Tag: diy distribution

Troubles at Neoflix – What Fulfillment Alternatives are There for Filmmakers Part 1

Troubles at Neoflix – What Fulfillment Alternatives are There for Filmmakers Part 1

For those of you who have read my book Think Outside the Box Office and my Filmmaker Magazine article on fulfillment from last winter, know that I thought highly of the shopping cart and fulfillment company Neoflix. I used them for Bomb It and had a good experience with them. I also liked what seemed to be an honest commitment to independent film and DIY solutions for filmmakers. The head of the company JC seemed genuinely interested in helping filmmakers.

I am deeply saddened and disturbed that this has turned sour. I have received reports from a number of filmmakers that they have not been paid by Neoflix for months. Some filmmakers are owed hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. When I discussed the situation with JC he indicated that in fact they were having financial problems, were trying to make payment plans with filmmakers and that they had not taken on new clients since September. Most importantly he was trying to raise a round of capital for a new venture that would help them pay back filmmakers. I have not heard that they have yet raised that money. I asked JC this week as to what the status was – he indicated that they are weighing their options and will make an announcement soon.

Today I received a report that the company that Neoflix actually subcontracted out to do the fulfillment of goods, I-Pak has also had financial difficulties with Neoflix and has requested that any filmmaker who has used Neoflix remove their goods from their warehouse by March 1st. If you use Neoflix – you can either contact Patrick Barry – Neoflix’s VP and GM at pbarry@magicrock.com or you can contact I Pak customer service directly at: customer-support@i-pakdvd.com. (I Pak is still a fulfillment company and some filmmakers might want to switch to their services to save the cost of shipping their goods back to them – however considering the circumstances I find this unlikely).

Secondly, one of the filmmakers affected adversely by the Neoflix situation, Matthew Arnold (director of “The Long Green Line”) has started a survey of filmmakers who have used Neoflix – asking them how much money they lost, when they last got paid, if customers received their orders and other questions. You can find the survey here.

Finally is the task of finding a new fulfillment companies for filmmakers to use – not just those who are leaving Neoflix but for all filmmakers. I have continued to hear good things about Transmit Media (http://www.transitmedia.net/) who I included in the Filmmaker Magazine article. Breakthrough Distribution is another company to work with (they work directly with Transmit) concerning replication and fulfillment needs.I did have a very good experience with 4th Way Fulfillment who I also wrote about in that article, but I would still say that 4th Way is mainly an option if you are going to sell lots of merchandise. I recently met a filmmaker who has had great success with Fulfillment by Amazon. He has promised me a guest blog post so stay tuned for that. Topspin is opening their doors in March and they have some technology that looks very exciting. Topspin is probably best used in advance of a films release and then through the release as opposed to the end of a release. (I switched Bomb It and Think Outside the Box Office over to Topspin in August of 2010 in order to do a test run on that new platform – I will be writing more about Topspin in the near future.) Sheri Candler has wrote a good intro review of Topspin last fall in Microfilmmaker Magazine.

Finally, I have also spoken to many filmmakers who do their own fulfillment. They take orders through PayPal and then pick pack and ship themselves. If you are not selling that many DVDs a month (and perhaps only selling DVDs) this might be the best option for you.

I am going to investigate more fulfillment options in the coming month. I would love to hear what other companies you might be using and what your experiences have been so as to build out a better list of companies. If you have suggestions or would like more information on the Neoflix situation please contact me through my blog or at hybridcinema@gmail.com.

Conclusion of Guest Post: The Secrets of The Secret

Today concludes Julie Eckersley’s wonderful 5 part series on the methods used by The Secret to create such a success – big kudos to Julie for being so generous with her information. I love that she emphasizes audience engagement at the earliest stages and being generous to your partners and fans!: Here’s Julie:

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

This blog post is part 5 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title
Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.
Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.
Lesson 6: Alternative release and some very good news.
Lesson 7: Shoot a promo first

Lesson 8: Cultivate your audience

One of the places that many people go wrong online and in social media circles is that they don’t understand the etiquette of the medium.

Here is a summary of online manners from a fabulous internet marketing company called Thinktank Media.

1. Build a relationship first, sell second.
2. Thank people that mention you online in their blog or site. To keep track of this start using Google analytics and Google Alerts. You may also want to sign up for Social Mention.
3. Share great content. It doesn’t always have to be yours.
4. Be open and honest
5. Stick to your brand or style
6. Don’t spam or constantly broadcast one way
7. Engage in and encourage 2 way conversations.

The internet is actually a very intimate medium. If you get earmarked as a spammer there is no going back. It is the same as if you try to sell every time you communicate. It is a medium much more aligned with building relationships.

Byrne did this by communicating with her audience long before there was anything she was selling. In the lead up to her release had a clear brand and message – I am going to tell you a secret? and she traded on the exclusivity of her information.

Once the film was launched she continued to communicate directly with her extensive mailing list through the intimacy of her “secret scrolls”. Again, these are not about selling they simply offer a communication with the film maker and are full or advice about things that the niche group are interested in.

Lesson 9: GIVE GIVE GIVE

Once you have established a rapport with the key influencers think of what you can give to them. Ask yourself – what’s in this for them? The same applies to people that opt in to your publicity though an email or newsletter sign up.
Continue reading →

Part 4: The Secrets of the Secret

Today is Part 4 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part amazing Guest Post Series on the distribution and marketing of “The Secret”. Here’s Julie:

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

This blog post is part 4 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title
Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.
Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.
Lesson 6: Alternative release and some very good news.

Lesson 7: Shoot a Promo First

Now this is interesting.
Before Byrne even started shooting her film – she shot a promo for it and began garnering online support.

Initially, three short promos were released via the Internet in 2005, in the form of
‘clues’ as to what ‘The Secret’ was. They were posted intermittently one at a time
on the the secret website and
assured that viewer that ‘a secret was about to be delivered’. Byrne’s viral campaign was in keeping with her title. It played in the on the idea of a ‘secret’. And people wanted to know what ‘the secret’ was.

The promos were intended to drive people to the website where they could then be in direct contact with the filmmakers and receive a new level of inside information and updates. Her campaign centered on making people feel special, followers were given intimate access to parts of the film and those in it that was not available to others. This sense of belonging was key to the projects success and also the ownership that the public took of the project through engaging in the viral campaign. Then, the producers created a trailer and posted it online.
Continue reading →

Part 3: The secrets of the Secret

Today is Part 3 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part excellent Guest Post Series on the distribution and marketing of “The Secret”. As anyone who has read this blog or my book, knows that I am always talking about the subject of today’s post: Start your campaign as early as possible and engage your audience, natural allies in the process. Here’s Julie:

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

This blog post is part 3 of the lessons we can learn from her success.

So far:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion
Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title

Lesson 4: Plan your marketing campaign from day 1.

If you have done Jon’s workshop you would also have been in discussion about the role of PMD or Producer of Marketing and Distribution. I think this is a vital new role in the film industry and whether she knew it or not, The Secret was a great example of this in action. The online campaign was foundational to the project from its inception.

Before she had even shot the film, or planned the schedule Byrne built a website, began building followers online, bought url’s that would support her campaign (to release the project as if it were a real secret) and very early on she even released a promo DVD of stock footage and released it online, directing it into the hands of key influencers.

Which brings us to the all-important point 5.

Lesson 5: Align yourself with the key influencers in the area.

From very early on in the project Byrne identified the key influencers in this area and aligned herself with them. As it was a documentary she could do this by actually using them in the film, but it could also be done by having interviews linked on a website, articles, blog posts etc. She got these people (some of which already had their own community of hundreds of thousands of followers) and she involved them from the beginning.
Continue reading →

Part 2: The secrets of the $300 million independent film.

Today – Part 2 of Julie Eckersley’s 5 Part series Guest Post on the distribution and marketing strategy and execution for The Secret:

Lesson 3: Understand the power of your title

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun.

So far we have learned the following lessons from her success:
Lesson 1: Start strong
Lesson 2: Tap into people’s passion

While Byrne’s viral campaign was clever and well organised (more on that in my next 3 posts) it was also the passion that she tapped into which propelled her film around the globe. Not only did this idea have followers, she also tapped into universal themes that resonated with a wider group of people.

She brought the passion of a subculture to the mainstream in a way that appealed to the masses.

As a film and communications critic this point is one of my bugbears with The Secret. She watered down her ideas so much that she was not communicating with any depth. But I do acknowledge that the way she generalised in her film (and left people to do their own research if they wanted to know more) was also part of why her audience base was so wide.

She gave words, voice and a medium to something, which had been seen as a subculture until then.

Ultimately the real marketing is going to be driven by your fans, not by producers. While this is always a point of contention for artists, finding stories that will evoke a strong and enthusiastic response should be high on your list if you want to make a successful film. Continue reading →

The Secrets of the $300 Million Independent Film

During the Melbourne Think Outside the Box Office Workshop last year, I had the pleasure to meet Julie Eckersley who told me that she had written her master’s thesis on the runaway success of the independent film “The Secret”. She generously offered to share her findings with my readers. While much of the success of The Secret is unique, in these posts Julie has focused on the aspects of the distribution and marketing campaign for the film that are most relevant for other filmmakers to apply to their own work. I will be featuring Julie’s series of guest posts this week and next. Here is part 1:

The secrets of the $300 million independent film.
by Julie Eckersley

A few years ago a small independent film made over $300 million dollars in profit. To my astonishment this film, and the lessons we can learn from it have been widely ignored by the film industry. Personally, I was so in awe of what the filmmaker achieved I changed my Masters thesis to a study of her process and outcomes. This 5-part blog series is a summary of what I found.

The Secret

In early 2006, Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne launched her feature length documentary online. It was called The Secret. The film spread like wildfire around the globe as viewers took up the viral campaign Byrne had begun, making an estimated profit of $300 million.

For those of you who know the project you no doubt have strong opinions one way or another about the content of The Secret, and maybe even on the artistic merit of it. Valid as these may be, if we can look past them for a moment there are some incredible insights to be gleaned from Byrne particularly on how she ran her viral campaign and the process she used to launch her film.

Over 5 posts I am going to look at 10 things Byrne did which gave her film the best chance of global success and how you can use them to aid your own projects.
Continue reading →

PMD FAQ 1: What is the purpose of having a PMD?

PMD FAQ 1: What is the purpose of having a PMD?

The purpose of the PMD is for one person on a filmmaking team to be responsible for audience engagement (aka distribution and marketing). It derives from the recognition that filmmakers (filmmaking teams) need to own the audience engagement process and that this process should start as early as possible – either at inception or no later than the beginning of pre-production for the best results.

The need for a PMD also results from the recognition that audience engagement is a lot of work (perhaps as much or more work than actually making a film) and that traditional filmmakers (writers, directors, producers etc) are already busy with the task of making a great film. These traditional members of a filmmaking team rarely have the extra time to devote to distribution and marketing (so it often falls by the wayside). In addition, many traditional filmmakers are not suited or interested in the kinds of tasks that audience engagement requires.

I look forward to hearing what you think about the concept of the PMD. You can comment on this post by clicking here. Here is the complete list of PMD FAQs forthcoming:

• What are the responsibilities of a PMD?
• What skill sets and experience are necessary for a PMD?
• Doesn’t having a PMD make me a slave of the marketplace and crush the passion and vision of independent film?
• Who oversees a PMD or is this role part of the executive (decision making) level?
• How is a PMD different than a Producer?
• Can’t filmmakers be their own PMD?
• Can a PMD be a fellow filmmaker too?
• Can PMDs actively work on many different projects at the same time?
• How do you pay a PMD?
• Does a PMD work by themselves – or is there a Marketing and Distribution team?

What are your thoughts?

PMD Rising

As some of you may know, I coined a new crew category titled the Producer of Marketing and Distribution (or PMD) in my book Think Outside the Box Office. I came up with the idea when trying to think of a solution to the enormous amount of work that distribution and marketing can be for filmmakers without a distributor. The concept boils down to: you didn’t make your film on your own – why should you release it on your own. You can read about the concept of the PMD in one of my other posts. I am happy to report that this concept is gaining traction. I was spurred to write this post after 25% (20 out of 80) of each of my Perth and Adelaide workshops indicated that they wanted to be PMDs (this is before my upcoming classes in Sydney and Melbourne). In Adelaide, the SA Film Corporation has plans to set up an in house PMD to help support the distribution efforts of independent filmmakers in South Australia.

Also just this week Adam Daniel Mezei who in January wrote a great blog post about the responsibilities of a PMD, has set himself up as a PMD for Hire. One of the attendees of my Amsterdam workshop has another PMD site and is already working on a Dutch film as a PMD. A group of Vancouver attendees formed a PMD support group this past month.

I feel that this beginning indicates that there a huge numbers of potential PMDs in the world who love films, don’t want to be on set and love the work of distribution and marketing. These are the people we filmmakers should seek out to be our PMDs.

This August I will be heading to the University Film and Video Conference (for US film school profs) to give 2 presentations on how and why to teach film distribution and marketing to film students. This is not just so that writer/directors can be aware of the realities of the world that awaits them, it is also to train a new generation of PMDs (and their support crew).

Finally, I will be working on my own educational initiative for PMDs (beyond the 2 day workshops that I am giving).

My goal is that in five years time, whenever a filmmaker puts out a call for a PMD they will receive as many resumes for a PMD as for a DP or Editor or AD. Even if a film ends up with traditional distribution, the work of a PMD during prep, production and post is invaluable. If the film doesn’t obtain traditional distribution (or doesn’t want traditional distribution) a PMD (and a complete distribution and marketing crew) are vital.

from Melbourne July 22, 2010

Seize the Power Why You Should Pay Attention to the LAFF Symposium this Weekend

Two weeks ago I wrote a guest post on Truly Free Film about the need to educate filmmakers on distribution and marketing their films. This weekend the Los Angeles Film Festival is hosting a truly wonderful event which I am proud to have developed in collaboration with LAFF and Film Independent (with strong push and support from Ted Hope): Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium.

The Symposium is designed to focus on the nuts and bolts solutions to the current distribution and marketing malaise plaguing our industry. The intention is to provide an introduction to a wealth of new tools for filmmakers (and all artists/media content creators) as well as strategic guidance from many of the key practitioners and thought leaders in our field. It is an antidote to the concerns of too much talk talk talk on this subject with little true education.

In addition there is a non-public component that you can participate in via twitter. I will be giving a distribution and marketing boot camp to the LAFF competition filmmakers Friday June 18th 9am – 12:30pm and 2:30pm – 5pm and Saturday June 19th from 9am-11:30am. All times PST. We will be tweeting bullet points on #totbo We have done this in the workshops I have given in the past month – and we have found that people around the world start to participate and chime in – creating a global discussion around these topics.

The Symposium: Starting Saturday afternoon at 1pm – Ted kicks it off with a presentation on the need for the artist entrepreneur to encourage filmmakers to think expansively about their creative output in order to create sustainable careers. This is followed by a plethora of service providers (from Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative to Yancy Strickler of Kickstarter to Bob Moczydlowsky of Topspin) that we brought together so that filmmakers could learn the best ways to put these tools into practice in their own careers.

Sunday morning will kick off with a discussion between myself and Corey McAbee (The American Astronaut and Stingray Sam). We will explore how he uses the new distribution and marketing tools and landscape to create a viable artistic career for himself. Caitlin Boyle from Film Sprout will give one of her incredible introductions to grassroots audience development and distribution. I am super excited to see Lance Weiler and Henry Jenkins on Transmedia. (somehow Lance always has a way of frying my brain – in a good way). The inimitable Peter Broderick will lead a discussion on crowdfunding, Colleen Nystedt and Sean Percival will present different tactics for audience engagement. The event will cap with one of those incredible Film Independent public case study examinations of two films: Children of Invention and Bass Ackwards.

Last but not least – it will give filmmakers an opportunity to connect with each other and the presenters. Come on down and introduce yourself, learn and contribute. I hope to see you there (ps I won’t be there Saturday afternoon due to my daughter’s dance recital 🙂 – but Ted will be in the house and many others!)

Jon Reiss TOTBO Tip of the Day 35 – A Meta Stream of Tips

Posted on by Jon Reiss

Today’s tip will be a meta tip. If you go to Twitter and search #totbo you will see the stream of tips, ideas, comments, suggestions etc from everyone who was engaged in the Totbo NY Workshop in the room in NYC or who virtually participated in distant lands! Kudos to all the participants at the NYC Totbo Workshop this weekend who sent out hundreds of tweets about what was being covered in the workshop. And special kudos to @khanb1 who compiled all the posts into a tumblr post – click here for the link.

So the NY workshop was great – we had over 70 people in the room – with special guests Sheri Candler, Caitlin Boyle and Lance Weiler. Next stop Vancouver, the Los Angeles Film Festival Symposium, followed by a four city tour of Australia in July and then San Francisco on July 31/August 1st. Check out the Totbo site for information.