Monthly Archives: October 2010

Guest Post Simon Pulman: Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers Part II

Very excited for part 2 of Simon Pullman’s excellent post on transmedia for low budget filmmakers. Last week was the why. This week is a quick intro to the how.

Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers
Part II: Executing a Transmedia Project

by Simon Pulman

Having decided to consider a Transmedia project as an alternative to a conventional feature film, you now need to think about how to execute the project. It is important to note that – just like a feature film – there are good and bad ways to spend your budget. I highly recommend looking to “trade favors” – working on your peers’ projects with the understanding that they will help you out in return. Furthermore, you should certainly consider granting equity in your project to trusted collaborators; very few people have the skill set to pull off a multi-platform story single-handedly.

Here are a few suggestions:


You need to have a really strong idea of how your various narrative strands are going to interweave. True Transmedia requires integration of complementary story elements and themes in a cohesive and compelling way – it is not merely the addition of new media gimmicks or social networking aspects to an existing story. This greatly increases the upfront work required of you, which is why Lance Weiler’s company Seize the Media refer to themselves as “story architects.”
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Loving the Webseries Form – An Intro to the Why and How of Bomb It 2

As some of you might know – Bomb It 2 launched last week on Babelgum. What is Bomb It 2? As I mentioned in the intro to Simon Pulman’s post last week on this blog, its not another feature – it’s a web series – part of a growing – dare I say – transmedia extension of the Bomb It experience.

The idea originated simply. I started travelling to a number of foreign locales introducing Think Outside the Box Office and holding workshops on the topic of distribution and marketing. Many of these places were cities that I had not travelled to for Bomb It, but still had vibrant graffiti and street art communities. Some cities were places where I had no idea what kind of graffiti culture to expect (Singapore especially). I approached Babelgum to see if they would be interested in sponsoring a new series of episodes to expand Bomb It further out into the world – and they agreed. (With the extra footage of the original Bomb It we had created a similar series of episodes for Babelgum.)
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Guest Post Simon Pulman: Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers

Today’s guest post is from Simon Pulman who writes an incredibly interesting and informative blog on transmedia: Transmythology.

To me transmedia is the future for independent film – and perhaps all film. It is already happening all around us – whether we realize it or not. I essentially backed into transmedia on Bomb It. We knew we were generating way more content than would fit in one feature. In 2005 – our thought was that we would ultimately make 6 features from the material! But we ended up producing a webseries for Babelgum which was became a transmedia extension of Bomb It – realized after the fact. This in turn led to Bomb It 2 which was conceived of as a webseries for Babelgum – but still ties into the Bomb It “brand”. There is no way that I would have done another graffiti feature this past year – but a web series was a much more manageable way to keep exploring the concept of Bomb It. Simon addresses these issues in his post that follows. (BTW – this is a two part post. Part 2 will run next Thursday).

Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers

Part I: Why Consider Transmedia?

I’m going to assume for the purposes at this article that you have read Think Outside The Box Office, and are familiar with the principles presented within.  I don’t think an artist of any kind should proceed with a project without at least reading and considering Jon’s ideas.  We’re moving towards an age where personal branding and fan engagement will become increasingly important strategies in differentiating yourself from the crowd.

Due to the difficulties inherent in financing a feature film today, an increasing number of filmmakers are going DIY – foregoing years of fundraising and investor courtship to produce something relatively cheaply using inexpensive cameras and small non-union crews.  This concept should be familiar to anybody who has read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew.

The downside of this trend for filmmakers is that the proliferation of lower budget films makes it very difficult to stand out from the crowd.  Unlike in Rodriguez’s day, merely making a film cheaply is no longer an interesting enough story to ensure that people pay attention.  The result is that even well scripted and produced low budget films are not guaranteed to find an audience.
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Ride The Divide Part 3: Digital Rights and Merchandise

In Part 2 of this 3 part series on Ride the Divide, I examined the strategic, well executed, and successful event strategy that Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion engaged. In this third and final part, I will take a look at their merchandise and digital strategies and execution. Finally, I will touch on some of the key points that they have learned so far on this journey.

They began selling “plain vanilla” versions of their DVDs at their live events. They started selling from their online store in April just after their world premiere at Vail Film Festival (DVD, Poster, Soundtrack). To date they have grossed $55,000 from all merchandise in the on-line store (this includes around $13,000 for the screening boxes). They’ve sold 1300 DVDs and Blu-Ray through their store.

But they are not just selling from their online store – they partnered with Video Action Sports and Rep Net who buy them at between 40% and 50% of the retail price for each DVD sold – about $10.00 per DVD. They researched each of these wholesalers to make sure they were 1) getting a good deal that made financial sense and 2) that the wholesalers had good reputations for paying independent filmmakers. These distributors get the Ride the Divide DVDs into larger chains and into major on-line retailers. They’ve sold another 600 DVDs through these wholesale accounts.
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I’m very excited about our inaugural guest post which I plan to be a weekly occurance. Today’s guest post is from Tyler Weaver who I had the great pleasure of meeting this summer when I was on a baseball road trip with my son. He’s a filmmaker and storyteller who is currently working on a transmedia project that pays tribute to his lifelong love of comic books (more bio below).

(in 140 Characters or More)
by Tyler Weaver.

This is my 11th and final post on my “Great Blog Tour.” For 10 weeks, I’ve been waxing philosophic on all things film, transmedia, marketing, leaps of faith, and most importantly, story at some of the most remarkable and insightful blogs on these fair interwebs.

For me, the greatest story a creative tells is the story of their own creative journey, a story that the creative’s audience members experiences with them. Social media has made this story the ultimate “Behind the Scenes” feature, and if done right, gives the audience a hero to root for – not just a project to support.

I don’t like wasting time talking about how best to use social media. I do however, like talking about not wasting time. The life of today’s creative is a madcap deluge of unending commitments in work, life, and love, coupled with a raging stream of real-time information, decisions, and choices.

Like it or not, social media is a necessity. It’s not going away, and if you want anything closely resembling success, you need to use it – but not waste your time. You’ve got enough on your plate.

Here are my five “Don’t Waste My Bloody Time” social media constants.


The Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Apparently Epictetus was a faithful tweeter. And a good one. Listening is the single most important thing you can do on social media. If you don’t, it’s like being the guy who only talks about himself. Yep. THAT guy.
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Ride The Divide Part 2: A Profitable Live Event Strategy

In Part 1 of this 3 part series on Ride the Divide I looked at the overall strategy that Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion devised for the release of their film. In this post I want to examine how they created an effective and profitable Live Event/Theatrical release for their film. One of their key takeaways from the entire release is how important an event-based strategy is to generate interest in a film and help dent the media landscape with your audience (this is one of my personal mantras).

In keeping with the intelligent audience engagement strategy, Hunter and Mike wanted not only to seek components of a traditional theatrical release for their film, but a robust release incorporating all forms of public exhibition, traditional or not. To date, Ride the Divide has had 101 screening engagements in 68 cities! That’s a 68 city theatrical release – extremely impressive given the fact that they booked the film themselves (and with their audience). In fact 50% of the bookings were done by them, 50% by their audience hosting screenings.

For their bookings: 75% were conventional theaters, 25% were alternative venues. For the audience hosted bookings – this split was 50/50.

Here is some of what they found:

The partnerships paid off: For them it was key to not only have national organizations for awareness – but most importantly for local turnout – they had the support of local groups and commercial entities – e.g. bike shops. In Dallas Tx, for instance Villy Customs brought bikes to the screenings to enhance the experience. They also had bike valets at several locations.

Create an event: As much as they could Hunter and Mike created a sense of an event around their film. In addition to bike themed events, they also enlisted musicians. One of the bigger risks they took was to Four Wall their premiere at the Boulder Theater (who wouldn’t give them a percentage deal) for their opening night May 22nd. I’m not usually in favor of four walls for most films – but at times it can make sense and even make a profit. Hunter and Mike were very nervous about pulling the trigger on this event because of the nut ($4500 see below). But they realized that this was the best-case scenario for their premiere – Boulder being not only a Rocky Mountain community – but also a strong bike community. But it payed off for them. They charged $18 a ticket – making it a premium event by providing a film and a musical event with Gregory Alan Isakov. With 600 people in attendance – that’s a $10,800 one night gross. They paid $3000 to rent the theater plus $1500 for the musician fees and other costs. That’s a $6300 theatrical profit for one night (not including the sweat equity to arrange and market the show). They did other event screenings with musician Dominique Fraissard.

Program on alternative nights.- Echoing the experience of Todd Sklar and his Range Life tours – Hunter and Mike found that the best nights to screen were Wednesday and Thursday with Monday and Tuesday being fine as well. Most of their screenings were 1-3 nights except Denver where the film ran for 3 weeks. They strongly recommend staying away from Friday and Saturday nights because there is too much competition and Sundays “are the worst”.

For their audience hosted screening, they had a 2 prong strategy:

Initially they charged $295 for screening licenses that included the DVD or Blu-ray, posters, postcards – a screening pack. Through this they grossed $13,350 (selling 20 through their online store, 7 through email and phone, and over 30 through a couple of avid evangelists who became bookers in essence).

Then they created a wonderful wood box screening kit for $99 – which 50 % of the proceeds went to Livestrong. The box did not only contain the DVD but a T-shirt by Mighty Karma, a Smartwool Beanie, a book by Tony Hsieh, Livestrong bands, stickers and the DVD or Blu-ray. Note the win win partner relationship – because a large percentage went to charity – other charities donated products which then in turn made the package more valuable. They credit’s promotion of the boxes key in their success. In addition, not only did they provide a value – they provided scarcity – numbering the boxes and limiting them to 500. They have sold 200 of these packages so far raising $6500 for Livestrong (and $6500 for themselves).

All together for their theatrical they figured they grossed $65,000 with a 22,000 profit.

In Hollywood terms – its not Avatar – but in independent terms – to be able to make a decent profit on theatrical while engaging partners and creating awareness for the film – is a huge win.

I want to thank and credit Hunter and Mike for being so transparent about their figures – this should provide real help to filmmakers and hopefully encourage others also to be so open . As a community, we should be helping each other strategize new paths.

Guest Posts Start This Week

I am very happy to announce that this week I will start a guest posting program on this blog. We will hear from a variety of people that deal with audience connection and engagement of all types. More and more I am viewing film distribution and marketing as the 2nd necessary component of creating a film: The first component is the production of the film (conception, production, post). The second component is connecting that film with an audience (distribution and marketing). I used to refer to these as steps – but that implies that they would be sequential – eg first step: make the film, second step connect with audience. But you know I believe these “steps” should run as simultaneously as possible.

These posts will run a wide gamut of topics from social media to trans media and everything in between (from sources around the world!) First up on the guest post is Tyler Weaver on how busy media content creators can fit social media into their lives – in very practical steps. Upcoming Kim Garland from Scriptchat – using Twitter to create conversation around scriptwriting. Simon Pullman from Transmythology on transmedia etc. My goal is to have these run every Thursday – so stay tuned!