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
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 →
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.
I will be at DIY Days on Friday, October 28th, presenting my Artistic Entrepreneurship workshop from 3:45 to 4:25 pm. I will be speaking about how to create long term relationships with fans through engagement, live events, merchandise and digital releases. Half the time will be allotted for presentation, and half the time will be devoted to workshopping audience projects/artistic brands.
Some of the other great speakers at DIY Days include Joel Arquillos, Hunter Weeks, Henry Jenkins, Jim Babb, Yomi Ayeni, Adam Chapnick and Christy Dena, among others. At 5:30 pm I will be at UCLA’s Young Research Library for the L.A. launch party of my new book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul cowritten with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler. Hope to see you there.
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.
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 →
Let me clarify some of my feelings about the PMD. I will add my universal caveat that every film and situation is different. But here are some important guidelines:
1. The best case scenario is that a PMD is on board as a full collaborator and worker from as close to inception of the film as possible. No later than beginning of prep. This allows for, what I feel, the optimum of the integration of audience connection and engagement (which is what distribution and marketing is at its essence). If you wait till you have finished your film – you are in a world of hurt (I’ve said that before, but I don’t think I can say it enough) because this connection building and engagement take time and effort and cannot be hurried.
2. The best marketing is as creative as traditional filmmaking now – and frankly the line is blurred between what is the “film” and what is marketing. This is a de facto state of things since the rise of transmedia. If anyone just wants to make a traditional feature these days – that is great,– I am not going to tell anyone what his or her creative output should or should not be, but I am only pointing out that there is a tremendous amount of creative potential that focusing only on feature films ignores. I feel as a film community we should embrace it – and many filmmakers are. It is tremendously exciting. Look at what Lance Weiler is doing. I was fortunate enough to be at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh yesterday – and many things struck me (more blog posts coming on this subject) – but he was one of the first transmedia artists – we can learn a lot from him about what it means to be a creative person AND what it means to connect with audience. (And Sheri Candler – yes he was an incredible leader of a tribe – another post on that coming too). I know for many of you this is old news – but I still feel there is a battle being waged about this – one that is a waste of time in my opinion.
3. As a result, the PMD is not just a social marketer, a dealmaker, a festival publicist, a line producer, a distributor, a publicist – he or she needs to understand all aspects of the marketing and distribution of a film and conceptualize, develop and oversee its execution over the full life of a film. To do all of the above is a tremendous amount of work – akin to being the sole producer of a film in a crew of 3 (and at times this will happen – just as micro budget films have been produced in this way). But I do advise that there be a distribution and marketing team (I took a whole chapter of TOTBO to outline this crew and even that should be supplemented now (another blog post later). The PMD is the one who oversees all of the pieces (but as in the case of all who work on indie films – they will be working full time and busting their butt in the trenches like everyone else – because there is never enough money to hire as many people as anyone would ever like).
4. Just as people cut their teeth in indie film by taking on smaller tasks and working their way up – so it will be with PMDs. Electrics become gaffers become DPs. Social media assistants become social media strategists become PMDs. (as an example) While people work up the ladder – if they want to be the top creative in the department – they will learn ALL aspects of that department on their way up. It is an intense learning curve – but people who want it – do it.
5. When people cut their teeth in indie film – they usually work for free or for little money to have a chance to prove themselves. Money, work, and credit are always negotiated in independent film. I don’t see that changing with the PMD. Film has always been an apprenticeship system. Even with film schools (and PMD training is on its way – more future blog posts) – most film students discover that they still need to apprentice out of school. This is not just true for film – but for all arts not only in the US now – but throughout the world and throughout time.
6. An alternative to this is a group of filmmakers who band together as a team – all chipping in resources and skills – to make a film. They usually divide up responsibilities and credits. But each member of the team has his or her own sweat equity skin in the game. This is where you have new producers, directors, DPs born who have not worked through the apprentice system. But they take the risk on a project and prove themselves.
7. The last alternative (which usually involves apprenticeship as well) is to get a lower level paid gig in an established, commercially based company (e.g. a publicity firm, social media establishment, transmedia commercial company etc) and get paid for doing lower level work on commercial projects. Often people do this and learn all the ropes, change jobs to learn a different skill (again paid for commercial work) until they have enough skills to strike out on their own.
8. All of the above goes to say that I feel that if you want to be a PMD in the indie world – it will be difficult to ask to be paid without a track record. Like all other people in the indie world – you need to pay your dues – work on films – build a reputation, resume, reel – to show what you are worth. Most people in indie film – especially when they are starting out – have multiple jobs and find multiple ways to make a living.
9. If you are in film – especially indie film – to make money – I suggest finding another career. There are many other ways to make money more simply. Chances are you’ll make more money per hour at McDonalds than from working on any indie film. The world of film and media are for people who love film and media and cannot live without it. It is a tough life except for a very few. (Again from Warhol: “Life is very hard”).
10. The people whom I have met who want to be PMDs around the world – have a love of film – but feel that they have a set of skills more geared toward marketing than actual production – and are excited by having a way to work in the field they love (film and media) and use their special talents. They are not doing it primarily for money. They are doing it because everything else besides film is unsatisfying – and while they do need to find a way to make a living – they need to be involved with film.
11. The hope is of course – with everyone in independent film – is to find a way to do what you love and sustain yourself. There are many, many ways that people find to do this. It is of course tougher than ever now – especially as we are in this transitional period. I don’t feel I have all the answers – but I am excited by what the future holds, by having discussions with passionate people who care about our world and I feel together we will all find a way to make this work. I don’t feel that we as filmmakers are alone in this. All media content creators and artists are facing the same conundrum – musicians, journalists, authors, artists, photo journalists, graphic artists, game designers (massive layoffs in Australia in the months prior to my visit). We are all facing the same challenges and I feel that we can all learn from each other.
Let me know your thoughts.
Ryan Sloan’s CloudCraft Television is currently offering channels for Independents and Students and well as Collaborations. They are able to stream uncompressed video at better than DVD quality, including up to 7.1 DTS Surround Sound, and Home Media Magazine has recently reviewed their technology deeming it the best on the Internet in an upcoming article.
For more info, visit www.cloudcraft.tv.
This was published on voyagemedia.com today.
Author Jon Reiss on the Death of the Film Festival AND HIS BEST KEPT SECRETS THAT COULD MAKE YOUR NEXT INDIE FILM A SUCCESS!!
In his interview with Nat Mundel, independent filmmaker, author, and educator Jon Reiss unabashedly confirms one thing: the film festival acquisition model is dead or dying.
But Reiss hasn’t sat idly, waiting for his films to get picked up. Instead, he throws up his middle finger to would-be buyers. Taking matters into his own hands, Reiss has booked his own theater screenings for his film Bomb It across 27 cities, and has even sold bootleg DVDs of his film along the way (yes, he bootlegged his own film; in so many words, badass.)
Since 2007, Reiss has become one of the go-to experts on Do It Yourself (DIY) film distribution, publishing the DIY Bible Think Outside the Box Office in November of ’09. We got Reiss to open up about his book, his DIY workshops, and his predictions about the future of independent film.
Watch and listen for 4 major tips to get your next indie film project an audience before you even lens up.