Tag: Think Outiside the Box Office

Back to Writing – 3 More Books

Posted on by Jon Reiss

I have embarked on writing again and have two new books in the works and one more on the horizon.   First off, I am writing a book on the Producer of Marketing and Distribution or PMD.  In the tradition of Think Outside the Box Office, the book will define the role and responsibilities specific to the PMD, lay out best practices for those wanting to be PMDs,  lay out the tasks for a PMD over the lifecycle of a film, provide guidance on how to fulfill those tasks.  This includes developing a marketing and distribution plan and budget, the PMD in prep, production and post, audience engagement, timing of rights, as well as different marketing and distribution options available to films.  The book will cover education of PMDs and will propose a curriculum of study for PMDs.    I will be tweeting my progress on this book starting next week.

Secondly, I am working with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler on an electronic book of film case studies.    Each of us are drilling down to the specifics of a number of films distribution and marketing paths and providing hard numbers on their successes (and failures) to help filmmakers make informed decisions about the releases of their films.  This project was generated by The Film Collaborative who brought Sheri and I on board and is part of their educational initiative.  (as you know from my book and previous writings I am a big fan of what TFC does – and you know I’m a big fan of Sheri’s as well!).   We are currently locking down the title – and would love your input:  Please participate in our on-line survey.

On the horizon – I am writing a book about how all the art forms: music, film, art, photography, book authorship, journalism, dance,  comedy, gamers and expanded storytellers (etc) are all utilizing similar techniques to get their work made, marketed and distributed.   I came upon this idea while researching examples for my TOTBO workshops and discovered that many of the other art forms (music especially of course) were much further ahead than film in using these techniques.  But I also discovered that while some people used some of the techniques available, many would leave numerous opportunities unexplored – didn’t even know those opportunities existed.  As a result I saw a purpose for writing a book in which I would adapt and expand the system that I outlined in Think Outside the Box Office for all the arts.  This project will allow artists to learn from others and create opportunities for themselves that they may not have thought of by the nature of the traditional paths of their respective fields.   It will also provide a guide in how to use these techniques.   Over the next months, year, I will be interviewing a wide range of artists on this topic and I will be sharing excerpts on this blog.  I look forward to your input and feedback!!  (Look out for a revamped website and FB page in the future as well).

Ride the Divide Part 1: Set Your Goals, Identify and Partner With Your Audience

Tonight at midnight Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion launch a 2711 minute free access to their film “Ride the Divide” on You Tube to coincide with LiveStrong Day on October 2nd. The film is about three riders as they traverse the 2711 miles of the continental divide from Banff Canada to the Mexican border. I wanted to write about this film because of the smart use of free online content – the limited access actually creates an online event around which the filmmakers can generate publicity (this will actually be the subject of a later post.

In addition, I have a personal interest in the film because as Hunter told me, their strategy was kickstarted when I live workshopped the Slamdance Filmmaker Summit this past January. In that workshop I walked them through developing a distribution and marketing strategy (with the participation of the audience) based on the system that I developed for filmmakers in Think Outside the Box Office. I enjoyed that workshop so much, I then incorporated it into nearly all the workshops that I have done since then.

Continue reading →

PMD FAQ 2: What are the responsibilities of a PMD?

PMD FAQ 2: What are the responsibilities of a PMD?

The responsibilities of a PMD are wide and varied. Not all films will utilize all of these elements (since every film is different and will have a unique approach to distribution and marketing), but each should be considered when strategizing and planning for the film’s release.

1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.

2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the key principles of the filmmaking team. Integrate this plan into the business plan for the film.

3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.

4. As needed and appropriate: strategize and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in replace of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organizational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.

5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, M&D production crew for extra diagetic material, key artists, editors, bookers etc.

6. Audience outreach through organizations, blogs, social media (including email collection), traditional publicity etc.

7. Supervise the creation of promotional and (if necessary due to the lack of a separate transmedia producer) trans media elements: script and concept for transmedia, the films website and social media sites, production stills, video assets – both behind the scenes and trans media, promotional copy and art/key art. As with marketing and distribution it is always best to conceptualize any transmedia aspect of a film project from inception.

8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, Digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners.

Just FYI – nearly all of the above and much of 9 happen before the film is finished.

9. Supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to creation of all media needed for the execution of the release as needed including:
• Live event/theatrical: Prints either 35 or Disk or Drive. Any other physical prep for event screenings.
• Merchandise: All hard good physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc, and hard versions of games.
• Digital products: encoding of digital products, iphone/Android apps etc.

10. Modify and adjust the distribution and marketing plan as the film progresses as information about audience, market, new opportunities, partnerships arise.

11. When appropriate, engage the distribution process, which includes the release of:
• Live Event Theatrical – Booking, delivery, of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance etc.)
• Merchandise – Distribution of all hard good physical products created for the film.
• Digitally – oversee all sales of the film in the form of 0s and 1s: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc.
• This not just in the home territory – but also internationally.
• Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.
• This release should integrated into the overall transmedia plan of the film if one exists. Of course the best case scenario is for this integration to occur from inception.

12. Ramp up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes:
• Social Media
• Publicity
• Organizational Relationships
• Sponsorship Relationships
• Affiliate and Email Marketing
• Promotions
• Media Buys (as warranted)
• Pushing Trailers and other video content
• Any specific marketing especially tailored to the film.
• Promoting and releasing trailers and other forms of video material

This list should indicate how it would be difficult, if not impossible to expect existing traditional crew categories to accomplish or even coordinate the work outlined above. Due to the amount of work, a team would need to be assembled to accomplish all of these tasks, just as a production team is assembled. In addition while some of the work above is “quantifiable”, much of it is not – just like much of what a producer or even director does is not “quantifiable”.

Screen Hub’s Lyn Norfor on Jon Reiss and Thinking Outside of the Box Office!

Jon Reiss: Thinking Outside the Box Office
by: Lyn Norfor

Screen Hub
Thursday 15 July, 2010

Jon Reiss, independent filmmaker and proselyte, wrote Thinking Outside the Box Office, and is running a series of events around Australia, including MIFF. Lyn Norfor was reminded of the 50% rule – “50% of the time and resources to make the film and 50% to connect the film to your audience..”

In 2007, Jon Reiss screened his documentary, Bomb It, about the global explosion of graffiti art and culture, at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival. He did all the right things and, with five sold-out screenings and people lined up round the block for each screening, he expected a good distribution deal plus sales. But – nothing, no deals. A week later, Bomb It was available for sale on Canal Street – as a bootleg.

This is a story that Reiss relates regularly – in his book and his workshops, as an example of how radically the film distribution market has changed and how essential it is now for filmmakers to rethink the way their films are marketed and distributed. Reiss is a big fan of Do It Yourself (DIY) as a philosophy and attitude for marketing and distributing your film and which, he says, does not mean doing it all on your own. Rather, it means not leaving the distribution of your film to others and to build a team to reach as wide an audience as possible for your film.

Reiss is a working filmmaker who walks his talk. After his experience at Tribeca, Reiss went about distributing Bomb It through a hybrid distribution model, a term coined by distribution strategist and SPAA fringe regular, Peter Broderick. Reiss organised his own theatrical release and did a no-advance deal with New Video who handled the DVD release and download-to-own digital rights.

Based on his experiences, Reiss then wrote his book “Think Outside the Box – The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Age” which he self published. He has also built a website, created a two-day workshop and is planning updates for his book. In addition, he is currently filming material, as he travels round the world delivering his workshops, for a Bomb It web series – two to three minute webisodes, for which he received an advance against an ad revenue share from Bablegum (a free-to-view internet television platform supported by advertising).

An important step for filmmakers, according to Reiss, is to know what you want from your film and who the audience is for your film. Once you know that, you can then begin designing a marketing and distribution plan specifically for your film. And ideally, before you begin making your film – or at least during production. Now, some filmmakers may shudder at this but, Reiss says, they need to remember the 50/50 rule – 50% of the time and resources to make the film and 50% to connect the film to your audience.

Reiss is also very quick to point out that, although the filmmaker needs to understand the whole process, they also need to work with other people who have skills in those areas the filmmaker does not.

He has created a new film position, the Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) and Reiss reckons it is a huge growth area in our industry. With less funds available and less films being picked up by traditional broadcasters and distributors, more filmmakers are left to their own devices to distribute their films. So build your team, find people with the marketing and distribution skills and bring them into the film industry to work with you. Reiss’ enthusiasm and excitement at the opportunities being created as old structures and ways of doing things break down is tempered by the realities of being a working creative entrepreneur – which he says all artists need to be.

Karen Pearlman (Head of Screen Studies, AFTRS) first heard of his workshops last year and encouraged AFTRS to bring Reiss out to Australia. So this July AFTRS and Screen Australia, in conjunction with MIFF 37 Degrees South in Melbourne, present the workshop Think Outside the Box Office.

Reiss has designed the two-day workshops to be practical as well as providing a place for filmmakers to share and discuss their projects. The first day is about content and information, using Reiss’ own films plus those of the participants as illustrations and discussion points.

The second day is focussed on selecting a number of participant projects for which market and distribution strategies are created. Reiss asks three key questions of each project – what is the goal of the film and the filmmakers? Who is their audience? What are their resources? The question that typically takes the most time to figure out is the audience question. Opening this question up to the group can be extremely helpful to the filmmakers, Reiss reports, and one of the favourite parts of the workshop for many participants. Reiss believes the workshops can appeal to a wide range of people –to anyone who is interested in marketing and distribution but may not necessarily want to make films.

Audience development is the new buzz word and one that will be music to the ears of our funding agencies. Reiss emphasises the importance of beginning to develop an audience for your film before the film is broadcast or screened. In the US independent distribution market, Reiss says, broadcasters and distribution entities are looking for partnerships with filmmakers who are interested in sharing the work of audience development. The marketplace is changing and so are release strategies. Reiss cites as examples the shorter windows between theatrical and DVD release for films such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland and how that helps influence independent distributors.

Reiss is very strong on split rights, where the rights to each of the various revenue streams (theatrical, DVD, VOD etc) are split apart so they can be sold individually. A split rights scenario is at the heart of a hybrid strategy to release your film and, in general Reiss claims, the filmmaker can make more money than with an overall deal (where a distributor buys all the rights for your film for a long time).

He divides rights into three groups: (i) live event/theatrical – and includes all types of theatrical, non-theatrical, alternative theatrical and grassroots screenings; (ii) consumer products/merchandise – a tactile product such as DVD (individual DVDs, boxed sets, signed sets, special editions etc), educational sales, t-shirts, CDs, books etc; (iii) digital – television and cable (including FTA and subscription TV), Pay-per-view/Video on demand; (iv) digital rights and mobile – internet channels such as download to own, download to rent and various forms of streaming. Reiss’s book, “Think Outside the Box Office”, provides loads of information on this subject.

Again, Reiss reiterates that the distribution market is changing rapidly and many independent distributors are being forced by necessity to become more flexible.

Reiss finds this a ‘super exciting time’ and says it should inspire us to think about film more expansively, with longer storytelling structures – all of which helps create a long term career in film. When filmmakers have control over their distribution contracts, over a longer period of time and across multiple outlets, then a career arc can be developed with more predictable income streams and a ‘sustainable business’ built. With filmmakers holding onto more rights, there are also more opportunities to develop cross media extensions from the film. Knowing your audience is the key to deciding which products and packages to create for your film. Reiss tells how he is currently developing an iPhone app for street and graffiti art.

Although Reiss recognises that the amount of work is increasing as the money decreases, he says this is true not just for filmmakers but for all artists and content creators. His next version of “Think Outside the Box Office” is targeted at musicians, visual artists and all media content creators. He encourages us all to embrace the new opportunities and be inspired to re-conceptualise ourselves as filmmakers!

Reiss’ workshop dates:
Sydney: Sat 24 – Sun 25 July AFTRS Melbourne : Monday 26 – Tuesday 27 July AFTRS
Lyn Norfor
Lyn Norfor is a producer with factual and drama television projects in development.

Jon Reiss at IFC this Tuesday, November 17th!

Posted on by Mark

Just out from an amazing weekend at DOX:FORUM in Cophenhagen, I’ll be in New York this week at the IFC Center speaking about my new book Think Outside the Box Office (released on the 16th!).  Come check it out!  Call (212) 924-7771 for tickets!

Thinking Outside the Box Office

In a presentation full of practical advice and hard information, filmmaker Jon Reiss (Bomb It), the author of the recently released “Think Outside the Box (Office): The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing in the Digital Era” will teach how to create unique distribution and marketing plans for independent films, explaining both do-it-yourself and hybrid approaches. He will outline what filmmakers need to do to prepare for distribution while making their films. Finally he will lay out ways in which filmmakers can take back and redefine the theatrical release by playing a combination of conventional theaters, community screenings and festivals.