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 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?
Today we have a guest post from the New York Film Academy about writing a business plan for your film. The one thing I would note is to be upfront with the investors with how long it takes to recoup money and the very good chance that they may not recoup at all (in fact stating this in your prospectus is required by law in the US). Remember – if your film is cause related – many of your investors may be more concerned about how you will change the world than actually recouping.
by Zeke A. Iddon, New York Film Academy
Us filmmakers are, by nature, creative souls and abhor business plans as much as filing taxreturns. Even the very words ‘film business plan’ are enough to evoke groans from seasoned professionals in the industry.
But despite the panic many people find themselves in when it comes to putting pen to paper (or figures on a spreadsheet), the truth is they’re not nearly as beastly as many would have you believe.
Here we explore the very nature of film business plans, what they’re for (versus what you might think they’re for), and why you should keep it simple…
Never Forget the Golden Rule
Investors don’t open your business plan to find out how much you’re planning on paying the dolly grip. They cast their gaze upon it with one – and only one – thing in mind:
Is this investment going to make me money?
And really, that’s all you need to answer. That’s why it’s called a ‘business plan’, not a ‘leather-bound tome of every penny going in and out of our account’.
If you’ve managed to get a potential investor to look at your business plan, congratulations! You’ve already accomplished the two mountainous tasks of a) creating a great film, and b) garnering people’s interest. Be sure you don’t undermine yourself at this critical stage with a flawed business plan!
Don’t Get Carried Away
As long as you keep the golden rule in mind, you’ll prosper. However, it is admittedly easy to lose sight and overanalyze every aspect of the project.
At the heart of it all, you’re an expert in filmmaking, not accountancy, and while the importance of a tight financial projection cannot be understated it shouldn’t take more than a week to write it up. If you’re still stressing about the finer details for months on end – or worse, incapacitated by the fear of starting it – you’re probably over thinking things and taking far too much time away from your actual job. After all, stakeholders would infinitely prefer you to deliver a stellar movie rather than a flawless bit of accountancy.
And on that note…
The Devil’s in the Details
A good film business plan should be concise, filled only with pertinent information and, ideally, be somewhat attractive for investors to look at…
… what it should not comprise of is a ninety-page spreadsheet filled with hundreds of rows of figures typed out in 8-point font. Believe it or not, but stakeholders are humans too – as a rule of thumb, if it felt like murder to compile your plan, chances are it’ll feel like murder to read it and a business plan which doesn’t hold the reader’s attention is virtually a waste of paper.
1) Is the film going to make the investor money?
2) How is it going to make the investor money?
3) It is going to make the investor money, right?
Sorry, just wanted to drive that point home. Joking aside, you’ll best demonstrate the above by sticking to just the following:
Outline: As it sounds, but resist temptation to get into the nitty gritty of the project here. Do, however, sum up the script in a tantalizing way (no more than 500 words) and provide a few very clear details about your financing requirements. In addition, include some key points about the director/producer/company if these add to the attractability.
Shooting Schedule: This part is a little intense, and you may need to hire a line producer to analyze this for you depending on your experience level. Essentially, it should detail every location, scene, prop, staff and acting talent needed for each part of the script – from here, you’ll be able to formulate an accurate budget.
Production Budget: As above, but accounting for the production aspect of the project.
Marketing Plan: is more in-depth than just listing how many Twitter followers you think will retweet the film’s website. Detail your target demographics, advertising costs and expected conversion rates to said ads, the schedule for your marketing campaigns and any details regarding how you plan on getting bums on theater seats.
Distribution Plan: How are you going to get your DVD/Blu-Ray out there? How much will each sale make, and how many sales can you reasonably expect to achieve? What about online distribution? How about the value of rights sales for your area? These are all things which should be listed in the distribution plan.
Revenue Projections: Against most of the amateur advice which gets trotted out, do not compare your project to similar films. They are nearly always baseless comparisons without meaningful correlation – instead, stick to the hard figures based on all the market research you conducted for your marketing plan, as well as reliable statistics which are specific to your region/genre/marketing budget.
Letters of Intent: These are incredibly alluring to potential investors, so make sure you include them. Not only do letters of intent from recognizable talent, other investors and anyone else attached to the film help inspire confidence, but a letter of intent from an insurance company will allay fears of financial meltdown should the worst happen (heaven forbid).
Executive Summary: Oddly, many people feel that this should be at the forefront of your business plan. The clue, really, is in the name – your executive summary should come right at the end, almost as an extended version of your overview in which you highlight the script’s strengths, the team’s talent and why all of the above figures mean that this film will be a not-to-be-missed opportunity. That all said, we would be naïve to say that investors don’t often skip to this section, so keep your two pages here a fine mix of being too the point as well as being effusive about the film.
Close off with any supporting materials you have, including investment packages and cashflow statements (where applicable) or anything else that will tantalize potential stakeholders. Just don’t overdo it with photo shoots of all the team, et cetera.
What you’ll be left with is a clear and well-thought out business plan which will scream out to anyone reading that you know precisely what you’re doing… and that’s the name of the game.
One Final Note
Writing a solid business plan is not as arduous or painful as many would like to make out. That said, don’t try to cut corners by using templates or adopting other people’s plans – you’ll invariably end up in a pickle, and it’s more hard work than just getting on with it and writing your business plan from scratch.
Zeke A. Iddon is a consultant writer for the New York Film Academy, having previously come from a background in business marketing. He’s more familiar with words and film reel then numbers, buy hey, that’s what Excel’s AutoSum function is for!
Top 10 Things Learned in the IFP PMD LAB
By Jon Reiss
I have had the good fortune to be involved in IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs for the past several years now and I have seen innumerable benefits to the films and filmmakers who participate. The Labs provide an opportunity for first-time filmmakers to not only receive feedback on their films from their peers and experienced filmmakers but it is the first lab to prepare filmmakers for the essential work of distribution and marketing.
This year we launched the IFP PMD LAB (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) the first of its kind. This year, the PMD Lab worked in conjunction with the Filmmaker Labs, with all the participating PMDs attached to a film in the Filmmaker Labs.
Since the end of the year if full of 10 best lists – I thought I would compile the 10 best results of the inaugural year of the PMD Lab.
1. Defining What A PMD Is. I think this is of critical importance as this nascent crew position develops. A PMD is not just a social media manager. To be a PMD a person must be involved in all aspects of a film’s distribution and marketing, including audience identification and engagement, creating a distribution and marketing plan, budgeting that plan, creating marketing elements, creating and managing other assets to help promote the film, etc. All of this in concert with the filmmakers. See this post for more. I think the PMD trainees were amazed and excited about the scope of this position.
2. Learning how to identify audience. After understanding the goals of the team, the first assignment for the trainees was to identify the audience for their film. Many of the films had already started this process in the spring Filmmaker Labs sessions. But rarely do first-time filmmakers fully understand their audiences in the first go round. It also takes time for the notion of niche vs. core audience to sink in – and how to view how audiences can expand from a core. See this clip from one of my workshops for reference.
3. Learning how to engage that audience. This is a career-long process and can be daunting at first. It is important again that it is not just about social media – we stress that it is crucial to know how each particular audience learns about films and then to target that source – influencers, social media, organizations, traditional media – whatever works.
4. Develop marketing tools for the film (after understanding who the audience is). We have the PMD trainees (and in fact all Lab films) create initial marketing materials most of which are essentials for a press kit: logline, one line synopsis, short synopsis, key art, website and, if possible and appropriate, trailer and social media sites.
5. Workshop those marketing tools. One my favorite parts of the Filmmaker Labs and PMD Labs are the Marketing Labs held right before IFPs Independent Film Week. Each team presents the marketing plan for the film and it is workshopped with a panel of professionals. Some heated discussions result. The process either helps crystallize the beginnings of a plan for the team – or makes them realize they have a ways to go. Either way I find that they are so much further along than most filmmakers by starting this process in post.
6. Writing a distribution and marketing plan for their films. The last assignment for the PMDs was to write a distribution and marketing plan for their films. I am a broken record on this: every film is different and needs a unique plan. It is essential that PMDs learn not only how to write these plans – but to understand all of the aspects contained within. It is hard to teach this in a crash course (which we had in September and December). But what I found most instructive was:
7. Evaluating different distribution options. In the December Distribution Labs, we had the opportunity to see each of the 20 filmmaking teams present their distribution plan, and to have that discussed by incredible experts in emerging distribution models. It became very apparent what types of distribution options are available to filmmakers and how those can be crafted for each individual film.
8. Learning how to budget that plan. In order to execute a plan you have to figure out how much money you need to execute the plan. Going through an extensive distribution and marketing budget can be daunting – but it is also important to know what you need to pay for in order to achieve that film’s goals.
9. Creating a community of PMDs. The trainees told me that one of the best outcomes of the PMD Lab was the community that they created amongst themselves. While we had monthly phone sessions and 2 separate Lab meetings, the trainees would contact each other on a regular basis, which has continued even after the Lab’s completion. They are even supporting other films from the Labs that did not have PMD trainees. Several of the trainees have been so excited by the concept that they will be participating in the PMD website that we intend to put on the IFP site next year and to determine a way that PMDs around the world can find community (stay tuned!).
10. Learning how to develop a career as a PMD. This was a strong interest for the trainees – naturally. What I stressed is that the PMD is just like any other film position. You have to start small to build your way up – finding any way to gain experience. Little by little filmmakers are realizing that they need to budget for this crew position. One of the goals of the above mentioned site is to provide a centralized place that filmmakers can find PMDs for their projects.
If you think you can be a PMD please feel free to contact me so that I can keep you abreast of these developments.
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.
The explosion of DSLR filmmaking in recent years has allowed independent filmmakers to create high resolution content with a shallow depth of field. In many ways the technology has done a lot to level the playing field between the independents and major studios. One of the better known examples of this leveling was the news that the 2010 season finale of House was shot entirely with a Canon 5d Mark II.
Anyone with DSLR experience knows that this high resolution imagery can be compromised by stability issues, however. Digital camcorders like the Panasonic HVX 200 had a sizable camera body that counterbalanced the weight of the lens and allowed for relatively stable hand-held shooting. DSLRs do not possess the same intrinsic balance. As a result, the run-and-gun style of many independent filmmakers yields shaky footage if attempted without stabilization gear. Now there are a number of solutions currently on the market that address DSLR stability, but the majority of them are often too complicated or expensive for my taste, which is why I was so excited to learn about the Pstik!
Developed by long-time DP and camera op Stephen J. Payne, the Pstik sells for $60 and utilizes a monopod and a few small lead weights to create a simple counterweight system, enabling filmmakers to run-and-gun with remarkably smooth and stable results. Here is how Stephen Payne explains it:
Stephen started a kickstarter campaign for the Pstik, where you can get more information on the product, ask questions or stake your claim for one of these cool gizmos today.
Good news. Another special guest blogger has been added to our arsenal. Author and filmmaker James Cooper wrote the book Kickstarter for Filmmakers after successfully funding his short film Elijah the Prophet through the popular crowd funding website. Below James shares his top five crowd funding tips for filmmakers.
Kickstarter is creating a boom in creative communities around the world! Filmmakers everywhere are chomping at the bit to get in on the action, but did you know over half of all campaigns launched on Kickstarter fail?
Crowd funding is still a relatively new business model, and it can be overwhelming to make sense of it all. Without the proper preparation, though, you may be dooming yourself to failure before your campaign even sees the light of day.
There are many things to take into consideration when launching a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter, Indiegogo or any similar platform, but here are some of the most important:
5. Know Your Audience
This should be easy, but for some reason seems to be overlooked not just in crowd funding campaigns, but in general. When many new filmmakers are asked “Who is your audience?” with respect to their new project, they too often answer “Well, everyone!” This will not do. Crowd funding sites are jungles, and even though some do have good tools for discovery, it will be very easy for you to get lost in the crowd.
Your success will be determined by your ability to get the word out, and your success in that will be determined by your ability to identify what groups and niche audiences you can focus on reaching. Crowd funding is still new enough that an interesting campaign is in of itself news.
4. Tell Me Who Is Involved
Simple, right? You’d think so, but quite often you’ll read through a project’s entire description and still not know who else is involved aside from the person writing the description/appearing in the pitch video. It takes more than one person to make a film, and your audience will want to know they can all be trusted to deliver.
Even if none of the people involved in your film are recognizable to the uninitiated, it still helps spur support if people can get a quick glance at the passionate team that’s dying to bring this project to fruition.
3. Be Realistic
It’s easy to be blinded by dollar signs when looking at other successful campaigns, but don’t get carried away when setting your goal. Maximize your odds of success by taking stock of your network and making realistic estimates of what kind of support you’ll be able to gain. Be conservative in these estimates. It would be a far better surprise to end up with more than you thought you’d have, than to come up with less.
To this effect, you also have to figure out if you think you can realistically fund the entire project through your campaign, or if you’ll have to bring outside financing to fill the gap. If you do, it’s far safer to have that in place prior to launching your campaign.
2. Be Honest
This seems obvious, but it’s one of the most important things to keep in mind as you build your campaign: Don’t lie; don’t misrepresent yourself or your credits; don’t make promises you can’t keep. When people back a campaign, they’re making a deal directly with you. Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other similar platforms don’t police your ability to deliver, so it’s up to you to do so. You don’t want to waste their money or ruin your reputation, so ensure you’re not promising more than you’re capable of.
Everything you include in your pitch video and your project description should be able to be distilled into two words: “Trust me.” For better or worse, crowd funding is a model that relies solely on trust: Trust that you can get this film made, trust that it will be good, trust that the money will be well spent, and trust that the claims made in your campaign are true. Don’t forget: This is the internet; it’s not hard to sniff out false claims.
1. More Than Money
Don’t let the funding part of the term crowd funding distract you – you’re getting more out of your campaign than money. Backers are early adopters, and they are more likely than anyone else to champion your project and shout it from the rooftops. They are now invested, literally, in your success. They’ve become part of the process, so treat them as such. Don’t just take their money and say thanks; show them you’re grateful for their help. This can take any shape you choose, but make them feel like they’ve backed the right horse.
I had a hard time deciding if #2 should be #1 or not, as they’re both equally important, but I ultimately decided the backer/campaigner relationship is the cornerstone of any crowd funding campaign and that the benefits outside the strictly financial should not be overlooked.
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.
I’m launching the channel today as part of my Spring Workshop Kickoff. Yesterday I gave a “Strategic Distribution Workshop 202” at Hot Docs Toronto. I will be helping lead the IFP Filmmaker Labs in NYC in May and June. I will also be giving a mini-workshop at Sheffield Doc Fest in June 15th and then in London on June 23, 24th for a newly revamped two day TOTBO Distribution Master Class.
I’ve also created some Hot Docs Specials on my store where you can get a PDF of TOTBO for $4.95 and a hard copy for $9.95.