag provides an opportunity for the documentaries to find new audiences. A blogger who is writing about alcohol abuse on college campuses, for example, might seek to embed in her blog a Snag video player that shows the movie Haze, a look at a drinking-related hazing incidents.

Filmmakers who make their movies available to Snag benefit in a few ways: For each film it includes a “Buy DVD” button that takes a viewer immediately to the documentarian’s DVD distributor. Leonsis contends that many Snag users will only watch a portion of the film via the Internet, and that true fans will end up purchasing the film to watch on their home televisions.

Snag also sells advertising in the documentaries, and splits the ad revenue with the filmmakers. “We are writing checks to filmmakers every quarter,” Leonsis says. “They’re not always big, sometimes as small as $20 but sometimes more than $1,000.”

Finally Snag offers users a chance to make an online donation to a cause of the documentary maker’s choosing.

But for most directors who work with Snag, the main benefit is the opportunity to reach more people. “Filmmakers have never had this kind of opportunity before,” says Steven C. Barber, whose film, Return To Tarawa, is part of Snag’s Memorial Day slate. “I can get my film to every single country this way.”

Barber’s film has already run on Discovery’s Military Channel, and many of the films in Snag’s library have traveled a fairly conventional path for documentaries (film festival, theatrical or television premiere, DVD) before landing at Snag. But Snag CEO Rick Allen says the company is looking for more documentaries to launch on Snag, a concept that would upend the traditional theatrical distribution model.

(Entrepreneur Mark Cuban has also sought to disrupt theatrical release windows, showing films on his HDNet Movies channel two days before the film appears in theaters.)

Allen says it is too early to know if Snag’s Internet-distribution efforts will cause major movie studios to think differently about their current models, but he does believe the film industry will go through lots of experimentation in the coming years.

“I think everybody believes that digital distribution is the wave of the future and they’re all trying to figure our how it affects content delivery and content creation,” Allen says. “I think people in large media organizations have seen the success of something like Hulu and its broadened people’s ideas about how to get content out there and consumed.” To top of page

Discussion on Web 3.0 from an Advertisers Perspective

Posted on by Jon Reiss

For all of you just beginning to understand Web 2.0, now Web 3.0 is on the horizon. Some arguments from an advertising perspective.

In Web 3.0 We Trust — or Not
Why We Need a Return to the Human Side of Things

Posted by Judy Shapiro on 05.18.09 @ 12:00 PM

The Web 3.0 conference is about to kick off on May 19 in New York. No doubt it will be well attended by anyone wanting to see what’s “bleeding edge.” After all, Web 2.0 is so “done.”

Well aside from the general lack of understanding about what Web 3.0 is exactly, there is a befuddling mix of technologies all competing for a stake in this still unformed, Jell-o-like confection. I think it is safe to say that at a 50,000-foot view, the general consensus is that Web 3.0 is about making the web a more personal web.

Beyond that yellow brick road of a concept, paths diverge wildly. You’ve got Tim Berners-Lee talking about the Next Web being about linked data. And then you have the semantic technology advocates working on contextually intelligent search engines. The Google juggernaut is creating intelligent search agents that act as your digital butler — dutifully and efficiently learning your habits to serve faithfully and without complaint. (I have fun imagining digital versions of the butlers from the BBC series “Upstairs, Downstairs” sans the British accent.) Who wouldn’t want an internet that can anticipate my needs, understand my meaning and even allow me to find information better than ever?

But there’s a proverbial fly in this digital ointment and it is betrayed by the very name “Web 3.0.” It is paradoxical that the name, which is suited to a software release, is being used to metaphorically define a web that is meant to let us express our humanity. The irony of it all is rich.

If it were just a paradox, it would be an interesting intellectual thought experiment. But there’s more at stake here. Web 3.0 clearly tells us what is driving the next generation web — technology. I respectfully submit that if this future web is focused on technology alone, it can not succeed. What is required in equal measure to the technology is the introduction of the human element of trust. The internet is a digital society governed by the same principles as in the real world. Trust is the glue that holds societies together, and this is true of the web world, too. No doubt creating an intelligent web is cool, but without the foundation of trust Web 3.0 will be built on pillars of sand.

“Wait a minute,” I hear many of you thinking. “Who says I can’t trust the web? I do my banking online. I send e-mail. The web is plenty trustworthy — thank you very much. But offer me an internet that can show me how to buy that pimped-up iPhone and I’m there.”

That kind of thinking is exactly the problem. As Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo, a leading internet security company has said, “Technology adoption tends to ignore the human element until there is some disastrous trigger event that forces us to introduce protections around these new technologies.” How many times do people using Twitter have to be hit with a virus? Or how many social profiles have to get compromised before the industry takes note?

Well Web 3.0 runs the same risk, because as our dependence on the internet grows, a lack of trust will unravel any or all of the marvelous innovations being conceived now. What good is more linked data when we have no idea which data to trust? Wouldn’t you rather get a product recommendation from a trusted friend than a “paid” digital butler, ah, I mean agent?

You get the idea and this just touches the tip of the iceberg. As we explore how to create a technologically advanced web, we must marry that to the human factor of trust. It is not an either/or proposition but the ying/yang of the internet. One can not have technological innovation without being able to trust. Nor can one develop the “smarter” web without introducing the Trusted Web. We must consider seriously how to transfer this trust infrastructure to the web world with new technologies around authentication, privacy, ID management and security (and OpenID ain’t the answer folks).

Since I would never, ever place my trust on just technology alone, I am lobbying to rename the whole Web 3.0 sha-bang to the Trusted Web. This places the emphasis where it belongs, on the human element, and this is how the web can evolve to a personal web.

Do I have a shot?

(By the way — other ideas for the name of next-gen web would be cool too.)

~ ~ ~
Judy Shapiro is senior VP at Paltalk and has held senior marketing positions at Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.

Social Media Backlash?

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Here’s an article from ZD Net about customers getting overloaded with social media marketing. Food for thought. The author is Oliver Marks.

There appears to be a fully fledged backlash against ’social media’ marketing emerging, with commentary in both areas you’d expect and in places you might not.

This is tough on the people who have solid foundations for what marketing messaging is all about, and who are doing good things with modern technologies around the age old concepts of marketing ‘conversations’ or word of mouth.

10 years ago the ClueTrain Manifesto put forward ninety five theses essentially expanding on the following proposal:

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.”

The ClueTrain Manifesto was written in the era of email and mailing lists, news groups, chat/instant messaging and of course Web Pages (it was conceived during the height of the dot com boom). Continue reading →

Clue Train Manifesto for Filmmakers

Posted on by Jon Reiss

The Oliver Marks post from yesterday pointed me to the Clue Train Manifesto that I had never heard of. I’ve taken the liberty to repost it here (you can click on the link and sign the manifesto):

if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get…

Online Markets…
Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.

…People of Earth
The sky is open to the stars. Clouds roll over us night and day. Oceans rise and fall. Whatever you may have heard, this is our world, our place to be. Whatever you’ve been told, our flags fly free. Our heart goes on forever. People of Earth, remember.
95 Theses
Signers & Comments

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
Continue reading →

Indiewire on Tribeca Film Distribution Panel

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Here’s Indiewire’s coverage of the Tribeca panel that I was on – (better late than never) I’m credited for tips 6 & 9.
10 Tips For Strategizing Distribution Today
by Peter Knegt (April 30, 2009)
10 Tips For Strategizing Distribution Today
David Fenkel, Geoff Gilmore, Sara Pollack, Jon Reiss, Cynthia Swartz, Ryan Werner, and Steven Zeitchik at the Tribeca Talks: Industry panel Tuesday afternoon in New York. Photo by Peter Knegt.

Aimed at aspiring or challenged filmmakers, a Tribeca Film Festival panel discussion examined the emergence of innovative new strategies for marketing as well as digital distribution, and how there are now multiple ways for filmmakers to control what happens to their film. Six industry insiders gathered at the School of Visual Arts Theater in Manhattan to discuss alternative distribution and marketing 2.0 during the “Tribeca Talks: Tools of the Trade” session, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Steven Zeitchik.

Participants included an eclectic mix of voices, including Oscilloscope Laboratories founder David Fenkel, Tribeca Enterprises’ Chief Creative Officer and former Sundance head Geoff Gilmore, You Tube’s Entertainment Marketing Manager Sara Pollack, “Bomb It” filmmaker Jon Reiss, 42 West publicity’s co-head Cynthia Swartz, and IFC Entertainment’s Vice President of Marketing, Ryan Werner. The conversation was targeted at answering filmmakers’ questions about the best formula for success in this confusing new landscape

Here are ten tips from the panelists:

1. The Safety Net Is Gone

“The system that we’ve evolved from has been going through this enormous change without us really even understanding [it]. Thirty years ago, video didn’t exist. Pay television didn’t exist. Those two ancillaries became the safety net for independent film. Everybody went out there with the idea that even if we don’t make back theatrical we’ll get half our money back with a pay television sale or some sort of video release. It’s gone. After thirty years, that safety net is gone. And I’ve been using this joke for the last several years and it’s not a very funny joke: The good news is that more films have been distributed in the theatrical marketplace than at any time since the 1950s. And what’s the bad news? That more films have been distributed in the theatrical marketplace then at any time since the 1950s. Because the marketplace itself is so cutthroat, and so crowded, that all of the truths that used to be what made independent film work, are now going away.” – Geoff Gilmore

2. Online Revenue Is Going To Come From Different Places

“You Tube, I think, from its conception was really a great place for film just by virtue of the fact that it’s video-based and people are sharing stories and we have millions of people around the world tuning in to see what those stories are. It makes a lot of sense for film to be there. But I think there’s a lot of work to be done… I don’t think there is a silver bullet for monetization online. I think that it’s gonna come from a lot of different places. We’ve clearly been experimenting with ad supported viewing and sharing ad revenue in the launch of shows and movies. But I think the money isn’t always going to necessarily come directly tied to that video on YouTube, but there’s a lot that goes on in ancilliary markets to help drive that revenue.” – Sara Pollack

3. Be More Open To Working In Different Ways

”As filmmakers, you need to be more open to working in a different way. I think when we launched our day-and-date program [in which films are released simutaneously in theaters and on IFC’s Festival Direct on cable on demand], a lot of people didn’t understand it, and it took a lot of convincing. But I think as we worked with Steven Soderbergh [on ‘Che’] and Gus Vant Sant [on ‘Paranoid Park’], and a lot of major filmmakers, and also a lot of young, first time filmmakers… I think people have become a lot more open.” – Ryan Werner

4. Change The Philosophy of the Theatrically Driven

“You know, I think the DVD market place is only part of the whole market place. I mean, in some ways, it doesn’t matter to me whether a film comes to me downloaded, through a DVD, a network… You know, however it is. The real question is how do you market it? The real question is how is the audience going to find out about it? That’s what [IFC’s] Festival Direct was about. That was the whole thing. I mean, use a platform that gives you visibilty that allows you to then build off of that platform, by – in fact – changing the philosophy that everything has to be theatrically driven. That everything does not have to come out theatrically, be market-driven out of that theatrical exposure, and everything follows from that.” – Geoff Gilmore

5. Believe In The Power of Some Sort of Theatrical

“Just about all of [Oscilloscope’s] films are theatrically released. A lot of them are platform released out of New York, but we also do West-come-East, and some of our films can go more directly to non-theatrical… We do a lot of work at museums, and try to figure out the most cost-effective – yet productive – way to get the film out there. But we do believe in the power of some sort of theatrical, hopefully as big as possible.” – David Fenkel

6. Expand The Notion Of Theatrical

“There’s a whole world of “non-theatrical,” which is actually very theatrical. You have to think about how whenever you’re seeing a film with a group of people in a dark room, that’s theatrical. It can be in a museum, it can be in a theater, it can be in a parking lot, it can be in a gallery… I think a lot of filmmakers now – before jettisoning theatrical completely – need to consider this. Because I agree, theatrical is really expensive, you do lose money if you’re in an independent, it’s very hard to break even at all. But if you expand the notion of what theatrical is… I think this notion that theatrical is ‘in theaters for a week-long run’ [is problematic]. I have to say our most profitable screenings for [my film] ‘Bomb It’ were one-day, two-day events, because people have to get down there – it’s an event… There are ways to do it that are much less expensive.” – Jon Reiss

7. Be More Involved as a Filmmaker

”The filmmakers need to be more involved. [We at IFC are] actually working on a movie right now called ‘How To Be.” It stars Robert Pattinson, and its not going to be theatrically released. But the filmmakers have taken the film on a tour around the country, booking different venues in major cities. And basically selling out thousand-seat theaters to screaming teeange girls. We just did it in New York over the weekend, and it totally sold out, with no advertising. And not really any publicity – it’s all primarily through their Facebook page and their website. The movie is going to premiere on demand this week, and we’re expecting it to do really, really well.” – Ryan Werner

8. There’s No One Right Way To Publicize Your Film

“The good news is there’s all these different options [for publicity], the bad news is no one can really tell you which is the right one for your movie. You’re going to have to make that decision yourself. It’s hard. People come to us and ask ‘what do you think we should do with our movie?’ And I can tell you some options, but it’s often so early that I can’t tell you which is the right one. I don’t think anybody up here [on this panel] could tell you which is the right one for sure. So it means a filmmaker has to take a lot more responsibility for his or her own film than they have in the past. You need to start thinking about who the audience for your movie is when you start making the movie.” – Cynthia Swartz

9. Generating Audiences Is Your Responsibility

“Filmmakers need to realize that it’s not just about making films, but it’s about generating audience for our films. That’s your responsibility, and frankly, it always has been in the independent world… Yes, it’s a lot of work to do self-distribution or hybrid distribution. It’s pretty much a year of your life… But you have to work and get your audience. The only person that’s going to be the most passionate about your film is you.” – Jon Reiss

10. Make a Film With The Right Scale In Mind

“When [in 1989], ‘sex, lies and videotape,’ was made and bought, they would have been very happy if they had gotten to $2 million, $3 million. Success was measured by $1 million gross. By the end of [the 1990s], it was $10 million. Now it’s $25 million. People talk about breaking out beyond that. Everyone wants to be ‘Slumdog,’ or everyone wants to be ‘Juno’… Unfortunately, it’s misguiding people. It’s giving you a sense that these are the real numbers you should be thinking about. When in fact, what we should be really talking about is going back to making a film with a different scale in mind. And having films be made for a price in which the audience that is available for going to a film can actually bring the revenue to the work, so that it actually breaks even… Unfortunately, too many people in this business have a hit-driven mentality.” – Geoff Gilmore

IndieFlix Unveils New Indie Film Distribution Model at Cannes

Posted on by Jon Reiss

News from the good people at IndieFlix. I had the pleasure to meet Scilla at SXSW and she is GREAT! I think they are one of the new distribution companies really making a change.

CANNES, France, May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — IndieFlix CEO Scilla Andreen launched today an international tour to introduce new distribution models for independent films, highlighting her company’s premium packaging of Andrew Robinson’s “April Showers,” based on the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

For the film, IndieFlix has identified a core audience segment of 30 million U.S. moviegoers and is providing them not only with the most number of ways to view it, but also with the tools to use the movie as a platform for social change.

The campaign is one of a series of release stages, carefully sequenced to build audience influence.

Rather than compete headlong against Hollywood studio films in the entertainment section of major newspapers, “April Showers” made its debut instead as part of a national conversation on the future of learning in America. In that context, Robinson’s story as a survivor of the Columbine shootings was covered by the broadcast and print media as a national news item even before its initial theatrical release. As a result, Robinson quickly became a sought-after commentator and discussion leader.

Meanwhile, IndieFlix mounted a comprehensive online distribution campaign hot on the heels of the theatrical engagements. Working with a network of the biggest names in online delivery, IndieFlix was able to offer “April Showers” directly to moviegoers across all platforms.

However, the distributor’s real focus was on coordinating this stage of the release with a range of social networking strategies. This effort brought in the highest-quality feedback from the most influential audience segments. At this point, it became obvious that “April Showers” had connected with an audience ready to champion the film in settings where it would have the greatest impact, namely, in schools and with community groups.

To create a package that would redefine educational distribution, IndieFlix teamed up with the April Showers Foundation, created by Robinson and the film’s producers, and with School Safety Partners, a Denver organization with deep ties with school administrators and educational funding sources. Together, they reached out to national and international experts in student development and school safety, and were greeted with an outpouring of social change and capacity-building resources that could be added to the school edition of “April Showers.”

This multiplied the distribution possibilities. IndieFlix is now able to offer greater value to organizational buyers of the film, who typically pay a premium license fee. In addition, the package has generated cause marketing opportunities for corporate sponsors, and discussions are underway to provide a sponsored distribution of the “April Showers” educational edition to every school in the United States.

As Andreen oversees a state-by-state educational rollout, she expects that this stage of distribution will lead not only to broader DVD and Blu-ray distribution, but also to broadcast airings of the film that are treated as must-see television events.

Her worldwide tour to discuss new distribution models to the independent film and video community includes visits to dozens of film festivals and appearances at financing conferences. Filmmakers interested in learning more are encouraged to visit, which currently represents more than 2,000 titles.

Filmmakers Don’t Fret – Even IT Professionals are Confused about Web 2.0

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on my students for their lack of understanding of Web 2.0 – Here’s an article from Secure Computing Magazine that indicates even IT professionals are confused about Web 2.0

IT professionals confused about Web 2.0

By Angela Moscaritolo
May 22, 2009 9:09 AM
Tags: IT | professionals | Web | 2.0 | security
Even IT professionals are confused about what constitutes Web 2.0, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Even IT professionals are confused about what constitutes Web 2.0, according to a survey released Wednesday by web security vendor Websense and research firm Dynamic Markets.

According to the survey, of 1,300 information technology managers across 10 countries, 17 percent of respondents correctly identified all the items on the survey that can be considered Web 2.0. IT administrators commonly identified the “obvious” Web 2.0 sites — such as the social networking sites Facebook and LinkedIn, Dave Meizlik, director of product marketing at Websense, told on Tuesday.

They also commonly identified blogs and micro blogs, such as Twitter, as Web 2.0. But, respondents less frequently identified other sites as Web 2.0, including iGoogle and Wikipedia, Meizlik said.

Only half of respondents identified video uploading sites, such as YouTube, as part of Web 2.0, the survey found.

David Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product strategy at security vendor Worklight, told on Wednesday that IT administrators know they need to secure the enterprise from Web 2.0 threats, but are not always sure what those threats are.

“When you go to organisations where security is really important — financial and government organisations — and ask, ‘What’s your fear of Web 2.0?,’ they say, ‘I really don’t know, but we hear enough stories of people being compromised that we don’t want to take a chance.’ That’s the most common answer.” Lavenda said.

Organisations should be concerned about data leakage — users posting confidential company information which could have regulatory implications and cause a loss of customers, Meizlik said. Also, malware is much more prevalent in a world where users are creating their own content, Lavenda said.

The Websense survey also found that IT departments are being pressured by workers to enable more Web 2.0 sites. And, that pressure is often coming from top-level executives. Thirty percent of respondents said they were pressured by C-level executives and director-level staff to allow more access to Web 2.0 sites and technologies, the survey found. In addition, 34 percent felt pressure from marketing departments and 32 percent felt pressure from sales departments to do so.

Another recent study, conducted by Forrester Research, found that Web 2.0 use in business is prevalent, and web filtering is changing as a result. Web filtering today goes beyond just blocking access. It now must involve the integration of Web 2.0, data leakage management and malware protection, the Forrester study concluded.

Jon Reiss DV Magazine Column: Top 10 Subjects They Should be Teaching in Film Schools

Posted on by Jon Reiss

I wrote a column for DV Magazine on what film schools should be teaching students besides how to make films: Top 10 Subjects They Should Be Teaching in Film School.

Here it is – let me know what you think:

Top 10 Subjects They Should Be Teaching in Film School
May 18, 2009 By Jon Reiss

Film schools are normally quite good at teaching students how to make films. But they generally have not seen it as their mandate to help students actually learn how to survive in the modern media landscape. Because of this, I developed a class at Cal Arts — where I teach — entitled “Reel World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had Been Taught in Film School.”

To succeed, it’s no longer enough to have a body of work and a script in hand for what you want to do next. You instead need to develop a range of entrepreneurial skills in order to develop, pitch, fund and distribute your work. Filmmakers need to be the architects of their own career and create a wider and wider network of relationships to help them on their path.

What follows are the Top 10 subject that should be taught in film schools (and by film organizations around the country/world), broken equally into “Old School” and “New School” categories.

Old School Techniques That Are Still Essential:

1. Building Relationships
Filmmaking is a business based upon personal relationships, but, unfortunately, most filmmakers are intellectual wallflowers. You need to come out of your skin, go to as many events as possible and learn how to create lasting relationships. Hint: People like to talk about themselves instead of exclusively listening to you. Continue reading →


Posted on by Jon Reiss

I’ve been revamping my blog page – making it more of a front page and my wonderful web manager/co-producer Michael Medaglia gave me this site:

as a resource if you need to find any html code. You’ll need this as you get further into wordpress to make your blog more of a front page. Chris Hyams from B Side says that all of their film sites are done in WordPress – and they are very clean and focused on specific audience actions.