Monthly Archives: January 2010

NSI Audio Interview with Jon Reiss on Film Distribution and Marketing 15 Power Packed Minutes

Here is the power packed interview that I did with Liz Hover at the National Screen Institute of Canada.

http://www.nsi-canada.ca/audio_interview_with_jon_reiss.aspx

The Blarg Review of TOTBO Think Outside the Box Office

Here is a review of TOTBO in The Blarg

Think Outside the Box Office by Jon Reiss (Hybrid Cinema)
Breaking into the film industry has always been easier said than done. The digital age, of course, has made the world much smaller, bringing people closer together. One would think that this would make it easier to get a film made, but it’s unfortunately had the reverse effect; it’s forced filmmakers to get creative. Just look at the popularity of films like “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity.” The filmmakers of those movies thought outside of the box and made a killing because of it. Think Outside the Box Office can easily be regarded as a bible for those types of filmmakers. Whether you’re looking to produce a feature film, web series, short, or even a clip for YouTube, this book outlines unique distribution strategies and marketing methods for filmmakers of all sizes. I can see readers who aren’t surrounded by the film industry becoming a little bogged down by some of the book’s lingo and terminology, but don’t let that discourage you. If anything, this book should force you to learn those terms, not run from them. If filmmaking is an industry you’re looking to get into, pick this up, grab a highlighter, and get reading.

NEW BREED PARK CITY – Discovering the Questions Jon Reiss, Ira Deutchman,

In Park City From Sabi Pictures and Filmmaker Magazine and Workbook Project

SOLUTION-BASED: NEW BREED AT PARK CITY PART 2

Here’s the second of the New Breed videos discussing the current and future states of distribution. From the makers:

Filmmakers Zak Forsman and Kevin K. Shah of Sabi Pictures arrive at Park City with an intent to define the questions most relevant to independent distribution options. Insights from Brian Newman, Dan Mirvish, Jon Reiss and Ira Deutchman open a path toward discovering some real solutions.

NEW BREED PARK CITY – Discovering the Questions from Sabi Pictures on Vimeo.

Review: DIY Filmmaking | Think Outside the Box Office and Tips from Bomb It!’s Jon Reiss

From Adam David Mezei (Thanks Adam for the nice words!)

DIY Filmmaking | Think Outside the Box Office and Tips from Bomb It!’s Jon Reiss

I spent Sunday evening flipping through Winter 2010’s edition of Filmmaker Magazine, fresh off the press for January. I stumbled across two excellent DIY articles, one called REMIND (p84) penned by its aspiring editor, the filmmaker Scott Macaulay that reported on several hot do-it-yourself trends from 2009, some of which set to become the norm for the coming decade and beyond. The second was by the excellent guest editor Alicia Van Couvering (“SLUMPDAYS,” p90), who gave a clever summary of five Sundance-entry films that recently shattered the independent funding sound barrier using innovative crowdsourced fundraising approaches which helped catapult these titles all the way to Park City.

For all you indie filmmakers out there, these are less ironclad stepwise prescriptions to follow rather than helpful departure points to jog your memory and inspire you as you go about your own filmmaking odyssey.

That dude pictured above is none other than Jon Reiss, director of the documentary Bomb It and the man most well-known among indie circles as “the DIY guy,” having recently penned the book Think Outside the Box Office in what’s become a key resource for indie filmmakers presently the road to landing traction (read: distribution) for their film. Yes, folks, this is filmmaking’s dirty little secret.

Normally, I’ll blow through a book’s pages in just a couple of sittings. Sure, I’ll take notes and reflect on things as I do so, but T.O.T.B.O. isn’t the sort of work you want to plough through like quicksilver. Instead, and on Jon’s advice in the book which he gets to rather early on, I’ve opted for a more considered approach this time, chapter by chapter with ample breaks in between to put several of the tips Jon suggests in into play. I can safely say that some of Jon’s suggestions have reaped already dividends for us. I’ve plucked out gems about how to better leverage my Facebook and YouTube presences, with nifty ideas on how to gain increased video views and tips on how to better leverage my use of Facebook Groups (better) and FB Fan Pages (not so good) for keeping fans in the loop. Most of all, I admire what Jon repeatedly counsels about conceiving your film’s marketing plan months in advance of your shoot. Jon supplies helpful approaches on compiling your mailing list, your film’s credit list (for when the film locks), and makes available unheard-of indie marketing strategies for geo-locating your fans through such innocuous things like US zip codes to more accurately pinpoint fans when passing through various parts of the country on road shows or for film festivals.

Jon also talks about the appointment of a new position called the “PMD” – Producer of Marketing and Distribution – someone who has production-level authority yet who isn’t directly related to the actual shooting and production of the film because then the P&A (prints and advertising) duties won’t ever be completed. This individual is your point person on the following items in your marketing arsenal, among others, and this position will scale closer to your film’s post-production:

* keeping on top of all Facebook posts, FB Groups and their management, and replying to all comments in a very timely manner. The PMD posts clips, links, and other relevant items of interest to your film’s FB Wall as you go through the production cycle.
* maintaining sole login access to your film’s twitter account, so that the film stays on message and all “@” mentions are responded to on time.
* establishing strategic relationships across various social media spheres as your picture picks up speed.
* moderating and responding to all comments off your blog and keeping content current and tasty off your homepage.
* gaining media exposure for the film, managing your interview schedule, taking phone calls, and various other line responsibilities that have a PA-feel to them, but which aren’t the sole purview of the officially-designated Production Assistant.
* collecting email addresses at festivals.
* shooting DVD Bonus Feature material or organizing spare bits of festival Q&A and other odds and ends for your film’s Special Features.

With social media and Web2.0 taking center stage in the new indie filmmaking cycle, Facebook-ing, MySpace-ing, tweeting, and blog commenting are here to stay. They are the bane of filmmakers, given how it tends to detract from the creative process, but Reiss clearly emphasizes how the new distribution realities in the filmmaking world now compel filmmakers to elevate these daily chores to a higher priority position given how notions like crowdsourcing and “the cloud” and such similar concepts have gained prominence over the past three years.

I’ve been enjoying the read, and I’m sure you will as well.

Slamdance Filmmaker Summit – Live Consulting Session

The Slamdance Filmmaker Summit is happening today. You can stream it live!. I’ll be doing a live community consulting session for 2 films:

Ride the Divide A feature-length documentary produced by Mike Dion and directed by Hunter Weeks www.ridethedividemovie.com
I picked this movie because of the large niche audience that they can appeal to with a variety of platforms.

Self Helpless A feature-length narrative; www.selfhelplessmovie.com
I picked this movie because of their belief in using P2P networks to launch their film.

I’ll be guiding the audience to create a distribution and marketing strategy for each of these films in 15 minutes! Yiiikes!

If you will be attending – here are some items to consider to help facilitate the process:
1. Who is the audience for these films?
2. How does this audience consume media?
3. How can this audience be accessed?
4. What distribution outlets make sense for these films considering 3 main areas:
Live events
Merchandise
Digital
5. How can they connect their audience to these distribution channels.

This is good for any filmmaker to think about in reference to their film!

Should be fun. If you get a chance to catch it – let me know what you think.

Jon

Filmmaker Magazine article: Choosing a Fulfillment Company for Film Distribution

I’m back in Filmmaker Magazine – this time with a grind down to the details article on fulfillment companies:

DIY NUTS AND BOLTS:CHOOSING A FULFILLMENT COMPANY
By Jon Reiss

As you may know I recently released a book, Think Outside the Box Office, a practical guide to distributing and marketing a film in today’s economically challenging marketplace. Because of the similar state of the publishing industry, and because I wanted to get the book out for filmmakers ASAP, I decided to publish and distribute it myself, similar to how I had released my film Bomb It. Due to my compressed publication schedule, however, there was one topic I wasn’t able to fully explore: fulfillment. No, not the joy you get from finishing a film but the mechanism by which you will actually make sure that DVDs from your online store will make it to your eager fans.

I’ve recently set up my own store to sell my films and, of course, the book, and I’ve researched most of the major companies out there. Here is an overview and summary of my findings that should help you if you plan to get into the retail business with your latest film. The related charts are here and here. I will assume that you have also read either my DVD distribution articles for Filmmaker (also available at Filmmakermagazine.com) or the relevant chapters in Think Outside the Box Office.

Elements of the Fulfillment Process

There are five main components to the order fulfillment process, which is how you sell and ship physical consumer products if you don’t have your own brick-and-mortar store.

The Shopping Cart: This is what the customer sees when they place the order. The software behind the cart is what tracks the order, provides you with customer data, contains your affiliate program, allows you to have coupon specials, etc.

Payment Gateway: The payment gateway is the equivalent to a credit card processor at a retail store. For a fee, it takes the credit card information, organizes it and encrypts it for the merchant bank.

Merchant Bank/Account: The merchant account collects the money from the customers’ credit cards or checks and then places that money in your bank account, also for a fee.

Fulfillment Company: This is the company that then takes the paid orders and pulls the items from inventory, puts them into envelopes, addresses them, and gives them to a shipping company or post office and pays for the shipping.

Customer Service: If something goes wrong with an order, somebody must deal with it, and you probably don’t want that to be you.

Full-service fulfillment is what I generally recommend for filmmakers. One company handles every step of the process. Hiring out different companies, while it can be less expensive for high quantities, requires you to coordinate the orders between the shopping cart and fulfillment company.
Basis for Comparison

Setup charges. The total setup charges include shopping cart setup, account setup and basic receiving. All the companies I investigated had basic shopping carts included.

Monthly charges include accounting, reporting, inventory, storage fees, and, in most cases, basic customer service.

For this survey, I compared two items of data: costs per order and costs as a percentage of sales.

Costs per Order: These include Order Processing Fees (OPF) that range from 4 to 20 percent. Also includes order processing, payment gateway and merchant account fees.

Shipping and Handling (SH) Fees. This includes pick, pack, bubble wrap and firstclass postage (although it was unclear how Amazon sent their packages).

Cost as a Percentage of Sales: This figure takes all of the costs, setup, monthly and order charges and then calculates them as a percentage of total sales. It also takes into consideration the disparity of “Pick, Pack and Ship” fees from the different companies. For the article I ran four different sales scenarios for the first two years of sales. The full results are broken down at the Filmmaker Web site.
Company Comparisons

Top Choice for the No-Frills Filmmaker: NeoFlix. I have had good luck using this company for Bomb It. NeoFlix is a cost-effective one-stop shop for filmmakers who don’t need or want to get too adventurous in their online marketing. While they have an affiliate program (which I used for Bomb It), however, it isn’t as easy to use as the one used by another company, 4th Way. They do have e-mail list management with a nifty Box Office Widget, though, which allows you to collect e-mail addresses, put your trailer in the widget and allows it to be moderately viral. The widget also has a built-in screening “Demand It” function. NeoFlix also has a “Backstage” component in which you can give members or contributors access to exclusive digital content — useful for crowdsourced funding.

NeoFlix has low monthly fees and low setup charges but they take 12 percent of the sale. They have two pricing tiers. Option B is for filmmakers grossing more than $600 a month and it provides monthly accounting. Option A is for the filmmakers selling less and provides quarterly accounting.

In comparing their cost as a percentage of sales they range from 14 percent and drop down to 10 percent of sales. I don’t feel that their slightly higher cost compared to Amazon compensates for the lack of having someone you can talk to directly about your account. NeoFlix can also get you on Amazon and save you the $40 a month merchant account fee. 4th Way will do this as well.

Top Choice For the E-Marketer: 4th Way Fulfillment. I chose 4th Way Fulfillment to be the fulfillment company for Think Outside the Box Office for the following reasons: I wanted to experiment with more robust e-mail marketing strategies, affiliate marketing, e-mail auto responders and ad tracking. 4th Way is the only company that works with a sophisticated enough (though expensive) shopping cart to do all of this.

The pricing structure indicated on the chart at Filmmakermagazine.com and used for this article illustrates a new structure that 4th Way created as an additional option for filmmakers.

4th Way can also set up a phone order line and a dedicated customer service phone number for an additional cost. In addition, 4th Way gives you more control over the shipping and handling options you offer your customers.

The extra services are more expensive. They only start to make financial sense if you are going to sell 2,500 units the first year when their cost of percentage of sales drops to 13 percent. If you sell less than 2,500 units, they become more expensive than most of the other options.

If you are going to pursue a robust e-commerce sale strategy, you should strongly consider using 4th Way. They are the bridge between NeoFlix and a fully segmented approach to fulfillment.

(Disclosure on 4th Way and NeoFlix: The reason I chose them for my work is because I have enjoyed my experience with them, they have paid me and I believe they are the best value for what they offer. Because of my relationship with them, I asked each of these companies to provide discounts as part of the bonus gifts. So that is both a plug and a disclosure.)

Bteakthrough/Transmit. Breakthrough Distribution has recently set up a relationship and new pricing plan using Transit Media, which New Day Films Educational cooperative have used for a number of years. Breakthrough also works with NeoFlix but set up this relationship with Transmit so that filmmakers would have an alternative. Transmit has been around for many years, mainly fulfilling educational sales. Transmit is also based on the east coast, so that might help you with initial freight charges and convenience if you like to be close to your fulfillment house, like I do.

At first glance their 4 percent OPF is very attractive. But when you factor in their higher shipping costs and deduct that difference from their OPF, their cost as a percentage of sales is the same or even potentially higher than NeoFlix and 4th Way (the latter under certain sales scenarios). Their higher S&H makes a lot of sense if you are mostly doing fewer, higher price-per-unit educational sales, which I did not run figures on. For a $200 sale the 4 percent OPF (as opposed to NeoFlix’s 8 percent for a similar high-per-unit sale) is a significant difference.

Now you may think, the S&H is passed onto the consumer, so why do I care? I feel that high S&H is a barrier to sales — think about how you buy products online.

But from my research, Breakthrough/Transmit is a reliable company and makes sense if you have a low volume of sales or have expensive products in your product line.

The Connextion. I found out about these folks from Ted Hope’s Truly Free Film blog. They have an interesting model that could be useful for some filmmakers. I like that they are easy to access, friendly and consider themselves a people company who use the Internet as a tool. They mostly work with bands and a lot of their added features reflect this: an ability to take credit card sales on the road (e.g. for filmmakers at screenings), aggregating to digital sites, manufacture of DVDs and t-shirts. Also their percentage only, everything included, no monthly fee is a simple attractive solution. However if you are doing any sort of volume, they are a bit expensive. Even at high volumes their cost as a percentage of sales is still 20 percent, which, since it’s a flat fee, is much higher than the alternatives above.

Amazon Merchant Account and Fulfillment by Amazon

While fulfillment by Amazon is relatively cheap and seems to be a good alternative, you need to hook up a shopping cart and merchant account of your own to take advantage of those rates. Otherwise you need to set up a merchant account to make your sales on Amazon. Amazon then is your shopping cart, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering it is the biggest in the world. In addition, people are used to buying from them and they have their own customer service.

However as far as I know they don’t provide e-commerce marketing solutions that you have control over as you would in a stand-alone shopping cart. Another downside is that they don’t support international shipping; you would need to handle that through Amazon’s international stores. They also do not have someone you can call to deal with your problems — merchant service (you) is all e-mail.

When you factor in the OPF of 15 percent, their cost as a percentage of sales is competitive with NeoFlix and even better than NeoFlix for certain volumes. However I don’t think it is a significant enough difference to give up the various e-commerce solutions that NeoFlix and 4th Way offer, as well as the filmmaker service that both of those outlets provide.

If you like this nuts-and-bolts approach to film distribution and marketing please check out my book Think Outside the Box Office. There are another 350 pages of similar information on every aspect of a film’s release. And check out the extended version of this article and the comparative data charts at Filmmakermagazine.com.

Declaration of Indies – Reiss and Broderick in the NYT Today

Manohla Dargis interviewed me for an article on self distribution for the New York Times – it came out today. Proud to be in the company of the esteemed Peter Broderick!

Declaration of Indies: Just Sell It Yourself!
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: January 14, 2010

LAST November inside a conference room at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, a film consultant named Peter Broderick was doing his best to foment a revolution. Mr. Broderick, who helps filmmakers find their way into the marketplace, was spreading the word on an Internet-era approach to releasing movies that he believes empowers filmmakers without impoverishing them economically or emotionally. Mr. Broderick divides distribution into the Old World and New, infusing his PowerPoint presentation with insurgent rhetoric. He has written a “declaration of independence” for filmmakers that — as he did that afternoon — he reads while wearing a tricorn hat.

In the Old World of distribution, filmmakers hand over all the rights to their work, ceding control to companies that might soon lose interest in their new purchase for various reasons, including a weak opening weekend. (“After the first show,” Mr. Broderick said, repeating an Old World maxim, “we know.”) In the New World, filmmakers maintain full control over their work from beginning to end: they hold on to their rights and, as important, find people who are interested in their projects and can become patrons, even mentors. The Old World has ticket buyers. The New World has ticket buyers who are also Facebook friends. The Old World has commercials, newspapers ads and the mass audience. The New World has social media, YouTube, iTunes and niche audiences. “Newspaper ads,” Mr. Broderick said, “are mostly a waste of money.”

The 200 filmmakers inside the conference room laughed, soaking up Mr. Broderick’s pitch as if their careers depended upon it, which perhaps they do. Independent filmmaking has never been for the faint of heart. But the consensus is that the past few years have been especially brutal. Sales have slowed, deal prices have dropped, and most of the major studios have retreated from the independent scene, closing or scaling back divisions like Warner Independent Pictures and Paramount Vantage, which released the kinds of movies that win critical hearts and awards. And good films are going unsold. Given the changes and downsizing, these might seem like worrisome times for movie lovers as well. After all, if these companies disappear, how do we find the next great American independent filmmaker, the new Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson 2.0?

For consultants like Mr. Broderick and filmmakers like Jon Reiss (the documentary “Bomb It”) the answer lies in self-distribution, in filmmakers doing it themselves or, more accurately, doing it themselves with a little or a lot of help from other people, including consultants like Mr. Broderick and Richard Abramowitz. Last year Mr. Abramowitz, a film-industry veteran who runs an outfit in Armonk, N.Y., called Abramorama with one full-time employee (him), helped shepherd Sacha Gervasi’s documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” about a 1970s metal band and its rebirth, into a success, with almost $700,000 at the North American box office. Consultants guide filmmakers on every angle of distribution. They can simply offer advice, but can also develop a marketing strategy, book theaters and collect the money.

If the D.I.Y. drumbeat has grown louder in recent years, it’s not only because the major studios have backed away from the independent sector. That’s a factor, but there are other issues involved, among them that the economic barriers to filmmaking have never been lower. Martin Scorsese once said that John Cassavetes’s first feature, “Shadows,” shot in the late 1950s with a 16-millimeter camera, proved to filmmakers that there were “no more excuses,” adding, “If he could do it, so could we!” Still, even in the glory years of the new American cinema movement, from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, when the major studios appeared more open to original voices, Cassavetes had to self-distribute his 1974 masterpiece “A Woman Under the Influence,” which he did successfully, pulling in $6 million domestically.

Inexpensive digital cameras and editing software have lowered the barrier for filmmakers even further. Yet even as the means of production have entered into more hands, companies — large and small — continue to dominate distribution. Hollywood’s historical hold on resources and the terms of the conversation have made it difficult for an authentic alternative system to take root in America. The festival circuit has emerged as a de facto distribution stream for many filmmakers, yet the ad hoc world of festivals is not a substitute for real distribution. And then there’s the simple fact that there are independent filmmakers who do not fit inside the Hollywood (and Hollywood-style) distribution model and do not want to. For some stubborn independents D.I.Y. distribution has at times been either the best or only option.

In 1992, the year before Disney bought Miramax Films, thereby initiating the indie gold rush, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky became a model for true independence when they distributed their own documentary “Brother’s Keeper” (1992) to substantial critical and commercial success. In the years since, those entering self-distribution have included emerging talent like Andrew Bujalski (who initially sold DVDs of his 2005 film “Mutual Appreciation” online) and established filmmakers like David Lynch (who released his 2006 movie “Inland Empire” in theaters himself). As self-distributed movies have found levels of critical or commercial success or even both, others have followed, including “The Talent Given Us,” “Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037,” “Ballast,” “Helvetica” and “Good Dick.”

Some self-distributed titles find their audiences with help from consultants, while others make their way into the marketplace with the help of consultants and companies that take a fee, rather than a percentage of the profits and all the distribution rights. Innovative strategies abound. Mr. Broderick is an advocate of what he calls hybrid distribution, which, as he has put it, “combines direct sales by filmmakers with distribution by third parties.” Thus filmmakers hold on to their sales rights and sell the DVD retail rights to one buyer and the video-on-demand rights to another and so on — rather than handing them all over to one distributor, as has been traditional. This allows filmmakers to reach audiences directly while controlling their own work and destinies, at least in theory.

The new D.I.Y. world is open-source in vibe and often execution. Participants refer to one another in conversation and on their Web sites and blogs, pushing other people’s ideas and projects. (On his Web site, peterbroderick.com, Mr. Broderick even posts discount codes for other people’s books.) But these new-era distribution participants are not engaging in blog-rolling. By sharing information and building on one another’s ideas, they are in effect creating a virtual infrastructure. This infrastructure doesn’t compete with Hollywood; this isn’t about vying with products released by multinational corporations. It is instead about the creation and sustenance of a viable, artist-based alternative — one that, at this stage, looks markedly different from what has often been passed off as independent cinema over the past 20 years.

Although D.I.Y. has become shorthand for this new movement, a more complex idea of the filmmaker-audience dynamic is emerging (Mr. Reiss calls it “a sea change”), partly as a response to the shifts in the industry, though also in reaction to the changes in the audience or more specifically audiences. Although some viewers still enjoy the ritual of going out to see movies, others don’t want to experience their entertainment in a theater, preferring to immerse themselves in a media-saturated world across a variety of platforms. “My son,” Mr. Reiss said, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, “consumes media on his computer and his iPod, and he will occasionally go out to a movie theater.” He tries to encourage his son, who’s 13, to go to the movies, but finds it tough. “He would rather interact with media on his computer than anywhere else.”

One of the buzzy ideas in D.I.Y. is transmedia, a word borrowed from academia, in which stories — think of the “Star Wars” and “Matrix” franchises — unfold across different platforms. “Star Wars” helped expand the very idea of a movie, because it involved a constellation of movie-related products, from videogames to action figures, all of which become part of the understanding and experience of the original, originating work. This isn’t just about slapping a movie logo on a lunchbox or a screensaver: it’s about creating an entertainment gestalt. As the theorist Henry Jenkins writes, “Reading across the media sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption.” In other words, you can sell one ticket to a moviegoer or enlist fans into media feedback loops that they in turn help create and sustain.

It might seem counterintuitive that D.I.Y. independents are borrowing a page from the George Lucas playbook. But only if you forget that Mr. Lucas is the most successful independent filmmaker in history. 20th Century Fox distributed the first “Star Wars,” yet Mr. Lucas kept the sequel and merchandising rights. “If I make money,” he said when the movie was released, “it will be from the toys.” The new generation of D.I.Y. filmmakers might not be pushing toys on their Web sites (though I’d like to see an Andrew Bujalski action figure), but they do peddle DVDs, posters, CDs, books and — much as Spike Lee did before them — are getting hip to selling themselves alongside their art.

The downside to this new D.I.Y. world is that filmmakers, who already tend to expend tremendous time and effort raising money, might end up spending more hours hawking their wares than creating new work. “I struggle with this all the time,” Mr. Reiss said. But artists who want to reach an audience are rarely if ever really free of the marketplace, and filmmakers working in the commercial arena tend to be even less so. For Mr. Reiss and other do-it-yourselfers, the most important thing is to reach their audiences, any which way, niche by niche, pixel by pixel, in theaters or online. “This is the other voice of film,” Mr. Reiss said with urgency, “and if this dies, all we’re left with is the monopoly.”

Connecting Audiences and Filmmakers Part 1

Re:Connecting Audiences and Filmmakers Part 1

This was published in the Huffington Post and Tribeca Takes yesterday

Much has been written about the collapse of the distribution model for independent films in this country and around the world. There seems to be a general consensus that an audience for independent film (and independent voices) still exists (and much of that audience is you!) What seems to be broken is the connection between these audiences and the filmmakers. This connection used to be filled by various versions of the studio delivery model, which for some people never really served either the audiences of independent film or the filmmakers themselves. By being reliant on the studio model, these people felt that independent film skewed to supporting films that were studio wannabes, not real independent voices (with some wonderful exceptions of course).

There is a new generation of filmmakers who want to engage directly with their audiences (many older filmmakers are embracing this model as well – some kicking and screaming).

The purpose of this article is to encourage audience members to reach back to filmmakers – and provide ten concrete ways to do so.

1. Join Filmmaker’s Email Lists. This email list is essential to filmmakers. It provides them with the most direct way for them to communicate with you, their audience, and the only means of contact that they control independently of other companies. Facebook owns all of the information about you, including your “friends”, e.g. you cannot access this fan information directly. You can easily unsubscribe to any filmmaker’s email list that who abuses the gift of your email. (Note to filmmaker’s – don’t bombard your fans with constant updates. When you are not in release 1x a month is plenty. When you are in release you should target screenings to zip codes so you don’t blast your whole list for a screening in Amarillo.)

2. Join Filmmaker’s Facebook Pages/Groups/Twitter Feeds. Even though the email list is most important, it is also good to join a filmmaker’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, especially in the beginning. This early joining helps the filmmaker get some traction in the social web space. It encourages others to join if they see the space populated by others. And then again – you might actually be interested in what the filmmaker posts and tweets about! This is one of the best ways to engage a filmmaker in a “conversation”.

[You don’t even need to participate in Twitter or Facebook if you don’t want to (believe me I know lots of people who don’t want to). You can sign up and merely friend/follow films and then ignore them – the numbers you add to filmmakers sites will be helpful enough. Eventually you may even want to start actively following.]

3. Become proactive – Spread the word, retweet, tell your friends. Part one of helping a filmmaker is joining their social networks. Part two is to spread the word to your friends and followers. I’m hoping for ways that filmmakers can reward their most ardent fans and supporters. There are networks of digital street teams in the music world for fans to earn swag and back stage passes by how much social networking and promotion they do for the bands. Why not apply this model to film?

4. Become a Producer – This is incredibly easy now via crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is the principal of “crowdsourcing” applied to film finance – essentially filmmakers set up gifts and bonuses in exchange for donations – solicited throughout the Internet. Crowdfunding to me is not so much about raising money – as connecting with audiences. Instead of waiting for films to be finished and then seeing them or not, why not engage in the process of creating the films themselves? For a modest donation there are plethora of projects that will give you anything from a producer credit to a set visit to regular pod-cast updates on the progress of a film to even a role in film itself. Through your social networks, you can get your friends involved.

5. If You Like a Film – Rate it and Review It. Customer reviews on Amazon, IMDB, Netflix are HUGELY valuable to filmmakers. Taking 5 minutes to rate and post a few lines about a film on one of these sites can mean so much more to a film than buying a DVD. If you don’t have money to buy a film, or have seen it on a pirate site (god forbid), this is a great way to give back to the filmmakers.

Next week: Part 2 From new screening venues to the my opinions on “free”.

Feel free to contact me, follow me or friend me at:
Reiss.jon@gmail.com
jonreiss.com/blog
twitter.com/Jon_Reiss
facebook.com/ThinkOutsidetheBoxOffice

http://www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

Jon Reiss on Rex Sikes Movie Beat Tomorrow

Tomorrrow I will be on Rex Sikes Movie Beat radio show.

Thurs Jan 14th at Noon PST

Check it out!

Jon Reiss Consulting at Slamdance & Offering free Consulting to 10 Sundance/Slamdance Filmmakers

As some of you might know, one of the reasons that I wrote Think Outside the Box Office was after those first Filmmaker articles I wrote in Fall ‘08 about my experiences distributing my graffiti doc Bomb It, many filmmakers contacted me to help them with their films. However they were all broke, as most filmmakers are. The book started as a brain dump so that I could share my experiences with others. I figured people could at least afford $20-$25. (After many requests the book is now available as a PDF from my site for $14.95)

But filmmakers still need individual advice; how to apply the new distribution and marketing models and landscape to their specific films. And unfortunately since filmmakers in general are not saving money for distribution and marketing, they are still broke.

So I wanted to do some kind of community consulting “event” at Park City this year. I thought about sitting in a coffee shop for 2 hours a day and having online sign ups for 20 minute sessions (I still might do this if enough people request it).

However, Lance Weiler asked me to do a live consulting session at the Slamdance Filmmaker Summit (Saturday January 23rd) with two filmmaking teams one narrative/one doc. Anyone in Park City can attend and it can also be live streamed (along with the rest of the Summit that I recommend you all check out).

I’ve decided to expand this to 10 more feature filmmakers from either Sundance or Slamdance. I will provide 45 minutes of consultation by phone or Skype before the festival begins and 45 minutes during the festival. This can be used in any way the filmmakers want, from helping to devise a complete DIY scenario, to getting my opinion on any deals being offered.

For selection any interested film should email me by Thursday January 14th by noon at reiss.jon@gmail.com. Send me what you have eg synopsis, trailer, website, plans you have in mind etc.

I will pick the films and announce them by Friday January 15th.

For any other Sundance/Slamdance filmmaker not chosen I will be reducing my consulting rate before and during the festival from $75 an hour to $50 an hour. This rate will apply even for the chosen films if they want to go beyond the first hour and a half.