Jon Reiss on BYODocs with Ondi Timoner

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Had a great time with Ondi Timoner today filming for her BYODocs Show – seen here!  We spoke a little about Think Outside the Box Office – but mostly about my docs Bomb It, Bomb It 2, Better Living Through Circuitry and even going back to Survival Research Laboratories and Target Video.   Let me know what you think!

A Little About Happiness In Slavery

Happiness_in_Slavery_video

Early in my career I avoided music videos like the plague,  they just seemed like commercials for music.  Fortunately – this led me to one of my favorite collaborations on Happiness in Slavery – since Trent Reznor was looking for filmmakers who had never done a music video before.  He didn’t want anyone polluted by the process.  (I understood this years later after I became polluted by the process and then quit doing music videos).    He found me through Film Threat Magazine who had been fans of my shorts and my documentaries of Survival Research Laboratories.   Trent wanted to do a video that didn’t have any limits, he had a new deal (with Interscope) that gave him full creative control.  His guidelines were “consensual S&M” and “gears grinding flesh”.

We discussed the video in the back house of the former Sharon Tate estate (where we shot another video together for the song “Gave Up”).  I proposed loosely basing the video on the French decadent writer Octave Mirabeux’s The Torture Garden in which wealthy people visit Chinese prisons to witness gruesome tortures.  But what struck me and what I borrowed for the video was the symbiotic relationship between the torture and the lush plants that were fertilized by its awful results.   Inspired by my work with SRL, I decided to update the story making the ritualized relationship between a man and a machine.   I also made this tortuous relationship purely voluntary – so that the men were giving themselves to this process, ritual, transcendence.   Continue reading →

Bomb It 2 Hits Miami!

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UPDATE — the U.S. premiere of BOMB IT 2 in Miami is sold out!

Bomb It 2

It is finally time for the US premiere of BOMB IT 2! Thanks to our good friends at Bombingscience.com, Keepitclassic.com, and Tugg.com, you can catch BOMB IT 2 at the O Cinema in the Wynwood District on Wednesday, May 29th at 7:30 pm. But there is a catch. We still need to sell 33 more tickets in order to make the screening happen, so PLEASE help spread the word and reserve your tickets for the US premiere of BOMB IT 2 today.

The screening will be introduced by host Marc Ferman of www.Keepitclassic.com. There will be a live Q&A with director Jon Reiss via Skype following the movie. If you are a fan of street art, graffiti, art, or just pop culture, this is a screening you CANNOT miss! In BOMB IT 2 director Jon Reiss takes audiences to previously unexplored areas of the Middle East, Europe, Asia, the United States and Australia on a hunt for innovative street art and artists.

BOMB IT 2 explores the indigenous street art scenes in Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Perth, Melbourne, Copenhagen, Chicago, Austin and the Palestinian refugee camps on the West Bank.

BOMB IT 2 from Jon Reiss on Vimeo.

For those of you who are not in Miami but want to see BOMB IT 2 in your town, please contact our friends at TUGG — they will help you organize a screening of BOMB IT 2 at your favorite local theater!

Between the Lines: Jon Reiss Interview

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Bomb It 1 + 2 director Jon Reiss speaks with the filmmakers behind “Between the Lines” about street art and graffiti, freedom of speech and democracy. “Between the Lines” is a documentary about a group of Toronto street artists who find new meaning in their work as they defend it against Mayor Rob Ford’s War on Graffiti.

Excerpt: Insiders Guide To Independent Film Distribution

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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.

BOMB IT 2 Screening @ Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle

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BOMB IT 2 is screening at 6 p.m. at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco on Thursday, October 6th as part of the Can Film Festival, sponsored by the Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle.

“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 6-8 in 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 shows the 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!

10 Ways in Which I Would Release Bomb It Today

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Chris Horton asked me to write this post for the new Artist Services website that Sundance has set up. However, many filmmakers don’t have access to that site, and so I am posting it here on my blog for anyone to be able to read. Here is the post:

In 2005 I started a documentary project that became Bomb It which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007, was released on DVD, iTunes and Netflix via New Video and has had an extended life on VOD (Gravitas), Web series (Babelgum), various foreign sales (PAL DVD this month on Dogwoof) etc. As many of you know, my experience releasing Bomb It inspired me to write a manual for other filmmakers to release their films in this new distribution landscape: Think Outside the Box Office. Chris Horton approached me to write a post on how I would release Bomb It in today’s distribution landscape (and knowing what I know now). I’ve actually thought about this a lot (mostly kicking my self for what I could have done better!)
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Bomb It 2 Australia Stormie Mills, Ash Keating, TwoOne, Phibs

This past week we launched the Australian section of Bomb It 2. I was especially excited to go to Australia to meet graffiti and street artists because I had been a fan for years and it was economics that prevented us from including the country in the first Bomb It. I was also excited because it meant that Bomb It had now covered our sixth continent of global graffiti and street art (next stop Antarctica!)

First stop was the remote city of Perth (making it about a 22 hour plane flight from Los Angeles). I had the pleasure of meeting Stormie Mills whose work is some of the most incredible I have seen in 5 years of filmming – but he is also one of the nicest people I have met on my travels (and I have had the great fortune of meeting a ton of wonderful people.) Stormie is very eloquent about his work (why he works primarily in black, white, gray and silver) as well as the city of Perth.

Next stop was Melbourne – big shout out to Andy Mac from Untilnever who hooked me up with Phibs from Everfresh. I shot Phibs in the rain – on my last day – the last piece for Bomb It 2. Everfresh is a seminal, prolific and wonderfully stylish crew – check out their new book. I also had a chance to interview crew members Reka which will be a future piece and film a piece by Makatron (which made it into the Phibs piece). I love how Phibs incorporates so many influences into his work – which as he says reflects himself “being somewhat of a mutt.”

Two One is a Japanese expat working in Melbourne – I was able to catch him grinding a piece of wood into the shape of an elephant as well as painting a few other pieces. In the episode he speaks to why his subjects are mostly animals – animals that have been given power by humans – interesting how his Japanese tradition influences his street work – which was really given birth in Melbourne.

Last but not least is Ash Keating (and big thanks to Phibs for introducing me to Ash and Two One). This is one of the longest pieces in Bomb It 2 – partly due to the wide ranging nature of the interview that I was able to do – covering a good portion of his career, but also because Ash opened up his archive to us – so that you can see never before seen footage of him in action, spraying with punctured cans and fire extinguishers, throwing and dumping paint on surfaces, as well as repurposing vinyl sign waste into art performances. Ash Keating is also one of the most eloquent people I interviewed on the relationship of public unsanctioned art to the question of who controls public space. Further how this public work can actually create a sense of community where it takes place.

It was a pretty crazy trip – due to family and work obligations I was only able to go to Australia for 11 days. I spent 8 days teaching four Think Outside the Box Office workshops in four cities: Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. This left 3 days not teaching – I spent 2 days shooting all of the pieces and one day sick. I hope to return to Australia to be able to see a bit of the country and meet more filmmakers and artists.

Some acknowledgements: Thank you to Kathleen Drum and Mike Cowap and everyone from Screen Australia, Jack Sargeant and the Perth Revelation Film Festival, Defrim Isai from the South Australian Film Corporation for making the trip possible. Thanks to Pedro T Pinto for the fabulous camera work – a rare pleasure to work with a DP. Andy Mac and Phibs for the introductions. All of the artists for their generosity. I was also able to film Vexta and Andy Mac who will be the subjects of future pieces.

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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