Printing: Posters & Postcards

As mentioned a few days back, our Film Festival Strategy brainstorm continues...

Jon Reiss offers this up:

A very necessary expense in your publicity campaign are postcards and posters. These can be expensive but fortunately there are a number of on-line printers that are relatively inexpensive (eg 4000-5000 postcards for $100). One hidden cost when it comes to printing is shipping so I do recommend using a printer near you - so before you buy - make sure you include shipping in your cost estimate. I actually send an assistant or intern to pick up my printing from "Next Day Flyers" since the shipping almost costs as much as the printing. Sometimes your local printer will even match an on-line printers prices - or come close enough to make it worth your while. But they won't cut their prices unless you have a comparison price.

Regarding Postcards - they are cheap enough online that you could print them for each festival or theatrical screening even if you only print 500 at a time. The old way of doing this was to order a ton and then use stickers for your specific screening time. Unless you have some slave labor around - buying new postcards for $50 is going to be cheaper than paying someone to print and apply stickers to each post card - you have better things to do with your time.

Three important notes about posters:

1. Most on-line printers will not print one sheet size posters.

2. Printing standard film size posters - 27"x41" - is very expensive (for film festivals you only need one or two which will cost about $50 each - but for a theatrical release you will need more than that). The reason that these posters are so expensive to print is that they are too large for standard offset printing (the cheapest kind of bulk printing). However nearly all theaters (all the ones that I dealt with) will accept posters that are 24.5"x37.5" which is the largest size that you can have printed offset. This will save you thousands. (Although the best price I found was $1200 for 2000 posters - a pretty good price).

3. You can get a lot of mileage from 11x17 posters. Most storefronts won't put up a standard or near standard one sheet when you are promoting in a town. But they will put up a 11x17 poster. And these are much cheaper. You can get a 1000 for around $300. They are also good for wildposting/wheatpasting as they fit on most electrical boxes. (18x24s are also a good size for this) But be careful with wildposting - you can be fined thousands of dollars for illegal posting if there is anything on the poster that will track back to you or the theater!)


Next Day Flyers based in Compton California

Got Print based in Burbank California

Tools Update: Theatrical Mapping Project

Jon Reiss writes:

I suggest TFF add the theatrical mapping project from the Workbook Project
"tools" section of the Truly Free Film site (consider it done, Jon! - Ted). This map was my first step in the theaters that I contacted for our theatrical release of Bomb It and as such was hugely instrumental in our release. We found other theaters that were not on the map and have since added them. The map was set up by the wonderful Lance Weiler - and it only expands if you contribute - so if you have a theater (or college campus) please add it - its very easy. I like Ted's idea of potentially having another list or map of college campuses that screen independent film. We are working on booking Bomb It currently into colleges - so if you have any suggestions - send them along!

Email Is The Old Way

From Jon Reiss:

In the spirit of the holidays I thought I would share a thank you that one of my students from Cal Arts, Michelle Manas, sent out after completing the principal photography of her thesis film. I thought it was a nice way to use You Tube and to create a more personal thank you than the standard email thanks I am always sending out!:

Hope For The Future pt. 4: The List #'s 14 -17

My goal was to provide my friends, collaborators, and co-conspirators 52 Reasons Not To Feel Glum About The State Of Film Culture, and precisely that sector of independent art film culture I call Truly Free Film.  I figured with the economy in the toilet, traditional media stepping into the grave, and a business leader or politician being revealed as a crook daily, we didn't need more gloom poured on.

I didn't think I would have to do build the list alone though.  Isn't that part of the glory of the whole blogosphere?  That people collaborate?  I started the list and kept on adding to it until we go 25% there, hoping that the list would then write itself.  It didn't.  
I guess that is the bad news: either people don't like to participate or that the film world is a bunch of pessimists.  If you know which one it is, let me know.
The good news is that I had no problem completing the list solo.  Granted it took about an hour, but I stopped when I got to Number 52.  Taking it further might make us giddy.  As this year winds down, we can rest knowing we have many reasons to be cheerful.
And so, I continue this list in no particular order.  When I approach its end, I will provide it somewhere, if someone wants it, in its entirety, with an ordered logic and some other tasty filler.  But for now...

14. We have seen a perfect distribution model and its success: the Obama social network was nothing short of a thing of beauty. Its methods should be an inspiration for all truly free filmmakers. People had a reason to visit the site, to supply information, to reach out and connect to others. They were supplied the tools and a mission. Now go out and find someone to vote for the culture you want.

15. The DIY/Do It With Others model is now recognized as a real alternative to traditional make-it-and-pray-that-others-will-pay-to-distribute-it-for-you. Filmmakers are planning for it as a possibility from the start of production. This preparation becomes the key to success.

16.Filmmakers are recognizing the need to define their platform at early stage AND make it on-going. Be they producers like Bill Horberg or Jane Kosek , directors like Raymond DeFelitta and Jon Reiss ,or writers like John August and Dennis Cooper, creative filmmakers are taking upon themselves to find and unite their audiences at an earlier stage in the process. Okay, maybe it isn’t so Machavellian; maybe they just want to talk to people. Either way, it is going to lead to more people seeing better films.

17. A curatorial culture is starting to emerge. Creative communities need filters. Every year I have as many “want to see” films on my list as I do “best of”. It’s not that there is too much as some like to claim, but it’s that there is still too little discussion on what is best and why. We started Hammer To Nail (soon to debut in a new & improved form!) for this reason, but we are not alone. Although they tread in much different waters, popular email blasts/broadcasts like Daily Candy and Very Short List, these sites work as much as filters as they do identifiers. Social Networks most popular features are members “favorites” in their profiles. We are all being trained as curators, but are only now starting to share it publicly.

A Word On The Educational Market

Jon Reiss guests blogs again:

At the recent FIND conference on the state of independent film, I had the pleasure to meet Robert Bahar who made the wonderful Emmy Winning documentary Made in L.A. We were discussing the problem of releasing a film on DVD prior to or simultaneously with an educational release

I have learned since the release of Bomb It that it is traditionally difficult to have an educational release after or concurrent with a DVD release. This is because educational institutions will eagerly buy your dvd from Amazon for 19.95 rather than pay the educational rate of $195. 
Robert told me about his ingeneous solution which was to put a notice at the beginning of the film - similar to the FBI warning - that the film was for home use only and not for educational or public performance. In the authoring they disabled the ability for people to pause for a few minutes after this message or fast forward through it. Eg any teacher would have to play this warning - indicating to students that it was being shown illegally. Pretty smart!

Robert is smart in another way in terms of his film. He has set up with his fulfillment company (the wonderful Neoflix) to provide various community screening packages for sale on his site for various size screenings. Check out his site to see how he has set this up. Make sure to check out his amazing "Event Planning Toolkit".

Let us know what you think of what he is doing.

You can also respond directly to Jon at:

Reel World Survival Skills: Reiss' CalArts Class Goes Viral

Jon Riess returns to TFF!:
I developed and teach a class at Cal Arts that addresses Ted's concerns about making a living as a filmmaker. It's called "Reel World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had been Taught in Film School". I developed the class because I as the title suggests, I would have been greatly served at the beginning of my film career had I been taught some very practical skills while I was attending the UCLA film school -at that time in my case - pitching.

While teaching for the past 8 years at LMU and I Cal Arts I noticed that the curriculums were still not teaching skills to prepare students for making a film career once they left school. So I developed this class - in addition to pitching it covers literary rights optioning and development, basic film contracts, financing, LLCs and web fund raising, grants, getting a job out of film school, writing resume's and cover letters (which most people are shockingly deficient in), music videos, commercials and webisodes and then of course the fun wide world of film distribution - making a career from the films you make. The distribution component includes an overview of old distribution models but then leaves those behind for the new hybrid approach to distribution including: new film festival strategies, DIY theatrical and non theatrical distribution, DVD distribution, digital rights, traditional and non traditional marketing, Web 2.0, and most importantly new strategies for developing audiences - for your film and the film community at large.

I am currently in the process of writing a book based on this class - which I hope will be out next year. I am also preparing a weeklong crash course to offer to film schools based on the class and weekend seminars to offer to non film school folks. For the class I have assembled a ton of documents, contracts and articles that I give out on CD Rom. I am actually going to start posting these to my website by the time my 2nd article comes out in the next issue of Filmmaker Magazine. You will be able to sign up and download these documents for yourself. If you have any interest in any of this drop me an email at You can also sign up for the mailing list on my website to be notified of when the documents will be loaded, when the book is coming out or any seminars.

- posted by Jon Reiss

Non-theatrical RULES! Send Us Your Venues

Another post from Jon Reiss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you know of any non traditional venue that has screened films on a regular basis - such as museum, film society, college student or screening association, please send them to me at: 
and I will add them to the list (And of course post them here at TFF via a simple comment!)

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

It's An OPEN SOURCE Culture

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

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

Filmmaker Magazine Article on Self Distribution

another guest post today from filmmaker Jon Riess

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

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

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

Let me know what you think of the article!


Film Festival Plan A: Your Website

Today's post brought to you by Jon Reiss:

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

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

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

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

Feel free to check out the difference in:

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

- Jon Reiss

Film Festival Plan A:Postcards

(Today's post courtesy of director Jon Reiss)

Create a piece of striking key art. 
Easier said than done. This can be expensive (starting at $5,000 - $10,000 and up) - but it does not have to be. Chances are you have a few friends that are good at graphic design - ask them. If not - try a post on Craig's List and/or Since you are in a festival - you have the ability to say that their work will get a lot of exposure. Also you might consider outsourcing your graphic design. For Bomb It we had a Uruguayan group do some of our key art for Tribeca. Try to get the designer to give you a variety of comps to choose from.

Get the key art sized for a 4x6 postcard as well as at full film poster. Its way too expensive to offset your film poster now. But you can get single printouts from most digital printers for about $50-$60 each and you only need one or two.

For the postcard, have your key art on the front and have film, contact and screening information on the back. Printing postcards are very inexpensive now. You can get 4000 for $100 at (and 1000 postcards for $39.95). For super low budget create one postcard with your general contact and film information on the back and leave room for putting stickers for your show times. BUT since postcards are so cheap now - I really recommend printing your screening time on the back of the postcard. It can take a bit of time to print and stick the stickers on the back of the postcards and you are very busy. A compromise is to print your first festival screenings on the back (esp since this is often your most important screening) and to use the rest for other fests putting the label over your first set of screenings.

Don't forget business cards - I recommend putting your film title treatment on the front with your films website so that people remember why they have your card. Again these can be printed very inexpensively - 1000 for around $10-$20.

In a couple of weeks I will start putting downloadable PDF samples of Key Art on my website