The Brave New American Art House

Art House Convergence Welcome Address

by Russ Collins, Director

(Ted's note: I have participated in the AHC three times now.  Over the last 6 years, the American Art House Exhibitors have gotten organized.  Their mission of instituting best practices for community theaters is lifting our culture.  I have found it incredibly inspiring and exciting.  Filmmakers everywhere should take note as to what's afoot.)

January 15, 2013 – for the Art House Convergence conference, Zermatt Resort, Midway, Utah

Welcome to the Art House Convergence. Welcome as we celebrate the Brave New American Art House. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to gather here in Utah with colleagues and friends and, with strangers who will soon be friends, to execute the mission of the Art House Convergence. 

The mission of the Art House Convergence is to increase the quantity and quality of Art House cinemas in North America.  We hope you will help us pursue this mission by: 1) constantly improving your own Art House; 2) helping colleagues make their Art Houses better places for audiences to experience cinema art and 3) working to make all Art Houses serve as highly effective community cultural centers.

This conference would not be possible without the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers. Thanks to the Art House Convergence Conference Committee – if you participated in one or more of those Friday calls that happen throughout the year as we plan the Art House Convergence, stand and be recognized. 

It is wonderful to see so many of you here! How many are here for the first-time?  Wonderful, welcome to Utah to the Art House Convergence.  How many of you are staying, for at least a day or two to go to Park City and check out the Sundance Film Festival?

I see a lot of friends; friends that have grown from the 25 brave souls who came to the first Art House Convergence to this year, with nearly 350 registered delegates, the sixth annual gathering of community-based, mission-driven cinema operators.

The strong theme of this year’s conference is The Brave New American Art House. So, what’s the Brave New American Art House? 

The Brave New American Art House is a set of ideals that looks something like this:

  • It is located in Canada, Mexico or the USA.
  • It is focused on frequent and regular screenings of Art House movies – classic, foreign, documentary, independent and experimental cinema (and sometimes other cultural programs the community demands).
  • It actively seeks community support – it believes philanthropy and volunteers are important and viable sources of revenue and support.
  • It is a cultural institution – it teaches its community about the art, craft, grammar and historical importance of cinema.
  • As possible, it is dedicated to quality celluloid AND digital exhibition methods – providing state-of-the-art image and sound across all eras and formats (including live music for silent-era films).
  • It believes excellent customer service is paramount – it trains its employees and manages its marketing, facilities, event presentations and staff to put the customer’s experience first.
  • It makes cinema come alive – with intelligently curated programs and ever expanding relationships with living filmmakers.
  • It is community-based – it is not part of a national chain.
  • It is mission-driven – it has a triple bottom line: Bottom lines calculated in: 1) community benefit; 2) artistic quality; and 3) financial success.
  • Its business management is strategic – it plans effectively and does not expect Deus ex Machina* to magically provide for its financial success.
  • The Brave New American Art House annually sends staff and board members to the Art House Convergence to have fun learning and being inspired by dedicated and resourceful colleagues.

The “Brave New” of the Brave New American Art House is an intentional literary reference to both Aldous Huxley and Shakespeare – because, you know, Art House people are just a little smarter and better-read than your average movie exhibitor (some might say “snooty,” rather than smarter and better read, but I think “smarter and better read” works better with this crowd). In Huxley’s novel “Brave New World” he expressed the notion that the fast-paced world of the future would force dehumanizing changes, causing anxiety, the loss of intimacy and individuality. Plus, Huxley predicted that movies in year 2540 would be called “feelies,” a cinema-style entertainment that creates the illusion of an entertainment reaching out and literally touching the audience. Which given the ironic nature of the novel supports the poetic notion that 3-D is the movie technology of the future – and it always will be!

Of course Huxley and the Convergence both stole the phase “brave new” from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The play’s most famous lines are said by the Prospero’s daughter Miranda, who looked on in wonder as drunken sailors stagger in a disorderly manner from their wrecked ship, and said:

“O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in't.”

 And although Shakespeare’s words spoken by the naïve Miranda were ironic, I believe, stated without irony, that this “brave new” notion is correct, because today and for the next several days the Zermatt and Homestead resorts will be full of goodly people; goodly community-based, mission-driven Art House people. How beauteous it is; O brave new world, to have such people, such Art House people in’t!

The ethos of the Art House Convergence is a commitment to quality, openness and community. It is the antithesis of the “whatever the market will bear,” cutthroat and mass market dynamics of commercial exhibition. Please know I’m not saying one is better than the other – both of these business dynamics are viable, even needed, but the ethos of each are juxtaposed. The Art House Convergence ethos embraces the notion that philanthropic subsidy from a community will create a stable, culturally significant center for cinema to be experienced, taught, supported and loved for cinema’s intrinsic artistic and cultural worth and for civic enrichment of communities.

The community-based, mission-driven exhibitor is a powerful but subtle aspect of the movie business; too subtle to be deeply appreciated in a blockbuster obsessed media or in a greed driven entertainment industry.  And, let’s be honest the Art House movement will not create millionaires and it will not be the hot new thing that transforms media culture.

At this point cinema is an old art form, like painting and writing, sculpture and dance, theater and music. Although artists always do new things with their forms of art, the art of cinema itself is now an old form. It can no longer be a shiny new thing and that’s OK; because cinema presented on a big screen in a darkened room full of strangers is a great thing; a profound thing that can deeply move the human psyche and transform lives.

Although the financial scale of the Art House, compared to half-a-billion dollar superhero blockbuster, is rather small, it is significant and the long-term impact is critically important; because the Art House plays an essential role in preserving and promoting the best and the brightest of cinema for diverse audiences.  Your Art House is a sacred shrine and home to the most profound form of creative expression created in recent human time.  

And just as important, Art Houses are exciting, sustainable and practical venues that effectively bolster the vitality of local neighborhoods and transform lives through the creative vision of the people who work there and the poignant cinema found in these remarkable little arts institutions.

Over the decades, the Art House community has had a hard time finding its voice, a hard time believing it is in fact a community and a hard time feeling like it is a citizen in the wider cinema world. But now, with the Art House Convergence we have found our collective voice, we are starting to believe in our potential and we are growing the number of communities throughout North America who are demanding community-based, mission-driven Art House cinemas in their towns.

Your Art House as a key community institution – feel it, own it. You provide a vital service and you are an important economic driver in your neighborhood. Being a community-based, mission-driven, not-for-profit Art House you can be much more than a mere movie venue and employer, or a recipient of charity and coordinator of volunteers. You are a flagship asset, an essential cog and an indispensable part of a healthy community.

Over the next few days, what will be most important for those of us gathered here in Utah is to feel the strength and joy of being among kindred souls, of benefiting from shared knowledge and experience and feeling anchored to this non-profit Art House movement.

Welcome to the 2013 Art House Convergence celebrating The Brave New American Art House. We hope all delegates, who this year come from around the world, will share with great enthusiasm all that is wonderful and brave and new about their Art House and their community. Thank you for coming to the Convergence. And as the Bard of Stratford on Avon almost said, “How beauteous it is; O brave new world, to have such people, such Art House people in’t!” Enjoy the 2013 Art House Convergence.

* Deus ex Machina is something that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly into a narrative or system that provides a seemingly miraculous solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty – like expecting a handful of box office hits or some amazing marketing, business management or technology solution to make running an Art House profitable. In the long-term depending on Deus ex Machina type solutions is ineffective and often implies a lack of creativity and strategic management effectiveness.

From Russ Collins

CEO, MichiganTheater-AnnArbor

Director, Art House Convergence

 

Truly Free Film In Academia: JUNO - an open case study live! TODAY!!

By Adam Collis

Today, Saturday, January 26th, Arizona State University will be hosting an all day inter-collegiate video conference with members of the Juno team, including director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody, editor Dana Glauberman, cinematographer Eric Steelberg, title designer Gareth Smith, financier-producer Nathan Kahane, producer Mason Novick and Fox Searchlight President of Production Claudia Lewis.  Participating in this Interactive Open Learning Experience/Experiment are students from ASU, UCLA, Duke, University of Montana, Quinnipiac University and Yale.  Film students and film lovers can also watch online.  The event is called Anatomy of a Feature Film: JUNO and all the details are at http://www.facebook.com/AnatomyofaFeatureFilm
 
I'd love for you to watch the event.  But I'm writing today to share the story of how all of this came together and why sharing film events like this one is important.
 
For the past 3 years, I've served as ASU's Visting Professor of Film Directing.  I "visit" from LA each week to teach senior directing and thesis film students.

Since I was visiting from LA, I thought I should bring a little Hollywood to Tempe.  So I began organizing events like Hollywood Invades Tempe! and Anatomy of a Feature Film to give my students a chance to speak with, learn from and connect to top Hollywood professionals. 

We started with nothing more than the screening of a film in a classroom followed by a Skype session with a buddy of mine who had worked on the film.  Larry Sher, DP of Garden State and The Hangover films was kind enough to be our first guest.  As you will see by looking at the HIT! website, the Hollywood community has been incredibly supportive.  

But what I soon discovered was that these casual conversations were as valuable to my students as our classes, albeit in a different way.

It's one thing to talk theory and to teach craft - and that is important.  But students need to hear from people on the front lines, the folks who are actually doing what they aspire to do.  I was incredibly lucky as a graduate at USC's School of Cinematic Arts to be able to listen to many amazing filmmakers and to even ask one of them a question.  I still remember what Robert Zemeckis told me about his process for setting up a shot's composition:  "Look to the script.  It will always tell you where to put the camera."  Or something pretty close to that.

But schools like ASU and others around the country clearly aren't close enough to LA to allow for these sorts of visits - except on special occasions, like the two times we at ASU were treated to a Ted Hope weekend seminar extravaganza!  

The good news is that the Technological Revolution, that we are all a part of, allows these sorts of educational experiences to happen remotely.  We should all give thanks to the technological wizards who make these impossible things real - people like Nate Sherman at CISCO, who has given us amazing amounts of technical support and extraordinary amounts of time, which in turn, have given our film students the chance to connect with the exceptional Hollywood professionals behind Juno.

But not only ASU students.  After brainstorming a bit with Shane, we realized that we could, somewhat easily, invite students from other schools around the country to be a part of the conversation.

It seems that, in addition to being in the midst of the Technological Revolution, we are also in the Era of Sharing.  Look at how sharing is all around us.  There's tons of  low stakes sharing, like the Facebook post of a picture of my 6 year old holding the tooth that I pulled for her!  And there's high stakes sharing too like WikiLeaks and Megaupload.  In academia, some of the world's greatest universities, including many Ivy League schools have been sharing lectures online and allowing anyone access to course materials for free.  By sharing their coveted knowledge, anyone now can learn.  And even if they don't get credit or a degree, that has to be a good thing.  This development is known in Academia as the Open Learning Movement. 

Anatomy of a Feature Film represents a new stage in this movement.  I'm calling the event an Interactive Open Learning Experience/Experiment. - one that can also be enjoyed by anyone around the world by going to our livestream site: http://links.asu.edu/AofFF.  My hope is that, after doing a few of these successfully, I'll be able to take "Experiment" off of the name.

By sharing with students around the nation and by "networking" in more perspectives, we hope that everyone's educational experience will be enriched.  And we're delighted that we can share the wealth.

I've been lucky because the leadership at ASU's School of Theatre and Film, chiefly Jake Pinholster (director of SoTF) and Miguel Valenti (head of the film program) have created an incredibly supportive and encouraging environment which fosters these sorts of programs.  Frankly, it makes the trip from LA well worth it.

I hope other film schools, as well as organizations like Film Independent and IFP, will move in this direction by harnessing the power of this mind blowing technology and by fully embracing the Era of Sharing.

If you are interesting in Anatomy of a Feature Film: JUNO, details are below.

If you loved JUNO, you will really love...
Anatomy of a Feature Film: JUNO
Spend THIS Saturday (1/26) with Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody, and the amazing team behind Juno.
Watch It:
IN PERSON AT UCLA KORN HALL: http://maps.ucla.edu/campus/?locid=65211
For Details & Updates:
Members of the local ASU community may come to observe the event at the Marston Theatre - ASU School of Earth & Space Exploration - SESE/ISTB4.

Schedule for Anatomy of a Feature Film: JUNO 
***all times are Pacific Standard Time

9:00am - 9:40am: Producer, Mason Novick

live - in person at UCLA 

9:50am - 10:30am: Cinematographer, Eric Steelberg
live - in person at UCLA 

10:40am - 11:20am: Editor, Dana Glauberman
live - in person at UCLA 

11:30am - 12:10pm: Title Sequence Artist, Gareth Smith
live - in person at UCLA 

12:20pm - 1:00pm: Writer, Diablo Cody
via video conference 

1:00pm - 2:00pm: Lunch 

2:00pm - 2:40pm: Financier Producer, Nathan Kahane
via video conference 

2:50pm - 3:30pm: Fox Searchlight President of Production, Claudia Lewis
via video conference 

3:40pm - 4:20pm: Fox Searchlight President, Nancy Utley (invited

4:30pm - 5:30pm: Director, Jason Reitman
live - in person at UCLA! 

***all times are Pacific Standard Time

Corrupted By The Individual Hero

Stay with me on this one...  It may start personal, but it is about the stories we tell and why...

Yesterday, Vanessa and I began the marathon of unpacking our life in San Francisco. Probably 7 more such sessions to go... Boxes galore!

Our place in SF is 1/2 the size as what we left in NYC (such is the not-for-profit life!). Aching back, some broken dishes, but each new box is a promise and a hope. And every time we empty one, I get more energized.

You don't get many chances to change your life, or to embark on grand adventures with the person you love. Exploring a new city, taking on a new job, making new friends -- our conversations with each other now take on qualities of astronauts or research fellows ("Did you see that?", "Look over there?", "It is not like it was in NYC", "Do you think they'll respond to...").

Maybe the web is not the place to discuss this but it feels like a both a recognition and a revelation (one that I want to share): I am so thankful for having found the someone I wanted to share my life with, share in theirs, and live truly together with (and not just alongside) -- particularly at the moment of taking on new challenges.

Committed relationships are just one of the ways that the false promise of individuality pales in comparison to community, reminding us of how much more we can do when we know others have our back and we have more to focus on than ourselves.  Yet, do we truly have the tools to construct our lives around such dreams?  Are we funneling our focus to something less useful or promising?

That Hollywood tale of the individual hero needs some antidotes so as to not warp minds into thinking there is a reason to face the dragon on your own. Is there another prism that can help us see more clearly?

I spent years trying to convince myself that fighting battles on my own was something to be proud of.  Even as I witnessed again and again with each new movie I produced the awesome power of a team, I still looked at each movie as my own battle.  I have always had a particular type of movie that I loved most dearly (those that capture the complexity & diversity of our lives with emotional truth) -- and that was my mission: to get them made, seen, and appreciated.  Yes, everyone one was a huge collaboration, but I held that mission as my own -- and used that story to give me strength and stamina. I structured my memory of them alongside the tale of the individual hero -- and lost a lot in the process.

But this new adventure of SF reveals cracks in the myth of my past approach.  It left me feeling shut off and a bit angry at times.  As much as I could look at all the incredible contributions people made to getting those movies done, it felt like bands of warriors, with each knight a story on their own.  I strive to get the team on a common goal, a shared agenda, but still saw the individual contributors as unique superheroes -- and not as single community.

It's hard to find the metaphors to examine our lives without having the stories to be the prisms in which we examine our own.  Regardless of the film itself, it is not surprising that THE AVENGERS was the top movie of recent times.  They are not a team, but a band of individuals.  It seems that most Hollywood films that appear to be about teams, are truly about the individuals.  I have seen a lot of British films where the community/ensemble battle the opposition together, but my mind draws a blank for that same structure coming from Hollywood.  No one wants to feel isolated or alienated -- and why should we encourage people to fight the battle on their own.  

There is always a community waiting to form and we have to build the dreams that we will have the other to unpack the boxes together with.  We have been corrupted by the individual hero though, and can't see the community who truly wants to build it better together.

Forward! Pirates Know Best

By Rob Millis
 
 
Last week Kim Dotcom — the notorious king of piracy — unveiled Mega, his new, barely legal file sharing site that is sure to be a haven for illegal video sharing. Film distributors are up in arms and a renewed cry for harsher consequences has reached the ears of Congress.
 
 
Yet there is no legislation, lawsuit or technical restriction that can stop piracy. In an industry riddled with conflicts of interest, many leaders of media companies are reluctant to speak frankly, but every single one of them knows they cannot protect against piracy in any absolute way. We can put up roadblocks, we can scramble data, but there is always a way around digital security.
 
 
So how do we defend against piracy when there is no way to secure content?
Kim Dotcom himself provided the answer in this tweet a couple of weeks before launching Mega:
 
 
@KimDotcomHow to stop piracy: 1 Create great stuff 2 Make it easy to buy 3 Same day worldwide release 4 Fair price 5 Works on any device
 
 
This is the same core message that online media companies have been trying to get across to the film industry for several years. Anyone who has worked on digital distribution knows without a doubt that the root causes of piracy are actually on the supply side. Even media executives who won’t admit to it publicly know that the core problem behind piracy is the user experience of legal purchase and viewing.
 
 
Ironically, last week the MPAA — creators of the FBI warning on DVDs and champions of digital rights management systems that prevent purchases on one device from being played on another —accused Kim Dotcom of damaging the consumer experience. But citing consumer experience as an attack on piracy only points out how flawed and out of touch the MPAA approach is. Most pirated titles available in crisp HD of course (shaky 8mm footage captured in a theater is now a rarity) and the consumer experience is also about the entire process of finding a film, paying for it, and watching whenever you want. In that context the pirates are often providing a user experience that competes very well with most traditional options.
 
 
So deal with piracy head on, distributors, filmmakers and studios at every level need to stop complaining about the ethical and commercial problems of piracy and begin competing with it. Media executives have long argued that they “can’t compete with free” but the marketplace consistently disproves that notion, and the huge success of systems like iTunes utterly destroys it. iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and others have succeeded precisely because they compete directly with piracy by providing better accessibility, ease of use and instant gratification.
 
 
Viewers can now watch almost any widely released film, in HD, on any device, almost immediately. Whether they choose to pay for it or not is largely up to the distributor.
 
 
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com.

Most People Feel It Is Okay To Share Content

TorrentFreak reported last week:

One of the most comprehensive studies into media sharing and consumption habits in the United States and Germany reveals that nearly half of the populations have copied, shared or downloaded music, movies, and TV shows. Sharing occurs both on- and offline, but the latter is seen as reasonable by most people. The report does, however, reveal that online file-sharers consume more music than their non-file-sharing counterparts.

Today the American Assembly, a non-partisan public policy forum affiliated with Columbia University, published its long-awaited Copy Culture report.

The study is based on thousands of telephone interviews conducted in the United States and Germany and provides a unique insight into copying habits in the two countries.

“The study suggests that most people in the US and Germany recognize the constitutive dilemma of copyright as a set of tradeoffs between rightsholders and the public. And it provides a snapshot of where ‘most’ people are in trying to reconcile these tradeoffs with the digital age,” author Joe Karaganis told TorrentFreak.

Read the article here.

Google with Friends? Facebook’s Graph Search and What it Means to You

By Reid Rosefelt

IMPORTANT NOTE:

As I was finishing my recent post on Facebook's Graph Search, Tom Scott’s Tumblr blog on Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, “Actual Facebook Graph Searches,”  went viral.   Scott searched things like others of Jews who like Bacon,  married people who like Prostitutes, and current employers of people who like Racism, and more disturbingly, family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong, and Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran.   It’s likely that some of these “likes” were intended to be ironic.  I’m doubtful that that people would say they liked Prostitutes, even if they did, andGizmodo  found people with dubious likes for “Shitting my pants,” as well as some creepy things that might not be ironic.   But as has been noted a lot, it would be hard for people in China to say they were joking about liking the Falun Gong.

I advise all of you to go to “3 Privacy Changes You Must Change Before Using Facebook Graph Search”  (Gizmodo) and  Facebook Graph Search: Now Is The Time to Go Over Your Privacy Settings (ABC News).  I also think it would be worth studying The Facebook Privacy information page.

Last Tuesday, Facebook introduced a new feature called Graph Search at a highly hyped press conference.  Wall Street, which had been expecting a phone ,was not impressed, and the stock dived by 6.5% (it’s since recovered).  On the other hand, the social media bloggers almost unanimously called Graph Search a triumph and Mashable declared:  “Facebook Graph Search Could Be Its Greatest Innovation.”

What is it?  Graph Search gives you the power to tap into the web of connections between you and your friends in a way that has never existed before.  For example, if you type in a question like “Which of my friends like Moonrise Kingdom?” you will be shown a list of your friends, weighted by the ones you interact with the most, i.e., best friends on top.   You could also ask, “What films do my friends like?” and presumably--I haven’t seen it yet--the films at the top of the list will be the ones most liked by your friends. You can also add other variables to your search like “Which of my female Los Angeles friends who speak French like Moonrise Kingdom?”  As Graph Search indexes photos as well as likes, you can ask to see pictures from the photo libraries of all your friends who have liked something or other on Facebook.  You can see more examples of what Graph Search can do on a very Apple-ish video, and sign up for their Beta here.

Consider for a moment how Graph Search could supplement or compete with the services that other websites provide.  Yelp tells you what friends have to say about restaurants and other businesses; Graph Search tells you which ones are liked by your friends and their friends. LinkedIn is a powerful hiring tool for searching through people’s resumes; Graph Search lets you make targeted social inquiries, such as finding which friends of your friends are film publicists.   Match.com, as USA Today pointed out, allows you to see profiles of strangers who have signed up for the service; Graph Search shows which of your Facebook acquaintances and their friends are single. (Female Facebook users… prepare to be pestered!)

At this point Graph Search only indexes what’s in your profile and the pages you’ve liked, so its usefulness is limited by how much our Facebook profile tell about us.  However, Mark Zuckerberg says that his ultimate goal is for Graph Search to include all the content posted on Facebook.   Imagine if you could instantly call up comments that a trusted friend made about a movie three months ago?  That would indeed be very useful, but it will be many years before Graph Search can do that.   In the meantime, if there’s anything that Graph Search can’t help you with, your search goes to Bing.

If people having all this instant access to your data disturbs you, remember that there is nothing accessible through Graph Search that you haven’t already made public, and it only works within your circle of friends.  This is an excellent time to revisit your privacy settings, perhaps take down some pictures and remove tags. Here’s Facebook’s  information page and a video about how to control your privacy with Graph Search.

As far as your film’s fan page goes, Graph Search will force you to change your strategies. In the past, your page was the nucleus of a network, branching out to your fans and their friends, and to the tributaries of Facebook users that stem out beyond them.   Graph Search serves people on the outer margins looking in.  Previously the likes, comments and shares drove your message into the network, and the number of likes was secondary, but if Graph Search catches on, the number of fans will be very important to a search for “What movies do my friends like?”  However, the quality of the content will be as important as it was before, because it will move your film up to the top of the list.

Will Graph Search become one of those big ideas that changes the way we use the Internet?

Time will tell.  As I said before, Graph Search’s viability is limited to how much our profiles express who we are, and that is never the whole story--all of us enjoy more movies than we “like” on Facebook.  Will people hike up their privacy settings so much that Graph Search never reaches its potential? (If that happens it would have a detrimental effect on advertising.) How well will Graph Search work on phones?  What will be the impact of all the bots and fake likers on Facebook?  On the positive side, will Graph Search make it more likely that people will like film pages and write positive comments, as they can see how it will make a long-time difference?   Secondly, if Graph Search truly lives up to its promise it may become the “killer app” that convinces Facebook holdouts to join so they can get access to it.   At this point I think it’s too early to separate what is hype from what could be a seismic change.  Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg had the right tone  when he said, “This is just some really neat stuff. This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while.”

Reid Rosefelt coaches filmmakers in how to market their films using Facebook, and lectures frequently on the topic.  His credits as a film publicist include “Stranger Than Paradise,”  “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and “Precious.”

Blogreidrosefelt.com

facebook.com/reidrosefeltmarketing

When Do They Need A License To Screen A Film?

The other week I tweeted:

Any time a film is shown outside a person's personal home, the screening is considered "public"& u must license the rights.

I expected not much of a response, but it got some retweets & favs.  I fell into this subject courtesy of the Art House Convergence google group (always a fountain of information!).  My tweet was abbreviated from IFC's contractual license language:

Any time a film is shown outside a person's personal home, the screening is considered "public". It does not matter if admission is charged or if the entity screening the film is a non-profit organization, school, or library. If the film is being shown outside the home, it is considered "public" and it is necessary to license the rights for such a showing.

However, this does not seem to be the whole picture.  The AHC conversation continued and it was sourced that Title 17 of USC (United States Code), section 110, states:

§ 110 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;

If anyone would like to read, the entirety of copyright law (it's riveting stuff), you can here:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

 (courtesy of Dr. Eric Faden, Associate Professor of English and Film/Media Studies, Bucknell University).
 
So if you want to show a film in a pub, get a license.  But if you are a not-for-profit educational institution and providing face-to-face instruction, you are in the clear.

More Good Things In Film 2012

I wrote a list.  I checked it twice.  I wrote one naughty.  I wrote one nice.  But dang it, I just could not get it all done in a single sitting, now could I?   So here I go, singing low.  Swing on sweet chariot...  Carry me home. There's more good in this world than I can see in a single glance.  I have six more reasons I found to celebrate (bringing us up to 22); maybe you can add further to the list?

  1. Megan Ellison.  I don't know this savior to our world, but I thank her.  She makes complicated movies with ambition and no easy answers.  I have no idea about whom she is as a person, but in terms of the work she has made, she is one without fear.  She is steel in a world of noodles; everyone else bends but she is the structural support that allows giants to reach even higher.  She made THE MASTER and that alone is enough in my book.  A year that holds that film is a blessed one, but to add on another bit of truly impressive work, ZERO DARK THIRTY,  wow!  That's nothing short of astounding.  But then she's also distributing Harmony Korine and Wong Kar Wai.  Film lovers should all be asking "How do we make sure she is here to stay?  What can we do to support her?".  It's awesome she's in our world; or that we are in hers .
  2. Technology keeps advancing, and with it so do our tools.  Each day shows me a new say to distribute films.  Each day introduces me to a new way to try to organize my life.  We can make our films more better in more ways than ever before.
  3. Successful people left producing or executive producing and chose to focus on building a better world for all of us.  Okay, so Keri Putnam  and Joana Vicente have both been in their jobs for over two years, but they were my inspiration to have the courage to quit the project focus and put on a wide angle lens.
  4. 2012 Was The Year Of The Entire Film In Just One Link (aka The Time We Stopped Sending DVDS All Around).  Filmmakers reduced sending DVDs around and instead started sharing links.  This saves everyone money, and seems to reduce unauthorized duplication.  And it's easy.  And about time.  Glad it caught on.
  5. The JOBS Creation Act was extended in the "Fiscal Cliff" Deal. Section 181 survives!
  6. It is The Era Of The $100M "Indie" (not so sure I think this is a good thing, but I love that directors are getting bucket loads to pursue wild visions) -- and granted this is close to my note on list #1 "Hollywood is taking more creative risks", but here I am speaking of the projects that are more fully artist controlled. (note: this was pointed out to me via Adam Leipzig here).
  7. Films made with ambition, vision, and not focused on the market not only deliver green but garner accolades galore.  BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD got four Oscar Nominations.
  8. Films do not get penalized for making the world a better place, but actually praised and awarded.  Two days before THE INVISIBLE WAR got nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award, Congress announced it would hold hearings on sexual abuse in the military.

But if you don't want to be so happy or comfortable in the way things are...  if you want to have an equal balance of the dark side of reality...  Don't forget all that is still wrong with the film biz, and read this.  Otherwise, sit back, be happy, and recognize: it does get better.

Our Indie Infrastructure Limits The Menu Of Our Content Consumption

Not only are you what you eat, you are what is on the menu.  It’s not just what sells that people buy, it is what is sold.  The March Hare Syndrome indicates people don’t demand the truly tasty until it is delivered to them.  Market forces are not the be-all or end-all – a little intervention can be a game-changer.

If you want movies to be able to change the world, sometimes you have to change the world first.  In pivoting the film infrastructure from a mass-market focus to that which can serve niche audiences, we have to observe who it is that is setting the menu.  Not much of a surprise there really, it is once again the Old White Guys (and yes, I am one).

Film will – thankfully -- always be a passion industry.  People work on what they like.  Yes, money and profit drive behavior more than people or promise, but taste is still a deep influencer.  When a major demographic is the predominate decision-maker on what is brought to market, we get a limited diet.  The curators for the end-users are only provided a limited set of ingredients to cook with.  Who green lights?  Who chooses what to offer to foreign buyers?  Who represents the film to US buyers?

Sure, there are many exceptions, but for the most part, it is the Old White Men at every step of the chain that drive the decision making on what gets made and sold.  We need to actively recruit a far more diversified decision making team if we want to be able to stop trying to sell our work to everybody and instead try to bring it to the special somebody that will respond most positively.

When a fraction of the population cares about film, and a fraction of that cares about specialized films, AND we have a surplus of content competing for the forever more limited attention of the film-loving community, the emphasis should shift from reaching everyone to hyper-targeting the right people.  The beauty of this shift will be a more diversified stream of work will be able to find success in the marketplace, even if it may not have mass impact.   Yet, before this change will come, we have to first change who sets the menu.

Okay, I don’t have hard data on this, and there are many, many exceptions, but I feel it to be generally true: women like different films from men, and people from different backgrounds like different things too.  Race, class, orientation, creed, and gender influence our taste.  Granted, great art unites us all, and all art crosses boundaries in a way that even a passport can not provide.  Yet, if we want to diversify our offerings, we have to diversify who makes the decisions and who encourages others to make decisions.

I’d find it really interesting to look at the catalogues of the sales companies that are owned and operated by women vs those that are done so by men.  It is often said that urban (i.e. African-American & ethnic) films don’t travel, yet race does not seem to be any issue in music.  Why is that?  There are certainly a wide number of executives of color in the music world, but still very few in the film world.  I was taught to love sushi by a chef who patiently worked to expand my palate.   If the same people set the menu tomorrow as the ones from yesterday, our tastes won’t change.

To shift our industry from mass market to niche, we have to change who sells and who buys.  Yes, we have to provide opportunity to artists of diverse backgrounds, and we have to make sure they have the proper support, but change is not always obvious either.  Opportunity is never the same as outcome.  Influence, and even revolution, can be subtle.

Capital that wants to facilitate necessary evolution would be wise to look closer at the keepers of supply and demand.

Diary of a Film Startup Post 19: Searching for Green Card

By Roger Jackson

Previously: New Year Update

Less of a diary post this time, more of a rumination on Hollywood, video-on-demand, and long-tail movies. Klaus and I decided to build KinoNation because we want to make it super-easy for indie filmmakers to distribute their films to the medium that is rapidly replacing DVD. Along the way we’ve come to realise there are also many well known films that remain almost impossible to watch “on demand” -- fuelling consumer frustration that can often only be solved by breaking the law.

Last week was a big day for Klaus‘s wife -- Malona had her final interview with the Feds for her Green Card. It all worked out, green card approved, and she wanted to celebrate that evening with a family viewing of the classic movie Green Card. Klaus and Malona have a pretty cool home theater setup, making it fun and easy to watch video-on-demand movies. Well, maybe not so easy in this case.

Green Card was nominated for an Oscar in 1991. It won a Golden Globe for Best Picture and Best Actor. And it grossed $30m at the box office. Surely there’s widespread consumer demand for this movie to be available to rent via video-on-demand? Certainly there was demand last week from one family in Santa Monica. Klaus started by searching Netflix. They have the DVD, but not Green Card for streaming. Next up, iTunes -- no joy. Amazon Instant Video or Amazon Prime? Nope.. Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, YouTube Movies? Not available.

It was getting late, kids becoming restless. Malona drove to the local Blockbuster store. They don’t have the Green Card DVD. No demand for it, apparently. Although there are about fifteen million people in the USA with one of these (partially green) permanent resident cards. And millions more applications pending.

So after 90 minutes of searching -- and failing -- to find a legal way to pay to watch Green Card that evening, Klaus gave up. Or rather he gave up trying to give Touchstone Pictures his money. Instead, he fired up the BitTorrent file sharing service. Found that Green Card is available for “sharing” from a dozen or so people’s hard drives. Sixteen minutes later he’d downloaded an excellent quality .AVI file, and the family were off to NYC with Gerard Depardieu and Andy MacDowell.

In this case at least, Hollywood has made it more convenient for consumers NOT to acquire movies legally. And this isn’t an isolated example. Most people don’t want the hassle and risk of illegal downloads. What they want is what has always been a big part of the KinoNation vision: Making it easy and convenient for consumers to watch any film, at any time...and to pay the content owners for the privilege.

Meanwhile...back at the ranch. Signed a distribution deal last week with Viewster, who’ve already ordered a half-dozen of the films submitted to our Private Beta. Viewster is becoming a significant player on the global VoD scene. They’re based in Switzerland, very active in the USA, Europe, Asia. And they have a great model which allows consumers to either rent a movie, or watch it for free with ads. We also just started working with SnagFilms, who are currently reviewing a package of the private beta movies. Great films continue to be submitted to us. For example, The Orator is a drama set in Samoa that won awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2011. So keep them coming -- what we’re building is now real, with more outlets every week, and getting very close to our upcoming “soft launch”.

Next Up: Post # 20: (scheduled for Tues February 5th)

Roger Jackson is a producer and the co-founder of film distribution start-up KinoNation. He was Vice President, Content for digital film pioneer iFilm.com and has produced short films in Los Angeles, documentaries in Darfur, Palestine and Bangladesh, a reality series for VH1 and one rather bad movie for FuelTV. You can reach him at roger@kinonation.com.

Blue Potato -- Things to Think About Before Production

By Kavita Pullapilly 
 
As most producers know, the battle is won in pre-production.  If you can't succeed in pre-production, you're better off not going into production.  There are lists upon lists of everything that needs to fall into place to seamlessly deliver all the logistics, people and resources that will result in the creative vision of your film.

However, for the directors and producers of BLUE POTATO, they didn't just stop there.  During pre-production, award-winning filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly along with producer Kavita Pullapilly knew that they had to think about the business behind the film and how it would perform in the marketplace.  With this in mind, they sought to develop a financial strategy for their film that would greatly increase its appeal to investors and distributors.

"First, you have to understand the value of your film.  Second is knowing what your best case, most likely and worst case scenarios will be.  When you value your film, you have to look at it like any other product in the marketplace.  That's hard for a lot of filmmakers to hear, or to even look at their film objectively, but its critical to its success.  Let's boil it down to the basics.  When you build a home to sell, you wouldn't build a $5million dollar home in a neighborhood in which every other house is selling for $200k," said co-producer Kavita Pullapilly.

For more important insights on "Things to Think About Before Production," see the full blog at the BLUE POTATO website:

 
Kavita Pullapilly serves as the chief operating officer for the award-winning film production company, Sunny Side Up Films, Inc. and oversees the finance, marketing and distribution divisions.  She is currently co-producing Sunny Side Up Films' second feature film, Blue Potato as well as co-producing a national multi-platform project for PBS called Lifecasters.

Be Careful What You Wish For: Prepping for Sundance

Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's film American Promise is set to screen at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Below is part 1 of 3 of an interview with them discussing what it was like to get the confirmation call and their next steps in preparing the film for Sundance, among other things. Stay tuned for the following parts in the days to come.

Joe: When we received the phone call from Sundance, we were in the editing room agonizing over how we should end our film.  When the phone rang and we noticed the call was from the Sundance institute, I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up so I handed the phone over to Michèle.  For a moment, it was as if time stood still.  I could hear Michèle say “Hey Shari,” after that, even the sound in my head had been drowned down. I had anticipated this moment for years and the thought of hearing no was now impossible for me to come to terms with, only because of my temporary brain fix.  Suddenly, Michèle went airborne, jumping up and down, pumping her fist in the air.  Then the sound in my mind came back on.  She was screaming the word, “YES!”

Michèle: Perhaps there was some fist pumping and jumping up and down, I don’t know, I think I was numb with elation.  I called my mother in Quebec to share the good news, she asked, “What film did you get in with?”  She was surprised that a festival as important as Sundance would accept a home movie.  Once all the phone calls to crew members were made the daunting nature of what we had to accomplish by January began to sink in.  Be careful what you wish for.

Joe: Preparing for Sundance has felt like running a marathon every day for thirty days.  We have day jobs and on top of a busy post-production schedule, we are creating a short for NYT Op-Docs and preparing for the Television Critics Association press conference in Pasadena, which just happens to be the same week as the Open of the Sundance Film Festival. We’ve also put preparations for our community engagement campaign into high gear.  The campaign is huge and we are so excited about its potential for change.  So, this means we’re now working on adrenaline and less than 5 hours of sleep a day until February.

Michèle: We are set on taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself for the film and our campaign.  And in this day and age of new technologies, that means loads of blogging and social media opportunities to develop a following.   Our engagement campaign is a part of that build up to our premiere screening.  One small piece of that campaign will begin during our film festival tour. It’s unusual to organize a dedicated campaign for a film festival run, so we’re hoping we set a precedent for future documentary films. We came up with this idea because we wanted to harvest any good intention resulting from the screening of the film. Since film festivals draw a general audience, we needed something that anyone could do.

Joe: So, as we travel the festival circuit, we’re going to ask our audiences to help us raise $100,000 and 100 mentors for Big Brothers Big Sister’s Mentoring Brothers in Action program. The goal of this program is to recruit mentors, particularly men of color, and expand the organization’s capacity to serve more African American boys. We launched the campaign the week after Sundance announced our acceptance.

Michèle: Idris and Seun are very excited for Sundance; they are eager to represent the film at such a prestigious event – and are certainly more relaxed about it than we are. Although Seun was initially a bit apprehensive about everything, he is getting more and more excited everyday.

Joe: We decided to prepare the boys for press and interviews, our thought was that we did not want them to became overwhelmed in front of the camera.  That’s when both boys said almost in unison,  “we’ve been in front of a camera for 13 years. What’s another week.”  –  I guess the pressure is really on us.

 

Forward! The Necessity of Twitter

By Rob Millis Every filmmaker, distributor, press agent and their mother has seen plenty of posts about how important Twitter is, yet filmmakers constantly ask me why and how to use it. So at the risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to try and convince that silent majority once and for all.

Twitter is one of the most powerful tools for direct communication with your audience. It is easy to use, conversational and can be lots of fun as well. Twitter enables industry leaders and celebrities to easily and safely engage in conversations with thousands of fans, which means you can easily join the dialogue too. Where else can you exchange ideas with editors of national papers, pop celebrities and your favorite filmmakers? In fact the best part of Twitter is that it makes marketing feel like a casual conversation with fans, because that’s exactly what it is.

Contrary to many first impressions, Twitter is not simply a flood of random people sharing what they had for breakfast and whining about their browser crashing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. When you are logged in, you’ll only see the people you follow, so the key is simply to follow people who genuinely interest you and have something useful to share. For instance, if you follow @tedhope you’ll see a steady stream of useful news about independent film (and probably nothing about his breakfast).

Likewise, once you spread the word to your fan base that you are on Twitter, many will begin to follow you, and they’ll expect news and discussion about your work. Many filmmakers I talk to have frozen up before posting their first tweet —What do I say? What if it sounds stupid? Who cares what I think about this? If you set aside your marketing strategies for a moment and think of Twitter as a cocktail party, you’ll find that this is easier than you think.

The best first step may be to simply say hello to one of the people you want to engage with. You can say hello to me for instance: “@robmillis it’s great to find you here on Twitter. I’ll be connecting with fans and sharing news about my work here.” Then simply share reviews of your work, your thoughts on the industry, share links to new work from the actors and directors you admire or have worked with — your audience will appreciate the engagement and your followers will multiply.

The most important part of using Twitter to build an audience is that you are truly building relationships. With that in mind, remember that this is a digital cocktail party, not a sales call, so constant pitching and self-promotion will usually backfire. When you announce your screening or a new critical review, your followers will only be excited to hear about it if they genuinely have an interest in what you do and what you tweet the rest of the time.

To get started all you need to do is register and then search for a few of your favorite bloggers, filmmakers or friends. To help demonstrate how others are using Twitter effectively, I’ve included a few recommended accounts for you to follow below. As you begin to follow and exchange messages with people you know, you’ll quickly get a sense of how to use the bare bones system, and why Twitter has become so popular.

Recommended Twitter accounts:

@tedhope

@shericandler

@edward_burns

@grking

 @robmillis (moi)
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com.

The Only Logical Response For A Creative Person To This Age Of Abundance

I write today in honor of the Sundance Film Festival (which kicks off today) and if it wasn't for, I probably would have not been able to do what I love for so long.  Here's to new models that are designed with large heart and a complete commitment to the welfare & progress of the artist and their community.  Thank you, Mr. Redford, and may you continue to give rise to so many diverse creatures. I trust that by now all of you who read this blog understand that the Film Biz still functions on an antiquated model that has no applicability to today.  That is, the film industry was constructed around the concept of scarcity of content and control of that content -- and our life is nothing like that now.  Yes, there is still money to be made via the antiquated model, but it only benefits a very few beyond those that control it.  It survives because all industries are essentially designed to keep the jobs of those that have them.  So it goes.  But eventually, we all confront reality, and it often is not pretty.

I also trust that if you are reading this you also recognize that we live in the time of Grand Abundance of produced stories, total access to that content, and a general tendency to be thoroughly distracted from that content.  Looking at the state of film from this perspective can be pretty discouraging, but it is only a partial picture.  I state all of this again, in the hopes that we can soon walk together into the future I know can be before us.

I took to blogging & public speaking because I was frustrated that the film business leaders were only talking about the business aspects of our situation and were neglecting that this is a wonderful time to be a generative, creative person committed to the passion industries.  Over four year years ago, I gave this speech in the hopes of encouraging both artists and film industry leaders to look at things in a different way.  There's been some successes, but I would be lying to say that I am satisfied with what this has all lead to, but it is still certainly worth trying.  I want to make and help others make and appreciate creatively ambitious, emotionally true, appropriately complex stories that aspire us to best aspects of our expansive nature.

There has never been a better time to lead a creative life as a filmmaker.  The tools of production are cheaper and easier to use than ever before.  The tools of marketing, distribution, and financing are cheaper, easier, and more accessible than ever before.  The means of engagement with audiences and ultimate building of communities are more doable than we previously even imagined.  And information is accessible as never previously so enjoyed.  Audiences are growing accustomed to a great variety of story-telling approaches while also exploring more divers content.  I believe our behavior is growing less self-focused and more transparent.  From where I sit, it also appears we are growing less risk adverse and more process (vs. product) oriented.  All good things.  I am excited to be part of these times.

Yet I still get asked by filmmakers, people who already have committed their labor in service to what they love, as well as those that are considering such a mission: "What should I do?  How can I have a sustainable and creative life?"  In this incredible paradigm shift brought on by the twin towers of digital transformation and economic collapse, what is the logical response for a creative person who wants to both sustain & prosper?

In our time of grand abundance, atemporal & platform-agnostic complete access, & audience's intense distraction, the logical response for an artist who wants to sustain a creative life & reasonably profit from doing so, is to be completely ubiquitous and extremely prolific with their work, thus requiring radical collaboration, constant iteration, rapid prototyping,  deviation from singular generation, and overall commitment to innovation.

It's a mouthful, sure, but that's my answer.  Of course it would be better if I could avoid the friggin' entrepreneurial vernacular & jargon, but... can you kick it?  I will give it a plain speak pass soon.

Or perhaps you could say it for me?

 

What If We All Made Important Introductions For Others Daily, Starting Today?

Can we ever have too many friends?  Too many collaborators?  Too many allies?

I don't know if it is a function of my job, my age, my experience, or social media, but it seems like more and more I know more and more people who really SHOULD know each other. And I don't mean just a casual Joe-this-is-Jerry-sort-of-thing.  I mean the thoughtful  mindful these two people will do something great sort of thing.  I recognize that some people build businesses on this model, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it is not for me.  I just want to solve this problems that are in front of us and if we don't get down to it, they will soon start to overwhelm us.   One solution is just to reach out and put one and one together into something better.

On the other hand, by monetizing introductions, at least it doesn't overwhelm you and keep you from doing other things you might be doing.  Which sometimes is how it feels over here in my world.  But then again, how freakin' great does it feel when you put two folks together and something marvelous happens.  Hell, it's good when just the swell thing occurs too.  I have enjoyed helping people start their careers, one way or the other.  I think it is equally pleasing to connect them with the person who might transform them.

I have definitely benefited by others kind introductions.  

Janet Grillo, now a director, was the Story Editor at New Line Cinema back in the Nightmare In Elm Street days when I was a script reader.  After I suggested that Jean Luc Godard direct Whitley Streiber's "Communion", she suggested I meet the guy who just pitched her a silent B&W version of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.  That guy was James Schamus and he was my partner in my first company Good Machine.  I think we made about 43 films as a result of that meeting.  Thank you, Janet.

I was a PA for three years.  While I was a PA I was trying to get films produced.  I learned a lot in those days, often from talking to the other PAs -- each one of course was in the transition of becoming something else.  I kept careful track of how I was treated by all those around me, thinking of the day when I actually would get to choose who I would get to collaborate with.  A few days after the first film that James Schamus and I did  was in the can and James had jetted off to Park City, a man showed up in my office.  His name was Ang Lee.  He was sent to me by David Lasserson, a screenwriter who had masqueraded as a Craft Service person on a film or three.  He had told Ang that if he ever had money but it didn't seem like enough to get a film made, he should find me, as I could produce the impossible.  Thank you, David.

At one time, Good Machine only had two employees, and they both turned out to be pretty darn swell producers: Anthony Bregman and Mary Jane Skalski.  Back then they were assistants of course.  Mary Jane was working with another producer for awhile years later, Jeff Kusama Hinte.  He and I were the key witnesses in our successful anti-trust suit against the MPAA (for the screener ban).  Mary Jane spent some of her time telling their development person what a good and thoughtful guy I was.  The development woman was Vanessa Hope, although she did  not always have that name.  Thank you so much, Mary Jane.

Those are all many years behind me now and there have been many great gifts of friendship, collaboration, and conspiracy bestowed on me since by the thoughtful and generous.  It is a tremendous web we weave, when first we pattern to believe... that our collective strength will always be far greater than our individual knowledge.  

Let's knit this world a little smaller, eh?  How great would it be to be responsible for over 100 new relationships this year? 

If you are at Sundance now, or any where for that matter, make something happen by getting those together who can make something far greater when they work in unison.  We will build it better together.

 

The Rise Of Theatrical-On-Demand: What's Working

By Scott Glosserman

A year ago I was having breakfast with Ted Hope, but I didn't know it.

Attending Sundance's Art House Convergence Conference in Midway, Utah, (a coming together think tank of progressive art houses and independent theatres), I found myself sitting at a communal breakfast table, conversing with Ben Galewsky, a co-op expert who was applying his preferred model to a small theatre in Champaign, Illinois.

The collective mood at the conference was cautious and guarded. Theatre owners commiserated over Fox Searchlight's recent letter vowing to end shipments of 35mm prints, essentially requiring indie houses to retrofit for digital projection or to get used to solely showing repertory titles. Yet, sales reps for VPF's (Virtual Print Fees) weren't revealing their deal structures. Indie exhibs were looking for answers, but little at the time were understood, much less given.

Ben surmised that capital could be raised for retrofitting theatres by converting to a co-op model and thereby turning to the community for assistance where participating banks were not to be found. Since over $100 million in independent film financing has already been crowdfunded through Kickstarter I am hopeful that Ben's endeavor to crowdfund for indie exhibitors has also met with success and I am eager to find out during this year's Art House Convergence that begins today.

Over our breakfast buffets, I explained to Ben the meaning behind a term we’d recently trademarked, Theatrical On Demand style distribution. I was hopeful that my start-up, Gathr, could apply crowdfunding concepts to the crowd-sourcing of critical masses of theatrical audiences, through our online platform. Simply, a movie-goer would request a screening of a film and tell us when/where it should be shown, and if enough people were to reserve tickets to the screening by pre-authorizing their credit cards, we’d 'greenlight' the screening and collect the money for distribution/exhibition up front so that we’d at least be at breakeven the moment we had actually booked the engagement.

Here we were, two folks new to the theatrical distribution/exhibition business, both armed with ideas -- albeit his a very old concept and mine a very new one -- for preserving a segment of the industry seemingly headed towards a cliff. As green as I was at the time, I was confident that assuming we could aggregate and consolidate the theatrical audience demand before a distributor and exhibitor committed to an engagement, we would create no-risk, found-money for everyone in the theatrical distribution food chain.

That was when I noticed a guy in a ragged sweater and glasses raise an eyebrow from the other side of the table.

"You need a mid-step," he said. "You'll want to build interest first -- see where your demand is." A moment later he introduced himself as Ted Hope. And, that's when I realized that the guy I'd heard about and read about for over a decade during my time as a filmmaker -- the guy who in half an hour was going to deliver the closing address at the Conference -- the guy to whom somehow I wanted to introduce myself and with whom I wanted to discuss my concept, was sitting across from me and listening to my 'pitch'.

From our beta launch in March, through our stumbles and successes, Ted has been a  mentor of ours. When he asked me, recently, for an update on screenings and such I was more than obliged. Ted, although we're still perfecting the mid-step, here are a few anecdotes and takeaways from two of our projects, and a look at our most promising title, GIRL RISING, scheduled for release in March:

 

SHUFFLE

Written, directed, produced, edited and scored by Kurt Kuenne

 

This black and white, untraditional narrative jewel box of a festival film darling garnered fans and awards wherever it screened. Yet, the movie didn’t have a prayer at a traditional theatrical release. Although ancillary rights were picked up, Kurt would have had to have risked his own capital on self-distribution if he wanted to share his film with others on the big screen for commercial exploitation.  His film is a microcosm of the countless quality niche films out there that aren’t broad enough for even a limited theatrical release.

 

With no marketing and advertising spend, but rather the passion and persistence of a filmmaker, Kurt was able to ‘tip’ 15 screenings of SHUFFLE around the country. In places such as Cleveland and St. Louis, we enlisted the support of film festivals (CIFF and SLIFF) where SHUFFLE had screened to promote an ‘encore’ presentation to their subscribers, thus addressing the age-old festival post-screening audience question, “How can I share this film with my friends? Where can I see it again?” Answer: Don’t wait for it to come to you. Gathr it!

 

In far-flung Port Angeles, Washington, the film’s costume designer brought together close to 200 people to watch the film and stay for a post-screening discussion. Kurt’s efforts were greeted by grateful cinephiles appreciative of his past work and receptive to supporting his current endeavors. Kurt can tap and manage an ever-growing fan-base of his while we take away the barriers of entry for self-distribution. We were also happy to provide Kurt with a foreign sales agent so he can get his film seen by even more people.

 

BIG EASY EXPRESS

Directed by Emmett Malloy

 

This SXSW audience award-winning, GRAMMY nominated music documentary featuring Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes had slightly higher expectations than SHUFFLE because of the significant online reach of the film’s cast. The movie deserves its place in the canon of all time great music documentaries, so it was a ‘sell’ that the Mumfords and other participants could feel really good about getting behind.

 

BIG EASY EXPRESS debuted on iTunes and other ancillary platforms before Gathr joined the picture, which presented challenges for us. The most obvious was that the exclusivity angle of its theatrical window was eliminated. Who knows how many folks chose to stay home to watch the film; but more importantly, having the film release online or on VOD before (or concurrently with) a theatrical release alienated several theatrical circuits that stand in solidarity against this type of ‘day-and-date’ distribution strategy and simply refuse to exhibit the picture. This, in turn, prevented us from being able to service the theatrical demand for the film when a screening was requested in an area where only the reluctant theatres had a presence.

 

Nevertheless, we have had over a hundred screenings of BIG EASY EXPRESS. Also, because we book traditional theatrical engagements in addition to our TOD℠ method, we have been able to accommodate the desires of theatres that want to book a run for the film, or that simply want to guarantee the one-off screening. (There have been several instances on films for which we augment the distribution of a traditional distributor where the theatre has refused the distributor a week-long booking, but engaged us for a one night screening in order to mitigate their risk and in order to consolidate the audience).

 

Had the content owner engaged a traditional distribution company, alone, for BIG EASY EXPRESS, the film would have likely seen a 10 market, 2 week release, with a handful of additional theatres requesting the film for screenings. Because of the way our model works, we have been actively screening the film since September, and show no signs of stopping. We recently sold out a January 15th screening at Josh Levin’s wonderful West End Cinema in Washington, DC, in fact. The content owner hasn’t had to spend a dime on marketing and publicity, but they have been able to leverage the impressive reach of their casts’ fan bases.

 

GIRL RISING

Directed by Richard E. Robbins

 

GIRL RISING is as ambitious as a kwasi-documentary gets. The film, shot in 10 locations around the world, has attracted the voices of Meryl Streep, Priyanka Chopra, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, Alicia Keys and Selena Gomez, to name a few. Its objective is to effect change for the more than 66 million girls around the world who don’t have access to school. We are Gathr’ing screenings for International Women’s Day, March 8th, and beyond.

 

With this film, we are fortunate to not only have a significant amount of social media muster, but a great deal of traditional marketing muscle, as well. Corporate partners, Intel and Google, and several prominent NGO’s are committed to creating consumer awareness. Additionally, we will have an exclusive theatrical window of over 90 days before the film debuts on CNN, worldwide. These circumstances enable us to exhibit in virtually any theatre, anywhere. We could not ask for a better opportunity to prove large scale demand in our business model; for the filmmakers and producers have chosen to democratize theatrical distribution by exclusively employing our bottom-up model. Their goal is a minimum of 1000 screenings and we are pursuing it with great alacrity.

 

Outlook:

 

Ted, recently the Met Cinema rose from the ashes with a community-driven ‘crowd-sourced’ subscription model to save Oakhurst, California’s only cinema. Many theatres continue to struggle and many deserving films continue to be overlooked, and a few of us continue to pursue innovative ways to keep the theatrical experience robust with myriad film choices. Movies are meant to be seen in theatres, with crowds. Crowdsourcing via online platforms gives exhibitors, distributors, content owners and movie-goers a wonderful opportunity to access theatrical audiences in an innovative, cost-effective way.  The Art House Convergence Conference, commencing today, brings together the most proactive of these leaders and I know you share my enthusiasm for seeing what ideas are working and what new ones are yet to come.

Scott Glosserman founded Gathr in August of 2011 after producing and directing his latest feature, THE TRUTH BELOW, for MTV Films. Scott is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, The Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America. 

Can VOD & Theatrical Exhibition Both Benefit Each Other?

Is there a model where both can further film culture, audience development, and overall cinema appreciation?  With very few critics left with a mass market soap box, where do we turn for curation?  With a global onslaught of 50,000 feature films generated per year, how do we connect with the films that are best for us?  When audiences enjoy cinema in any form, they are far more apt to engage with more film soon after?  Is there a model that leads to a a win/win for everyone?

MUBI recently announced a partnership with Picturehouse Theaters where members get 90 days free access on MUBI.  One wonders if there are similar deals to be done with online aggregators and exhibitors in the US...

Our community theaters are just one of the curators we have in this country for cinema culture.  Film Societies, like the San Francisco FIlm Society and Lincoln Center, also help develop audiences and advance the dialogue.  Critics, blogs, friends and family, all help with discovery, recognition and appreciation.  Yet in a world with a plethora of leisure time options, it's critical for one's love of an art form to run deep if it is to become habitual -- which our industry and business models currently require.  Discovering and enjoying great cinema goes a long, long way to building a long term relationship.

I have to think that there is something to be said about getting access to great classic cinema alongside a membership into an organization that gives you access to the latest of world and arthouse cinema.  Of course, the level of each would have to line up well.

What else would help this model work well?

Filmmakers, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Jobs Act Is? Part 3

Written by Michael R. Barnard

FILMMAKERS, IT’S 2013. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR JOBS ACT IS?
Part 3 of 3 parts.
 
Yesterday, in Part 2, we learned that cash is available and that the JOBS Act is going to give filmmakers an opportunity to more easily access that cash for investment to make movies and rebuild the independent film industry.

The Internet enlarged the playing field for securities offerings, whether valid or not, and for potential investors, whether knowledgeable or not.

How do you legally and ethically access that hoarded cash and encourage its investment in your well-developed movie project so you can hire people and make your movie?

 

Easier access to that cash is the promise of the JOBS Act, which was the biggest bi-partisan effort of the past several years of hyper-partisanship. Support for the JOBS Act spanned both parties.

 

America needs good jobs, and some of those jobs need to come from the independent film industry. Joblessness and low-wage jobs have crippled the survival and prosperity of millions of Americans, and are a drag on our entire economy.

 

For you, the significance of the JOBS Act is not only the production of your movie, but also its potential to rebuild the infrastructure of the American independent film industry by structuring movie projects to show business as well as artistic realities.

 

The ability to reach out to investors means you will have to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your movie project, plan its production and distribution, and calculate reasonable possible returns. Your stronger, compelling plans and successful investor strategy will allow you to pay better wages, attract superior cast and crew, rent and purchase proper equipment, engage legal counsel and insurance, and make stronger efforts to engage audiences and deliver your movie to them. By opening access to that hoarded cash and other cash from investors, the JOBS Act can provide filmmakers with increased production quality and increased likelihood of a return on investment, which can increase the stability of the independent film industry in America. The process can increase the potential to deliver higher-quality movies to larger audiences.

 

There are two parts of the JOBS Act specifically attractive to independent filmmakers. They are Title II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS, commonly referred to as “the General Solicitation Rule,” and Title III—CROWDFUND. These offer the promise to improve filmmakers’ ability to raise money for development, production, marketing, and distribution of their movies.

 

Some filmmakers are lucky enough to raise money for their movies through family and friends, angel investors, venture capitalists, or other ways of private funding. Most filmmakers are not so fortunate.

 

Many filmmakers turn to crowdfunding, whether perks-based donor crowdfunding or the forthcoming Equity Crowdfunding. That’s a good path for filmmakers whose social circle is pretty normal, and you will benefit from Title III—CROWDFUND of the JOBS Act.

 

Are you fortunate enough to have millionaires in your social circle? The change to the fundraising process, opening it up for general solicitation, will be the benefit for you from TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS of the JOBS Act.

 

TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS

 

TITLE II is popularly referred to as the “General Solicitation” rule. It will change some of the exemptions from the most strenuous rules; these exemptions, which are still very strict, are commonly referred to by investment professionals as “Sec. 506, Reg. D”. The rules that allow exemptions from some of the harshest regulations still include prohibitions against you, or any person acting on your behalf, offering or selling securities through any form of “general solicitation or general advertising.”

 

Most of those posts long ago on Friendster and MySpace and those ads printed in magazines and newspapers by filmmakers telling people to invest in their films and promising the investors profits have always been illegal. Examples of general solicitation include advertisements published in newspapers and magazines, communications broadcast over television and radio, and seminars whose attendees have been invited by general solicitation, as well as other uses of publicly available media, such as unrestricted websites and social media.

 

The big news is that TITLE II is going to let you promote your movie project to everybody you can reach. The only restrictions will be, simply, that you can only sell your securities to Accredited Investors – but you can now find those Accredited Investors by publicly announcing your movie project.
The JOBS Act instructs the SEC to make rules to stop the prohibition against general solicitation and to give you reasonable steps to verify that those who invest in your movie are truly Accredited Investors as defined by law.

 

You will not be able accept investment money from anyone who can’t prove they are Accredited Investors. The Act says you will not be subject to requirements to be a registered broker or dealer because of maintaining and advertising online or on other platforms your offer, sale, or negotiation of an investment in your movie. Under the general solicitation rules for your Sec. 506 of Reg. D offering, there might be no other reporting requirements other than, probably, the basic Form D now required by such offerings (see http://www.sec.gov/answers/formd.htm). It is likely the SEC will modify the Form D only to acknowledge that your offering is being made under TITLE II of the JOBS Act.

 

The JOBS Act established a deadline of Wednesday, July 4, 2012, for the SEC to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS. The SEC missed that deadline. The agency did publish proposed rules for TITLE II on August 29, 2012 (see http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2012/2012-170.htm) but has not implemented them. Although the SEC has missed the deadline required by the Act, and used a process a little bit out of the ordinary regarding its usual schedule of receiving public comments and publishing proposals, the SEC believes they are working prudently within the complex requirements of implementing the JOBS Act. There is not yet an anticipated date for finalizing the rules for Title II of the JOBS Act. It continues to accept public comments regarding TITLE II.

 

TITLE III—CROWDFUND

 

Title III—CROWDFUND of the JOBS Act, twisted into an acronym of that tortured construct, “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure,” relieves filmmakers of many of the burdens of raising equity investment for movie projects. The goals of the Act appear to allow a filmmaker (or any entrepreneur) to offer securities to any American for up to a maximum of $1 million in any 12-month period for all of the entities controlled by the filmmaker using the process similar to perks-based donor crowdfunding

 

It appears the filmmaker’s offering of securities must be made only through a registered securities broker or through a newly-described “Funding Portal” registered with the SEC. Funding Portals are intermediaries that might be similar to the existing crowdfunding sites, and will be responsible for educating the public about investing, protecting the public from fraud, vetting the people offering the securities, distributing to the SEC and potential investors any information about the securities, and holding in escrow all proceeds prior to reaching the offering amount. Funding Portals will also protect the privacy of investors and cannot purchase from any finders or brokers any personal information about potential investors. Filmmakers will not be allowed to be officers, partners, or directors in the Funding Portal servicing their projects.

 

In order to offer equity shares in their project, it appears filmmakers will need to provide some form of a Business Plan and Financial Projection, which was common before the collapse of the independent film industry, that includes the purpose for the offering and the target offering amount and its deadline, as well as the description of the ownership and capital structure of the issuer. The Business Plan and Financial Projection will likely include the name, legal status, physical address, and website address of the issuer; the names of the directors and officers and anyone with more than 20 percent of the shares of the issuer. A description of the financial condition of the issuer including all other offerings of the issuer within the preceding 12-month period is also required. The filmmaker will need to make regular updates about progress meeting the target offering amount. There will be rules about describing the price, value, terms and class of the securities offered. Annual reports will be required.

 

WHO CAN INVEST, AND HOW MUCH?

 

Once the new SEC regulations are in place, you likely will be allowed to approach anyone via any method of communication, describing your well-developed movie project, as long as you only send them to the Funding Portal or broker handling your movie project. If you pay someone to bring people to your project at your broker or Funding Portal, you will be required to declare publicly that you pay the person to do so.

 

It appears there will be no limit to the Americans you can approach, but their participation will have limits. Expect that those potential investors whose annual income or net worth is less than $100,000 will be allowed to invest up to 5 percent of their annual income or net worth, capped at a maximum of $2,000. Anyone with an annual income or net worth of more than $100,000 will be allowed to invest up to 10 percent of their annual income or net worth, capped at a maximum of $100,000. These maximums will apply to all of the investments made by the individual to all issuers – not just you – in any 12-month period.

 

It is attractive to filmmakers to be able to raise up to $1 million per year in equity investment. This fits into a common timetable for making movies; the first year’s fundraising could support development, production, and post-production, and the second year’s fundraising could support marketing and distribution, effectively allowing filmmakers to raise up to $2 million for your movie.

 

The investment securities in your movie will be barely, if at all, liquid. Your investors will likely not be allowed to resell their securities for a period of 12 months except to people such as accredited investors and family members, or through a complex registered public offering in the unlikely case that you were to develop one.

 

The issue of Funding Portals has become very complex. It originally appeared that the JOBS Act would allow a proliferation of new businesses to serve as Funding Portals. However, complex and contradictory parts of the Act now appear to make it illegal for Funding Portals to earn a profit unless they are functions of registered Broker-Dealers. The possibility of non-profit organizations setting up Funding Portals has not yet been addressed by the SEC. The process of becoming a registered Broker-Dealer could take probably more than six months and cost probably more than $25,000. For the SEC’s information about the process, see http://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/bdguide.htm

 

“You’re dealing with other people’s money, there is an obligation of financial and fiduciary duty to the investors,” says Bob Thibodeau of Crowdfund Capital Markets (see www.linkedin.com/pub/bob-thibodeau/3/849/b4a), a service company providing backend and clearinghouse functions for equity crowdfunding operations.

 

“Orderly, transparent, liquid markets are good for everybody,” continues Thibodeau. “The processes, the technology, the understanding of regulatory environments is much more conducive to orderly markets than everybody learning something all at once, which is chaos, which is where crowdfunding is right now.”

 

The SEC is working with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (see http://finra.org), the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States, on rules for funding portals, and FINRA has a voluntary Interim Form for prospective Funding Portals. Once the SEC and FINRA have adopted funding portal rules, they then need to promulgate the rules that will apply to those who need to use Equity Crowdfunding to fund their businesses.

 

“Investors soon can expect to be inundated with crowdfunding pitches, legitimate or otherwise,” said Heath Abshure, President of North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) (see http://www.nasaa.org/about-us/nasaa-board-of-directors/), the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection.

 

An analysis of Internet domain names found nearly 8,800 domains with “crowdfunding” in their name at the end of the year, up from less than 900 at the beginning of the year.

 

Fraud concerns run high in certain circles of the professional investment community. However, the openness and transparency of the Internet, according to crowdfunding experts, serves to thwart fraud.

 

Slava Rubin of popular perks-based donor crowdfunding site Indiegogo (see www.linkedin.com/in/indieslava/), and very active in the process of crafting the Equity Crowdfunding part of the JOBS ACT, says “Indiegogo’s 5,000 campaigns are proven case studies to predict that there is no significant worry about fraud. The fraud rate in our case studies has been about 1 percent.” He notes that when e-commerce was new on the Internet, people also predicted huge increases in fraud. However, eBay and Amazon proved that online fraud risk is no greater than every other risk we face every day.

 

According to the report “How the Crowd Detects Fraud” (see http://www.crowdfundcapitaladvisors.com/resources/26-resources/120-crowd-detects-fraud.html ), “This is the new crowdsourced diligence paradigm.” The crowd itself effectively polices against fraud.

 

PERKS-BASED DONOR CROWDFUNDING AND EQUITY CROWDFUNDING WILL CO-EXIST. 

 

Perks-based donor crowdfunding and Equity Crowdfunding each has its own process and participants. It is likely perks-based donor crowdfunding will be more focused on funding for personal, artistic movies, while Equity Crowdfunding will be focused on movies with commercial appeal.

 

Kickstarter is not going to get involved in Equity Crowdfunding because its mission was never profit-oriented over artist-oriented. It launched in 2009 after an original idea in 2001 to fund creative projects that would probably not be profitable, but that were good ideas that people want to see come to life.
For instance, last year Charlie Kaufman, Dan Harmon, Ira Sachs, David Fincher, Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader all turned to Kickstarter to invite fans to participate in their personal creations.

 

Equity Crowdfunding will be a different experience, and for different backers, than perks-based donor crowdfunding.

 

The JOBS Act established a deadline of Monday, December 31, 2012 for the SEC to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of TITLE III—CROWDFUND. The SEC missed the deadline, and has no anticipated date for the rulemaking to implement TITLE III. The SEC has not published any proposed rules for TITLE III and continues to accept public comments regarding TITLE III.

 

When the SEC is engaged in rulemaking, they typically want to hear from the public and will say very little beyond what is proposed.

 

Part of the reason for delays in rulemaking may be the change in leadership at the SEC. On December 14, 2012, Chairman Mary Schapiro left the agency, and President Obama appointed Elisse Walter as her successor. See http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2012/2012-240.htm and http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/11/26/statement-president-obama-departure-sec-chairman-mary-schapiro

 

Although the SEC has made few announcements about the JOBS Act and its rulemaking, former Chairman Schapiro spoke about it in her opening remarks at the SEC Open Meeting on August 29,2012 (see http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2012/spch082912mls.htm) and current Chairman Walter gave her “Opening Remarks Regarding the Proposal of Rules Eliminating the Prohibition against General Solicitation and General Advertising in Rule 506 and Rule 144A Offerings” at that same meeting (see http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2012/spch082912ebw.htm)

 

When it wends its way through the SEC rulemaking processes, the JOBS Act will be a powerful tool that will give filmmakers something they have desired for decades: easier access to investors for their movies.

You face the opportunity to have a significant impact on the future of America’s independent film industry.

 
You can immediately participate in the process to make sure the JOBS Act supports the needs of America’s independent film industry. The SEC wants to hear from you at http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/jobsactcomments.shtml
 
As a filmmaker, you can tell the SEC that it’s important to you to be able to have access to investment capital in order to make your movies and to rebuild the independent film industry.
 

Michael R. Barnard is a writer and filmmaker who has been researching the American JOBS Act since it was first proposed. Barnard is currently working on creating an independent feature film, A FATHER AND SON (http://AFatherAndSon.wordpress.com). Barnard lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the historical novel NATE AND KELLY. You can reach Barnard on Twitter at @mrbarnard1 and on Facebook at michael.barnard.

 

This article is an overview and observation, not legal advice.

A Thought for Sundance: Will Your Films Still Be Watched in the Future?

By Reid Rosefelt

Many of you are at Sundance now with a new movie.  Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck.  I know you’re overwhelmed with the experience and it might seem a ridiculous time to ask: “Will your film still be watched in 2043?”

With the advent of digital streaming, movies available for round-the-clock viewing have already become needles in haystacks as high as Everest.  Netflix claims to have 90,000 DVD titles and 12,000 streaming ones.  Add to that, movies from other streaming sites like iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, CinemaNow, Mubi, Fandor, Snagfilms, Crackle, YouTube, Indiepix, Crunchyroll, and apps like HBO to Go, that even allowing for overlaps, it becomes numbing for most people to pick a particular movie out of the pile.  In 2043 there will undoubtedly be hundreds of thousands of films and TV show episodes available instantly, but all current indications suggest it won’t be a comprehensive list or include the best films.  The lack of selection isn’t an issue today, but I believe that future cultural and technological trends will lead the mass public to select among what is most convenient and instant, and only the most discerning viewers will seek the best of cinema history on plastic discs.

You’re at Sundance now with a film--and in the future, many films-- that audiences love and critics do too. (You can stop reading this if that’s not true.)  Moving forward you should know that it’s rare to find a career that doesn’t have its ups and downs, and some people fall so far off the radar that when they return to the public eye we call it a comeback even if that person worked steadily while they were “away.”   Don’t let that be you. Here are some things to think about.

Keep at it.  Woody Allen makes a film every year. People don’t like some of them? They go crazy for “Midnight in Paris”?  It doesn’t matter what happens; he’s always on to the next one.

You have to learn media skills.  Here’s some basic advice you can use today.  First, when you speak to a journalist it’s not a chat, it’s an opportunity.  Imagine that you weren’t you, but someone else trying to persuade somebody to see it.  What points would you want to make?  Don’t force things, but do try to say things that help and avoid things that don’t help.  Never do anything that doesn’t take you towards your goal, which is to find the reasons why people should see your movie.   Second, just as you study the art of the great filmmakers, scrutinize carefully the skills and technique of the most brilliant marketers. Third, be willing to devote some time.  Ang Lee takes nearly a year after every movie traveling the globe to promote it.  If you meet with a potential distributor during the festival, they will be very receptive to you throwing out how much energy and time you are willing to put into selling your movie.  (There’s so much more I can say here, and I will write about it later.)

Branching out.  The more things you do, the more you will stay in the public eye.  Actors become directors, directors become actors, and both actors and directors become producers. Some filmmakers also work in theatre and TV as well as pursue causes and politics.  The ultimate multi-tasker is Robert Redford, who in addition to his never-ending initiatives to expand the mission of the Sundance institute, and his career as an actor/producer/director, has devoted much of his time to environmental activism.  Wanting to branch out is a personal thing, but there’s no harm in stopping to think now and then about things you always wanted to do… and whether it’s time to start doing it.

Change and reinvention.  As artists move through their careers, sometimes they face the riddle: “If I keep making films like I did before then people say I’m in a rut, but if I make different kinds of films they say they liked the old ones better.”  There’s no safe choice to this, so if you do have the inclination to change course, I say go for it.  I don’t think change is ever wrong, as that’s how you grow.  If your experiment leads you towards taboo subjects, you might get a lot of attention, and there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you’re doing it only for the publicity.  You can take that to the extreme and never stop the process of reinvention.

Let me talk about your legacy now.

If all goes well you will spend a lifetime making good films and working hard to get your films seen and make your presence felt in the world.  If you reach a certain level, it won’t be an issue for you to be remembered, but if your work is wonderful but less celebrated?   What happens to your legacy after you retire or die and your movies fall into the morass of too many streaming movies?

Not to be dramatic, but I have been amazed and disheartened with the fickleness of the public and how quickly they can forget the films of the past.  Here is what I have discovered from my decades as a publicist.

There has to be at least one person or an organization willing to carry the torch.

These caretakers will endeavor to get all your films online and have copies available that can be screened in theatres. So often the films that a writer and director is best known for fall out of circulation for one reason or another.

They will strive to set up theatrical retrospectives.   There must be events where the films are shown as a group, so that the totality of your work can be appreciated.  This creates a news peg for the media to cover.  Every time there is a retrospective, your work will become new again.  People who read about it will seek your films out on home video.

Often the reason that an artist’s work is sent to oblivion is not because nobody wants to memorialize it, but because the authorized person impedes or blocks it.  There are many stories of a widow or widower asking an unreasonable price for a film with a limited audience with the result that nobody sees it.

Thinking about who’s going to look after your work when you’re not around is important, like making a will.  If God forbid, anything happens to you, who would it be?

Social media is essential.  Extending a legacy is what social media does best. I’ve written about how this works here.   If you haven’t done so, build a Facebook page when you get home and learn how to get the most out of it.  If you sell your film to a distributor, ask if you can be in charge of social media.  Unless they’re Focus Features with their dedicated social media staff, it’s unlikely they will have as much time or motivation to lavish on a Facebook page as you will, and they certainly can’t do it with your voice, which is the most important thing.

If you’re at Sundance, think about this when you get home.  If you’re not at Sundance, then what are you waiting for?  Facebook is a magical tool that never existed before so why not use it?   You’ve put your heart and soul into your movies and I’m sure you want them to live on.  More than anything, I do too.

Reid Rosefelt coaches filmmakers in how to market their films using Facebook, and lectures frequently on the topic.  His credits as a film publicist include “Stranger Than Paradise,”  “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and “Precious.”

Blogreidrosefelt.com

facebook.com/reidrosefeltmarketing

Filmmakers, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Jobs Act Is? Part 2

Written by Michael R. Barnard FILMMAKERS, IT’S 2013. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR JOBS ACT IS?

Part 2 of 3 parts.

Yesterday, in Part 1, we looked at the general state of affairs for raising money from investors for your movie, and introduced the JOBS Act for its potential to help rebuild the independent film industry in America.
Offering securities for your film is tightly restricted and regulated by the SEC. For every rule of the SEC that you ignore, your disgruntled investor’s attorneys will accuse you of fraud and deception and other wrongdoing. They will win, and collect good sums of money for their clients.
“If somebody loses their money in a film investment,” says Jeff Steele of Film Closings, “Nine out of ten times, they’re going to sue the producer. That’s how the world works. The difference between being sued by ma and pa investors or Accredited Investors is that Accredited Investors have better lawyers.”

For the definition of “Accredited Investors,” see http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus/secg/accredited-investor-net-worth-standard-secg.htm

In simple terms – explanations that are more complex require attorneys – the process to raise money for your movie by legally offering securities is referred to generally as a “Private Placement Memorandum,” which usually costs about $15,000 or more in time and fees.

When you have your expensive PPM, what can you do with it?

Under Rule 506 of Regulation D, you can only show your expensive PPM to, simply put, millionaires. This audience, legally known as “Accredited Investors,” is allowed because of the presumption that people with lots of money can’t get destroyed by a single bad investment, and are smart enough to properly evaluate the realistic potential for any investment.

 

According to attorney Dan DeWolf, attorney with the New York law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo (see http://www.martindale.com/Daniel-I-DeWolf/499422-lawyer.htm), “As a matter of public policy, the courts really do not want to get involved in investments with someone where, if it was disclosed it was a risky investment, and they are wealthy, and they can afford good counsel. If they have a million dollars net worth and they’re making these types of investments, they can afford to pay counsel or their accountant to look this up. The courts really don’t want to interfere in this type of capital formation.”

 

The definition of “Accredited Investor” is very specific, and was updated in 2011 to exclude the value of one’s home because of the destructive volatility of the mortgage crisis. It includes those with a net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase, excluding the value of their primary residence, or those with income exceeding $200,000, or $300,000 with the spouse, in each of the past two years and the reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year. (See the description of Accredited Investor here: http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus/secg/accredited-investor-net-worth-standard-secg.htm)

 

“What the courts don’t want, and the SEC doesn’t want,” continues DeWolf, “is people preying on widows, orphans, and others where these types of high-risk investments are totally inappropriate. That is why they limit it to only Accredited Investors, because they can bear the risk.”

 

It’s a closed community. Only after you find an Accredited Investor can you then pitch your expensive PPM. Generally speaking, you cannot legally let anyone other than Accredited Investors have access to your project for evaluation (there is an allowance for those with prior relationships, but that is not in the scope of Title II of the JOBS Act), nor can you allow anyone other than accredited investors to invest in your project.

 

These facts commonly frustrate new filmmakers.

 

Of course, the spirit of artistry and story-telling still burned under the collapse caused by the Great Recession. Filmmaking never died. Even in the worst times of the Great Recession, when distributors, hedge funds, foreign presales, and bank credit started to disappear, filmmaking found support. Even with the tremendous downward pressure on budgets for production and distribution, filmmakers continued to strive to make movies.

 

At the same time, audiences clamored to help the arts of filmmaking. The spark of creativity was nurtured by a new process of perks-based donor crowdfunding to fund filmmaking.

 

The process is like an egalitarian version of the ages-old concept of “patron of the arts,” when wealthy benefactors provided money to support their favorite artists for the sake of the art.

 

With today’s perks-based donor crowdfunding, filmmakers, instead of seeking equity investment in their movie project from a few people in exchange for profit participation, simply ask everyone for outright contributions, usually offering perquisites as a return gift. There is no equity participation; this means that none of the donors will receive any ownership in the movie project. Supporters give money to filmmakers solely for the sake of helping get the movie made. They cannot receive any possible profit. They usually cannot even receive a tax deduction, since perks-based donor crowdfunding is rarely set up for qualified donations to registered non-profit organizations, such as 501c3 entities.

 

It works.

 

“Any resource that allows artist and audience to link directly and strategically is a great thing,” said Sean McManus (see http://www.filmindependent.org/sean-mcmanus/)about crowdfunding. McManus is co-president of Film Independent, the largest organization serving independent filmmakers in America. He added, “They crowdfund pre-production, production, post-production, and even festival runs and distribution.”

 

“Crowdfunding also enables filmmakers to develop direct contact with potential viewers once the film is available,” added Josh Welsh (see http://www.filmindependent.org/josh-welsh-co-president/), also co-president of Film Independent.

 

Perks-based donor crowdfunding is probably just as hit-or-miss as seeking equity investment. Many projects launched on crowdfunding sites fail to reach their goals. However, Kickstarter, the biggest player in the field of crowdfunding sites, rightfully brags about some fascinating and exciting results on their blog at http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/100-million-pledged-to-independent-film. Kickstarter alone has brought together nearly 900,000 people who supported independent filmmakers, pledging more than $100 million to features, documentaries, shorts, web-series, and other film and video projects over the past three years. Rentrak, which tracks such things, reports that almost one hundred Kickstarter-funded films were in more than 1,500 North American theaters, and another dozen or more have theatrical premieres slated for 2013.

 

There are many crowdfunding sites; another popular crowdfunding site for filmmakers is Indiegogo and a newer one is CrowdZu.

 

The term “crowdfunding” refers to a subset of the term “crowdsourcing,” a recent term to describe the use of social media, primarily, to obtain information and maybe even consensus from the crowd of people accessible by one’s online and offline social circles (see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crowdsourcing). “Crowdfunding” is the process of using crowdsourcing for the specific purpose of raising funds. Curiously, the most popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, does not use the term “crowdfunding.” It calls itself, simply, an online funding platform. Considering the U.S. Government’s definition in Title III of the JOBS Act of “CROWDFUND” as an acronym of the contorted “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure,” it’s easy to side with Kickstarter’s dislike of the term.

 

Some investment professionals are only aware of the term in the context of the forthcoming Equity Crowdfunding, which is not yet legal, as well as some closed-to-the-public investing sites that now exist, and they might express confusion or concern when people talk about “crowdfunding” as it is popularly used today.

 

This confusion is likely to grow when perks-based donor crowdfunding and Equity Crowdfunding both become fundraising tools for filmmakers and other entrepreneurs.

 

Perks-based donor crowdfunding has been legal and immensely popular. Public use of “Equity Crowdfunding” under the JOBS Act has not yet been implemented and is still illegal. Existing closed-to-the-public equity investing sites are limited to only Accredited Investors.

 

DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON BUDGETS

 

The perks-based donor crowdfunding efforts that are successful commonly provide only a bare minimum amount of funding for making a movie. In an industry where ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ and being ingenious in cheap ways to create movie magic has always been the lifeblood of making movies, there is now a new lower threshold as many crowdfunded projects raise barely enough money to pay for extremely reduced expenses. Although it’s now the assumed reality for our new generation of filmmakers, this new lower threshold often results in shorter production schedules, lower or non-existent wages, fewer cast and crew, no rental of equipment to increase production value, avoidance of location fees and even insurance, presuming ‘word-of-mouth’ instead of crafting a marketing budget, and other critically minimized expenses. The Great Recession’s downward pressure on budgets that had already been small has hindered the infrastructure of the independent film industry in America, making competitive production value, consistency, opportunity and livelihood difficult. This is particularly unusual, given the tremendous growth in the quantity of independent movies being made. For instance, more than 2,000 feature films made in America were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

 

“There is now a strata of filmmaking where they get their fifty grand and do whatever they can possibly do with it,” says Richard Abramowitz of Abramorama.

 

In the modern independent film industry in America, Ted Hope of the San Francisco Film Society considers three levels of independent feature film budgets: about $20 to $25 million, which might be considered as Oscar-worthy films; about $3 million for independent films that attract a lead actor who had a significant role in prior feature films grossing in the range of $100 million; or, otherwise, budgets of about $500,000 or less.

 

“That breakdown is a simplification made for the sake of clarity,” says Hope.

 

Several industry experts agree that a filmmaker can now craft a feature-length movie for a production budget under $1 million that is competitive in theatrical production values.

 

“Absolutely,” says Abramowitz.

 

“1,000 percent agree,” says Hope, and adds, “It’s been a long time since we had a ‘Napoleon Dynamite.’ On the other hand, Oscar-nominated ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is only marginally above that $1 million figure and is nothing short on the theatrical production value, and well-positioned in the marketing, too.”

 

Regarding the downward pressure on production budgets, Steele adds, “I would say a $15 million film from a few years ago is now the $3 to $5 million film. The crunch brought the budgets down to where they should be.”

 

Stacey Parks of Film Specific (see http://www.filmspecific.com/public/department86.cfm), which works with filmmakers to properly package their film projects, frequently advises her clients to reduce their original budgets. “If you have started with a $5 million budget,” says Parks, “You’re really only going to make your film for probably no more than $2.5 million.”

 

There are new opportunities because of the ‘correction’ in filmmaking budgets. More can be done with less. The trick will be to rise out of poverty and rebuild the infrastructure of the independent film industry.

 

The new generation of filmmakers, and those filmmakers who can quickly adapt, face exciting opportunities for funding their movies.

 

THE MONEY IS OUT THERE. 

Yes, there is cash available for investing. Lots of cash.

 

Cash is being hoarded by the very wealthy and by your friends and family. The notorious mindset of “stuff the money in the mattress” eight decades ago, borne from the fears of the Great Depression and the fear of banks collapsing, returned again in the Great Recession.

 

Individual Americans have missed almost $200 billion of stock gains by hoarding cash rather than investing it (see Bloomberg’s “Americans Miss $200 Billion Abandoning Stocks” at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-24/americans-miss-200-billion-abandoning-stocks.html).

 

Corporations and institutions have done the same; trillions of dollars have been sitting idle instead of creating jobs and building business infrastructure (see NPR’s “Companies Sit On Cash; Reluctant To Invest, Hire” at http://www.npr.org/2011/08/17/139703989/companies-sit-on-cash-reluctant-to-invest-hire, Forbes’ “Super Rich Hide $21 Trillion Offshore, Study Says” at http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/07/23/super-rich-hide-21-trillion-offshore-study-says/, and PolitiFacts.com’s “Obama says companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets” at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/feb/10/barack-obama/obama-says-companies-have-nearly-2-trillion-sittin/).

 

The FINANCIAL TIMES reports that equity funds have seen the strongest inflows in more than five years because of boosted investor confidence. Net inflows into equity funds monitored by EPFR, the data provider, hit $22.2 billion in the week of January 9, 2013 – the highest since September 2007 and the second highest since comparable data began in 1996. (See http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/195ed762-5bd7-11e2-bf31-00144feab49a.html)

 

“Access to capital is essential for success,” says Salute.

 

Tomorrow, in Part 3, we look at the JOBS Act’s provisions for specific opportunities to access that capital.

 

Michael R. Barnard is a writer and filmmaker who has been researching the American JOBS Act since it was first proposed. Barnard is currently working on creating an independent feature film, A FATHER AND SON (http://AFatherAndSon.wordpress.com). Barnard lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the historical novel NATE AND KELLYYou can reach Barnard on Twitter at @mrbarnard1 and on Facebook at michael.barnard.

 

This article is an overview and observation, not legal advice.