Coping With Symposium/Workshop Brain Fry

Today's guest post is once again courtesy of Jon Reiss.  Back before Jon wrote the book on DIY distro in the digi age (literally), he and I started brainstorming on the need for a marketing & distribution lab for filmmakers, somewhat modeled on the existing screenwriting & directing labs that many organizations run.  We had some real specific goals on this and pitched it to several key entities.  Everyone wanted to do it, and I believe everyone still wants to do it.  Money and time still are limited supply though, and our dreams have been deferred.  Yet, the initial steps have been taken by a couple of organizations, and most recently Film Independent put together: Seize The Power last weekend.  Jon's post below, is a bit of  an extension from that remarkable collection of speakers and participants and information. I heard a number of comments after this weekend’s LAFF Seize the Power Symposium that people where overwhelmed – that their brain’s had been fried by so many ideas and so much information.  To me that’s a sign that we succeeded.  When Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival asked me to help them devise the Symposium (and accompanying Distribution Boot Camp for competition filmmakers) we were in immediate agreement that the event would focus on: 1. Nuts and bolts practical information for filmmakers.  2.  Forward thinking thought leaders indicating what the future might be.  3. Practical case studies of filmmakers who were using the new tools of distribution and marketing.  We wanted to avoid people sitting on a panel rehashing how we got here.   I also get the same brain-fry feedback when I give my weekend workshops – and I’m delighted.  This is what I suggest to people:

1. Focus on the Inspiration and Creative Potential One of the best uber-takeaways is how a symposium or workshop can inspire filmmakers to new creative opportunities.   Allow these ideas to run through you and don’t get caught up with any of the specifics just yet – you can delve into those when the time comes for you to act.

2. Identify on What Resonates With You.  Many ideas and concepts are presented – but no two filmmakers are alike and no two films are alike.  Take a moment to check in with your gut and see what resonates most with you, what makes sense for your current project, what makes sense for your artistic trajectory.

3. One Step at a Time.   Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once.  Do one thing first.  See how it feels – works for you. The world of distribution and marketing can seem overwhelming – they each comprise an entire division at every studio.  You are one person – reread item 1.

4.  Connect and Collaborate.   Further the connection with the people that you meet at these events.  Create study groups and film cooperatives.  Film distribution and marketing does take a village.  I was really excited to hear that some of the attendees of my Vancouver workshop formed a PMD discussion group to process the information and more importantly to work with each other in order to act on it.   I still feel that cooperatives among filmmakers is one of the ways to handle all the new work and potential.

5. Revisit the information.   You can be sure that any of the speakers have written about the ideas that they have presented.  The day after the symposium Henry Jenkins posted the basics of his talk on his blog.   Subscribe to Peter Broderick’s newsletter.  Check out The Film Collaborative’s site. Read Truly Free Film.  Keep up with Film Independent’s ongoing educational program.   Heck – even check out my blog or my book Think Outside the Box Office – I wrote it so that all filmmakers could have a companion to this process.   And of course – if you are inclined, follow all of the above on Twitter – and then engage.

-- Jon Reiss