Tag: Distribution

Monetizing in the Age of Abundance Part 1: The Age of Abundance

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By Jon Reiss
I have been giving a number of presentations on Artistic Entrepreneurship over the past year that I refined for the recentSFFS A2E Workshop and most recently presented a version of in this spring’s IFP Filmmaker Labs. In this presentation I have reformulated my approach to the challenges that filmmakers face in our current age of content abundance. I would share these thoughts to a much wider audience and get some feedback.

While there were a number of factors that caused an upheaval of the distribution landscape in 2007 and while there have been many positive signs of improvement, filmmakers and all artists still face an enormously changed market for content.

Supply and Demand

Anyone with a smattering of economic knowledge understands that if you have surging supply and static or diminished demand, prices will drop.
As a content creator you are facing:
Supply

It is not just peer-to-peer sharing that is creating an infinite supply of product.

 

1. A Surge in Supply of Original Content Part 1 – Feature Films.   As Ted Hope and Brian Newman have noted – estimates are that 50,000 new feature films enter the festival circuit every year looking for some form of distribution.

 

2. A Surge in Supply of Original Content Part 2 – Online Video Content. When I prepared this talk a year ago 236 YEARS of viewing content was being uploaded to YouTube EVERY MONTH. When I recalculated that figure for this years IFP Filmmaker Labs it is now 355 YEARS of content uploaded every month. Acknowledged, a lot of that is cat videos – but I hate to say that many people like cat videos more than independent film.

 

3. Everyone Can Watch Everything: Your potential customers, fans, audience do not only have all of the above content screaming for their time – they are very rapidly gaining the ability to watch everything piece of content ever produced in history: every book, every song, every film, everything.

 

4. Peer to Peer Sharing: Every piece of content can be shared infinitely at no cost. While the cost of digital replication is obviously less than physical production, replication of goods is only one factor of value. I think most filmmakers will agree with me that the entire cost of a piece of content should be factored into the “value” of a piece of content – e.g. the negative cost of the film. So while P2P is not the only cause of the supply glut, it does of course contribute.

Demand:

 

1. A static and potentially declining audience for independent film (and for all film). How relevant are previous forms of filmed media to new audiences: the feature film, the short film, the half hour and hour television show? How filmmakers can and should break free from these forms needs to be covered in another post.  In addition, filmmakers need to go beyond a traditional film audience to find and cultivate their own unique audiences. I have written about this many times and won’t go into this any further at this time, however this series assumes that filmmakers are doing everything to cultivate and connect with those audiences.

 

2. Audiences are faced with many more entertainment choices than ever before – audiences are not as dependent on film, especially independent film for new ideas, new voices, and fresh content.

 

So when supply increases exponentially and demand is static or declining – price drops and films become difficult to monetize. This is one of the reasons that it will be difficult for digital revenue to replace other revenue streams even with universal broadband and global digital platforms/distribution systems.

 

Some ways to deal with this phenomenon:

 

1. Embrace Infinite Supply and Use it to Develop Audience

 

Again one of the ultimate defenses against increased supply is to create demand for your work through cultivating your audience.   A number of filmmakers have given content away for free with the resulting effect of increased sales of scarce goods (discussed below). Nina Paley had great success with Sita Sings the Blues as documented by Sheri Candler in Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul(in which Sheri also discusses other cases using this model).

 

A variation on the completely free model is to give a film away for a limited time to create awareness and promote other revenue streams as Mike Dion and Hunter Weeks did with a weekend long free YouTube stream of Ride the Divide to promote their iTunes launch of the same film (documented in one of my chapters from
Selling Your Film).

Other examples of this abound.

 

A second variation is the reverse crowd funding model that Jamie King has created with VODO, in which content is offered to the peer-to-peer network pro-actively for free and people are encouraged to contribute to support the filmmakers.
2. Create Repeat Viewership Content

One of the reason’s that Pioneer One is the most successful program on VODO is because it is a series, and the audience is contributing to the continued support of the series.

 

The reason I believe that Netflix is turning towards series and away from movies is because they are ultimately similar to any other television or cable channel that for years now have discovered that series provide audience retention that one-off films do not. Netflix is no different than any cable network. Films are a great way for a channel to fill empty pipelines upon launch – but it is series that bring people back to a channel. Series provide continuous engagement in stories and characters that one off films do not (ironically whether or not the series are viewed all in one sitting).   This is also why I believe YouTube is investing in so many channels and seems intent on becoming an uber network. I recommend that any filmmaker download the free YouTube Partner Handbook – it is packed with helpful information.

 

Dickens had great luck with serialized content – which is how many of his novels (if not most) were initially released. He even received audience feedback – and incorporated that feedback into shaping the story.

 

I’m not a Pollyanna as to how serialized content will monetize for filmmakers although a number of filmmakers have figured out how to make money doing this by either monetizing their own channels, creating original content for other channels, or creating original content for branded channels. A series still has to become very popular for it to directly monetize via ad revenue or reverse crowd funding. There are outliers leading the way – most notably Freddie Wong’sVideo Game High School (who notably calls this a serialized feature).   But there are filmmakers creating short regular content (not always serialized) who are not outliers, but are making a living at what they are doing – such as the folks atZoochosis.com.
While I am an advocate for filmmakers to explore regularly delivered short form content, filmmakers are exploring other ways to contend with audiences increased desire for serialized content.   Ed Burns for instance connects with his audience on a regular basis via twitter – often providing video answers to their questions – as well as engaging them in the creation of his films. He has also ramped up production of his films so that they come out yearly – or almost annually. While this is not serial, it is more regular than most filmmaker’s production.   I understand that film (and novel writing) is a process that takes time – but just as some writers are discovering the value of the digital short form it is also important for filmmakers. Tiffany Shlain has extended her film Connected into her Cloud Filmmaking project where she is producing more regular, shorter content with help from the crowd.  If filmmakers cannot increase the frequency of production, it is important for them to maintain some form of content connection with their audience whether it be social media based or other. Filmmakers who ignore this are then either faced with rebuilding their audiences whenever they produce a film – say every three years – or are at the mercy of selling their films to whatever buyers may want to take on the job of connecting their films to an audience.

 

3. Create Membership
Those artists who have achieved a certain popularity can create memberships to either “fan clubs” or priority access to content. Some are borrowing the tech Fremium model where some content is available for free – other content is paid for. These memberships often do not give access only to digital content but scarce real experiences that I’ll discuss in more depth later in the series. I’m starting up my own version of this via the monthly conference call reward on myKickstarter page – so that I can have regular live contact with my audience. But unless there is a demand for the content – it is difficult to charge/create barriers to it.

4. Exclusive Digital Editions

Crowdfunding has been very instructive in teaching filmmakers about merchandising and they have used this and other pre-sale campaigns to create exclusive digital editions of their work that are only available during their crowdfund or presale campaigns. I would recommend filmmakers consider exclusive digital editions during pre-sales or crowdfund campaigns only available during that sales period.   Because these are still digital products, I do feel that the effect won’t be as strong as other forms of scarcity – but it is a worthwhile tactic.

 

A caveat to the above can be witnessed with studio strategies to digital content. You may have noticed that films are available for sale a week or weeks before they are available for rent on transactional digital platforms (iTunes, Amazon, etc). The studios and digital platforms have discovered that few people are buying films to own digitally. So the ownership window has in essence become a premium rental window for people (like my daughter) who want the digital content before anyone else and are willing to pay extra for that privilege. (Ultra VOD being another version of this digital windowing). Aggregators who a year ago were advocating near day and date releases for transactional, SVOD, AVOD are now advocating again for a longer transactional window before subscription and ad supported revenue streams.

 

All of the above tactics will work to some extent to create revenue for filmmakers and help develop audiences (especially repeat content), but I feel it is important that filmmakers learn how to create scarce goods and and create price tiers to fully monetize their films and brand.   The rest of this series will deal with various ways of creating scarce products such as through events/experiences and physical products.

 

I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign and 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.

Creating Innovative Merchandise

Its the IFP Film Week in NYC where I just was for the IFP Lab and the new IFP PMD Lab – so with that in mind – I am posting my new clip about merchandise and an intro to innovative merchandise.

 

MAKING SENSE OF DISTRIBUTION PANELS – POST LAFF’s SEIZE THE POWER SYMPOSIUM

Posted on by Alexandra

The Film Collaborative was recently on a panel at the Los Angeles Film Festival as part of their SEIZE THE POWER SYMPOSIUM which focused on DIY & DIGITAL Distribution. This was the description of the panel we were on and that I moderated and will discuss below:

NEW DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION INITIATIVES
Leading digital distribution executives present new solutions for distribution
as they explain their business models and the opportunities they offer
filmmakers to reach audiences and bring in revenue for their films.

Erick Opeka, New Video
Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures
Orly Ravid, The Film Collaborative (TFC)
Scilla Andreen, IndieFlix

After the panel was over someone asked how he could decide which one of us to work with; he liked us all. It was clear to me that even though we had just finished an hour long panel at which we each presented our respective companies and then answered questions, it was not enough to make clear to everyone the way in which to relate to each company and how to make decisions about whom to work with in distribution.

Recently on Ted Hope’s blog

Jon Reiss and Ted Hope and many others including filmmakers discussed the relevance of panels and expert books and even more recently Jon Reiss wrote a blog titled “Coping with Symposium Workshop Brain Fry”. That is what I want to address here, specifically in relation to the panel I moderated and was on called “New Digital Initiatives”.

At the LAFF Panel all the companies discussed what they do and here’s some of that information below, and what we recommend a filmmaker do to make sense of information given at a panel.

Gravitas Ventures talked about its focus on Cable VOD and the fact that it works with Warner Brothers (WB) which (when WB takes a film) can lead to a film being available in up to as many as 50,000,000 homes via about 30 – 40 cable operators and up to 80,000,000 – 90,000,000 homes when one factors in digital. When WB does not take the film on Gravitas can at least get the film out to about up to 12,000,000 – 15,000,000 Cable VOD homes. Of course one in this circumstance has to realize that when WB is in the picture, there are two fees being taken as well as two companies being relied on to provide information and to pay. The other aspects to analyze are 1. the benefits of having a studio involved in VOD and Digital often leads to HIGHER revenues from Cable MSOs (Multi System Operators) and digital platforms and also MARKETING LEVERAGE. But, 2. the Studios are also glutted and not necessarily focusing on your film and you may get lost or inadvertently shafted (and I know it’s happened) so one has to have contractual commitments or protective clauses, and 3. They won’t let you keep digital rights usually, though maybe Netflix SVOD; and 4. accounting can be soft on the details. Gravitas does 2-year deals and about 350 -400 films per year and is the largest VOD aggregator at this time. Gravitas noted revenues per film ranging from as low as $5,000 – $250,000. A FILMMAKER must ADDRESS MARKETING and COSTS RECOUPMENT whether in dealing with Gravitas or any other Cable VOD & Digital Aggregator (e.g. TFC also works with Brainstorm Media & Fluent / Lions Gate), or any of the other studios who are or will be opening up to “independent product”.

The Film Collaborative’s entire purpose is to help sift through the information available at the time your film is ready or will be ready for release and help you resolve your COMPLETE DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY. Gravitas Ventures can get you the VOD and digital access you need but they don’t necessarily do much in the way of marketing so that will be more up to you to either have them commit to that effort or do it yourself (and perhaps in collaboration with us and our marketing partners). A marketing plus (+) though for Gravitas is that if WB gets behind your film, they can get iTunes and the Cable Operators to give your film a bigger marketing push. This can be very valuable.

Continue Reading The Article Use the Following URL: http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/blog/?p=76

Jon Reiss TOTBO Tip of the Day 35 – A Meta Stream of Tips

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Today’s tip will be a meta tip. If you go to Twitter and search #totbo you will see the stream of tips, ideas, comments, suggestions etc from everyone who was engaged in the Totbo NY Workshop in the room in NYC or who virtually participated in distant lands! Kudos to all the participants at the NYC Totbo Workshop this weekend who sent out hundreds of tweets about what was being covered in the workshop. And special kudos to @khanb1 who compiled all the posts into a tumblr post – click here for the link.

So the NY workshop was great – we had over 70 people in the room – with special guests Sheri Candler, Caitlin Boyle and Lance Weiler. Next stop Vancouver, the Los Angeles Film Festival Symposium, followed by a four city tour of Australia in July and then San Francisco on July 31/August 1st. Check out the Totbo site for information.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 34 When Booking Your Film: Make the Call

Posted on by Emy

When calling the theater, ask for the person in charge of programming. These bookers are generally very nice people who love film. Why else would they be involved with small theaters that make no money? And remember, it is important to call first before sending an e-mail. An e-mail cannot express your passion, nor will an e-mail exchange allow you to address the bookers‘ concerns about your film in a direct and instantaneous fashion. I always followed up my phone calls with an e-mail and not the other way around.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents my theatrical pitch letter and a list of theater listings etc.  I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 33 When Booking Your Film: Do Your Research

Posted on by Emy

Of course you have done your organizational research, but assuming you are still going to book some conventional theaters the first step is: Research. Most information you need to book your film is readily available online.  There are already lists of theaters that book independent films available online.  My distribution and marketing tools site: ultimatefilmguides.com has a list of these lists!  Most theaters have Web sites, and in nearly all of them, the office number can be found if you look hard enough. To compile your list of theaters to contact, check out where other similar independent films have played.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents my theatrical pitch letter and a list of theater listings etc.  I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

Independent Opportunities on CloudCraft Television

Posted on by Emy

Ryan Sloan’s CloudCraft Television is currently offering channels for Independents and Students and well as Collaborations. They are able to stream uncompressed video at better than DVD quality, including up to 7.1 DTS Surround Sound, and Home Media Magazine has recently reviewed their technology deeming it the best on the Internet in an upcoming article.

For more info, visit www.cloudcraft.tv.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 32 Use Organizational Partners

Posted on by Emy

If you have laid the groundwork with organizational partners, you can have them organize many of your screenings what Lisa Smithline calls DIFY – or Do It For You.  This is one of the many added benefits of starting your distribution and marketing groundwork from the beginning.  Even if they don’t do the actual screening organization, they can provide audience, support structure, event production, and event talent.  If you don’t have an organization – but have an engaged audience – you can work with your audience in this way too.

Again this is one of the many topics that are covered in depth in the workshops.  In NY we are fortunate to have social engagement strategist Sheri Candler and community outreach specialist Caitlin Boyle giving presentations!  In Vancouver we have Colleen Nystadt from Movieset!

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents my theatrical pitch letter and a list of theater listings etc. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 31 Embrace Live Event/Theatrical

Posted on by Emy

This week’s tips concern the re-born “theatrical” movement in the US and around the world for independent film. I’m a firm believer that film should be screened in front of live audiences – which is one form of our millennia old tradition of telling stories in a communal environment – usually in the dark (in the old days in front of a fire). (ps it’s a 4 day week in honor of Memorial Day weekend)

What I call “Live Event/Theatrical” is being reborn in the US with more films using a robust outside of the box booking strategy utilizing a wide variety of venues to screen their works. I call these Live Event/Theatrical because: 1. They emphasize the live audience and the benefits that come from screening your film in front of an audience. 2. The Title emphasizes the event nature of the screenings –and I feel it is important for independents to embrace events (not just throw out screenings from Fri-Thurs) 3. We want to retain the ability to say that we’ve had a theatrical release – hence Theatrical – without having to succumb to the expenses or restrictions of what is known in the industry as “theatrical”. The tips for the next week or so will concern live event theatrical releases.

But for more information come check out my workshops – coming up in NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents my theatrical pitch letter and a list of theater listings etc. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 30 Request to Keep Assets that Others Create for Your Film

Posted on by Emy

Make sure you get all of the elements for each stage of the delivery process, whether it is the files for your authored DVD or if it is a subtitled version of you film that a foreign film festival created or if it the files for the closed captioning of your film. I had a cc version of Bomb It created for Canadian television. I received the master HD of this version, however not the closed captioning file. Because of this I will need to pay for the cc process again. I was however smart enough to request copies of any subtitled version made for foreign film fest screenings or broadcast. I just screened Bomb It in Tel Aviv. The venue wants to screen it again, but with Hebrew subtitles. I just completed a deal for Israeli television which requires them to provide me with the subtitles and a Hebrew subtitled DVD. So now I have a DVD to use for the next screening of Bomb It – this time with Hebrew subtitles.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.