The Brave New American Art House

Art House Convergence Welcome Address

by Russ Collins, Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in't.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Russ Collins

CEO, MichiganTheater-AnnArbor

Director, Art House Convergence

 

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

By Adam Collis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

live - in person at UCLA 

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

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

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

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

1:00pm - 2:00pm: Lunch 

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

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

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

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

***all times are Pacific Standard Time

Forward! Pirates Know Best

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

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

By Reid Rosefelt

IMPORTANT NOTE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogreidrosefelt.com

facebook.com/reidrosefeltmarketing

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

By Roger Jackson

Previously: New Year Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Potato -- Things to Think About Before Production

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

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

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

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

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

Be Careful What You Wish For: Prepping for Sundance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Forward! The Necessity of Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Twitter accounts:

@tedhope

@shericandler

@edward_burns

@grking

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

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

Written by Michael R. Barnard

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

TITLE III—CROWDFUND

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

WHO CAN INVEST, AND HOW MUCH?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

By Reid Rosefelt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me talk about your legacy now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogreidrosefelt.com

facebook.com/reidrosefeltmarketing

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

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

Part 2 of 3 parts.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

These facts commonly frustrate new filmmakers.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It works.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON BUDGETS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Absolutely,” says Abramowitz.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE MONEY IS OUT THERE. 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Come Together: The Future of Independent Film and Social Media

By Reid Rosefelt
 
 
I read that 57% of people say they talk more online than they do in real life.   Whether or not this suspiciously  precise statistic is wholly accurate-- it paints a realistic picture of the way people I know live today, and how we will live as we move forward to 2013 and beyond.

Does social media increase our connection to each other or does it tear us apart?   By communicating with more people more of the time do we let our face-to-face social interaction skills deteriorate?  Will we evolve into creatures with very small mouths and extremely dexterous fingers?

Of course, not all the changes wrought by the internet have kept us physically apart.   In almost as many cases it has brought us together, for example:  computer dating;  reunions with long-lost friends; joining with strangers at meetup.com live events; connecting with nearby friends through 4Square, to name but a few.  The truth is that the internet has probably connected more people in the real world than any entity that preceded it, and it has opened up previously unimagined opportunities for lasting connections with the people we already know.

How does the internet impact moviemaking?  While technology has created the opportunity for parts of the process to be done in isolation, mostly we band together in groups of varying sizes during film production.   In addition, most of us interact at film festivals and through organizations like the IFP, the Sundance Institute and Film Independent.   Where the fissures between people are growing is in the way we watch movies, which is less and less in movie theatres.

Technology is chipping away at the idea of cinema as a communal experience, and this concerns me.   The small screens cut into the art of the cinema and into the vitality of the experience, which is at its best when it flows from the credits through the café conversations that flow afterwards.

Technology has proven its ability to help get people into the theatres, notably the transformation of the experience created by online ticketing.  Social media can help people find out what their friends are seeing  and recommending.   I do miss the golden age of the film critic, but I realize that the purpose of sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic is to get people out of their houses and into the theatres.

I’m as big a believer in social media as you can find, but I am more cheered by new ideas in micro-exhibition like ReRun and Rooftop Films, and the alternative distribution models being explored by  people like Peter Broderick, Jon Reiss, Scott Kirsner,  and the creator of this blog.   We need more ideas like these and we need to integrate them at their core with social media.   As a marketer, I do advise people to consider the digital route, but I never advise them to leave some kind of theatrical showing out of their plans.

My plea to the independent film community for 2013 is simple: let’s use technology to bring us together.    See you at the movies!

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