I just got the links to the TV and Radio interviews that I did while in Romania. We talked a lot about distribution and marketing within the film industry, and how that relates to all art forms – specifically in Romania. Check them out below.
I just got the links to the TV and Radio interviews that I did while in Romania. We talked a lot about distribution and marketing within the film industry, and how that relates to all art forms – specifically in Romania. Check them out below.
I’m really excited about this brand new book, Selling Your Film Outside the U.S. (click here to download the book for free) that I wrote with Sheri Candler, The Film Collaborative co-executive directors Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter and Wendy Bernfeld, managing director of the European content curation and licensing company Rights Stuff BV edited and published by The Film Collaborative. Selling Your Film Outside the U.S. is the second volume in the “Selling Your Film” case study book series. While our first book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, focused on U.S releases and case studies, this volume takes a deep dive into digital distribution (and distribution generally) in Europe and provides several case studies of films released there.
Within the pages of this book, you will find marketing and crowdfunding strategies, real distribution budgets, community building activities and detailed ancillary and digital distribution revenues for independently produced films.
My chapter is a case study of the Scottish film I Am Breathing and how the release was run by Ben Kempas, the Producer of Marketing and Distribution hired by The Scottish Documentary Institute for all of their films. The chapter not only discusses their outreach and release strategies, but also the Portable Fundraiser technology they developed with Distrify. It finishes with an evaluation of the effectiveness of the PMD, not only for films, but for film organizations to have on staff.
I have had the pleasure of being one of the lab leaders at the IFP Filmmaker Lab for the past 5 or so years (as you can imagine I help run the distribution and marketing component of the labs). Each year the four times I travel to New York for the labs are some of the highlights of my calendar. Yet I am continually amazed by the number of first time filmmakers that I talk to that didn’t apply to the lab (and many had not heard of it!). So as the deadline for the Documentary Lab looms (March 7th! Narrative App due April 4), I thought I would take a little time to encourage filmmakers to apply – you never know what might happen!
1. It’s the first of its kind post production, distribution and marketing lab that helps shepherd first time filmmakers through the difficult aspects of not only creating the best film possible but also the often arcane post production and delivery process.
2. It is not a one-time lab – it takes place over -6-7 months and meets three times– each session building on your progress and what you learned the last time. The first session is focused on editing and postproduction, the second on marketing and the third on distribution. Your film is assigned a mentor who is with you during these months. You also get continued support from the amazing team at IFP: Amy, Milton, Rose, Dan, Chantel and more.
3. You get new eyes on your film: During the post production session, you get feedback on your edit not only from a super experienced editor but also from the aforementioned folks at IFP and your peers in the lab.
4. Speaking of peers – each lab creates a close knit group of friends who then proceed to help each other out not only through the post process but through the arduous and at times elating and at times discouraging process of distribution and marketing.
5. It is the only lab that helps you develop a distribution and marketing strategy for your film. Many of the films in the lab receive some form of traditional distribution deal – but many – like most films – create some form of hybrid release – combining unique theatrical, broadcast, merch and digital opportunities. We bring in industry experts to discuss the latest trends and workshop what might be the best distribution strategy for your film.
6. We help you identify the audience for your film, figure out ways to connect to that audience and bring in a panel of industry experts to review and hone your marketing strategy and materials.
7. Your project is elevated within the independent film community. Of the 50,000 films made every year – yours are one of 20 selected by one of the premiere film organizations in the world. People pay attention.
8. You are automatically included in IFP’s Independent Film Week either in the Spotlight on Docs or Emerging Narrative. This is an amazing program designed for films that are just about to hit the marketplace – you are teamed up with top notch film festivals, distributors, aggregators, broadcasters, service providers who are all interested in your film. The marketing lab is timed to help you hone your materials and pitch right before you go out and present your film to the industry.
9. IFP will be your partner in crime after the labs are finished. They make calls on your behalf, they help you give birth to your film through festivals, screenings etc. Nearly every film that has come through the lab in the last few years has received some form of distribution from the incredible DIY approach of John Henry Summerour’s Sahkanaga to Dee Rees’ Pariah.
10. All of the above for the low low price of 0! Its Free – you just have to get yourself to NYC three times a year. And really – how bad is that?
Bonus Reason: Best of all, you become a part of the IFP family. (This has actually been one of the most gratifying parts of the lab for me as well – that even though I live in LA – I consider the people at IFP my second family). They want to help you with your next films, cheerlead you, and push you in new directions. It is truly a magical group that any filmmaker would be lucky to be a part of.
Unlike many other labs – this is a one time opportunity – only open to first time filmmakers – so if that’s not you – sorry, share it with a friend. If it is you – why not take the plunge?
Part 3 of How to Make Money in the Age of Abundance
By Jon Reiss
Theatrical is Dead Long Live Theatrical. The holy grail of a theatrical release still rings as a delusion for many. Fighting words still for untold thousands of filmmakers. Who doesn’t want their name in lights – long lines around the block – a packed theater of adoring fans. I believe this live engagement with fans is crucial for artists. But traditional theatrical is probably not the way you are going to do it.
In the first post in this series, I indicated that filmmakers need to create scarce resources in order to compete with the abundance of digital. Today’s post will focus on events – or what I have termed Live Event/Theatrical. The essence of this renaming is for filmmakers to reformulate and to reclaim what the industry calls theatrical – for more on that see Think Outside the Box Office. (PS – I first said this was a two part series – then I said three parts – well I lied again and now it will be four parts – with Part 4 tomorrow).
When films were only available in a movie theater – that was a scarce resource that could be charged for – it was the only way to see films. As technology developed new ways to see films, content creators/studios created release windows to control the monetization process of their film products attempting to keep the theatrical release as providing the highest per viewer fee per view fee.
But besides competition from other platforms, a traditional theatrical release is not a scarce resource: multiple screenings per day in multiple theaters with no end date is essentially an infinite supply. The release window is still the only way that traditional distributors create artificially scarcity and for most films this is not enough for audiences to sacrifice any of their other myriad of entertainment options. Unless you have created a rabid fan base who has to see the film at its first opportunity – which happens for a few films, but not many – traditional theatrical does not offer the consumer anything unique. Quite the contrary:
Traditional theatrical gives consumers an excuse not to see a film when the filmmaker wants their audience to engage with it. Why spend the time, effort (which are often more valuable than the $12 ticket price) to see something that will be available much cheaper and more conveniently soon enough?
Creating scarcity is an independent filmmaker’s way of creating demand for their Live Event/Theatrical “products”. The essence of scarcity is: people want what they fear they might not be able to have. Scarcity also creates something will be unique to them and a few others. The scarcer something is, the more demand you can create for it. Simply put: by decreasing supply with stable demand you increase value.
The essential consumer value of Live Event/Theatrical must be a live communal experience, unavailable anywhere else. I will write about the importance of community and the extra value that this creates to screenings at another time. It is important to keep in mind that this post is not just about monetizing through events – but is about creating ways to keep that important experience of watching films communally with other people – especially strangers. Hence the event creates something new – never created before and even beyond the elements that you provide. This communal added value experience is quite different than the consumer value of Digital Products, which is one of convenience. Live Event Theatrical can never compete with digital on the level of convenience and must create its own value to succeed.
How to Create Unique Live Experiences Unavailable Anywhere Else (AKA scarcity for Live Event/Theatrical:
1. Time Scarcity: Embrace the One Night Screening – All things being equal, for small films with limited budgets, one night screenings are much easier to book and will in general be more successful in terms of audience and money. By only offering a communal experience once in a particular geographical location, is an immediate way to make it scarce (only that number of seats are available) and immediately more. The more you promote sales of tickets being sold, the more urgency you can create for the event. When you sell out you can add more screenings “by popular demand”, creating demand where perhaps none existed before.
I have experienced this over and over again for my own films and my clients’ films. For our recent US premiere of Bomb It 2 in Miami, the film sold out several days before the event.
One of the benefits of Live Event/Theatrical for filmmakers is publicity and awareness (events by their nature do this) – but the more you add value and uniqueness to an event – the more it will create awareness. (As a caveat – four years ago it was hard to get the press to cover one night film screenings – but now that is changing more and more – and especially if you as the filmmaker add uniqueness to the event).
2. Time Scarcity – Part 2 National and/or International One Night Screenings.
This takes time, effort, coordination but can be extremely successful. Going through satellite service providers such as Fathom, Screenvision and Cinedigm can be expensive (although the latter has started releasing films that they acquire in this manner). But savvy filmmakers can do this without the traditional $75,000-$125,000 satellite fee.
Two notable cases are The Age of Stupid from Franny Armstrong and Lizzie Gillet of Spanner Films (who used Fathom in the US), which still has the record for number of screenings (500) and number of countries (40) for an independent film in a 2 day period. (Can anyone beat this?) For Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance Sheri Candler and I worked with Ira Deutchman and his Emerging Pictures to create a 45 city one day event which was also the world premiere screening of the film. The total cost of this was $1000 (Emerging’s Fee), which we was deducted from the box office. In both of these cases the filmmakers added unique elements besides the limited time to further enhance the event.
3. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Topical Celebrities
For the Joffrey film we netcast a q&a with Joffrey Ballet alumni which our research indicated was what our audience valued the most for live events (not live ballet that I had originally thought). We also enabled audience from around the country to participate in the Q&A via Twitter. Video documentation here. For Age of Stupid Franny and Lizzie had a numerous celebrities participate both live and via Skype.
For the Connected New York theatrical Tiffany Shlain arranged a different notable guest speaker for every screening turning each one into a unique event and selling out nearly all of her screenings in the process.
4. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Live Music
Examples abound from Anvil: Story of Anvil, DJ Spooky, Braden King’s Here, Corey Mcabee whose own band The Billy Nayer Show plays live with his films and again Ride the Divide who still take the cake by selecting bands for their soundtrack proactively who would perform in the cities they knew were geographical targets for their audience.
5. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Live Music Remix.
I am finally putting my money where my mouth is – our Austin premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse for Bomb It 2 with be remixed live by DJ Chorizo Funk. To do this I created a D&E (dialogue and effects) mix of the film on a separate screener – and then provided all the tracks to the DJ and theater on a separate CD/download. Other event attributes of this screening: live graffiti painting in front of the theater before the event, local featured artist Sloke appearing after the screening (note the importance of using a local artist with his own audience base) and skype Q&A by yours truly (although this may convert into a pre-recorded pre-screening intro). I also timed this event to coincide with the conclusion of the Bomb It 2 Kickstarter campaign to have a special event to cap off our fundraising.
6. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Live Film Editing
A difficult undertaking, and only for particular films and filmmakers – but check out what Peter Greenaway did for Tulse Luper Suitcases. He had a customized VJ board created and reedited the film live for select event screenings like this one in Krakow, Poland. A technological update to this is Mark Harris’s The Lost Children which based on audience reaction “alters itself, hiding and revealing different aspects with each screening.”
7. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Audience Participation.
Rocky Horror Picture show is the most famous example, but indies such as Best Worst Movie have had their fans dressing up and participating as well. Corey McAbee recounted that in Melbourne Australia people would dress up as the characters in American Astronaut and sing along – for years of midnight screenings.
8. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Actors Performing With the Film, Text Messaging, Immersive Experiences.
Each of these techniques can be done separately, but so far the filmmakers experimenting with this such as Lance Weiler with Head Trauma and more recently Mark Harris with The Lost Children are combining multiple aspects to create immersive experiences for their audiences.
9. Beyond Live Event Theatrical: Experiences
This needs its own blog post – but again crowdfunding has pushed filmmakers to think expansively about creating unique scarce experiences that can be offered to fans such as dinners, set experiences, live chats, backstage access etc. What you offer depends on your audience. Since my audience is mostly comprised of independent filmmakers, for my Kickstarter I have offered a variety of experiences that are based on my consulting brand: a monthly group conference call/presentation with twitter q&a, one time conversations, monthly workshops and individual intensive consultations. What value can you provide to your audience? What does your audience want from you?
10. Creating Unique Live Events – What Am I Missing?
I would love to get examples from you as to what unique screenings and events you have created or experienced?
On Tuesday I will conclude this series with a look at creating scarcity with merchandise. 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 http://www.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 280 dedicated backers who have not only pledged money but most of whom has 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.”
Jon Reiss is filmmaker (Bomb It, Better Living Through Circuitry), author (Think Outside the Box Office) and media strategist who works with filmmakers, companies and organizations to help them utilize the most recent techniques of direct film distribution and audience engagement.
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.”
While there were a number of factors that caused an upheaval of the distribution landscape in 2007 and while there have been many positive signs of improvement, filmmakers and all artists still face an enormously changed market for content.
Supply and Demand
Other examples of this abound.
4. Exclusive Digital Editions
Today we are hosting a guest blog post written by the team behind the documentary STREET FIGHTING MAN. The documentary (twitter, FB) is due out in Spring 2013, and the production and post-production have been funded almost entirely through two Kickstarter campaigns, which raised over $30,000. Additionally, the Street Fighting Man team threw a series of old school house parties, hosted by some of their biggest Kickstarter cheerleaders, in cities across the United States to supplement their campaigns. The combination effect of the Kickstarter campaigns and the house parties is noteworthy. Not only did they raise the needed money to help complete production on the documentary, but they also managed to create an audience for STREET FIGHTING MAN months before its release in the process. The following interview features insights into their success from director/producer/cinematographer Andrew James and producers Sara Archambault and Katie Tibaldi.
This weeks TOTBO workshop clip continues the process of audience identification and differentiates between the concepts niche versus core. They are not the same thing. The core are the most engaged members of any niche – the most likely to engage with you and potentially spread the word about your work. I use Bomb It as an example but in the new workshops will be talking Joffrey and other films. For Joffrey the core of the ballet niche was of course people who loved the joffrey and within that the supercore are the former members of the Joffrey and of course the current Joffrey Ballet. They have been incredibly supportive of the film, have spread the word, participated in events and much more.
This weeks TOTBO Episode concerns the first steps of audience engagement. To do that you must evaluate your audience – which I propose in three steps:
1. Who is your audience (s)?
2. Where do they receive information and recommendations?
3. How do they consume media?
In the episode I then talk about the importance of niche audiences and distinguish them from core audiences. For independent films, and all independent artists, it is important to identify your audience as specifically as possible. You can’t compete with marketing budgets of corporations (the studios) to reach large mass audiences, so you must start small. Fortunately the internet gives you the tools to reach out to niche audiences. But within each niche are cores who are the people I recommend starting with – who are the most active within each reach and are more liable to engage with you.
Today’s video concerns the fundamental principle of how every film is different and needs a unique marketing and distribution plan. To create this plan, filmmakers need to examine:
1. Their Goals
2. Their Film
3. Their Audience
4. Their resources.
I spend a little extra time on goals again talking about “Ride the Divide” and how right before distribution, the producer and director didn’t realize that they had disparate goals. The director, Hunter Weeks, wanted the film to help launch a new film, the producer, Mike Dion, wanted to recoup. They ultimately decided to pursue monetization first. However in doing so they were actually able to meet the goals of launching new projects – but they realized without setting one goal first – they would have had trouble achieving either one.
Future posts will cover the other topics of your film, your audience, your resources.