Tag: Twitter

My Events at Park City 2012

For those of you attending Sundance and Slamdance this year, I will be participating in a number of events which I hope you can attend:

On Friday, January 20th from 11 am to 12:30 pm I will be at the New York Lounge at 545 Main Street with Matt Dendler of Cinetic Rights Management for an Empowerment Town Hall moderated by attorney Steven Beer.

On Saturday, January 21st, I will be participating in the Black House Panel on Alternative Distribution from 3:30 to 5 pm. We will be discussing the latest developments in the distribution landscape and where success is being found.

On Sunday, January 22nd, I will be at Dolly’s Book Store for the Sundance Film Festival book signing for Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, the new book with co-writers Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter. Unfortunately Sheri Candler won’t be able to come.

Right after the book signing party I am hoping to hustle over to Slamdance’s Hot Tub Summit at Treasure Mountain Inn

On Monday, January 23rd, I will be giving the introductory talk to the Sundance #ArtistServices Workshop at 8:30 am.  This workshop lasts all days with presentations by Erick Opeka from New Video, Bob Moczydlowsky from Topspin, Josh Grau on Twitter for Filmmakers, Caitlin Boyle from Film Sprout, Yancey Strickler of Kickstarter, Emily Gray from Fractured Atlas, Reid Carolin for Constellation and Kathleen Grace, Margaret Healy and Paul Snow on “Your Filmmaking Career on YouTube.  RSVP artistservices@sundance.org

If you are coming up to Park City – please come by one of these events to meet up.  Or if you want to meet about your film – let me know in advance and we can arrange a time while I’m up there.

Guest post by Lila Yomtoob: The Added Value of Blogging

Posted on by Jon Reiss

The Added Value of Blogging – by Lila Yomtoob

Lila contacted me via the web – introducing herself and I asked if she would like to write a blog post – and she offered to write a post  about:  blog posting! Not only the importance of it – but how to do it effectively.   Thanks Lila!

Lila Yomtoob is a producer specializing in marketing and distribution. She has 12 years of experience in different parts of the industry, including directing, editing, teaching, curating, and consulting. She has been a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Science as a result of her Emmy Award, and was a card-carrying member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild until she went rogue. You can read more about her at www.yomtoob.com and contact her at lila@yomtoob.com.

Blogging is not dead, and should not die.

No one reading this is a stranger to the multitude of ways to get the word out about a project. Recently, I’ve seen articles suggesting that blogging is dead and that Facebook and/or Twitter is sufficient. In this article I will make a case for blogging, recommend some ways to go about it, and present a few case studies.

Blogging is a great way to root your project in a community, create a tone for your project that extends beyond the actual film, and can even attract press.  A blog allows you to create original long form content that lives on your website, as well as aggregate news about topics surrounding your film, and make announcements about the status of your project. Having a blog that is embedded into your website (via WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger) allows people who visit your films website to find out more about what the project is about, without having to leave the site. It sets a personal tone, one that may allow a visitor to get just a little bit more excited about your project.

Foreclosure (Narrative, psychological horror)

I co-produced “Foreclosure” through development and pre-production, and I insisted we start a blog early on. The director did not want to spill the beans about the themes of the film, which may be seen as controversial, so we created parameters on what we would write about. As a result, our blog was about the art of horror, including quotes from different filmmakers on filmmaking, reviews of esoteric films, and artistic and intellectual items that influenced the filmmaker. We rarely discussed the actual film. This gave a visitor “a peak into the director’s mind” and, unbeknownst to us, we created a compendium of intelligent horror content.

Once we had around ten entries, we posted a short and simple trailer and sent press releases about the film to all of the horror blogs and websites we could find. We were thrilled and very surprised by the response. The director was interviewed for a few of the larger horror sites, and we began relationships with film writers who continued to write about “Foreclosure” as it progressed. We were still in development – hadn’t even set a shoot date, and already we had press.  The writers often commented on the content of the blog, hinting to me that it left a positive impression on visitors.

Subsequently, “Foreclosure” attracted Michael Imperioli (“Soprano’s”) to star, and a top sales agent before production began. It would be silly to say that this was because of the blog, but the blog was clearly one step in the right direction.

The Bang Bang Club (Narrative Feature, based on a true story)

I recently visited the website for The Bang Bang Club, a new narrative film based on real events about a group of journalists in South Africa during apartheid. The trailer and story were compelling, but I was on the fence about the film. I noticed they had a blog, and so I clicked on it. There were stories of journalists covering wars around the world now being detained, recovering from injuries, etc, and the films’ timeliness and urgency hit home. It gave me a frame of reference, and made me want to see the film just a little bit more.

Hidden Battles – feature documentary

I started working on “Hidden Battles” when the film was finished, and we were working on a self-distribution strategy. For this blog, we had to be very careful, because of the subject matter of the film. “Hidden Battles” follows five soldiers as they understand their combat experience. The film stays away from making any judgments, and is consciously apolitical, and the director wanted to make sure not to politicize the film in anyway. So we created parameters: the mission of “Hidden Battles” was to educate people on the mental health issues facing veterans. We were only going to be supportive and caring. Largely, the blog reports on organizations that help veterans, new things the government is doing to help, and statistical reports on the status of mental health amongst soldiers and vets. We set up Google alerts with keywords like “veteran,” “PTSD,” “military”, which made it easy to find stories to write on. This also allowed us to find organizations to forge partnerships with, who have subsequently helped publicize the film.

We also share news about the films progress on our blog. Most content is also shared on Facebook and Twitter as well. A distributor approached us and when I asked him how he heard about the film he said, “Twitter.”

Fresh – feature documentary

I spoke with Ana Joanes, director of “Fresh,” a documentary about food production.   After a few years of successful grass roots self-distribution, and a limited theatrical release, she is now concentrating on creating original content for their blog. For years they have aggregated news relevant to their community through their blog, Facebook and Twitter, but now they want to go a step further and become a resource to the community they’ve created. In essence, they are planning to extend the life of the project through the blog. I asked Ana, if they set parameters for what they blog about, and she said no – they just go with their gut. They have posted stories that have gotten bad reactions, but she doesn’t find it to be problematic.

A few tips for getting started

• If you don’t have a clue about how to start a blog, check out mashable.com, they have lots of  “how to” articles that might help you get started. Or enlist/hire a web savvy person to set it up and explain it to you.

• If you don’t know what to blog about, imagine yourself as a potential viewer of your film. What would you want to hear about? OR take a chance and write about what you want to write about! Until you are ready to create original content you can start by reposting relevant news stories and comment on them. Set up Google Alerts, or start an RSS reader to aggregate stories from reliable sources to get ideas.

• Cross post your content on your other social networking platforms. Your blogging platform may have an option to do this automatically, but I find that it’s often problematic. Take the 5 minutes to do it manually, write a short description and add a link back to your blog.

• The most difficult part of this might be setting aside time to do it, especially if you don’t fashion yourself a writer. Independent film involves a lot of juggling of time and resources, and blogging may easily be the thing that falls off the to do list. Fair enough. This is why a lot of filmmakers hire someone (or have an intern) to work 10-12 hours a week on their social networking. “Fresh” had a full time person working on their social networking, which may account for their 4000 grassroots screenings. Just keep that in mind when you decide not to do it.

I don’t have any metrics to back up my case studies, because I don’t believe that the number of people that sees your site amounts to success. It’s about getting the right people to see your site and your film. And sometimes this takes a long time. Be patient. Do what you can do. Good luck.

Guest Post by Jon Fougner: Cinema Profitability Part 5

Posted on by Jon Reiss

This is Part 5 of Jon Fougner’s guest series on Cinema Profitablility – today he continues the discussion of marketing as well as margins.

Marketing Continued:

Once the site is in good shape, let’s get people to it. Today, a user may be unlikely to find the website in the first place, since none of the Big 3 has successfully SEO’ed its site for current releases (e.g, searching for “Wolfman showtimes” on Google). One side benefit of the affiliate program described above will be improved search rankings for this common and valuable query type, since affiliates will be linking to the site. Besides common sense, the reason for optimism that each of the Big 3 should be able to get above-the-fold on Page 1 of search results is that the bar has been set low; here’s the above-the-fold part of the Google SERP for “avatar tickets” from a San Francisco area IP address on 1/17/2010:

In the organic results above, Movietickets.com and the Big 3 are MIA, and Fandango is getting beaten by 2 less relevant sites. In addition to such “universal organic” SEO, the Big 3’s sites should optimize for the increasing array of data type-specific search results modules, most notably, showtimes and local.

Google’s showtimes module exemplifies the importance of offering publishers an appealing, open affiliate program; Google hyperlinks Fandango showtimes, but not Movietickets.com. When a consumer is looking at movie showtimes, only some of which are hyperlinked to a POS, I suspect that he often believes that the non-hyperlinked times are not available for sale online anywhere6. Therefore, when he values pre-ordering (i.e., when he anticipates a sell-out), non-hyperlinked theaters will suffer. I anticipate that Google’s showtimes module will gain adoption, as a clean alternative to the cluttered UIs of the online brokers. Therefore, with respect to the Big 3, barring a private affiliate deal between Google and Movietickets.com, I believe that AMC’s Loews will lose pre-order market share.

The Big 3’s core customers are Facebook users. For any of the Big 3, creating a Facebook Page for each theater offers a free re-marketing channel for both brand and direct response. Even if it already has a “master” Page run by corporate, it’s worth trying localized Pages as well, since the share of user attention that (say) Regal could command is not fixed: users can fan both a national Page and a local Page. These could be managed centrally, via a 3rd party Page management dashboard, or locally by the theater manager (with assets and guidance from HQ). Giving many local teams a chance to shine in friendly competition with one another will engage employees’ creativity and help best practices bubble to the top. Two easy ways customers can connect to a Page for (say) Alamo Drafthouse Cinema are:

  • visit facebook.com/alamodrafthouse, or
  • text “like alamodrafthouse” to 32665 (“FBOOK”), Facebook’s U.S. short code.

As the Harvard Business Review pointed out in an article demonstrating the loyalty value of Facebook Pages, one should avoid “if you build it, they will come” thinking; most of your customers aren’t yet your fans on Facebook. It’s key for a given cinema to present the opportunity to connect when the consumer is enjoying its products. For instance, these two methods to connect could be publicized on:

  • marquees,
  • ticket stubs,
  • receipts,
  • concession packaging,
  • and pre-trailer ads.

What’s more, when these consumers connect with the Page, their friends will learn about it and have the opportunity to connect as well. Turning these fans into repeat customers hinges on direct response best practices. The linchpin, of course, is experimentation. Facebook shares advice and updates regarding Facebook Pages, Facebook Ads, and brand marketing.

Once a Facebook strategy is humming along, it may be worth trial-and-error forays into other leading social media platforms, most notably, Yelp, YouTube, and Twitter. The proliferation of UGC (including negative reviews) across these and other sites is spurring a reputation management industry serving frustrated local business owners; Marchex is emerging as an early leader. Besides outbound marketing, these tools can help identify which locations and employees are undermining the brand promise of customer service.


Most of the commonly suggested concessions ideas forget that the food gross margin is already heroic. Even alcohol is not a slam-dunk, since its gross profit per sale won’t be much more than soda; I believe that the main benefit would be to increase the overall beverage sell-through rate (albeit at increased costs7).

I believe that the most effective strategy to improve the ticketing gross margin is to demonstrate to the studios that one has profitable alternatives to their products, as described above. Perhaps counter-intuitively, a given Big 3 player would want his 2 peers –against whom he bids for films — also to discover these profitable alternatives, so that their demand for studio product is similarly attenuated.

AMC has decided to invest in large theaters in highly trafficked neighborhoods of dense population centers. I believe that its industry-leading average ticket price, box office per screen, and revenue per theater are a result of this decision. (Increasingly, in the future, the fraction of screens that are 3D and IMAX will influence these KPIs more than they did pre-Avatar.) I believe that cinemas tend to be anchor tenants, bringing customers to nearby restaurants and shops. They should try to internalize those positive externalities in the form of subsidies from their landlords and/or local governments.

What’s Next

I continue to believe that digital and 3D are the most important near-term innovations for the Big 3. Avatar’s $2.6bn worldwide take will accelerate DCIP’s roll-out. Next highest on the strategic priority list, I’d:

  • Unfetter (contractually and game theoretically) from restrictive relationships with content vendors, ticket brokers, and their own consortia (DCIP and National Cinemedia)
  • With that increased runway, relentlessly experiment, like a technology company
  • Invest at least $10mm annually in Internet marketing, not including paid media

If they can move fast, they might just keep seeing us at the movies.


6 Since these links are not labeled as sponsored but are, in effect, sponsored by Google itself, I would not be surprised to see Google, in the interest of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful, hyperlink even showtimes that do not offer affiliate commissions.

7 These costs may be high. They include explicit cash costs (alcohol licenses, janitorial, insurance, etc.) as well as implicit costs of undermining the customer experience for those distracted by their fellow customers. That latter risk will be particularly acute if the service model is as casual as at baseball parks.

Guest Post: Kim Garland on Scriptchat and Building a Twitter Community

I had the pleasure of meeting Kim Garland when I was in NYC for Independent Film Week in September. I was fascinated by how she and her Treefort group built a devoted community on twitter using regular Twitter chat sessions. She graciously agreed to write a post explaining their process – but in the process she provides great guidelines on building community.

Building a Dedicated (and Rocking) Twitter Community
By Kim Garland

Sometimes the real action is happening in the peanut gallery. There’s the main show on stage, carefully planned and rehearsed, and then there’s that wild bunch in the crowd, landing more jokes than the paid performers. I’ve always been partial to the rebellious, high-spirited nature of a good peanut gallery, and that’s where the Twitter community called Scriptchat began.

A year ago, a few screenwriters and I popped into a Twitter chat for writers. We found it to be entertaining, and a cool way to talk craft, but quickly realized the chat was geared to Fiction writers – a fine form but not the one we were obsessing about – and we started bellyaching to each other about how we didn’t have a chat of our own.

In the time it takes to type 140 characters, the idea for #scriptchat was born, and by the next week we were hosting our own chat.
Continue reading →

TOTBO Tip of the Day 18 Don’t Despair

Posted on by Emy

Since sales reps generally work on commission, they will be choosier about the films that they select. Hence more and more films will end up not being represented by a sales rep or will not have a sales rep for each right. So don’t despair if you don’t have one. If a sales rep is helping you obtain and negotiate split rights deals, they are helpful, but you can function without them. If a sales rep requests a large up front fee to represent your film, I strongly recommend doing your research before paying large up front fees to a representative. You must talk to filmmakers the rep has worked with to make sure that it was worth it.

Join me in Cannes on May 15th at the Producer’s Network Breakfast at 9am and on May 16th where Liz Rosenthal and I will be doing a presentation at the Short Film Corner from 4pm to 5pm. Check out my blog, for more information. Follow me @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here. I look forward to hearing from you.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 11 Developing Organizational Relationships

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Jon Reiss’ TOTBO Tip of the Day 11 Developing Organizational Relationships

Last week I spoke about connecting with audience, creating a dynamic website and bloggin. Today’s tip is how to create relationships between your film organizations that should be interested in your film. This is an especially useful strategy for documentaries that naturally have a wide range of potential issue-oriented sites to connect to. But with a little outside-the-box thinking you can probably find relevant sites for your narrative film as well.

Ways to create a relationship with other sites/organizations:
1. Blog about their sites and link to them.
2. Request that they link back to you.
3. Send them your film and ask them to blog about the film and/or review it. (This also helps your search engine rankings — search engines will improve the rankings of sites that other sites not only link to but also write about.)
4. Go one step further: Create an affiliate relationship with those sites or organizations.
5. Use this relationship to generate community screenings.

My workshops start this week in London on May 8th-9th and Amsterdam on May 12th-13th. Hope to see you there!

I want to know what you think! Comment here or on my blog, or @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book Think Outside the Box Office. I look forward to hearing from you.

@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

Ask @Jon_Reiss a twitter/blog interface experiment

Last week I started posting questions and ideas/tips onto my twitter account @Jon_Reiss about film distribution and marketing. I started getting replies and questions back which was excellent! and I tried as best I could to answer them all in my alloted 140 characters. However, the 140 limit prevented me from responding properly in many cases. So I have decided to write a longer post that addresses most if not all of the topical queries that have arisen on @Jon_Reiss (and facebook.com/thinkoutsidetheboxoffice) during the day (or past few days). If you have a specific question about film distribution and marketing you can also ask that @Jon_Reiss and I will be choosing select questions to answer in blog responses. So join me at twitter and check it out. twitter.com/Jon_Reiss