Tag: Independent Film

Heading to IDFA

IDFA logo


I’m excited to be heading to the IDFA festival and market in Amsterdam today! I’ll be attending BritDocs Global Impact Producers Assembly on Saturday – then doing three presentations over the next 5 days:

First on Sunday November 22nd 10am – 11:45 I will be doing a Distribution Crash Course for the newly launched Impact Academy in the Netherlands. I’ll be covering event theatrical, educational, broadcast and VOD and how to make those releases work in relationship with each other. Location Meetberlage (Oudebrugsteeg 9, 1012 JN Amsterdam).

Next same day Sunday at 13:00-15:00 I will be doing a Distribution and Marketing Masterclass for the IDFA Academy about creating an overall strategy for a film’s release in a hybrid model focusing on goals, audience engagement, and working within resources with a little taste of event theatrical and VOD. From the IDFA Academy program: “During the workshop, you will learn how to set goals for your release, the essentials of audience engagement, how to release your films digitally and timing factors in a release. In addition, you are encouraged to consider how your work fits into your entire career so that you can keep your audiences with you in the future.” (Kloveniersburgwal 50, 1012 CX Amsterdam)

Lastly with all the excitement about Impact Producers at this IDFA, on Wednesday November 25th at 11:30am I will be doing a presentation at the Industry Office about the Producer of Marketing and Distribution what that role is, how is it similar and different from an impact producer, what the responsibilities are, and how to pay one. (Vijzelstraat 4, 1017 HD Amsterdam)

If you are at IDFA would love to meet you.

This is me!

Jon headshot 11.16

Distribution Case Study – “Finding Hillywood”

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Written by Leah Warshawski (Producer/Director) / Introduction by Jon Reiss



I recently wrote a two part article featuring four documentary filmmakers who pursued hybrid releases with their films and who were generous enough to share the real data from their films’ releases – Transparency: Four Filmmakers Give Up the Gold Pt1 and Pt 2. Upon reading these, filmmaker Leah Warshawski wanted to write something similar for the self release of her film, Finding Hillywood. This first post about the film chronicles the story of her release, finishing up with a list of 10 tips for filmmakers. When all of the data is in – about a year from now – she will write a follow up detailing all of the real data from the release. I encourage more filmmakers to tell their stories – not just the how, but also the results. A great way to do this is to participate in the Sundance Transparency Project. This information helps all of us learn from each other’s triumphs and disappointments so that our knowledge base continues to expand. I am already speaking with a number of other filmmakers willing to share their stories – if you wish to contact me, my information is at the bottom of this post.

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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.

New Selling Your Film Book Released– and it’s FREE

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I’m really excited about this brand new book, Selling Your Film Outside the U.S. (click here to download the book for free) that I wrote with Sheri Candler, The Film Collaborative co-executive directors Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter and Wendy Bernfeld, managing director of the European content curation and licensing company Rights Stuff BV edited and published by The Film Collaborative. Selling Your Film Outside the U.S. is the second volume in the “Selling Your Film” case study book series. While our first book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, focused on U.S releases and case studies, this volume takes a deep dive into digital distribution (and distribution generally) in Europe and provides several case studies of films released there.


Within the pages of this book, you will find marketing and crowdfunding strategies, real distribution budgets, community building activities and detailed ancillary and digital distribution revenues for independently produced films.

My chapter is a case study of the Scottish film I Am Breathing and how the release was run by Ben Kempas, the Producer of Marketing and Distribution hired by The Scottish Documentary Institute for all of their films. The chapter not only discusses their outreach and release strategies, but also the Portable Fundraiser technology they developed with Distrify. It finishes with an evaluation of the effectiveness of the PMD, not only for films, but for film organizations to have on staff.

Click here to get your free copy.


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The explosion of DSLR filmmaking in recent years has allowed independent filmmakers to create high resolution content with a shallow depth of field. In many ways the technology has done a lot to level the playing field between the independents and major studios. One of the better known examples of this leveling was the news that the 2010 season finale of House was shot entirely with a Canon 5d Mark II.

Anyone with DSLR experience knows that this high resolution imagery can be compromised by stability issues, however. Digital camcorders like the Panasonic HVX 200 had a sizable camera body that counterbalanced the weight of the lens and allowed for relatively stable hand-held shooting. DSLRs do not possess the same intrinsic balance. As a result, the run-and-gun style of many independent filmmakers yields shaky footage if attempted without stabilization gear. Now there are a number of solutions currently on the market that address DSLR stability, but the majority of them are often too complicated or expensive for my taste, which is why I was so excited to learn about the Pstik!

Developed by long-time DP and camera op Stephen J. Payne, the Pstik sells for $60 and utilizes a monopod and a few small lead weights to create a simple counterweight system, enabling filmmakers to run-and-gun with remarkably smooth and stable results. Here is how Stephen Payne explains it:

The Pstik. from Steve Payne on Vimeo.

Stephen started a kickstarter campaign for the Pstik, where you can get more information on the product, ask questions or stake your claim for one of these cool gizmos today.

DP & camera op Stephen J. Payne, inventor of the Pstik



Your Audience: Niche vs Core

Posted on by Jon Reiss

This weeks TOTBO workshop clip continues the process of audience identification and differentiates between the concepts niche versus core. They are not the same thing. The core are the most engaged members of any niche – the most likely to engage with you and potentially spread the word about your work. I use Bomb It as an example but in the new workshops will be talking Joffrey and other films. For Joffrey the core of the ballet niche was of course people who loved the joffrey and within that the supercore are the former members of the Joffrey and of course the current Joffrey Ballet. They have been incredibly supportive of the film, have spread the word, participated in events and much more.

“25 to Life” Campaign Launch

25 to Life is a feature documentary about William Brawner, a young man who contracted HIV at the age of two, and kept his HIV status a secret for over twenty-five years. Now he seeks redemption from his promiscuous past, and embarks on a new phase of life with his wife, who is HIV Negative. This film paints a riveting picture of an average American community that is upturned by one man’s HIV diagnosis.

25 to Life, a documentary film by Mike Brown, is celebrating its campaign launch on World AIDS Day on December 1st from 7:00 – 9:30 pm at BOFFO NY, located at 57 Walker Street between Church and Broadway in New York City. The launch will feature a screening of the extended trailer, music by live footage and drinks. RSVP at RSVP@25TOLIFEFILMSITE.COM.

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.

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:


By Bernardo Palau

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

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

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

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

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

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