Monthly Archives: December 2009

Think Outside the Box Office one of Brian Newman’s Recommended Reads

Recommended Reads

from Brian Newman’s Blog Springboard Media
There’s been a lot of great writing both in print and online (and at times, both) for filmmakers this year. It’s late in the year, but I thought I’d give my quick summary of some great titles that I think are required reading for any filmmaker – or any person in the film business, really – and most are good for other artists as well. These are in no particular order, and while I know some of the authors and am quoted in some of these, I tried to be unbiased and stand to make no financial gain. Most were written this year, but some came out earlier (even much earlier) but I just got around to reading them, and near the end are a few that aren’t even film/media books but that I still highly recommend.

The Reel Truth: Everything you didn’t know you need to know about making an independent film. By Reed Martin. Like the title, this book is long, and probably could have benefited from a better editor, but it’s definitely a book every filmmaker should read. Reed does a great job of covering everything from first-timer mistakes to new paths in distribution. He gets some really great advice from leading producers, distributors, writers – pretty much everyone.

Shaking the Money Tree: The art of getting grants and donations for film and video projects. By Morrie Warshawski. (link is to all of his books) Morrie has been the leading expert on this subject, and this book isn’t new, but it is a new (3rd) edition now, and he’s added lots of great new material. But even the old material was great – Morrie tells you everything you need to know to raise grants and donations – an especially useful skill for doc makers. His other books are great too, and I recommend everyone read his book on throwing a fundraising house party – more filmmakers should use this strategy.

Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an audience and a creative career in the digital age. By Scott Kirsner. Scott writes a great blog and lectures all over, and this book is a great summation of the new ways artists are using the new tools available through digital to build a fan base that can support their career. He’s packed lots of interviews into this book, not just with filmmakers, but with authors, musicians and other artists who are doing creative things to build and audience and make a living. Read the book and the blog.

Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era. By Jon Reiss. Jon is the filmmaker who made Bomb It! (among other films), and he learned a lot about releasing a film from his own experience building a hybrid distribution plan for that film. He combines that real-world knowledge with great advice from others in the industry. What’s great about this book is that he doesn’t advocate for just one way of doing things. He presents the arguments for multiple ways of thinking about distribution and then gives his experience and his suggestions for how to combine these ideas into something that works. He provides lots of case studies, a great breakdown of different budgets for distribution and goes into every step, in detail, for distribution and marketing your film. Detailed, and long, but worth reading, and worth making everyone on your film’s team read it as well.

Film Festival Secrets: A handbook for independent filmmakers. By Christopher Holland. Ok, this may be my favorite book of the year, no offense to the others, because I used to run a film fest. Chris lays out, in simple language, everything you need to know about your film fest experience as a filmmaker. From devising a strategy to getting people to show up for your film and what to do when you’re done. He doesn’t go far into the realm of new models, but doesn’t ignore these. What he does is teach filmmakers the little do’s and don’ts that every festival director wishes they had time to tell filmmakers. Literally, to send a film to a fest or to attend one without reading this book is the dumbest thing you could possibly do. It won’t arm you for everything, but combine this with Reel Truth, Fans… and Think Outside the Box Office and you’ll pretty much know everything you need to know about the life of your film after production. You can get the book here, and also some cool podcasts.

Truly Free Film. A blog by Ted Hope. Prolific producer, blogger (of multiple blogs), tweeter, indie film community builder, speaker….the list doesn’t end there, Ted Hope has been on a roll this year. He blogs every second, while producing cool films, and every post is a gem. Disclaimer: Ted has said some nice things about me in his blog so I may be biased, but that’s the other thing I love – he posts nearly nothing that is negative. All positive thoughts for the future of real (truly free) indie film.

TechDirt. A blog by Mike Masnick (and others). Mike has been doing some excellent writing on new business models. My favorite is his post “The Grand Unified Theory on the Economics of Free.” That’s something I talk a lot about, and Mike has done some great thinking on the subject. Check out his blog and learn why CwF + RtB = $$$ (which is also a great presentation).

Declaration of Independence: The ten principles of hybrid distribution. A manifesto of sorts by Peter Broderick. Peter’s writings are always good, and this particular article was great. The title says it all. Read it at IndieWire (another great resource) and read his own blog for more.

The Workbook Project. A website by Lance Weiler and other filmmakers. The Workbook Project is essentially a great bet that filmmaker Lance Weiler made with himself – that he could make more money by giving away advice to filmmakers online than an advance he was offered to write such a book. According to Lance, it has worked. The site is a collaborative effort, and has great advice on everything from making your film to working in transmedia, often (if not always) from working filmmakers. I could explain more, but go there and read, listen and watch because it’s not just writing, but podcasts, videos, etc.

Lapham’s Quarterly. The best quarterly ever, by Lewis Lapham. Ok, this isn’t a film book, but you can’t be a good filmmaker unless you remain a good student of the world, and no one is a better guide than the curator/editor Lewis Lapham. Lapham was the editor of Harper’s for years, and is one of the best public intellectuals we have. If you’ve ever read his “Notebook” in Harpers, then you know the singularly distressing feeling of learning that you are completely uneducated. I mean, you thought you were smart before reading him, and by sentence two you’re wondering why you can’t quote Diderot, Descartes, Stanley Fish and Thomas Jefferson to make your point. How did you get an education and not know any of this stuff, you wonder? Well, the LQ does you a favor – after Lewis riffs on a single subject (like Money, Travel or Education) for a few pages, he then curates writings on the subject from an assortment of the best thinkers on the subject. Most of the work is in the public domain (free), but having a curator bring it to your attention really helps. Stretch your brain. Disclaimer – I’ve briefly served on a publisher advisory committee for the LQ.

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. By Don Tapscott. Also not technically a film book, but how the “net generation” is different than others is something filmmakers should know about. Most of the insights are things that pretty much anyone spending time online knows now, but it’s great to have real research to back up your hunches, and to get a take on why this matters and how we should approach creative work given these changes.

Intellectual Value – A radical new way of looking at compensation for owners and creators in the Net-based economy. A 1997 article in Wired by Esther Dyson. It was also a longer article in Release 2.0 magazine before that, but all the links I’ve found are to PDFs. Way back when Esther wrote this article that preceeded all the talk about Free this year, and she not only saw it all coming, she nailed what it means precisely.

Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights. By Bill Ivey. Again, not a strictly film book, but one which I think has many arguments relevant to film. I wrote about it here, but he also makes strong arguments about copyright issues and other issues central to filmmakers.
One last note – I linked to a couple of blogs, but my plan had been to link to my favorite blog posts of the year. Then I realized I have about one per day and this would take forever, so perhaps that is another post, or perhaps I just give up now….not sure yet.

20 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere Part 1

A year ago I did some blogging on Truly Free Film, I stopped to write Think Outside the Box Office.

But now the book is done and I am happy to be back on Truly Free Film and I hope to contribute there from time to time – I’m honored to be part of Ted’s amazing blog!

Today Ted published the first part of a 2 part article that I wrote based on some Twitter conversations after the Sundance selections were announced. I’m “reprinting it here”.

@skJon: 20 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere Part 1

by Jon Reiss

One of the biggest discussions that came out of @Jon_Reiss on twitter a couple of weeks was about filmmaker preparation to launch a film at a film festival. I talk about this in the Film Festival chapter of Think Outside the Box Office I gave out on IndieWire last week. This concept of initiating the release of a film at the film’s festival premiere was spawned by my talks with filmmakers who had had big splashes at premiere festivals, but were never able to generate the same level of promotion or interest eight months later when their film was finally released. Further, there are a couple of companies pursuing this course of action as a strategy – IFC Festival Direct and Snag Films have launched releases of films at film festivals. In fact, specialty divisions have recognized the buzz generating power of festivals and have been using them for many years to launch films.

Premiering at Sundance and Slamdance provides a film with one of the biggest world stages to launch a film. A savvy filmmaker might consider using the festival to launch a national release of their film. Even though I am a fan of this idea (especially for the films that have been developing their marketing and distribution plans for many months) I want to provide a bit of caution to filmmakers who might consider this path without being prepared.

I do not recommend attempting to initiate the actual release of your film if you are just scrambling to get it finished and have not prepared for distribution or marketing.

One alternative if you are not ready at Park City to launch a full release, is to do so at your next big festival 4-6 months down the line. This approach was used by Weather Girl to good effect last year.

I am going to break up this discussion into 2 different posts. The first is what I feel that every filmmaker should consider before going to their premiere festival especially if if they are not ready to launch the full release of their film. (I will refer to Park City below – but it is interchangeable with any premiere festival)

1. You need to develop a distribution and marketing strategy for your film. This does not mean “sell my film for $ 5 million to Fox Searchlight”. That is not a strategy. Your strategy should takes into consideration Your Film, Your Needs, Your Resources, Your Audience.

2. In evaluating your film: how likely is it that you will garner an all rights deal at Park City? (there were approximately four of these out of Toronto).

3. Have you created an alternate plan of action for your film in case a magical overall deal does not happen for your film? You should have a sense of what your alternatives might be before arriving at Park City so you know how to evaluate offers.

4. Very important: How will you use Park City to help enact that strategy? Perhaps the best opportunity at Park City is to lay the groundwork for a split rights arrangement. You should have a sense of what those pieces are and how they might fit together before you get to Park City.

5. What team will you assemble for Park City? The old school approach is a sales rep/lawyer and publicist. Concerning sales reps, Peter Broderick recommends (and I agree) that you should create your strategy before you engage a sales rep so you have a basis with which to evaluate what they are telling you (and so that you can use this mind set to evaluate who will be the best sales rep for your specific film). In fact in the new split rights world, strategists/consultants can be a big help. I will publish a list of some consultants who I have either worked with or know on my blog in the coming days – and I’ll announce the list on @Jon_Reiss.

6. Concerning a publicist – some publicists have also started to move into the distribution strategy realm – such as 42 West. Have you discussed with your publicist the desire to hold your press for release? Few publications will give you more than one review. As publicist Kathleen McInnis recs: You have to balance buzz building with having material to release upon release. Fest roundup coverage is great. But publicists can be expensive which brings up another issue:

7. How much money do you want to spend on “opening” your film at your festival. Sure you want hype – but I would strongly recommend keeping as much of your resources as possible for the proper release of your film. With the sales climate such as it is – does it make sense to spend $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 on Park City if you don’t even have that much reserved for the release of your film. Resources are limited – use them wisely. Resources also include the time you can request of your cast and of yourself and your team as well.

8. What do you want from your deals? How might you fit various offers into various split rights scenarios? Is your rep prepared to work with you on setting up split rights scenarios if there is no overall deal. Are you prepared to walk away from low ball offers. How do you choose various distribution partner(s) for monetizing different rights?

9. Are you prepared to engage the audience for your film that the festival will generate so that you can retain them in your fan base? This includes the following:

10. Do you have a website that invites engagement? Do you offer something to viewers to collect their email list. Check out onetoomanymornings.com (who sent me their website – as they were probably spamming it around – I recommend this – if you send me your site and I like it – I’ll tweat it). One Too Many Mornings offer a mix “tape” for your email address (but it is well below the “fold”. I recommend that they and you give people all a number of options of connecting with you “above the fold” eg in the top of the section of a website. This includes email list sign up in exchange for some kind of digital swag. Facebook, Twitter and Rss links. (the latter presumes you have a blog – which you should) Not everyone will want to give you an email address, some people prefer Facebook (tip from Cynthia Swartz of 42 West), others Twitter. Onetoomanymornings already has a robust Facebook fan page of over 1200.

11. Collect email addresses at every screening. Pass around several pads and pens and announce before the screening that you want people to sign up. Have pads ready outside of the screening for people who don’t want to wait for the pad in the theater. Keep a folder for each festival so you know where the email addresses came from originally. You want Name, Email Address, Zip, Country. (Another tip pounded into my head by Broderick)

12. Do you have a trailer? Many films at Park City last year did not have trailers in advance of the festival that could be viewed on line. The sooner you have one the better. But it should be good. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Do you have more than a trailer? Might you video blog from the festival or partner with your cast? Something unique that shows your imagination.

13. Key Art is important. A central compelling image speaks volumes for your film. See if you can get a someone with marketing experience to work on your “copy” eg the text of the poster. Get a good graphic designer to do the art. You can crowdsource this through crowdspring.com On-line postcards are very cheap these days but you should balance price vs shipping cost. Business cards are also cheap, making new ones with some graphical branding of your film is a good idea. Have all of the ways people can connect with you and your film on your card: email address, facebook page for film, Twitter, Blog.

14. Especially if you are doing your publicity DIY, or making a deal with a publicist so that you have to do more of the work: Consider putting your press kit, photos, compressed trailer etc in a drop.io account so that you don’t have to constantly attach those items to your emails. Set up an auto signature with the drop io link and you will be able to handle those multitudes of press requests with ease.

15. Are you going to sell DVDs? It doesn’t take much to author a festival edition and replicate 1000 for $1000. (You’ll need at least 200-300 for press and other festival submissions anyway). Say you are in 5 biggish festivals (which by virtue of being in Park City most likely you will be in at least that many). Say you sell 100 at each festival – a conservative amount – live sales are some of your best sales (especially if you make it a collector’s edition). That’s 500 dvds at $20. That’s $10,000 which should just cover your Park City publicist. Peter Broderick has been advocating this for years. We held back the sales of the DVD for Bomb It at our premiere at Tribeca and yet it was still available as a bootleg on Canal St. one week after the festival. If you have a film that might be very popular on pirate sites – you should think through selling your DVD and what your strategy to deal with piracy is going to be. I don’t feel that any DVD company worth their salt is going to worry about this level of sales from you (if they are worried – how many are they going to sell on their own for you.)

So that’s Part One.

I would love to hear what you think at www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss

All of the above points are covered more extensively in my book Think Oustide the Box Office. Come visit the brand new site at: www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

Jon Reiss on Huffington Post A Christmas (and Hanukah) List to Help Save Independent Film

Here is my piece for the Huffington Post that ran on December 17, 2009 Click Here for the Original List with Links

A Christmas (and Hanukah) List to Help Save Independent Film

By Jon Reiss

Much has been written about the current crises in independent film. Studios run by corporations increasingly view their specialty divisions as a hobby, and have been eliminating them one by one. DVD sales are down. The internet is struggling to monetize.

However, it is an exciting time because it is more possible than ever now for audiences to connect directly with independent filmmakers and help support them with the films that they have made, and are making. This list is to introduce 10 gifts that you can give for Christmas (and the last two days of Hanukah) to help support independent film.

1. Buy a DVD directly from a filmmaker’s website. I know it is easier, and cheaper to buy a film from Amazon. But a filmmaker will get more than twice the amount of money from a direct sale, at least 80% of the sale as opposed to approximately as low as 30% of the sale if on Amazon. In addition the filmmaker will get your email address so they can tell you about future projects – the first step in creating a closer bond between filmmaker and audience (you can always opt out). Finally – you can buy additional gifts from savvy filmmakers as well as exclusive packages. Check out the film Ink who are a great example of this. For a catalogue of filmmaker websites go to Neoflix

2. Buy a DVD that is not widely available yet. Many filmmakers have begun to sell their DVDs while on the festival circuit. They are not waiting for a distributor, who may not come. These DVDs are usually only available from a filmmaker’s website or at screenings. Children of Invention will even explain why they are selling their film on the festival circuit.

3. Support a film that is still in production. Many films are now “crowdfunding” e.g. using the Internet to raise money via donations. The filmmakers will give you gifts (from advance copies of the DVD to a producer credit to an actual role in the film!) Check out Indiegogo’s site and Xmas list to see what is available. I feel that crowdfunding is one of the most incredible ways to connect directly with filmmakers and create a lasting relationship with them. Check out Can Bush Be Prosecuted I love the personal appeal for the comedy Love and Taxes.

4. Go See Movies Part 1: Alternative Venues
Of course seeing films supports independent film. But how do you gift it? An AMC card doesn’t help independent film. There is a new wave of alternative screening venues sweeping the country in its infant stages. They need your support. Buy some tickets for a friend at one of these venues and in your card tell them why you did it (heck print out this post and include it to save you time). Brave New Theaters is a guide to films (usually social action oriented) and alternative venues (some are people’s living rooms, many are not). Range Life is a group of 4 films touring the country. You can donate to the Rooftop Films project which needs support for their 2010 summer season.

5. Go See Movies Part 2: Traditional Art Houses
Most cities will have some kind of art house nearly all will have a Film Club or Support link. Go to the Art House Project for a list. You need to scroll down to the “Community Based, Mission Driven Art House Theaters.” Click on a theater in your city, click on the Film Club, or Support link, or Ticket Package link, purchase, print the receipt, put in envelope.

6. Go See Movies Part 3: Give a Hosting Package This is for the true film lover or activist. Many films such as Robert Bahar’s Made in LA will sell you screening packages for as low as $100. In this way you (or your friend who you are gifting) invites friends over to their house/home theater to view the film (preserving the social nature of film) and you can sell the extra DVDs to your guests or give them away. (The gift that keeps on giving.) If you or your friend really like this experience – you can list yourselves on Brave New Theaters and become your own screening venue for independent film.

7. Go See Movies Part 4: Support Indie Films on Video On Demand An emerging distribution outlet for many indies is day and date VOD, in which the film is available in a few theaters across the US and simultaneously available on VOD. Unfortunately many VOD menus favor studio films and make it difficult to find independents. However if you look, you can find them, check out IFC, Film Buff and other new independently oriented VOD channels. When you find a new film, invite your friends over and watch it together one night this holiday season. By initiating yourself and your friends into the VOD experience, hopefully you will continue to use it as a way to watch independent movies which will in turn support them.

8. Buy A Digital Download or DVD from a Site that Supports Independent Film At Indieflix you can not only buy DVDs from a huge catalogue, but you can stream them as well. iTunes has been great for independent film, providing access to broad markets, etc. But whereas your iTunes card might be used to download Transformers, if you gift Indieflix not only are you solely supporting independent films, but the filmmakers get a much larger share of the pie, 70%. B-Side is another new innovative company that focuses on community screenings and DVDs. For LGBT content go to Wolfevideo.

9. Buy a Roku Box While not directly supporting independent film (you are buying a product from a corporation to view products distributed by corporations), a Roku box will enable you to watch your Amazon VOD and Netflix choices on your television. Amazon is still the largest catalogue of media and lists many independent films. By giving a Roku box you make it easier for them, hence helping independent filmmakers.

10. Give Your Filmmaker Friends A Book If you know an independent filmmaker, (or if you know someone who is interested in the changing film distribution landscape) and they don’t know how to engage their audience or sell their films, give them one of two books (or both) that will tell them how. Scott Kirsner’s Fans Friends and Followers or my book Think Outside the Box Office which comes with bonus gifts from free tickets to screening venues to free chapter updates when you buy it from my website (currently the only place it is available).

11. Buy Other Merchandise from Filmmakers Perhaps you’ve already seen a film, or don’t want to collect a bunch of DVDs. You can still buy products that support independent filmmakers. For Bomb It we created a variety of t-shirts, posters, stickers, hats, hoodies. Check out the RoosterTeeth store as well. Would love to hear what other filmmakers are doing as well.

12. Pay for a Pirated Film The next wave of monetization for filmmakers is to monetize piracy. Ink had 5,000,000 views but it didn’t translate into paying back their film much. James King created VODO to address this issue in a systematic way. If you can’t beat them join em. Give a gift to Vodo to support their efforts. Or tip a film, print the receipt and give it to a friend – with the suggestion that they watch the film on torrent. I hope that this starts to shift the mindset that all content should be free. For if no one pays for content, how will we as creators have the resources to continue creating?

The Value: While one of these gifts will not buy a goat for a poor farmer in Chile (those kinds of gifts are great too), they will help preserve the independence of vision and independent voices that shine a light not only on important issues of the day, but entertain us in new and innovative ways. If independent film dies, so will these independent voices in our media landscape (god forbid we are left with FOX). In addition, by giving the gift of independent film you show others how they can support filmmakers as well.

Let me know what you think by commenting here or on Twitter.

Check out Selfhelpless Blog – The future of film?!?

You have to check these guys out. Selfhelpless Met them on Twitter tonight. They are releasing their film/premiering it on Bit Torrent first (in my mind as a premiere event to draw attention and audience) and then releasing merch to their awaiting fans.

You can link to their blog above – or I’ve liberated it and placed it here. I sure hope their movie is as good as their attitude!!!!

Self Helpless is the first feature length film ever to employ a specialized promotional campaign surrounding a BitTorrent-only release. We have had a lot of questions since we announced this distribution plan. This should help clarify exactly what the hell we think we are doing.

How will you make money if you are giving the movie away?
We will be releasing Self Helpless on DVD and digital download one week after the torrent-only release. We will be selling t-shirts, posters, and other merchandise ASAP. We are also considering placing 2 short (10 second) advertisements in the torrent version of the movie. If enough people download the movie, we hope to set up a screening tour to visit places where Self Helpless is popular.

If someone has already downloaded the movie why would they buy your DVD?
A few reasons:
1) Movies are more fun to watch on a TV than a computer.
2) If people like a movie they often want to own the official, advertisement free version of it. Some people are just straight up collectors.
3) The DVD has tons of sweet extras like live Devin the Dude concert footage, slide shows, deleted scenes, and behind the scenes footage.
4) A few people will buy a DVD just to support something that they dig.

Are you going to have a donate thingy on your website?
As a group of intelligent, healthy young men, we just don’t feel right about begging people to donate to us. If you like Self Helpless then buy a copy. If you don’t have $15 for a DVD (been there) we will have some cheaper stuff like posters and stickers. If you don’t have any money then just tell a few of your friends about the movie and come see us when we come to your town.

You are the first feature film to launch a promotional campaign supporting a torrent-only release. Why not do something more normal, like submit to film festivals, or distributors?
We made this entire film out of pocket, fueled by raw hustle. We are not interested in sitting around for the next two years waiting for someone to decide that they want to “accept our submission”. That just doesn’t sit well with us. We have the technology to get Self Helpless seen by its target audience without any help from distributors or film festivals. We would be stupid not to release it on our own.

Ok, if you are going to release the movie as a torrent why not just release it on DVD at the same time?
We want as many people as possible to download the torrent version of the movie. If this version ends up containing advertisements then this will mean more exposure for our advertisers (anybody know anyone who works at High Times?). Even if we don’t end up going with the advertisement idea, it is important to us to release the movie exclusively on bit torrent. In a sense we hope that this will prove our model. If we can make a little money off a torrent-only release then we will have effectively proven the absurdity of anti-piracy efforts.

Are you hoping this will get you “discovered”?
Discovered as in money and hot babes start raining from the Los Angeles skies? I guess that would be cool. What we believe will really happen is that this distribution strategy will get Self Helpless seen, by the exact people who we made it for, and by LOTS of them.

Is this just a publicity stunt?
If we manage to get some publicity for creating a very innovative release strategy that would be great. That would probably even help our download numbers. The torrent-only release is simply the best way to get our movie seen by the people who we made it for. From a business standpoing, we would be crazy not to take advantage of this opportunity.

Where can I see the movie right now?
We are trying to set up a few screenings before the release. If you sign up for our email list we will let you know as soon as we get stuff scheduled. Other than that, you will be able to pre-order the DVD.

Why so long until the movie is released?
Lot’s of albums get their release date moved up because songs get leaked. We are delaying our release in order to promote it to those very downloaders. I know this sounds backwards. A typical movie release promo campaign takes between 3 and 5 months. We are constructing a full PR campaign to build a buzz around the release of the Self Helpless torrent. We figure, there is a lot of cool stuff out there to download. If we are going to convince people to check out our movie, we are going to have to spend some time letting them know about us.

What if someone leaks the movie?
That would be awesome. Next Question.

Are you trying to create the distribution model that will save my indie film?
No. Our model only works if you manage to create a feature length comedy that is hilarious and quirky, features the acting debut of Devin the Dude, is shot in 2 countries, and contains lots of drugs, guns and crazy Mexican gangsters, all with a budget of $9,500. Oh, and after that you have to edit the movie, compose the soundtrack, license the music, and do all the animation. Then you have to live on people’s floors for a few months, and shovel shit at my grandma’s farm while you save money to put towards your innovative release strategy. Then you have to be willing to work full time for very low pay for the next year after releasing the movie in order to continue to promote it. If you can do all this, and not have your wife/kids/friends completely hate you, then this model might be perfect for you. If not then you should read all of the blogs, and books, and tweets that are out there about indie film distribution. Then you should come up with a better, more original idea that works for your film.

I have a question about your distribution strategy, will you read my email?
I am chained to my computer at all times. I would be more than happy to answer any and all questions, comments, and hate mail.

Posted by Self Helpless Movie at 10:24 AM

Blog Review for Think Outside the Box Office –

Here’s a review posted in the MN Dialogue blog.

Think Outside the Box Office
Jeremy Wilker MN Dialogue

Have you heard that the “Hollywood” film system is broken? That indies are having a tough time getting their films bought/distributed/shown? That if you want something done right you better do it yourself? Well, for indie filmmakers, if you want something done, period, you really had better do it yourself and Jon Reiss (”Bomb It”, “Better Living Through Circuitry”) aims to give you all the help and advice you need with his new book “Think Outside the Box Office.”

Subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era,” Reiss covers everything you need to know (and recommends knowing it before you start shooting!) from assembling your team, building up your website and social networks, doing live events and theatrical (it doesn’t stop once it shows in a theater!), marketing and publicity and merchandising, to digital rights and foreign sales. Whew. It is a jam-packed treasure trove of how-to DIY advice and real world examples. There is even a well-done chapter on how to use WordPress (free) for your website.

TOTBO is a dense tome with step-by-step info and it doesn’t sugar-coat the reality that the current world of indie filmmaking is lots of really hard work. You may not be able to do it all yourself, but at least you’ll know what needs to be done. And you’ll be armed with knowledge from inside the trenches when it comes time to do a distribution deal.

Reiss delivers a timely, up-to-date and impressively useful book for indie filmmakers that is worth far more than the list price. In fact, I’d grab your copy now before Reiss figures out what an enormous value this is and starts charging the big bucks for weekend-long seminars!

Launch of @skJon Reiss a Twitter Blog interface on Film Distribution and Marketing – This weeks topic – Film Festival Strategies

Ok – so its time for @askJon. I know the title is a little corny – but I don’t think we should take ourselves too seriously in all of this!!

Each week I will be posting questions on a specific topic of film distribution and marketing to the filmmaking community via my twitter account @Jon_Reiss.

These questions and statements are intended to provoke discussion on these issues within our community.

I will try to answer as many questions as I can in the 140 character limit. However I know from past experience this will be very difficult.

So each week on Thursday or Friday I will write a blog post addressing the most pertinent questions and concerns raised by that weeks Twitter discussions on @Jon_Reiss.

Because of the Sundance Film Festival announcements last week and the impending Slamdance announcements it is natural that this week we focus on the changing role of film festivals for independent filmmakers.

To kick off the discussion – I published Chapter 14 of Think Outside the Box Office: “Film Festivals and Your Distribution Strategy” in indieWire on Friday. If you didn’t see it yet I am including it below for your comfort and enjoyment!

The chapter concerns how film festivals are changing from acquisitions markets to launching grounds of what I term Live Event/Theatrical releases. I am a firm believer of integrating film festivals into your actual distribution and marketing release and not merely using them as a sales platform. Many savvy festivals are already realizing this new role and are creating more formal distribution relationships with the films they select. Sundance is doing this by arranging simultaneous screenings across the country for certain select films during the festival. The festival Planet Doc Review in Poland not books many of their films into conventional theatrical in Poland but provides DVD and digital distribution for them as well. I applaud all of these expanded efforts by festivals around the world to connect filmmakers with their audiences.

It is up to us as filmmakers to embrace these new changes and to determine how our films fit into these new opportunities. My goal with Think Outside the Box Office has been to provide one inexpensive resource to filmmakers so that they can take control of their film’s destiny. Whether or not you got into Sundance, there is much you can do (and needs to be done) to ensure your film gets out into the world and starts to recoup.

CHAPTER 14: FILM FESTIVALS AND YOUR DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY

The festival world has exploded and morphed. These days, it is not only a way to screen films to hungry filmgoers or a marketplace for getting a distributor. Festivals are your next opportunity to develop your fan base and usually your first opportunity to engage your fans in a live event/theatrical context.

This chapter is not meant to replace books that have been written about film festivals or film festival strategies, such as Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide or Christopher Holland’s Film Festival Secrets, which I suggest you take a look at for traditional festival advice. (I will give my top 11 traditional festival suggestions at the end of the chapter.) The intention of this chapter is to talk about film festivals from a distribution and marketing perspective.

THE HIDDEN POTENTIAL OF FILM FESTIVALS
While a number of people have disparaged the explosion of film festivals around the world in the last 10 years, I think this surge is extremely healthy for independent film and filmmakers.

Festivals love film and gather film lovers. Festivals have spent years gathering audience data from their attendees. This is an invaluable resource for filmmakers. Some festivals are starting to create year-round screening relationships with their audiences. This development allows filmmakers an opportunity to collaborate with the one organization that cares the most about filmmakers in any particular town — the film festival. For all the film festival programmers and directors out there: Please continue this expansion of the concept of film festivals. It will benefit the film community in innumerable ways.

THE OLD MODEL

As outlined briefly in the introduction, the old relationship between festivals and distribution for independent films was for producers to use festivals as a way to sell their films. A few U.S. festivals became de facto independent film markets for the specialized distribution business: Sundance/Slamdance, Tribeca, Los Angeles Film Festival, South by Southwest, and a few others. (This is in addition to the already traditional international film festival/markets Toronto, Berlin, and Cannes.)

If accepted into a major film festival, most filmmakers had been advised to:
o Get a sales rep (often best before acceptance into festivals, so that the rep could help get your film into said prominent festival).
o Keep your film a secret so that distributors would be forced to see it in a theatrical environment with an unbiased audience of film lovers, without interruptions.
o Pack festival screenings to indicate audience potential.
o Spend money on publicists ($8,000 to $15,000 at Sundance and Tribeca alone), parties, promotion, and travel costs for stars to promote the film. All this was to build up hype to aid a potential bidding war. Many films would spend well over $30,000 on their festival premiere.
Since the deals that filmmakers used to occasionally get because of this strategy don’t exist as they once did, doesn’t it make sense to reevaluate this strategy? Of course it does.

RETHINKING THE ROLE OF FESTIVALS

Following this traditional sales path in lock step, without creating a strategy for your film before your festival premiere, can possibly hurt your best route to distribution. Perhaps your film should start its distribution at that world premiere festival. Holding it back for a potential sale might delay it from getting a release at the most propitious time.

One prominent independent director indicated that he wished he had had his theatrical release right after his Sundance debut, because it was nearly impossible to re-create the buzz the film received at Sundance. However, he was still thinking that a distributor would pick up his film.

Festivals are one of the best event generators that independent filmmakers have access to. They are often unprecedented at creating a level of hype and promotion that is difficult for independents to create on their own. Filmmakers need to be aware of this, and utilize this strategically in their distribution plans.
DETERMINING WHETHER OR NOT TO USE YOUR FESTIVAL PREMIERE AS A SALES PLATFORM
How do you take advantage of the buzz and promotion of festivals to help monetize your film? First off, you need to try to determine if you are going to try to be one of the few lucky films in this market that might be able to make a sensible sale to a distributor at a premiere festival.

If you are trying for an acquisition, a good sales rep should be able to help you determine whether your film is right and whether there is a market for it in advance of the festival. If no respectable sales rep feels that a sale of this kind is possible for your film, you should consider this a form of collective advice. However, don’t despair, you are in the same boat as at least 95% of the other films being made that year.

Even if a premiere sales oriented festival accepts you, it might make sense for your film to pre screen for distributors in advance of your premiere festival. Discuss this with your sales rep.

Here are a couple of potential alternative scenarios for most filmmakers:

FESTIVALS AS THE PREMIERE EVENT(S) FOR YOUR THEATRICAL RELEASE

Larger independent distributors have known for some time that festivals are a cost-effective way to premiere a film on the verge of a release. In essence, they use the festival(s) as a premiere screening party.

Utilizing the festival in this manner creates an event for the film to organize publicity around. The relative prestige of the festival gives the film some heat. The stars are out on the red carpet and bring the press to the party (literally and figuratively speaking). The reportage of the party gives another level of press coverage for the film — not just reviews, but coverage on entertainment news shows such as Extra, Access Hollywood, etc.

A side benefit is that it provides a relatively free cast-and-crew event to celebrate the film. For studios, the cast-and-crew party is common practice. But for independents, it has gone out of style over the last 10 years due to the expense, as well as the fact that it takes away from your opening box office.

The festival premiere provides a lot of exposure with much less expense for a distributor or you. Having the party at a festival makes it easier to attract sponsors or to use the festival’s sponsors. Because of the festival, you might get your whole party for free, like we did with our premiere party at Tribeca (we used the festival’s liquor and a bar gave us three hours of free door because we were a Tribeca film). The festival is also, of course, providing the theater, as well as using their PR resources. Ultimately this tremendously helps the theatrical release in a town. Or if it is a national festival, it can help the national release.

This is why an increasingly large proportion of festival slots are taken up with premieres a week before a film’s conventional theatrical release with a conventional distributor.

There is no reason that filmmakers without a conventional distributor cannot use festivals in the same way, but they need to plan accordingly. If your film is prominent enough, or the festival is small enough, or a combination of those two factors, you might be able to get the festival to create an event for you. If not, then this premiere creation needs to be done by you. Although festivals will usually try to support your event, they will generally only take an active part if it is one of their official events.

Some cautions if you are going to transition to a conventional theatrical release in the same city of your festival premiere: you have to coordinate it with the local theater, since many theaters are loathe to share their audiences with a festival. Some theaters, though, will realize the promotional value of the festival and be happy for the rollover audience.

You can negotiate with the festival to reduce the number of times the festival plays your film. You can also restrict the size of the venue. This will give you the promotional benefit of the festival, but will cut down on the number of ticket buyers taken away from your theatrical release.

An alternative is to make the festival be your sole theatrical event in that town (but still function to launch the rest of your nationwide release).

With Bomb It, we went all out promoting our New York premiere at Tribeca (to create buzz to sell the film). It was then hard to re-create that buzz and hype for our actual theatrical opening. Had I known then what I know now, it would have been smart for us to have had the Tribeca Film Festival be our NY theatrical run and let all of the press come out at that time. Perhaps we could have found a small theater to roll into in NYC – although that would have been unlikely. This way we would only have had to “open” NY once, and we would have done it with the most support from all sides.

Note: Doing festival “premieres” in cities doesn’t have to be restricted to your world premiere. You can use festivals in this way at any time in the life of your film’s release.

FESTIVAL PREMIERES TO PROMOTE AN ANCILLARY MARKET RELEASE

For many films that have not been able to obtain a theatrical release, a new phrase has popped up: the festival release is the theatrical release. This may still be the case for filmmakers who don’t have the resources to pull off any other types of live event/theatrical screenings in conjunction with their festival release.

For these filmmakers, just as they would use a theatrical release to promote their ancillaries (DVD and VOD, for instance), they should prepare in advance to use their festival release in this manner.

Thought of in another way: They want to have the buzz of a theatrical release but do not have the time or money to conduct one. Hence, the festival run will be their theatrical release and they will monetize it as such.

FESTIVAL PREMIERES AS A CORNERSTONE TO A LIVE EVENTS/THEATRICAL RELEASE WITH ANCILLARIES
My recommendation would be to use the festival release as a basis for booking other types of live events in order to create a combined live event/theatrical release during your festival run. I believe this is ultimately the future for many independent filmmakers.

This approach still requires planning and strategy. Part of the planning and strategy is to have those ancillary markets set up in advance of your theatrical release.

FESTIVAL DIRECT
IFC is a pioneer in these strategies with their Festival Direct program. With Festival Direct, IFC uses a festival premiere and the festival run of the film to promote the film’s video on demand (VOD) release. The VOD is released at the same time as the festival premiere. This day-and-date release allows the VOD to take advantage of the film festival hype and press. (See Chapter 30 for an explanation of VOD.)

IFC released Joe Swanberg’s film Alexander the Last with Festival Direct at the 2009 South by Southwest film festival. Joe decided to go with IFC in releasing the film in this manner for the following reasons:
o IFC had spent a lot of money on the theatrical release of Swanberg’s film Hannah Takes The Stairs and they are still recouping. He felt they could get similar exposure with Festival Direct without the outlay of money that then must be cross-collateralized against other revenues.
o Swanberg wanted to capitalize on the attention that the festival premiere provides. In his previous releases, Swanberg felt that the six- to nine-month lag time between a festival premiere and a theatrical release killed the promotional momentum of his small films.
o Swanberg and IFC coordinated the festival premiere with a number of other theatrical releases in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland, creating a live event/theatrical release.
o Having a film on VOD day-and-date with the festival premiere allows people from across the country to see the film (as long as they have access to the VOD system releasing the film). This allows people who either missed the local screenings or were not in the cities of the local screenings to see the film in some manner.
o It allowed Swanberg to do one concerted press push for the film, saving him from having to do separate press for the festival, theatrical, and VOD releases.
Because of this last point, Swanberg would have preferred to have done all markets day-and-date with the festival release: VOD, iTunes, DVD, and theatrical. Unfortunately, due to contract obligations, IFC is currently only set up to do VOD day-and-date with their Festival Direct program.

DIY LIVE EVENT/THEATRCIAL DAY AND DATE WITH A FESTIVAL LAUNCH

If you do not want to be part of IFC’s Festival Direct program (or weren’t asked), you can set it up for yourself. You also have the advantage of not being fettered by pre-existing contractual requirements that a distributor might have.

Once you commit to this approach, you need to get as many of your revenue streams established to run concurrently with (or within a creative windowing strategy following) your festival premiere as possible.

Not only does your film need to be finished, but you need deals and materials prepped for any or all of the following releases: live event/theatrical, DVD, VOD, digital, etc.

COUNTERPOINT/CAVEAT

The above approaches require filmmakers to have a distribution and marketing plan in place before their festival premiere. The preparation necessary might be overwhelming for first-time filmmakers, or ones just struggling to get their film to the festival.

Other times, just being in a premiere festival might not be enough ammunition to book the film into theaters, especially if it is a first time filmmaker. Filmmakers with a track record should have an easier time booking theaters without advance press (although it depends on the track record).

In these cases Swartz indicates that filmmakers might be able to participate in a premiere festival to determine if a sale can be made and to gather reviews for use later in a release. If a sale isn’t made, you can then regroup and at least know where the reviews for the film will be positive. You can then use the buzz of the festival to help book your film. McInnis notes that in this scenario, you can still use the festival to build buzz and connections with online press that you can utilize later.

You might get into a second prominent festival and can then launch from that, as was the case with Weather Girl (premiered at Slamdance, launched theatrical at Los Angeles Film Festival five months later.)

In my opinion, this can be a more difficult route. Any time you need to do additional media pushes, it’s more difficult. If you are the beneficiary of a lot of hype, the sooner you can roll out your theatrical, the better.

An alternative is to focus on just a few cities for conventional theatrical following your festival premiere (perhaps just NY and LA) and then flush out the rest of the release with grassroots/community screenings that can be mobilized much more quickly than conventional theatrical. This grassroots approach is especially wise if you have worked with some organizations throughout your production and post. They can help you organize these screenings.

It is still the wild west in utilizing these new distribution strategies. It is important for your team to determine what makes sense for your film.

I would recommend doing a full evaluation of your film and its distribution prospects and creating your strategy for your film’s release well in advance of your festival premiere, so that you can best take advantage of what festivals have to offer you. Having a PMD on board who is preparing for different scenarios will go a long way to helping you tackle this new world.

OTHER WAYS TO MONETIZE FILM FESTIVALS

1. Festival Screening Fees
Just because your film is in a festival doesn’t mean that you have to give it to them for free. No top festival will pay for a film (although I can imagine this changing over time). However, many smaller festivals are accustomed to paying for films, anywhere from $200 to $1,000 (the latter is mostly foreign festivals). In fact, foreign festival fees can be rather lucrative, especially for a popular film. Smaller U.S. festivals will often pay $200 to $300 if they want your film. We’ve made about $1,500 from domestic film festivals on Bomb It.

2. Convert Festival Screenings to Theatrical Screenings
As indicated above, a number of farsighted festivals are using their relationship with their audience to exhibit films year-round. Several, such as the incredible True/False Festival in Missouri and the Denver International Film Festival, actually have theaters that they program. If you are planning and/or booking a theatrical release for your film, you might consider trying to convert a festival screening to a theatrical booking (especially if the festival does not run during the time of your live event/theatrical release). That way, you can also get a share of the box office. You also add another city as part of your release, making your release appear more substantial.

3. Incorporate Festival Screenings Into Your Live Event/Theatrical Release
In the spirit of the new live event/theatrical model, if a festival can’t be converted into a theatrical booking, incorporate that festival into the fabric of your overall release. A screening is a screening. If you are looking for promotion instead of box office, this approach makes more sense since you are likely to get more exposure being in a festival than being out on your own, especially for a smaller film. Not only does having another screening/city as part of your national release give it more gravitas but it also broadens the national appeal of your film.

JON’S CONVENTIONAL TIPS FOR FILM FESTIVALS
Since we are talking about film festivals, I might as well provide my advice on having a successful festival run:

1. Make sure your film is finished before submitting. You normally have one shot. Put your best foot forward. As I mentioned before, use preview screenings, listen to comments, and then filter.

2. Apply strategically to fests that make sense for your film both in terms of genre and quality.

3. Research the festivals you’re applying to, especially if they charge submission fees. Talk to other filmmakers. Read online reviews of the fests. See how many years they have been around and what they have programmed before.

4. If you feel a festival is critically important to you, don’t be afraid to call ahead and talk to the coordinator. You don’t need to talk to the programmer. Just don’t be a pain.

5. Apply simultaneously to top, mid-level, and smaller festivals. Don’t just hold out for top fests and let your film get stale.

6. From Thomas Harris, a film festival programmer and consultant: Submit your film one-third of the way into a festival’s submissions window/cycle (between the opening and closing dates). This gives the programmers time to digest the films they have on their shelf but still gets you in before the crush of submissions during the final submission deadline, which you should avoid at all costs.

7. Follow instructions. If the festival wants information in a certain way, give it to them. Fill out all forms as requested.

8. Keep your cover letter short, direct, and infused with your personality.

9. Always send backup media, either two DVDs or a DVD and a VHS or DV tape. Most fests will reject anything that won’t play without a backup. They simply don’t have time.

10. Go to prominent festivals to meet people, even if you don’t have a film in the festival. Use these relationships for when you have your next film done.

FESTIVALS AS DISTRIBUTORS
A few savvy fests, such as Cinequest, are using their brands as a way to create a distribution label. Sundance also has an iTunes deal for its shorts. It won’t be long before festivals start their own online streaming channels. However, a few people I mentioned this to argued that festivals won’t want to compete with the distributors they need to get their premiere films from.

Perhaps echoing this view, a former prominent festival director confided in me that a number of theatrical chains had approached him, stating that they wanted to program independent films and that they had lots of available slots, but didn’t know outside of the usual suspects how to connect with independent filmmakers. They also didn’t want to be inundated with requests from thousands of filmmakers. They wanted a gatekeeper who already reviewed content and would provide a conduit for them. The theater chains felt that this major festival was a perfect candidate. I was aghast when this former festival director said, “But I don’t think we should be in the distribution business, do you?” I replied that festivals should do anything they can to help their filmmakers and their festivals. Acting as a gatekeeper for unreleased films (much like digital aggregators) seemed like a win-win situation for both. Unfortunately, he was unconvinced.

I feel that because the distribution landscape is changing so rapidly and many people are looking for solutions to help independent films, companies will stop looking at these issues of distribution in a black-and-white, win-or-lose way and instead will start looking at what works and what doesn’t work.

Many festivals are respected, known, qualified gatekeepers of certain kinds of content. Their programming staffs are very similar to a distributor’s acquisition staff. I think it makes total sense for festivals to be in the distribution business. There are plenty of films that festivals champion that won’t receive distribution. Festivals have proven branded curatorial power that can be monetized both for festivals and filmmakers. One problem that might arise is a potential conflict between some festival’s non-profit status and the for-profit business of distribution. However, considering how difficult the independent film distribution business is, perhaps all distributors who handle independent film should be allowed to take on non-profit status. I’m only half kidding.

Justine Jacobs on DIY Distribution and her film Ready Set Bag

Doug Block from D-Word turned me onto filmmaker Justine Jacobs and her film Ready Set Bag.

She did a post on D-Word and he turned me onto it – I contacted Justine and she is letting me republish it here:

I wish there was a secret recipe. Bottom line we got tired of waiting for people to give us permission to distribute our film. Sounds cliche, but we waited for over a year to try traditional distr. angles, get funding, etc. and it got pretty discouraging always waiting for a phone call or email. We even got an offer (it sucked, but we got an offer.) The fact is I love my film. I know it’s not perfect and it’s not issue driven and OK, I’ll admit Chris, it’s not sexy. But, it’s really great and fun and people especially have a really good time seeing it with an audience in a big theater. Yes, it’s a competition film and beside the mean knuckle head from Variety who hates competition films and called us smarmy directors (look at that review to see how NOT to critique a film here on D-Word), people like competition films and it turns out really like our film.

We are committed to DIY and throwing a whole bunch of stuff to see if it sticks. We’ve thought long and hard about it, really tried to listen to those who follow the DIY model, and really tried to focus on what’s best for the film and our goal – to make this whole wonderful filmmaking thing a viable business for us.

So, a few things:
- we decided to make an event of it and “tour” it rather than open in 20 places at once.
- We are being very strategic about where we take it – starting in our home town, going to where the folks in our film are, and going to states/cities that hold bagging competitions (24 states).
- we connected it to a good cause to continue the good feeling we have about our film and the audience’s good feeling, which created another angle for stories in the news.
- we just started by calling local theaters around our area to start to the ball rolling even though not everything was in place yet. When they said yes it was a mad dash to get it all together to rebrand the film, retitle the film, make posters, dvds and pretend we are PR agents. It’s amazing what a few committed dates and deadlines can do.
- as far as core audience for our nonsexy, non issue, non major award winning film, to answer you specifically, we have a few groups:
– older individuals, especially with kids who understand what it means to try to teach your children about doing their best
– folks who work in supermarkets
– interestingly, from the last screenings we found that kids 6-12 love our film – who knew?! We are now marketing to them and their parents.
– Not high school students or college students or folks that critique for variety.
– Untested, but have potential: – Religious groups – it’s a feel good, family friendly movie

As you can tell, it is a work in progress and we work really hard. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’ve stopped complaining and are just doing it. As corny as it sounds, I actually have a little note posted on my wall that says, “strive for excellence, not perfection.” I can’t be perfect, but I certainly can be excellent.

Thank you for your wishes for success. I really hope I can say at the end of next year that our film recouped it’s costs – really. I want to be a success story. And if it doesn’t, this is still SO much better than handing all rights over to a distributor for 15 years, for basically nothing, and not seeing anything at all.

Another Free Sample Chapter from Think Outside the Box Office on Indiewire – The New Role of Film Festivals

IndieWIRE published another chapter of Think Outside the Box Office yesterday. Here it is – with a short introductory post:

This has been a big week for independent film, with the Spirit Award announcements, and of course the announcement of much of the Sundance Film Festival lineup.

In honor of this kickoff to the Winter/Spring festival circuit (Sundance, Slamdance, Rotterdam, Berlin, SXSW, Cannes, Tribeca etc.), I am publishing another chapter of my book Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for Independent Filmmakers here in indieWIRE.

This chapter involves how film festivals are changing from acquisitions markets to launching grounds of what I term Live Event/Theatrical releases. I am a firm believer of integrating film festivals into your actual distribution and marketing release and not merely using them as a sales platform. Many savvy festivals are already realizing this new role and are creating more formal distribution relationships with the films they select. Sundance is doing this by arranging simultaneous screenings across the country for certain select films during the festival. The festival Planet Doc Review in Poland not books many of their films into conventional theatrical in Poland but provides DVD and digital distribution for them as well. I applaud all of these expanded efforts by festivals around the world to connect filmmakers with their audiences.

It is up to us as filmmakers to embrace these new changes and to determine how our films fit into these new opportunities. My goal with Think Outside the Box Office has been to provide one inexpensive resource to filmmakers so that they can take control of their film’s destiny. Whether or not you got into Sundance, there is much you can do (and needs to be done) to ensure your film gets out into the world and starts to recoup.

Next week I will also be launching a twitter/blog/column interface “@askJon”, in conjunction with indieWIRE. Each week, starting on Monday, I will post questions throughout the day on my Twitter account @Jon_Reiss about a specific film distribution and marketing topic. You can also ask me questions. Short answers I will post right away. However many answers take more than 140 characters (the Twitter limit). So every week I will write a new column for indieWIRE that will address the questions and topic of the week. Next week’s topic will be the role of film festivals, of course. If you are not on Twitter – its time to start!
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