Distribution Transparency: Four Filmmakers Give Up the Gold Pt 2

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Wednesday’s post looked at Neil Berkeley and Judy Chaikin as two filmmakers who wanted to create a theatrical release for their films to boost visibility, increase ancillary value and learn for themselves how to operate in the new hybrid model of distribution and marketing. Today we will look at Paco de Onís the company Skylight he runs with with creative director Pamela Yates and editorial director Peter Kinoy and their film/media project Granito

 

Paco de Onís, Skylight & Granito

 

According to de Onís, Skylight is “as much a filmmaking organization, as a human rights organization.” Hence their goals are not about monetary gain – but about social change specifically in the realm of social justice. To do this according to de Onís “we’ve had to develop a model where we can work without a distributor,” he explains. “A distributor is looking for financial dividends, but we’re out looking for social dividends.”

 

In this quest for change and larger audience, they often give their films away for free. They gave their film Granito, about genocide in Guatemala, away to a major Guatemalan bootlegger who then spread it across the country in a way they never would have been able to. “There’s no better distributor in Guatemala. We don’t make any money from that but our film gets seen everywhere.”

 

In addition when the film screened on PBS, they persuaded the broadcaster to take off geo-blocking from the PBS streaming feed so that anyone in the world would be able to see the film. Skylight also creates indigenous language versions of many of their films which are given directly to that community.

 

Skylight also makes its films available for free to groups that want to screen them. Whether it’s a community group or a local human rights organization, you simply have to fill out a form on their website explaining why you want to show it, and they’ll provide you with a copy. They also ask that you let them know how the screening went after it’s over, but Paco says this often doesn’t happen.

 

It is very hard to track eyeballs and impact – but here are some of the statistics they have collected for Granito:

  • 1 million PBS viewers.
  • For ancillaries – 65K views in English, 8K views in Spanish.
  • 35,000 Unique visitors on the Granito Website
  • 78,000 Uniques for the PBS companion site.

 

They have also collected 8000 email addresses from their website over the years including 5000 email addresses garnered from 300 screenings and festivals.

 

Much of the money that Skylight earns from their films comes from broadcast and educational sales. For educational they sell their own films working with the New Day Film Co-Op. Here are some of their monetary figures:

  • $410K from ITVS and LPB for the broadcast of Granito
  • $90K from NatGeo for State of Fear
  • $50K from POV for The Reckoning
  • $80K in Educational Sales for Granito
  • $80K-$100K on educational sales for all of their titles each year.

Their transactional VOD sales are not that significant partly because it was released on iTunes several years after release – after being available on free streaming for all of that time. Total iTunes revenue: $4K.

 

Skylight’s unique business model makes it extremely clear as to why it’s crucial to determine the goals for your project before you decide on a path of distribution and how you will execute that path. Of note:   One year after the release of Granito, the dictator of the title was charged with genocide and put on trial in Guatemala. Footage from the documentary was used as evidence in court.

 

Jon Betz, Collective Eye Films

 

Like Skylight, Jon Betz, Director of Collective Eye Films, also had a social goal in mind for the film Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? which he produced with director Taggart Siegel. The film is a profound, alternative look at the bee crisis, and from the beginning, Betz and Siegel’s goal was to bring awareness to this issue. Siegel’s previous film The Real Dirt on Farmer John, was nationally broadcast on PBS Independent Lens, but Siegel felt that his theatrical distributor didn’t effectively engage grass-roots audiences for a theatrical campaign. Siegel felt that through Collective Eye Films, he and Betz could do a better job pursuing a hybrid grass-roots distribution approach on Queen.

 

Collective Eye Films booked their own event theatrical release, including traditional open-ended bookings, one night & community screenings. Betz: “We couldn’t find a theatrical deal that would make financial sense for us as filmmakers. So we chose to grow our own business and non-profit reach by booking and conducting outreach for theaters on our own.” By doing this, instead of paying someone else for their institutional intelligence, they used the release of Queen to build their own institutional intelligence.

 

Here are the numbers from the total and event theatrical release:

  • Total cost of release including theatrical, and all DVD, VOD, Broadcast deliverables, staff and expenses for the last four years: $338K
  • Total gross revenue from release: $473K
  • Total net income: $135K
  • Total Box Office Gross for traditional theatrical: $245K
  • Net Revenue to Filmmakers from traditional theatrical $108K
  • Net Revenue from community screenings: $82K
  • Total number of screenings: 400

Note that their expenses not only include a staff to release the film but also a salary for Betz who also functioned as the Producer of Marketing and Distribution on the film. They not only broke even but actually made money from both their theatrical and their non-theatrical release. Part of this has to do with their audience cultivation which I will address below.

 

Betz: “We started where we knew we could draw audiences, in Portland, in the NW and in areas in the West and NE where our audience demographic was strong. The Hollywood Theater in Portland had a great opening that ran for 10 weeks, and grossed over $30K. After Portland, we did a filmmaker tour in the NE to understand first-hand how our outreach efforts would work promoting both one-day events and week long runs. Then we staffed up and led a very interesting “reverse” roll-out where we booked over 100 cities in North America in the course of 2011. We ended in NY/LA and made the connection with Music Box after our Cinema Village screening in NYC.”  Collective Eye opted not to have a tight focus of release in all theaters over just 1 or 2 months as they knew they couldn’t do the proper outreach city-by-city with that volume and a small staff. They conducted all of the outreach and PR, with the exception of working with a publicist in CHICAGO, SF, NY/LA.

 

Music Box handled the DVD and VOD of the film, but Collective Eye carved out direct to fan rights. Here are the numbers from the ancillary sales:

  • Total gross distributor DVD sales: $100K
  • Net revenue from distributor DVD sales: $50K
  • Direct to fan DVDs sold: 5,800
  • Direct to fan net revenue from DVDs: $96K
  • Educational sales: $38K.
  • Total gross distributor VOD sales including Netflix: $74K.
  • Netflix sale: $60K
  • Net revenue from distributor VOD sales: $52K

Note the much higher net revenue for direct to fan DVD sales over what the distributor sold.

 

So let’s talk about audience. Collective Eye is working to transfer their audience from film to film – including carrying it over to their new film Seed: The Untold Story.

 

Email list progression:

2005-2008: Real Dirt on Farmer John

  • Audience grew to 3,500 over 2-3 years.
  • Sources: sign-ups, screenings, handing out clipboards.

2008-2013: Queen of the Sun

  • Started with 3,500 from Real Dirt
  • List grew to 9,000+
  • Sources: website signups, screenings, website, purchases across all direct distribution methods, additions of key organizations and partners.

2012-current: SEED

  • Started at 8,175 (Queen list lost names due to unsubscribes/old e-mails)
  • Grows to 12,376. Kickstarter campaigns in 2012 and December 2013 for Seed brought in 2,534 new e-mails.
  • Note: at this point the amount of audience still intact from the original 3,500 from Real Dirt is in the realm of 1,227.  Note the importance of updating and growing your email list.

Facebook

  • Queen created a Facebook page after festival launch in summer/fall 2010..
    • July 2011 – 6,000 likes
    • April 2015 – 25,000 likes
  • Seed During first Kickstarter in 2012 – 300 likes
    • Start of second Kickstarter in late 2013 – 1,200 likes
    • After cross-promotion with QOTS – 20,000 likes in just over one year.

 

Collective Eye is a great example of filmmakers making a connection with an audience and working hard to carry it from film to film. Instead of relying on an all rights distributor who owns the connection to their audience – they decided to create their own distribution business so that they would own that relationship and could cultivate it as they saw fit. Betz: “The hybrid method of release was key for us making a profit in the long run, and we had to do much less work to get those DVD and VOD sales through existing platforms.  However we wouldn’t have made that money had it not been for our grassroots approach to theatrical and community screenings. By raising the profile of the film our aggregator was able to do what they do best (sell to Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and other wholesalers).”   This also allows them to use the revenue from their films not only to pay themselves a salary but to also invest in their next project as they have done with Seed. Betz: “You really have to focus on how you build on each film and discover what works. This comes from listening to your previous films and their impact, the side effects of what happened that was unexpected, and then harnessing that on your next film and pushing it out in a really strategic way.”

 

Some takeaways from these four case studies: Even though there has been quite a number of changes in platforms and companies over the last several years – it is surprising how many basic tenets of the hybrid distribution route have stayed constant over the past few years:

  • Knowing your goals is essential to creating a release strategy.
  • Know your audience and target your release to where they are, offer your audience products (event, digital or merchandise) that are interesting to them.
  • Split rights have a greater advantage of control and profit for filmmakers over all rights deals.
  • Work with distribution partners to get films on major platforms.
  • Engaging in distribution and marketing is very hard work and generally involves a staff or at least someone full time managing the process.
  • Email lists are gold – develop them constantly.
  • Events motivate people to go to theaters.
  • Events are excellent ways to connect with audience.
  • Event theatrical is a good/great way to promote ancillary sales.
  • It is possible to break even or even make a little money from an event theatrical release.
  • If you can, carve out direct to fan sales since this will give you the following advantages:
  • Higher profit margin per purchase.
  • Audience data for future projects
  • Ability to package the film with merchandise and extra content for higher price points, or to make purchasing direct to fan more attractive.
  • Most importantly – focus on long term audience development since it is possible to transition audiences from one project to another if you reward them for their continued interest and keep them engaged.

I would love to hear from any filmmaker who would like to talk at length about their release – especially how they are using their work to create a career.  Even more importantly – if you are a filmmaker and have released film in the past – please participate in the Sundance Transparency Project – the more filmmakers that participate, the more robust the results will be.   If you would like to have a copy of the PowerPoint from the “From Distribution to Sustainability” Panel that these posts are based on click here.

 

Reach me at Twitter or on Facebook and if you are in LA come to my IDA Masterclass on Distribution and Marketing May 9th.

Distribution Transparency: Four Filmmakers Reveal Their Distribution Numbers, Part One

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Alternative distribution models are no longer the experiment, but are now the norm for the vast majority of filmmakers. However because of a variety of reasons, including not least contract obligations and a fear that exposing numbers may not show the filmmaker in the best light, many filmmakers have been reticent to give out the real numbers from their film’s releases.

 

As a result, for last October’s Getting Real Documentary Conference, held by the International Documentary Association, I wanted to create a panel where the participants were required to reveal the data about the releases of their films. I wanted to see how these filmmakers might be working within new models to not only release one film, but how they are starting to use these individual releases to create a long term career path. I always intended to publish the data and since I will be presenting a Distribution and Marketing Masterclass with the IDA this Saturday May 9th and I will be heading to NY to participate in the documentary section of the IFP Filmmaker Lab on May 11th, I thought this would be a good time to get this information out into the world.

 

The filmmaker panelists were Neil Berkeley (Director of Beauty Is Embarrassing & Harmontown), Judy Chaikin (Director of The Girls in the Band), Jon Betz (Producer of Queen of the Sun), and Paco de Onís (Executive Director of Skylight Films). My intention was to not only get the real data from their films, but also discuss why they chose to release their films in the manner that they did (eg what were their goals and how did their goals affect their choices). I tried to expand the data beyond gross monetary amounts and include numbers about their audience base –specifically how they tried to carry this audience from one film to the other and whether this could become a sustainable model. Before starting – I really want to thank the filmmakers for sharing the information with me – and agreeing to share it with the world wide public, you. Note – occasionally some of the numbers below are a range because of a possible restrictions on revealing exact numbers. Also you will notice that I use the term “event theatrical” instead of theatrical or non theatrical. As I wrote in Think Outside The Box Office, I believe that filmmakers need to reclaim the concept of theatrical to include traditional theatrical, one night and community screenings – eg any public screening where an audience is present. In the book I called this “Live Event Theatrical” but I have since started shortening it to “Event Theatrical” to emphasize the importance of creating an event with your screenings.

 

Neil Berkeley Beauty is Embarrassing

Neil Berkeley’s film Beauty is Embarrassing premiered at SXSW in 2012, but no one came forth to give them an event/theatrical release, which Neil wanted for the film and felt was appropriate. His goals were to get the film out into the world, and try to recoup while building a fan base for the future. So Neil and his team ran a $55k Kickstarter campaign and hired a booker to get the film into theatres across the country – they ended up in 60 theaters, spending between $90K and $110K but earning enough revenue to break even.

 

Regarding the theatrical Berkeley noted: “My goal was to break even. And that’s what everyone said: ‘good luck if you break even.’ But for me, I did it just to learn how to do it because I want to keep making movies and I believe in this model. So if I get to do it again on my own, I’ll be much more versed in how to go about it.”

 

Most effective were the 15 screening events they did with the film’s subject, artist Wayne White. He not only spoke, but conducted workshops and art installations. This not only drew a larger crowd, but also created the opportunity to sell merchandise and collect emails. Email lists and Facebook became two of the biggest tools for building their audience. Berkeley: “Email lists are gold.” They grew their email list from 0 to 5,000 and their Facebook likes from 0 to 11,000. Some other marketing notes:

  • They sent students to cities with the large LBJ heads as promotion.
  • Facebook and Twitter ads were the most effective.
  • Don’t buy print ads if you can avoid it. But if you have to, buy the cheapest ones since they aren’t effective.
  • They had 10-12 super fans who helped evangelize the film.

 

Here are the essentials of their digital/broadcast/merchandise distribution:

  • Digital Aggregator was Cinedigm/New Video
  • Netflix deal was between $40-$60K.
  • Other VOD sources: $30-40K including cable and broadband VOD.
  • PBS Independent Lens $70-$90K
  • They set up direct to fan sales through VHX
  • Digital sales through VHX: $30-$40K
  • Merchandise sales through VHX: 80-100K (note that much of this were higher priced items such as art by Wayne White. They split this revenue with Wayne 50/50)
  • Of these merchandise sales 15% were DVDs – still a healthy $12K-$15K
  • Books were another 15% of merchandise sales $12K-$15K

 

An important note about the effects of their broadcast on PBS: While many people feel that forms of “free” such as broadcast and other free streaming or peer to peer sharing adversely affect transactional sales (DVD sales, broadband rentals and downloads to own), in this case that was definitely not true. After the film aired, their website was bombarded with traffic, and they earned a spike in revenue through direct to fan sales.

 

Neil took what he learned on Beauty is Embarrassing to his next project Harmontown which follows Dan Harmon (comedian/creator of Community) on a 20-city tour. Neil’s investors secured a more traditional distribution deal with The Orchard. However he made sure to keep all of the direct to fan rights, and paid The Orchard a percentage of these sales to reward the distributor’s publicity efforts. To make sales on their website more attractive, they created over 50 hours of bonus content including every live show they filmed on the tour with Dan Harmon, this deluxe edition is available for $9.99 to rent and $24.95 to purchase. Also for even more content they sell monthly memberships for $5 a month that gives access to exclusive blog posts to additional videos every month. The deluxe edition includes a free 3 month membership.

 

In sum – even though Neil has utilized both traditional and hybrid distribution models, he is working hard to provide extra value for his fans in order to grow that audience and carry them into his future as a filmmaker. Berkeley: “The thing about making a film on your own, is that on day one you have a dollar – and every day after that you’re just trying to hold onto as much of that dollar as possible. And now, we have options to do that. We can hang on to digital, we can hang on to our website, we can hang on to merchandise.”

 

Judy Chaikin The Girls in the Band

 

Judy Chaikin has worked in the industry since the 80s, but she was tired of watching each of her films live a short life with traditional distributors and then disappear from view. “One of the things you learn as a filmmaker is that you constantly have to keep changing,” Chaikin said. She had always been very interested in DIY distribution and after reading several books (including Think Outside the Box Office), she decided to try it for herself.

 

Her goal was to have a theatrical release that would help her negotiate higher sales figures on her ancillary release and to try out a new model to take control of the process.

 

Here are the numbers:

  • Total cost of the release: $100K including creating marketing materials, DCPs, screeners, publicity, staff, festivals etc.
  • Total cost of theatrical release $40K of the $100K above.
  • 22 week traditional theatrical release (week long runs):
  • Total revenue traditional theatrical: $67K
  • Total revenue from 47 one night screenings in theaters $8.7K
  • $25K “Non theatrical” revenue from museums, film festivals, jazz festivals, etc.
  • $15K in direct merchandise (t-shirts, posters, tote bags) sold at screenings and from their website.

 

By the end of the theatrical release they had amassed 3000 on their email list: 300 from their website, 500 from screenings, 2200 from other sources. Of these they count about 25 super fans who are active champions of their film.

 

Their distribution process isn’t over yet, and they have just signed on with Virgil Films for domestic distribution and PBS Foreign for overseas television. Judy doesn’t see herself going back to traditional distribution models any time soon. She says that this direct-to-fan method gives her a sense of control over her own projects – something any filmmaker knows is irreplaceable.

 

Building her audience online has also given Judy the motivation to regain the rights and begin re-releasing her older projects that had previously fallen out of release. She is beginning to see some success in this by using her email list, and releasing the films direct to fan on DVD. This “new model,” she explained, “gives you so such more control over what you do, and it gives you a sense that you really are guiding the direction of your film. It’s important to recognize that this way of working is very labor intensive, but in the end it’s worth it.”

 

On Friday we will continue with the results from Paco de Onís from Skylight & Granito and Jon Betz from Collective Eye Films.   I would love to hear from any filmmaker who would like to talk at length about their release – especially how they are using their work to create a career.   Even more importantly – if you are a filmmaker and have released film in the past – please participate in the Sundance Transparency Project – the more filmmakers that participate, the more robust the results will be.   If you would like to have a copy of the PowerPoint from the “From Distribution to Sustainability” Panel that these posts are based on click here.

 

Reach me at Twitter or on Facebook and if you are in LA come to my IDA Masterclass on Distribution and Marketing May 9th.

The BOMB IT 2 DVD is here!

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This week marks the official release of the BOMB IT 2 DVD. To purchase, visit our BOMB IT 2 website. Don’t forget to check out this exclusive webisode with BOMB IT 2 artist Darbotz, where he explains his artistic process and the story behind the Squid Monster character featured in his work. Thank you for all of your support!

 

Countdown to the DVD Release of BOMB IT 2!

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As we count down to the DVD release of BOMB IT 2 on 11/5, check out this exclusive webisode with featured artist NUNCA. Learn about his art, Brazilian culture, and family influence in his work.

Theatrical is Dead – Long Live Theatrical: Events, Experiences, Scarcity & The Age of Abundance

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Part 3 of How to Make Money in the Age of Abundance 

By Jon Reiss

Theatrical is Dead Long Live Theatrical. The holy grail of a theatrical release still rings as a delusion for many.  Fighting words still for untold thousands of filmmakers. Who doesn’t want their name in lights – long lines around the block – a packed theater of adoring fans.  I believe this live engagement with fans is crucial for artists.  But traditional theatrical is probably not the way you are going to do it.

In the first post in this series, I indicated that filmmakers need to create scarce resources in order to compete with the abundance of digital.  Today’s post will focus on events – or what I have termed Live Event/Theatrical. The essence of this renaming is for filmmakers to reformulate and to reclaim what the industry calls theatrical – for more on that see Think Outside the Box Office. (PS – I first said this was a two part series – then I said three parts – well I lied again and now it will be four parts – with Part 4 tomorrow).

When films were only available in a movie theater – that was a scarce resource that could be charged for – it was the only way to see films.  As  technology developed new ways to see films, content creators/studios created release windows to control the monetization process of their film products attempting to keep the theatrical release as providing the highest per viewer fee per view fee.

But besides competition from other platforms, a traditional theatrical release is not a scarce resource:  multiple screenings per day in multiple theaters with no end date is essentially an infinite supply. The release window is still the only way that traditional distributors create artificially scarcity and for most films this is not enough for audiences to sacrifice any of their other myriad of entertainment options.   Unless you have created a rabid fan base who has to see the film at its first opportunity – which happens for a few films, but not many – traditional theatrical does not offer the consumer anything unique.  Quite the contrary:

Traditional theatrical gives consumers an excuse not to see a film when the filmmaker wants their audience to engage with it.   Why spend the time, effort (which are often more valuable than the $12 ticket price) to see something that will be available much cheaper and more conveniently soon enough?

Creating scarcity is an independent filmmaker’s way of creating demand for their Live Event/Theatrical “products”.  The essence of scarcity is: people want what they fear they might not be able to have.  Scarcity also creates something will be unique to them and a few others.  The scarcer something is, the more demand you can create for it.   Simply put:  by decreasing supply with stable demand you increase value.

The essential consumer value of Live Event/Theatrical must be a live communal experience, unavailable anywhere else.  I will write about the importance of community and the extra value that this creates to screenings at another time.  It is important to keep in mind that this post is not just about monetizing through events – but is about creating ways to keep that important experience of watching films communally with other people – especially strangers.  Hence the event creates something new – never created before and even beyond the elements that you provide.  This communal added value experience is quite different than the consumer value of Digital Products, which is one of convenience.  Live Event Theatrical can never compete with digital on the level of convenience and must create its own value to succeed.

How to Create Unique Live Experiences Unavailable Anywhere Else (AKA scarcity for Live Event/Theatrical:

1.  Time Scarcity:  Embrace the One Night Screening – All things being equal, for small films with limited budgets, one night screenings are much easier to book and will in general be more successful in terms of audience and money.   By only offering a communal experience once in a particular geographical location, is an immediate way to make it scarce (only that number of seats are available) and immediately more. The more you promote sales of tickets being sold, the more urgency you can create for the event.  When you sell out you can add more screenings “by popular demand”, creating demand where perhaps none existed before.

I have experienced this over and over again for my own films and my clients’ films.  For our recent US premiere of Bomb It 2 in Miami, the film sold out several days before the event.

One of the benefits of Live Event/Theatrical for filmmakers is publicity and awareness (events by their nature do this) – but the more you add value and uniqueness to an event – the more it will create awareness. (As a caveat – four years ago it was hard to get the press to cover one night film screenings – but now that is changing more and more – and especially if you as the filmmaker add uniqueness to the event).

2. Time Scarcity – Part 2 National and/or International One Night Screenings.

This takes time, effort, coordination but can be extremely successful.  Going through satellite service providers such as Fathom, Screenvision and Cinedigm can be expensive (although the latter has started releasing films that they acquire in this manner).   But savvy filmmakers can do this without the traditional $75,000-$125,000 satellite fee.

Two notable cases are The Age of Stupid from Franny Armstrong and Lizzie Gillet of Spanner Films (who used Fathom in the US), which still has the record for number of screenings (500) and number of countries (40) for an independent film in a 2 day period. (Can anyone beat this?)  For Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance Sheri Candler and I worked with Ira Deutchman and his Emerging Pictures to create a 45 city one day event which was also the world premiere screening of the film. The total cost of this was $1000 (Emerging’s Fee), which we was deducted from the box office.   In both of these cases the filmmakers added unique elements besides the limited time to further enhance the event.

3.  Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Topical Celebrities

For the Joffrey film we netcast a q&a with Joffrey Ballet alumni which our research indicated was what our audience valued the most for live events (not live ballet that I had originally thought).  We also enabled audience from around the country to participate in the Q&A via Twitter. Video documentation here.   For Age of Stupid Franny and Lizzie had a numerous celebrities participate both live and via Skype.

For the Connected New York theatrical Tiffany Shlain arranged a different notable guest speaker for every screening turning each one into a unique event and selling out nearly all of her screenings in the process.

4. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Live Music

Examples abound from Anvil: Story of Anvil, DJ Spooky, Braden King’s Here, Corey Mcabee whose own band The Billy Nayer Show plays live with his films and again Ride the Divide who still take the cake by selecting bands for their soundtrack proactively who would perform in the cities they knew were geographical targets for their audience.

5. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Live Music Remix. 

I am finally putting my money where my mouth is – our Austin premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse for Bomb It 2 with be remixed live by DJ Chorizo Funk.  To do this I created a D&E (dialogue and effects) mix of the film on a separate screener – and then provided all the tracks to the DJ and theater on a separate CD/download.   Other event attributes of this screening:  live graffiti painting in front of the theater before the event, local featured artist Sloke appearing after the screening (note the importance of using a local artist with his own audience base) and skype Q&A by yours truly (although this may convert into a pre-recorded pre-screening intro).  I also timed this event to coincide with the conclusion of the Bomb It 2 Kickstarter campaign to have a special event to cap off our fundraising.

6. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Live Film Editing

A difficult undertaking, and only for particular films and filmmakers – but check out what Peter Greenaway did for Tulse Luper Suitcases.  He had a customized VJ board created and reedited the film live for select event screenings like this one in Krakow, Poland.   A technological update to this is Mark Harris’s The Lost Children which based on audience reaction “alters itself, hiding and revealing different aspects with each screening.”

7. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Audience Participation.

Rocky Horror Picture show is the most famous example, but indies such as Best Worst Movie have had their fans dressing up and participating as well.  Corey McAbee recounted that in Melbourne Australia people would dress up as the characters in American Astronaut and sing along – for years of midnight screenings.

8. Create Unique Live Qualities Unavailable Anywhere Else – Actors Performing With the Film, Text Messaging, Immersive Experiences.

Each of these techniques can be done separately, but so far the filmmakers experimenting with this such as Lance Weiler with Head Trauma and more recently Mark Harris with The Lost Children are combining multiple aspects to create immersive experiences for their audiences.

9. Beyond Live Event Theatrical:  Experiences

This needs its own blog post – but again crowdfunding has pushed filmmakers to think expansively about creating unique scarce experiences that can be offered to fans such as dinners, set experiences, live chats, backstage access etc.  What you offer depends on your audience.  Since my audience is mostly comprised of independent filmmakers, for my Kickstarter I have offered a variety of experiences that are based on my consulting brand:  a monthly group conference call/presentation with twitter q&a,  one time conversations, monthly workshops and individual intensive consultations.  What value can you provide to your audience?  What does your audience want from you?

10.  Creating Unique Live Events – What Am I Missing?

I would love to get examples from you as to what unique screenings and events you have created or experienced?

On Tuesday I will conclude this series with a look at creating scarcity with merchandise.   I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign, so you can see how I am utilizing scarcity, membership, and digital exclusivity to raise funds for my latest film, Bomb It 2, here:  bombit2Kickstarter.com http://www.bombit2kickstarter.com

We have met our goal – but have added a stretch goal of $20K to help cover all of our expenses. More important than the stretch goal, though, is our goal to create a community of 300 backers for BOMB IT 2. As of this moment, as I am writing this for you, I have 280 dedicated backers who have not only pledged money but most of whom has dedicated time and effort toward spreading the word about the campaign. Yes, I’ll give them the movie and other perks, such as consultations, posters, original art, etc. in exchange for their contribution, but they’re giving me much more.

Please check it out, contribute if you’re moved, and – no matter what – stay tuned for the final part of this series on “How to Make Money in a Time of Abundance.”

Jon Reiss is filmmaker (Bomb It, Better Living Through Circuitry), author (Think Outside the Box Office) and media strategist who works with filmmakers, companies and organizations to help them utilize the most recent techniques of direct film distribution and audience engagement.

BOMB IT 2 Featured Artist: Victor Ash (Interview)

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Astronaut_Cosmonaut,_Berlin,_Germany_-_Mural_2007-2

BOMB IT 2 Artist Victor Ash just might embody artistic evolution. Bursting onto the graffiti scene in the early 1980s, he went by Ash2 and Saho, and ran with the popular Parisian crew, BBC. He has since expanded his style, focusing on large- scale murals involving themes of human nature and perception. We caught up with Ash amidst his busy schedule, where he briefed us on his latest projects, his artistic transition, and themes that inspire his work.

If you like what you see, head over to our Bomb It 2 Kickstarter campaign to learn more about this project and ways you can contribute!

BOMB IT: What have you been up to since we filmed you in Bomb IT 2?

Victor Ash: Loads of things happened, new murals in several cities across the world, meeting new exciting people and new directions in my work.

BI: Can you talk about your recent works? What kinds of themes are you exploring with them?

VA: Since last year I have been working mostly with the theme of “animals faces,” playing with the idea of the animals looking at the viewer and the viewer looking back, I try to symbolize the human interactions we have with nature and nature with humans.

victor_ash_bad_gastein_ stubnerkogel_2012

BI: There’s a lot of incrimination of graffiti and street artists in the news. As you’ve matured as an artist, do you feel your stance on graffiti and public space has changed? Why or why not?

VA: I started to paint outside when I was a teen. Looking for an identity, I liked the thrill the revolt and the energy I found there. Also, I like to be in direct contact with the public, it creates a communication that you wouldn’t get by staying in a studio. Now I’m not active illegally in the streets because what I do is too big and takes too long to do but I still paint in the streets, just not illegally.. I understand why others keep on doing it, but personally I find challenges elsewhere and getting responsibilities like having children and family forces you to work and think in other ways.

BI: What recent or current events have inspired your work?

VA: Many things happening are worth commenting on. I get most of my inspiration from the information I received about the current state of the world, my work has to reflect the time we are living, and getting informed about the world is important for my themes.

BI:  What inspired the change in your work?

VA: In the 80’s I was a teen, focusing in the aesthetics of graffiti, it was great, but after some years I realized that it was not enough just doing letters and characters for me to keep interested in painting and I had to look further in my development to keep it exciting.

BI: What have been some public responses to your current street art and murals?

VA: In general the response is positive, if it was always negative I would do something else with my life.

BI: What advice or insight would you give to emerging street and graffiti artists?

VA: Keep on doing it as long as it matters for you and others.

This Is Not a Game: An Interview With Lady Pink

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By Nijla Mu’min

 

 

***In celebration of our upcoming release of BOMB IT 2, we’re featuring this exclusive interview with BOMB IT artist Lady Pink. The interview was conducted by our social media manager and emerging writer/filmmaker, Nijla Mu’min. ***

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Graffiti/ Fine Artist Lady Pink knows her stuff. With a career spanning over 30 years, hundreds of canvasses, and walls, her knowledge of the art form is expansive, but also grounded in its tough realities. I caught up with the New York -based artist over Skype where she candidly discussed the first women of graffiti, the dangers of public work, and the current threat of the Vandal Squad (the Graffiti Police) on her life.

Continue reading →

One Time in Bangkok!

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Hi Everyone,

I’ve shot in a number of crazy situations throughout the world shooting Bomb It 1&2, Better Living Through Circuitry and Survival Research Labs – but this expedition in Bangkok for Bomb It 2 stands out in my mind because I can still feel those red ants biting my legs – and because my humorously clumsy ways of dealing with the situation was filmed by one of the writers I was with. It also led to an incredible view of Bangkok in this oddly beautiful plein air building. I hope you enjoy it!

For more, visit our BOMB IT 2 Kickstarter and help us reach 20k! We’ve got 9 more days to make it happen for the August release.

Is It Crazy to Film NGOs in Africa and Run a Kickstarter at the Same Time?

Jon Reiss Filming at the Tuseme Children Empowerment Trust, Tanzania

By Jon Reiss

I just arrived in South Africa on my way from filming in Tanzania to speak at the Durban Film Festival.  I know it’s crazy to do this while running a Kickstarter for Bomb It 2 – and prepping the release of Bomb It 2 on August 6th – but I ultimately realized that if I waited for the right month where I wasn’t doing anything – I would never find the right time.  I think it’s the case for most filmmakers who are trying to finish their films or approaching release and running Kickstarter – but perhaps shooting in Africa might be a bit more extreme.   Two tips:  Assemble a great team and get no sleep.

The projects I have been shooting are pretty incredible.  First is a primary school called Africa Schoolhouse (which is also the name of the umbrella organization).  They are involved in 2 schools in remote village of Ntulya, Tanzania near Mwanza.  There was one solar powered outlet to charge my batteries and an intermittent AirTell Cell Card to get out at dial up speeds.  While there I was also filming for the Go Campaign which works with grassroots projects throughout the developing world focused on helping women and children at risk – helping them develop healthier, safer and sustainable lives.  Go Campaign partnered with Africa Schoolhouse to build a well and a clinic providing clean water and health care to the surrounding villages that formally had to travel many extra kilometers by foot or if lucky by bicycle for water or health care.  In addition I filmed my son set up another X-Change the World program at a different nearby high school run by Africa Schoolhouse.

My Bomb It 2 training prepared me for shooting all of these programs and one more in 2 days – quickly survey the scene and what is happening, identify important characters and don’t stop shooting.   I used essentially the same package as Bomb It 2 except instead of my trusty HV40 – I got my hands on a Canon XA10 – I chose a more traditional video camera for the depth of field – when I’m moving as fast as I am, with my eyes, the depth of field on a DSLR is too critical.  But I have to say on these types of shoots I really miss tape.   I spent a decent amount of time transferring footage and triple backing up instead of sleeping.   Besides the camera and extra batteries – I pretty much only use a lavalier microphone, zoom mic and monopod.

After Ntulya we travelled to Moshi at the base of Mount Kilamanjaro – which because of cloud cover and shooting – I only got to see on the flight out of Moshi!  My favorite project in Moshi was the Gabriella’s Children Rehabilitaition Centre which was established by a physical therapist to treat children with autism and physical and learning disabilities who normally fall through the cracks in Tanzania which struggles to educate children without these challenges.   The teachers were incredible and I loved the chicken and goat house they had just built in their garden as ways to not only be sustainable, but to teach practical vocational and entrepreneurial skills for the children to not just survive, but thrive as adults. 

But I’m here at the  Durban International Film Festival where I am giving a talk on Artistic Entrepreneurship and Transmedia as well as mentoring individual film projects.

Here is a link to the Kickstarter campaign for Bomb It 2:  www.bombit2kickstarter.com

Fanta-Pstik

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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:

The Pstik. from Steve Payne on Vimeo.

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.

DP & camera op Stephen J. Payne, inventor of the Pstik