I’m so thrilled to be participating in two IFFR events this year! For those of you attending, I hope we run into each other. On the morning of Monday, the 26th, I’ll be serving on a distribution panel called Get Your Film Out There! (moderated by Amy Dotson). That afternoon, I’ll be participating in an “on stage workshop”-style presentation of IFFR’s new Tiger Release distribution initiative, showing how three different films each benefit from the initiative’s offerings.
Part 2 of How to Make Money in the Age of Abundance
When I wrote the first post in this series, I thought this would only be a two-parter, but I decided to expand this to a 4-part series because of a little voice in my head that said I needed to talk about audience engagement more.
Yes, I said in Part 1 that I wasn’t going to address it in this series because I had addressed it before – sue me. The truth is, audience engagement is so central to this whole process that I needed to add my evolving thoughts on it. I think you’ll appreciate my change of heart.
Audience engagement is a term that I have recently come to use interchangeably with “distribution and marketing.” What else is distribution and marketing – if not enticing, conversing with, and ultimately wooing your audience?
Up until a year ago my marketing and distro presentations had a 3-step process for audience engagement. Each step could reasonably comprise a blog post in its own.
1. Who is your audience?
What niche audiences does your film appeal to? What are the core audiences within these niches? What secondary and tertiary audiences might there be that this core can expand out to?
2. Where does your audience receive information and recommendations?
I examine this by looking at various channels of communication that audiences rely on, such as influencers, social media, traditional media, organizations, etc.
3. How does your audience engage with media?
In other words, how does your audience consume media? Do they download? Do they pay for media? Do they go to the theaters?
Every film, artist, creative project is different because their audiences are different. There is no cookie cutter audience engagement shortcut. You have to figure out who your audience is, what they’re doing, and where they are before you figure out how to approach them, get them on your side, and get them to see (and champion) your film.
However, in the last year I have added a fourth step in this process:
4. What value can you provide your audience?
After identifying your audience, this is actually the most important action to consider – and it will be different for every audience. It forms the basis for engaging with your audience as well as the products you offer them.
You can’t just think about what you want them to do for you; you truly have to assess what you’re doing for them.
What Do You Have to Offer:
1. Your film/creative project.
Most people say that if you don’t make a something great – then nothing else matters. I don’t know if that is precisely true anymore (since people are investing in people – eg you – not as much your project anymore) – but as a purest and as an idealist – I will put this first. Your value to your audience is to provide them with a great film – or creative project. Perhaps you can boil it down even to a great story – either fictional or dramatic – which could play out in a variety of forms.
What is the audience of your film interested in? 90% of what you communicate (at least) should be information that your audience is interested in – and not promotional. If your audience is interested in your life and your thoughts – great – all the better. But there are other non-personal issues, ideas, tidbits that I bet they are perhaps more interested in. Most of all – save the promotional part for your communication for your crowdfund campaigns and releases – and even then you should be providing content – not just “give me, pay me, buy from me.”
This can range from online interaction with audiences – real give and take on social media channels where your audience feels that they are engaging with you. Or it can be live – hanging around after a screening talking to people one on one.
My monthly conference call in my Kickstarter campaign is a way to achieve 2&3.
4. An Experience.
I will discuss this more in the next part of this series – but at its most simple it involves getting beyond the notion of theatrical screenings as the epitome of the way film is to be experienced. What kind of events can you provide with your film? What kind of experiences can you provide around your film? What kind of experiences can you provide around yourself as an artist? Again – crowdfunding has been great to get filmmakers and all artists to think creatively about creating exclusive experiences with their audiences – one to one conversations – year long group projects – etc.
5. Content Part 2 – Other Assets.
You don’t need to create a full blown transmedia experience to create other assets that engage people in your project. Braden King’s Postcards From Here are an elegant, simple, compelling example. Showing me your vision on Instagram everyday makes me see your evolution as an artist. Perhaps there is something else you can offer that I could never even imagine. I hope so. I want to see it.
I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign, so you can see how I am utilizing scarcity, membership, and digital exclusivity to raise funds for my latest film, Bomb It 2, here:bombit2Kickstarter.com.
We have met our goal – but have added a stretch goal of $20K to help cover all of our expenses. More important than the stretch goal, though, is our goal to create a community of 300 backers for BOMB IT 2. As of this moment, as I am writing this for you, I have 286 dedicated backers who have not only pledged money but most of whom have dedicated time and effort toward spreading the word about the campaign. Yes, I’ll give them the movie and other perks, such as consultations, posters, original art, etc. in exchange for their contribution, but they’re giving me much more. Please check it out, contribute if you’re moved, and – no matter what – stay tuned for the final part of this series on “How to Make Money in a Time of Abundance.”
This week’s TOTBO video concerns the importance of redefining the nature of theatrical. In this clip I speak about how creating a “live event” for your film can be an essential aspect of your film’s release. As I’ve said before I feel that theatrical must be redefined as live event/theatrical. Eventually I feel the term theatrical will be dropped and people will only refer to events. I emphasize live and event because I feel that those are truly the essential nature of screening your film in public – that it is a unique communal experience unavailable anywhere else. That is what is going to motivate people to see the film live – not just the fact that it is in a theater playing Fri-Thur.
Events have a multitude of benefits – they let you engage directly with your audience, they provide a way to organize publicity, they enable you to put your work out in the form it was intended (for me the form initially was a book – the workshops are now an adjunct to that – but all part of the same concept) and they are an additional revenue stream.
I feel that all artists can benefit from creating events for their work – musicians have concerts, artists have gallery openings, authors have readings and book signings etc. But there are new and exciting forms emerging such as last years theater/dance/immersive hybrid “Sleep No More”.
I’m releasing this particular clip as I prepare to go out on my own live event tour this month – hitting New York, Sheffield, Nottingham, London and Berlin (if you are in any of those cities in June – check out the dates below and I hope to see you there).
Excerpt from “Insiders Guide To Independent Film Distribution” (2nd Edition, Focal Press) by Stacey Parks. Available in paperback and kindle versions at www.FilmSpecific.com/Book.
Interview With Filmmaker Jon Reiss On Target Audience
Q: Tell us about Target Audience and what will happen if a filmmaker doesn’t identify this early on in the process?
A: To me a target audience is one of the niches that exist in the world that would be interested in your film (or anything that you do). A niche is a group of people focused on a particular interest. They are accessible. You can afford to market to them.
For instance in the case of my film “Bomb It”, one of the niche audiences is graffiti writers and street artists. Another niche audience is people who love graffiti and street art. A third audience for Bomb It is underground hip hop (specifically people who argue over how many “elements” there are in hip hop – graffiti often being called one of the “4 elements of hip hop” (some people feel that there are 5, others 9, etc). While you may think that people who love hip hop is also an audience – that is too broad of an audience for us to tackle with limited means. It is best to drill down as deep as possible to the narrowest niche, or core within a niche, in order to begin engagement.
This process takes time and the earlier you start it, the better. Your release will be much more successful (assuming connection with audience is one of your goals) if you have started to engage your audience (or at least the core of your audience) prior to your release. If you don’t, you will be struggling to gain audience during your release. By not laying this foundation, you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot.
Q: Once you identify your Target Audience, what’s next? Any tips on aggregating?
For me there are 3 TOTBO (Think Outside the Box Office) Steps of Audience Engagement:
1. Who? You must identify your audience – discussed in #1 above. And within each niche you should identify the core audience(s) within each niche.
2. Where? You must determine where and how this audience(s) receives information – and it will be different for every audience. Some audiences don’t use social networks – even today. Others are on Facebook or Ning more than Twitter. Each niche will have certain blogs that are important to it. You determine this via research.
3. How? Does this audience consume media? In other words – how might they watch or interact with the story of your film? Will they go see a live event, do they still buy DVDs. What other kinds of merchandise might they buy? On what platforms do they watch digital content? You need to know this in order to connect your final film (or any product) with your audience(s).
Q: I hear filmmakers say all the time how difficult it is to start any type of campaign for their film during Pre-Production because nothing is really ‘happening’ yet. In your opinion, how can filmmakers create an initial campaign for their films during Pre-Pro?
I think “campaign” is the wrong way to think about it. I recommend that people/filmmakers think in terms of connection. You have fans out in the world (they may not know you exist) – you need to connect with them.
Topics could include: What are you interested in? Why are you making this film? What are your struggles? How might you need help? How can your audience contribute to your film, not just financially (crowd funding), but also creatively (crowdsourcing)? Ask them questions about different concepts, techniques you are considering etc. Crowd funding and crowdsourcing are as important for audience connection as it is for money or creative contributions.
But more importantly – don’t just talk about yourself and your film. In fact no more than 20% of what you talk about or put out through your various channels should be about your film and yourself. 80% (at least) should information valuable (or entertaining) to your audience. Go out and listen to your community and then become an authority within that community. Talk about the film once in a while – and then when you are in release, your audience will gladly support, promote, and refer you.
Q: All this can be so overwhelming to think about doing on your own — what kind of team should filmmakers be building during Pre-Pro to facilitate the marketing of their film?
I believe that filmmaking is a two-part process. The first part is creating the film – the second part is connecting that film with an audience. I think the most important team member to bring on in Pre-Production is the person I call the Producer of Marketing and Distribution – or PMD. This person is the point person for all aspects of audience engagement as outlined above. If you recognize that it is important to connect with audiences, then you absolutely need to devote resources to this process. Everyone with traditional film positions already has their plate full making the film. Filmmakers need to realize that unless they themselves will take on this work, they must get someone on their crew who will, just like they have someone line produce or edit. That is why I created the position of the PMD in Think Outside the Box Office, because unless there is a clearly defined role for these tasks, they will not get done.
Q: Tell us about “Bomb-It” – what did you if anything during Pre-Pro that set you up for a successful release of the film later?
For “Bomb It” we started shooting right away, so our pre-production and production happened simultaneously – for about 2 years. But all during this time we were actively engaging our audience:
1. We set up a website and a blog. We posted regularly to this blog, very rarely about our film. We posted almost exclusively about our subject – graffiti and street art. Specifically, we posted items that interested us and we felt would be interesting to our audience. We featured artists that we interviewed as well as bloggers, journalists and influencers within our community – see #6 below.
2. On our website we incentivized people to join our email list by offering to mail them stickers (yes via snail mail). This is an early example of an Email for Media campaign. It cost a few hundred dollars to execute but 1). It was directed at our specific audience. 2). It gave people something in exchange for what they were giving us (their email address). We had 1000 people on our list by our premiere.
3. We set up a Myspace page. Remember this is 2004/2005 when we started (Facebook wasn’t the force it is now – and our audience was not on Facebook at that time. Our audiences were on Myspace – see research above). By the time we premiered at Tribeca Film Festival we had nearly 5000 fans on Myspace.
4. We cut trailers as soon as we had enough footage and posted them to YouTube – and directed our audience to them. We were on our 2nd trailer by the time we premiered.
5. We reached out to key bloggers, journalists, galleries and influencers within the community. We created friendships with these people that lasted beyond the release.
Stacey Parks is a film distribution expert and Producer with over 15 years experience working with independent filmmakers. As a Foreign Sales Agent for several years she secured distribution for hundreds of independent worldwide. Stacey currently specializes in coaching independent filmmakers on financing and distribution strategies for their projects, and works with them both one-on-one and through her online training site www.FilmSpecific.com The 2nd edition of her best selling film book “Insiders Guide To Independent Film Distribution” (Focal) is now available at www.FilmSpecific.com/Book.
For the past six months, my company, Hybrid Cinema, has been working on the release of Bob Hercules’s new documentary film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance,about the history of the Joffrey ballet. This is a capsule post to explain the highlights of launching a documentary into the marketplace when working with a modest budget. Future posts will go more in depth on certain aspects of this release.
With at least 35,000 feature films on the film festival circuit every year, by some estimates, very few films are going to premiere at one of the top 5 film festivals. When that happens, filmmakers need to decide what is the best launch for their film. We concluded that in the case of the Joffrey film (and we feel that this is the case for many films), some form of robust live event premiere would help to create awareness for the film in the oversaturated media landscape. Live events are great publicity generators, allowing you to focus marketing efforts on a specific event. Festivals are great partners for these types of events – even if you don’t get into a top 10 festival – because you can create a unique experience by partnering with open minded and adventurous festival that is already connected to press and audiences.
In creating a live event premiere, you need to consider the following:
1. A premiere that will reach your audience. Very early in creating our distribution strategy, we identified ballet fans (and more specifically fans of the Joffrey ballet and even more specifically the alumni of the Joffrey ballet-more on audience identification in a later post) as the natural audience for Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance. Sure, there are other audiences for a film like this – but it is essential to go after who will be the most passionate about seeing the film. For this reason, we targeted the Dance on Camera Film Festival which not only is one of the premiere dance film festivals in the world, it is based in New York City – the birthplace of the Joffrey ballet and the center of the dance world in the United States.
2. Creating an event that will garner attention for your film. Festivals have many films to care for and promote as well as promoting the brand of the festival in general and often they have a small staff to accomplish all of this. There is a lot for the media to choose from for coverage. What will make your film unique and interesting to cover? We decided early on to partner with Emerging Pictures to simulcast the screening of Joffrey at the DOC festival not only to reach a nationwide audience, but to create a larger story for the press to pay attention to. Emerging was a natural choice because they screen live ballet performances from Europe through a digital network of cinemas throughout the US, so their cinemas already have an audience for this type of programming. They also have the technology in place at Lincoln Center that enables a netcast to happen so the venue and the festival wouldn’t have to figure out the logistics of the simulcast.
Even though a festival premiere is an event in and of itself, that is not always enough to attract attention from the media or from audiences. You should always strive to create your live events to be as unique as possible, both from the perspective of media coverage and from the perspective of the audience, to create that need to attend. Many subjects in the Joffrey film are iconic dancers in the ballet world, what ballet fan would not want to interact with them? We created a post screening panel of former dancers that the audience in the theater could interact with and meet after the screening, but we also enabled audiences even across the country the ability to interact as well. Having this panel discussion netcast live to theaters around the country allowed audiences in to ask questions of this panel as well as interact with each other via Twitter using the hashtag #joffreymovie – creating a unique event not only in the Walter Reade Theater in New York City, but in 44 other cities around the country at the same time. This is also a unique event for media coverage because so few films take advantage of the technology today that enables something like this to happen and having such a concentration of iconic dancers in one place makes this newsworthy.
3. The budget you have to work with. We have a modest budget for the release of Joffrey so we had to do a lot with limited means. We have a small staff handling publicity, audience outreach, booking screenings and organizing merchandise sales. Bearing this in mind, we needed the most bang for the effort because we launched the film into the market during our festival premiere. We won’t have separate budgets for festival publicity and then release publicity in order to start selling.
Utilizing the Emerging network only costs at most $1000 (which can be taken off the top). Similar satellite systems through companies like Fathom and Cinedigm can cost $75,000 to $250,000 because of the cost in satellite time.
In addition, by covering much of the country at the same time – it allowed us to pursue reviews and articles in multiple markets – thereby most effective use of our publicity budget.
4. Creating assets before and during the release.
In another post, we will talk at length about the need for additional media assets to promote your film and all of the ways we have done this. One way that you can garner additional assets during release is by filming and documenting your events.
You want to film the event itself – outside the theater, crowd shots, audience arriving at seats, applause, the audience watching the film during the screening and the entire Q&A. Very important to capture audience expectation before and reaction after the screening. I recommend having two cameras so that one can be filming the Q&A and the other filming the crowd reaction outside. You also want a photographer shooting the event if possible.
What you film can be utilized in a number of ways:
Short promotional videos that you can release on your Youtube channel to promote the film. For the premiere we created two videos. The first is about the film, opening night and audience reaction.
The second piece which we are now premiering with this article concerns the simulcast of the film and the audience participation.
Still photography of the people and personalities at the event (especially those that are interesting to your core audience and some that may be interesting to society pages and other publications).
Longer pieces of the Q&A panel discussion or even of just the filmmakers in conversation. You can use these on your extra features. Since our extra features have already been locked and since we have received numerous requests from people around the country to see these panels, we are going to put the full-length panel discussions up on the web on Distrify and charge a dollar or two for the viewing as an additional revenue stream.
5. The need to have the next steps planned. Many times filmmakers are so busy planning their premiere, they neglect to prepare for what will happen after this. Where will all of this publicity attention go? In the past, they hoped it led to a distribution deal, but that cannot be relied upon now. There is no reason that direct distribution should not be the next step and that some kind of event theatrical screenings can be booked. In the lead up and following our premiere, we have booked over 20 other screenings and we continue to set up screenings. We also launched our online store just after the premiere and have sold several thousand dollars in DVDs/merchandise. Don’t let the efforts and the financial resources you put into the premiere stall out from waiting. In a future post, we will talk about how we prepared for sales by setting up the web store and creating the merchandise.
We ended up screening in 45 cities throughout the US to launch the release of the film. A number of these screenings actually sold out. We received press articles and reviews in a number of major markets (even though the film was only screening once). Through TweetReach, we were able to quantify the exposure via Twitter for the event. According to our TweetReach report, our hashtag #joffreymovie reached 200,549 people through 270 tweets just on that day. Some of the comments we received through twitter:
“#JoffreyMovie Santa Fe, NM – our audience loved it, thank you so much! congrats on premiering a new, high tech way of running a Q&A!”
Sheri Candler is an inbound marketing strategist for independent films. Through the use of content marketing tools such as social networking, podcasts, blogs, and online media publications, as well as relationship building with organizations & influencers, she assists filmmakers in building an engaged & robust online community for their work that will help develop and sustain their careers. Currently, she is working with Hybrid Cinema to release the documentary film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a history of the Joffrey Ballet. She can be reached on Facebook, on Twitter and on Google Plus.
An Innovative Launch for Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance
By Jon Reiss
For the past four months, my company Hybrid Cinema has been working on the release of the new film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance directed by Bob Hercules about the history of the Joffrey ballet. I will be writing a number of posts outlining the unique path that I and my partner on this release, Sheri Candler have taken to release this documentary about the history of the groundbreaking dance company The Joffrey Ballet.
In my book Think Outside the Box Office and in subsequent posts, I have written about the advantages and challenges of launching a film after its world– premiere festival. Many filmmakers have complained that they can never recapture the exposure they gain with their first festival. As a result there have been a number of attempts to launch a film in some fashion out of a premiere festival. Orly Ravid writes in Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, about BassAckwards which launched via YouTube Rentals during Sundance 2009.
IFC has been running its Festival Direct program to provide a promotional lift to its VOD releases for several years. For instance IFC will premieres films at SXSW and follows it up with screenings in a few cities while it premieres day and date on VOD with the festival. Tribeca has started using their festival as a launch for a number of films that they distribute on VOD.
The chief advantage of using a world premiere to launch a film’s release is to condense all of the publicity into one window – thereby conserving precious resources and taking full advantage of press garnered via the premiere. It also utilizes the promotional muscle that many festivals can muster to promote the release. The principal challenge is being prepared – having all of the necessary tools and distribution and marketing channels lined up to take advantage of the promotion. In general this has been beyond the abilities of most independent filmmakers who are just scrambling to get their films finished in time for their first festival. Another challenge is the short window of time that films have to get everything lined up after they receive acceptance to a film festival.
One of the first things we did for Joffrey was to target the Dance On Camera (DOC) film festival as a perfect launch for the film. It is not only one of the premiere dance film festivals in the United States (if not the world), it is also based in NYC – where the Joffrey Ballet got its start. It is based at Lincoln Center through the Film Society of Lincoln Center, one of the epicenters for culture in the US and the world.
Simultaneously I started speaking to Ira Deutchman of Emerging Pictures because I felt that Joffrey would be a perfect match for his network of theaters across the United States. For the past number of years Emerging Pictures has been simulcasting culturally oriented films, many of which feature live Q&As.
The Emerging deal is very filmmaker friendly with 30% of the box office going to the filmmaker if you pay $1000 for encoding, or 25% of the box office going to the filmmaker without any money upfront. Emerging takes care of all deliveries and collections from the theaters. Because of their ongoing relationship with theaters, Emerging is able to collect from theaters and in turn is able to pay the filmmakers.
I proposed to Deirdre Towers and Joanna Ney of Dance on Camera that through Emerging, we could be the first film to launch its release out of its world premiere, simulcasting to cities across the US. The partnership is also beneficial for Dance on Camera as it gets their name out in these theaters where ballet and dance fans will watch the simulcast and interact with the festival. It’s a winning situation for all which is what a partnership should be.
Emerging does not actually “simulcast” the screening of the film, the theaters download it in advance (hence no print costs), but the theaters carry the Q&A event after the screening via netcast. As important, people at the theaters around the country can tweet questions to the post screening panel in NY – so that they are actually participating in the Q&A – making it a national event. Once the film is on Emerging’s server they can book screenings of the film at a later date at no additional cost.
Currently we are screening in 42 cities throughout the US to launch the release of the film. We will start selling 6 panel Digipak DVDs of the film at the premiere and off the website February 1st – in addition to posters, 50th Anniversary photo books of the Joffrey Ballet and an eBook reprint of Sasha Anawalt’s book The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company (out of print for over a decade until this January 27th – she is launching her eBook to coincide with the launch of the film). We will roll out other merchandise over the course of the release. We will follow this up very quickly with digital DIY via Distrify in order to capitalize on the international attention we will receive from the publicity via the worldwide web. The biggest challenge has been to get the project ready to release in the short window since we found out we were selected for Dance on Camera.
We have also been planning events throughout the United States that will run through the spring and potentially throughout the summer. Most of these events have similar Q&As with former notable Joffrey dancers – many of whom head established dance organizations in cities throughout the US and are actually also coordinating the screenings in their cities. To start the process of the Los Angeles screening, I met with former Joffrey dancer Carole Valleskey who runs the nonprofit California Dance Institute. We then sought the involvement of Leslie Carothers-Aromaa another Joffrey dancer who teaches at the Colburn School and helped secure the 430 seat Zipper Hall. We’re selling tickets for $20 a piece and are 1/3 sold out as this goes to press. These screenings will lead up to a day and date DVD and digital release by New Video (more on the timing of this in a later post) in June. To book and coordinate the rest of the events in the US, we brought on Liz Ogilvie and Paola Freccero of Crowdstarter.
The other type of event that we have wanted to set up from the beginning is to have a live ballet component to the screenings. This has turned out to be very difficult to set up due to either expense or theatres not being equipped with an appropriate, safe stage for the dancers. However the screening being set up by former Joffrey dancer Trinette Singleton in Allentown, Pennsylvania will have this feature and we are pushing for more.
A final note – one aspect of what attracted me to Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance was the fact that Bob Joffrey and his partner Gerald Arpino were early artist entrepreneurs. They came to NY with no connections to the established dance world, set up a dance studio to train young dancers and then toured the US in a borrowed station wagon like so many indie bands and filmmakers.
Sheri and I will be writing a number of other posts about the various aspects of the release and marketing in the coming months – we look forward to your feedback.
Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance premieres January 27th at the Dance on Camera Film Festival at Lincoln Center, NYC. Check the website for the cities where the January 28 live simulcast is taking place. The film was directed by Bob Hercules (A Good Man, Forgiving Dr. Mengele), produced by Una Jackman and Erica Mann Ramis and executive produced by Harold Ramis and Jay Alix.
Jon Reiss is a filmmaker, author and strategist who wrote the book Think Outside the Box Office and co-authored Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler. He will be appearing at a number of panels at Park City this week and is a year round lab leader for the IFP Filmmaker Labs. FollowLike
“The Can Film Fest” is organized by nonprofit arts organization The Estria Foundation as part of their week long Graffiti Arts Festival taking place October 6-8in San Francisco.
BOMB IT 2 goes where no graffiti doc has gone before, including the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Jakarta, Copenhagen, and Singapore, among other places. It showsthe incredible range of styles and ideas that surround graffiti and street art culture throughout the world and especially in places where most people probably don’t even think it exists.
Graffiti and street art is not a monolithic force around the world – it is different for every individual and every culture – and that is evident in the broad range of practitioners in the film. We are happy to partner with The Estria Graffiti Arts Festival this year and be part of celebrating one of the most vibrant art movements happening in the world today. A lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication exists surrounding this world, and the more outreach by organizations such as the Estria Foundation, the better!
I’m back now from my trip to the UK – workshop and consulting at the Edinburgh Film Festival as well as a workshop at the London Film School. What I love about travelling and doing these workshops is meeting people who are really helping change the lives of filmmakers, creating tools and resources to help them release and monetize their films!
First – in Edinburgh:
I had dinner with Peter and Andy from Distrifywhich I think is an incredibly powerful Broadband VOD platform. The most significant aspect of it is that it not only allows your audience to share your trailer (with a direct ability to buy) but it also incentivizes your audience (and others) to do this via a built-in affiliate program. You can also set different price points in a number of different currencies so that you can adjust pricing for local financial circumstances (eg different prices for first world buyers and third world buyers). In addition: you can take your money out whenever you want, you can sell different combinations of streaming, download and DVD (only on-demand currently – but they are working on fulfillment) and their user interface is very simple. I strongly suggest checking them out.
I also spent a fair amount of time with Michael Franklin from Creative Scotland who is very eager to develop new models for film coming out of the north. One of my meetings that he arranged was with the Scottish Documentary Institute who are in the process of hiring a Producer of Marketing and Distribution for the institute to work with all of their films and filmmakers. Of course I love that idea. I’ve heard of other government funds considering this action – but this is the first one that I know of that will be put into place.
In London, I had a nice chat with James Collie who produced and released Beyond Biba and is currently distributing Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo in the UK. He told me about an accessible digital rights and VOD aggregator in the UK called Re:Fine that is a bit of a cross between Distribber and a conventional aggregator. For 300£ they will aggregate your film to iTunes and then take 19% in addition to the standard iTunes take of 30% – so filmmakers end up with 51%. A pretty decent deal. According to James, they also aggregate to other platforms.
At my London workshop, James gave a great presentation about booking theatrical in the UK and revealed two significant resources. The first is Launching Films which for 30£ they will list your film in a schedule used by most film reviewers and bookers in the UK along with all the major releases. He indicated that through this listing he was called up by all the major reviewers in London for Beetle Queen. In addition, included in the fee, they will also set up your press screenings in London (you have to pay for the screening room).
The second resource is The Independent Cinema Office which lists contact information for most of the independent theaters throughout the UK – giving you direct access to the people who program theaters.
VOD seems to still be in its formulative stages in the UK with only 2 major players: Skynet and Virgin. I heard that you needed to have a very significant theatrical campaign (over 1 million spend) to get on Virgin although this was just something I overheard – but didn’t strike me as odd.
Finally I met with Terry Stevens who runs home video at Dogwoof (Dogwoof is releasing Bomb It July 25th in the UK). At my LFS workshop he spoke about the Ambassador program they are setting up – coordinating with community groups and community screenings venues to create a network of alternative screening locations to host live event/theatrical screenings. Initially this will be for Dogwoof films, but it seems that eventually the goal is to open up this ability to all films.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I have embarked on writing again and have two new books in the works and one more on the horizon. First off, I am writing a book on the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or PMD. In the tradition of Think Outside the Box Office, the book will define the role and responsibilities specific to the PMD, lay out best practices for those wanting to be PMDs, lay out the tasks for a PMD over the lifecycle of a film, provide guidance on how to fulfill those tasks. This includes developing a marketing and distribution plan and budget, the PMD in prep, production and post, audience engagement, timing of rights, as well as different marketing and distribution options available to films. The book will cover education of PMDs and will propose a curriculum of study for PMDs. I will be tweeting my progress on this book starting next week.
Secondly, I am working with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler on an electronic book of film case studies. Each of us are drilling down to the specifics of a number of films distribution and marketing paths and providing hard numbers on their successes (and failures) to help filmmakers make informed decisions about the releases of their films. This project was generated by The Film Collaborative who brought Sheri and I on board and is part of their educational initiative. (as you know from my book and previous writings I am a big fan of what TFC does – and you know I’m a big fan of Sheri’s as well!). We are currently locking down the title – and would love your input: Please participate in our on-line survey.
On the horizon – I am writing a book about how all the art forms: music, film, art, photography, book authorship, journalism, dance, comedy, gamers and expanded storytellers (etc) are all utilizing similar techniques to get their work made, marketed and distributed. I came upon this idea while researching examples for my TOTBO workshops and discovered that many of the other art forms (music especially of course) were much further ahead than film in using these techniques. But I also discovered that while some people used some of the techniques available, many would leave numerous opportunities unexplored – didn’t even know those opportunities existed. As a result I saw a purpose for writing a book in which I would adapt and expand the system that I outlined in Think Outside the Box Office for all the arts. This project will allow artists to learn from others and create opportunities for themselves that they may not have thought of by the nature of the traditional paths of their respective fields. It will also provide a guide in how to use these techniques. Over the next months, year, I will be interviewing a wide range of artists on this topic and I will be sharing excerpts on this blog. I look forward to your input and feedback!! (Look out for a revamped website and FB page in the future as well).
I just returned from Park City where I had the pleasure to judge the Slamdance Documentary Competition. I saw some compelling and inspiring work. Being a judge forced me to actually see films at a film festival for the first time in two years since embarking on the TOTBO project (usually I am lucky to see one film). In addition, I got to catch nearly all of “Gandu Asshole” – a stunning visual and narrative feast by first time Indian filmmaker Q that is headed to the Berlinale. Last but not least, I got the opportunity to see the finished version of the moving and brilliantly structured Kinyarwanda, a film I mentored in the IFP Filmmaker Labs.
It was a very exciting time at Park City. First off, more films have sold at this year’s Sundance Film Festival than in recent memory and that is good news for independent film as Ted Hope points out in his blog it “should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again.”
However, I am concerned that filmmakers see these sales and think they can revert back to depending on the festival acquisition system to handle the distribution and marketing of any and all of their films. I hope all will analyze the elements that were most attractive to the buyers (name cast, compelling documentary subjects, past success with a similar film) before assuming that the old days are back.
I got the sense there is a growing awareness that while sales happen for some films, filmmakers understand that the system cannot and does not handle all films. In fact, these sales make up a small percentage of films on the festival circuit each year, much less than the films produced every year. More and more filmmakers are understanding the need to engage audiences on their own – or with partners – and craft unique distribution and marketing strategies for their films. Continue reading →