Tag: film distribution

Launching New TOTBO Workshop Webclips

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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.

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Distribs, theaters take on new media

Check out this interesting new article in Variety on the ever-changing world of film distribution. Yours truly was one of Gregg’s sources.

Firstrun screenings have become events by Gregg Goldstein

Can kung-fu fighting monks, cave screenings and feral, caged Santa Clauses save the movie biz?

Exhibitors sure hope so. Around the globe, theaters and distribs are fighting competition from new media by turning firstrun screenings into the kind of events one expects at a theme park or state fair.

London’s Future Cinema, set to hit New York and Paris next year, draws up to 17,000 people for its surprise Secret Cinema screenings, with a troupe of actors mingling with the audience in environments staged to match the film. Alamo Drafthouse flew a real-life “Iron Man” with a custom jet pack above one of its theaters on the film’s opening weekend. Microdistrib Variance Films enlisted local comedians for 10-minute warmup sets and post-screening Q&As for its comic doc “American: The Bill Hicks Story.”

Though indie films can often make their biggest profits via one-night or weekend event screenings, one stumbling block to this approach, notes filmmaker and “Think Outside the Box Office” author Jon Reiss, is that news outlets usually won’t give crucial reviews for films booking less than a weeklong run. Another is that box office for these runs usually isn’t tallied by Rentrak or other tracking services, which can handicap filmmakers looking for ancillary deals.

Read the rest of the article at variety.com.

Five Question Q+A with Jon Reiss for NAMAC

I recently did a short Q+A for Rachel Allen with the National Alliance for Media Art + Culture (NAMAC). NAMAC is an invaluable resource of independent film, video and multimedia organizations, and I recommend everyone checks them out.

Five Question Q+A with Jon Reiss by Rachel Allen

Meet Jon Reiss. Jon is a filmmaker (Bomb It, Better Living Through Circuitry), author (Think Outside the Box Office) and consultant whose most recent book is Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul which he co-wrote with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler. He works with numerous film organizations, film schools and festivals to bring a variety of distribution labs and workshops around the world. His upcoming books concern new models of artistic entrepreneurship and the concept Producer of Marketing and Distribution.

RA: What drew you to your work?

JR: I made a film called Bomb It, which is about graffiti all over the world. We frankly thought that we were going to sell the film in a traditional fashion and we didn’t. There’s a long story behind that. Basically, I ended up distributing the film mainly myself, but I had other distribution partners. I started writing about it and people liked the writing that I did. I realized that I enjoyed talking to filmmakers about this process and I decided to write a book about it. I enjoyed talking to people about new ideas and how filmmaking has changed in terms of engaging with audiences. Continue reading →

Putting Chilean Film on the Map

On Thursday and Friday of this week (Oct 20-21) I will be at the Flyway Film Festival, presenting my two-day Think Outside the Box Office workshop on the ever-changing world of hybrid distribution and marketing. Today, though, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Chilean filmmaker Bernardo Palau whose first feature film ‘Saving You’ had a small theatrical release in Chile in November 2010 and is now available on iTunes.  Here is his post:

PUTTING CHILEAN FILM ON THE MAP

By Bernardo Palau

I live in Chile — a long and thin land at the end of the world — at the southernmost point of South America. Chile is a country mainly known for its wines, the variety of its landscapes and its writers and poets like Isabel Allende, Pablo Neruda and Vicente Huidobro.

I say “mainly” because every day Chile is getting more and more known for a different kind of poet/storyteller: its filmmakers. Over the last few years many Chilean films have navigated the A-class film festival circuit, which has placed Chile on the map of world cinema in the eyes of the press.

Leaving aside the recently deceased Raoul Ruiz and his prolific filmography, many directors, including Sebastian Silva (‘The Maid’), Matias Bize (‘The life of the fish’), Pablo Larraín (‘Tony Manero’), Gonzalo Justiniano (‘B-Happy’), Sebastian Lelio (‘Christmas’), and others have created a lot of buzz at various international film festivals. But is that all there is to Chilean cinema?

No, actually. There are still a lot of Chilean films out there that the world doesn’t know about yet.

Allow me to explain: In Chile we have two major kind of films, the Public (or State) co-finance films, which have big budgets for our industry (normally between $500,000 and $2,000,000), enabling them to have a great festival presence around the world. On the other hand, we also have micro-budget guerrilla / garage films that work with small budgets, small crews and a lot of good will.


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Filmmakers: Know Your Goals and Your Audience

This is an excerpt from my introduction to the new book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, that I wrote with The Film Collaborative (Orly Ravid & Jeffrey Winter), and Sheri Candler. This post also ran on Chris Dorr’s Tribeca Future of Film blog.

A New Path to Engage Film Audiences and Create Careers: An Introduction

The three films that I researched for this book, while different in genre, size, year of release and experience level of the filmmakers also share a remarkable number of similarities in addition to their differences. I want to compare those similarities and contrast the differences in a structure that that I use to help filmmakers conceptualize strategies for their film’s releases. Some of this system is included in my book Think Outside the Box Office, while some of it I have developed through my work with filmmakers over the past two years.

Goals

It is essential to determine the goals of a particular project’s release before employing any strategy for that launch. (Note—these goals are potentially different from those envisioned by the filmmakers when they set out to make their film.) In order to evaluate the success of a film’s release, one must first identify the filmmakers’ original objectives in releasing their film.
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10 Ways in Which I Would Release Bomb It Today

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Chris Horton asked me to write this post for the new Artist Services website that Sundance has set up. However, many filmmakers don’t have access to that site, and so I am posting it here on my blog for anyone to be able to read. Here is the post:

In 2005 I started a documentary project that became Bomb It which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007, was released on DVD, iTunes and Netflix via New Video and has had an extended life on VOD (Gravitas), Web series (Babelgum), various foreign sales (PAL DVD this month on Dogwoof) etc. As many of you know, my experience releasing Bomb It inspired me to write a manual for other filmmakers to release their films in this new distribution landscape: Think Outside the Box Office. Chris Horton approached me to write a post on how I would release Bomb It in today’s distribution landscape (and knowing what I know now). I’ve actually thought about this a lot (mostly kicking my self for what I could have done better!)
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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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Atlanta TOTBO Workshop with Sheri Candler!

I’m heading to Atlanta, GA to do a Think Outside the Box Office Workshop presented by the Atlanta Film Festival 365 and Push Push Theater November 12, 13th and 14th. Sheri Candler will be coming out to give presentations on personal branding, social media and crowdfunding!

This will be the first TOTBO workshop in the South and I’m looking forward to meeting new filmmakers as well as potential Producer’s of Marketing and Distribution (PMDs). Lots of networking opportunities for attendees – the weekend starts Friday night with a cocktail reception and on Saturday night there will be a networking happy hour. For more information about the workshops go to the TOTBO website.

In addition – I’ll be doing presentations Georgia State University on Friday and on Monday I travel to Western Kentucky University.

Ride The Divide Part 3: Digital Rights and Merchandise

In Part 2 of this 3 part series on Ride the Divide, I examined the strategic, well executed, and successful event strategy that Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion engaged. In this third and final part, I will take a look at their merchandise and digital strategies and execution. Finally, I will touch on some of the key points that they have learned so far on this journey.

Merchandise
They began selling “plain vanilla” versions of their DVDs at their live events. They started selling from their online store in April just after their world premiere at Vail Film Festival (DVD, Poster, Soundtrack). To date they have grossed $55,000 from all merchandise in the on-line store (this includes around $13,000 for the screening boxes). They’ve sold 1300 DVDs and Blu-Ray through their store.

But they are not just selling from their online store – they partnered with Video Action Sports and Rep Net who buy them at between 40% and 50% of the retail price for each DVD sold – about $10.00 per DVD. They researched each of these wholesalers to make sure they were 1) getting a good deal that made financial sense and 2) that the wholesalers had good reputations for paying independent filmmakers. These distributors get the Ride the Divide DVDs into larger chains and into major on-line retailers. They’ve sold another 600 DVDs through these wholesale accounts.
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Ride The Divide Part 2: A Profitable Live Event Strategy

In Part 1 of this 3 part series on Ride the Divide I looked at the overall strategy that Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion devised for the release of their film. In this post I want to examine how they created an effective and profitable Live Event/Theatrical release for their film. One of their key takeaways from the entire release is how important an event-based strategy is to generate interest in a film and help dent the media landscape with your audience (this is one of my personal mantras).

In keeping with the intelligent audience engagement strategy, Hunter and Mike wanted not only to seek components of a traditional theatrical release for their film, but a robust release incorporating all forms of public exhibition, traditional or not. To date, Ride the Divide has had 101 screening engagements in 68 cities! That’s a 68 city theatrical release – extremely impressive given the fact that they booked the film themselves (and with their audience). In fact 50% of the bookings were done by them, 50% by their audience hosting screenings.

For their bookings: 75% were conventional theaters, 25% were alternative venues. For the audience hosted bookings – this split was 50/50.

Here is some of what they found:

The partnerships paid off: For them it was key to not only have national organizations for awareness – but most importantly for local turnout – they had the support of local groups and commercial entities – e.g. bike shops. In Dallas Tx, for instance Villy Customs brought bikes to the screenings to enhance the experience. They also had bike valets at several locations.

Create an event: As much as they could Hunter and Mike created a sense of an event around their film. In addition to bike themed events, they also enlisted musicians. One of the bigger risks they took was to Four Wall their premiere at the Boulder Theater (who wouldn’t give them a percentage deal) for their opening night May 22nd. I’m not usually in favor of four walls for most films – but at times it can make sense and even make a profit. Hunter and Mike were very nervous about pulling the trigger on this event because of the nut ($4500 see below). But they realized that this was the best-case scenario for their premiere – Boulder being not only a Rocky Mountain community – but also a strong bike community. But it payed off for them. They charged $18 a ticket – making it a premium event by providing a film and a musical event with Gregory Alan Isakov. With 600 people in attendance – that’s a $10,800 one night gross. They paid $3000 to rent the theater plus $1500 for the musician fees and other costs. That’s a $6300 theatrical profit for one night (not including the sweat equity to arrange and market the show). They did other event screenings with musician Dominique Fraissard.

Program on alternative nights.- Echoing the experience of Todd Sklar and his Range Life tours – Hunter and Mike found that the best nights to screen were Wednesday and Thursday with Monday and Tuesday being fine as well. Most of their screenings were 1-3 nights except Denver where the film ran for 3 weeks. They strongly recommend staying away from Friday and Saturday nights because there is too much competition and Sundays “are the worst”.

For their audience hosted screening, they had a 2 prong strategy:

Initially they charged $295 for screening licenses that included the DVD or Blu-ray, posters, postcards – a screening pack. Through this they grossed $13,350 (selling 20 through their online store, 7 through email and phone, and over 30 through a couple of avid evangelists who became bookers in essence).

Then they created a wonderful wood box screening kit for $99 – which 50 % of the proceeds went to Livestrong. The box did not only contain the DVD but a T-shirt by Mighty Karma, a Smartwool Beanie, a book by Tony Hsieh, Livestrong bands, stickers and the DVD or Blu-ray. Note the win win partner relationship – because a large percentage went to charity – other charities donated products which then in turn made the package more valuable. They credit fatcyclist.com’s promotion of the boxes key in their success. In addition, not only did they provide a value – they provided scarcity – numbering the boxes and limiting them to 500. They have sold 200 of these packages so far raising $6500 for Livestrong (and $6500 for themselves).

All together for their theatrical they figured they grossed $65,000 with a 22,000 profit.

In Hollywood terms – its not Avatar – but in independent terms – to be able to make a decent profit on theatrical while engaging partners and creating awareness for the film – is a huge win.

I want to thank and credit Hunter and Mike for being so transparent about their figures – this should provide real help to filmmakers and hopefully encourage others also to be so open . As a community, we should be helping each other strategize new paths.