Earlier this month I was lucky enough to travel to Romania with the American Film Showcase which is a collaboration between the American State Department and USC which bring mainly documentary filmmakers and film experts (yours truly) to various countries around the world. This program serves as bridge between American filmmakers and filmmakers abroad mostly in the developing world but occasionally in more developed countries. Frankly I didn’t know what to expect – I actually thought that Romania already had a pretty amazing film industry producing some pretty incredible films. However my one experience being in Romania (before the revolution) did not create much of a desire to go back. Boy was I surprised – Romania is an incredible gem in many ways – the people are warm and generous (and speak English better than most European countries), there are a plethora of amazing Greek Orthodox churches (I’m a sucker for architecture, mosaics and any images on walls as you may know), and there is a huge vibrant section of artists who are eager to embrace the new entrepreneurial world.
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.
I’ve been doing “Join It” sessions approximately once a month since last October as one of my Kickstarter rewards for Bomb It 2. In these sessions everyone who selected the Join It perk can dial in for a monthly conference call and ask anything about filmmaking and distribution and marketing. These sessions have been a mix of discussions, presentations by me and at times my doing mini consults with the filmmakers who were online. We then record these sessions (all but one) and post them for those who couldn’t attend (unfortunately the majority). I once experimented with not recording the sessions because I wanted to promote the live nature of the sessions and encourage participation – but with everyone’s far flung schedules I soon realized that this was not possible and those that want to be there will be there and those who just want to listen in will just do that.
But last month everything changed when Mark Stolaroff was online (one of the Join It members) and I commenced to interview him about his recent experiences in the landscape. It was so much fun that I decided for the time being that all of the future Join It sessions will have a special guest at least for the first half hour and then the 2nd half hour will be questions – which not only I but the guest will be involved in answering.
This month I chose Gregory Bayne because I got an email from another Join It member concerned about the broken business model of independent film distribution and marketing and wanting figures about how all these films turn out. As you may know – its very difficult to get filmmakers to reveal these numbers and usually all one hears about are the successful outliers. So I thought a better avenue would be to talk to a filmmaker who has had great success utilizing the new audience engagement landscape to foster a career in film – Gregory Bayne. He started with the ultra low budget Person of Interest and was one of the first to crowdfund for distribution and marketing. He then crowdfunded his next more ambitious film Driven and is exploring both transmedia and episodic. Can’t wait.
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).
I am kicking off a series of excerpts from my Think Outside the Box Office Master Classes today on my new YouTube Channel TheJonReiss. I am rebooting my YouTube channel because even though I had some decent views on YouTube.com/jfilm1 – it didn’t feel like that accurate or searchable. Since I am going to start releasing regular content not only from my workshops, but also interviews with filmmakers, artists and people on the cutting edge of audience engagement, I thought it was time to start fresh. On the channel you can also see excerpts from my film and music video work as well. I look forward to your thoughts on the clips as they roll out.
This week’s post concerns setting the goals for your release. I am a firm believer that it is essential for filmmakers to have a clear idea of what their goals are for their film’s release and to prioritize one or perhaps 2 specific goals because a film team will use different release strategies to achieve different goals. I see 4 main goals that most filmmakers strive for in their releases:
1. Money (Fortune)
2. A career launch, helping get another film made. (Fame – for a traditional career based on the previous film career paradigm that only exists for a small percentage of filmmakers these days).
3. Audience (some people just want their film to be seen by an audience as wide as possible.
4. Change the World – especially for documentary.
However I encourage most (if not all) filmmakers to consider a fifth goal:
5. A long-term relationship with a potentially sustainable audience/fan base. This is an essential component of any modern media release – yet most filmmakers still do not consider this a primary goal. This goal is different in objective than the old school fame based career launch (Number 2 above). It is not about press, “heat”, ego. Its about connection, engagement and a bringing your fans with you from project to project. This goal is not achievable if you sell your film outright in an all-rights scenario. In that case your distributor has access to your audience data – not you (although most don’t cultivate this data – yet).
Next week’s clip will talk about the importance of prioritizing your goals. In other words you are better off pursuing one goal. If you don’t, you are at the risk of not achieving any of your goals. Upcoming posts will concern identifying and engaging audience, creating events, merchandise, digital rights, timing as well as interviews with artists and filmmakers such as Timo Vuorensola, Molly Crabapple, Corey McAbee and many more.
For those of you attending Sundance and Slamdance this year, I will be participating in a number of events which I hope you can attend:
On Friday, January 20th from 11 am to 12:30 pm I will be at the New York Lounge at 545 Main Street with Matt Dendler of Cinetic Rights Management for an Empowerment Town Hall moderated by attorney Steven Beer.
On Saturday, January 21st, I will be participating in the Black House Panel on Alternative Distribution from 3:30 to 5 pm. We will be discussing the latest developments in the distribution landscape and where success is being found.
On Sunday, January 22nd, I will be at Dolly’s Book Store for the Sundance Film Festival book signing for Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, the new book with co-writers Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter. Unfortunately Sheri Candler won’t be able to come.
On Monday, January 23rd, I will be giving the introductory talk to the Sundance #ArtistServices Workshop at 8:30 am. This workshop lasts all days with presentations by Erick Opeka from New Video, Bob Moczydlowsky from Topspin, Josh Grau on Twitter for Filmmakers, Caitlin Boyle from Film Sprout, Yancey Strickler of Kickstarter, Emily Gray from Fractured Atlas, Reid Carolin for Constellation and Kathleen Grace, Margaret Healy and Paul Snow on “Your Filmmaking Career on YouTube. RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are coming up to Park City – please come by one of these events to meet up. Or if you want to meet about your film – let me know in advance and we can arrange a time while I’m up there.
The first segment of the IFP Filmmaker Labs were very fun and exciting this year. A great group of docs and narrative.
Next week I will be in the UK. First doing a one day TOTBO workshop at the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 22nd then I’ll be doing a Keynote for Short Sighted presented by BAFTA and Shooting People on the 23rd. I’ll also be doing one on one consultations with films on the 23rd through Creative Scotland.
Next I’m doing a 2 day workshop at the London Film School June 25th, 26th, so if you are in London I hope to see you then. For this workshop we have the some excellent special guests lined up: Terry Stevens from Dogwoof, Chris Jones, filmmaker and author of the Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook Series and via skype we’ll have Sheri Candler, filmmaker Gregory Bayne giving tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign and Peter Gerard of the exciting new DIY distribution tool Distrify.
And some other previews of upcoming releases:
Dogwoof will be releasing the multi language PAL version of Bomb It July 25th.
In September, The Film Collaborative, Sheri Candler and I will be releasing Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen – Case Studies in Hybrid, DIY and P2P Independent Distribution. This is a series of case studies that dives deep into independent film distribution. There will be much more information on this in the coming months – if you would like to know more – check out (and like) the Facebook page for the book. We’ll be launching at the IFP Week in NYC where I will also be for part 3 of the IFP Filmmaker Labs.
Also in Minneapolis I will be on the documentary panel with the incredible Amy Dotson (Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo), and Jon Garon (author, The Independent Filmmaker’s Low and Business Guide), with Melody Gilbert (Fritz: The Walter Mondale Story, Disconnected: A Documentary) moderating.
Special thanks to Gregory Bayne for hooking this up for me. Also appearing will be Jerome Courshon, Aaton Cohen Sitt of Jungle Software and Kenny Chaplin from the Production Assistant Training Program.