Tag: Ted Hope

NEW BOOK LAUNCH! AND IT’S FREE!

I am super excited to announce the publication of a new book written by myself, Sheri Candler and The Film Collaborative titled Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul!

I am also super excited to tell you that you can download the PDFor ePub version for free or by tomorrow you can order the paperback for $9.99 ($10 off the regular retail price of $19.99) by clicking here.
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Guest Post by Jon Fougner: Cinema Profitability

Posted on by Jon Reiss

I had the fortune of meeting Jon Fougner, who is the Principal, Product Marketing Monetization at Facebook at Sundance this year (he was showing filmmakers how best to use Facebook to connect with audiences). He works with the ads engineers and Product Managers to define products that will be successful in the marketplace. I mentioned Think Outside the Box Office and he said «Hey, I wrote this white paper on how movie theaters could be more profitable if they would experiment more, especially with online and social tools. Would you like to take a look at it?»  I immediately jumped at the chance to read it and publish it with my good friend Ted Hope.   The original is 4000 words – so we have broken it into 5 sections which we will run consecutively through the beginning of next week.   Jon will be appearing at the American Pavilion at Cannes on May 13th as well as the Produced By Conference in Los Angeles on June 4th.  He’s at facebook.com/jfougner.  Note that this draft was written last year; its qualitative and quantitative descriptions of the landscape are still fairly accurate, with at least one key exception: AMC has since revamped their loyalty program.  And as Jon predicted in April 2010, Blockbuster’s equity capital was wiped out.”

Here is Jon’s Post:

Introduction/Abstract1

The role of film exhibition in our imagination dwarfs its role in our economy. Dolby surround sound, residual awe of movie-going as children, proclamations of Hollywood’s sway — all this industrial light and magic create the illusion that movie theaters are a big industry. In fact, cinemas represent only 0.1% of the $14 trillion U.S. GDP. State lotteries rake in 4 times as much. Ticket sales barely outpace inflation, and wispy margins bounce around the single digits. Whether family- or sponsor-owned, their mandate has been to spit off cash.

The result is a space that has attracted an anemic level of innovation, led by three scaled chains: Regal, AMC, and Cinemark. Together, the “Big 3″ control 43% of the U.S. market. I say “together” because the three tend to act as consortia and exhibit (no pun intended) parallel behavior. Some adjacent innovation offers hope. For instance, as Avatar demonstrated, the studios’ development of 3D may prove one of several sorely needed silver bullets. But most adjacent innovation — in particular, high-resolution flat screens for home viewing, and Internet-based distribution vehicles to supply them with video — is an existential threat to the cinemas.

I believe that, without innovation, at least 1 of the Big 3 exhibitors risks losing its equity capital2 in the next five years. To be sure, their plight facing looming debt maturities is not as dire as Blockbuster’s. What’s more, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit. What I lay out below is an array of product, channel, marketing, and (in less detail) cost control tactics to get the ball rolling. More important than any one of these tactics, however, is the overall strategic mentality: to think more like a technology company. They need to embrace the scientific method to experiment, analyze, and iterate. They need to distribute to the edges of their employee base permission, responsibility, and incentive for delivering great products (think Starbucks or Nordstrom) and generating new ideas (think Best Buy or Google). And they need to move fast.3

Here’s a summary of where they stand4:

Footnotes

1 My employer is Facebook. This article represents my thoughts, not its. Thanks to Zakia Rahman, Colin Darretta, Harry Chotiner, and Jared Gores for providing helpful comments on a draft. The usual disclaimer applies.

2 In the case of Apollo-owned AMC, it’s possible that, instead, value will be transferred from debt holders to equity holders, as was the case with Harrah’s, which Apollo and TPG own.

3 Some of these insights may be applicable to smaller cinema businesses, too.

4 Does not yet reflect 4Q 2009.

END OF PART ONE  Tomorrow:  Products

MAKING SENSE OF DISTRIBUTION PANELS – POST LAFF’s SEIZE THE POWER SYMPOSIUM

Posted on by Alexandra

The Film Collaborative was recently on a panel at the Los Angeles Film Festival as part of their SEIZE THE POWER SYMPOSIUM which focused on DIY & DIGITAL Distribution. This was the description of the panel we were on and that I moderated and will discuss below:

NEW DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION INITIATIVES
Leading digital distribution executives present new solutions for distribution
as they explain their business models and the opportunities they offer
filmmakers to reach audiences and bring in revenue for their films.

Erick Opeka, New Video
Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures
Orly Ravid, The Film Collaborative (TFC)
Scilla Andreen, IndieFlix

After the panel was over someone asked how he could decide which one of us to work with; he liked us all. It was clear to me that even though we had just finished an hour long panel at which we each presented our respective companies and then answered questions, it was not enough to make clear to everyone the way in which to relate to each company and how to make decisions about whom to work with in distribution.

Recently on Ted Hope’s blog

Jon Reiss and Ted Hope and many others including filmmakers discussed the relevance of panels and expert books and even more recently Jon Reiss wrote a blog titled “Coping with Symposium Workshop Brain Fry”. That is what I want to address here, specifically in relation to the panel I moderated and was on called “New Digital Initiatives”.

At the LAFF Panel all the companies discussed what they do and here’s some of that information below, and what we recommend a filmmaker do to make sense of information given at a panel.

Gravitas Ventures talked about its focus on Cable VOD and the fact that it works with Warner Brothers (WB) which (when WB takes a film) can lead to a film being available in up to as many as 50,000,000 homes via about 30 – 40 cable operators and up to 80,000,000 – 90,000,000 homes when one factors in digital. When WB does not take the film on Gravitas can at least get the film out to about up to 12,000,000 – 15,000,000 Cable VOD homes. Of course one in this circumstance has to realize that when WB is in the picture, there are two fees being taken as well as two companies being relied on to provide information and to pay. The other aspects to analyze are 1. the benefits of having a studio involved in VOD and Digital often leads to HIGHER revenues from Cable MSOs (Multi System Operators) and digital platforms and also MARKETING LEVERAGE. But, 2. the Studios are also glutted and not necessarily focusing on your film and you may get lost or inadvertently shafted (and I know it’s happened) so one has to have contractual commitments or protective clauses, and 3. They won’t let you keep digital rights usually, though maybe Netflix SVOD; and 4. accounting can be soft on the details. Gravitas does 2-year deals and about 350 -400 films per year and is the largest VOD aggregator at this time. Gravitas noted revenues per film ranging from as low as $5,000 – $250,000. A FILMMAKER must ADDRESS MARKETING and COSTS RECOUPMENT whether in dealing with Gravitas or any other Cable VOD & Digital Aggregator (e.g. TFC also works with Brainstorm Media & Fluent / Lions Gate), or any of the other studios who are or will be opening up to “independent product”.

The Film Collaborative’s entire purpose is to help sift through the information available at the time your film is ready or will be ready for release and help you resolve your COMPLETE DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY. Gravitas Ventures can get you the VOD and digital access you need but they don’t necessarily do much in the way of marketing so that will be more up to you to either have them commit to that effort or do it yourself (and perhaps in collaboration with us and our marketing partners). A marketing plus (+) though for Gravitas is that if WB gets behind your film, they can get iTunes and the Cable Operators to give your film a bigger marketing push. This can be very valuable.

Continue Reading The Article Use the Following URL: http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/blog/?p=76

Tip of the Week: How to Cope With Symposium Brain Fry

I heard a number of comments after this weekend’s LAFF Seize the Power Symposium that people where overwhelmed – that their brain’s had been fried by so many ideas and so much information. To me that’s a sign that we succeeded. When Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival asked me to help them devise the Symposium (and accompanying Distribution Boot Camp for competition filmmakers) we were in immediate agreement that the event would focus on: 1. Nuts and bolts practical information for filmmakers. 2. Forward thinking thought leaders indicating what the future might be. 3. Practical case studies of filmmakers who were using the new tools of distribution and marketing. We wanted to avoid people sitting on a panel rehashing how we got here. I also get the same brain-fry feedback when I give my weekend workshops – and I’m delighted. This is what I suggest to people:

1. Focus on the Inspiration and Creative Potential One of the best uber-takeaways is how a symposium or workshop can inspire filmmakers to new creative opportunities. Allow these ideas to run through you and don’t get caught up with any of the specifics just yet – you can delve into those when the time comes for you to act.

2. Identify on What Resonates With You. Many ideas and concepts are presented – but no two filmmakers are alike and no two films are alike. Take a moment to check in with your gut and see what resonates most with you, what makes sense for your current project, what makes sense for your artistic trajectory.

3. One Step at a Time. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Do one thing first. See how it feels – works for you. The world of distribution and marketing can seem overwhelming – they each comprise an entire division at every studio. You are one person – reread item 1.

4. Connect and Collaborate. Further the connection with the people that you meet at these events. Create study groups and film cooperatives. Film distribution and marketing does take a village. I was really excited to hear that some of the attendees of my Vancouver workshop formed a PMD discussion group to process the information and more importantly to work with each other in order to act on it. I still feel that cooperatives among filmmakers is one of the ways to handle all the new work and potential.

5. Revisit the information. You can be sure that any of the speakers have written about the ideas that they have presented. The day after the symposium Henry Jenkins posted the basics of his talk on his blog. Subscribe to Peter Broderick’s newsletter. Check out The Film Collaborative’s site. Read Truly Free Film. Keep up with Film Independent’s ongoing educational program. Heck – even check out my blog or my book Think Outside the Box Office – I wrote it so that all filmmakers could have a companion to this process. And of course – if you are inclined, follow all of the above on Twitter – and then engage.

Seize the Power Why You Should Pay Attention to the LAFF Symposium this Weekend

Two weeks ago I wrote a guest post on Truly Free Film about the need to educate filmmakers on distribution and marketing their films. This weekend the Los Angeles Film Festival is hosting a truly wonderful event which I am proud to have developed in collaboration with LAFF and Film Independent (with strong push and support from Ted Hope): Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium.

The Symposium is designed to focus on the nuts and bolts solutions to the current distribution and marketing malaise plaguing our industry. The intention is to provide an introduction to a wealth of new tools for filmmakers (and all artists/media content creators) as well as strategic guidance from many of the key practitioners and thought leaders in our field. It is an antidote to the concerns of too much talk talk talk on this subject with little true education.

In addition there is a non-public component that you can participate in via twitter. I will be giving a distribution and marketing boot camp to the LAFF competition filmmakers Friday June 18th 9am – 12:30pm and 2:30pm – 5pm and Saturday June 19th from 9am-11:30am. All times PST. We will be tweeting bullet points on #totbo We have done this in the workshops I have given in the past month – and we have found that people around the world start to participate and chime in – creating a global discussion around these topics.

The Symposium: Starting Saturday afternoon at 1pm – Ted kicks it off with a presentation on the need for the artist entrepreneur to encourage filmmakers to think expansively about their creative output in order to create sustainable careers. This is followed by a plethora of service providers (from Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative to Yancy Strickler of Kickstarter to Bob Moczydlowsky of Topspin) that we brought together so that filmmakers could learn the best ways to put these tools into practice in their own careers.

Sunday morning will kick off with a discussion between myself and Corey McAbee (The American Astronaut and Stingray Sam). We will explore how he uses the new distribution and marketing tools and landscape to create a viable artistic career for himself. Caitlin Boyle from Film Sprout will give one of her incredible introductions to grassroots audience development and distribution. I am super excited to see Lance Weiler and Henry Jenkins on Transmedia. (somehow Lance always has a way of frying my brain – in a good way). The inimitable Peter Broderick will lead a discussion on crowdfunding, Colleen Nystedt and Sean Percival will present different tactics for audience engagement. The event will cap with one of those incredible Film Independent public case study examinations of two films: Children of Invention and Bass Ackwards.

Last but not least – it will give filmmakers an opportunity to connect with each other and the presenters. Come on down and introduce yourself, learn and contribute. I hope to see you there (ps I won’t be there Saturday afternoon due to my daughter’s dance recital :) – but Ted will be in the house and many others!)

The New Film Festival Model

Posted on by Emy

I posted this on Ted Hope’s blog yesterday.

More Thoughts On The New Film Festival Model
By JON REISS

“Blood Simple” was the first film I bought a ticket for at a film festival. It was screening at the NYFF and I soon came to recognize that the films accepted to that fest were of a exceedingly high quality. The curatorial taste behind that festival choices was something I had confidence in. They gained my trust precisely because they have never tried to be all things for all people, and for that I have always been willing to pay a premium for. The NYFF was, and is, a trusted filter.

Too many festivals these days program too many films without revealing, or reveling in, their curatorial hands, diminishing the power of their brand in the process. If festivals are going to become the new curators, that will have to change. Festivals must emphasize their unique taste, if not overall, then within sidebars at the festival.

Read the full story…

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/

21 Great Free Thinkers of Indie Film from Ted Hope in The Wrap

21 Great Free Thinkers of Indie Film

I’m in the middle – but will bring it up here – pretty happy to be with such a great group of people:

“# Jon Reiss — After adopting the DIY approach for his film Bomb It, Jon chose to share the lessons he’s learned in ever increasing ways, from his blog (and this one), to articles for Filmmaker Mag, to finally to the must-have artist-centric distribution book “Think Outside the Box Office.” Anyone considering creating a truly free film, this book is mandatory reading first. (Full disclosure: I penned an intro to Jon’s book.)”

By Ted Hope
Published: December 28, 2009 in The Wrap To go to the original piece click here.

Earlier this year, while looking at Atlantic Magazine’s list of Brave Thinkers across various industries, I started to wonder who are of this ilk in our sector of so-called Independent Film.

What is it to be “brave”? To me, bravery requires risk, going against the status quo, being willing to do or say what few others have done. Bravery is not a one time act but a consistent practice. Most importantly, bravery is not about self interest; bravery involves the individual acting for the community. It is both the step forward and the hand that is extended.

Frankly though, I think anyone that commits to creating film, particularly independent film, and specifically artist driven truly free film, is truly brave … or at least, insane. It is a hard road out there and growing more difficult by the day.

All filmmakers getting their work made, screened and distributed deserve recognition, support, and something more significant than a good pat on the back from the rest of us. As great their work is both creatively and in terms of the infrastructure, it’s easy to lose sight of how fragile all this is. Our ability to create and screen innovative and diverse work is consistently under threat.

I know there are those whom I’ve forgotten that deserve to be included here. This list, although it includes many artists, is about those who are working and striving to carve a new paradigm, to make the future safe for innovative and diverse work, to build an artist-centric content economy.

These Brave Thinkers lead equally with their ideas, actions, and generosity. They set examples for all of us and raise the bar. These are indie films true new leaders, and for those that think they are in power, those that are just starting out, or those that want to find a new angle on industry you work in, you should make sure you meet these folks in the coming year, because they are redefining the way we fund, develop, create, define, discover, promote, participate, curate, and appreciate that thing we still call cinema.

* Franny Armstong — After making “The Age of Stupid” via crowdsourcing funds, Franny also looked to the audience to help distribute her film, creating IndieScreenings.net and offering it up to other filmmakers (see The Yes Men below). By relying fulling on her audience from finance to distribution, Franny was able to get the film she wanted not just made, but seen, and show the rest of us to stop thinking the old way, and instead of putting faith in the gatekeepers, put your trust in the fans.
* Steven Beers — “A Decade of Filmmaker Empowerment Is Coming.” Steven has always been on the tip of digital rights question, aiding many, including myself, on what really should be the artist’s perspective. Yet it remains exceedingly rare that individuals, let alone attorneys, take a public stand towards artist rights — as the money is often on the other side.
* Biracy & David Geertz — Biracy, helmed by Geertz, has the potential to transform film financing and promotion. Utilizing a referral system to reward a film’s champions, they might have found a model that could generate new audiences and new revenue.
* Peter Broderick — Peter was the first person to articulate the hybrid distribution plan. He coined the term, I believe. He has been tireless in his pursuit of the new model and generous with his time and vision. His distribution newsletter is a must have for all truly free filmmakers and his oldway/newway chart a true thing of beauty.
* Tze Chun & Mynette Louie — Last year, the director and producer of “Children of Invention” decided that they weren’t going to wait around for some distributor to sweep them off their feet. They left Sundance with plans to adopt a hybrid plan and started selling their DVD off their website. They have earned more money embracing this new practice than what they could have hoped from an old way deal. As much as I had hoped that others would recognize the days of golden riches were long gone, Tze & Mynette were the only Sundance filmmakers brave enough to adopt this strategy from the start.
* Arin Crumley — Having raised the bar together with Susan Buice in terms of extending the reach of creative work into symbiotic marketing with “Four Eyed Monsters,” along with helping in the design of new tech tools for filmmakers (FEM was encouraging fans to “Demand It” long before Paranormal Activity), co-founding “From Here to Awesome,” Arin launched OpenIndie together with Kieran Masterson this year to help empower filmmakers in the coming months.
* IndieGoGo & Slava Rubin — There are many web 2.0 sites that build communities, many that promote indie films, many that crowd source funds, but Slava & IndieGoGo are doing it all, with an infectious and boundless enthusiasm, championing work and individuals, giving their all to find a new paradigm, and they might just do it.
* Jamie King — The experience of giving away his film “Steal This Film” led Jamie to help build VODO — an online mechanism initially built to help artists retrieve VOluntary DOnations for their work but has since evolved to a service that helps filmakers distrubute free-to-share films through P2P sites & services, building on this with various experimental business models. Such practices aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for some — VODO has had over 250,000 viewers for each of its first three releases in 2009 — and the road is being paved by Jamie’s efforts.
# Scott Kirsner — Scott’s book “Friends, Fans, & Followers” covered the work of 15 artists of different disciplines and how each have utilized their audience to gain greater independence and freedom. Through his website CinemaTech, Scott has been covering and questioning the industry as it evolves from a limited supply impulse buy leisure buy economy to an ubiquitous supply artistcentric choice-based infrastructure like nobody else. His “Conversation” forum brought together the tech, entertainment, & social media fields in an unprecedented way.
# Pericles Lewnes — As a filmmaker with a prize winning but underscreened film (“Loop”), Peri recoginized the struggle of indie filmmaking in this day and age. But instead of just complaining about it like most of us, Peri did something about it. He built bridges and alliances and made a makeshift screening circuit in his hometown of Annapolis, MD, founding The Pretentious Film Society. Taking indie film to the bars with a traveling projector and sound system, Peri has started pulling in the crowds and getting money back to the filmmakers. A new exhibition circuit is getting built brick by brick, the web is expanding into a net, from a hub spokes emmenate until we have wheels within wheels within wheels. Peri’s certainly not the only one doing it, but he brings an energy and passion we all need.
# Corey McAbee — It’s not enough to be a talented or innovative filmmaker these days. You must use the tools for entrepreneuarial activity that are available and you have to do it with flair. We can all learn from Corey. His films, his music, his live shows, his web stuff — it all rocks and deserves our following and adoption.
# Scott Macauley — Some producers (like yours truly) write to spread the gospel, happy just to get the word out, not being the most graceful of pen. Scott however has been doing it with verve, invention, wit and style for so long now, most people take his way wit words as a given. Not only is it a pleasure to read, the FilmmakerMagazineBlog is the center of true indie thought and appreciation. It’s up to the minute, devoid of gossip, deep into ideas, and is generally a total blast. And the magazine is no slouch either. And nor are his films. Can we clone the man?
# Brian Newman — After leaving Tribeca this year, Brian has showed no signs of slowing down, popping up at various conferences like PttP and the Flyaway Film Fest to issue missives & lectures helping to articulate both the problems facing indies these days along with starting to define how we will find our way out. Look to Brian to be doing something smart & exciting in the media world in 2010; somewhere someone smart should find a way to put this man to work shortly, but here’s hoping he does it on his own so we can all benefit from his innovative ideas.
# Nina Paley — In addition to successively adopting an “audience distribution” model for her film “Sita Sings the Blues,” Nina has been incredibly vocal about her experiences in the world of “free,” helping to forge a path and greater understanding for other filmmakers. And now her film is getting traditional distribution at the IFC Center in NYC (and our whole family, including the 9-year-old spawn, dug it!)
# Jon Reiss — After adopting the DIY approach for his film Bomb It, Jon chose to share the lessons he’s learned in ever increasing ways, from his blog (and this one), to articles for Filmmaker Mag, to finally to the must-have artist-centric distribution book “Think Outside the Box Office.” Anyone considering creating a truly free film, this book is mandatory reading first. (Full disclosure: I penned an intro to Jon’s book.)
# Mark Rosenberg — What does it take to create a new institution these days? Evidently quite a bit, because I can only think of one in the film space and that’s Rooftop Films. Mark curates and organizes with a great team of folks, who together have brought new audiences new films in new venues. N.Y. is incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Rooftop’s work, but here’s hoping that Mark’s vision spreads to other cities this coming year.
# Liz Rosenthal — There is no better place to get the skinny on what the future for film, indie film, truly free film, artist-centric film, and any other form of media creation than London’s Power to the Pixel. Liz founded it and has catapulted what might once have been fringe truly into the mainstream. Expanding beyond a simple conference into a year round forum for future forward media thought, PttP brainstorms, curates, and leads the way in transmedia creation, curation, & distribution. (Full disclosure: I was PttP keynote speaker this year.)
# Lance Weiler — In addition to being a major force in both Transmedia thought, DIY distribution, and informative curatorial,with his role in Power to the Pixel, From Here to Awesome, DIY Days, & Radar web show but his generous “Open Source” attitude is captured by the Workbook Project, perhaps the most indispensable website for the TFFilmmaker. He (along with Scott Kirsner) provides a great overview of the year in tech & entertainment on TWP podcast here. It’s going to be in exciting 2010 when we get to see him apply his knowledge to his next project (winner of Rotterdam Cinemart 2009 prize and now a participant in the 2010 Sundance screenwriters’ lab). (Full disclosure: This is that has signed on to produce Lance’s transmedia feature H.I.M.)
# Thomas Woodrow — As a producer, Thomas has embraced the reality of the marketplace and is not letting it stand in his way. There is perhaps no other producer out there who has so fully accepted the call that indie film producing nowadays also means indie film distribution. He’s laying out his plan to distribute “Bass Ackwards” immediately after its Sundance premiere through a series of videos online. (Full disclosure: I am mentoring Thomas vis the Sundance Creative Producing Lab.)
# TopSpin Media — As their website explains: “Topspin is a technology platform for direct-to-fan maketing, management and distribution.” They are also the tech behind Corey McAbee’s activities and hopefully a whole lot of other filmmakers in the years behind. Founded by ProTools’ creator, Peter Gotcher, and Shamal Raasinghe, TopSpin has the potential to usher in the Age of Empowerment for the artist/creator class. Today it is primarily a tool for musicians, but expect it to migrate into filmdom fully pretty damn soon.
# The Yes Men — The Emma Goldman (“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”) TFF 2009 Award winners for keeping both politics and film marketing fun, these pranksters hit all the fests, winning awards, and using it to launch their own distribution of “The Yes Men Fix the World.” Bravery’s always been their middle name, but they are among the first of rising tide of filmmakers willing to take for full responsibility for their film.

Who did I forget? I know this list is very U.S.-centric, but I look forward to learning more of what is going on elsewhere in the days to come. Who will be our Brave Thinkers for next year (if I can muster the energy to do this for another year, that is)?

What can you learn from these folks? May I humbly suggest that at the very least, you do whatever you can to find, follow, and converse with these folks in 2010. The more we learn from them, the better off this film industry will be, and, hey: it may turn out to be a good new year after all
# Jon Reiss — After adopting the DIY approach for his film Bomb It, Jon chose to share the lessons he’s learned in ever increasing ways, from his blog (and this one), to articles for Filmmaker Mag, to finally to the must-have artist-centric distribution book “Think Outside the Box Office.” Anyone considering creating a truly free film, this book is mandatory reading first. (Full disclosure: I penned an intro to Jon’s book.)
# Mark Rosenberg — What does it take to create a new institution these days? Evidently quite a bit, because I can only think of one in the film space and that’s Rooftop Films. Mark curates and organizes with a great team of folks, who together have brought new audiences new films in new venues. N.Y. is incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Rooftop’s work, but here’s hoping that Mark’s vision spreads to other cities this coming year.
# Liz Rosenthal — There is no better place to get the skinny on what the future for film, indie film, truly free film, artist-centric film, and any other form of media creation than London’s Power to the Pixel. Liz founded it and has catapulted what might once have been fringe truly into the mainstream. Expanding beyond a simple conference into a year round forum for future forward media thought, PttP brainstorms, curates, and leads the way in transmedia creation, curation, & distribution. (Full disclosure: I was PttP keynote speaker this year.)
# Lance Weiler — In addition to being a major force in both Transmedia thought, DIY distribution, and informative curatorial,with his role in Power to the Pixel, From Here to Awesome, DIY Days, & Radar web show but his generous “Open Source” attitude is captured by the Workbook Project, perhaps the most indispensable website for the TFFilmmaker.

Think Outside the Box Office one of Brian Newman’s Recommended Reads

Recommended Reads

from Brian Newman’s Blog Springboard Media
There’s been a lot of great writing both in print and online (and at times, both) for filmmakers this year. It’s late in the year, but I thought I’d give my quick summary of some great titles that I think are required reading for any filmmaker – or any person in the film business, really – and most are good for other artists as well. These are in no particular order, and while I know some of the authors and am quoted in some of these, I tried to be unbiased and stand to make no financial gain. Most were written this year, but some came out earlier (even much earlier) but I just got around to reading them, and near the end are a few that aren’t even film/media books but that I still highly recommend.

The Reel Truth: Everything you didn’t know you need to know about making an independent film. By Reed Martin. Like the title, this book is long, and probably could have benefited from a better editor, but it’s definitely a book every filmmaker should read. Reed does a great job of covering everything from first-timer mistakes to new paths in distribution. He gets some really great advice from leading producers, distributors, writers – pretty much everyone.

Shaking the Money Tree: The art of getting grants and donations for film and video projects. By Morrie Warshawski. (link is to all of his books) Morrie has been the leading expert on this subject, and this book isn’t new, but it is a new (3rd) edition now, and he’s added lots of great new material. But even the old material was great – Morrie tells you everything you need to know to raise grants and donations – an especially useful skill for doc makers. His other books are great too, and I recommend everyone read his book on throwing a fundraising house party – more filmmakers should use this strategy.

Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an audience and a creative career in the digital age. By Scott Kirsner. Scott writes a great blog and lectures all over, and this book is a great summation of the new ways artists are using the new tools available through digital to build a fan base that can support their career. He’s packed lots of interviews into this book, not just with filmmakers, but with authors, musicians and other artists who are doing creative things to build and audience and make a living. Read the book and the blog.

Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era. By Jon Reiss. Jon is the filmmaker who made Bomb It! (among other films), and he learned a lot about releasing a film from his own experience building a hybrid distribution plan for that film. He combines that real-world knowledge with great advice from others in the industry. What’s great about this book is that he doesn’t advocate for just one way of doing things. He presents the arguments for multiple ways of thinking about distribution and then gives his experience and his suggestions for how to combine these ideas into something that works. He provides lots of case studies, a great breakdown of different budgets for distribution and goes into every step, in detail, for distribution and marketing your film. Detailed, and long, but worth reading, and worth making everyone on your film’s team read it as well.

Film Festival Secrets: A handbook for independent filmmakers. By Christopher Holland. Ok, this may be my favorite book of the year, no offense to the others, because I used to run a film fest. Chris lays out, in simple language, everything you need to know about your film fest experience as a filmmaker. From devising a strategy to getting people to show up for your film and what to do when you’re done. He doesn’t go far into the realm of new models, but doesn’t ignore these. What he does is teach filmmakers the little do’s and don’ts that every festival director wishes they had time to tell filmmakers. Literally, to send a film to a fest or to attend one without reading this book is the dumbest thing you could possibly do. It won’t arm you for everything, but combine this with Reel Truth, Fans… and Think Outside the Box Office and you’ll pretty much know everything you need to know about the life of your film after production. You can get the book here, and also some cool podcasts.

Truly Free Film. A blog by Ted Hope. Prolific producer, blogger (of multiple blogs), tweeter, indie film community builder, speaker….the list doesn’t end there, Ted Hope has been on a roll this year. He blogs every second, while producing cool films, and every post is a gem. Disclaimer: Ted has said some nice things about me in his blog so I may be biased, but that’s the other thing I love – he posts nearly nothing that is negative. All positive thoughts for the future of real (truly free) indie film.

TechDirt. A blog by Mike Masnick (and others). Mike has been doing some excellent writing on new business models. My favorite is his post “The Grand Unified Theory on the Economics of Free.” That’s something I talk a lot about, and Mike has done some great thinking on the subject. Check out his blog and learn why CwF + RtB = $$$ (which is also a great presentation).

Declaration of Independence: The ten principles of hybrid distribution. A manifesto of sorts by Peter Broderick. Peter’s writings are always good, and this particular article was great. The title says it all. Read it at IndieWire (another great resource) and read his own blog for more.

The Workbook Project. A website by Lance Weiler and other filmmakers. The Workbook Project is essentially a great bet that filmmaker Lance Weiler made with himself – that he could make more money by giving away advice to filmmakers online than an advance he was offered to write such a book. According to Lance, it has worked. The site is a collaborative effort, and has great advice on everything from making your film to working in transmedia, often (if not always) from working filmmakers. I could explain more, but go there and read, listen and watch because it’s not just writing, but podcasts, videos, etc.

Lapham’s Quarterly. The best quarterly ever, by Lewis Lapham. Ok, this isn’t a film book, but you can’t be a good filmmaker unless you remain a good student of the world, and no one is a better guide than the curator/editor Lewis Lapham. Lapham was the editor of Harper’s for years, and is one of the best public intellectuals we have. If you’ve ever read his “Notebook” in Harpers, then you know the singularly distressing feeling of learning that you are completely uneducated. I mean, you thought you were smart before reading him, and by sentence two you’re wondering why you can’t quote Diderot, Descartes, Stanley Fish and Thomas Jefferson to make your point. How did you get an education and not know any of this stuff, you wonder? Well, the LQ does you a favor – after Lewis riffs on a single subject (like Money, Travel or Education) for a few pages, he then curates writings on the subject from an assortment of the best thinkers on the subject. Most of the work is in the public domain (free), but having a curator bring it to your attention really helps. Stretch your brain. Disclaimer – I’ve briefly served on a publisher advisory committee for the LQ.

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. By Don Tapscott. Also not technically a film book, but how the “net generation” is different than others is something filmmakers should know about. Most of the insights are things that pretty much anyone spending time online knows now, but it’s great to have real research to back up your hunches, and to get a take on why this matters and how we should approach creative work given these changes.

Intellectual Value – A radical new way of looking at compensation for owners and creators in the Net-based economy. A 1997 article in Wired by Esther Dyson. It was also a longer article in Release 2.0 magazine before that, but all the links I’ve found are to PDFs. Way back when Esther wrote this article that preceeded all the talk about Free this year, and she not only saw it all coming, she nailed what it means precisely.

Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights. By Bill Ivey. Again, not a strictly film book, but one which I think has many arguments relevant to film. I wrote about it here, but he also makes strong arguments about copyright issues and other issues central to filmmakers.
One last note – I linked to a couple of blogs, but my plan had been to link to my favorite blog posts of the year. Then I realized I have about one per day and this would take forever, so perhaps that is another post, or perhaps I just give up now….not sure yet.

@Jon_Reiss Marketing Art – An Oxymoron?

Today’s discussions began with the question of why is it important to identify your audience before you finish your film. I believe there are a number of reasons, but the main ones are:

1. Takes a long time to develop your audience.

2. You can engage your audience to participate in the film process itself.

3. The audience engagement/marketing becomes a more integral part of the film.

It can even take you a while to figure out who your core and niche audiences are.

A number of comments brought up the essential issue of art vs. commerce – if you start marketing to your audience so early in the process, then you have the risk of solely catering to your audience which is contradictory to the creation of art.

I can hear Ted Hope protesting now! Ted especially has vocal in denouncing the old art v commerce divide.

Some of the best art is created without a mind to the marketplace. I get that. Chasing the market often leads to creating banal work. But that thinking is too simplistic now for the supple nature of the market in which many tastes and interests can be served.

Filmmakers have to get beyond that old art v. commerce divide and understand this:

Marketing is what helps you find the audience that already exists for your creation. You don’t need to limit your creativity in order to create a marketing strategy. You need to consider who is interested in your specific creativity. This is your niche (or niches). Your core are the most ardent followers within these niches.

So when asked does the writer, director or producer need to consider the marketplace, I would say most definately the director and producer and in many circumstances – it isn’t terrible for writer’s to think about it as well.

Not to think of how you can write the next “Transformers”, but to think creatively about writing material that mind create new opportunities and new models for discovery in today’s fractured marketplace.

This blog is the first in a series that expand on discussion threads on twitter @Jon_Reiss