Troubles at Neoflix – What Fulfillment Alternatives are There for Filmmakers Part 1

Troubles at Neoflix – What Fulfillment Alternatives are There for Filmmakers Part 1

For those of you who have read my book Think Outside the Box Office and my Filmmaker Magazine article on fulfillment from last winter, know that I thought highly of the shopping cart and fulfillment company Neoflix. I used them for Bomb It and had a good experience with them. I also liked what seemed to be an honest commitment to independent film and DIY solutions for filmmakers. The head of the company JC seemed genuinely interested in helping filmmakers.

I am deeply saddened and disturbed that this has turned sour. I have received reports from a number of filmmakers that they have not been paid by Neoflix for months. Some filmmakers are owed hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. When I discussed the situation with JC he indicated that in fact they were having financial problems, were trying to make payment plans with filmmakers and that they had not taken on new clients since September. Most importantly he was trying to raise a round of capital for a new venture that would help them pay back filmmakers. I have not heard that they have yet raised that money. I asked JC this week as to what the status was – he indicated that they are weighing their options and will make an announcement soon.

Today I received a report that the company that Neoflix actually subcontracted out to do the fulfillment of goods, I-Pak has also had financial difficulties with Neoflix and has requested that any filmmaker who has used Neoflix remove their goods from their warehouse by March 1st. If you use Neoflix – you can either contact Patrick Barry – Neoflix’s VP and GM at pbarry@magicrock.com or you can contact I Pak customer service directly at: customer-support@i-pakdvd.com. (I Pak is still a fulfillment company and some filmmakers might want to switch to their services to save the cost of shipping their goods back to them – however considering the circumstances I find this unlikely).

Secondly, one of the filmmakers affected adversely by the Neoflix situation, Matthew Arnold (director of “The Long Green Line”) has started a survey of filmmakers who have used Neoflix – asking them how much money they lost, when they last got paid, if customers received their orders and other questions. You can find the survey here.

Finally is the task of finding a new fulfillment companies for filmmakers to use – not just those who are leaving Neoflix but for all filmmakers. I have continued to hear good things about Transmit Media (http://www.transitmedia.net/) who I included in the Filmmaker Magazine article. Breakthrough Distribution is another company to work with (they work directly with Transmit) concerning replication and fulfillment needs.I did have a very good experience with 4th Way Fulfillment who I also wrote about in that article, but I would still say that 4th Way is mainly an option if you are going to sell lots of merchandise. I recently met a filmmaker who has had great success with Fulfillment by Amazon. He has promised me a guest blog post so stay tuned for that. Topspin is opening their doors in March and they have some technology that looks very exciting. Topspin is probably best used in advance of a films release and then through the release as opposed to the end of a release. (I switched Bomb It and Think Outside the Box Office over to Topspin in August of 2010 in order to do a test run on that new platform – I will be writing more about Topspin in the near future.) Sheri Candler has wrote a good intro review of Topspin last fall in Microfilmmaker Magazine.

Finally, I have also spoken to many filmmakers who do their own fulfillment. They take orders through PayPal and then pick pack and ship themselves. If you are not selling that many DVDs a month (and perhaps only selling DVDs) this might be the best option for you.

I am going to investigate more fulfillment options in the coming month. I would love to hear what other companies you might be using and what your experiences have been so as to build out a better list of companies. If you have suggestions or would like more information on the Neoflix situation please contact me through my blog or at hybridcinema@gmail.com.

Conclusion of Guest Post: The Secrets of The Secret

Today concludes Julie Eckersley’s wonderful 5 part series on the methods used by The Secret to create such a success – big kudos to Julie for being so generous with her information. I love that she emphasizes audience engagement at the earliest stages and being generous to your partners and fans!: Here’s Julie:

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

This blog post is part 5 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title
Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.
Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.
Lesson 6: Alternative release and some very good news.
Lesson 7: Shoot a promo first

Lesson 8: Cultivate your audience

One of the places that many people go wrong online and in social media circles is that they don’t understand the etiquette of the medium.

Here is a summary of online manners from a fabulous internet marketing company called Thinktank Media.

1. Build a relationship first, sell second.
2. Thank people that mention you online in their blog or site. To keep track of this start using Google analytics and Google Alerts. You may also want to sign up for Social Mention.
3. Share great content. It doesn’t always have to be yours.
4. Be open and honest
5. Stick to your brand or style
6. Don’t spam or constantly broadcast one way
7. Engage in and encourage 2 way conversations.

The internet is actually a very intimate medium. If you get earmarked as a spammer there is no going back. It is the same as if you try to sell every time you communicate. It is a medium much more aligned with building relationships.

Byrne did this by communicating with her audience long before there was anything she was selling. In the lead up to her release had a clear brand and message – I am going to tell you a secret? and she traded on the exclusivity of her information.

Once the film was launched she continued to communicate directly with her extensive mailing list through the intimacy of her “secret scrolls”. Again, these are not about selling they simply offer a communication with the film maker and are full or advice about things that the niche group are interested in.

Lesson 9: GIVE GIVE GIVE

Once you have established a rapport with the key influencers think of what you can give to them. Ask yourself – what’s in this for them? The same applies to people that opt in to your publicity though an email or newsletter sign up.
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Part 4: The Secrets of the Secret

Today is Part 4 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part amazing Guest Post Series on the distribution and marketing of “The Secret”. Here’s Julie:

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

This blog post is part 4 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title
Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.
Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.
Lesson 6: Alternative release and some very good news.

Lesson 7: Shoot a Promo First

Now this is interesting.
Before Byrne even started shooting her film – she shot a promo for it and began garnering online support.

Initially, three short promos were released via the Internet in 2005, in the form of
‘clues’ as to what ‘The Secret’ was. They were posted intermittently one at a time
on the the secret website and
assured that viewer that ‘a secret was about to be delivered’. Byrne’s viral campaign was in keeping with her title. It played in the on the idea of a ‘secret’. And people wanted to know what ‘the secret’ was.

The promos were intended to drive people to the website where they could then be in direct contact with the filmmakers and receive a new level of inside information and updates. Her campaign centered on making people feel special, followers were given intimate access to parts of the film and those in it that was not available to others. This sense of belonging was key to the projects success and also the ownership that the public took of the project through engaging in the viral campaign. Then, the producers created a trailer and posted it online.
Continue reading →

Part 3: The secrets of the Secret

Today is Part 3 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part excellent Guest Post Series on the distribution and marketing of “The Secret”. As anyone who has read this blog or my book, knows that I am always talking about the subject of today’s post: Start your campaign as early as possible and engage your audience, natural allies in the process. Here’s Julie:

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

This blog post is part 3 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title

Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.

If you have done Jon’s workshop you would also have been in discussion about the role of PMD or Producer of Marketing and Distribution. I think this is a vital new role in the film industry and whether she knew it or not, The Secret was a great example of this in action. The online campaign was foundational to the project from its inception.

Before she had even shot the film, or planned the schedule Byrne built a website, began building followers online, bought url’s that would support her campaign (to release the project as if it were a real secret) and very early on she even released a promo DVD of stock footage and released it online, directing it into the hands of key influencers.

Which brings us to the all-important point 5.

Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.

From very early on in the project Byrne identified the key influencers in this area and aligned herself with them. As it was a documentary she could do this by actually using them in the film, but it could also be done by having interviews linked on a website, articles, blog posts etc. She got these people (some of which already had their own community of hundreds of thousands of followers) and she involved them from the beginning.
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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.

Merchandise
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.
Continue reading →

TOTBO Tip of the Day 31 Embrace Live Event/Theatrical

Posted on by Emy

This week’s tips concern the re-born “theatrical” movement in the US and around the world for independent film. I’m a firm believer that film should be screened in front of live audiences – which is one form of our millennia old tradition of telling stories in a communal environment – usually in the dark (in the old days in front of a fire). (ps it’s a 4 day week in honor of Memorial Day weekend)

What I call “Live Event/Theatrical” is being reborn in the US with more films using a robust outside of the box booking strategy utilizing a wide variety of venues to screen their works. I call these Live Event/Theatrical because: 1. They emphasize the live audience and the benefits that come from screening your film in front of an audience. 2. The Title emphasizes the event nature of the screenings –and I feel it is important for independents to embrace events (not just throw out screenings from Fri-Thurs) 3. We want to retain the ability to say that we’ve had a theatrical release – hence Theatrical – without having to succumb to the expenses or restrictions of what is known in the industry as “theatrical”. The tips for the next week or so will concern live event theatrical releases.

But for more information come check out my workshops – coming up in NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents my theatrical pitch letter and a list of theater listings etc. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 24 Webdesigners Part 2

Posted on by Emy

Oftentimes the best designer is not the best programmer, and vice versa. You may need two separate people: one for the look of the site (which hopefully is integrated with your key art), another to do the actual programming. If you have to choose to pay one or the other, go for the programmer. It is easier to find good designers for a reasonable rate (i.e., someone needing to build their portfolio) than programmers.

Let me know what you think! Follow me @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here. I look forward to hearing from you.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 23 Webdesigners

Posted on by Emy

If you are not a technically-oriented person, you need an IT person to set up your website. Chances are, they will know a lot more about search engine optimization (SEO) than you do. Ask them to set up a site that you can regularly modify on your own, so that you are not spending thousands of dollars over the course of your film’s life. If you can get a qualified person to do it for free, great — but you should be able to find someone to set up a simple site for $500 to $2,000. Maintain your relationship with this person so you can ask them to come back from to time to time to tweak your site (like when you want to sell DVDs, merchandise, etc.).

Let me know what you think! Follow me @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jon Reiss Interview with Nat Mundel

Posted on by Emy

This was published on voyagemedia.com today.

Author Jon Reiss on the Death of the Film Festival AND HIS BEST KEPT SECRETS THAT COULD MAKE YOUR NEXT INDIE FILM A SUCCESS!!

In his interview with Nat Mundel, independent filmmaker, author, and educator Jon Reiss unabashedly confirms one thing: the film festival acquisition model is dead or dying.

But Reiss hasn’t sat idly, waiting for his films to get picked up. Instead, he throws up his middle finger to would-be buyers. Taking matters into his own hands, Reiss has booked his own theater screenings for his film Bomb It across 27 cities, and has even sold bootleg DVDs of his film along the way (yes, he bootlegged his own film; in so many words, badass.)

Since 2007, Reiss has become one of the go-to experts on Do It Yourself (DIY) film distribution, publishing the DIY Bible Think Outside the Box Office in November of ’09. We got Reiss to open up about his book, his DIY workshops, and his predictions about the future of independent film.

Watch and listen for 4 major tips to get your next indie film project an audience before you even lens up.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 8 Engage Organizations to Promote Your Film

Posted on by Emy

Step 2 of Audience Engagement is: Know WHERE your audience derives information/congregates.

Many niche’s have organizations that support those specific topics and interests. Engage those organizations early in your filmmaking process (as early as conception and prep). It is important to have the proper attitude toward your audience and these organizations. You need to think, “What can I give them?” instead of “What can they do for me?” If you think of the former, the latter will flow. People are very busy. You need to give them an incentive to be involved with you. The film is not enough. How will the film service their organization, their lives and the lives of their members? In turn, they will help you promote your film to your direct audience. This has been used by great effect by documentary filmmakers. Narrative filmmakers need to follow their lead.

My live workshops are coming to London on May 8th-9th and Amsterdam on May 12th-13th. Hope to see you there!

I want to know what you think! Comment here or on my blog, or @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book Think Outside the Box Office. I look forward to hearing from you.