This week’s TOTBO video concerns the importance of redefining the nature of theatrical. In this clip I speak about how creating a “live event” for your film can be an essential aspect of your film’s release. As I’ve said before I feel that theatrical must be redefined as live event/theatrical. Eventually I feel the term theatrical will be dropped and people will only refer to events. I emphasize live and event because I feel that those are truly the essential nature of screening your film in public – that it is a unique communal experience unavailable anywhere else. That is what is going to motivate people to see the film live – not just the fact that it is in a theater playing Fri-Thur.
Events have a multitude of benefits – they let you engage directly with your audience, they provide a way to organize publicity, they enable you to put your work out in the form it was intended (for me the form initially was a book – the workshops are now an adjunct to that – but all part of the same concept) and they are an additional revenue stream.
I feel that all artists can benefit from creating events for their work – musicians have concerts, artists have gallery openings, authors have readings and book signings etc. But there are new and exciting forms emerging such as last years theater/dance/immersive hybrid “Sleep No More”.
I’m releasing this particular clip as I prepare to go out on my own live event tour this month – hitting New York, Sheffield, Nottingham, London and Berlin (if you are in any of those cities in June – check out the dates below and I hope to see you there).
June 11-13 I’ll be one of the lab leaders again for IFP’s Narrative Filmmaking Lab in New York City.
June 14-17 The Sheffield Documentary Festival in the United Kingdom to speak about Artistic Entrepreneurship for Documentary Filmmakers.
June 20-21 Nottingham, England TOTBO 2 Day Master Class as part of Second Light Producer’s Lab in association with the Producers’ Forum.
June 23-24 A Two Day Distribution Master Class hosted at Regent’s College London which is again being organized by Chris Jones who organized my first ever workshop 2 years ago.
June 25-28 After London, I fly to Berlin, Germany to speak on Strategic Distribution at the Trans Atlantic Partners Conference.
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.
I am kicking off a series of excerpts from my Think Outside the Box Office Master Classes today on my new YouTube Channel TheJonReiss. I am rebooting my YouTube channel because even though I had some decent views on YouTube.com/jfilm1 – it didn’t feel like that accurate or searchable. Since I am going to start releasing regular content not only from my workshops, but also interviews with filmmakers, artists and people on the cutting edge of audience engagement, I thought it was time to start fresh. On the channel you can also see excerpts from my film and music video work as well. I look forward to your thoughts on the clips as they roll out.
This week’s post concerns setting the goals for your release. I am a firm believer that it is essential for filmmakers to have a clear idea of what their goals are for their film’s release and to prioritize one or perhaps 2 specific goals because a film team will use different release strategies to achieve different goals. I see 4 main goals that most filmmakers strive for in their releases:
1. Money (Fortune)
2. A career launch, helping get another film made. (Fame – for a traditional career based on the previous film career paradigm that only exists for a small percentage of filmmakers these days).
3. Audience (some people just want their film to be seen by an audience as wide as possible.
4. Change the World – especially for documentary.
However I encourage most (if not all) filmmakers to consider a fifth goal:
5. A long-term relationship with a potentially sustainable audience/fan base. This is an essential component of any modern media release – yet most filmmakers still do not consider this a primary goal. This goal is different in objective than the old school fame based career launch (Number 2 above). It is not about press, “heat”, ego. Its about connection, engagement and a bringing your fans with you from project to project. This goal is not achievable if you sell your film outright in an all-rights scenario. In that case your distributor has access to your audience data – not you (although most don’t cultivate this data – yet).
Next week’s clip will talk about the importance of prioritizing your goals. In other words you are better off pursuing one goal. If you don’t, you are at the risk of not achieving any of your goals. Upcoming posts will concern identifying and engaging audience, creating events, merchandise, digital rights, timing as well as interviews with artists and filmmakers such as Timo Vuorensola, Molly Crabapple, Corey McAbee and many more.
I’m launching the channel today as part of my Spring Workshop Kickoff. Yesterday I gave a “Strategic Distribution Workshop 202” at Hot Docs Toronto. I will be helping lead the IFP Filmmaker Labs in NYC in May and June. I will also be giving a mini-workshop at Sheffield Doc Fest in June 15th and then in London on June 23, 24th for a newly revamped two day TOTBO Distribution Master Class.
I’ve also created some Hot Docs Specials on my store where you can get a PDF of TOTBO for $4.95 and a hard copy for $9.95.
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 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.
I’m heading to Atlanta, GA to do a Think Outside the Box Office Workshop presented by the Atlanta Film Festival 365 and Push Push Theater November 12, 13th and 14th. Sheri Candler will be coming out to give presentations on personal branding, social media and crowdfunding!
This will be the first TOTBO workshop in the South and I’m looking forward to meeting new filmmakers as well as potential Producer’s of Marketing and Distribution (PMDs). Lots of networking opportunities for attendees – the weekend starts Friday night with a cocktail reception and on Saturday night there will be a networking happy hour. For more information about the workshops go to the TOTBO website.
In addition – I’ll be doing presentations Georgia State University on Friday and on Monday I travel to Western Kentucky University.
A year ago, I brought the preview copies of Think Outside the Box Office to sell at Independent Film Week, straight off the press. This week in addition to being a lab leader and mentor of the new IFP Filmmaker Labs, I have the honor of being paired in a Cage Match on Thursday against Michael Tully from Hammer to Nail, moderated/refereed by Michelle Satter from the Sundance Labs on the subject: “Am I A Filmmaker or Brand”. I thought I would down some thoughts on the subject.
I don’t think that “filmmaker” and “brand” are exclusive of one another. I think that all filmmakers, in fact all creative artists, have the opportunity to be both. For many filmmakers, the sooner they realize this potential, the happier they will be.
I can understand the knee jerk reaction to the concept of “filmmaker as brand”. For years filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers, have resisted being pigeonholed. “We’re artists with a broad eclectic taste. I can’t be pinned down to any one type of film.” I can also see how “brand” runs smack against the concept of “independent” which has always had some synonymous relationship to “freedom”. “I can’t be a free artist to express myself, if I tether myself to some concept of who I am imposed by others”.
In addition filmmakers and many other artists are uncomfortable with the concept of “branding” because it is a concept that corporate America uses in their never ending quest for consumer “mindshare”. As a ex punk rock neo Marxist anarchist who made a film about the global explosion of street art and graffiti culture and the resultant battle over visual public space, I understand this point of view. Ironically it is a battle over public space because graff writers and street artists are trying to convey their brand as much as the corporations in their own never ending desire to get up.
Filmmakers need to get over the art vs. commerce false opposition fast. Marketing is about audience connection. I make films because I want to express myself creatively and communicate my ideas to as many people as possible – and continue doing that. Marketing is what aids me in this process.
Many filmmakers whom I admire are brands by the consistency of their work both thematically and artistically: Wong Kar Wai, Quentin Tarantino, The Darden Brothers, Jane Campion, Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Werner Herzog, Polanski (from history: Hitchcock, Lang, Anthony Mann, Orson Welles). I know the kind of cinematic experience I am going to get from seeing one of their films. It compels me to see films of these directors even if I don’t know what the film is about. This branding helps enable these filmmakers to garner financing for their films (in the same way that actors names work as brand names and attract financing and distribution). It does because there is a strong identifiable quality and style (brand identity) associated with that director.
These directors didn’t set out to create themselves as a brand – they just created the work. However, instead of allowing the process to happen haphazardly, or to have others define you, I feel that it is best for directors to develop their own voice (outside of their films) and define themselves and in so doing engage, connect with and grow their audiences.
Ultimately, besides making an excellent film, the name of the game is connecting that film to an audience (if you have an interest in an audience – if not this is all moot). Audience connection is at least half the battle for filmmakers.
Think of the power (and freedom) that the artists listed above (or more importantly future artists) could achieve with a direct relationship with their fans. I’d love to see Tarantino crowd fund a film.
Kevin Smith is an incredible example. His audience wants to see, hear and engage with Kevin Smith. He communicates directly with his audience and considers products that they will want to consume in the form of Live Events (Kevin Smith Live), Merchandise (Kevin Smith toys), and Digital Content (Kevin Smith podcasts and iPhone apps).
Branding is a way to create an on-going relationship with an audience. Audience development and connection is hard work. Why reinvent the wheel each time you make a film, why not cultivate those fans who like your work into a core group who can sustain you? Tools exist now like never before to help you do this. Plus talking to like minded people should be a fun thing, feeding off of each other’s ideas, contributing to a community of artists, hearing positive feedback on work you have created that means something to someone, touched them in some way. A more consistent dialogue with your audience can sustain you psychically when times get tough in film (as they always do).
Ultimately you still must create media that people want to see, share, and refer. If you don’t produce good/excellent work – none of this matters. Corey McAbee was quick to point out to me that his “brand” as an artist derived from his films. Even though he collaborates with a partner Bobby Lurie, they created the Corey McAbee site because Corey’s name was the brand, the glue, that linked all of the work together into a coherent whole. It was the one constant that was recognized by their audience.
I understand that some filmmakers still will not want to do the added work of audience connection – and it does take additional time outside of traditional filmmaking. Other’s personalities are not suited for it. In this case, instead of not doing the work, I feel it makes sense to engage someone who wants to this work – e.g. a PMD – or Producer of Marketing and Distribution (or a social media strategist or a brand strategist). However for best results some communication must come authentically from the filmmaker – not all can be done by others.
From my own experience – the time I have spent online communicating with my community has born fruit beyond my expectations not only for my “career”, but more importantly in connections made to interesting, creative people whose friendships I treasure and whose work inspires.
This is not a plea to ask you to abandon your artistic self in favor of a commercialized brand. Creating your identity and connecting with people who really love your work is something you should look forward to doing. Self promotion of your brand is really about helping others, taking part in a community and making connections between yourself and others who should know each other. The lives of all involved will be richer for it.
I look forward to seeing you at Independent Film Week Thursday 4:30pm FIT, NYC.