DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 4 of 5): Minimize Your Loss & Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End

Today's guest post is from filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet.

With film prints in hand, it now changed our game plan. Though we knew likely we’d lose money realizing nationally in theaters, we were banking that the film reviews and national press would bring a greater exposure to our film—and if not help our bottom line—at least help our careers.

In the end, we decided to alter our business plan, aware of the risks, and launched a national theatrical run.

The money we had made in Maine allowed us to bring on International Film Circuit as our distributor for a national release.

 

Our national non-profit partners couldn’t provide any financial support to us, however they shared film and screening information with their members by email, on their websites, and on their social networks. Now it wasn’t just us tweeting something or adding an event to our Facebook fan page to our few thousand followers. It was a large network of organizations reaching hundreds of thousands of people.

 

During this time, were bringing in interns as fast as we could to help us make calls to colleges across the country. Our plan was to allow them to use our film as a “real-life” marketing project for students. Instead of some example from a book, they would evaluate the best ways to release our film in their state—where to play, how to plan for a local release, identify target groups to work with—and then see if their plan actually worked in real life. In return, we would give the schools and the students credit at the end of our film. They all had to deliver reports to us by a specific deadline to get in the final theatrical credits. Although we initially had commitments from about 20 schools, 14 actually had extended conversations with us, and seven schools in seven different states delivered marketing research that was usable. The schools gave us insight into many different communities as we rolled the film out. In addition, the students helped spread the word because they now had a stake in the film’s success—and wanted friends and family to see their names in the credits.

What we discovered as we opened was that even though our research was solid, it was really difficult to get our target groups out to the theatre. We began to fear that the studios we talked to were right—grassroots has little impact on the box office.

In July, we kicked off our national run at the IFC Center in New York City, breaking over $7,000 in box office opening weekend and $10,000 for the week. International Film Circuit believed that was a solid number to work with—along with the numerous festival awards we had now won—to open The Way We Get By in more theatres across the country. As the bookings for the film started to pile up, we began to gain more confidence. That didn’t last too long.

In August, we opened at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Los Angeles and got killed. The theatre is located in a very affluent Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Beverly Hills. Crowds of elderly Jewish people came in droves to the theater to see films that weekend—just not ours.

Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg about a Jewish radio pioneer was playing, and Woody Allen’s latest film Whatever Works opened the same weekend as we did. It was tough to see a lobby filled with senior citizens and know they were not there to see our film…with three subjects all over 70 years old.

All in all, over five months, from July – November (leading up to our Veterans Day POV broadcast), we opened in over 60 cities, spending every penny we made in Maine on marketing and promotion. New York and Los Angeles were, by far, the most expensive—hiring PR firms, placing qualifying ads, and putting on special events ended up costing thousands.

In key markets, our screenings became more of an event. In NYC and L.A., we provided special group discounts.

 

We did “red carpet” events for troops, veterans, and seniors. We deployed our interns across each city, pitching to local groups that had any connection to the film. In Washington, DC, days before our theatrical opening, we had a special screening on Capital Hill with POV, the USO, and Hands On Network as our partners. It garnered national press and the next day, we received an invitation to the White House to meet with Vice President Biden.  That visit was not only an incredible, lifetime experience; it also helped spread the word about the film.

But now the film was also going to create an amazing personal opportunity for us as well…..

 

END PART IV.  Part V, and the conclusion of the series, is tomorrow with:

GOING LOCAL PAYS OFF

:

Part One: Finding A Spot In The Line-Up Part Two: Timing Is Everything Part Three: Going Local & Maximizing Your Distribution Window Part Four: Minimize Your Loss And Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End Part Five: Going Local Pays Off

Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet are now working on their next project—a narrative feature, “Go Baby” they plan to shoot early next year. They recently launched SUNNY SIDE UP FILMS, www.sunnysideupfilms.com, which also supports the national distribution of independent films.

 

Tune in to see The Way We Get By for its encore presentation as part of the 2010 season on POV August 3, 2010. For more information, visit: www.thewaywegebymovie.com

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 3 of 5): Going Local and Maximizing Your Distribution Window

Today's guest post is the third of five from filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet concerning their experience making and distributing THE WAY WE GET BY. The students at Harvard Business School realistically saw no way for us to do a theatrical run without a significant investment in film prints and print and advertising. But they noted that by leveraging our POV broadcast with a DVD release, we could feasibly make our first real revenue stream. That coupled with a strong educational and community screening plan showed that there was perhaps some hope of making a living. However, they all agreed, it was going to be A LOT of work.

The one date we knew we couldn’t move was our broadcast. The Way We Get By was going to be a common carriage POV Special on Veterans Day (November 11). We knew we had to come up with a strategy to market and promote the film leading up to the broadcast and direct our audiences towards the DVD.

As we waited to see which film festival we would “world premiere” at, we realized we had a growing audience and strong support in Maine. We knew we had to figure out how to leverage this regional support base to help us nationally. We began fundraising in Maine, in hopes that we could pull off a small theatrical run within the state. Through our networking efforts, we were introduced to our eventual Executive Producer. His son was serving in the Marine Corps and had gone through the Bangor International Airport five times. This hub, where much of our film takes place, held a very emotional place in his heart. Being a Vietnam veteran, he also still had emotions involving his own journey home. In short, he had a personal stake in our film succeeding. He wanted to see it find the largest possible audience. His first significant contribution to the film came in the form of a donation to help with the costs of marketing and outreach. But it was his next contribution—sharing his personal relationships with us, that helped us also secure a critical deal with a local bank in Maine.

We had originally approached Bangor Savings Bank asking for support to help finish The Way We Get By. But since they had never financed a film before, they saw it as too risky a venture. When we went back to them with our finished film, they loved it and wanted to be the exclusive sponsor for a set number of screenings across Maine.

The bank initially wanted to pay us to license and screen the film at around ten locations around Maine—including a speaking fee for each event we were a part of. But we knew if we were going to do something significant in Maine, as well as nationally, we needed to forget about a quick financial gain and leverage it for something long term. We decided to counter offer with a different plan entirely. We told them we would bypass any screening or speaking fees if they were willing to pay for a film negative and film prints (roughly $35,000 in hard costs)—making it much easier to screen in theaters around Maine. Finally, they agreed to spend over $100,000 in marketing the film across the state and purchase a large quantity of DVDs.  This included throwing receptions before screenings in many cities, and using their standing in the community to help get local press. In return, their logo would always be on the screen before the film played, and they would have the option of having a bank representative introduce the film.

We brought on a friend—Ben Fowlie, the founder of the Camden International Film Festival—to act as our theatrical booker in Maine, as he knew almost every theater owner in the state. He quickly helped lock down the theatres for the Bank sponsored screenings as well as several additional theatres. After our world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March, while we were still just getting started on our festival run, we decided we would launch our theatrical run in Maine stretching out through the summer.  This was a gamble because during the summer, theaters were playing the big blockbuster films and audiences would typically choose to see Star Trek over our documentary—or so we thought. With all the press and promotion we were able to secure with the “Made in Maine” angle, we played in over 20 theaters, splitting the box office with each theater. We framed the photo of the neon marquee of a central-Maine theatre touting Star Trek through the week and The Way We Get By on the weekend, and we still have the Rentrak reports, from a western Maine theatre, showing our head to head box-office battle with the latest Harry Potter film—we doubled them in box-office that weekend!

Coming off the high of our success in Maine and with five film prints in hand, we debated on giving the film a national theatrical run. But if we went for it—we could risk losing the money in Maine and even more…..

END PART III.  Part IV continues tomorrow with MINIMIZE YOUR LOSS AND HOPE FOR A GREATER PAYOFF IN THE END

Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet are now working on their next project—a narrative feature, “Go Baby” they plan to shoot early next year. They recently launched SUNNY SIDE UP FILMS, www.sunnysideupfilms.com, which also supports the national distribution of independent films.

 

Tune in to see The Way We Get By for its encore presentation as part of the 2010 season on POV August 3, 2010. For more information, visit: www.thewaywegebymovie.com

Part One: Finding A Spot In The Line-Up Part Two: Timing Is Everything Part Three: Going Local & Maximizing Your Distribution Window Part Four: Minimize Your Loss And Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End Part Five: Going Local Pays Off

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 2 of 5): Timing Is Everything

Today's guest post is the second of five from filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet concerning their experience making and distributing THE WAY WE GET BY. In November, we got a call from POV. We were being picked up for the 2009 season. Around that time, we also found out ITVS LINCS had approved us for funding. With a national television broadcast now in place, we were on the path to reaching our goals.

Now, we had to figure out the festival, theatrical, DVD, digital and online markets. Surely with a broadcast in place, other outlets had to at least be interested?

We started reaching out and calling theatrical and DVD distributors, trying to see if maybe with a television broadcaster in place, they would want to acquire our film. Our eagerness quickly turned to despair as we began to place more calls to distributors.

Every theatrical distributor that took our phone call basically told us our film had no theatrical appeal. Without even seeing a cut, they would cut us off and say something to the effect of “your film is about old people and troops—no thanks.” It was incredibly frustrating. We knew there was a market out there for our film. Nearly one million troops had been through Bangor and actually met our film subjects—shaking their hands and giving them hugs. On top of that, these troops had families and friends spread out all over the country that wanted to know these greeters that had been there for their loved ones.

By this time, we also had several national groups interested in supporting our film and our grassroots efforts—National Council on Aging, HandsOn Network, Vietnam Veterans of America. These groups had significant memberships that we hoped we could rally.

Feeling we weren’t getting a fair shake, Aron and I decided to take control of the distribution of our film. We needed a plan to identify and maximize all the different revenue streams, and we needed to think of ways to tap into supporters of the film more than just financially. We felt scared and excited at the same time, but we also felt a real sense of freedom. Since no one had any definitive answers on how to successfully distribute on your own, we used our film as a testing ground for every possible distribution method we could come up with. We knew it would take a ton of work, but also be a valuable learning experience—a perfect choice for our film and our careers.

Through a little research, I found a professor at Harvard Business School, who worked with major studios helping them with their business models. I approached her and after a little convincing, she agreed to have her students work on a business model for The Way We Get By.

After explaining the distribution situation, the students spent the first month calling and talking with others in the industry. They found direct DVD retailers for us, researched fulfillment houses, and developed marketing data that we could take to distributors like Netflix and Amazon, showing potential sales and rentals.

In the end, the report provided us with a game plan— but the question was ---could we pull it off and honestly-- did we really want to?

END PART II.  Part III will continue tomorrow with "Going Local and Maximizing Your Distribution Window"

Part One: Finding A Spot In The Line-Up Part Two: Timing Is Everything Part Three: Going Local & Maximizing Your Distribution Window Part Four: Minimize Your Loss And Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End Part Five: Going Local Pays Off

Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet are now working on their next project—a narrative feature, “Go Baby” they plan to shoot early next year. They recently launched SUNNY SIDE UP FILMS, www.sunnysideupfilms.com, which also supports the national distribution of independent films.

 

Tune in to see The Way We Get By for its encore presentation as part of the 2010 season on POV August 3, 2010. For more information, visit: www.thewaywegebymovie.com

DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 1 of 5):Finding A Spot In the Line-up

For the past five years, Aron Gaudet and I dedicated our lives to making and distributing our film, The Way We Get By. Our story takes place in Bangor, Maine and profiles three senior citizens, who have dedicated their lives to greeting troops heading off to war and returning home. The story is about finding purpose in your life and the role service plays in helping overcome your own personal obstacles.  

For our three subjects, greeting troops changed their lives, and in many ways, this film changed our lives—personally and professionally. We want to share with you the journey that we took—to inspire you to find your own business model to extend the life of your film and reach the largest possible audience.

 

FINDING A SPOT IN THE LINE-UP

 

Aron and I had certain goals we wanted to accomplish with our first feature-length project. We wanted to make a quality film and get it in front of an audience, but we also wanted to establish our careers as filmmakers. This meant some of our choices would be made because it was the best move for our film, and some would be made to help our careers.

But all of it was a moot point if no one else thought our film had potential. We knew we had to find someone to help champion our film.  So for three years, we had applied to grants and fellowships and we were rejected from everything. Our confidence in us—and the film—were starting to diminish.

Just when we had started to give up hope, in the fall of 2007, Aron and I were selected for the WGBH Filmmaker in Residence program—a nine-month residency at the largest PBS station in the country. In order to do this, we needed to dedicate ourselves to our film full-time.

We had begun saving some money for our wedding that we hoped to have in coming years. We decided that we would just have to hold off and used that money to get us on a budget so we could quit our jobs. At the time, it felt like the riskiest decision we had ever made--- it was literally enough for rent and small budget for food.

The residency provided us with an editing room, work space, and perhaps one of the most valuable opportunities: a one-day workshop at POV—the critically-acclaimed PBS series. We met with the editorial, legal, and online teams for a full day of useful information tailored directly to The Way We Get By. At the end of the workshop, the POV team encouraged us to apply to their Open Call.

We left that day excited to be on their radar but also knowing only fifteen or so films would be chosen from over a thousand submissions. To make matters worse, we had a box of 300 tapes to log and capture back in Boston—and only three months to edit a rough cut of our film to meet the POV deadline.

During this time, we also learned about the ITVS LINCS program, offering up to $100,000 of finishing funds in the form of a licensing agreement. We had applied for several grants already, with no success, but we were hoping this was different. We were applying with two PBS stations as our partners—Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) and WGBH—so we thought we at least had a shot. We also knew it was one of the only realistic ways to pay for all the hard costs coming down the road—color correction, sound mixing, upconverting to HD—that our dwindling savings would never cover.

In August of 2008, after a summer spent editing seven days a week, fifteen hours a day we completed a rough cut of our film and submitted it to POV.

With barely enough savings to keep us going, we anxiously waited to hear back from someone—POV, ITVS-- just someone to tell us we had something.

Part One: Finding A Spot In The Line-Up Part Two: Timing Is Everything Part Three: Going Local & Maximizing Your Distribution Window Part Four: Minimize Your Loss And Hope For A Greater Payoff In The End Part Five: Going Local Pays Off

Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet are now working on their next project—a narrative feature, “Go Baby” they plan to shoot early next year. They recently launched SUNNY SIDE UP FILMS, www.sunnysideupfilms.com, which also supports the national distribution of independent films.

 

Tune in to see The Way We Get By for its encore presentation as part of the 2010 season on POV August 3, 2010. For more information, visit: www.thewaywegebymovie.com

DIY's Distro Numbers Vs. The Corporate Giants'

Jeremy Juuso has an interesting post on Baseline Intelligence that Phillip Lefesi tipped me to.  Jeremy analyzes the 1st & 2nd weekend returns of DIY vs other specialized releases.  The DIY films hold their own on the first weekend, but are surpassed by the corporate releases thereafter.  What is not mentioned however, is that the DIY films are not only probably more profitable, but the DIY films are still owned by the filmmakers (presumably).  If the exhibitors take 50% of the gross, the differential for rentals is only $25K between the two over the first two weeks. You have to figure that the corporate releases are spending more than $25K over the DIY films in marketing costs.  The DIY team would thus be making more money as well as owning their film and controlling their release. Check it out.

PMD Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Jon Reiss

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

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

We are now treated to another Jon Reiss guest post.  Jon holds the world record for the most comments on a single TrulyFreeFilm post, but he is one of our New Model Gurus, helping to pave the path to the emergence of a sustainable Artist/Creator Middle Class.   We he speaks, I listen. Two weeks ago I wrote a guest post here about the need to educate filmmakers on distribution and marketing their films.  This weekend the Los Angeles Film Festival is hosting a truly wonderful event which I am proud to have developed in collaboration with LAFF and Film Independent (with strong push and support from Ted):  Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium.

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

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

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

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

Last but not least – it will give filmmakers an opportunity to connect with each other and the presenters.  Come on down and introduce yourself, learn and contribute.

- Jon Reiss

Seize The Power: LAFF's Film Financing Conf Now TWO-DAY DIY MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION SYMPOSIUM

Film Independent sent out the following email:

We have spent the last ten years making the Film Financing Conference an invaluable experience for filmmakers, and as the industry is swept by very significant changes, we want to rise up to meet those changes with programs that meet filmmaker needs at this moment.  With that in mind, the Los Angeles Film Festival has created Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium, a new program specifically designed to help filmmakers navigate marketing and distribution in the growing age of new media and to promote an open dialogue on the impact and exciting possibilities the changes in our industry bring.

Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium will be held June 19 - 20 at the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE, and will host the same insight, quality of information, and caliber of speakers that has made our Financing Conference a vital stop for filmmakers.

Are you looking for financing?  About to shoot? It's time for filmmakers to think about their marketing and distribution from the moment they get the green light. Remember, distribution begins NOW.

If you want to MONETIZE YOUR ART, you can't miss this event.

Get the full schedule here.

Jon Reiss on Proper Prior Planning Prevent Perplexing Problems

Today's guest post is from filmmaker / hybrid DIY distro guru, Jon Reiss. Over the last several months an argument has arisen within the independent film community as to how much (and whether) filmmakers should focus on the distribution and marketing of their films.

I am rather surprised that there is an argument.  I am very surprised that lines have been drawn in the sand, armies joined and deployed.  I feel that the discussion to date misses two very important points.  First – there is no one kind of independent filmmaker.  There is no one kind of filmmaker.  Never has, never will be.  Thank god.  Each person who is involved in independent film has his or her own desires, interests, passions, loves, hates.  Each filmmaker has different motivations for making a film.  Some want to make a statement, change the world – whether it is social or artistic.  Some want to make money.   Some want to express an idea or emotion to as many people as possible.  Most filmmakers want it all.   However if push comes to shove, filmmakers will prioritize what they want from their films.  And these desires are different for different filmmakers.

Similarly not everyone in independent film wants to be a director, or a writer-director, or a writer-producer-director.   Some filmmakers just want to direct and prefer to collaborate with scriptwriters and producers.  Some filmmakers don’t want to direct, but want to be producers, DPs, editors etc.

Second, the debate implies that directors or multi hyphenate writer-director-producers should be primarily responsible for these new tasks.   I will always be among those that directors should not be solely charged with the distribution and marketing of their films.  As a filmmaker, I know how incredibly difficult this is (especially while making a film) – Frankly one of the reasons this blog post is perhaps a bit late to the debate is that I have been involved with shooting Bomb It 2.

However, I do believe that distribution and marketing should be woven into the filmmaking process just as preproduction planning, casting, scriptwriting, editing, sound mixing are all a part of the filmmaking process.  Just as you don’t consider the sound for your film when you are about to mix or even when you are editing dialogue.  If good sound is important to you as a filmmaker, usually you are considering the sound for your film no later than the tech scout, and often from the script stage. Similarly I feel that filmmakers will be helped both logistically and creatively to incorporate distribution and marketing into the entire process of making their films.

It should be understood by our community that distribution and marketing are not about tailoring your film to an audience that you feel you can capitalize on (however if the sole goal for your film is to make money – perhaps this might be a path for you).

A better way to view this process is that distribution and marketing are about finding the audience that already exists for your film, your vision.  (I credit Marc Rosenbush with this keen perspective).

This process of audience engagement takes either a lot of money or a lot of time.  Most independents do not have much of the former, and so must rely on the latter.   It also takes knowledge.

Knowledge can either be learned through experience or through education or a combination.

A year ago, I felt compelled to write a book about distribution and marketing for my fellow filmmakers as a guidebook to this process.  I did this  so that they could learn from my experience and the experiences of others and so that they wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel each time anew.  (How awful would it be that every time we shot a film we had to relearn how different lenses, different lighting, different editing affected the emotional quality of a scene).  It is time to compile our knowledge and share it with each other so that each new filmmaker does not have to waste his or her time to relearn tools and techniques that have been tried by others before them.

I have begun a number of other educational initiatives to which I will devote most of the next twelve months.

I do this not to load more work onto the backs of my fellow filmmakers.  The work frankly exists even if you are one of the lucky few to have a distributor swoop down with a check to relieve you of this burden.

I do this for five reasons:

1. To provide a systematic way to train a new cadre of crew people to be responsible for the distribution and marketing tasks on a film.  I call these new crew people Producers of Marketing and Distribution.

I gave this crew position a name because only with a proper name will the work be recognized, rewarded and most importantly trained for.

Few directors want to do every job on their films.  Many don’t want to be multi-hyphenates.  They are happy to find a brilliant script to bring to the screen.  They are happy to work with a brilliant DP or Production Designer.  They are happy to collaborate with a creative producer who will help them realize their vision.   God knows I am.

Just as filmmakers are eager to collaborate on what has been previously thought of as the work of film, directors and producers should be eager to collaborate with additional crew people who will carry out the numerous tasks of distribution and marketing.

I hope by the time I make my next project, I can put out a call for a Producer of Marketing and Distribution on Shooting People, or Mandy and I will receive a flood of emails.   I hope this for all filmmakers.

In order to create these new crew people, we must provide a way to educate them. Toward this end, I am now working with film organizations around the world to create a variety of educational opportunities to teach this material in the form of classes, labs and workshops.  I am also in the process of creating an online tools website so that filmmakers can share information about distributors, screening networks and the like (kind of a marketing and distribution yelp for filmmakers).  This website will eventually grow into an online academy to teach these tools to filmmakers (especially to create a cadre of PMDs for filmmakers).

I applaud the others who are engaged in this teaching – Peter Broderick, Lance Weiler, Ted Hope, Scott Macaulay, Sheri Candler, Scott Kirsner, Tiffany Shlain, Marc Rosenbush, Thomas Mai, Sandy Dubowsky, Caitlin Boyle, Stacey Parks, IFP, FIND etc.  We should embrace this education as a community – not eschew it.  (I do agree that panels are a poor way to educate.  Go to any university (or any school) and you find very little education being done via panels. )

2. Filmmakers who have no intention of shooting their films still take classes in (or read books about) cinematography so as to understand the art.   Similarly, I feel that filmmakers should at least have a sense of what is entailed in distribution and marketing a film so that they can understand that process.  This does not mean that they have to devote their life to this education (or to the work).  But with knowledge comes power.   I advise my film directing students at Cal Arts to learn the basics of budgeting and scheduling, even if they never intend to produce, AD, UPM or line produce.  I believe by learning the process, they will however acquire the tools to look at a budget and schedule and understand where resources are being allocated so that they can have an informed discussion with their line producer about said resource allocation.

3.  As independent filmmakers, we need to be prepared to take on any task in the filmmaking process, because we are never sure if we will have someone else to do that task for us.  You might not be lucky enough to have someone shoot your film, edit your film, help you with the distribution of the film.  Hence any of these roles might fall to you.  I can’t afford to take a DP with me around the world to film Bomb It 2 (or a producer or sound person) – so I am doing it myself.   Independent filmmakers have always been Jacks and Jills of all trades.  Distribution and marketing is one of the trades we thought we could hand over to others.  We know now that this (fortunately or unfortunately) is not always the case.   As I learned from my odd 7th grade math teacher: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Perplexing Problems.

4. Maybe, just maybe, in learning about distribution and marketing you might discover some new creative way to express your vision that you did not previously know existed.  I love feature films.  I love great shorts. I even love great television of either conventional length.    But these are four forms that have become ossified in the filmmaking world for too long as the only forms.  I feel that great creativity will come from expanding filmmaking – nay media creating – forms.   Why slaughter your babies in the editing room?  Find new life for them.  Why not create multiple babies in the script stage to express your thoughts in a myriad of new directions?  And still make a feature film if that is your passion.  Why not collaborate with other filmmakers to help you create these new forms of content and reach those audiences, if your goal is to focus solely on making the feature?

5.  Maybe, if you are interested, you might create a long-term relationship with a core audience, that might help to sustain you as an artist.

The central point is this: Don’t limit yourself.   Open up your arms to the vast amount of creative potential that awaits you, and do so with the collaboration of others who are eager to help you.  I believe this should be the model for us as a community to face the new financial realities of our world.   There is too much work to be done for those in our community to vilify others.  It is a time ripe for great opportunity to create and engage with audiences as we have been doing as a species since we first sat around fires telling stories.   The form will change, the meaning to us, as human beings will not.

I am doing a workshop in conjunction with IFP on June 5th and 6th. Instead of panels, we are having a cocktail party for participants to meet with distributors and other distribution and marketing service providers.

I will be doing another workshop in Vancouver on June 12 – 13th.

Finally for June I have collaborated with the LA Film Festival and Film Independent to create a three-day distribution and marketing symposium.  A day and a half boot camp for the competition filmmakers, and a day and a half open to the public focused on 1. Tools instruction  2. Exploring the potential available to us all.

For more information:  www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

Or www.jonreiss.com/blog

The Living Wake: The How & The Why Of Our DIY (pt. 3 of 3)

Today's guest post concludes Sol Tryon's tale of some of what he learned and loved from making and distributing The Living Wake. Having seen the challenges of indie films hitting theaters with little to no marketing budgets, we have set a theatrical schedule that allows us as the filmmakers really support the film in each market where we release it.  We have set up a network of influential people and companies to support us by doing hosted screenings for nearly every single screening we have.  This creates more of an event type of feel to the traditional theatrical experience as well as the opportunity to cross promote with our host for each particular screening.  The way it works is that the host targets their friends, fans and supporters to come to their specific screening while we market to our networks as well. The idea being that we are able to bring awareness to our host and their work as well as them bringing audiences we wouldn’t have necessarily been able to reach ourselves into the theater.  Ultimately what it all comes down to is a targeted grass roots network that will hopefully spread through word of mouth.  While we don’t have unrealistic expectations for our theatrical box office numbers, we do believe we will significantly raise the awareness for the film in general and hopefully that will lead to larger interest in the DVD, TV, VOD, digital and foreign rights.

Since we have set our theatrical plans in motion, we have already received much of that interest in our film.  We have been able to close on deals for North American rights for the film with different companies that will allow us to retain the right to sell our film ourselves as well as put it through the traditional channels into the marketplace.  We have targeted on deals that are for short terms and provide high percentages of profits coming back to us.

In the end, it has been an amazing journey that started out with a single creative vision, grew into a collective achievement and now is taking us in directions we never imagined. I have realized that to be an independent filmmaker you no longer just have to know how to make a film, you have to know how to finance, make, market, negotiate and sell your film to the world.  While the whole process is exhausting and all encompassing, I have learned more than I could have ever dreamed of. Going through everything my team and I have with this film and actually seeing it open in theaters in several cities across the country is absolutely the most incredible feeling.  Knowing that this film exists and can be seen strictly because of the vision and hard work of our ever-growing team of collaborators is at once humbling and rewarding. Despite the challenges we have faced and the length of the journey we have been on with this film, I would not change a single thing.  The film has taken us on this ride and it has led us to do everything it needed in order to be where it is today.

Don't miss The Living Wake in Los Angeles May 21st-27th at Laemmle’s Sunset 5

The Living Wake: The Path To Self Distribution (Pt2 of 3)

Today's guest post is the second of three from filmmaker Sol Tryon, whose The Living Wake is currently in theaters. Like many indie films, with The Living Wake we were continuing to raise money as we went and post-production was no different.  We used the dailies from the shoot to show new potential investors what we were creating.  Fortunately, Charlie Corwin and Clara Markowicz from Original Media saw our vision and believed in us enough to finance the completion budget and help escort us into the next phase of our journey with the project.  After an extended post-production due to schedules, we had a film that we felt surpassed all of our initial expectations for the project. We were sure this was going to be a darling of the film festivals and people all over the world would appreciate our bizarre little movie.

While we knew it was a very particular film and that it wasn’t really headed for big mainstream success, we felt that the film was well crafted, had an amazing combination of comedic wit and emotional sensibilities and that the cult classic potential was off the charts.  Unfortunately, we were hitting the festival circuit right at the time when the bottom was falling out of the industry. No one was taking any chances on buying films that needed a special sort of marketing to reach its audience.  We found ourselves in a predicament where many of the buyers were saying, “I love your film, but I don’t know how to sell it...”  We received amazing praise from the press and audiences alike, but it didn’t fit into the traditional mold of successfully distributed films.  We had several offers to basically give our movie away and hope for the best, but that wasn’t something any of us were interested in.  We had worked too hard and believed too strongly in the film we had created to just have someone put it out there with no real vision or marketing support and potentially find it sitting on a shelf somewhere leaving us with no control over the future of the film. So, we decided to pass on all of our offers and embark on the journey of discovering how we could release the film ourselves.  With the guidance of some filmmakers that had been having similar experiences, we devised a strategy to get the film out theatrically and retain control of all of the other rights.

Tomorrow the tale continues with: The How & The Why Of Our DIY

Don't miss The Living Wake in Los Angeles May 21st-27th at Laemmle’s Sunset 5

Sol Tryon on "The Living Wake": Doing it differently (Pt. 1 of 3)

Today's guest post is the first of three coming from the filmmaker Sol Tryon. The Living Wake has been a truly original project from the get go.  With a creative team of first time filmmakers we knew every phase of getting this film made and distributed was going to be an immense challenge. Peter Kline, Mike O’Connell and myself developed the project from its origins as a 20-page one-man show into a full-length feature film.

Once we had the script ready to go, we knew it was going to be something that we were going to have to make on our own to prove ourselves to the film community.  We shot a short film based on the characters from the feature to help us show investors that we had a distinct voice and vision.  From there we were able to raise our seed money to get us going.

The three of us moved to Maine intent on making this film however we could.  Living in tents on my parents’ land, we began location scouting and casting while continuing to try to find financing.  Things began to fall into place for us as more people joined our team.  We quickly developed a group of passionate people who were inspired by the originality of the script and the setting we were creating.

Through this collaboration, our dream of bringing our quirky comedy to life became a reality.  Shooting the film was the most exhausting and enjoyable experience I have ever had. We became a big creative family where everyone was doing anything and everything necessary to make sure our schedule was met and the vision was fulfilled.  By the time we had completed the shoot, every single person involved with the project felt a true sense of ownership and believed we had created something special.

Tomorrow: The Path To Self-Distribution

Don't miss The Living Wake in Los Angeles May 21st-27th at Laemmle’s Sunset 5

Remembering The Past, Segueing Into The Future

Today's guest post is from filmmaker Bette Gordon (whose Luminous Motion I produced, and will screen at the IFC Center in NYC on Monday night.  I plan on being there, and hope to see you there).  Everything old is new again! In the current culture of independent filmmaking, most of us are plugged in to the idea of DIY distribution. This is not a totally new idea.

In 1983, I had just made my first feature film, VARIETY. Its about a woman who sells tickets at a pornographic movie theatre and becomes obsessed with following one of the clients from the theatre into the world of men, money and lower Manhattan. We shot on a very very low budget, with friends and friends of friends. The theatre I used as a location, The Variety Theatre, was a porn theatre on 13th Street and Third Avenue, and after a week of shooting there from 11pm at night until 9am the next morning, we had developed a good relationship with the owner. The projectionist even played the part of “the projectionist” in the movie.

In the 80’s, there was a term called 4-walling, kind of like DIY, where you’d rent a theatre for a period of time, and do your own publicity and marketing to get people to come. At the time, my producer, Renee Shafransky, and I decided it made the most sense to 4-wall the porn theatre and have our opening there. Only problem was that the smell inside was pretty bad, and the seats were kind of sticky. But no worries, once we secured the deal, we went in the day before to clean up.

Splalding Gray, who played the obscene phone call voice in the film, and was Renee’s boyfriend at the time, lit incense to clear the air. I’m pretty sure that just made the mix of smells even worse, but we had to do something. The screenings ended up being a huge success, lines around the block every night for the 3 nights that we rented the theatre. We got press, lots of cash, more invitations to festivals; we even got a distributor and a video deal.

Today, VARIETY has become somewhat of a cult classic. The preservation fund of New York Women in Film and Television recently made a preservation print and the film screened in last year's Tribeca Film Festival. It’s about to screen again at the IFC the night before “Handsome Harry”, my new film.

There was a real spirit of collaboration among filmmakers, artists, musicians, and writers in the early 1980's. When I first moved to New York City, I worked with a group of filmmakers who started the first cinema in an old loft building in Tribeca, called The Collective for Living Cinema. (For me, this was an important/influential introductory experience to the nyc world of film) I met tons of people while working there, but what was so incredible was the program. We would show films fri/sat/sun evening, anything from old Hollywood B movies like “Pickup on South Street” to horror movies like Larry Cohen’s “God Told Me To,” to underground experimental work of Michael Snow, Ken Jacobs, the Kuchar brothers, and performances by people like Jack Smith.

Every night at The Collective was an event. The audiences were interactive and devoted, we did filmmaking workshops and conferences, and I remember we were the first cinema to show John Cassavetes “Shadows” when it had not shown in NYC for years. When we screened Jonathan Demme’s “Caged Heat,” there were lines around the block, and Jonathan came to do a Q & A, like most of the filmmakers whose work we presented. Later, he became one of our board members and brought lots of others to the organization. It was Do It Yourself exhibition, it was a way to curate, to educate and celebrate the films that were being made. We were definitely artist and audience-centric.

There were no gatekeepers back then, we did work together, helping each other out on our films, promoting the work in group shows, and in clubs like The Mudd Club and CBGB’s, at festivals, and anywhere we could find a projector and a room - sometimes on rooftops if that’s what it took. We were artist entrepreneurs - like today’s independent filmmakers who are in a position to become ‘creator -empowered and participatory’.

The technology has changed since the 1980’s, and now it’s all downloadable, but the spirit, dedication and desire was flying high way back then. “Wild Style,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Unmade Beds,” “Vortex” by the B;s, “Born in Flames.” The only way to make anything was to Do It Yourself, promote it and sell it yourself. I’m not saying this was a perfect moment, but just hope folks remember that this spirit of collaboration and audience building had some roots in the 80’s.

There were many years after that, in the 1990’s and beyond, where gatekeeper distributors/film companies/studios seemed to gain more control over this free spirit of doing it yourself filmmaking. But now, out of necessity, I think we’re back on track. Necessity is truly the mother of creation. Or is it invention?

Bette Gordon, a pioneer in the American Independent Film world, is best known for her bold explorations of themes related to sexuality. VARIETY (1984) marked her debut as a feature film director, followed by LUMINOUS MOTION produced by Ted Hope and Anthony Bregman of Good Machine. Her current film, HANDSOME HARRY will premiere at the IFC theatre and has an impressive ensemble cast including Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, Aidan Quinn, Campbell Scott, Jon Savage. Gordon is a Professor of Film at Columbia University's graduate film division in New York City.

The Need To Start From The Beginning

On Baseline Research Blog is an article entitled "DIY Doing You In" (thanks to @Shanipedia for tipping me off to it).  The author, Jeremy Juuso, states:

to have a decent shot at breaking $1 million in lifetime box office, your Q2 specialty film needs to open at better than $15,000 per weekend venue.  The bad news is, if you’re engaging in a self-release or service deal, this will be a very tall order, as only 5 such films in all of 2009 managed to open so.

Self-produced distribution, as I prefer to call it, as no one is going to be doing it by yourself, is a time-consuming, expensive, and challenging process.  It is also something that is still in the process of being defined.  There are a lot of experts any one can hire, but there is no template to doing it right.

What Juuso neglects to mention, that for all the films last year on a DIY or service model, none of them planned to go that approach from the beginning.  The age of DIY will begin when filmmakers and their financiers agree that self-produced distribution is Plan A.  That is the true game changer -- when we all start planning to put it up and out without the support of rights trade to a major corporation.

IndieGoGo Acquires Distribber: Filmmakers Win!

We just got this press release from IndieGoGo and it sounds like a great thing.  Users will now have access to the iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix distribution platform.  Exciting development indeed.

The acquisition enables a full range of project execution tools for IndieGoGo members.

Berkeley, California, March 15, 2009 – IndieGoGo (www.indiegogo.com), a fundraising platform, announced its acquisition of Distribber (www.distribber.com), a digital distribution service. This acquisition enables IndieGoGo to offer clients a full range of tools for project execution - from funding to distribution.

IndieGoGo was co-founded in 2008 by Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell. In 2009 IndieGoGo became the largest online film funding platform. In 2010 IndieGoGo extended its fundraising tools to any project raising up to $100,000 - including writing, music, social cause, technology, events, venture, and political ideas. Based on the concept of DIWO (Do It With Others), IndieGoGo offers all the tools needed to promote and fund projects via the masses. IndieGoGo encourages projects to offer VIP perks in exchange for contributions, allowing thousands of project owners to involve their fans in funding and creative efforts.

“Since 2008, IndieGoGo has powered fundraising campaigns for over 3,000 customers in 94 countries,” said Rubin, Chief of Strategy and Marketing of IndieGoGo. “Now our creative clients will have an opportunity to distribute their completed works. By adding distribution to the suite of tools that IndieGoGo offers, clients can stay with one company and receive consistency in execution and service.”

Distribber was founded in 2009 by Adam Chapnick as a digital distribution service. The innovative company currently empowers independent filmmakers with distribution opportunities, without loss of rights or back-end revenue. Distribber enables access to iTunes, and today announced new distribution partnerships with Netflix and Amazon.“IndieGoGo is known for stellar technology, outstanding service, and wide reach,” says Chapnick, founder of Distribber. “I'm incredibly excited to provide Distribber's clients access to IndieGoGo’s tools, and to give the IndieGoGo membership another way to monetize their projects.”

Distribber will continue to be based in the Los Angeles area.

If you have any questions about this acquisition, or how it may benefit your project on IndieGoGo please contact info@indiegogo.com.

About Distribber

Distribber enables media creators to distribute content on platforms including iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon. Distribber clients collect 100% of their revenue and have ongoing access to their sales and revenue statistics. Distribber is an IndieGoGo company. To learn more, visit http://www.distribber.com. The company is located in Los Angeles CA.

About IndieGoGo

IndieGoGo is a funding platform - a collaborative way to fund ideas. Anyone can join IndieGoGo, share a project idea, and raise the funds needed to execute. Since its launch in 2008, IndieGoGo's members, from over 90 countries, have successfully funded projects ranging from books to movies and events to charities. To learn more, visit http://www.indiegogo.com. The company is located in Berkeley CA and New York, NY.

You Too Can Have Cassavettes' Distrib Work For You

It was a busy week. Jeff Lipsky, distributor turned filmmaker, has returned to his distro roots and wants to work with you! I got an email from him and have been meaning to post but my To Do List is a bit unruly. I need an extra hand. Now I was beaten to the punch, but better late than never.Jeff's email states:

Theatrical business is flourishing – it wasn’t just Tim Burton’s film that broke global records this past weekend, the IFC Center in New York City also made history, and that’s generally the way things have been going for well over a year. Yet with more and more new distribution platforms on the rise revenues for independent producers and filmmakers continue to diminish. (Of course, that merely an educated guess since there is absolutely no transparency about such numbers whereas box office grosses are as readily available as the weather report.) These and other vexing realities have inspired me to return to my roots. I’m once again hanging out my shingle as an independent distributor for hire, making myself available to filmmakers and producers seeking to engage the services of an ever-passionate and experienced executive who still believes (perhaps now more than ever) in the potential and the immediacy (think revenues) of a theatrical release. In 2007, on a “service deal” basis, I released the record-breaking “Sweet Land,” the award-winning documentaries “The Bridge” and “The War Tapes,” and my own film “Flannel Pajamas.” I can be contacted at jeff.lipsky2010@gmail.com. For those who may not know my history feel free reach out to me so I can relate further details about the other 225 or so films I’ve marketed and distributed, from films by Cassavetes to Jarmusch, from Lasse Hallstrom to Mike Leigh. And so we can discuss how to exploit your film with the same verve, acuity, and exuberance, greasing the wheels for its ancillary future, a future that will remain 100% yours.

Update 3/21/10: Jeff published his manifesto on theatrical distribution this week in IndieWire and it is a must read.

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Are Glad They Went DIY

Again today we have a guest post from Mynette Louie and Tze Chun, the producer director team behind CHILDREN OF INVENTION. The film opens this weekend in New York and their whole journey through DIY/DIWO distribution has been fascinating to watch and a learning experience for us all. They have been truly brave and really generous sharing a lot of information along the way. I really love this film and truly admire both of them. Please support their film. Yesterday they shared their Top 10 Reasons Why They Turned Down The Distribution Offers They Received. Check it out.

Top 10 Things We’re Glad We Did 1.   Didn’t take an all-rights distribution deal. For reasons enumerated above, but most of all, for freedom!

2.   Played as many film festivals as possible, and traveled to as many of them as possible. We were one of the smallest films at Sundance.  It's a great festival to premiere at, but the press does give most of the attention to the star vehicles and bigger films.  So, it was really over the course of the entire festival circuit that we got our buzz, awards, and reviews.  It was also great to interact directly with audiences, who essentially act as focus groups for your film.  We were able to discover what people respond to in the film, and which demographics respond best.  Building a relationship with your audiences is really important.

3.    Sold DVDs after every screening and online. We started selling DVDs at festivals immediately after Sundance.  We found that about 10% of audiences will buy the DVD after each screening, and 20% of audiences will buy if it's an Asian American fest.  We've made back over 20% of our budget on the festival circuit by selling DVDs and collecting screening fees (another benefit of playing as many festivals as possible).

4.    Sent out a press release to local press whenever we had a festival screening. We could only afford to hire a publicist for just Sundance, so after that, we had to do our own PR. It was actually at some of the smaller festivals where we got our best reviews, because it's easier to get the attention of local press in smaller cities where there's simply less "newsworthy" stuff happening.

5.    Offered sneak previews of the film to special interest groups. Throughout our festival run, we did free screenings for affinity and "tastemaker" groups such as Asian American college associations, film classes, corporate groups, nonprofit organizations, etc.  One of these was Ted's brainchild, the This is That Goldcrest Screening Series!  If you think of everyone who sees your film as a potential cheerleader for it, then these kinds of screenings make a lot of sense.

6.    Participated in the YouTube rentals launch. This "experiment" has generally been derided as a failure in the press, but we're glad we did it!  Our trailer got more hits in 3 days than it did in 8 months off our website. Nowadays with so much media and promotional noise out there, you can't really afford to pass up free publicity when it's offered to you--take anything that will potentially help distinguish and elevate you above the media din.  Plus, we sent out a press release of our own to announce the film's availability on YouTube, and it was picked up by a number of significant outlets and blogs, so we were able to direct even more attention to the film.  And while the YouTube revenue itself wasn’t significant, we did see our DVD sales spike, and ended up earning a good chunk of change during those 10 days.

7.    Offered free content. In addition to posting behind-the-scenes photos from production, we documented the "behind-the-scenes" goings-on during our festival and distribution phases too. We also created 2 new exclusive clips of the film for the Apple/iTunes Trailers site, and got the main promo spot on the home page--prime real estate!  Additionally, we launched Tze's Sundance '07 short WINDOWBREAKER for free on the YouTube Screening Room last week--it's the film on which CHILDREN OF INVENTION is based.  And fortuitously, SILVER SLING, the ITVS short we made in the midst of our festival travels last year, launched for free on ITVS’s Futurestates site a few days ago.  These have been great cross-promotional vehicles for us.  Visual content is the best way to spark and sustain people's interest, so the more of it you've got, and the freer you can make it without giving away the store, the better.

8.    Decided to do DIWO distribution in NYC with Dave Boyle's WHITE ON RICE. Since most major press still won't review your film if it doesn't do a week at a commercial theater, a way to split the cost and share the work of promotion is to partner with another film, switching off showtimes but still playing a week.  Who needs 5 screenings a day?  Also, through Dave, we met Dylan Marchetti of Variance Films, who engineered our DIWO release and is really one of the unsung heroes of DIY distribution because he really knows how to distribute a film theatrically for very minimal P&A.

9.    This is technically something we didn't do, but we didn't four-wall any of our theatrical screenings. That would have been very expensive, and therefore, not very wise.

10.  Made a film that we're proud of and still love after nearly 2 years of making and selling it. DIY distribution is tough.  Imagine how much tougher it would be if we didn't believe in what we were selling.

Please support the NYC theatrical premiere of CHILDREN OF INVENTION and WHITE ON RICE on March 12!  The films will run March 12-18 at the BIG Cinemas Manhattan (formerly the ImaginAsian), 239 E 59th St (bt 2nd/3rd Aves).  CHILDREN OF INVENTION is also making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere on March 12, and will run March 12-17 at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St (bt E 2nd/E 3rd Sts).  Buy tickets and get more info here.

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

Today we have a guest post from Mynette Louie and Tze Chun, the producer director team behind CHILDREN OF INVENTION.  The film opens this weekend in New York and their whole journey through DIY/DIWO distribution has been fascinating to watch and a learning experience for us all.  They have been truly brave and really generous sharing a lot of information along the way.  I really love this film and truly admire both of them.  Please support their film. Tomorrow they will share their Top 10 Reasons Why They Are Glad They Turned Down The Distribution Offers They Received.  Stay Tuned.

Top 10 (alright, 11) Reasons Why We Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

1.    Couldn’t get straight answers about revenue projections, accounting and recoupment. Why this is bad is self-explanatory.

2.    Term was too long. Yes, it's a lot of time and hard work to self-distribute, but we could always choose not to exploit some distribution channel if we figure it's not worth it. We can't, however, choose to get out of a 10 to 25-year deal. And if we did a 25-year deal, we'd probably be in old-person diapers by the time the rights revert to us.  And that's just sad to think about.

3. Revenue share was too small. We know that specialty distributors have it tough too, and respect what they do (more than ever now that we've been through it) but revenue splits still have to be mutually beneficial for the filmmaker and the distributor.  With the state of things being so uncertain, it's tough to figure out the fairest deal, but one thing's for sure: if you can no longer offer an advance, then the other terms have got to give to make up for that.  A distribution deal today is a partnership, not a hand-off.

4.    Delivery requirements were onerous and costly. Some of the tape formats made us think they were distributing the film back in the 1980s.  We may as well have been burning Laserdiscs.

5.    Distributor was overloaded with other films. We didn't want to be sitting on a shelf indefinitely or helplessly harassing our distributor to pay attention to us.

6.    Couldn’t get straight answers about marketing plans. Suspected that they had no marketing plan.

7.    Wanted more control over how our film was marketed. In our DIY mode, the approval process for our marketing materials is literally the two of us, director and producer, exchanging a few emails. Tze does all the graphic design and Mynette does all the web design.  Yes, it's more work for us, but you really can't beat the speed and efficiency of this model.

8.  We'd already done most of the hard work ourselves by the time people came to us with weak distribution offers. No thanks.

9.    Other filmmakers warned us not to do business with them. Warning to distributors: We all talk to each other.

10.  Distributor misspelled the name of the movie in their inquiry e-mail. Okay, we didn't turn down the deal because of this, but it didn't help.

11.  Distributor used the phrase "T&A" in conversation. Don't do that, even if you're talking to a guy.

Please support the NYC theatrical premiere of CHILDREN OF INVENTION and WHITE ON RICE on March 12! The films will run March 12-18 at the BIG Cinemas Manhattan (formerly the ImaginAsian), 239 E 59th St (bt 2nd/3rd Aves). CHILDREN OF INVENTION is also making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere on March 12, and will run March 12-17 at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St (bt E 2nd/E 3rd Sts). Buy tickets and get more info here.

Finally, join the CHILDREN OF INVENTION Facebook group and follow @InventionFilm and producer @mynette on Twitter!

Invest In The Yes Men (To Save Indie Film & Trash Global Capitalism)!

I got an email from those merry pranksters. I was inspired by the cut of their jib and sent them some money.

They have asked for everyone's help in order to get their relevant lunacy to seen:

A labor of love to produce, and distributed in a unique partnership with Shadow Distribution (The Lost Boys of Sudan, The Weather Underground), The Yes Men Fix the World hits corporate America where it hurts, and has huge potential as a public education piece and a powerful rallying cry for progressive activists and organizers. Unfortunately after a hugely successful opening weekend in New York, and inquiries from new theaters across the country, the film's marketing and outreach budget (never much to begin with) is almost completely tapped out! There is no budget for the 10-15 new film prints ($1200 each) that theaters want, nor for the basic advertising (another $15,000 at least) to make the film work in each major market, and in smaller cities too.

The Yes Men need your help to get the film out to cities and towns large and small across the land, where the hope is to reproduce the kind of raucous, people-powered reactions that have been typical of screenings in New York. Here's how you can do that:

One: You can loan money to their distribution and audience engagement effort, to be paid back when proceeds from the retail DVD start rolling in next year. To take this route, please email invest@theyesmen.org.

Two: They're putting Survivaballs up for adoption. For just $1,000, you will become the proud parent of the world's stupidest costume. The Survivaball you own will be deployed in direct-action protest all across America, and then in December will go to Copenhagen to push world leaders to do something smart about climate change. To adopt your own active ball, please email adoptaball@theyesmen.org.

Three: You can buy a film print ($1200) and loan it until the theatrical run is finished. To help out this way, please write invest@theyesmen.org.

AND you can also just donate money, or buy posters, t-shirts, Reggie candles, etc. here.

The DailyKos had a good post on them here.