Monthly Archives: January 2010

Think Outside the Box Office Review by Erin’s Woodstock Movie

“Anyone who is serious about surviving in the contemporary independent film world needs to read this book.”

This review from Erin’s Woodstock Movie gives a good background as to my path to writing the book.

Book Review: Think Outside The Box Office
By escherer

The successes of low-budget independent films at Sundance like Slacker, Clerks, and El Mariachi in the early 1990s created the myth of the independent film “discovery”, a myth that continues to pervade to this day. For this year’s festival, Sundance recieved 9,816 submissions (113 were eventually picked), even as studios have pulled out of the specialty business.

Last year, three movies got picked up at Sundance. In other words, having your movie at a major festival is no longer a guarantee to secure distribution, nor was it ever, really. Even the movies I mentioned in the first paragraph had much more complicated backstories that one might believe.

Although always a firm believer in the DIY aesthetic, Jon Reiss always preferred to leave the distribution to others. His previous documentary, Better Living Through Circuitry, was handled by the small distributor 7th Art, and at the time of its release, benefitted from the electronic musicians profiled in the film: The Crystal Method, Roni Size, Moby, and BT. (As Reiss explains in the book there were two other movies in release at the time, and all the releases complimented one another.) When it came to debut Bomb It at Tribeca in 2007, Reiss believed that Bomb It would follow the same pattern. Except that it didn’t.

Reiss did everything that every filmmaker is expected to get their movie out there. Reiss saved the world premiere for an acquistion-friendly festival, got a sales agent, a well-connected publicist, and held off on circulating DVDs of any kind. In one aspect, this paid off–2,500 people attended the screenings, and 800 were turned away. However, this failed to materialize in an acquisition. Within a week, Bomb It was available on Canal Street as a bootleg. Reiss decided to take distribution into his own hands, and eventually landed a DVD deal with New Video. He documented his self-distribution experience for Filmmaker magazine, which in turn led to the writing and publication of this book.

Think Outside The Box Office examines a number of ways of distributing the movie–DIY Theatrical, Video On Demand, The Festival Circuit, the college circuit, the educational market–and considers all of these methods equally valid. Reiss realizes that what worked for Bomb It won’t work for every movie. To fill out his book, Reiss interviewed several other indie film figures, including Matt Dentler, Joe Swanberg, Todd Sklar, Mariana Palka, and Chris Hyams among others.

Anyone who is serious about surviving in the contemporary independent film world needs to read this book.

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/

Changing the Life Model of a Release – Response to Brian Newman

Brian Newman has been tearing it up lately on his blog Springboard Media. While I don’t always agree with him, he is very thoughtful and has great insights into what is going on these days in the indie film world. I just tweeted his post from today Filmmaking and Releasing – Changing From the Male Climax Model.

While I agree with much of what Brian says, I do still feel that a big push at the beginning does help a film “penetrate” the media landscape. Its hard to create a splash in this world filled with media noise. That is why I am a fan of live events, festivals for launches etc. Tomorrow or Monday on Ted Hope’s blog I’ll be publishing part 2 of my film fest considerations list – this time focusing on using festivals for launches adn what is neccessary to prepare.

BUT films still have a long tail life – if you are fortunate. Almost 2 years after the theatrical/dvd release of Bomb It – I am working with Babelgum to film more Bomb It episodes – Bomb It 2 as it were, still making TV sales etc. But this all was helped immensely by my initial big push.

More on this subject later.

Microcinema Reviews Think Outside the Box Office

Think Outside the Box Office was just reviewed in Microfilmmaker Magazine.

Here a few nice pulls;
“The premiere book on film distribution in the modern digital era. . . . Because Jon’s writing style is both engaging and informative, even the “candy” chapters are packed with useful information that will get you motivated and even excited about putting these ideas into practice.”

The full review:

If you ask filmmakers to describe the things that they’re passionate about, two things will almost never be mentioned: legal concerns and marketing/distribution of their films. Instead, most filmmakers have a blind belief that these two things will magically resolve themselves if they just follow a utopian “Field of Dreams”- mentality which states that if “they make it, people will come” and it will be distributed, audiences will see it, and there will be no legal difficulties to ensnare them. (Hey, I know where they’re coming from, because when I made my first film, Commissioned, I was riding that same cloud of euphoria-inducing optimism.)

However, the real world is a bit of a ball-breaker and it has a tendency to attack and torture filmmakers who didn’t plan for the future. It often does this by sidetracking films due to lack of proper paperwork or drying up any possibility of compensatory distribution because necessary marketing decisions were simply not chosen early enough. While Think OUTSIDE the BOX Office isn’t a comprehensive book on legal advice for filmmakers (for that you should read Kari Ann’s review of The Independent Filmmaker’s Law and Business Guide), it is the premiere book on film distribution in the modern digital era.

With that said, let’s break down what makes it so.

Comprehension
Jon’s writing style is quite easy to understand. (Especially if you follow his start-up reading plan for the book, which I discuss in more detail in the Interest Level.) Even complicated topics were pretty simple to get the gist of, although some of the less immediate and more detailed topics will make more sense when you’re actually in a situation that necessitates you having the information.

The only thing that distracted from comprehension is the fact that the book has a decent number of typos, which can throw you in certain situations. Fortunately, 90% of these are quite minor. (And the reader is pretty inclined to overlook these issues because Jon is very up front in saying that this book is a work in progress with regular updates, not unlike software. For buyers who pick up a copy of the book from Jon’s site, they get the next upgrade at a deep discount.)

Depth of Information
This book is absolutely jam-packed with information. Everything from how to separate artistic and commercial tendencies, to understanding what Digital Rights are, to how to create merchandise that can engage your audience in the way that Trent Reznor has managed to engage NIN fans, to how to launch your film from a film festival in order to build maximum buzz is covered in this book. In addition to general concepts, he talks specifically about companies out there that will help you in your pursuits and what recent costs or percentages have been for their use. (And because this book is to be updated more regularly than normal books, information on these companies will change in a more timely manner than in most books.)

Interest Level
Jon Reiss is a bloody genius. He wisely realized that there was no way to present all the information he intended to share without causing people’s eyes to glaze over. So, acknowledging this fact, he provides a streamlined “crib” sheet at the beginning of the book. Essentially, he gives you a map of seven essential chapters that he suggests you read entirely and then encourages you to skim the other chapter intros during the initial read. This causes you to be able to get a massive amount of this book’s content in only about two to three hours of steady reading, which is amazing. Of course, because you’re checking the intros of different chapters, you’ll invariably stumble across ones that’ll pique your interest enough to read through in their entirety before moving on.

Essentially, this methodology creates a trail of mental “candy” for you to munch through, returning to the heavier “foods” (like the specific negotiating points for Digital Rights) only when you’re in a situation where you need to really understand them. And because Jon’s writing style is both engaging and informative, even the “candy” chapters are packed with useful information that will get you motivated and even excited about putting these ideas into practice.

Reusability
This book is extremely reusable, as it works to inspire you to get out there and start marketing your film way into preproduction, but then has lots of more in-depth chapters for sticky points that might arise as you proceed. (And, as I mentioned before, if you purchase the book from Jon’s site, you get a free update when the new version of the book is released.)

Value vs. Cost
For all that you get, $24.95 is an amazingly good price, especially if you purchase it from Jon’s site, especially since, as I found out recently, some completely new chapters that won’t be available anyplace else will be available for free if you do so. Plus, as a New Year special, Jon is offering MFM readers a 12% discount, making it an even better deal. (And, as we mentioned before, you get a big discount on future versions of the book, so it will make it much easier to have the most up-to-date copy of the book!)

Overall Comment
I first found out about Jon Reiss and this book when our marketing and publicity writer, Sheri Candler, touched base with me after an overall underwhelming experience at AFM (American Film Market). The market was full of people who were fervently installed in the old mindset of distribution that absolutely required films with substantial budgets, stars, and a slew of other old Hollywood carryovers. However, like a ray of sunshine for low-budget filmmakers, Jon Reiss showed up at one of the panels Sheri attended, waging verbal war on the status quo. His argument essentially promoted the power of the low-budget filmmaker who makes films at a stripped down budget, while staying actively involved in the marketing and promotions of their film. In one of these, he actually suggested that, if you had to choose, it would be a better idea to fire your DP (or, at least, your AD) and get a marketing director, as marketing was literally THAT crucial.

I was impressed by what I heard, but I really wanted to read Jon’s own words. After reading through his book, I was shocked. Even though I have always believed that marketing, promotion, and distribution are necessary, I had never thought of it with any sort of enthusiasm. However, as I finished the book, I found myself thinking to a future film that I’ve been toying with in an entirely new light. Rather than dreading the concepts of social media, market research, and even merchandising, I began to allow these sorts of questions to feed into my own creativity. I began to realize that figuring out your market (and thinking of how to get them excited about your film) actually can help channel the creativity necessary to write the script and carry it through to completion. (Most of us want a muse. A specific type of person that will really enjoy our film is far more compelling than the faceless masses we too often imagine.) Crazy as it may sound, with this sort of mindset, filmmaking is not as exhausting from a psychological perspective, because when you understand that the entire filmmaking process is literally only half of the overall “film” process, the human mind adjusts to compensate to this world view. (I know; the human mind is a strange thing.)

If you want to build an audience for your short films, then this book is a smart read. However, if you want to create a feature film and have something to show for it when you’re done, then this book is a must read! And with the limited-time 12% off discount for MFM readers, the extra exclusive content, and discounted future editions, you might as well make the purchasing and reading of this book part of your New Year’s resolution!

Comprehension
9.0
Depth of Information
10.0
Interest Level
9.0
Reusability
10.0
Value vs. Cost
9.5
Overall Score
9.5

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.