Monthly Archives: May 2010

TOTBO Tip of the Day 30 Request to Keep Assets that Others Create for Your Film

Posted on by Emy

Make sure you get all of the elements for each stage of the delivery process, whether it is the files for your authored DVD or if it is a subtitled version of you film that a foreign film festival created or if it the files for the closed captioning of your film. I had a cc version of Bomb It created for Canadian television. I received the master HD of this version, however not the closed captioning file. Because of this I will need to pay for the cc process again. I was however smart enough to request copies of any subtitled version made for foreign film fest screenings or broadcast. I just screened Bomb It in Tel Aviv. The venue wants to screen it again, but with Hebrew subtitles. I just completed a deal for Israeli television which requires them to provide me with the subtitles and a Hebrew subtitled DVD. So now I have a DVD to use for the next screening of Bomb It – this time with Hebrew subtitles.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Perplexing Problems

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Perplexing Problems
My thoughts on educating filmmakers about distribution and marketing.

Proper Prior Planning Prevent Perplexing Problems
By Jon Reiss

Over the last several months an argument has arisen within the independent film community as to how much (and whether) filmmakers should focus on the distribution and marketing of their films.

I am rather surprised that there is an argument. I am very surprised that lines have been drawn in the sand, armies joined and deployed. I feel that the discussion to date misses two very important points. First – there is no one kind of independent filmmaker. There is no one kind of filmmaker. Never has, never will be. Thank god. Each person who is involved in independent film has his or her own desires, interests, passions, loves, hates. Each filmmaker has different motivations for making a film. Some want to make a statement, change the world – whether it is social or artistic. Some want to make money. Some want to express an idea or emotion to as many people as possible. Most filmmakers want it all. However if push comes to shove, filmmakers will prioritize what they want from their films. And these desires are different for different filmmakers.

Similarly not everyone in independent film wants to be a director, or a writer-director, or a writer-producer-director. Some filmmakers just want to direct and prefer to collaborate with scriptwriters and producers. Some filmmakers don’t want to direct, but want to be producers, DPs, editors etc.

Second, the debate implies that directors or multi hyphenate writer-director-producers should be primarily responsible for these new tasks. I will always be among those that think directors should not be solely charged with the distribution and marketing of their films. As a filmmaker, I know how incredibly difficult this is (especially while making a film) – Frankly one of the reasons this blog post is perhaps a bit late to the debate is that I have been involved with shooting Bomb It 2.

However, I do believe that distribution and marketing should be woven into the filmmaking process just as preproduction planning, casting, scriptwriting, editing, sound mixing are all a part of the filmmaking process. Just as you don’t consider the sound for your film when you are about to mix or even when you are editing dialogue. If good sound is important to you as a filmmaker, usually you are considering the sound for your film no later than the tech scout, and often from the script stage. Similarly I feel that filmmakers will be helped both logistically and creatively to incorporate distribution and marketing into the entire process of making their films.

It should be understood by our community that distribution and marketing are not about tailoring your film to an audience that you feel you can capitalize on (however if the sole goal for your film is to make money – perhaps this might be a path for you).

A better way to view this process is that distribution and marketing are about finding the audience that already exists for your film, your vision. (I credit Marc Rosenbush with this keen perspective).

This process of audience engagement takes either a lot of money or a lot of time. Most independents do not have much of the former, and so must rely on the latter. It also takes knowledge.

Knowledge can either be learned through experience or through education or a combination.

A year ago, I felt compelled to write a book about distribution and marketing for my fellow filmmakers as a guidebook to this process. I did this so that they could learn from my experience and the experiences of others and so that they wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel each time anew. (How awful would it be that every time we shot a film we had to relearn how different lenses, different lighting, different editing affected the emotional quality of a scene). It is time to compile our knowledge and share it with each other so that each new filmmaker does not have to waste his or her time to relearn tools and techniques that have been tried by others before them.

I have begun a number of other educational initiatives to which I will devote most of the next twelve months.

I do this not to load more work onto the backs of my fellow filmmakers. The work frankly exists even if you are one of the lucky few to have a distributor swoop down with a check to relieve you of this burden.

I do this for five reasons:

1. To provide a systematic way to train a new cadre of crew people to be responsible for the distribution and marketing tasks on a film. I call these new crew people Producers of Marketing and Distribution.

I gave this crew position a name because only with a proper name will the work be recognized, rewarded and most importantly trained for.

Few directors want to do every job on their films. Many don’t want to be multi-hyphenates. They are happy to find a brilliant script to bring to the screen. They are happy to work with a brilliant DP or Production Designer. They are happy to collaborate with a creative producer who will help them realize their vision. God knows I am.

Just as filmmakers are eager to collaborate on what has been previously thought of as the work of film, directors and producers should be eager to collaborate with additional crew people who will carry out the numerous tasks of distribution and marketing.

I hope by the time I make my next project, I can put out a call for a Producer of Marketing and Distribution on Shooting People, or Mandy and I will receive a flood of emails. I hope this for all filmmakers.

In order to create these new crew people, we must provide a way to educate them. Toward this end, I am now working with film organizations around the world to create a variety of educational opportunities to teach this material in the form of classes, labs and workshops. I am also in the process of creating an online tools website so that filmmakers can share information about distributors, screening networks and the like (kind of a marketing and distribution yelp for filmmakers). This website will eventually grow into an online academy to teach these tools to filmmakers (especially to create a cadre of PMDs for filmmakers).

I applaud the others who are engaged in this teaching – Peter Broderick, Lance Weiler, Ted Hope, Scott Macaulay, Sheri Candler, Scott Kirsner, Tiffany Shlain, Marc Rosenbush, Thomas Mai, Sandy Dubowsky, Caitlin Boyle, Stacey Parks, IFP, FIND etc. We should embrace this education as a community – not eschew it. (I do agree that panels are a poor way to educate. Go to any university (or any school) and you find very little education being done via panels. )

2. Filmmakers who have no intention of shooting their films still take classes in (or read books about) cinematography so as to understand the art. Similarly, I feel that filmmakers should at least have a sense of what is entailed in distribution and marketing a film so that they can understand that process. This does not mean that they have to devote their life to this education (or to the work). But with knowledge comes power. I advise my film directing students at Cal Arts to learn the basics of budgeting and scheduling, even if they never intend to produce, AD, UPM or line produce. I believe by learning the process, they will however acquire the tools to look at a budget and schedule and understand where resources are being allocated so that they can have an informed discussion with their line producer about said resource allocation.

3. As independent filmmakers, we need to be prepared to take on any task in the filmmaking process, because we are never sure if we will have someone else to do that task for us. You might not be lucky enough to have someone shoot your film, edit your film, help you with the distribution of the film. Hence any of these roles might fall to you. I can’t afford to take a DP with me around the world to film Bomb It 2 (or a producer or sound person) – so I am doing it myself. Independent filmmakers have always been Jacks and Jills of all trades. Distribution and marketing is one of the trades we thought we could hand over to others. We know now that this (fortunately or unfortunately) is not always the case. As I learned from my odd 7th grade math teacher: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Perplexing Problems.

4. Maybe, just maybe, in learning about distribution and marketing you might discover some new creative way to express your vision that you did not previously know existed. I love feature films. I love great shorts. I even love great television of either conventional length. But these are four forms that have become ossified in the filmmaking world for too long as the only forms. I feel that great creativity will come from expanding filmmaking – nay media creating – forms. Why slaughter your babies in the editing room? Find new life for them. Why not create multiple babies in the script stage to express your thoughts in a myriad of new directions? And still make a feature film if that is your passion. Why not collaborate with other filmmakers to help you create these new forms of content and reach those audiences, if your goal is to focus solely on making the feature?

5. Maybe, if you are interested, you might create a long-term relationship with a core audience, that might help to sustain you as an artist.

The central point is this: Don’t limit yourself. Open up your arms to the vast amount of creative potential that awaits you, and do so with the collaboration of others who are eager to help you. I believe this should be the model for us as a community to face the new financial realities of our world. There is too much work to be done for those in our community to vilify others. It is a time ripe for great opportunity to create and engage with audiences as we have been doing as a species since we first sat around fires telling stories. The form will change, the meaning to us, as human beings will not.

I am doing a workshop in conjunction with IFP on June 5th and 6th. Instead of panels, we are having a cocktail party for participants to meet with distributors and other distribution and marketing service providers.

I will be doing another workshop in Vancouver on June 12 – 13th.

Finally for June I have collaborated with the LA Film Festival and Film Independent to create a three-day distribution and marketing symposium. A day and a half boot camp for the competition filmmakers, and a day and a half open to the public focused on 1. Tools instruction 2. Exploring the potential available to us all.

For more information:

TOTBO Tip of the Day 29 Full Frame Video Delivery Still Exists

Posted on by Emy

Even though the world is moving to HD and its 16:9 aspect ratio as a standard, some television and VOD contracts require a full frame 4×3 version. In smaller deals you can often push your way out of this requirement, but on some bigger sales with bigger companies –just may not take your title if you don’t have a full frame 4×3 version. This is not a letterboxed version that has black bars top and bottom. It is the dreaded “pan and scan”. However it is a pan and scan that you can control – and you can pay to have a pan and scan done. A less expensive approach is a 4×3 extraction. This is a down convert from HD 16:9 in which a machine pulls the center of the picture into the full 4×3 frame. Remind yourself that you won’t have to be there when people see it. You can also wait to do this until you are forced to deliver one. When you are doing your DI – make sure that your titles/subtitles/graphics are very title safe – so that they stay in the frame when the extraction occurs – otherwise you’ll have to replace each of those titles individually – NOT FUN (I know from experience).

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 28 For Docs: Do Your International Cut Down When You Are Cutting Your Film

Posted on by Emy

Documentaries usually need a 52-54 minute cut down of their film to sell to foreign television. I waited a year before doing my cut down for Bomb It, which was way too long. While it did provide me perspective and made it easier for me to slash and burn my film, I essentially had to repeat the entire delivery process for this edit – which was not fun to say the least. Further, if you have your cut down ready when you are finishing – you can make package deals for 2 separate DIs and 2 mixes – doing them simultaneously is MUCH better than having to reopen the process later. For perspective, I would recommend having a different editor do the cut down. If you are on a budget – this would be an excellent perk to give to one of your assistant editors. You can then polish it with your editor who is already on staff and might be difficult to engage later.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 27 Don’t Do Your Deliveries Alone

Posted on by Emy

Yesterday I mentioned how onerous delivering your film can be. As a result – Having someone on your team either help with or do your deliveries is manna from heaven. This alone is a reason to have a Producer of Marketing and Distribution. If you are self distributing or using an involved trans media project you will have many more deliverables than what is conventional. It is also a reason to start doing them during production when you have the most crew available to help.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 26 Start Your Deliveries During Production

Posted on by Emy

As I continue to create delivery elements for Bomb It (for new sales three years after its premiere) I am reminded as to how onerous they are.  Deliverables are the assets you need to deliver to distributors so that they can exhibit/sell your film.    You need to start developing them during production.  You should be organizing your contracts, keeping track of your chain of title (which actually starts at prep) and creating digital assets such as stills and video.  Stills are hugely important and you need three types of stills:  Of the Film, Of the Crew (mainly the director), and Specials of The Actors. Check out a list of conventional deliveries – and then expand that to include any trans media assets you will need.  You’ll thank me for starting earlier than you think.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th. One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day 25 Budgeting

Posted on by Emy

To conclude 2 weeks of crew tips – a reminder that it is best to be able to pay these crew people. While sales agents should work on commission, lawyers, web designers, PMDs etc most likely will not. You should create a budget that is as detailed as a production budget. In Think Outside the Box Office I created such a budget with detailed explanation, using my budget and several others as examples. Raising the money at inception will help avoid potentially costly P&A finance rates and last in’s first out requirements. If you have a tax rebate due you, don’t bank it, use it as a large portion (or all) of your distribution and marketing budget. Here’s a list of what you will need to include in your budget:

-Distribution Crew including those who I have discussed and whoever else you need for your specific release: bookers, publicists, community engagement consultants, social media strategists, graphic designers.

-Marketing creative and materials: including trailer, poster/key art, press kit.

-Print and other delivery materials: Various masters, authoring, replication, digital cinema files etc.

-Media buys from print to google.

-Travel expenses.

-General office supplies – especially shipping.

And anything else your release needs – the above is a very quick summary.

Let me know what you think! 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 24 Webdesigners Part 2

Posted on by Emy

Oftentimes the best designer is not the best programmer, and vice versa. You may need two separate people: one for the look of the site (which hopefully is integrated with your key art), another to do the actual programming. If you have to choose to pay one or the other, go for the programmer. It is easier to find good designers for a reasonable rate (i.e., someone needing to build their portfolio) than programmers.

Let me know what you think! 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.

IFP Presents Think Outside the Box Office Workshop with Jon Reiss

Posted on by Emy

Very excited to be bringing the Totbo 2 Day Workshop to NYC! June 5th and 6th. Nuts and bolts strategy and implementation. London and Amsterdam went great – Check out the fun from London.

ifp workshop flyer

Click here for more info…

Film Independent Announces 2010 L.A. Film Festival Programming

Posted on by Emy

I will be doing a 2 day Boot Camp at the LA Film Fest for its competition filmmakers. I am also designing the whole 3 day symposium with the folks at LA Film Festival. Its quite an event with pretty incredible speakers and combos – stay tuned!


Press Release published on

Film Independent Announces Jonathan Gold, Quincy Jones and Paul Reubens as Artists in Residence for 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival

LOS ANGELES (May 17, 2010) – Today Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and year-round artist development programs and exhibition events, announced additional official film selections and programming for the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival, presented by the Los Angeles Times. The Festival will run from Thursday, June 17 to Sunday, June 27 in downtown Los Angeles, with its central hub at L.A. LIVE. […]

“The Los Angeles Film Festival is continually dedicated to supporting filmmakers, so we’ve created a new signature event to help them navigate the changing marketing and distribution landscape. In collaboration with filmmaker Jon Reiss, we’ve developed a two-day boot-camp for our Festival filmmakers, as well as a public event, so artists can take charge and better understand how to harness new distribution options and their social networking community,” said Film Independent’s Director of Education Maria Bozzi.

Read the full story…