Tag: film distribution

Distribution Transparency: Four Filmmakers Give Up the Gold Pt 2

Posted on by admin

Blog post

 

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

Posted on by admin

Blog post

 

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.

Launching New TOTBO Workshop Webclips

Posted on by admin

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.

Follow on Twitter
Like on Facebook

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.


Continue reading →

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.
Continue reading →

10 Ways in Which I Would Release Bomb It Today

Posted on by Emy

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!)
Continue reading →

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.
Continue reading →

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.