Change The Model: Build New Alliances To Deliver Greater Value For A Better Price

The post I did on "The Really Bad Things In The Indie Film Biz 2012" has generated a lot of health conversations.  The wise recognize that each of these really bad things is just an opportunity to make this all better -- and sometimes to make some money.  The post has been shared and "liked" more that usual for this blog and I think that speaks well of our collective endeavor to rescue indie film. I particularly liked all the comments the blog generated, and have done my best to reply to them.  Thanks for the participation!

I want to single out one comment in particular from Jb Bruno, who kindly has allowed me to repost it here:

Maybe one way to break the hold the people at the top have on the artists is to change the model, as it’s a model that serves them but not even one an audience really wants.

Movie-going in its infancy was about people buying a ticket, which got them into a show, where they could get entertainment they could not get at home. While there, they could buy snacks like popcorn and peanuts and sodas. This was the same model as other forms of entertainment; baseball games, circuses, traveling shows, etc. Buy your ticket, get in, watch it, buy our over-priced snacks, get out.

Today, we have entertainment at our fingertips everywhere wherever we go. What is our theatrical model? Buy your ticket, get in, watch it, buy our over-priced snacks, get out.

Maybe that works for the spate of blockbusters that are basically extensions of video games or franchises, but not only doesn’t it work for the types of stories we are talking about telling, but it doesn’t appeal to the type of person that wants this type of fare.

Could we not find ways to partner with other activities where seeing the movie was only part of the experience?. What if people could purchase memberships that got them not only in to see a movie, but also combine with other things that are part of their interests. Those “other things” could be part of packages that could be tailored to people’s taste: for one person, it could be opera, or museums; for another, stand-up comedy or dinner; for someone else, metal clubs and hookah bars.

What if this expanded also ethnically and culturally, and we started speaking to audiences outside of middle-aged White guys like me?

It would mean forming communities with other groups, and isn’t the idea of the larger community a good thing?

The only people the “buy your ticket” model serves is the current establishment, whose interest certainly isn’t with the filmmaker.

Those packages could range in price-scale, so in the end, it wasn’t $13-15 dollars for a two-hour-and-out experience.

Changing the model would be hard work, but would it be any harder, or more frustrating, than the one-size-fits-all model we now have no control over? At least, we wouldn’t be at the mercy of the gate-keepers.

It's a good idea, yeah?  I know I want a lot more for my money that the expenditure of time and the opportunity to overpay for snacks I never wanted in the first place.  What are the barriers we need to overcome if we are going to make this work?

Exhibitors control the ticket pricing.  Will this have to be done at the exhibitor level?  If so, does that mean it must be locally based?

Who provides the discount?  The exhibitor or the participating additional party?  How can we make both sides sacrifice since both sides will benefit?  Does it require that the film be four-walled so that the discounts happen?

There must be some pre-existing models and experiments with this already.  Does anyone know of them?

What would be some examples of perfect pairings?

 

We Have Lost A Good Friend

RIP George Gund

Your love of cinema & life, your generosity & great spirit were truly infectious. @SF_FilmSociety has lost a great friend.

I did not know George well, but I had had some good times with him, and very much enjoyed encountering him at festivals throughout the world.  When he and his wife Iara Lee brought us and other filmmakers down to Brazil to lecture on Low Budget Indie -- it was the first time I really felt people got what I wanted to do and cared.  That was George.  It was such a gift.  

Every where George went he communicated his love of cinema.  And all that was before I knew all that he had done for the SFFS.  I would not have had the SFFS organization to come to if it was not for him. It was what he built that gave me the hope that this was the base by which I could help indie film reach higher.

I am at Sundance now for the Art House Convergence -- and as this news leaks out to others, the outpourings of love and respect are huge.  We ALL were all lucky to have George and his profound generosity as part of us.  We will be sure to reflect his spirit going forward at SFFS and not let any of that be forgotten.  He will continue to inspire me and our whole community.  Thank you for George, thank you for sharing him with us, and keeping his love of cinema so strong.

http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/George-Gund-III-SF-Film-Society-head-dies-4197438.php

Please consider contributing in George's memory to one of the legacy's that George helped build.  You can do so here.

Filmmakers, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Jobs Act Is? Part 1

Written by Michael R. Barnard
FILMMAKERS, IT’S 2013. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR JOBS ACT IS?
PART 1 of 3 parts
Young filmmakers today – those of you in your early to mid-twenties – entered filmmaking after the Great Recession and complications of rapid technological developments began to cripple the independent filmmaking industry in America. You entered the field just as the then-new perks-based donor crowdfunding function blossomed in the debris of crushed distribution companies, shrunken Minimum Guarantees, destroyed bank credit, and disappearance of most equity investment by hedge funds, institutions, and high-net-worth individuals. Those of us who are older are still smarting from the destruction, still aware of the way things had been.
The independent film industry in America shows signs of poverty, with many independent filmmakers living lives of ‘the starving artist,’ and jobs within the industry seem to be rare. Rarer still are consistent jobs that pay a living wage.
President Obama signed into law the American JOBS Act last spring. Called the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act,” its purpose is to help Americans who have good, sound business projects to attract cash from investors more easily. Businesses create jobs and hire people, and America needs that. The independent film industry in America needs that.
President Obama said, “We are a nation of doers. We think big. We take risks. This is a country that’s always been on the cutting edge. The reason is, America has always had the most daring entrepreneurs. When their businesses take off, more people get employed.”
By amending the Securities Act of 1933, the JOBS Act should make it easier for indie filmmakers to raise money so they can create jobs and help rebuild the American economy. It can have a profound impact on the independent filmmaking industry.
The biggest bi-partisan effort of the past several years of hyper-partisanship was the creation of the American JOBS Act. Support for the JOBS Act spanned both parties, the President, and even anti-tax organizations known for being at odds with the President. It is designed to turn hoarded cash into investment in companies so they can create paid jobs and build infrastructure. Read the JOBS Act here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3606enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr3606enr.pdf and for the summary, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR03606:@@@L&summ2=m&
Filmmakers, here are details of why we need the JOBS Act, how it will help filmmakers, and the status of the JOBS Act today.
THE WAY THINGS USED TO BE
Earlier generations of young filmmakers were often surprised to discover that their public pleas for money to make their movies ran afoul of federal SEC regulations that control offerings of securities, rules that demand rigorous registration under equity investment laws.
“Securities? Equity? Registration? SEC? What are those things,” asked the new filmmakers from previous generations. “I just want to make a movie.”
The young filmmakers who came before you were shocked to discover they could not just tell everybody on Friendster and MySpace, or through ads in printed newspapers and magazines, that they wanted investors to pour money into their movie project in return for great profits later.
This was the first thing filmmakers learned after they finished writing their script: raising money can be very illegal.
Here’s why:
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
Eight decades prior to the Great Recession, we faced the Great Depression, which started in 1929. Times were worse because there were few protections or “safety nets” for citizens. When huge numbers of American citizens lost all their money after the crash of crazy, outrageous investment schemes and scams, they really lost everything, ending up on the street, eating in charity soup kitchens, and begging.
The economic destruction to America was so great that the country created severe, restrictive rules to prevent it from ever happening again. Those rules included the Securities Act of 1933 and the Exchange Act of 1934 to protect citizens from shrewd, myopic, or criminal people who had persuasive high-power pitches for getting citizens to invest money in their projects, whether real or imaginary.
America needs investment; that’s what made this country great. It does not need more economic destruction from poorly thought out or deliberately deceptive projects.
The rules and regulations still control investment in America.
They are implemented and overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). All of the SEC laws, rules, forms and regulations associated with the Securities Act of 1933 and Exchange Act of 1934 are on the SEC’s site at http://www.SEC.gov/divisions/corpfin/cfrules.shtml The big news from last year was the American JOBS Act, signed into law by President Obama on April 5, 2012, which offers some changes to ease this process of investing in America. The goal is to create jobs.
“This is what is going to be the solution for job creation in this country,” says Richard Salute of Cohn Reznick Accounting in New York (see http://www.cohnreznick.com/richard-j-salute), “And, that’s what will keep us in the forefront of developed nations. Access to capital is essential for success.”
The JOBS Act provides filmmakers with tools to rebuild the independent filmmaking industry in America (see “President Obama Signs JOBS ACT; Its Equity Crowdfunding May Rebuild Indie Film Biz” at https://michaelrbarnard.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/presdient-obama-signs-jobs-act-its-equity-crowdfunding-may-rebuild-indie-film-biz/)
THE GREAT RECESSION
The economic destruction of the Great Recession that struck in 2008, just as our new generation of filmmakers came on the scene, affected the independent film industry in America as harshly as other industries, maybe even more harshly than many industries.
“The industry kind of imploded five or six years ago when Fine Line, New Line, Paramount Classics and a few other smaller companies disappeared,” says Richard Abramowitz of consulting firm Abramorama (see http://pro.imdb.com/name/nm0009150/), which specializes in production, marketing, distribution and representation of indie movies. “There was certainly a dip there when the economy tanked.”
“There has definitely been a hit. We’ve seen a downward trend, especially in New York City,” says Mike Nichols, East Coast Rental Manager of AbelCine (see http://abelcine.com), a long-established national equipment rental house. “In 2008, I was bidding on equipment packages for about three dozen indie films. In 2009, that dropped to less than a dozen.”
“I think the independent filmmaking biz got was coming to it, it got corrected, just like housing,” says Jeff Steele of Film Closings (see http://filmclosings.com/), a strategic advisor and film finance veteran specializing in structured-financing for film. “It had attracted a ridiculous amount of hedge fund money out of Wall Street in 2006 to 2008 when I worked for a $300 million fund where we had done thirty films in two years. It was a time when finance plans were looking for films, rather than the other way around. Then the credit crunch hit in 2008, and all of the foreign buyers had their credit lines dry up, so they couldn’t acquire any more films. There was suddenly a surplus of films, films made for $10, $20, $30, even $40 million independent films ended up going straight to video because they had nowhere else to go. It forced filmmakers to drastically reduce their budgets.”
According to prolific indie producer Ted Hope, with more than five dozen prominent indie films across the history of the current independent film culture to his credit, “The real issue right now is the artists and the people that support them are not benefiting from their work, and it just can’t be done. I’ve watched six years of my own personal earnings keep going down each year. I’m not making a living producing the movies. And the system as it’s set up right now does not benefit artists or those that support them.”
Almost to prove his point, Hope has stepped away from producing and is now the Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society in California.
“I produced close to 70 films, and I know in my heart that movies like The Ice Storm, 21 Grams, American Splendor, Happiness, or In The Bedroom would not get made today,” says Hope.
THIS IS EQUITY
New filmmakers are often surprised to find out (usually from friends, but sometimes more harshly from Federal authorities) that it is illegal to randomly offer securities to the public to raise money to make their movies. Their first reaction is to try to find a way around the term “securities,” only to learn that a security is pretty much any offer of a potential return in the future for any cash investment made now. See “security” at http://www.investorwords.com/4446/security.html
Young filmmakers often argue that the SEC could not possibly be interested in pursuing and prosecuting their own small, insignificant movie project.
Correct. Sort of.
Your worry is not the SEC; your worry is your investor. While the SEC may never notice your movie project, the people who invest in your movie are paying a lot of attention to it, and America is full of investors who become disillusioned and disgruntled about the difference between what they feel they were promised, and what they feel they really ended up with. Those are the people who will sue you, and they win by relying on the rules and regulations of the SEC that you ignored.
Offering securities for your film is tightly restricted and regulated. Even under what are known as “Reg. D exemptions,” there are still many expensive regulations to keep you from investors’ money.
Those problems often boil down to enthusiastic, over-confident filmmakers overstating the potential of their movies. You need to be confident to get a movie made, but when you pitch investors, you must include the realities of the risks. Not only is that the ethical course to take, it is also the course that will help you protect yourself.
Tomorrow, in Part 2, we will look into the legal ways to raise money for your movie.
Michael R. Barnard is a writer and filmmaker who has been researching the American JOBS Act since it was first proposed. Barnard is currently working on creating an independent feature film, A FATHER AND SON (http://AFatherAndSon.wordpress.com). Barnard lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the historical novel NATE AND KELLYYou can reach Barnard on Twitter at @mrbarnard1 and on Facebook at michael.barnard.

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

STAY TUNED FOR TOMORROW'S INSTALLMENT ON THIS CRITICAL ISSUE!

Only YOU Can Stop Our Indie Film & Media Culture From Vanishing

I was invited to contribute to the "Wish For The Future" series on Good.is.  This is mine:

When do we stop just thinking about ourselves and instead start working together? I am not talking about saving the world; I am writing about preserving and advancing ambitious film and media culture. It’s threatened, and no one individual will ever rescue it. My wish for the future is for the creative community, locally, nationally and globally, to work together to build the better indie infrastructure that is now possible.

For the past four years, I have been noting the problems and opportunities in indie film (along with many triumphs). I now have 99 problems—but I fear our collective inertia may be another one. Some people look at such lists and despair, but the truth is that there has never been a better time to be a media creator. We must learn to collaborate with a far larger circle and crew than ever before.
 
The tools of both creation and distribution are affordable and useable. We can tell what we want, how we want, and connect it with the audience that most desires it.
 
We are in the midst of a vast paradigm shift that could usher in a huge transfer of power—and to the makers, not more gatekeepers. The film industry was built on, and still foolishly depends upon, antiquated concepts of scarcity and control of content. We live in a time of grand abundance, total access, and general distraction from that content. The irony is that we have more at our fingertips, but we discover less—and grow alienated because of it. As with virtually all consumer-centered activity, we can discard the sucker-bet of impulse buys and opt instead for informed choice. Yet with the media business, if we do so, not only will we get the usual additional satisfaction, we will elevate the culture, too.
 
If we don’t alter our behavior, our indie film culture will start to vanish. I have produced close to 70 films, and I know in my heart that movies like The Ice Storm21 GramsAmerican Splendor,Happiness, or In The Bedroom would not get made today. Even if they somehow managed to, they would not get seen, and the creators and their supporters would most certainly not benefit.  Think about that. If that is the case, would they even be worth doing? Think about a world without the stories that bring us together and inspire us with possibility. That could be our future.
 
Creators, and supporters of their work, must be rewarded for and by what they create. Instead of that, we live in a time when only the smallest percentage of filmmakers can sustain themselves by what they create. Even our biggest successes return only a small percentage back to investors Although a tremendous number of movies still get corporately acquired, the rates that are paid are lower on a percentage of overall cost basis than ever before.
 
That is the choice we have before us now: a world deprived of great art and artists, or one that thrives with vibrant diversity. We need people to step up, say culture and community matter, and that we are going to build it better together. We need to move past a culture that only celebrates success, and instead grow transparent with our risks, even our failures. We need to focus on the stories, the form, and the communities that promote them—as part of our cultural glue. We need to do this together. We have to stop waiting for a solution, and recognize that it is in fact us.  
 
Show you value your time and select then next 100 movies you want to see now. Share what you are passionate about with your family and friends and insist they watch it. If you can buy direct from an artist, buy direct from an artist.  Support the crowdsource campaign of a favorite or local filmmaker, demand media literacy be taught in public schools, or join a local film society or institute. Don’t undervalue your work by accepting too low an acquisition fee for your work when you could do as well distributing it yourself.
 
This post originally ran on January 1st, 2013 on Good.is.  You can read it (and "like" it) here.  There's some definitely interesting comments worth checking out there -- and besides Good is an awesome site that is well worth your time.  I guarantee you will discover something there you care about -- or I will refund the time it took to get you there ;-). 

Blue Potato - Breaking Down the Barriers of Film Marketing

By Kavita Pullapilly

You've heard about Fortune 500 companies signing product placement and marketing deals with big studio movies. But it's next to impossible to actually get a significant marketing deal on an independent film. Filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly's feature film, Blue Potato,  signed a deal with Terra Chips that will become a game changer for how independent films work with companies to support a distributor's marketing efforts and increase audience engagement and visibility for the film. This high value deal will not only enhance a distributor's advertising campaign for the film but open up new lines of marketing exposure that have not been done at the independent level.
 
In this candid interview with Jared Simon from Terra Chips and the Blue Potato filmmakers, they explain how this relationship began, how they formulated a plan to work together, and their approach to supporting the release of Blue Potato.
 
Kavita Pullapilly serves as the chief operating officer for the award-winning film production company, Sunny Side Up Films, Inc. and oversees the finance, marketing and distribution divisions.  She is currently co-producing Sunny Side Up Films' second feature film, Blue Potato as well as co-producing a national multi-platform project for PBS called Lifecasters.

Film Festivals Offer The Life Lessons For Longevity

By Kellie Ann Benz

Okay, I’ll admit it. I think ‘Jersey Shore’ offered some of the best life lessons. I’m not too cool to reveal that I gleaned much from the leg-humping silverbacks who F-bombed their way into obscurity on that cautionary tale of a show.

Replace, if you will, their onenightstandpad with a film festival party, and you can see how they offered all of us a first rate how-NOT-to for which should be grateful. 

I cite their example as a sobering reminder for everyone packing for their first film festival.

First, the good news. Film festivals are wicked wild fun.  Truly.

Festival attendees are some of the most electric creatives you’ll ever meet – and when actors or actresses are in attendance, some of the most beautiful humans you’ll ever see with your own eyeballs - film festivals offer a throwback to Dominick Dunne-esque invitation only cocktail parties.  At the best international festivals, the ribald wits congregate as safe harbour from a cruel, cruel world that only understands their stories when told in a linear three act structure.  At the discovery-zone of regional indie festivals, you can feel welcomed into an exclusive club where only the cinematic smarty-pants go.

For the chosen ones with films competing, a film festival is the blue ribbon approval after the drudge of production, the maxed out expense of post, and the ‘pick me’ panic of festival submissions. Depending on where you’re chosen, you could very well Duplass your way into a career.

Ask any one of the indie hopefuls whose films have received the golden handshake at Sundance, Cannes, Rotterdam, Venice, Palm Springs, Toronto and you’ll get an exhausted ‘phew’ – a true sign that they had no way of seeing that life changing moment coming. 

Here’s the rub, anticipating that your life will change or that your film will sell or that you’ll leave a film festival wealthy is guaranteeing that you won’t.  Murphy and his nasty little laws.

However, anticipating that you will meet people who you will work with in the future is Lena Dunham smart and precisely the way to use a festival to benefit your career.

Since the social make-up of a film festival often mirrors the social make-up of any community, I offer these quick glance personalities-types to find and/or avoid at any film festival:

FIND:

THE MOVIE WATCHERS – Not the ones ‘screening’ films, the ones watching them. Native to the film festival circuit, this tribe’s natural habitat consists of dark theatres and festival line ups. Easily identified by their traditional garb; hoodie/vest/toque* ensemble, un-environmentally friend coffee cup, dog-eared program and OCD attachment to their smartphone. If you make movies because you love movies, these are your future collaborators, industry pals and trusted confidantes. Make friends with these people.

*Toque is Canadian for knitted ski hat. Toque is also way cooler than knitted ski hat.

THE PRODUCED PRODUCERS – Good Producers are a rare breed. Find the ones who made the new movies you loved and introduce yourself. Exchanging a business card isn’t betraying any Producer relationship you already have; it’s ensuring that you diversify. Foolish are the writer/directors who put all their eggs in one basket, so save the I-don’t-mingle hooey for the E raves*, and exchange twitter handles.

*Unless you’re a starlet or undiscovered hunka hunka movie star, don’t take the E at E raves. Note to Starlets and Hunka Hunkas – no one casts messy druggies, but they WILL sleep with you. You decide what you want.

THE COORDINATORS – Film festival staff are often a mysterious bunch. First, there are a lot of them, second it’s questionable what they all do. Here’s a hint, the people who coordinated the parties you’re attending (mostly running around making sure you’re having a great time) are the money people to know. Naturally, Festival Directors, Artistic Directors or any other variation thereof, you must thank and be gracious to.  But the Coordinators are often the ones with extra comps, free passes, late night exclusive invitations, and other unexpected goodies. Here’s the secret though – you don’t know this and you must NEVER expect them to share. They loathe people who expect perks. Best way to get the inside track from the Coordinators is to be kind, polite, talkative and genuinely interested in who they are. Besides, today’s festival coordinator is tomorrow’s Development Executive or award winning filmmaker. These might turn out to be long relationships. Pay attention. Be real.

WRITERS – Screenwriters do actually Charlie Kaufman their way through most parties, that’s their job. No one takes a gregarious screenwriter seriously. So getting screenwriters to release the death-clutch of their single malt scotch long enough to open up, could mean a future collaborator for you.  Like Coordinators, pay attention, be genuine, exchange emails. 

AVOID:

THE UN-PRODUCED PRODUCER – If the Producer you just met doesn’t have a credit on the film they say they produced at the festival, it’s not a titling mistake. Politely back away and keep mingling.

THE OVER-MARKETERS – We all want to market our films, find our audiences and feed our niche. Film Festival parties, however, are not always the best place to do that (your audience is much bigger than fellow filmmakers) If you run into someone who can’t stop giving you all the crap they’ve invested in to promote their film – worse yet, that’s not even in the festival – walk away.

NOTE ASKERS - if any filmmaker asks you for feedback or ‘notes’, don’t walk away, run!

THE DRIVERS – Don’t have an inside track to anything. Be polite, move on.

REPORTERS – This is a dicey one, because getting quoted seems like the goal.  Your publicity, however, needs to be leveraged in unison with the marketing of your film. So tread carefully. This means keep a professional distance until you’ve seen the same reporter enough times for a natural friendship to develop. 

The best thing you can do for yourself before you arrive at a festival is scan the delegates list and know who you want to meet, then stay open to who you might meet along the way.  Take cards, keep notes, assess after your home who you want to follow up with.

A festival invitation should mark the beginning of a long run for your film and herald the spark of a career for you. In the film industry, longevity is the only goal worth pursuing.

Overall, I’ll end with this; the age old manners your mother shamed you into for family dinners, also apply to film festivals – and your life in the film industry – be kind, pay attention, listen more than talk and most importantly, just like ‘Jersey Shore’ taught us all, keep your pants on.

KELLIE ANN BENZ’s four woefully inappropriate short films, have competed at 175-ish international film festivals.  A columnist for Canada’s National Screen Institute, she just wrapped her first feature film.

Indie Films Are Our Best Ambassadors To The World

"Indie films are our best ambassadors to the world. They show the diversity of who we are and they travel without passports. If people were only forced to observe commercial cinema, they would think we all wore superhero costumes and carried assault rifles. These movies speak to our more expansive nature." So ends the article The Wrap released on Wednesday regarding the wonderful news that The San Francisco Film Society's funding from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation for artist grants shall go on indefinitely.  And yes that's my quote -- but I am sort of paraphrasing my wife's grandfather, the producer Walter Wanger.

Read the whole article here.  It's pretty great news: "This funding will allow filmmakers to afford to take creative risk away from day to day commercial concerns".  But is that initial quote that keeps coming back to me.

Yesterday, drafting a new post, I penned: "all art crosses boundaries in a way that even a passport can not provide."  If we want people to know us better, we have to get the great diversity of our work seen and heard.

I have been doing a lot of public speaking lately.  I have started to often state: "Film builds bridges of empathy across vast divides of difference.".  It is so true.  Films are our paths to others' hearts and minds.  Film is a community organizing tool.  It is profoundly social and the cinema equation is not complete until their are audiences in the discussion.

It's not distribution we need, it is more diplomatic missions to send our ambassadors into far off lands.

What Are Great Short Films? Well, These Are Some.

This is my Pinterest Board of Short Films I like.

What have I neglected? What would you like to suggest we all watch? What do you think is the best short films of all time?

I have other shorts to recommend too.  Check them out here.

I have always wanted to be a judge at Sundance for short films.  I have loved being on the jury for Vimeo, Disposable Film Festival, and Tropfest NYC.  

Forward! The Digital Future: Embracing the Web Producers

By Rob Millis
 
Hollywood and New York came together in Las Vegas this week for the largest event in technology and entertainment, the Consumer Electronics Show. The future of film has always been determined in part by what happens at CES every year. The massive industry conference helped launch VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, Xbox and every other major technology used to distribute and watch movies. Canon, Avid, Sony and every other major supplier of production tech demonstrate their latest and greatest in Las Vegas too.
 
This year though, at least for independent producers, the most important thing happening at CES has been the IAWTV Awards show and related Entertainment Matters conference. The International Academy of Web Television joined forces with CES to create a unique track of conference programming and bring the leading web video awards show to Las Vegas. This convergence of independent producers, online distribution and Hollywood is a huge step forward for independent producers, writers and actors in every medium.
 
So why should this matter to independent filmmakers? Because for too long the bubble of the film world has insulated filmmakers from changes happening in their own industry. As the worlds of online and offline media converge, there is no better way to understand where the film industry is headed than to learn from the greatest innovators in film and video — the web producers.
The goal of most early web series seemed to be for the actors and producers to build a career in television or on the big screen. It’s only natural that online media has become a farm club for production talent in television and film, but the opposite is now true as well.
 
The tables have turned in recent years, particularly after the 2007-2008 WGA writers strike, a mass of studio talent began experimenting with new ways to create great programs outside the studio system. One of the most influential productions to come out of the writers strike was the collaboration between Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris and web celeb Felicia Day on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, taking an online concept to full film production and creating a cult classic in the process. Since that time, Kevin Pollak, Will Ferrell and plenty of other household names discovered that cheap production and rapid distribution can liberate you creatively, while immediately building a more engaged fan base.
 
Technical production talent has been thriving online as well, thanks to the freedom of experimentation with new production tools. From cameras and sound gear to editing software and video players, new tools are in the hands of online innovators long before they make it to film sets. In fact you can be certain that some of the best production gear shown at CES this week will be used in online productions within days.
 
A few weeks back I tweeted that every independent filmmaker should find an experienced web producer, buy them lunch, and listen to everything they say. This received more of a response from web producers than it did from filmmakers, which is really a shame, because the filmmakers have the most to learn.
 
The shortcut to this, without having to pay for lunch, is to join the IAWTV and stay in the loop by connecting with the online production communities on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from a bunch of web nerds.
 
 
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com.

Some Movies TRULY Improve The World

Two days before THE INVISIBLE WAR got an Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary (i.e. today), Congress announced it would hold a hearing on sexual abuse in the Military. When it becomes more and more difficult for our mainstream media to examine complex issues in depth and with true soul, it is left to independent filmmakers to dig in and expose what our world is.  When done well,the world can not help but listen.  When it is done really well, the world begins to act.  It does get better.

The invisible becomes visible to us all.  Movies show us how to see the truth (as well as much much more).

The Dream: Mark Zuckerberg's Future Plans

By Reid Rosefelt
Imagine if an idealistic multi-billionaire became determined to reinvent independent film.

Imagine if he sought out the most talented, but not yet established, filmmakers in this country--the stars of the film schools, people, festival prize-winners, critically acclaimed directors whose movies have not turned a profit.   He invites each of these people to his office in California, where he takes them for a nature walk to explain his dream of a colossal experiment in cinematic collaboration, larger than anything the world has previously seen.  Not incidentally, he offers each of them a substantial salary to take part.    Most will grab the money or be curious; others will be suspicious of his motives or wary of being tied up and say no.  It will take awhile to put together the perfect group, but the entrepreneur is patient and won’t quit until he’s assembled hundreds of people, the best of the best of the best.  Of course, sometimes he’ll make the wrong choices, but one thing he’s known for is his decisiveness about letting people go when necessary.

The ultra-wealthy man hires one of the world’s most acclaimed architects alive to design the biggest open office space on the planet, a Xanadu where all these filmmakers can work together.  There are no private offices, only a single floor and the owner works in the same gargantuan structure as everybody else.

What would happen if such an abundance of talent were brought  together in the same place?  Is this clear-eyed passion or mad folly?    Would it be an unwieldy mess, a total waste of money and time?  Or is there a chance that something wonderful might emanate from this imagination factory?  Maybe even something unimaginable and new?

Change “gifted film director” to “visionary hacker” and that is very similar to what Mark Zuckerberg is planning to happen in the Xanadu that Frank Gehry is building for him.

My mind boggles when I visualize Zuckerberg’s huge room, several football fields long, chock-a-block with tech geniuses.  What will be born when so many fertile imaginations collide?  His venture is so outsized it reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character in Charlie Kaufman’s  “Synecdoche, New York,”  rebuilding New York City inside a warehouse.   No matter where Zuckerberg’s audacious dream takes him, it’s an artist’s dream, not a businessman’s dream.

While many Facebook-haters cast Zuckerberg in the mold of an arrogant commander like Steve Jobs or a socially uncomfortable nerd like Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network,”  his lack of impressiveness as a speaker belies his undeniable brilliance, and I actually find him kind of sweet.  I believe in his sincerity when he says that  “Facebook was not originally created to be a company… it was built to accomplish a social mission—to make the world more open and connected.”

Zuckerberg is the opposite of Steve Jobs.  Jobs didn’t want anybody to know what the person in the next office was doing;  Zuckerberg doesn’t want there to be offices at all, he wants “hangouts” where people can congregate.    Jobs was obsessed with secrecy;  Zuckerberg wants his staff to work in transparent ways.    Jobs didn’t want anybody to know about his future plans;  Zuckerberg loves to talk about them.   For example, if you want to sleuth out what companies Zuckerberg is buying and what people he’s hiring, you’re going to have to go to this page in Wikipedia where they are all listed.   In the past he was more interested in so-called “acqui-hires,” people taken on solely for their brains, rather than the startups they created (which sometimes pared down their services or shut down altogether, to the chagrin of their users), but lately he has been buying companies useful to mobile,  most famously Instagram, but also Tagtile (mobile-based customer loyalty app), Glancee (location app to connect strangers with common interests), Karma (gifting app, which aided the very successful Facebook Gifts), Face.com (facial recognition) as well as many more acqui-hires.

I am particularly fascinated with the acqui-hires, because they are brought in with no specific ideas for how they might improve Facebook.  I also believe that the entrepreneurs who do come in with companies attached are also acqui-hires as it is the nature of tech people to follow up a success by moving on to develop new technologies, just like a successful film director often wants to try out something different from what they’re known for.

This venture has been widely reported in the tech media but the mass media hasn’t given much notice to it. It’s a very big deal and it’s sitting right in front of people’s noses.   The problem with most people is that they tend to judge a company like Apple or Facebook based on what  it looks like at the moment they’re looking at it.   They aren’t capable of considering what it might become because they’re not Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg themselves.  Therefore Apple could bring out the iPods, iPhones and iPads, and everybody is surprised, until one day it isn’t Apple Computers anymore, it’s just Apple.    But why should each one of those things continue be so astonishing when you look at what Jobs had accomplished previously and you knew what a hungry mind he had?

Facebook has over a billion members and is adding a hundred thousand a day.  It has changed the lives of many people.  What other twenty-something has built a company like this?   You have to give Zuckerberg a lot of credit for what he’s already achieved.  As for where he’s going in the future, it’s my hypothesis that he hasn’t assembled this group merely to make Facebook “better” any more than Apple brought people into the company in the late 90’s solely to improve the iMac.  I believe that the Facebook of the future will be a much more evolved social network, but also an umbrella under which many technological marvels as yet unknown will flourish.  I think the idea of Facebook will be something much more expansive than what people consider it to be today.

There are a handful of technological ideas that will transform our lives in the future and I believe many of them will be born in Zuckerberg’s workshop.

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

Blogreidrosefelt.com

facebook.com/reidrosefeltmarketing

How To Get Ready For That FIlm Festival

You are in, and now you have all sorts of wonderful problems -- the kind most filmmakers wish they could enjoy.  You know, you have to do all the things you have to do for a film festival.  I have tried to collect the various blog posts I have written or have found written by others that will really prepare you.  There's a lot more to be written.  But this is a good start:

Distribution:

Preparation:

Producers' Rep (aka Sales Rep):

Publicists:

Q&A:

Sales:

Social Media:

IF YOU KNOW OF OTHER REALLY GOOD POSTS TO HELP PEOPLE PREP FOR FESTIVALS, Please share them here!!!

Diary of a Film Startup Post 18: New Year Update

By Roger Jackson

Previously: How KinoNation Works

What a difference a year makes. This time in 2012 I was working for an humanitarian assistance NGO, just back from a village solar power project in Tajikistan, and about to fly to West Africa to set up a veterinary aid project in Mauritania. That contract ended in July, and by August I was fully committed to online film distribution and KinoNation. Quite a contrast.

We’ve been on a “coding sprint” throughout the holidays to hit our planned “soft-launch” later this month. Klaus and our software team have been doing what developers in start-ups do -- writing code into the early hours. I usually work past midnight, but there’s always a twinge of guilt when I get up and see the emails that have flown back and forth at 4 in the morning.

Klaus now has the cloud-based encoding system working beautifully. Once a film is successfully uploaded, it’s now automatically transcoded to a great looking Preview version for each of the video-on-demand outlets. It pops-up on their web dashboard, along with trailer, IMDb page, synopsis and sales pitch. And then the outlet Selects or Declines the film according to their programming criteria. If they choose Select, the film is transcoded to their custom specs, packaged with their metadata, and automatically delivered.

I haven’t been entirely idle on platform development. I spent Christmas and New year writing the rather complex spec for the KinoNation Metadata Module. This is the super-set of data that we have to collect for every film. It’s several hundred data points all told, hopefully structured in a way that’s simple and fun for filmmakers to input. It’s all the obvious stuff, of course. Movie title, genre, running time, director, writer(s), producer, talent, synopsis, poster art, etc. But there’s also a ton of not so obvious data. For example, we need the filmmaker to provide timecode to define all the chapter breaks, so when someone buys the film online (known as Download to Own or DTO) there’ll be chapters, just like a DVD. But wait, each chapter needs an image, and what’s on the screen at the chapter break point probably won’t be the screen grab you like. So we also need timecode for each chapter screen pull -- and we have to build an online toolset that makes it super-easy for filmmakers to enter. And of course all these hundreds of data points have to be customized and mapped to each and every VoD outlet, who want the metadata in different sequences, different formats. As I said, it’s complex, but once this is built (it’s being coded now) it should be uber-efficient; ultimately, machines do this type of work -- spitting out bespoke packages of film+metadata to dozens of different VoD outlets -- way better than humans.

This week we’ve sealed a deal to get ALL films submitted to KinoNation on to Amazon Instant Video (AIV). And while it’s already possible for filmmakers to get movies onto AIV via CreateSpace by submitting a DVD, we’ll be able to deliver much higher resolution video files to Amazon, all automated. Plus, every KinoNation film on AIV will be eligible for Amazon Prime. AIV is a “transactional” video-on-demand service, where films can be rented or purchased. Whereas Prime is Amazon’s subscription VoD service, more like Netflix. Both great services, growing rapidly, with expansion both in the US and globally.

Amazon pays 50% of transactional (rent or buy) revenue to the filmmaker, plus a flat fee for every time a film is watched on Prime. So that’s exciting. Really great to have a prestigious outlet where we can more or less guarantee placement for a film uploaded to us, subject to it being full-length, with an IMDb page, and of course no porn, hate speech, etc. At the same time, we expect to be “live” soon with Hulu, iTunes, Google Play, SnagFilms, Viewster, YouTube Movies...and many outlets around the world.

Finally, great films continue to be submitted to our Private Beta. Now’s a great time to show us what you have.. Keep them coming.

Next Up: Post # 19: Searching for Green Card

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

The San Francisco Film Society's Great Sundance Hope: Ryan Coogler & FRUITVALE

Last year, the film that the San Francisco Film Society had supported with grants went on to great things.  Sure prizes and deals are not the only way to measure success, and really just getting a movie made is the real achievement -- and hell, getting it into Sundance is pretty damn sweet. I have loved what I have seen of Ryan's work so far.  I also love all he has to say about the film. I also love the the film is about something real to us all; in this case the killing of Oscar Grant at by a police officer. If you haven't checked it out this video already, I recommend you do so now:

 

If you'd like to read more about this and the original case it is based on, this HuffPost article includes many photos of the Oakland riots that followed after the officer was sentenced only for involuntary manslaughter for two years, minus time served.

Can The Harvard Business School Find The Solution To The Indie Film Dilemma?

By  Kavita Pullapilly

Going into their next feature film, BLUE POTATO, award-winning filmmakers (and past contributors to this blog with a great series of posts "The DIY Chronicles") Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly wanted to answer a question that all independent filmmakers want to know:  How can independent filmmakers and studios collaborate in a more profitable and cost-effective way to get quality films into the marketplace?

Working with a team from the Harvard Business School, Gaudet and Pullapilly created a strategy to minimize risk, increase audience reach and maximize profit potential for potential distributors for BLUE POTATO. Read about how they developed key strategies for marketing and distribution that makes their film attractive to studio buyers. And find out how they evaluated their film so that they could reduce their financial risk while still accomplishing their goals in production.

"You have to find out what your movie is capable of going out there and making and then make your film for less than that. Set your budget at that level and be firm about it. The HBS team really helped us identify the cut off point for what we could spend on the film and why it was so important to know that value. If you know that number, no matter what happens in production, you are forced to come up with creative ideas to stay at that number. And by doing that, you know you are not spending more than what your house is worth, when it comes time to sell it," said writer, producer, director Aron Gaudet.

http://bluepotatomovie.com/featured/harvard-business-school-2/

 

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

The State Of Cinema (as per Jonathan Lethem)

One of the many cool things of the San Francisco International Film Festival is the prestigious State Of Cinema address.  Last year Jonathan Lethem gave it.  Let me know who you think should give it for 2013.

Jonathan Lethem: State of Cinema Address from San Francisco Film Society on Vimeo.

Others that have given the State Of Cinema address include Tilda Swinton:

Christine Vachon, Walter Murch, theatre director Peter Sellars, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Wired editor Kevin Kelly, animator Brad Bird and critics B. Ruby Rich and Michel Cimen.  Pretty awesome, right?  

So who else should join the list in 2013?

More Advice for 1st Time Film Festival Attendees

[tweet https://twitter.com/TedHope/status/276351869205499904]
 

A couple of  weeks back I  used Twitter to crowdsource advice on what first time attendees of Film Festivals should do. See the responses below. It makes a decent follow up to yesterday's post.  And if you'd like to be part of future discussions, just follow me on Twitter: @TedHope.

 

 

FIRST TIME AT THE FEST: 20 Guidelines for a Successful Festival

By Melanie Coombs FIRST TIME AT THE FEST: 20 Guidelines* for a successful Market or Festival  (*Producers don’t do Rules; ‘everything is negotiable’)

Over the last decade I have assisted new Producers as they attend their first market or festival.  Here are 20 tips to help you enjoy the event while looking after yourself, your project and your professional reputation.

1. PRODUCING IS NOT COOL – tragically for us all, if you haven’t been completely humiliated you probably haven’t really financed your project.  Be warm, not cool, and be all the things that make you a Producer – an Advocate, an Enthusiast, an Eccentric, a Charmer and an Artist.

2. PRODUCING IS NOT A COMPETITIVE SPORT – help each other.  It is so rare that you are ever genuinely competing with your fellow producers - you have different taste, projects, Directors and are approaching different investors at different times.  By working as a friendly colleague you will not only help others but will get their help in return.  And you wont be alone as you go about the often frightening business of pitching into the marketplace for the first time.

3. DO NOT PITCH UNLESS ASKED TO DO SO.  I know you think “That is why I am here…”, but trust me, people will ask.  Despite how it seems at first, everyone wants to meet new talent at these events, so hold back, don’t throw yourself at people (I know of one young man who pitched to a Sales Agent at the urinal – sure it’s memorable and everyone was talking about him, but I don’t think they were talking about his film!).  Do take advantage of organised pitching sessions, networking events and accidental meetings.  Have a ‘lift pitch’ ready: one line to drop into casual conversations that people can then pick up on.  (ie.  Dog Daze: He hates dogs, She’s a vet, It’s a romantic comedy).  Otherwise see this ‘non-pitching time’ as ‘networking with producing colleagues and market information gathering time’.  You do not have to pitch to everyone you meet – less is more.

4. PROTECT YOUR BRAND FROM YOUR EGO!  You are your own Brand; we are in an industry where art and business intersect, so how you act in relation to others is a KEY part of your companies profile and reputation.  Your ego will tell you to get out there, be a star and make a splash!  Your Brand needs you to do that in a measured, strategic and consistent way.  

5. BE PASSIONATE, CONFIDENT AND DETERMINED, NOT PAINFUL, DESPERATE AND PIGHEADED.  Passion is probably the most overused word in the industry, so don’t use the word, be it!  Don’t tell me your project is passionate, funny, clever, or brilliant - show me!  Let me tell you that your project is hilarious, inspired, ground breaking and magnificent.  Let me tell you that you are hiding your light, and that you need to meet this investor or that who will love your project.  Tenacity is a core producing skill but that does not mean hassling people.  Do you think you are the first and only producer to pitch them the biggest, best project ever?  Be humble and confident.  Think of dating; do you want to talk to the desperado, who’s in your face buying you drinks you don’t want, boasting about how rich, connected and important they are, and then telling you how great you’ll look on your wedding day?  OR the quietly confident person who’s standing back a little looking like they can’t wait to dance?  With you.  Be that person.   Get the opportunity to show them how you dance.  That means surviving rejections with humility, so that you are ready to show what great moves you’ve got.

6. CRY, BUT NOT IN PUBLIC.  We are not making chairs; if a chair wobbles, all agree it must be fixed.  With films we are turning ideas, literally Dreams, into a real physical product to be made, bought and consumed.  We do CARE about our precious dreams - we’ve worked so hard to get them to this point – our colleagues and loved ones have shared our dreams and now someone has pointed out the ‘wobble’. And it’s true.  Not only are we disappointed, but we are also going to disappoint all of those who have invested in our dream, everyone from our Writer to our Grandma.  And so you will HURT, and that is OK.  In fact I’d worry if it doesn’t.  Go away into a private space and cry if you need to let the hurt out.  Do it in private, alone or with a very close friend (not an industry colleague), rather than embarrass yourself in the marketplace.

7. DON’T GET YOUR MEAT WHERE YOU GET YOUR POTATOES.  Festivals and markets can be great fun, we can often enjoy a drink or 5, and if unattached we may want to have a ‘festival fling’ all of which is fine amongst consenting adults – but do make sure you’re not getting messy with someone who you want to do business with.  Especially if you are a woman - the double standards tragically still exist - so you don’t want a ‘reputation’ if you want to be taken seriously as a Producer.

8. PAY INTO THE ‘GOODWILL BANK’ AND REAP THE REWARDS.  Be the most fun, kind, polite and generous.  People like to be with fun people.  People don’t enjoy anxious, scary, annoying, irritating, draining, or emotionally unstable people.  Of course we are all ALL of these things from time to time, but do put that stuff aside and be FUN.  Lend others a hand, a band-aid, a pen or an introduction to a financier or potential co-producer.  And if you are polite people will remember - especially if someone has declined your pitch or project.  By all means swear and bitch in private but face to face politely thank then for their time.  You want to be able to open that door again and see a smiling face to greet you.  Share power and information.  Everyone you are meeting is part of the world-wide film community.  Be the way you want others to be.

9. ALWAYS BE NICE TO THE SUPPORT STAFF.  Lots of people are not; and it’s so easy to be friendly, it costs nothing.  They will remember when you need help to send an urgent email or have locked your phone inside the conference venue.  Remember they are all very likely aspiring filmmakers too.  And if you make a good impression they will remember you when their career takes off and they are in a decision-making role. 

10. LISTEN, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW.  This is especially important when getting bad news.  They have already made their decision and it’s a NO.  They will not change their minds in this meeting – especially if you are defensively talking at them.  Listen, work out if you want to work with them, hear what they are saying.  Are they actually telling you that you’ve pitched to the wrong part of their company?  Are they telling you that you need to do more work?  Are they telling you about the current state of the market?  Let them do the work.  And if you are really finding it painful, just focus on the spot between their eyebrows – it seems like you are looking at them and gives you the opportunity to internally regroup until you can listen properly again. 

11. MAKE YOUR PROJECT UNDENIABLE – know what you don’t know.  Work out why someone would say NO to your project and answer that question.  And do it again and again – budget, cast, crew, script, marketing potential.  Find the weak spots – easily identified when you are pitching, as you can literally SEE when they are loosing interest – and address the issues.  We need to be faster, smarter, braver and more agile to stay in this game.

12. DON’T BE AFRAID TO DROP YOUR PITCH.  You’ve arrived at the market to pitch but, in the first meeting or two the investor asks you lots of questions you can’t answer.  What this means is that actually you are not ready to pitch.  Stop, you are much better off not pitching that project at this market.  You really only get ONE chance to pitch a project.  Stop now, so that you can pitch properly later.   Use the time you have to investigate what other opportunities there are for this project and other projects on your slate.  If people ask you what you are doing say: ‘I have a number of projects at various stages of development so I’m doing my market research and networking’.  Give them the broad brush strokes of your project but say “I will bring it back to you when it’s ready – we are still working on the package”.  This is entirely legitimate – and in fact more of us should do it and it’s great to prep yourself by attending a market prior to pitching.

13. VALUE YOURSELF – how look after your self tells others a LOT.  Dress well (and comfortably – leave the stilettos at home unless you really can walk ALL day in them with no blisters), stay at a ‘nice’ place close to the centre of the action, AND don’t talk about being poor, struggling, desperate and insecure – once again we are almost universally all of these things at times, but we are also amazing alchemists who turn dreams into reality and we deserve treats when we are out selling our wares.  Want to pitch like a Princess?  Treat yourself like a Queen!

14. DO NOT LIE.  I know… it just slips out.. “Oh yeah, I saw that film/know that company….”  This is a lose/lose scenario – nothing good is going to come from this conversation.  No one has seen every film ever made, nor knows everything about film history, culture, financing and the international industry.  And people enjoy telling you things they know.

15. DO NOT EXAGGERATE.  Do not say you have Hugh Jackman or Nicole Kidman in your film UNLESS you really do have a signed letter from them or their agent (you lucky thing!).  You will be found out and then you and your project and all your future projects will be dismissed.  Remember your project is wonderful in it’s own right.  You’ve got it to this point.  You’ve packaged it with cast and crew as best you can.  Don’t promise what you can not deliver.  You will only disappoint.

16. DO ADMIT WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW.  In fact most of the time it’s good to say you don’t know (even if you kinda do).  Letting others tell you how things work empowers others as ‘people who know’, which makes them feel good and starts a relationship of information exchange.  No one knows everything.  We are all still learning.  Be open.

17. DON’T LET ANYONE LIVE IN YOUR HEAD RENT-FREE (courtesy of Shaun Miller, of Shaun Miller Lawyers).  Sometimes despite our best efforts we have conflict in our lives, and we build the agents of these conflicts into monsters in our heads.  Sometimes they have really wronged us, or we have wronged them, but in either case what is thinking about them doing for you and your project NOW?  Nothing?  Kick them out of your head - make room for the new opportunities!

18. DON’T HANG ONTO REJECTION AND PAIN.  If you are Producing you will be hurt.  But you have a choice.  Let it dominate your thinking and thereby effect your ability to participate in the marketplace OR… Acknowledge it and let it go.   Literally, just decide not to think about it. Don’t start acting Paranoid.  Even if people are out to get you… (that is very unlikely, actually, as mostly people and organisations are too busy with their own agendas) …acting the victim will do you no good.

19. DON’T SLAG ANYONE OFF UNTIL YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO.  We all need to let off steam sometimes, it’s human nature, but watch where, how and with whom you do this.  It’s a small world so make sure you know not only whom you are talking to but also who their friends are, who they share an office with, who they are married to...

20. HAVE THE 2ND THING TO SAY.  So, exciting, you are going to meet a hero (and yes we are all still fans!).  You have been introduced, you say lovely things about how much you like them/their work/their ethos, they say thank you…. And then you freeze up!  Unless you have the 2nd thing to say.  Doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful.  Just has to be something that can start a conversation or allow them to end the moment.  Do not compare yourself to them.  Do not try to get them to read your project.  Just tell them exactly why they are SO amazing and then say the second thing.  Flattery is universally enjoyed, so the clearer you are in describing precisely why I am magnificent, the more likely it is that I’m going to want to talk, even if being rushed off by PR staff.

Finally: Don’t overwhelm yourself, have fun and enjoy this experience.  You are at an event where people love film as much as you do.  That is cool.

Melanie Coombs has produced award winning shorts, animation, documentaries and features since 1999 under her Melodrama Pictures banner.  HARVIE KRUMPET won 2003 Academy Award ® for Best Short Animation.  The animated feature MARY AND MAX opened 2009 Sundance, won Grand Cristal at Annecy and the Asia Pacific Screen Award APSA Best Animated Film 2009 and released worldwide. Melanie was awarded Screen Producers Association of Australia SPAA Feature Film Producer of 2009 Award.  Melanie is now joint CEO of OPTIMISM FILM with Alicia Brown and Mish Armstrong.  www.optimismfilm.com

Don't Think Facebook is Helping Your Film? Maybe You're Not Doing It Right.

By Reid Rosefelt
Can you really sell your film on Facebook with one of those dinky ads on the right side of the page?

 

Let’s begin by taking off the table the fact that many people really hate them.  Assuming that that’s not the case,  usually the 100 pixel x 72 pixel size is too small to even show the poster image, and the maximum 90 characters makes a tweet look like a novel.   It’s true that Facebook ads can be dirt cheap-- for the price of one weekly ad in IndieWire-- I once got 60 million “impressions” (times displayed) on Facebook-- and it offers prodigious targeting abilities allowing you to zero in on fans of any director, actor, movie, social issue, among other  things, but still, you end up with a bargain price on a zillion itsy-bitsy ads that I personally don’t think will directly lead to anything as big as a ticket purchase or a video viewing.  Selling shoes or an exercise program or ice cream cones, yes; movie tix, no.  In my opinion, the sole purpose of those itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie ads on the right side of the page is to drive people to like your Facebook page.  It’s worked for me and countless others and it can work for you (if you do it right).

Now that you have a lot of fans on your page, do you blast them with a hard sell?  Do you put up a series of links to reviews that call it a masterpiece or one of the year’s ten best or the funniest or scariest movie in town?

I’m hoping  most of you know the answer to this one, but all of you don’t because I see it all the time. Earth to Facebook marketers!  Anything that looks or feels like ads is the epitome of what people don’t want to see on social media and will make them unlike your page or hide your posts pronto.  You don’t like it on your page, do you?   The harder you sell the easier they unlike.

Do you sell your movie on your Facebook page by begging your fans to go to the movie theatres?  

Your posts only reach 16% of your fans, of which more than half have already seen your film.  If anybody in that 8% is willing to see your movie as a favor, that’s because they have more of a connection with you than clicking a “like button” and you can reach them much more efficiently through email.  There are many examples of successful social media campaigns that ask people to reach out to their friends, but I personally think it’s a lot to ask your 8% to reach into their contact lists to notify their out-of town friends every time you book a new playdate.

Do you sell your movie on your Facebook page by keeping your fans up-to-date with the latest news?

If you’re a passionate fan of a film, it’s wonderful to receive information about awards, events and the latest reviews.  And it’s a nice thing for filmmakers to be in touch with their fans, particularly when the fan base gets big.   But what’s the point in communicating with people who have already signed on?   You are putting time into Facebook because you want to reach the friends-of-friends, friends-of-friends-of friends, and friends-of-friends-of-friends-of friends.  You want to keep reminding people who have never liked your page and never will… but might be aware of it and this will help keeping it on their wavelength.   My blog post about “The Wire” shows how this can go on indefinitely.   There is nothing in simple news by itself that makes a fan assume their friends will be interested.  You need to create the kind of content that people will want to share.

So how the hell do you sell your film on your Facebook page?

You sell by not “selling.”   You sell not by asking, but by giving.

You win when you grasp the concept that it isn’t about pushing your product on consumers, but initiating a dialogue.   You  succeed when you strive to give your fans an experience that is as close as possible to the one they enjoy with their most interesting and fun Facebook friends--intriguing and funny comments, links, questions,  pictures and videos.    You have a lot of tools like trailers and ads and publicity to help you get through the weekend.   Social media is not about this week;  it’s about what “Homeland”’s Carrie Mathison calls the “long game.”   Social media is about forging relationships that will last throughout your career.

Don’t let anybody ever catch you “selling.” Facebook will work for you from the moment you understand that you only get when you give.

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

Blogreidrosefelt.com

facebook.com/reidrosefeltmarketing

There Is A Time To Get Paid & A Time To Promote

By Rob Millis
 
As everyone (hopefully) knows at this point, before you can become the next Edward Burns or Louis C.K., you’ve got to invest the time and effort to connect with your fans, reach out to new ones, and build a long term relationship with your audience.
 
Distributing trailers, short films, outtakes and other videos for free can be a huge help in building a dedicated fan base. For the greatest effect, filmmakers should be sharing samples of their work everywhere they possibly can, and then engaging fans in discussions about those videos, especially on Facebook and Twitter. But in order to get your audience excited about your work, you have to give them the best possible viewing experience, especially when promoting an upcoming film. This means keeping all of your free content free of ads as well. 
 
Because so much of our media consumption is ad-supported, it can be tempting to run ads with almost any video content. Just like the FBI warning at the start of a DVD, viewers will sit through a bit of advertising for a feature film they’re looking forward to, but don’t confuse tolerance with enthusiasm, particularly for short content like trailers. Ads may be a smart consideration for networks like ABC and ESPN, but most filmmakers will only be losing fans and making little or no revenue in the process. 
 
If you are using free video distribution to build an audience, you want them to be as excited and engaged as possible, and you certainly don’t want anyone clicking away. The difference between free and almost-free is huge. 15% of viewers typically click away from a video when an advertisement appears before it [AdAge: http://bit.ly/Y20kui], and you can imagine how many more are simply annoyed. Why sacrifice viewers and fan enthusiasm for such a measly payout?
 
And those ads aren’t going to give you much benefit anyway. Unless you have a high value deal with a company like AOL or Hulu, you’re not likely to earn much from video advertising. At the very top of the market you might receive 0.5¢ per viewer, and it’s much more likely that you’ll receive something closer to 0.1¢. (I’m not confusing $ and ¢ here — I mean 1/10th of a penny.) 
 
So instead of squeezing fractions of pennies out of every single viewer experience, figure out how to build a far more valuable relationship with the viewer so they keep coming back for more. By giving up a few dollars for every 1,000 views of a trailer or short film, you are making a very small investment to build an enthusiastic audience who will later pay for online rentals and sales at $4.99 or $9.99 each.
 
Note from Rob: When we first launched the Dynamo Player, we were responding to a sense of helplessness among independent producers, including ourselves. Films and serials either had to be locked in walled gardens with awkward DRM or given away completely free. A lot has changed in the last three years, and we are adapting too.
 
Next month Dynamo will offer several new services to filmmakers and distributors, including consulting and custom technical development. You’ll even be able to license the Dynamo Player VOD platform for your own brand (without sharing a nickel of the sales with us). Perhaps more importantly, we’ll be able to share expertise beyond Dynamo Player, helping filmmakers distribute to other platforms, engage fans on social networks, build marketing and PR plans, and much more. 
 
With that in mind, I want to share a few key lessons we’ve learned about free distribution of trailers and other content.
 
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com.