NYC DIY Dinner Conversation Continues: Part 1

How will the "indie" model change?  Why is it inevitable? Hear the scoop here.  You can see it there too.  Will the truth be told before too much wine is consumed?  You be the judge.

Will Christine's prediction be true?  I think I let the others get a word in edgewise.  Granted some of my rant is recycled from some other events, but the others are pretty fresh I think.

NYC DIY Days Dinner

A whole bunch of us got together for food, drink, and lots of blab about the way this world of film is changing -- and now you can join us!  

The good folks at The Workbook Project made this happen with a little help from their friends of course.  Come join Lance Weiler, Arin Crumley, Susan Buice, Lance Hammer, Faye Dunaway, Paul Rachman, Stephen Rapael, Slava Rubin, Joseph Marin, Jennifer Kushell, and of course myself.  This is just the intro segment.  Two more to come.  
I was mentioning this dinner to my friend Christine Vachon, telling her how I thought it was a good idea it was, a lot of fun, quite informative, and how well it was shot.  Christine's response was "Did anyone get a word in edge-wise?".  In this episode I don't start to rant until the 27:27 mark, so you be the judge.   

Competition Is THE Problem

Lance Weiler gave an excellent presentation at Power To The Pixel in London a few weeks back.  As he points out: competition is the problem.

He boils it down and provides the antidote (collaboration!) in a short powerpoint presentation here:
From Here to Awesome
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: models new)

And if you want to hear and see it all with Lance actually presenting it, catch it here -- he provides a great context for it all:

Non-theatrical RULES! Send Us Your Venues

Another post from Jon Reiss:

I had the opportunity to see Lance Hammer's Ballast on Sunday night at the Laemmle Sunset 5. It is a wonderful film and as you probably know - Lance eschewed the standard distribution deals he was offered and decided to self distribute. I had a chance to talk with him after the screening to compare war stories and we both agreed that there needs to be a paradigm shift on the definition of ''theatrical".

"Theatrical" is the industry term for the first "window" of a release normally in movie theaters where they are screened for at least a week starting on a Friday night. This is a very limiting notion of what a theatrical experience should be and has the potential to constrain our own imagination of what constitutes a theatrical experience. 

I feel that any screening in front of a live audience in which the film is projected in the dark with good sound - approximating the way in which the filmmaker originally intended (so long as they intended to screen it for such a live audience) should be considered a theatrical screening. This should include not only Hollywood's definition of a typical theatrical run - but should also include festivals, museums, clubs, colleges, film societies or anyone else who will set up a screening of your film in front of a live audience in a manner acceptable to you. This should include Brave New Films network of Living Room Theaters (which are often much bigger than a living room - many of the screenings are in community centers).

Lance and I both agreed that some of our best screenings were in non-theatrical venues. Usually the film is screened for one or two nights and is promoted as a special event - which helps to pack the house.

We also agreed that we as filmmakers need to create a database of such venues similar to the Workbook Projects Theatrical Mapping Project. Eventually we should combine theatrical and non theatrical lists - but currently they need to be approached in slightly different ways - so I feel it is best to keep the lists separate for a little while.

Lance and I have agreed to cull our own information but we could use your help.

If you know of any non traditional venue that has screened films on a regular basis - such as museum, film society, college student or screening association, please send them to me at:

jon@jonreiss.com 
and I will add them to the list (And of course post them here at TFF via a simple comment!)

We will post the list here at TFF for a start within the next couple of months.

Make The DVD A Different Experience

I understand why some directors want the DVD to be a "pure" copy of what the feature film is.  It is what it is and that is where the effort went.

Yet from another perspective, why not make the DVD a true extension of the film altogether? Or several extensions that is. By extension, it could be anything that heightens our appreciation of the film and its narrative.
If one of the roles of a DVD is to maintain awareness of the film throughout time, shouldn't we construct the DVDs precisely to do this?  We should think deeper as to how this can be done.  Maintaining awareness, extending the narrative, and increasing the appreciation of the film are all linked.  The power of the DVD is still locked, even as others are anticipating its death.  Perhaps more life can be found in the DVD if we think in a truly free manner.
What are all the ways we can make a DVD more than the experience of the theatrical film? Some of these solutions are being used by the mainstream distributors today:
  1. A Different Cut: usually this is the "Director's Cut" but in TFF this would always be the same version.  Sometimes this is an "Unrated" cut when changes are made for ratings purposes.  Can more be done with though.
  2. Commentary: This is often just the director and other crew collaborators.  There has been an increased openness to having other directors make commentary too.  Sometimes they have been using opposing critics which can get kind of fun.
  3. Additional Scenes: This is usually limited to scenes that were shot to include in the movie and later removed in the edit process.
  4. "Added Value" Content: Generally this is elements used in the filmmaking process: script, storyboards, preliminary visual effect mock-ups.
  5. Publicity & Marketing Elements: Trailers, Posters, Stills, Electronic Press Kits (interviews).
  6. Behind The Scenes/Making Of Documentary: so-called B-roll of filmmaking process.
One of the benefits of being free of corporate restraints is the freedom to experiment.  Truly Free Filmmakers can go far beyond the current limits of what a DVD can do.  I got a hefty dose of inspiration from reading  Adrian Martin's Moving Image Source article of DVD chaptering  and all that might be able to do if we truly embraced all it can do.  
Give it a read and share your thoughts.  I will share my additional ideas for what can be done more with DVDs on a future post, but it would be great to include yours with it.  Maybe I should wait until you get me some of your thoughts...

The Mainstream Is Waking Up

The LA Times and NY Times have each run their requisite articles on DIY Distribution.  Now Screen International is speaking up on the need to bring the films to the audiences (vs. bringing audiences to the films).

The trick now is to mobilise audiences, market and increasingly distribute to the places they want to watch the film. And, of course, set the budget accordingly.

But it's also vital to ignore the orthodox - surely the mission of independent film. It is, for example, snobbish and self-defeating to suggest that no one outside an educated elite wants film that challenges. If that's true, then why make films? Music and books don't seem to share that view. And the big film franchises from Batman to Bond have done their very best to apply as much shade as possible.

The indie film-maker needs to take on the fight. This is the time for a little less "we're doomed" and a little more "yes we can".

I am really curious if we will see this "yes we can" spirit invade Sundance this year, or will filmmakers keep believing in angels and demons.

Film Publicists List

I promised a list of whom to talk to to handle your publicity when your film gets into a major festival.  With a little help from some friends, here is that list.  You will have to dig up the phone numbers yourself.  Check out their websites first.

I would love some help in creating similar lists for Film Bookers, Collection Agents, Public Speaking Tour Agents, Trailer Makers, Poster Makers, Postcard Makers, Study Guide Creators, Film Website Designers, and all the like.  We have to get the information readily available.
Here's the publicist list:

15minutes
(www.15minutes.com, 8436 W. Third Street, Suite 650, Los Angeles, CA 90048,
115 West 29th Street, Suite 810, New York, NY 10001)
Offices: New York, Los Angeles

42West
(www.42west.net, 11400 W. Olympic Blvd, Suite 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90064,
220 West 42nd Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10036)
Offices: New York, Los Angeles

Acme Public Relations
(1016 Pier Ave., Suite 2, Santa Monica, CA 90405)
Offices: Los Angeles

B|W|R.
(www.ogilvypr.com/en/bwr, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., #550, Los Angeles, CA 90036,
825 8th Avenue, #15, New York, NY 10019)
Offices: New York, Los Angeles

DAVID MADGAEL & ASSOCIATES, INC.
(www.tcdm-associates.com, 600 W. 9th St., Suite 704, Los Angeles, CA 90015)
Offices: Los Angeles

DISH COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
(www.dishcommunications.com, 10000 Riverside Drive, Suite 5, Toluca Lake, CA 91602)
Offices: Los Angeles

dominion3 PR
(www.dominion3.com, 6464 Sunset Blvd., Suite 740, Hollywood, CA 90028)
Offices: Los Angeles

Donna Daniels Public Relations
(20 W. 22nd St., Suite 1410, New York, NY 10010)
Offices: New York

Falco Ink.
(www.falcoink.com, 850 7th Avenue, #1005, New York, NY 10019)
Offices: New York

Fat Dot
(www.fatdot.net, 87 Bedford Street, Suite 1, New York, NY 10014)
Offices: New York

ID-PR
(www.id-pr.com, 8409 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069,
150 West 30th Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10001)
Offices: New York, Los Angeles

inclusive pr
(http://inclusivepr.com, 6646 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 205, Hollywood, CA 90028)
Offices: Los Angeles

Indie PR
(www.indie-pr.com, 4370 Tujunga Ave., #105, Studio City, CA 91604)
Offices: Los Angeles

International House of Publicity
(853 7th Ave., Suite. 3c, New York, NY 10019)
Offices: New York

Jeremy Walker + Associates, Inc.
(www.jeremywalker.com, 171 W. 80th St., #1, New York, NY 10024)
Offices: New York

mPRm Public Relations
(www.mprm.com, 5670 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2500, Los Angeles, CA 90036)
Offices: Los Angeles

Murphy PR
(www.murphypr.com, 333 Seventh Avenue, Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10001)
Offices: New York

PMG
(www.platformgrp.com, 8265 Sunset Blvd., Suite 106, W. Hollywood, CA 90046,
1359 Broadway, Suite 732, New York, NY 10018)
Office: Los Angeles, New York

PMK/HBH
(www.pmkhbh.com, 700 San Vicente Blvd., Suite G 910, West Hollywood, CA 90069,
622 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017)
Offices: New York, Los Angeles

Rogers & Cowan
(www.rogersandcowan.com, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue, 7th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90069, 919 Third Avenue, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10022)
Offices: New York, Los Angeles, London, Beijing

Sophie Gluck & Associates
(124 West 79th St., New York, NY 10024)
Offices: New York

Susan Norget Film Promotion
(www.norget.com, 198 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1, New York, NY 10013)
Offices: New York

A Filmmaker Friendly Fest

What makes a film festival truly "filmmaker friendly"?  I want to explore this.  To kick it off, a filmmaker sent me this which he received from Joe Cultrera of the Salem Film Festival in Salem, Massachusetts:

FILMMAKERS FIRST:
I pushed to make this a filmmaker-friendly event. Here’s what we did last year and are sticking to:
#1) No entry fees (we are not looking to make money from our filmmakers).

#2) Each feature-length film will be sponsored by a Salem business and the filmmaker will receive those sponsorship dollars as a screening fee (last year this was $250). This created a real community feel to our 2008 event – allowing small businesses to be active and visible sponsors and giving filmmakers the rewards of that participation.

#3) Attending feature filmmakers will receive free accommodations in our attractive and historic downtown (we want as many filmmakers as possible to participate).

#4) The Audience Award Winner receives a run at CinemaSalem – including a share of the gate.

#5) Attending filmmakers will have a great time (free food and drink, passes to Salem museums and parties, good attendance, intelligent dialogue, great swag; new friends).

I think this is an excellent start and hopefully other festivals will follow  Joe's lead.

It's An OPEN SOURCE Culture

You may have noticed a new addition to our Truly Free Film Heroes column.  You may have also noticed some guest posting as of late by filmmaker Jon Reiss.  These are not unrelated.  As a veteran of the DIY experience (or as Slava Rubin has dubbed it more accurately: DIWO "Do It With Others"), Jon has taken the next crucial step towards bringing forth a Truly Free Film Culture: sharing his experience and knowledge.  

We need to build a new infrastructure.  It will only come from all of our hard work and general openness.  Please follow Jon's example, and share.
We are all going to make some mistakes, but we will learn much faster if we don't keep these mistakes to ourself. We will all make some great discoveries, of places and people and tools and techniques, but we all benefit much faster if we don't keep these successes to ourselves.
Take a minute.  Think about what you thinks works in DIY marketing; is it novel?  Please let us know.  Do you know of a theater that will book Truly Free Film?  Will your college pay to bring a filmmaker to lecture and show their film?  Do you know of a great TFFilm website?  Any advice on how to network true film lovers together?  You get the idea.  Please let us know what you know.  Join in.

Film Festival Plan A: Having Film Festivals Help You

Another post courtesy of Jon Reiss:

Besides launching your film and helping to put it on the map there are a number of other known reasons for being in film festivals: potential for reviews and awards (which are still good ways to create notice for your film - especially if you blog about them on your website!); meeting other filmmakers from around the world, boosting your confidence in your filmmaking abilities, getting to travel to fun locales (hopefully at the festivals expense).

However as there are ways to actually monetize your film festival experience. Here are a few ways that we did it for Bomb It - after we got tired of showing our film for free at festivals. (Remember servicing all those fests can take time and money)

1. Some festivals - especially foreign festivals will pay. You just need to ask. These are not the top 10 or 20 fests. It is the next level of festivals. We have been paid from $300 - $1000 to screen the film in some festivals. (Few fests will fly you and pay you though)

2. If a festival can't pay, perhaps they can provide something else. This is particularly true of foreign festivals again. If you don't have a PAL copy and they require it. Often times they will do the dub. You can insist on having that dub given to you (they don't need it after the festival right!). We obtained our first PAL version of Bomb It from a documentary festival in Lisbon that then went around on the circuit.

3. Think of other things that you might need for your distribution. Again - foreign festivals need to translate your film. Although we had already created a transcription for Bomb It - you can ask a foreign fest to do it - and also provide the translation. We have received Spanish, Portuguese and Russian translations of Bomb It that we will be using on our self produced multi-language, PAL, region free DVD. (more on this in another post in the future)

4. Some festivals are actually connected to theaters in their community - and sometimes the people running the festivals actually program those theaters. One of my first theatrical bookings came from Wilmington, N.C. when I told Dan Brawley of the Cucoloris that I would rather have a theatrical engagement in his theater as an alternative to being in the festival, and he wonderfully obliged.

Further - although it would have been better for me to go to the wonderfull True/False festival in Columbia, MO (I had teaching obligations), I asked Paul Sturz if he would book me into the Rag Tag as part of our theatrical run and he agreed.

For more about my self distribution experience with Bomb It - check out my article in Filmmaker Magazine this month. 

Jon Reiss
www.jonreiss.com
www.bombit-themovie.com
www.bombit-themovie.com/blog

Filmmaker Magazine Article on Self Distribution

another guest post today from filmmaker Jon Riess

At the urging of Jeffrey Levy Hinte - my wonderfully supportive producer on Bomb It (he's leaving the business folks so don't bother calling him!), I have started writing about my experiences self distributing Bomb It for Filmmaker Magazine. These articles will form the basis for the book that I am writing Reel World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had Learned in Film School.

The first one just came out titled MY ADVENTURE IN THEATRICAL SELF-DISTRIBUTION, PART 1 While the article is subtitled "Or how I “invented” the two-month window and spent six months wanting to kill myself every day." it was a positive experience overall It was gruelling - but I think the film was helped tremendously by the release. This has been confirmed by our video company Docurama/New Video.

The next article will cover DVD distribution - self distribution and working with a distributor.

Let me know what you think of the article!

Jon

Truly Free Film Heroes

I've moved the "Truly Free Film Heroes" sidebar over from my Let's Make Better Films Blog to here at TFFilms and clarified it a bit in the process (although you don't get to add a descriptive on Blogger's "Links" gadget unfortunately).  The Truly Free Film Heroes are the folks that I have found that are actively engaged in working to create a Truly Free Film Culture.  

The potential is before us to expand beyond a film culture designed only to serve the widest possible audience.  We can have something else other than a limited supply of mass market product.  We can move away from a gate keeper culture economy.  We no longer need to address only the audiences that are best served by the dominant apparatus.
The most critical work at the moment in terms of establishing this new culture is not the content itself but the infrastructure needed to support it.  Great work is being done in this regard, but we all need to share what we learn; we have to open with it.  A new model is being unearthed.  The Truly Free Film Heroes are doing the groundwork that we all will benefit from.  You need to support them.

Film Festival Plan A: DVD sales

Your film screens and everyone loves it.  They want their friends and family to see it too, but there are no more screenings left.  Your audience loves your film, how are you going to mobilize them into action?

Festivals are a great place to sell DVDs of your film, but will the Festival let you? It's probably a good idea to inquire in advance. Will you be able to set up a table outside the theater? Will you need to have a website in order to sell them? Will you need to have some one do the fulfillment? Figure this out before you show up.

People that buy your DVD at a festival are your core base and they want to help you out.  Give them your card and ask them to email you.  Get theirs and email them.  Let them know that this is a special sort of DVD they bought; tell them that is a DVD for house party use.  Let them know that if they can get a certain number of friends to come over (25? 50?), you will do an iChat with them live for an hour and discuss how you made the film.  Let them know that you will get them more of these "House Party DVDs" for their House Party that they can sell on your behalf and keep a cut for themselves.  Trust people; it will do more for you than the harm the few times you do get ripped off will hurt.

Film Festival Plan A: Online Screening

Major Festivals are great for media exposure, but they reach a really limited audience. Sundance is predominately film industry professionals and wannabes; what about the real ticket buying people? If someone hears about your film and they can't attend the festival, how will they get to see it?

With your audience's interest piqued, is it a good time to get your film online soon after the festival screening? What method will best serve your film: streaming, ad-supported, pay per download? There are many variations on this, but the point is you need to have it figured out before your screening if you are going to take advantage of it. And you need to have some way to let people know.
Some festivals, like Slamdance, are doing this directly themselves, and I think that's a great idea.

Film Festival Plan A: Getting The Word Out

Word of mouth is the key thing in generating want-to-see and future revenues for your film.  You want to shape that conversation as much as you can.  
It once was that film critics truly helped shape these discussions, but most have them now have been fired and lost their platforms.  Even before that, many had shifted to a simplistic way of reviewing, reducing things to a yay or nay and a synopsis.  But whom is doing this now?  There certainly is a galaxy of film bloggers out there.  And they are a lot easier to reach than their prior generation of film critics.  
If you got your film into a major film festival, I am sure the blogosphere will want to hear from you.  But why not go that extra step and get them a DVD in advance.  It's hard to see more than 25 films at Sundance and since there is five times that amount there, why not make sure that they see yours in advance?

Film Festival Plan A: Your Website

Today's post brought to you by Jon Reiss:

I thought I'd offer a few more comments about having a filmmaker website. In fact it is crazy not to have a website during production or pre production these days as a way to start building your audience.

The king of using the web is Lance Weiller - definitely check out his Filmmaker Magazine article "Lessons in DIY" from Winter 2007.

But one quick tip - you don't need to spend a lot of money designing a complex static website with lots of information about your film. I recommend using a blog as your main page. It is much easier to set up and is easier to keep current and dynamic. For Bomb It nearly all the traffic is to our blog - very rarely do people check out the other static pages on the site. With a blog format - most likely using Wordpress - you can create all the information pages you need such as "About the Film" "About the Filmmakers" and have these in a box on the right or left. (we have Press and Screenings links at the top of ours)

I am slowly turning www.jonreiss.com/blog which is what you are reading into a main page for my site. It is much easier to update all of your information using "pages" in a blog than to have a web-designer have to rewrite your information using html.

Feel free to check out the difference in:

www.bombit-themovie.com

www.bombit-themovie.com/blog

Another good example of a blog as main page, and a site you should check out anyway is www.lanceweiler.com

- Jon Reiss

Film Festival Plan A: Corporate Sponsorship

Corporate Sponsorship of a film, in any way, is a tricky thing.   A viewer who becomes aware of multiple agendas in a film, generally is no longer going to be "with" the film.  They become suspect.  But sponsorship is not the same as turning your art into a commercial.  There are many methods and many benefits to consider when considering corporate sponsorship (I will try to cover the negative side in another post in the future).

Perhaps the most important consideration regarding sponsorship is does the brand have a natural fit with your film (I know some will argue that the amount of money is the most important thing, but still).  If the film and sponsorship is not aligned, it will read to the public as a crass money grab (which maybe it is) and they will approach the film from a feeling of distrust.
Brands have their own audience.  Corporations maintain their own data on their "audience".  This is what you want most from the alliance: audience sourcing.  In considering sponsorship, ask them what they will do to reach out to their audience.  This may very well be a much longer term relationship with many phases to it, but it's hard to leap into such an arrangement.  As people like to say about investors and other supporters: "you have to get them pregnant first".  It's surprising that such a caveman philosophy dominates in so many areas, but you get the logic.  I prefer the "one step at a time" way of thinking myself.
You do need to keep the long term forever in mind though in working with a sponsor.  You want them there with you ever step of the way, hopefully deepening their commitment with your combined success.  Work the relationship.  Give them new opportunities.  
What do you want from the sponsorship from the get go though?  Well, beyond building for the long haul, you want to do something that has immediate impact.  Generally people think that is a big blow out party.  Personally, I am not a fan of this approach, particularly at Sundance.  They don't have much impact as they are over a few hours after they start.  Further at many festivals, you are competing with many parties.  And all parties get unruly; they just aren't a good experience and they don't leave much of a memory.
I am a big fan of dinners for fifty close friends.  This approach only works if your publicist can get you high end journalists to attend.  But who doesn't like a nice meal?  The question is though how would this benefit the sponsor.  Depending on your film and your sponsor,they may very much like the one on one interaction with your stars and team.  They might want to offer this to their top level execs, as Sundance has become a bit of a corporate getaway, another perk in their arsenal.  This approach can certainly extend beyond dinners: skiing with the stars, one on one sit downs, presentation of the movie at different branch offices.
Publicity materials are a relatively high cost item that you will need to have every step of the way.  Will your sponsor pay for the cost of posters and postcards, t-shirts and hats?  What can you offer them in return?  Is it such a big deal to have their corporate logo on the poster?  Is that too much to give away for such an investment?

Film Festival Plan A: Still Need To Hire A Publicist

When I first started going to Sundance, it was just a bunch of filmmakers and a bunch of filmlovers.  Filmmakers had no entourage.  No one told them what to do or what they thought was right; instead they shared information and secrets.  But that was then.

For the last ten years, it has seemed that filmmakers arrived at major festivals with a horde in tow: lawyers, agents, managers, producer's reps, foreign sales agents, and publicists.  The list actually goes on from there.  But that was then.
These days, recognizing that a sale is very unlikely, how much do you really need?  There's definitely another few posts worth of material in that question, but I can tell you that the one I think is critical is the publicist.  After all, it is all about getting the word out about your film.
The traditional media still holds the most weight (okay, that's debatable), and any a publicist worth their salt will know how to reach them.  More importantly, the publicist will know what these critics and journalists look like, and will be able to find out what they thought of the film immediately.  Their opinion matters as it influences everyone: buyers, festival programmers, independent bookers, and other journalists.
The publicists also know the distributors and as long as you want to keep Plan D (sell your film) alive, that is invaluable as the publicists can help facilitate meetings with the buyers.
A publicist will help you draft your press notes in advance of the festival and arrange key interviews.  Sometimes they can even help find a corporate sponsor for a party (more on that later).  The publicist will collect all of the press you receive, and survey the journalists on their response.  They will collect all this material so you can share it with everyone you reach out to later.
How do you find your publicist?  Well these days they often find you if you get into Sundance or a major festival.  The key filmmaking community organizations like IFP and Film Independent can also help direct you.  Maybe I can put together a list and post it here (I will get back to you on that).

Film Festival Plan A: Beyond Bonding

For years, I have recommended filmmakers do all they could to bond with the other filmmakers they met at festivals, for as the films travelled festival to festival, these other filmmakers would become their support group, their friends, perhaps even more. 

As we enter the Post-Festival Era, this support group needs to be transformed into a far more important alliance. It remains a top priority to find like-minded filmmakers, but now these fellow conspirators should be sought out as fellow distributors. With five united filmmakers you have a booking block, a touring film festival of your own making. 
If there was a way to locate all the other festival programmers, community center programmers, or independent theater bookers that attend the festival, this alliance would be in business.  Hopefully this type of independent booker will recognize that this is a new era and they can go to the filmmakers directly for an engagement.  Somehow I don't think that's going to happen this year, and these people remain hard to find.  Filmmakers need to share this information where ever they can find it.
I recognize that some may be hesitant to pursue this approach immediately after the festival.  The dreams of acquisition will still be strong.  Yet this sort of booking engagement is not a theatrical release in the traditional sense.  It is closer to a publicity tour -- a publicity tour on someone else's dime.  Field publicity is direct communication with the audience and that is the most successful way to build word-of-mouth on your film.