Monthly Archives: June 2009

DIY-ing Your Film’s Trailer: Do’s and Dont’s for Filmmakers

In the new digital film age and the world of DIY marketing and distribution, we film makers will no longer be handing our dailies off to a marketing agency to cut us the dream trailer. While in the writing, shooting and editing stages, we must think as artists; but after that period, we must become marketing gurus. Check out this entertaining article from on marketing your film appropriately, starting with the trailer:

Good Trailers vs. Bad Trailers: Where Movie Marketers Go Wrong
Don’t ruin all the good jokes, don’t tell us the entire plot, and whatever you do, don’t spoil the ending!

MaryAnn Johanson, Jun 16, 2009

I feel like Gollum and the One Ring when it comes to film trailers: I loveses them and I hateses them. I’m always eager for a look at the movies I’ll be seeing in a few months, but I’m always terrified that the trailers will ruin the experience of watching those movies. One of the first things I learned as a film critic was how much more enjoyable it is to see a movie with no preconceptions whatsoever about it, and more than once I’ve seen a trailer for the first time after I saw the movie and knew to a certainty that if I’d seen the trailer first, it would have greatly lessened my enjoyment of that movie.

Movie fans know why: Because trailers give away far too much. All the best jokes. (That’s such a standard that when the jokes in the trailer are terrible, it’s a guarantee that the movie will be awful, because if those are the best attempts at humor the film can make … so maybe even bad trailers do offer a valuable service in this respect.) The resolution of the sexual tension between the protagonists. The most surprising of the plot twists. And often, the ending of the film itself … or hints enough that you can guess.

So why bother even seeing the movie at all? Continue reading →

Jon Reiss on Panel at the LA Film Fest this Saturday the 20th

Los Angeles Film Festival – Film Financing Conference June 20th at the Landmark. At 2:45 pm I’ll be on the panel:
Case Studies: Taking your Film into the Marketplace
Hear independent filmmakers give a first-hand account of how they released their films. With three detailed case studies of how these films were made and found their way into the marketplace we will provide a snapshot of the independent film business in transition.

Moderator Peter Broderick, Paradigm, Jen Dubin, Producer, Good Dick, Sacha Gervasi, Director, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Cora Olson, Producer, Good Dick, Jon Reiss, Director/Producer, Bomb It!

New “Indie Studio” Plans to Release 12 Feature Films Per Year at Budgets of $10M or Less – Guaranteed Distribution!

Honestly, I saw this on Indiewire Monday and could not be more excited. While some indie film companies are packing up shop and throwing in the towel, Mary Dickinson, Ted Hope, and others are actually starting something anew. This is such exciting news for the indie film world. As much as I like to promote the DIY and hybrid distribution channels, I cannot ignore the potential this endeavor is sure to have for those wanting to go a non-DIY route. From Indiewire, June 15th, 2009.

Established Producers Join Emerging Indie “Studio”; 12 Movies Per Year, Distribution Guaranteed
Eugene Hernandez by Eugene Hernandez (June 15, 2009)

Led by Mary Dickinson and Charlene Fisher, and Guided by an A-List Management Team, Consultants and Advisory Board; the New York-Based Venture is Working to Greenlight a Starting Slate of Commercially Viable Films with Producing Partners Scott Free, This is that Productions, RedBone Films and Producer Jennifer Fox.

NEW YORK, JUNE 15, 2009 – Offering a new, producer-centric studio model for the independent film industry, entertainment finance and business development experts Mary Dickinson and Charlene Fisher have announced the launch of DF Indie Studios (DFIS). The New York-based venture, guided by seasoned industry consultants and an experienced advisory board, embraces a transparent and unlevered business model that combines the best features of major studios with the cost efficiencies of independent film.
DFIS aims to finance and distribute between 10 to12 multi-genre, commercially viable films per year, budgeted up to $10 million and backed by a guaranteed U.S. theatrical release, $150 million in distribution guarantees, foreign sales, P&A revolver, as well as distribution across all platforms. This “new” film financing model contains a core value that is very appealing to investors, and unique to the industry – investors’ return will be based on all the revenue streams of the company, including distribution fees and exit value.

DFIS’ mandate is to serve as a home for a carefully selected group of producers, providing the tools to give their commercially viable films in this price bracket the best chance for national and international success. DFIS films will be produced by a team of established producers with successful box office track records including: This is that Productions – Ted Hope and Anne Carey (Adventureland, In the Bedroom, 21 Grams, The Ice Storm, The Savages); Scott Free – Ridley and Tony Scott’s shingle (Gladiator, The Taking of Pelham 123, Thelma & Louise, American Gangster); Jennifer Fox (Michael Clayton, Good Night and Good Luck, Duplicity, Syriana); and RedBone Films whose co-founder, Samara Koffler, ran Harrison Ford’s production company for eight years.

Dickinson and Fisher are joined by Rita Chiappetta-Thibault (CFO), who, as executive vice president of finance and accounting for New Line Home Entertainment, helped grow revenues from $150 million to more than $1 billion.
The DFIS distribution strategy was developed in conjunction with veteran Ira Deutchman, a three-decade distribution and marketing expert who has worked on over 150 films and helped launch Fine Line Features and Cinecom Entertainment Group. Foreign sales and output deals are managed by another industry veteran Glen Basner, who is CEO of FilmNation.
For the last two years, the DFIS founders have engaged respected studio finance executive John Hadity, to guide them through the intricate world of film financing, tax incentives and production planning. Hadity, currently the chairman of the Producers Guild of America East, served 12 years as EVP of production for Miramax and currently heads Hadity & Associates. He will work closely with DFIS EVP of Production Amy Slotnick, a studio production executive and independent film producer who recently concluded her tenure with Miramax as Senior Vice President of Production.

The DFIS advisory board includes Ben Silverman, Co-Chair of NBC Universal; David Wiederecht, President of Investment Strategies and Chief Investment Officer for GE Asset Management; David Spieler, Global Head of Duff and Phelps Technology and Entertainment Practices; and Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton.

“DF Indie Studios is set to become an invaluable saving grace of a currently endangered species: the intelligent, ambitious and commercially viable independent film – maybe even of intelligent, ambitious and commercially viable independent filmmakers themselves,” stated Tilda Swinton. “It is my honour and my personal pleasure to be working alongside Mary and Charlene in shaping this inspired and inspiring company.”

“To launch a completely unlevered company in the current climate is the right way to go for our investors, partners and producers,” said Mary Dickinson, who serves as CEO of DF Indie Studios. “Our investors appreciate that they will share in all the revenue streams of the studio. They love that we will also be generating 10,000 to 15,000 film jobs over the next five years, and pumping millions of dollars into local economies with DFIS.”

“We couldn’t be launching the company at a more perfect time. There is a huge opportunity in the independent film world and we believe we have found a singular place in the market,” said Charlene Fisher, President and COO of DF Indie Studios. “There is a growing demand for commercial features, and a lack of quality products at the right price. At DFIS we have worked with our production partners to provide end to end financing, a rigorous greenlight process and guaranteed U.S. distribution to meet this increasing demand. No one else is supporting films produced for up to $10 million in this way.”

Mary Dickinson (CEO) has 20 years of experience in business building, investment and restructuring in entertainment and sports. She restructured and ran the leading extreme sports film production company, Teton Gravity Research, taking it from near bankruptcy to stability. Among other initiatives, her efforts included producing two NBC primetime pilots with Ben Silverman’s production company Reveille. She consulted on the development and financing of RedBone Films (now a DFIS partner), and negotiated content and representation deals with ABC’s “The View,” British Telecom, and William Morris.

Charlene A. Fisher (President/COO) has 16 years of experience in business development and restructuring in the entertainment, sports and internet arenas. Most recently, she restructured and managed a portfolio company for GE Asset Management and then worked with RedBone Films to develop a dynamic new independent film production business model. She has also worked with clients that include ABC, NBC, HBO, ESPN, The Golf Channel, NBA, NHL, MLB, and PGA and LPGA Tours, among others.

Quotes from DFIS’ production partners, advisory board and consultants:
“I have known Charlene and Mary for almost ten years and cannot think of two more creative, honest and determined people to run DF Indie Studios,” stated David Wiederecht, President/CIO of Investment Strategies for GE Asset Management. “I have seen both of them pull off what others thought was impossible, and they always keep the interests of their financial partners first and foremost in importance.”

“We have been working with the DF Indie Studios team for over a year now to make sure their model is designed to help the producer create great films,” said Ted Hope of This is that Films. “Having guaranteed distribution through Ira and his team, working with other key DF Indie Studios team members like John Hadity on production finance and Amy Slotnick on slate development, as well as significant P&A to support their films is something we emphasized and they are delivering.”

“I am so excited about your plans. Just back from Cannes where it is clear that your timing is perfect. The current environment really pleads for this sort of new venture! You’ve got an amazing team – all people I have known, respected and worked with for years,” stated Pat Kaufman, Executive Director, New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development.
“DFIS offers its equity investors an unprecedented opportunity by providing an unlevered business model with 105% downside risk protection and guaranteed North American distribution for all greenlit films,” explains advisory board member and investor David Spieler. “And best of all, equity investors will share in all revenue streams of the studio including distribution fees and any exit.”
Says John Hadity, “I recognized immediately that DFIS was going to shift the asset class back to the producer, where it belongs. It has been tremendously exciting to participate in the process of bringing this new model to life.”

“The reason I have spent the last year helping to develop the unique and effective DF Indie Studios distribution plan is that the co-founders, Mary and Charlene, have created an industry-changing studio model for indie film with an exceptionally talented executive team, a passion for film and impressive partnerships,” says Ira Deutchman.

“International distributors will respond very positively to a new U.S. distribution company that can supply films with a guaranteed theatrical release and at budget levels that make sense in today’s economic climate,” stated Glen Basner.

“DF Indie Studios fills a missing niche, providing a unique way for investors to participate with independent filmmakers making films that will be distributed,” says Christopher Dixon, Managing Director of Media Investments at GGCP, Inc.

“I wanted an opportunity to get involved in independent film with a partner that treats its investors as exactly that – partners. The DF Indie Studios business model has been designed as an old-fashioned, unlevered model that ensures investors share in all revenue streams of the studio including distribution fees and any exits. Additionally, their veteran management team and producing partners are exactly the people who can deliver on the DF Indie Studios promise,” says investor Sue Callaway, former General Manager of Jaguar Cars North America, and a current contributing editor at Fortune and

Filmmakers, stay ahead of the game and learn what indie audiences want in these changing times! Using the internet as a DIY platform.

Check out this article from today’s LA Times:

Digital technology and dollar signs
The artists and business people who will succeed in this new environment are those who are paying attention to the changing behaviors and tastes of this new audience.

By Scott Kirsner
June 16, 2009

Talk to filmmakers and media executives about the Internet — the biggest tectonic shift in the entertainment industry since the advent of cable — and they typically gripe about two things. Consumers, they say, predominantly seem to want to watch short video clips, and the economic models for earning a decent return on Internet content are still hazy.

About 15 years after Americans started exploring the Web, there’s still anxiety about the business potential of digital entertainment and a reluctance to explore new creative possibilities. NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker is fond of expressing his fear that the media conglomerate will have to swap the “analog dollars” it earns from broadcast television for “digital dimes.”

But like it or not, consumption of video on the Internet is growing much faster than movie ticket sales or TV viewing: As of April, the average Web surfer in the U.S. was watching more than six hours of online video every month, according to comScore, a tracking firm.

Hollywood faced a similar crisis in the 1950s, Continue reading →

Cleopatra’s Second Husband Review on American in Paris Blog

Cleopatra’s Second Husband review on the Blog American In Paris:

This directorial feature debut from Jon Reiss is a twisted love story and a fearsome psychological thriller. Focusing on a young married couple who has already lost the passion from their relationship, laboriously making love because they want to have a child, CLEOPATRA’S SECOND HUSBAND is full of tense energy. When another couple enters their lives–first house-sitting, then staying on to live in their house with them full-time–strange things happen both to the husband and wife.

Go to the Blog at:

A DIY Emperor: The Rise of “Valentino” – Success in DIY Filmmaking for the Independent Filmmaker and Self-Distribution

Someone used the DIY model to a profitable return recently; just thought I’d share it with you. Peter Knegt wrote about the success of Indie doc “Valentino: The Last Emperor” in this article from last week’s

A DIY Emperor: The Rise of “Valentino”
by Peter Knegt (May 29, 2009)

On March 18th, Matt Tyrnauer’s doc “Valentino: The Last Emperor” – which follows the closing act of fashion icon Valentino’s celebrated career – opened in New York’s Film Forum to incredible numbers. By the end of it’s first weekend the film has grossed $39,106, including $21,784 for the three-day weekend, making it one of the theater’s top-grossing premieres in over three decades. The film also broke Film Forum’s single-screen midweek opening day record with $5,963.

Cut to 10 weeks later. “Valentino” – without ever going over 38 screens – has grossed more than $1 million and still is routinely finding weekend per-theater-averages above $2,000. What’s more, it’s opening today at the Angelika Film Center in New York, one of the city’s premier destinations for specialty films. To have a film run for that long and then open at the Angelika is a rarity, and a testament to “Valentino”‘s remarkable staying power. Continue reading →

Online Roundtable Discussion from Indie Panelists on Self-Distribution, and the most current DIY Distribution model

This great article from features ten current independent film makers working today, who self-distribute. Read on as they talk about the pros and cons.

BRAINTRUSTdv: Roundtable Discussion on Self-Distribution

April 21, 2009

Alejandro Adams: Introduction

A few days ago, Mona Nicoara reported on Twitter that a panel of critics and luminaries assembled to address contemporary Romanian films quickly gave way to a discussion of the distribution crisis: “It seems that these days the topic doesn’t matter any more,” she said. “All discussion ends up being about distribution in 7 min or less.”

This reboot of BRAINTRUSTdv owes much to Twitter, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see some content fueled exclusively by that microblogging platform. With the exception of one, each of the roundtable contributors below was engaged in (or witness to) a recent Twitter dust-up over the concept of self-distribution—and I do mean “concept,” as it quickly became clear that each combatant was working from his own personal definition of that phrase. Intrigued, I proposed this roundtable, outlining the parameters in the 140-character limit of Twitter: “700 – 1000 words on self-distribution vs. existing infrastructure (critics/fests/distribs).”

I left participation open to anyone within earshot, which might seem rashly uncuratorial—and in keeping with that boldness, I’ve left the entries completely unedited and situated them according to the order in which they were received. If this sounds haphazard or cavalier, I urge you to read my introduction to the site itself and contend with the guiding principles expressed there. Continue reading →

Indie Film Is Dying…Unless it Isn’t. Why Independent Filmmakers Shouldn’t Throw in the Towel and Why Indie Audiences Still Exist.

Don’t give up on audiences yet. Just read “Indie film is dying — unless it isn’t” — a great article from, written by Andrew O’Hehir

All winter and spring, people in the independent-film business have been murmuring politely behind their hands and pretending not to see the 800-pound walrus in the corner of the room: The indie industry is undergoing a sudden and largely unexpected meltdown, or in the business-speak recently employed by Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard, “a periodic market adjustment.”

Nobody’s ignoring it anymore, not after Saturday’s address to a Los Angeles Film Festival conference by Mark Gill, CEO of the independent production and financing outfit the Film Department and former president of Miramax and Warner Independent. Gill’s speech, entitled “Yes, the Sky Really Is Falling,” was followed by a thoughtful Sunday column from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey, cataloging everything that has gone wrong for small films, and the companies that make them, in the last six months.

It’s a short but bloody history: Continue reading →

If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead – The Importance of New Media as a DIY Tool For Independent Filmmakers, Web 2.0

Check out the review of a lecture from the Futures of Entertainment, written by Eric Kohn and published in IndieWire

DISPATCH FROM MASSACHUSETTS | If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead by Eric Kohn

“If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.” With that pointed dictum, Professor Henry Jenkins kicked off a series of profound deliberations on the nature of new media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the Futures of Entertainment conference last weekend. Blending academic theory with practical insight, the conference (co-presented by MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program and the Convergence Culture Consortium) surveyed the many ways in which emerging technologies have empowered audiences and forced the industry to adapt new models.

Jenkins, co-director of CMS at MIT, specializes in fan culture and has written several books on the topic, including “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.” Despite the abstract nature of his research, Jenkins and his peers hosted a series of valuable conversations about the power of mobilizing audiences for a variety of entertainment properties, particularly film and television. Emboldened by the obvious fan mentality that informed the 2008 presidential election, Jenkins introduced the conference by announcing his attempt to seek “a roadmap for the way our culture is going.” Continue reading →

TRENDS: Is Indie Film Destined to Die and be Reborn?

An interesting and provocative take on the future of indie filmmaking by Film School Rejects.

Trends: Is Indie Film Destined to Die and Be Reborn?

Posted by Cole Abaius ( on June 25, 2008

Despite the fad-like popularity of indie films looming over the entire industry, threatening to forever destroy corporate-behemoths in a flurry of democratic, fan-based economic coups d’etat – the reality of independent film is much bleaker. Lawsuits, financial woes and studio division closings loom over the future of the industry. The amount of movies in theaters can’t be supported by the marketplace, and indies will be hit as hard as anyone. New media is changing the face of the game, and a world that demands one or two major hits to support hundreds of art house ghosts is in trouble.

We’re going to see fewer movies released in fewer theaters, yes. But we’ll also see more IMAX theaters being built, more movies being shot in 3D and a growing number in 4D. Hollywood will still be making bad movies that cost nothing and make millions, but they will continue to release incredible pieces of art that audiences will drive to box offices for despite the influx of home-theaters being built around gigantic HD monitors and cheaper surround-sound speakers. Continue reading →