Tag: hybrid distribution

Join It Session Tonight with Gregory Bayne

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I’ve been doing “Join It” sessions approximately once a month since last October as one of my Kickstarter rewards for Bomb It 2. In these sessions everyone who selected the Join It perk can dial in for a monthly conference call and ask anything about filmmaking and distribution and marketing. These sessions have been a mix of discussions, presentations by me and at times my doing mini consults with the filmmakers who were online. We then record these sessions (all but one) and post them for those who couldn’t attend (unfortunately the majority). I once experimented with not recording the sessions because I wanted to promote the live nature of the sessions and encourage participation – but with everyone’s far flung schedules I soon realized that this was not possible and those that want to be there will be there and those who just want to listen in will just do that.

But last month everything changed when Mark Stolaroff was online (one of the Join It members) and I commenced to interview him about his recent experiences in the landscape. It was so much fun that I decided for the time being that all of the future Join It sessions will have a special guest at least for the first half hour and then the 2nd half hour will be questions – which not only I but the guest will be involved in answering.

This month I chose Gregory Bayne because I got an email from another Join It member concerned about the broken business model of independent film distribution and marketing and wanting figures about how all these films turn out. As you may know – its very difficult to get filmmakers to reveal these numbers and usually all one hears about are the successful outliers. So I thought a better avenue would be to talk to a filmmaker who has had great success utilizing the new audience engagement landscape to foster a career in film – Gregory Bayne. He started with the ultra low budget Person of Interest and was one of the first to crowdfund for distribution and marketing. He then crowdfunded his next more ambitious film Driven and is exploring both transmedia and episodic. Can’t wait.

Top 10 Things Learned in the IFP PMD LAB

 

Jon talking Merchandise at the IFP PMD Lab

Top 10 Things Learned in the IFP PMD LAB

By Jon Reiss

I have had the good fortune to be involved in IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs for the past several years now and I have seen innumerable benefits to the films and filmmakers who participate.  The Labs provide an opportunity for first-time filmmakers to not only receive feedback on their films from their peers and experienced filmmakers but it is the first lab to prepare filmmakers for the essential work of distribution and marketing.

This year we launched the IFP PMD LAB (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) the first of its kind.  This year, the PMD Lab worked in conjunction with the Filmmaker Labs, with all the participating PMDs attached to a film in the Filmmaker Labs.

Since the end of the year if full of 10 best lists – I thought I would compile the 10 best results of the inaugural year of the PMD Lab.

1.  Defining What A PMD Is. I think this is of critical importance as this nascent crew position develops.   A PMD is not just a social media manager.  To be a PMD a person must be involved in all aspects of a film’s distribution and marketing, including audience identification and engagement, creating a distribution and marketing plan, budgeting that plan, creating marketing elements, creating and managing other assets to help promote the film, etc. All of this in concert with the filmmakers.    See this post for more.     I think the PMD trainees were amazed and excited about the scope of this position.

2.  Learning how to identify audience.  After understanding the goals of the team, the first assignment for the trainees was to identify the audience for their film.  Many of the films had already started this process in the spring Filmmaker Labs sessions.  But rarely do first-time filmmakers fully understand their audiences in the first go round.  It also takes time for the notion of niche vs. core audience to sink in – and how to view how audiences can expand from a core. See this clip from one of my workshops for reference. 

3.  Learning how to engage that audience.    This is a career-long process and can be daunting at first.   It is important again that it is not just about social media – we stress that it is crucial to know how each particular audience learns about films and then to target that source – influencers, social media, organizations, traditional media – whatever works.

4.  Develop marketing tools for the film (after understanding who the audience is).   We have the PMD trainees (and in fact all Lab films) create initial marketing materials most of which are essentials for a press kit: logline, one line synopsis, short synopsis, key art, website and, if possible and appropriate, trailer and social media sites.

5.  Workshop those marketing tools.   One my favorite parts of the Filmmaker Labs and PMD Labs are the Marketing Labs held right before IFPs Independent Film Week.  Each team presents the marketing plan for the film and it is workshopped with a panel of professionals.  Some heated discussions result.  The process either helps crystallize the beginnings of a plan for the team – or makes them realize they have a ways to go.  Either way I find that they are so much further along than most filmmakers by starting this process in post.

6.  Writing a distribution and marketing plan for their films.  The last assignment for the PMDs was to write a distribution and marketing plan for their films.  I am a broken record on this: every film is different and needs a unique plan.  It is essential that PMDs learn not only how to write these plans – but to understand all of the aspects contained within.  It is hard to teach this in a crash course (which we had in September and December).  But what I found most instructive was:

7.  Evaluating different distribution options.   In the December Distribution Labs, we had the opportunity to see each of the 20 filmmaking teams present their distribution plan, and to have that discussed by incredible experts in emerging distribution models. It became very apparent what types of distribution options are available to filmmakers and how those can be crafted for each individual film.

8. Learning how to budget that plan.   In order to execute a plan you have to figure out how much money you need to execute the plan.   Going through an extensive distribution and marketing budget can be daunting – but it is also important to know what you need to pay for in order to achieve that film’s goals.

9.  Creating a community of PMDs.  The trainees told me that one of the best outcomes of the PMD Lab was the community that they created amongst themselves.  While we had monthly phone sessions and 2 separate Lab meetings, the trainees would contact each other on a regular basis, which has continued even after the Lab’s completion.  They are even supporting other films from the Labs that did not have PMD trainees.   Several of the trainees have been so excited by the concept that they will be participating in the PMD website that we intend to put on the IFP site next year and to determine a way that PMDs around the world can find community (stay tuned!).

10.  Learning how to develop a career as a PMD.  This was a strong interest for the trainees – naturally.  What I stressed is that the PMD is just like any other film position.  You have to start small to build your way up – finding any way to gain experience.  Little by little filmmakers are realizing that they need to budget for this crew position.   One of the goals of the above mentioned site is to provide a centralized place that filmmakers can find PMDs for their projects.

If you think you can be a PMD please feel free to contact me so that I can keep you abreast of these developments.

 

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.

 

Top 5 Misunderstandings About Self Distribution

In the US many filmmakers are starting to get that they need to be responsible for distributing and marketing their films. We’ve been in this new paradigm since 2007 at least. But here in Europe – the mythology of white knights rescuing your film and you and carrying your film into the limelight is still very much alive. Most likely because there are still remnants of broadcast deals, co-production and government support even though those are declining precipitously. So Chris Jones asked me to write a blog post to address the top 5 misunderstandings of self distribution. Here it is – would love to know your thoughts.

1. “I don’t need to worry about distribution – a company will buy my film and do that for me.”

Unfortunately the world has changed. Estimates range that 35,000-50,000 new feature films made every year. Only 600 get on the international festival circuit. 200 get into Sundance. Of those, last year only 20 made deals starting in the low six figures. Multiply that by 5 sales markets worldwide. In a great year 100 films out of 50,000 are making deals starting in the low 6 figures. All rights distribution deals don’t exist anymore except for the lucky few. Part of the reason the Sundance Institute started Sundance Artist Services was to help all of the films who had been in the Sundance Film Festival but never received distribution. Around the world broadcast licenses are decreasing and film fund revenues are shrinking. However the world rewards entrepreneurial spirit and creative energy.

2. “Distribution and Marketing is something I can worry about later – right now I need to focus on making my film.”

Filmmaking used to be only about making films. Now filmmaking has 2 parts – making a film – and connecting that film to an audience. It is what I call the new 50/50. But this is not a sequential process any longer. The earlier you start engaging your audience the more successful you will be in achieving your goals. Full stop. The process will also be more organic – since you will involve your audience in the process of making the film and as a result they will be invested with you and your project. A very good example of this is Iron Sky.

3. “If I think about my audience I am selling out.”

A better way to think of this is: You are not changing your film for the market (that usually results in failure anyway), instead you are connecting with the audience that already exists for your film.

However by thinking of the audience in advance perhaps there are elements that you might include that will aid in financing or marketing. For instance the documentary Ride the Divide received sponsorship from some of the manufacturers that supplied clothing to the endurance bikers featured in the film. This way the film benefited from considering the larger audience with no sacrifice to the creative spirit of the film.

Taking this one step further, it is better to know in advance that your film might have a very small audience – since then it would be best to keep your expenses low in creating the film (if you need to be concerned about recouping your financial investment). Better to make a film for less than be saddled with a mound of debt later. Even further if you have $100,000 to make a film, better to spend $50,000 on making the film and $50,000 on connecting that film to an audience. You will be far ahead of 95% of other filmmakers.

4. “I can’t imagine doing all that work by myself.”

Self distribution is not self distribution. It is not DIY. I am known as the “DIY guy” because I wrote a manual to help filmmakers distribute their films. However in that book I stress that distribution and marketing is about collaboration and partnerships. I prefer the term Hybrid Distribution. You as the filmmaker manage the process but you engage various entities to do much of the actual distribution: digital aggregators, DVD companies, shopping carts, fulfillment companies, television broadcasters, bookers, publicists. It still involves work – but not as much as doing everything yourself, which I only recommend as a fallback. Partnering with companies extends your reach tremendously and there are more and more companies forming every month for you to help you. American: The Bill Hicks Story is a wonderful UK example of this.

5. “I am not a salesperson, I am an artist.”

Well that may or may not be true. Many great filmmakers are also salespeople. It takes sales skills to sell your film to actors, financiers or anyone else to believe in your film and get involved. Most successful directors in the traditional Hollywood world are “good in a room.”

In the new model of artistic entrepreneurship (which musicians have been engaging with for a number of years now) artists need to think more and more creatively about making a living. Look at the products on OK Go’s website.

In the spirit of collaboration (see #4 above) I recommend that films have what I have termed a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (or PMD) on their team to be the person on their team to spearhead audience engagement (which is what I call distribution and marketing). Since nearly half of the work of filmmaking (if not more) is distribution and marketing and since distribution companies cannot in any way handle the glut of films that are made every year, filmmakers need a PMD as much as a DP, Editor, AD, Line Producer etc. The earlier filmmakers recognize this, the more they will achieve their goals and the happier they will be. This concept has already been embraced in the UK: Sally Hodgson is the PMD for Sound It Out, Ben Kempas is the PMD for The Scottish Documentary Institute and Dogwoof has started being a PMD for select films.

Don’t be one of those filmmakers that I constantly encounter who say “I made a film, I’m in a mound of debt, I’ve been in a ton of film festivals, and no one has bought my film and I don’t have any money or energy to do it myself and I don’t have anyone to help me.”

Start early, plan for it, engage and embrace the new world.

All of these concepts and more I will be covering in my 2 Day Distribution Master Class this weekend in London June 23, 24.

Creating a Unique Strategy For Your Film

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Today’s video concerns the fundamental principle of how every film is different and needs a unique marketing and distribution plan.  To create this plan, filmmakers need to examine:

1. Their Goals

2.  Their Film

3.  Their Audience

4. Their resources.

I spend a little extra time on goals again talking about “Ride the Divide” and how right before distribution, the producer and director didn’t realize that they had disparate goals.  The director, Hunter Weeks, wanted the film to help launch a new film, the producer, Mike Dion, wanted to recoup.  They ultimately decided to pursue monetization first.  However in doing so they were actually able to meet the goals of launching new projects – but they realized without setting one goal first – they would have had trouble achieving either one.

 

Future posts will cover the other topics of your film, your audience, your resources.

 

 

An Innovative Launch for Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance

An Innovative Launch for Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance
By Jon Reiss

For the past four months, my company Hybrid Cinema has been working on the release of the new film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance directed by Bob Hercules about the history of the Joffrey ballet. I will be writing a number of posts outlining the unique path that I and my partner on this release, Sheri Candler have taken to release this documentary about the history of the groundbreaking dance company The Joffrey Ballet.

In my book Think Outside the Box Office and in subsequent posts, I have written about the advantages and challenges of launching a film after its world– premiere festival. Many filmmakers have complained that they can never recapture the exposure they gain with their first festival. As a result there have been a number of attempts to launch a film in some fashion out of a premiere festival. Orly Ravid writes in Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, about BassAckwards which launched via YouTube Rentals during Sundance 2009.

IFC has been running its Festival Direct program to provide a promotional lift to its VOD releases for several years. For instance IFC will premieres films at SXSW and follows it up with screenings in a few cities while it premieres day and date on VOD with the festival. Tribeca has started using their festival as a launch for a number of films that they distribute on VOD.

The chief advantage of using a world premiere to launch a film’s release is to condense all of the publicity into one window – thereby conserving precious resources and taking full advantage of press garnered via the premiere. It also utilizes the promotional muscle that many festivals can muster to promote the release. The principal challenge is being prepared – having all of the necessary tools and distribution and marketing channels lined up to take advantage of the promotion. In general this has been beyond the abilities of most independent filmmakers who are just scrambling to get their films finished in time for their first festival. Another challenge is the short window of time that films have to get everything lined up after they receive acceptance to a film festival.

One of the first things we did for Joffrey was to target the Dance On Camera (DOC) film festival as a perfect launch for the film. It is not only one of the premiere dance film festivals in the United States (if not the world), it is also based in NYC – where the Joffrey Ballet got its start. It is based at Lincoln Center through the Film Society of Lincoln Center, one of the epicenters for culture in the US and the world.

Simultaneously I started speaking to Ira Deutchman of Emerging Pictures because I felt that Joffrey would be a perfect match for his network of theaters across the United States. For the past number of years Emerging Pictures has been simulcasting culturally oriented films, many of which feature live Q&As.

The Emerging deal is very filmmaker friendly with 30% of the box office going to the filmmaker if you pay $1000 for encoding, or 25% of the box office going to the filmmaker without any money upfront. Emerging takes care of all deliveries and collections from the theaters. Because of their ongoing relationship with theaters, Emerging is able to collect from theaters and in turn is able to pay the filmmakers.

I proposed to Deirdre Towers and Joanna Ney of Dance on Camera that through Emerging, we could be the first film to launch its release out of its world premiere, simulcasting to cities across the US. The partnership is also beneficial for Dance on Camera as it gets their name out in these theaters where ballet and dance fans will watch the simulcast and interact with the festival. It’s a winning situation for all which is what a partnership should be.

Emerging does not actually “simulcast” the screening of the film, the theaters download it in advance (hence no print costs), but the theaters carry the Q&A event after the screening via netcast. As important, people at the theaters around the country can tweet questions to the post screening panel in NY – so that they are actually participating in the Q&A – making it a national event. Once the film is on Emerging’s server they can book screenings of the film at a later date at no additional cost.

Currently we are screening in 42 cities throughout the US to launch the release of the film. We will start selling 6 panel Digipak DVDs of the film at the premiere and off the website February 1st – in addition to posters, 50th Anniversary photo books of the Joffrey Ballet and an eBook reprint of Sasha Anawalt’s book The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company (out of print for over a decade until this January 27th – she is launching her eBook to coincide with the launch of the film). We will roll out other merchandise over the course of the release. We will follow this up very quickly with digital DIY via Distrify in order to capitalize on the international attention we will receive from the publicity via the worldwide web. The biggest challenge has been to get the project ready to release in the short window since we found out we were selected for Dance on Camera.

We have also been planning events throughout the United States that will run through the spring and potentially throughout the summer. Most of these events have similar Q&As with former notable Joffrey dancers – many of whom head established dance organizations in cities throughout the US and are actually also coordinating the screenings in their cities. To start the process of the Los Angeles screening, I met with former Joffrey dancer Carole Valleskey who runs the nonprofit California Dance Institute. We then sought the involvement of Leslie Carothers-Aromaa another Joffrey dancer who teaches at the Colburn School and helped secure the 430 seat Zipper Hall. We’re selling tickets for $20 a piece and are 1/3 sold out as this goes to press. These screenings will lead up to a day and date DVD and digital release by New Video (more on the timing of this in a later post) in June. To book and coordinate the rest of the events in the US, we brought on Liz Ogilvie and Paola Freccero of Crowdstarter.

The other type of event that we have wanted to set up from the beginning is to have a live ballet component to the screenings. This has turned out to be very difficult to set up due to either expense or theatres not being equipped with an appropriate, safe stage for the dancers. However the screening being set up by former Joffrey dancer Trinette Singleton in Allentown, Pennsylvania will have this feature and we are pushing for more.

A final note – one aspect of what attracted me to Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance was the fact that Bob Joffrey and his partner Gerald Arpino were early artist entrepreneurs. They came to NY with no connections to the established dance world, set up a dance studio to train young dancers and then toured the US in a borrowed station wagon like so many indie bands and filmmakers.

Sheri and I will be writing a number of other posts about the various aspects of the release and marketing in the coming months – we look forward to your feedback.

Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance premieres January 27th at the Dance on Camera Film Festival at Lincoln Center, NYC. Check the website for the cities where the January 28 live simulcast is taking place. The film was directed by Bob Hercules (A Good Man, Forgiving Dr. Mengele), produced by Una Jackman and Erica Mann Ramis and executive produced by Harold Ramis and Jay Alix.

Jon Reiss is a filmmaker, author and strategist who wrote the book Think Outside the Box Office and co-authored Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler. He will be appearing at a number of panels at Park City this week and is a year round lab leader for the IFP Filmmaker Labs. Follow Like

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 →

Jennifer Fox’s Reincarnation as an Artist Entrepreneur

I recently had the pleasure to speak with documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox regarding her latest film My Reincarnation, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on October 28th before screening in theaters worldwide. A comprehensive screenings calendar is available here.

Filmed over twenty years, My Reincarnation is a wonderful film that chronicles the epic story of the high Tibetan Buddhist Master, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and his western-born son, Yeshi. The film follows Namkhai Norbu’s rise to greatness as a Buddhist teacher in the West, while his son, Yeshi, recognized at birth as the reincarnation of a famous spiritual master, breaks away from his father’s tradition to embrace the modern world. Never before has a high Tibetan Master allowed such complete access to his private life. With her signature intimate entry to both families, Fox expertly distills a decades-long drama into a universal story about love, transformation, and destiny.

Read the rest of my blog on Jennifer Fox’s Reincarnation as an Artist Entrepreneur at the Huffington Post.

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 →