Monthly Archives: September 2010

Ride the Divide Part 1: Set Your Goals, Identify and Partner With Your Audience

Tonight at midnight Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion launch a 2711 minute free access to their film “Ride the Divide” on You Tube to coincide with LiveStrong Day on October 2nd. The film is about three riders as they traverse the 2711 miles of the continental divide from Banff Canada to the Mexican border. I wanted to write about this film because of the smart use of free online content – the limited access actually creates an online event around which the filmmakers can generate publicity (this will actually be the subject of a later post.

In addition, I have a personal interest in the film because as Hunter told me, their strategy was kickstarted when I live workshopped the Slamdance Filmmaker Summit this past January. In that workshop I walked them through developing a distribution and marketing strategy (with the participation of the audience) based on the system that I developed for filmmakers in Think Outside the Box Office. I enjoyed that workshop so much, I then incorporated it into nearly all the workshops that I have done since then.

Continue reading →

Back to NYC: OVC and Raindance

Headed back to NY today – after a few days back in LA. First up tomorrow I will be at the Open Video Conference on a panel: “Future of Exhibition: Opening the Box Office” Friday, 3-3:45PM. This panel will look at how producers are bypassing traditional gatekeepers to reach out to their audience while exploring the tools that are shaping this process.

Then on Sunday October 3rd I’ll be speaking at Raindance NYC giving a quick class: “Real World Survival Skills for Independent Filmmakers” Sunday, 4-6PM. This workshop will be a survey and introduction to a fresh approach at film distribution and marketing. I will walk you through his modern, practical and unique game plan for efficiently connecting you and your film with the audience it deserves.

Hope to see you there!!

Lab Reflection, Cage Match Today and Photo Cine Expo this Saturday

This week I’ve been mentoring at the IFP lab – 10 narrative and 10 doc projects all still in post. As you might know this is a first of its kind completion distribution and marketing lab to integrate these previously separate processes which I have been involved with since the spring. The lab continues through December. I was amazed with what some of the teams came up with, several of whom had PMDs. Some had full blown marketing plans. Nearly all had trailers, key art mock ups, ideas for their target audiences and how to reach them (or in process of connecting with them. Others were considering various forms of content and audience engagement as part of a larger release pattern. Some had innovative ideas for merchandise to sell with their or instead of their DVDs etc. (longer post next week) The world is changing one step at a time.

And Today:

September 23rd: Independent Filmmaker Conference of 2010, New York City – Panel “Cage Match: Am I Filmmaker or Brand?” Thursday, 4:30-5:30PM. I will be appearing at the Independent Filmmaker Conference which is being held at the Haft Auditorium at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. http://conference.ifp.org/

And Saturday:

September 25th: PhotoCine Expo, LA Film School, Hollywood, CA – Jon Reiss: Think Outside the Box Office Saturday, 11:30AM-12:30PM. The fundamental principles of the new landscape of film distribution and marketing: What is the new 50/50 and how does it affect me? How and why filmmakers need to be as concerned with audience connection as making films. Integrating audience connection into the filmmaking process. Reconceptualization of film rights from a filmmakers perspective into three basic categories: Live Event/Theatrical, Merchandise and Digital. http://photocinenews.com/

Am I a Filmmaker or a Brand? Why not be both?

A year ago, I brought the preview copies of Think Outside the Box Office to sell at Independent Film Week, straight off the press. This week in addition to being a lab leader and mentor of the new IFP Filmmaker Labs, I have the honor of being paired in a Cage Match on Thursday against Michael Tully from Hammer to Nail, moderated/refereed by Michelle Satter from the Sundance Labs on the subject: “Am I A Filmmaker or Brand”. I thought I would down some thoughts on the subject.

I don’t think that “filmmaker” and “brand” are exclusive of one another. I think that all filmmakers, in fact all creative artists, have the opportunity to be both. For many filmmakers, the sooner they realize this potential, the happier they will be.

I can understand the knee jerk reaction to the concept of “filmmaker as brand”. For years filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers, have resisted being pigeonholed. “We’re artists with a broad eclectic taste. I can’t be pinned down to any one type of film.” I can also see how “brand” runs smack against the concept of “independent” which has always had some synonymous relationship to “freedom”. “I can’t be a free artist to express myself, if I tether myself to some concept of who I am imposed by others”.

In addition filmmakers and many other artists are uncomfortable with the concept of “branding” because it is a concept that corporate America uses in their never ending quest for consumer “mindshare”. As a ex punk rock neo Marxist anarchist who made a film about the global explosion of street art and graffiti culture and the resultant battle over visual public space, I understand this point of view. Ironically it is a battle over public space because graff writers and street artists are trying to convey their brand as much as the corporations in their own never ending desire to get up.

Filmmakers need to get over the art vs. commerce false opposition fast. Marketing is about audience connection. I make films because I want to express myself creatively and communicate my ideas to as many people as possible – and continue doing that. Marketing is what aids me in this process.

Many filmmakers whom I admire are brands by the consistency of their work both thematically and artistically: Wong Kar Wai, Quentin Tarantino, The Darden Brothers, Jane Campion, Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Werner Herzog, Polanski (from history: Hitchcock, Lang, Anthony Mann, Orson Welles). I know the kind of cinematic experience I am going to get from seeing one of their films. It compels me to see films of these directors even if I don’t know what the film is about. This branding helps enable these filmmakers to garner financing for their films (in the same way that actors names work as brand names and attract financing and distribution). It does because there is a strong identifiable quality and style (brand identity) associated with that director.

These directors didn’t set out to create themselves as a brand – they just created the work. However, instead of allowing the process to happen haphazardly, or to have others define you, I feel that it is best for directors to develop their own voice (outside of their films) and define themselves and in so doing engage, connect with and grow their audiences.

Ultimately, besides making an excellent film, the name of the game is connecting that film to an audience (if you have an interest in an audience – if not this is all moot). Audience connection is at least half the battle for filmmakers.

Think of the power (and freedom) that the artists listed above (or more importantly future artists) could achieve with a direct relationship with their fans. I’d love to see Tarantino crowd fund a film.

Kevin Smith is an incredible example. His audience wants to see, hear and engage with Kevin Smith. He communicates directly with his audience and considers products that they will want to consume in the form of Live Events (Kevin Smith Live), Merchandise (Kevin Smith toys), and Digital Content (Kevin Smith podcasts and iPhone apps).

Branding is a way to create an on-going relationship with an audience. Audience development and connection is hard work. Why reinvent the wheel each time you make a film, why not cultivate those fans who like your work into a core group who can sustain you? Tools exist now like never before to help you do this. Plus talking to like minded people should be a fun thing, feeding off of each other’s ideas, contributing to a community of artists, hearing positive feedback on work you have created that means something to someone, touched them in some way. A more consistent dialogue with your audience can sustain you psychically when times get tough in film (as they always do).

Ultimately you still must create media that people want to see, share, and refer. If you don’t produce good/excellent work – none of this matters. Corey McAbee was quick to point out to me that his “brand” as an artist derived from his films. Even though he collaborates with a partner Bobby Lurie, they created the Corey McAbee site because Corey’s name was the brand, the glue, that linked all of the work together into a coherent whole. It was the one constant that was recognized by their audience.

I understand that some filmmakers still will not want to do the added work of audience connection – and it does take additional time outside of traditional filmmaking. Other’s personalities are not suited for it. In this case, instead of not doing the work, I feel it makes sense to engage someone who wants to this work – e.g. a PMD – or Producer of Marketing and Distribution (or a social media strategist or a brand strategist). However for best results some communication must come authentically from the filmmaker – not all can be done by others.

From my own experience – the time I have spent online communicating with my community has born fruit beyond my expectations not only for my “career”, but more importantly in connections made to interesting, creative people whose friendships I treasure and whose work inspires.

This is not a plea to ask you to abandon your artistic self in favor of a commercialized brand. Creating your identity and connecting with people who really love your work is something you should look forward to doing. Self promotion of your brand is really about helping others, taking part in a community and making connections between yourself and others who should know each other. The lives of all involved will be richer for it.

I look forward to seeing you at Independent Film Week Thursday 4:30pm FIT, NYC.

PMD FAQ 2: What are the responsibilities of a PMD?

PMD FAQ 2: What are the responsibilities of a PMD?

The responsibilities of a PMD are wide and varied. Not all films will utilize all of these elements (since every film is different and will have a unique approach to distribution and marketing), but each should be considered when strategizing and planning for the film’s release.

1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.

2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the key principles of the filmmaking team. Integrate this plan into the business plan for the film.

3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.

4. As needed and appropriate: strategize and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in replace of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organizational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.

5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, M&D production crew for extra diagetic material, key artists, editors, bookers etc.

6. Audience outreach through organizations, blogs, social media (including email collection), traditional publicity etc.

7. Supervise the creation of promotional and (if necessary due to the lack of a separate transmedia producer) trans media elements: script and concept for transmedia, the films website and social media sites, production stills, video assets – both behind the scenes and trans media, promotional copy and art/key art. As with marketing and distribution it is always best to conceptualize any transmedia aspect of a film project from inception.

8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, Digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners.

Just FYI – nearly all of the above and much of 9 happen before the film is finished.

9. Supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to creation of all media needed for the execution of the release as needed including:
• Live event/theatrical: Prints either 35 or Disk or Drive. Any other physical prep for event screenings.
• Merchandise: All hard good physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc, and hard versions of games.
• Digital products: encoding of digital products, iphone/Android apps etc.

10. Modify and adjust the distribution and marketing plan as the film progresses as information about audience, market, new opportunities, partnerships arise.

11. When appropriate, engage the distribution process, which includes the release of:
• Live Event Theatrical – Booking, delivery, of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance etc.)
• Merchandise – Distribution of all hard good physical products created for the film.
• Digitally – oversee all sales of the film in the form of 0s and 1s: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc.
• This not just in the home territory – but also internationally.
• Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.
• This release should integrated into the overall transmedia plan of the film if one exists. Of course the best case scenario is for this integration to occur from inception.

12. Ramp up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes:
• Social Media
• Publicity
• Organizational Relationships
• Sponsorship Relationships
• Affiliate and Email Marketing
• Promotions
• Media Buys (as warranted)
• Pushing Trailers and other video content
• Any specific marketing especially tailored to the film.
• Promoting and releasing trailers and other forms of video material

This list should indicate how it would be difficult, if not impossible to expect existing traditional crew categories to accomplish or even coordinate the work outlined above. Due to the amount of work, a team would need to be assembled to accomplish all of these tasks, just as a production team is assembled. In addition while some of the work above is “quantifiable”, much of it is not – just like much of what a producer or even director does is not “quantifiable”.

PMD FAQ 1: What is the purpose of having a PMD?

PMD FAQ 1: What is the purpose of having a PMD?

The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement (aka distribution and marketing). It derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.

The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires.

I look forward to hearing what you think about the concept of the PMD. You can comment on this post by clicking here. Here is the complete list of PMD FAQs forthcoming:

• What are the responsibilities of a PMD?
• What skill sets and experience are necessary for a PMD?
• Doesn’t having a PMD make me a slave of the marketplace and crush the passion and vision of independent film?
• Who oversees a PMD or is this role part of the executive (decision making) level?
• How is a PMD different than a Producer?
• Can’t filmmakers be their own PMD?
• Can a PMD be a fellow filmmaker too?
• Can PMDs actively work on many different projects at the same time?
• How do you pay a PMD?
• Does a PMD work by themselves – or is there a Marketing and Distribution team?

What are your thoughts?

Two New Initiatives on Jonreiss.com/blog

I hope you all had a great and enjoyable summer. Mine was full of travel having great adventures and meeting new people.

I wanted to tell you about a few initiatives that I am working on this fall.

The first concerns the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or PMD, which is a new crew position that I proposed in TOTBO. There has been a fair amount of excitement and discussion around this concept on the Internet of late. My intention is for my blog and the TOTBO Facebook page to be a repository of information, clarification and best practices for PMDs.

I am going to start with a PMD FAQ which will consist of a series of posts over the next few weeks. I am going to post them individually so as to engage a conversation around the concepts – the first post is included at the end of this email as well as a link to comment. (I will eventually combine all of the posts into one larger FAQ that will be permanently housed on my blog and TOTBO Facebook page).

The second initiative is an expansion of TOTBO to encompass all art forms. In researching case studies for the TOTBO workshops and meeting people while traveling for the workshops, I have come across a variety of artists, musicians, journalists, book authors and even doctors (the healing arts) who are utilizing some (or all) of the methodologies I wrote about in TOTBO. I am convinced that the form of content does not matter. We are all content creators, we are all faced with a rapidly changing distribution and marketing landscape, we all need to engage audiences in new and exciting ways, and we can all learn from the pioneers among us. I will be interviewing a wide variety of artists and the PMDs who help get their work into the world in the coming months and posting these interviews in various media.

Finally, I am continuing to travel. Next week, I head to NY to continue my involvement in the IFP Filmmaker Labs in which we transformed their Rough Cut labs into year-long completion, marketing and distribution labs.

As part of Independent Film Week, I am also scheduled for a “Cage Match: Am I Filmmaker or Brand?” on Thursday September 23rd at 4:30pm at Haft Auditorium.

My other fall appearances include:

Sept 25th: Photo Cine Expo Los Angeles 11:30-1pm An Introduction to TOTBO Concepts.

October 1st: Open Video Conference, NYC “The Future of Exhibition” 2:15pm – 3pm.

October 3rd: Raindance NYC “Real World Survival Skills for Filmmakers” 6pm-8pm

November 13&14th: TOTBO Workshop in Atlanta, GA in conjunction with PushPush Theater and the Atlanta International Film Festival with Sheri Candler.

December 8, 9, 10th IFP, NY Conclusion of the 2010 IFP Filmmaker Labs.

I hope to see some of you on my upcoming travels.

Jon

Live Events September-December

Screen shot 2010-09-13 at 17.25.07
Independent Film Week Sept 19-24  New York City
Continuing my involvement and work transforming IFPs Independent Film Labs into a year long completion, marketing and distribution lab I will be at Independent Film Week in New York.
Live Event: September 24th Cage Match -” Am I a Filmmaker or a Brand?” 4:30 at Haft Auditorium at FIT
Click for Passes
Click for Schedule

Screen shot 2010-09-13 at 17.25.30
Photo Cine Exposition September 25-26th, Hollywood CA
“Think Outside the Box Office”  An introduction to the fundamental principals of the new marketing and distribution focusing on how this work needs to be integrated into the filmmaking process to help filmmakers connect with audiences.”
Live Event: Sept 25thAn Introduction to Totbo Concepts.” 11:30-1pm
Click for Registration
Click for Schedule


Screen shot 2010-09-13 at 17.23.50
Open Video – October 1-2, 2010, New York City
I will be attending the Open Video Alliances annual conference and appearing on a panel concerning one of my personal favorites -
Live Event: October 1stThe Future of Exhibition” 2:15pm – 3pm
Click for Registration
Click for Schedule

October 3rd Raindance NYC “Real World Survival Skills for Filmmakers”   6pm-8pm New York City
Venue: Cap 21

November 13 – 14thTOTBO Workshop in Atlanta, GA in conjunction with PushPush and the Atlanta International Film Festival with Sheri Candler!

December 8 -10th IFP, NY Conclusion of the 2010 IFP Filmmaker Labs New York City