Tag: Film Festivals

IFFR, Tiger Release, and the Trend of Festival as Distributor

I’m so thrilled to be participating in two IFFR events this year! For those of you attending, I hope we run into each other. On the morning of Monday, the 26th, I’ll be serving on a distribution panel called Get Your Film Out There! (moderated by Amy Dotson). That afternoon, I’ll be participating in an “on stage workshop”-style presentation of IFFR’s new Tiger Release distribution initiative, showing how three different films each benefit from the initiative’s offerings.

IFFR

IFFR is now the latest film festival to adopt a distribution initiative, Tiger Release following the creation of Sundance Artist Services, Tribeca Film and the Dok Incubator at Dok Leipzig. Here’s a look back at Chapter 14 of Think Outside the Box Office, when I mused on this new landscape of distribution:

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Didn’t Get into Sundance? A World of Opportunity Awaits

by Jon Reiss

The Sundance Film Festival has started announcing its slate for the 2011 festival. This has traditionally been a nerve wracking time for independent filmmakers who, in the past, have put so much stock into premiere film festivals like Sundance. They have traditionally done this because it has been believed that a premiere festival can 1. Sell your film for lots of money (or at least enough to pay back your investors) or 2. Potentially launch your career (but normally only if #1 happened).

But in the new world of distribution, marketing and audience engagement the world is a much better place than it was just five years ago for the thousands of films that do not get into Sundance, or any other premiere festival.

Here are 6 thoughts on the importance of getting into a premiere film festival for you films distribution and marketing strategy.

1. Premiere festivals are not the only gatekeepers to independent film anymore. In fact there are no gatekeepers. The knowledge and the technology exists so that anyone can release their films themselves. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this anymore – right?!?

2. Getting into a premiere film festival is not a distribution and marketing strategy. It is common knowledge now that only a small percentage of films that go to Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, Cannes, Berlin etc end up with traditional all rights deals that make any kind of financial sense. 98% of filmmakers at least still end up being responsible for the distribution and marketing of their film – even if they obtain a distributor partner hear or there for specific rights. The less you mentally rely on what I call the Festival Acquisition Model, the better off you will be. Filmmaker now must have a plan that doesn’t rely on selling all of their rights to a distributor. they need this plan before they go to their first festival (frankly – it is best to be engaging in this plan from inception) so that you can:

3. Incorporate festivals into your larger release strategy. This will vary for every film. But just because you didn’t get into Sundance doesn’t mean that there aren’t other, perhaps more appropriate festivals for your film. These festivals can be worked into a robust Live Event/Theatrical release for your film that you coordinate with your other rights, as well as your audience outreach and engagement. There are a plethora of good festivals that are connected with their community and/or provide great experiences for filmmakers throughout the world.

4. Just because your film didn’t get into Sundance or any festival does not mean that it is not a good film. There are many reasons for this. Festivals and programmers have particular tastes and perhaps your film didn’t suit them. (Did you take a look at what that festival tends to program and see if your film fit?) In addition – they might have loved your film, but didn’t feel that it fit into that year’s program for one reason or another. Finally, some films are just not “festival films” and need to find their audience in different ways.

5. Festivals used to be one of the few ways for independent films and filmmakers to connect and engage with audiences. Now there are not only a myriad of ways to do this – primarily through the web but:
A. Relying on festivals to do this work for you is not reality. In other words they will do some of this work (and are quite good and it and can make great partners)– but you are crazy to rely solely on them (eg it is a partnership.

and

B. You should be doing this work well before you get to your first festival anyway.

6. I would take the time to reevaluate your approach and your film. Many films are submitted to festivals and released into distribution before they are really finished. Have you screened your film to people outside of immediate friends and family? Have you screened your film to a large audience, in a theater (for a private pre lock screening)? What was the reaction? Do you need to do more work on the film – shorten it, make it more understandable, make it funnier, scarier etc.

Are you submitting it to festivals that support the kind of film you have made?

Are you submitting it at the end of the submissions process when programmers are deluged with films? Or are you submitting it earlier in the process when more programmers will have a chance to see your film and perhaps champion it?

In sum – more filmmakers are finding distribution and marketing paths for their films (in other words – connecting with audiences) outside of the Festival Acquisition System than are doing it inside of this system. A wonderful case in point Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion who wanted their film Ride the Divide to play at a premiere festival – it didn’t. But they created a wonderful, inspiring release for their film that all filmmakers can take lessons from. (if you didn’t read them before – there is a three part series on their film in this blog: Part1 Part2 Part3.)

25 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere: Part 2

25 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere: Part 2
Ted Hope posted this today on his Truly Free Film blog. Its Part 2 of the film fest strategy post I wrote for him in December. All together now there are 25 points total!

The first part of this article concerned how to approach festivals if you want to still pursue a more conventional sales oriented strategy within the new landscape of distribution for independent film.

This second part will address what you should consider if you are going to use your premiere festival (or one of your festivals) to launch the actual distribution and marketing of your film. Linas Phillips, Thomas Woodrow and company are doing this for Bass Ackwards at Sundance in conjunction with New Video. Sundance just announced today that three more films will at least be releasing their VODs day and date with this year’s festival. While these three films are being released by the Sundance Select series on Rainbow, it is actually run by IFC who has been pioneering festival/VOD day and date (this and more about revising filmmaker’s approach to festivals is covered extensively in Chapter 14 of Think Outside the Box Office.)

I am writing this piece for 2 reasons: 1. To aid any filmmaker who is considering launching the release of their film at their premiere festival aka Sundance/Slamdance (even though I lay out a lot of challenges to this strategy, I am still a huge fan of this approach) and 2. To assuage the guilt of many filmmakers who have been kicking themselves for not utilizing this strategy in previous years. I spoke to a number of filmmakers who were mad at themselves because they saw the amount of exposure their festival premiere generated, and they never reclaimed that exposure with the theatrical release of their film. Hence they reasoned, “if only I had released my film day and date with my _______ festival premiere”. They realized, smartly, that it is best to have all guns blazing in your release to penetrate the media landscape and that top festivals are very good at creating audience awareness. Hence why not monetize that audience awareness with the release.

However it does take a fair amount of advance work and planning in order to enact this strategy. So this year you should not kick yourself for not doing it. (Later this year or next year when filmmakers should know better – they should kick themselves!) If you are premiering at Park City and aren’t ready for this strategy now, I have a suggestion at the end of this piece about how to engage this strategy at a later date.

So here are some points to consider for a festival launch of your film’s release.

1. You should create a thought out distribution and marketing strategy that will guide you and your team through this release. Have you analyzed your goals for your film, your potential audience, and your resources? (I know this was the first point to consider for the last post – it is that important)

2. Very important in this strategy is what rights are you releasing and when. What is your sequence of rights release? Is everything day and date with the fest or only VOD or DVD? If all rights are not day and date, when are the other rights being released and how will those rights be promoted?

3. Of particular concern is theatrical. Are you launching what I term a live event/theatrical release at the festival (Section 3 of the book)? Conventional theatrical usually requires at least 3 months. But perhaps you will have alternative theatrical after the festival and then ramp up conventional theatrical. How long is your theatrical window? How does this integrate with your other rights?

4. Consider if your film is the kind of film that will generate a lot of interest and press at Park City? Perhaps do some research into the types of films (particularly those that reviewers and film writers will respond to) and see if that makes sense for your film. Even though Park City shines a great spotlight on films, it does not do so for all films, and many films get lost in the shuffle.

Perhaps there is an alternative time of the year that might shine a brighter light on your film – e.g. if there is a national month or date dealing with your film’s subject.

5. Do you have all of your materials ready to go for a release whether DIY or through a distribution partner? Are all your deliverables ready to go? Have you authored your DVD? Do you have key art? Have you printed your key art?

6. Is there a distribution partner who is interested in your film who will help you launch your film at the festival? Note that all of the films mentioned above are partnering with a larger company to help enable the release. You don’t need one company, perhaps it is a group of companies. Perhaps you have one company for DVDs and another for VOD. Many distributors need a long lead time to prepare a film for release, so chances are that this option will be difficult unless you already have it in play. However you can begin discussions with potential partners at Park City or after for such a release later down the line. More on this later.

7. If you don’t have a distribution partner in any particular rights category, do you have a DIY approach to monetizing said rights category? Do you have replication and a fulfillment company lined up? Do you have digital distribution in place for download to own, download to rent?

8. Do you have a marketing and publicity campaign that you have been developing for a couple of months? Do you have a publicist who has been talking to journalists to lay the ground work for your release?

9. Many filmmakers at Park City will just have been finishing their films to get them ready to screen. Many or most will have been so absorbed with the completion of their films that they will not be ready to release their films at Park City. In that case it is probably wise to hold off on your release for when you are more prepared. Use Park City to lay the groundwork for that later release. Don’t just think about the overall deal, actively court distribution partners who will work with you on a split rights or hybrid scenario. Find out what press is a fan of your film so that you can book live events/theatrical releases in those cities. (Have them hold the review!)

10. If you are at Park City – chances are you will be invited to other fests. Use one of those festivals (or a combination of festivals) to launch your release when you are ready. Weather Girl premiered at Slamdance last year, didn’t sell, regrouped and then launched their theatrical at LA Film Fest 6 months later. Two of the IFC releases premiered last year at Berlin and Cannes.

If you are following both posts of this two-parter, you will see that there are actually 25 total points to consider instead of the promised 20. My apologies. BTW – I am preparing a distribution and marketing tools website which is approaching its beta launch – keep posted.

Also – I will be doing a live consultation session at the Filmmaker Summit at Slamdance this year Saturday January 23rd. Projects are being submitted on line if you want to be considered. Go to: http://slamdance.com/summit/

Review of Think Oustide the Box Office by Content NOW

Content NOW

Here’s the pull quote: “Written in a light conversational tone and beautifully organized over 354 pages, Jon, a noted filmmaker (Bomb It, Better Living Through Circuitry) and CalArts teacher, passionate about connecting filmmakers to their audiences, arms filmmakers with the arsenal needed for a killer DIY direct to fan film marketing campaign. This book drills down to specifics that allows the reader to form an actionable strategy, and is destined to become required reading for all filmmakers.”

#AFM Thinking Outside The Box Office 06Nov09

We are now midway through AFM, and things are looking up from last year. Buyers are buying, but very specific in their wants. I had a chance to catch up with John Foster, CEO, of Odyssey Pictures who recently acquired 31 hours of animated children’s content from DPM, a French-based specialty distributor of entertainment and how-to programming. Having scored this superb catalogue of cartoon classics (Superman, Casper, Bugs Bunny) at Cannes, John is shopping AFM before heading on to other markets like NATPE in January. ”We are looking to acquire content libraries for the children’s market as well as for specialty markets like health, finance and education. We are in talks with ION for television distribution, Limelight to power distribution online, and working with Spelling Communications to secure US sponsors. Odyssey already has several European sponsors signed up. Backed by a $10mm acquisition fund, Odyssey is on a tear analyzing mobile marketing opportunities as well as those with connected devices. ”Odyssey soon will be launching 1-3 hours sponsored programming via satellite and on the web. We’re starting with established content but plan to showcase outstanding original programming in time.” Interested sellers can contact John at info@odysseypix.com.

For the weekend, AFI Fest has moved to the Laemmle at 1332 2nd close to the Loews. Rush Lines are still getting into screening for free so stop by. And the price of admission to AFM drops significantly as the market opens up to half-market badgers on Sunday.

There are also several excellent seminars still being offered: Sa 11/7 at USC is Distribution U with Peter Broderick, Steve Kirsner, Jon Reiss, Adam Chapnick.. and Su 11/8 at Le Merigot is Changing Indie Distribution Strategies. At both events, Jon Reiss will be signing his timely new book: Thinking Outside The Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era. He sent me a copy to review earlier this week and I am still deeply immersed. Written in a light conversational tone and beautifully organized over 354 pages, Jon, a noted filmmaker (Bomb It, Better Living Through Circuitry) and CalArts teacher, passionate about connecting filmmakers to their audiences, arms filmmakers with the arsenal needed for a killer DIY direct to fan film marketing campaign. This book drills down to specifics that allows the reader to form an actionable strategy, and is destined to become required reading for all filmmakers. Some of his points are similar to what we’ve been covering:

– Budget as much for marketing and distribution as you do on production upfront, e.g. $100,000 production budget = $100,000 P&A budget (Jon provides detailed budgets with links to websites where assistants, publicists, bookers, sales reps/distribution consultants can be hired, and cost information to help filmmakers decide which path to take for theatrical release)

– Consider festival circuit as theatrical release, eventize screenings with cast and crew, reach out to traditional press as well as tastemaker/niche blogs for coverage, connect with fans, collect emails and zips, get venue/alcohol sponsors to throw after-parties, handout out stickers other pocketable schwag with website url, sell tees, merchandise, DVDs, CDs

The book also includes steps to create better engagement on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube, and then in the next breath puts a call out to festival directors to see themselves as distributors, aggregators of quality indie content for traditional and new media. It seems so complete I’m still reading on hoping he addresses ways not to trip up Oscar qualification with day and date online screenings. An incredibly valuable resource. $5 off if you order through this link. Free if you’re a filmmaker who fills out the filmmaker survey (see page 17 of the book). The companion website is at www.ultimatefilmguides.com. Enjoy!