Back to Writing – 3 More Books

Posted on by Jon Reiss

I have embarked on writing again and have two new books in the works and one more on the horizon.   First off, I am writing a book on the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or PMD.  In the tradition of Think Outside the Box Office, the book will define the role and responsibilities specific to the PMD, lay out best practices for those wanting to be PMDs,  lay out the tasks for a PMD over the lifecycle of a film, provide guidance on how to fulfill those tasks.  This includes developing a marketing and distribution plan and budget, the PMD in prep, production and post, audience engagement, timing of rights, as well as different marketing and distribution options available to films.  The book will cover education of PMDs and will propose a curriculum of study for PMDs.    I will be tweeting my progress on this book starting next week.

Secondly, I am working with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler on an electronic book of film case studies.    Each of us are drilling down to the specifics of a number of films distribution and marketing paths and providing hard numbers on their successes (and failures) to help filmmakers make informed decisions about the releases of their films.  This project was generated by The Film Collaborative who brought Sheri and I on board and is part of their educational initiative.  (as you know from my book and previous writings I am a big fan of what TFC does – and you know I’m a big fan of Sheri’s as well!).   We are currently locking down the title – and would love your input:  Please participate in our on-line survey.

On the horizon – I am writing a book about how all the art forms: music, film, art, photography, book authorship, journalism, dance,  comedy, gamers and expanded storytellers (etc) are all utilizing similar techniques to get their work made, marketed and distributed.   I came upon this idea while researching examples for my TOTBO workshops and discovered that many of the other art forms (music especially of course) were much further ahead than film in using these techniques.  But I also discovered that while some people used some of the techniques available, many would leave numerous opportunities unexplored – didn’t even know those opportunities existed.  As a result I saw a purpose for writing a book in which I would adapt and expand the system that I outlined in Think Outside the Box Office for all the arts.  This project will allow artists to learn from others and create opportunities for themselves that they may not have thought of by the nature of the traditional paths of their respective fields.   It will also provide a guide in how to use these techniques.   Over the next months, year, I will be interviewing a wide range of artists on this topic and I will be sharing excerpts on this blog.  I look forward to your input and feedback!!  (Look out for a revamped website and FB page in the future as well).

Exciting Times in Park City

I just returned from Park City where I had the pleasure to judge the Slamdance Documentary Competition. I saw some compelling and inspiring work. Being a judge forced me to actually see films at a film festival for the first time in two years since embarking on the TOTBO project (usually I am lucky to see one film). In addition, I got to catch nearly all of “Gandu Asshole” – a stunning visual and narrative feast by first time Indian filmmaker Q that is headed to the Berlinale. Last but not least, I got the opportunity to see the finished version of the moving and brilliantly structured Kinyarwanda, a film I mentored in the IFP Filmmaker Labs.

It was a very exciting time at Park City. First off, more films have sold at this year’s Sundance Film Festival than in recent memory and that is good news for independent film as Ted Hope points out in his blog it “should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again.”

However, I am concerned that filmmakers see these sales and think they can revert back to depending on the festival acquisition system to handle the distribution and marketing of any and all of their films. I hope all will analyze the elements that were most attractive to the buyers (name cast, compelling documentary subjects, past success with a similar film) before assuming that the old days are back.

I got the sense there is a growing awareness that while sales happen for some films, filmmakers understand that the system cannot and does not handle all films. In fact, these sales make up a small percentage of films on the festival circuit each year, much less than the films produced every year. More and more filmmakers are understanding the need to engage audiences on their own – or with partners – and craft unique distribution and marketing strategies for their films.
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Guest Post Simon Pulman: Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers Part II

Very excited for part 2 of Simon Pullman’s excellent post on transmedia for low budget filmmakers. Last week was the why. This week is a quick intro to the how.

Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers
Part II: Executing a Transmedia Project

by Simon Pulman

Having decided to consider a Transmedia project as an alternative to a conventional feature film, you now need to think about how to execute the project. It is important to note that – just like a feature film – there are good and bad ways to spend your budget. I highly recommend looking to “trade favors” – working on your peers’ projects with the understanding that they will help you out in return. Furthermore, you should certainly consider granting equity in your project to trusted collaborators; very few people have the skill set to pull off a multi-platform story single-handedly.

Here are a few suggestions:


You need to have a really strong idea of how your various narrative strands are going to interweave. True Transmedia requires integration of complementary story elements and themes in a cohesive and compelling way – it is not merely the addition of new media gimmicks or social networking aspects to an existing story. This greatly increases the upfront work required of you, which is why Lance Weiler’s company Seize the Media refer to themselves as “story architects.”
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Guest Post Simon Pulman: Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers

Today’s guest post is from Simon Pulman who writes an incredibly interesting and informative blog on transmedia: Transmythology.

To me transmedia is the future for independent film – and perhaps all film. It is already happening all around us – whether we realize it or not. I essentially backed into transmedia on Bomb It. We knew we were generating way more content than would fit in one feature. In 2005 – our thought was that we would ultimately make 6 features from the material! But we ended up producing a webseries for Babelgum which was became a transmedia extension of Bomb It – realized after the fact. This in turn led to Bomb It 2 which was conceived of as a webseries for Babelgum – but still ties into the Bomb It “brand”. There is no way that I would have done another graffiti feature this past year – but a web series was a much more manageable way to keep exploring the concept of Bomb It. Simon addresses these issues in his post that follows. (BTW – this is a two part post. Part 2 will run next Thursday).

Transmedia for Low Budget Filmmakers

Part I: Why Consider Transmedia?

I’m going to assume for the purposes at this article that you have read Think Outside The Box Office, and are familiar with the principles presented within.  I don’t think an artist of any kind should proceed with a project without at least reading and considering Jon’s ideas.  We’re moving towards an age where personal branding and fan engagement will become increasingly important strategies in differentiating yourself from the crowd.

Due to the difficulties inherent in financing a feature film today, an increasing number of filmmakers are going DIY – foregoing years of fundraising and investor courtship to produce something relatively cheaply using inexpensive cameras and small non-union crews.  This concept should be familiar to anybody who has read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew.

The downside of this trend for filmmakers is that the proliferation of lower budget films makes it very difficult to stand out from the crowd.  Unlike in Rodriguez’s day, merely making a film cheaply is no longer an interesting enough story to ensure that people pay attention.  The result is that even well scripted and produced low budget films are not guaranteed to find an audience.
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