The Letter 'D': Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player

By Orly Ravid

Dynamo Player is one of the many DIY options we've looked at with close interest over the past year, (See Felicia Ptolemy's Review HERE and Rob Millis' Introduction to the Dynamo Player HERE. Is 2012 the year that it takes off for the indie and artist direct communities? It may very well be, and if so, we can have Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative to thank once again. Today, she sits down with Dynamo's founder and discusses further evidence of it's success and some of the do's and don'ts of the platform.

The Letter “D”

D: Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player.

I got educated more all about how it works, with owner Rob Millis who I finally met in person at IDFA in Amsterdam. A fine gentleman indeed.

I usually recommend a filmmaker work with at least two DIY options to give customers a choice and just to not have all one’s eggs in one proverb.

Rob explained why Dynamo serves its filmmakers well. He noted its “designed with presentation and high quality” and that the “filmmaker's brand is in front.” It’s not just about the Dynamo brand.

Dynamo can handle any of the popular video standards and offers viewers up to 1080HD quality, a clean crisp presentation and as many extras as one can pack in. Hence it’s a good alternative to DVD, but with the instant gratification of an online rental.

A filmmaker once remarked that the issue with DIY is the “TRUST FACTOR”:

People don’t trust too many places with their credit cards and feel safer with big companies that have built a solid reputation. Well at Dynamo, and some other DIY services, the payment method is secure. Rob Millis explains:

“The key is payment process and protecting information”. Dynamo does not handle any payment information directly. They rely only on PAYPAL and AMAZON. Dynamo does not receive any of that confidential information so as not to risk anything going wrong. They just confirm that one is approved rather than handling payment info.

What about GENRE?

What kind does Dynamo work with and which ones do well with the service:

Most of their success is with DOCUMENTARIES.

“They have the highest value and there are a lot of reasons for that,” noted Millis.

“Entertainment for its own sake is competitive and as soon as it’s online one is competing with mainstream studio product. DOCS have a hook for those interested in the subject matter and hence people are willing to pay for it”.

“Dramas are harder to sell. The marketing for them needs to be more powerful than that for docs. Docs are also EVERGREEN. Dramas die off as soon as the marketing stops and are very competitive. There are hundreds of love stories but only one or a couple docs or at most a few about any given specific topic”. Millis concluded “One can sustain sales for a doc”. However Dynamo still accepts all kinds of films.

In fact the first-ever film rented on Facebook was a Zombie film (“Stag Night of the Dead”) hosted by Dynamo that played on the page for $1.99 and then dropped to $0.99 as a special sale.

DYNAMO DIY RULES | DO’s & DON'TS:

“The most obvious rule is to be in touch with your audience, especially on Twitter & Facebook”. Millis elaborated that in a more vague sense it’s best to put oneself in a viewer's shoes. “Think of them as consumers… Recognize that people have a million options. Film needs to be well-presented and easy to consume, make it easy and possible for them to choose your film instead of all their other options”. I also note this to filmmakers about theatrical releases and suggest they remember how many choices people have for how to spend their time and money.

Millis exclaimed the “BIGGEST MISTAKE FILMMAKERS make is believing that their film is beautiful enough to compel people to watch it just because the trailer reflects that to some extent.” A poorly designed website will not do! "Think about it as a product that is being sold and that you are competing for really valuable time when your audience has a million other really good options available".

$$$ TALK:

Right now iTunes current releases are $6.99 RENTAL for 2 days New Releases for OLDER TITLES it goes down as low to $1.99 or $2.99. Millis thinks iTunes is pricing things correctly. The Dynamo mean average sale price for all sales is approximately $4.00, including shorts and music videos, that amount to approximately 1% of all sales are below $1.99.

Millis told an anecdote that taught the moral of not making content seem too cheap. There’s so much for free online and people judge what is priced like a discount bin, hence the $0.99 rule, which is, most of the time, $0.99 makes your film look cheap!

PRICE RANGES:

$9.99 seems at the top of what works and sells well. Dramas do well $1.99 - $4.99 (“they see a strong drop off on either side of that,” Millis noted). Documentaries can be priced higher – he sees solid sales all the way up to $9.99The best range is $2.99 - $6.99 for most films, except for big films or those with a serious marketing team behind them.

Of course it’s always hard to predict what will work or not. For long tail, mid tail, smaller filmmakers the difference between sales of $5.00 and sales of $10,000 in a month is based on the work done with the audience and a good looking player.

Great films with A-list talent sit idle all over the internet because nobody knows they exist, while independent titles that strike a chord with the audience can catch on fire overnight with just a little bit of communication and an appealing web page.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The timing varies, as one would expect because strategies and distribution needs vary. People sometimes do a first release with Dynamo and then stop to do theatrical and DVD and then start again, or others do it later on in the process and get on Dynamo only at the tail end of the sales.

A film that has been heavily pirated can still do good business because the film looks good this way and one can add compelling extra features. One can read about an example of this: UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US (see her Guest Post on Ted Hope's blog.

What’s the MOST $$$ made for any one DIY film on Dynamo Player?

This information is regarding Independents, DIY only:

$20,000 per film MAX if it’s an independent and with small marketing team. It won’t be bigger unless you have serious marketing experience. But Rob Millis encourages: “don't give up even if you have no traction in beginning, you just may have not hit critical mass yet”.

“I can tell you that sales typically taper off slowly for documentaries, continuing at a rate of perhaps 10-20% of the original month. If a doc did $10,000 in online rentals its first month, with some dedicated online promotion, then you might expect sales of $1,000-$2,000 per month several months later.

Dramatic features are a different animal, and you can expect major sales drops after promotion stops. A lot of residual interest depends on star power and search results, but dramas get stale faster.

Regarding dollar values, I can’t really give a solid estimate in any way that wouldn’t be misleading. No matter what number I give, every filmmaker then expects to reach that number. My biggest hesitation is attributing an estimate to Dynamo specifically, which always makes people really excited or really disappointed about Dynamo. In reality, it’s about the marketplace, and the online rental market can certainly support revenues of 7-figures for independent films. There really is no limit, practically speaking.

For instance, Louis C.K. just produced his own comedy special and did over a $1mm in sales using PayPal and direct downloads in about a week. He’s a well-known comedian, but this was a mid-budget shoot completely financed and marketed by Louis, totally independent. I certainly think his sales numbers would be at least as good if he had used Dynamo, but the success or failure would still lie mostly with his ability to convert the audience.

Beyond that we’re talking about differences of probably 10-50% between different platforms, depending on the customer experience.”

Dynamo is proud to note that its sales are growing overall, significantly. To find out more about Dynamo email info@dynamoplayer.com or visit DynamoPlayer.com to see an introductory video and sign up.

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Sundance and Topspin Bring D2F to Indie Film

By Bob Moczydlowsky

The following post was originally published on TopSpinMedia.com.

 

Sure has been a lot of talk about movies around here lately, huh? ;)

This morning, the Sundance Institute announced an expansion of their incredibly forward-thinking Sundance Artist Services program, and we at Topspin are honored to be included alongside distribution outlets iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, New Video, Netflix and Sundance Now as the provider of Direct-To-Fan Marketing and Distribution tools. We’re humbled to have our first major expansion outside of music to be with such a storied and benevolent institution, and we’re quite literally stoked to start helping Sundance filmmakers connect with fans and create new channels for their amazing work.

This quote from Robert Redford really says it all:

“When I founded the Institute in 1981, it was at a time when a few studios ran the industry and an artist’s biggest concern was whether their film would get made,” Redford said. “Technology has lessened that burden, but the big challenge today is how audiences can see these films. The Artist Services program is a direct response to that need. We’re not in the distribution business; we’re in the business of helping independent voices be heard.”

If you’d like to read the official press release, you can DOWNLOAD HERE.

In addition to the expansion of the Artist Services program today, Sundance also launched an online alumni community containing blog posts and essays from some of the brightest and bravest minds in indie film, like Tim League and Ted Hope. The goal is to provide a place where Sundance artists can share data and advice, and interact with distributors, technology partners and each other. Somehow, I managed to sneak my two cents in there, too. Below is a reprint of my “Direct-To-Fan Keynote” that appears inside the Sundance Artist Services site.

My hope is that all filmmakers find it useful. Please share it liberally.

You can it download it as a VIDEO or as a PDF.

Hello. My name is Bob.

I’m here to talk about Direct-to-Fan Marketing (D2F) and Distribution. I work at a software company called Topspin. We’re honored to be a part of Sundance Artist Services.

Topspin makes software used by 
Kevin Smith, David Lynch, Ed Burns, Trent Reznor, Arcade Fire and thousands of other artists to sell downloads, merchandise, tickets and memberships directly to fans. Our company mission is to create an artistic middle class, and we’re doing it by building a self-serve application you can use to market and distribute your work yourself.

You may think I mean self-release. Or DIY Distro. Or “creative” distribution. But those are not the same as Direct-to-Fan. What I’m talking about is a distribution and marketing strategy that should be a part of every filmmaker’s career. I’m talking about making sure you are directly connected to your core audience. I’m talking about selling premium products to super fans. And I’m hoping to persuade you to treat your audience like your most important asset. It is time to invest in your fans.

Here’s the problem I see: Filmmakers have been taught to be wholesalers, not retailers. Filmmakers make films — so the teaching goes — and then it is the job of distributors to market and distribute films.

There is actually a stigma attached to doing it oneself, as if every direct release was a sign not of true independence and autonomy but instead an indicator of the film’s quality or filmmaker’s professionalism. “Did you hear about XX film? They couldn’t get distribution. They have to self-release.” Sounds familiar, right? The goal is to make films and sell them to distributors. That’s the model.

That shit is broken. Permanently. I mean it. Yes, the “traditional model” still exists as a best-case outcome for a few films. But most likely not for your film. Sorry. Just being honest. It’s time to stop calling the best-case, long-shot, home-run option “the model”. Let’s get realistic about what’s happening:

Everyday, the odds of the traditional indie model working for your film get longer and longer. Even at Sundance, upwards of 80 percent of the films fail to find traditional distribution deals. A ton of interesting and excellent films don’t reach audiences and fail to grow the careers of the artists who made them. That’s sad. And yet, more and more excellent films get made everyday. Because technology makes production easy.

And the Web makes distribution easy, too. My phone will shoot video and upload to YouTube. Production and distribution is in your pocket! But here’s where the trouble starts: Free content, empowered fans and unlimited choice make marketing very, very hard. Fans can watch and share all day, effortlessly. But competing for their attention is really tough. Fans who want to watch a movie used to choose from the 10 films at the theatre on Friday night. Now they choose from the entire historical catalog of filmmaking on their laptops, phones, set-top boxes or VOD services. Or they skip the film altogether and play Words With Friends online. Think about your own habits. Getting fans to pay attention is harder than it has ever been.

“So, how will anyone see my work?” you ask. It’s simple, actually. You need to grow a database of fans, and market to them. Here’s how you do it:

First, make amazing films. I don’t mean pretty-good films, or better-than-average films… I mean INCREDIBLE films. Invest in quality, and invest in new. New sells. But also please make sure to budget appropriately, based on the size of your audience. Don’t have an audience? Then keep the budget LOW.

Second, give away free downloads in exchange for connection via email, Facebook and Twitter. This might mean a soundtrack, or the opening scene of the film, or some killer making-of footage. The point is to get fans excited, connected and sharing. You can’t make dollars until you have fans, and giving away incredible content is the best way to attract new fans.

Third, offer premium products fans actually want to buy, and sell these premium products at a mix of price points FIRST. Many of the folks who will end up with the $2.99 rental on iTunes would be even happier with a great-looking shirt, HD download, photo book and a Skype-call-with-the-lead-actress for $75. Don’t miss the opportunity to convert your core demand into a high-revenue product. Get creative with your products and your prices. You’ll earn more money and create happy fans who spread the word online.

Now, once you’ve grown your database and you can monetize your core fans, it’s time to look around for distribution partners. If you can prove there is demand for your art, you will have traditional distribution opportunities. But long-term success requires reversing the common logic:

Direct-to-Fan is NOT the last resort. Direct-to-Fan is the foundation of your career. Think about this way: Imagine your career is a ladder.

Each rung represents more audience paying attention to your work. Which rung are you on? For the sake of example, let’s say the ladder has 100 rungs. On rung 100 is Steven Spielberg, smiling down from the top. At rung zero is every first-time filmmaker just trying to get a project made. At rung 25 is someone like Miranda July (one of my personal favorites) and at rung 75, someone like Kevin Smith, who has a rabid fan base and relative autonomy.

Everyone starts at the bottom. From rung zero to 25, Direct-to-Fan will likely be 100 percent of your income. You won’t have traditional distribution offers, so you’ll do it all yourself. If you do it well, your audience will grow and you’ll move up the ladder. Once you start climbing, you become much more attractive to potential partners.

In the middle, you’ll mix it up. From rung 25 to 75, the mix of Direct-to-Fan income and other distribution deals will vary depending on the project.

You’ll have to license rights to move much past 25, but you’ll do it in a way that allows you to retain your control of your core audience and monetize them via premium products you control.

At the top, you’re really in control. If you make it to rung 75 or higher, Direct-to-Fan will start trending back toward a larger percentage of your revenues.

You’ll have a dedicated, connected following, and you’ll want as much creative control over your fan experience as possible. Read Kevin Smith’s Red Statements for a perfect example of this return to Direct-to-Fan in action. Sure, he’s done deals, too… but on his terms and with his audience as the top priority. In music, we’re seeing well-run D2F campaigns with top-tier artists earn 15 to 35 percent of gross revenues — and the lion’s share of the profits. There is no reason those numbers can’t be replicated in film. And during this year.

And there are many more practical examples out there, too. The film Broke* is giving away its soundtrack to grow its database. NYC filmmaker and musician Cory McAbee opted to take his serialized film Stingray Sam out exclusively via Direct-to-Fan, and he gets you hooked on the first two episodes before asking for your money.

Ed Burns has killer posters and t-shirts bundled with downloads of his new film Newlyweds, and William Morris and Barry Ptolemy have created a killer Direct-to-Fan experience for the Ray Kurzweil doc Transcendent Man.

 

With a database of fans, you can raise money on Kickstarter, sell premium products and ticket your own event screenings with a director Q&A. Like Kevin Smith is doing RIGHT NOW, TODAY. But most importantly… you’ll be able to RETURN to the same group of core fans for all of your future products. Build an audience. Build a brand. Always compare the money you’re offered to the value of your fan database down the line.

You may find that you’re better off keeping your film under your control than doing that no-advance, all-rights distro deal. Especially if we’re talking about short films!

Now, I know I’m getting long-winded, so I’ll wrap it up.

Here’s the summary: It’s time to make Direct-to-Fan Marketing the foundation of your career. It’s time to assume your films will be marketed by you, not acquired in a Sundance bidding war. It’s time to start building a database of core fans that you own and nurture throughout your career.

Stop calling it Self-Release. Stop calling it DIY Distribution. It’s called Direct-to-Fan Marketing, and it works for filmmakers at every rung on the ladder.

Direct-to-Fan Marketing is:

- Growing your email, Facebook and Twitter database by giving away free downloads and encouraging sharing

- Maintaining a great website that sells merch, downloads, memberships and tickets directly

- Owning your fan marketing data, and using it to raise money and promote your work throughout your career

Good Direct-to-Fan Marketing will make you more attractive to distributors. But you may find yourself telling them “No, thanks.” Your audience is your biggest asset. If you sell it, make sure you get full price.

Questions? I’m accessible. Let’s chat.

Thumbs up for rock ‘n’ roll,

-bob

@bobmoz

VP, Product & Marketing

Bob Moczydlowsky has been kind enough to offer HOPE FOR FILM readers his service for free:

The code HOPEFORFILM entitles you to three free months of Topspin Plus, the most powerful direct-to-fan platform on the planet.

Topspin empowers you to:

- Promote your film across websites, social networks and mobile devices

- Connect with fans and offer free downloads for emails, Likes & Tweets

- Customize your store & sell digital media, physical items, tickets and more

To redeem your free account, go to topspinmedia.com and submit your email. Follow the instructions in the email to create your account, and then click "Upgrade" in your account header. Scroll down and enter this code: HOPEFORFILM

Guest Post: Audrey Ewell "Until The Light Takes Us case study: DIY and DIWO International Release"

What do you do? You have no money but KNOW your film has an audience. Even sometimes with great content, the world conspires and leaves us all alone, just meat for the vipers. Often, a good movie is not enough to make it in this world. Faced with surrender or the long hard road, it's then that the real filmmakers, the ones passionate about their babies, are willing to sharpen their claws and dig in. Audrey Ewell first guest posted with the now legendary "Younger Audiences & Creators Tell Old Fogies To Shut The F Up!". She has continued to be a generous contributor, sharing her knowledge and experience in both making and distributing her work. Today's guest post is a case study in DIY/DIWO distro. Read on!

Until The Light Takes Us, a documentary about black metal (a violent music scene from Norway) premiered at the ’08 AFI Fest in LA. We spent the next year playing festivals and turning down terrible offers. It was a hard time for film, and a terrible time for docs, as you may recall, but no time would ever be so hard that I’d be willing to take a $10,000 MG on an all-rights deal, with a 25% back-end that we’d probably never see anyway, or a 25K all rights offer from another distributor who wouldn’t guarantee theatrical or even DVD. We didn’t want to just get shunted to the VOD ghetto to sink or swim without any support.

By the summer of 2009, confident that the film had a sizeable and reachable audience, we decided to keep our rights and do it ourselves.

INITIAL BUDGET: zero dollars. This was before people were talking about working distro dollars into your budget. It had never occurred to us that we’d go DIY; ours was an award winning film with a passionate core audience and enough headline grabbing content (murders, suicide, church arson, nationalism, Satanism) that we thought our floor was a little higher. But a mix of bad economic timing and a treatment some buyers thought was too “arty” limited offers. We knew we had to take a DIWO approach – doing it with others. The others we had at that point were our fans. And thankfully, they showed up.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ORGANIZING: Remember Myspace? When we got back from Norway, where we’d filmed for two years, we actually set aside time every day to send out 300 invites/messages to likely fans. We built up about 18,000 fans there, and then watched as everyone stopped using the site. Then Myspace randomly deleted our page anyway. That sucked, but was a good lesson. We don’t own social media pages – so have a lot of them. But we’d at least gotten the word out to those 18K people. One of those fans offered to make us a facebook page. I said sure, and we now have over 200 of those; more than half are fan-made. I encouraged fans to make pages for their city, as I think it gives them more of a sense of ownership and involvement with the film’s success there, and because they know their community better than I do, and are already part of the audience, so it becomes peer to peer marketing. BTW, you can now do on Twitter what we did on Myspace: just follow people you think will be into your film, or who talk about similar films.

THEATRICAL DIY: We put out the word that we were taking the film on tour. We told fans that we needed 3 things to bring it to their city: 1) a list of the indie/arthouse theatres near them 2) calls/letters/visits to those theaters to request the film 3) commitments to flyer and blog for us.

Our fans happen to rock, so we got the help we needed. I booked the film into 12 cities, either one-offs or weekends – I billed these screenings as sneak-peaks, wary of over-playing markets that we’d want to hit with longer runs. (And I avoided NY and LA.) The screenings were a success. My partner Aaron Aites and I did our first one in Austin during but not part of SXSW. A risky move. Our amazing new friends at the Alamo Drafthouse were kind enough to clear a midnight screening with the festival (fair warning: if you go this route, you risk pissing off the festival unless it’s cleared with them). Since Aaron’s band Iran was playing that year, we piggybacked our travel arrangements, got press lists from friends, and promoted it to film and music fans alike. A perfect fit. The screening sold out. Next stop: Seattle International Film Festival. I mean, we weren’t technically in it… but that didn’t stop us getting some of the indie film write-ups that were in the air. We booked a few late nights at the Northwest Film Forum – sold them out. One kid told us he’d driven 5 hours to see the film, not sure if he’d ever get another chance. We did Q&As, then headed to Portland for more of the same.

We continued with non-piggyback screenings, with lots of sold-out shows. We tried to hit the right balance with press – enough to get the word out, not so much as to have shot our load if we made it back later with a longer run (which was always the end-game). Toward the end of our solo bookings, we decided to just go for it in San Francisco, a market where we knew we had a huge audience – we booked a week with a museum screening series and went after press. We were about to approach distribution services to take over, so we wanted to show we could perform over longer runs. And we did. Variance Films came on about a week later, and the first thing they did was get us moved over to the Roxie, continuing our SF run.

DISTRIBUTION SERVICE, THEATRICAL DIWO: We then raised a P & A budget of 25K off the strength of those solo screenings and having Variance onboard. $25,000 dollars: AKA “nothing,” to distributors. And we started our formal US and Canadian theatrical release.

Variance handled bookings, ads and co-promotions, we managed street teams and did nonstop interviews, and also brought on co-promotions through our music contacts. A very deserved shout-out to Emma Griffiths at EG-PR who took on this indie doc about a foreign music scene and worked it like crazy. We also eventized many of our screenings: we launched in NY with a party at the Knitting Factory where Dave Pajo of Slint/Papa M, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, and some of our other indie rock friends played (btw, our film is about metal – this did not impress the core audience terribly much, but we had a secondary audience that we wanted to reach, and we also had a second NY launch party a few days later which was all metal bands). We continued to open runs with giveaways, bands, parties. For our Canadian premiere, the film was projected onto a giant screen made of ice, outside, in the winter (fitting our film’s aesthetic and subject matter). Elsewhere, fans flyered like crazy, set up FB pages for their town, blogged, talked about it on forums. We only ran print ads when theaters demanded it. People came out. Our opening weekend per screen avg in NY was over 7K . Sadly, we only had one screen here, the indie loving Cinema Village.

We grossed about 140K overall, in 35 cities. We paid back the theatrical investors, with a little extra on top. Toward the end of our run, the film went up on the Sundance Channel’s broadcast schedule, and theaters backed off. By then we’d drastically expanded our fan base and found distribution partners for DVD, VOD, Digital, TV, etc with Factory 25, Gravitas, The Sundance Channel, and Dynamo on our own website (since we kept non-exclusive streaming). I like retaining some control over this thing, and I like having partners, so this is the best of both worlds, and it was brought about largely by our theatrical success.

KNOWLEDGE TRAVELS (AND SO DID WE): In fact, it worked so well that I repeated this process in Europe. I set up a three week screening tour (mostly at festivals and arts venues with cinemas) from London to Krakow, met contacts who facilitated us selling the film to a German distributor, and then took everything I’d learned and theatrically distributed the film in the UK in the spring of 2010. That made a profit, and we then self-released a very profitable DVD there. We later sold digital/VOD rights to a UK company.

The rewards of all these DIY and DIWO releases were great: the film has a much higher profile, my partner and I have fantastic contacts and relationships with great companies and venues and people all over the US and Europe, we’ve grown our own audience, (with street team captains who I know by name and keep in touch with because they’ve become a part of my world), and had utterly amazing experiences. The downside is that I stopped being a filmmaker for two years, and became a distributor, promoter, sales agent, community organizer, online work-bot; it was 18 hour days, 7 days a week, and it was completely exhausting. Now at the end of it, I’m glad I did it, but I can’t wait to make a film again!

I hope this is helpful info for some of you who are doing this now or are thinking about it. I’m happy to clarify anything in the comments.

-- Audrey Ewell

Audrey Ewell is a filmmaker living in Brooklyn, NY with her partner Aaron Aites and their three rescue animals. More info on her current film can be found at http://www.blackmetalmovie.com

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "New and Compelling Options for DIY Distribution"

Orly Ravid co-founded the Film Collaborative and has been providing us with a great series of posts on the changing market and options for independent filmmakers and their work. Her generosity and commitment is an inspiration. She is a brave thinker. Indie Filmmakers used to think that once they made their movies, their only real option was to surrender -- to surrender to the market and the middlemen who decided on a film's applicability to an audience or community. Those days are now gone and good riddance! The services and tools we have to get our work out and on the screens of what has long been under-served under-educated audiences and communities increase every day. As those options expand, so do the choices of content, form, and aesthetic -- we are becoming truly free in terms of how, what, and where we can tell our tales. The sky hasn't fallen; a thousand phoenix have risen.

Today Orly looks at new platforms and toolkits that allow filmmakers to sell or rent their films directly to fans. The Era of Artist/Entrepreneur is here! Now all we have to do is fight for a free and open internet...

In a new media world in which people sometimes conflate distributor with platform and buyer with online/digital store, I want to draw that distinction and highlight a few new and compelling DIY options (platforms or toolkits) for filmmakers to sell or rent their films to audiences / consumers directly. TFC always encourages filmmakers to develop their own brands while also noting the importance of being connected to other brands that generate significant traffic and indie film consumption. In other words, sell direct to your fans off your site and other sites and social networking platforms and/or via other DIY platforms or tools but also recognize the usefulness of being available where average film consumers go, i.e. via Cable VOD if you can manage it, and other key platforms/online digital stores (depending on the nature of the film) such as: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, Hulu, Sony Playstation, Xbox etc.

The few DIY platforms or toolkits highlighted in this blog are: Distrify, EggUp, Groupees, Stonehenge’s iPhone Apps. Next time we cover this topic, we’ll investigate more into DIY platforms FansofFilm and Open Film (7,000 films, 70% shorts).

Let’s begin.

DISTRIFY

Peter Gerard & Andy Green, the co-founders of Distrify, are both filmmakers who formed Distrify. I met with Andy @ SXSW.

Distrify is not a film sales platform - it's a toolset. One can use Distrify to sell a film anywhere on the web and via social media platforms. Once your trailer and film are on Distrify you embed it on your website like http://www.justtogetarep.com/ and Facebook page like https://www.facebook.com/just.to.get.a.rep?sk=app_203403406338325

You can then start telling your film's fans about it and ask them to embed the widget on forums, blogs, websites, etc. 

Distrify's "sell-movies-socially" tools are designed to make effective social media marketing profitable. If your trailer and film are on Distrify, when you share the clip, you're also sharing the store to buy the film or find out about upcoming screenings. When your audience shares it further, you're always spreading the point-of-sale along the way. Anyone who shares it gets paid a share of sales they generate. 

One does not have to start selling through Distrify right away – one can use it to promote screenings and events through the trailer interface. Here's an example of an upcoming Anime release that is using the Distrify player to promote upcoming screenings: http://www.we-loveanime.com/ 

If the film's not available in the user's area, they can make their interest known directly through the player as well. Distrify compiles the statistics for filmmakers and give them the mailing list data - all free. Any new screenings you add are also automatically listed in all the players that have been embedded around the web. And when you want to start selling the film, you can add it as well. 

There are no up-front charges, fully non-exclusive, and they don't need any rights. They take a small transaction fee on sales (see specifics below). In the Beta period it is free to sign up and upload one film to Distrify. They don't charge for uploading or hosting and there is no subscription fee for a Beta account. They do charge a 30% revenue share on sales. They note that their profit “is around 3% to 5% so it's costing us around 25% to deliver the service to the customer. We're working hard to reduce these costs and when we do we'll hand the saving over to the rights holder.” 

Distrify Beta Pricing

  • Free sign-up for a one-film account
  • They charge a 30% transaction fee on all sales made through Distrify
  • They split the 5% affiliate revenue with the filmmaker.
  • Beta users will be given a special offer when they leave the Beta period, and normal account pricing will be determined at that time. And filmmakers keep all their rights.
  • How do you get paid? Each month if you've earned sales revenue they will send you a sales report and transfer your earnings to you directly via PayPal or bank transfer. You may be charged by PayPal or your bank to receive the transfer. When you get your first sales report, they say “just let us know how you prefer to be paid”. What about affiliates?

    “We will soon offer your audience the ability to earn a share of revenues that are generated from their sharing. Once this is enabled they will earn 5% from each sale they refer to you. We are currently offering to split the cost of the revenue-sharing with you. This means we only charge 27.5% on a revenue-shared sale. You keep the remaining 72.5%.”

    Peter Gerard followed up further noting that whilst still in Beta their pricing is FREE to sign up and sell one film and a 30% transaction fee on all sales through their player and there are no costs for special encoding. Their Beta period ends in June and after they will continue this pricing option and offer some premium plans.

    EGG UP

    “EggUp is a publishing platform for filmmakers and film distributors. We help filmmakers and distributors rent and sell their films online while preventing piracy. Our free online publishing tools can help you distribute and sell your film or video which is all packaged and encrypted into a file called the Egg. The Egg is currently available for download and allows consumers to watch and share with friends and family virally while filmmakers are able to make money. With EggUp you get your own website to promote your film, together with an integrated pay per view solution. We also list your films in our film catalog called GoEggit. Distribute the Egg on your own website, and other online retailers with your very own buy now button without setup fees and inventory.”

    Payment options: FREE, Rental, Purchase. Filmmaker will be able to choose several options. Accept Paypal and major credit cards. Customer credit card information does not go through their servers. They only link to the filmmaker's Paypal account. Paypal holds customer's credit card info.

    They are Worldwide and can Geo Filter as needed.

    Content: Currently about 60 films due to focusing on developing technology and negotiating deals with international governments and studios. They will be ramping up pretty quickly in the next 3-5 months with content.

    When I asked about revenue thus far to filmmakers they answered with this: “It really varies since it's up to the filmmakers. Some filmmakers make $0 due to they are not marketing their content or older film with no cult following. While others are getting consistent purchases daily since they have a full marketing strategy including PR pushing their film. It adds up but nothing making millions”.

    EGG UP’s FEES:

  • Full length features: $1.25 per transaction ($2.00 - $1,000.00 retail)
  • Short film: 15% per transaction ($0.99 - $1.99)
  • EggUp noted that they are reviewing their fee structure and may be changing it soon.
  • Egg Up Overview: Image
  • http://i811.photobucket.com/albums/zz38/Egg_Up/EggUP_Overview3.jpg

    Egg Up Filmmaker Benefit: Image http://i811.photobucket.com/albums/zz38/Egg_Up/EggUP_Filmmaker3.jpg

    JON REISS’ GUEST BLOGGER Solomon MacAuley– Raved about EGGUP: http://jonreiss.com/blog/2011/03/03/prevent-film-piracy-and-globally-monetize-instantly/

    SHERI CANDLER interview for MicroFILMMAKER Magazine about EGG UP: http://www.microfilmmaker.com/tipstrick/Issue58/EggDist1.html

    GROUPEES (YAWMA)  groupees.yawma.net & yawma.net

    I was introduced to this platform via TFC client (and HopeForFilm Guest Blogger) Ari Gold (Adventures of Power). Thomas Brooke who demo’d the platform / service via Cisco’s WEBEX. I was impressed with the simplicity and comfort of the interface.

    Thomas Brooke is the Founder and CEO of YAWMA. YAWMA is the social media technology company that operates Groupees. Thomas describes GROUPEES as:

    “A Flash sale (24-48 hr) platform focusing on digital media entertainment (music, games, film)
- Like Groupon in the sense that we're crowd-sourcing but deal isn't dependent on a certain number of users buying and "tipping" the deal; rather we start with the good deal but the content owners set a goal and if achieved it unlocks extra exclusive content (to incentivize users to work as a group and spread the promo through their social graph)
- There is a high degree of Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally
- Flexible SaaS based system supporting product bundling, multiple pricing options (fixed price, pay what you want), inclusion of charity, etc. We've set Groupees up as an on demand platform where content creators/licensors sign up to run a single promotion, all of which is configured through a web interface. It is a platform by invitation only- we're sourcing quality independent music, games and film.”

    Their next Groupee starts on Wednesday so if you go to: http://groupees.yawma.net you will see the promo vid and count-down clock now live.

    Here is a screenshot and the model we're using for projections on Music groupees.

    FEES: The model split is reflected at 60-40% (in favor of filmmakers).

    When I asked why they were more expensive as Apple (which takes 30%) Thomas answered:

    “While it is true that Apple takes 30%, they don't do anything for their 30% beyond providing a distribution system. Fact is we're not just a point of distribution. We're pretty sophisticated technology with a high degree of customization, strong FB and Twitter integration and 100% pr support (strongly question this, what do they mean by 100% PR support?) for every promotion we run. Groupon is really a better business analogy, and they take 50% but have nowhere near the social media integration or customization features. I do appreciate your asking whether to make mention but I'm certainly comfortable with this.”

    “In terms of film/video, we can support straight download in any format and also video streaming. As mentioned, the service requires buyers to register so all files are secured behind a firewall. I think for indie film the concept of bundling films from different film-makers might work very well as it provides good cross promotion and from the consumer's perspective allows you to get two cool films from a single purchasing experience. Definitely one of the premises of our platform is convenience as people are overwhelmed by our digitally connected world so by featuring quality indie entertainment as a part of a single promotion, consumers get the benefit of a curated good deal on relevant media/entertainment. I think also there is an opportunity to bundle films with music, especially where there's a good thematic connection. Obviously, a soundtrack with a film is a no-brainer as well. We're also currently looking at possibly bundling a video game that is from the horror genre with a horror film. “

    Groupee Platform Features

  • -Support for all digital media formats -Support both video download and streaming -Web-interface for creating and configuring the Groupees promotion -E-payments through PayPal and Amazon payments -Live World map that tracks purchases as they occur around the globe -Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally -Real time sales statistics and reporting -Flexible promotional programs including Fixed Price or Pay What You Want payments, charitable giving, cross-promotional bundles, goal setting with incentive giveaways -Cloud-based, highly scalable platform capable of supporting 1,000,000 downloads per 24 hrs
  • .

    STONEHENGE – Distributing films worldwide via Phone Apps -- FilmApps...Get Your Film in More Hands

    Stonehenge Productions enables film producers to sell their films on iTunes, Android Market and Amazon Appstore as applications for the iPhone, iPad and for Droid platforms. Their pitch: “With a low start-up cost of just $680, you can have an application of your film available on Phones everywhere !! You keep 100% of sales revenues minus the 30% that Apple charges.” What do you get for $680?

  • An iPhone FilmApp Embedded film in the App (better than streaming) About page/synopsis Twitter/FB/Email (Sharing) integration, A merchandise page for users to buy merchandise, DVD…(e.g. Amazon) Links to the film’s/director’s site (opens within the App) A trailer/video clip viewer (user can watch the trailer, clips, outtakes, behind the scenes) Photo gallery of shots from the film an RSS/News feed for any feed you would like to provide. Custom Graphic design and layout (using your art). Turn around is typically two weeks and then 7-10 days at Apple. Got other ideas? Let us know what you’d like
  • How? Contact Stonehenge Productions and we’ll provide you with further instructions to upload your content. It will then be turned into a customized application. You’ll get final review and you’ll continue to hold all rights to the film. We’ll submit it to Apple and manage the whole selling process through the App store OR we’ll put it on the Android Market or Amazon Appstore.

    A Stonehenge Sales Sheet: http://www.stonehengeproductions.com/sales-sheet/

    Mark Smillie of Stonehenge notes “we are really working hard to build FilmApps that encourage participation over the lifecycle of the film...so pre-release to build awareness and fan base, at release to drive fans to the theater and post release to sell the film through the App channel.”“We build for Apple, Android and sell on the iTunes, Droid and Amazon app stores.”  

    Their latest press release for our App for the film: Race to Nowhere.  It's a good example of a social activism app paired with a film App.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/03/prweb5193274.htm

    Another testimonial Mark showed me is from John Paul Rice of “One Hour Fantasy Girl” "Apps for films work: Itunes report for One Hour Fantasy Girl in Q4 2010, rental/downloads up 558% over Q3. Credit goes to @WeGoTo11"  John Paul Rice President No Restrictions Entertainment from Twitter:https://twitter.com/norestrictions/status/53291871367200768

    * That’s all for now folks. More platforms and tools and DIY solutions next time.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    DEALS & DIY: A Film Distribution Duet

    Today's guest post is by Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative(TFC), the first non-profit, full service provider dedicated to the distribution of independent film.  Orly was featured as one of HFF's Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010.

    *This is Part II of the “If I Were a Filmmaker Going Sundance...

    *Part III to will be written in the aftermath of the glow of the fest.

    Sundance 2011, insofar as distribution was concerned, saw a spike on both the traditional sales and the DIY front.   26 deals were done so far and more to come. One difference between this year's Festival and those of recent years is that several acquisitions were done prior to the Festival and more deals occurred right at the beginning of the Festival rather than taken several days or weeks to materialize. In addition, some of the acquisition dollar figures were bigger than in recent times. There was a definite sense of ‘business is back’  (though mostly still for bigger films with either name directors or cast or both – and this we address below).  And DIY is seeing a new dawn with directors like Kevin Smith announcing a self-distribution plan and Sundance’s solidified commitment to helping artists crowdfund (via Kickstarter) and market their films (via Facebook for example) access certain digital distribution platforms (in the works and TBA).

    Starting with the deals. So far I counted 26 (one at least was a pre-buy / investment in production) and two so far are remake rights deals.

    I only list the deal points that were publicized… meaning if no $$$ is listed then it was not announced.

    Deals done Pre-Sundance:

    1.     Project Nim (James Marsh who did Man on Wire)  – sold to HBO for a hefty yet unreported sum.

    2.     Becoming Chaz – produced by renowned World Of Wonder and sold to OWN (actually we gleaned OWN invested in the film and at the fest Oprah announced her commitment to doing for docs what she did for books via a Doc Club).

    3.     Uncle Kent went to IFC

    4.     The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Morgan Spurlock) – went to Sony Classics.

    Deals done at Sundance according to sections:

    US Dramatic Competition:

    5.     The Ledge: sold to IFC

    6.     Like Crazy: (Director of Douchebag)  - Paramount for a worldwide deal - $4,000,000.

    7.     Martha Marcy May Marlene: sold to Fox Searchlight, congrats to TFC Board of Advisor EXP, Ted Hope.

    8.     Circumstance: Participant is funding the release and will (along with the filmmakers) choose a distribution partner, we hope Roadside Attractions.

    9.     Homework: Fox Searchlight

    10.  Another Earth: (Mark Cahill) – Fox Searchlight – a $1.5 - $2 mil deal with aggressive P&A as reported and for US and all English speaking territories.

    11.  Gun Hill Road: Motion Film Group

    12.  Pariah: Focus Features

    Premieres (‘names’ in films):

    13.  My Idiot Brother: TWC - $6,000,000 for US and key territories.

    14.  The Details: TWC - $7,500,000 MG and $10,000,000 P&A

    15.  I Melt With You: Magnolia (reported mid-high 6-figure deal reportedly w/ healthy backend)

    16.  Life in a Day: NatGeo Films

    17.  Margin Call: Joint deal with Lions Gate and Roadside Attractions

    18.  Perfect Sense: IFC

    19. The Future: (Miranda July) – Roadside Attractions

    U.S. Documentary Competition:

    20.  Buck: Sundance Selects

    21.  The Last Mountain: Dada Films (MJ Peckos and Steven Raphael)

    22. Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times: Magnolia and Participant

    Park City at Midnight:

    23.  Silent House: Liddell Entertainment

    World Cinema Dramatic Competition:

    24.  The Guard:  Sony Pictures Classics

    Not distribution deals per se but Fox Searchlight bought worldwide remake rights to

    25. The Bengali Detective &

    26. TWC bought remake rights to Knuckle.

    Please let me know if I missed any deals and feel free to comment in this blog. Of course more may be announced even as this posts and I am on a plane.

    So we see mostly name filmmakers or cast but also definitely a few non-names generating deals the details of which are not publicized thus far.

    AND NOW ON the DIY side:

    RE: SLITTING RIGHTS & DIY: Andrew Hurwitz and Alan Sacks wrote an article in the Hollywood Reporter addressing all the same stuff TFC has talked about before, splitting rights, working and sometimes conflating windows and not settling for bad deal terms when one could do better on one’s own working with consultants etc. It’s nice to see trades addressing this in a context that speaks to more traditional industry players.

    THE FLAT FEE MODEL EXPANDS: Distribber (now owned by IndieGOGO) announced a partnership that has been brewing with one of our Cable VOD partners, and TFC Board of Advisor Meyer Schwarztein of Brainstorm Media. Basically it expands Distribber’s flat fee digital distribution offerings to include Cable VOD (and also Hulu).  If a film gets onto all key MSOs the fee is set for now to be $9999 and there are prices per platform if a film cannot make it on to any given platform so that one is not paying for a platform or service they are not getting onto. As per the press release: “The films will be presented to audiences on the new "Filmmaker Direct" label; consumers who purchase films on "Filmmaker Direct" will know that 100% of profits go directly to the filmmaker, instead of to a parade of "Hollywood Middlemen.” For more info check out: http://www.distribber.com.  My only cautionary note: this is not a great idea for smaller films for which the gross revenues that would not justify the flat fee. One must remember and always know to ask about the splits that the Cable VOD aggregator is getting from the MSOs. They range, to the best of my knowledge to-date, between 30% and 60% depending on company and films. Studios get the higher splits for the obvious reasons. And so one has to do the math. And of course also evaluate MARKETING (which will be the focus on the 3rd and final part of this Sundance Blog series).  In any case, we work with both Adam Chapnick at Distribber and Meyer Schwarzstein at Brainstorm and are fond of and trust them both.

    BRAND NAME FILMMAKER DIY: Kevin Smith fueled the torch of DIY in his own flame-filled way.  He auctioned off the distribution of Sundance Premiere Selection RED STATE to himself and has pre-booked theatres and plans to be his own decider in distribution, sans print ads (Amen). We wish him well but caution his very “old world” production and release budget (4mil Prod & and 2.5mil to release (for prints etc)… immediate launch broad release plan… a slow build never hurt anyone.  David Dinnerstein formerly of Paramount Classics and Lakeshore consulted on the release.  For more on this topic just search the WWW.

    ABOUT THE SHORTS:

    DIY Hats off to the Sundance SHORTS filmmaker such as Trevor Anderson and I believe 11 others who are on Sundance’s YouTube Screening Room Initiative with tens of thousands of views. Anderson exceeded 94,000 views as of the other day and has put all his shorts including this year’s HIGH LEVEL BRIDGE on www.EggUp.com which allows him to monetize them via transactional digital sales.  TFC regularly refers filmmakers to EggUp and now also TopSpin though our gury Sheri Candler advises TopSpin works better for filmmakers with an already robust following.  Whilst Anderson may not be getting rich just yet, it’s a perfect model for a prolific and vibrant filmmaker who is building a brand and getting his/her work out there.

    Last but not least, Sundance announces its DIY oriented initiative.

    Sundance Institute announced (I’m now quoting from its press release) its Three-Year Plan with Kickstarter as Creative Funding Collaborator / Facebook® to Provide Guidance to Institute AlumniA new program to connect its artists with audiences by offering access to top-tier creative funding and marketing backed by the Institute’s promotional support…The creative funding component was announced today with Kickstarter, the largest platform in the world for funding creative projects.  A new way to fund and follow creative projects, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects on Kickstarter every month. In exchange for support, backers receive tangible rewards crafted and fulfilled by the project’s creator. Support is neither investment, charity, nor lending, but rather a mix of commerce and patronage that allows artists to retain 100% ownership and creative control of their work while building a supportive community as they develop their projects… In the coming months, Sundance Institute will build an online hub of resources related to independent distribution options, funding strategies and other key issues.  The goal is to provide for filmmakers a central location to explore case studies and best practices, in addition to live workshops and training opportunities with Institute staff, alumni, industry experts and key partners.  As the first of these partners bringing their expertise to the community, Facebook will offer Institute alumni advice, educational materials, and best-practices tips on how to build and engage audiences via the service…Further development will include access to a broad and open array of third-party digital distribution platforms backed by Sundance Institute promotional support.  In the future, additional opportunities for theatrical exhibition will be explored in collaboration with organizations such as Sundance Cinemas, members of the national Art House Project, and others.”

    I have been championing festivals getting involved with exhibition since and distribution beyond the festival itself since 2005 and discussed some options and ideas with Sundance staffers last year and am thrilled about this powerful and liberating announcement that so connects up with TFC’s mission whilst having some serious muscle and we look forward to being involved in some way hopefully.

    MARKETING IS KING:  One thing no one talks about in much detail is MARKETING. Of course the big guns have the cash to buy marketing but the small distribs and aggregators are starting to be difficult to distinguish at times, and yet sometimes distributors do earn their fees by investing real talent and expertise and even money in marketing. So comparing what one can do oneself (if one does not get the big fat offer) with what traditional but small distribution deals bring will be the focus of the 3rd and last post in this series to come after Rotterdam but hopefully before Berlinale.

    Over and out for now. Questions and Comments always welcome!

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema.  Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Wanted: DIY & Hybrid Distro Liaisons Internationally

    The US has a healthy supply of "bookers"  and for-hire distro/marketeers who can help you navigate the theatrical waters when you are looking at DIY or hybrid approaches, but are there the same folks in Europe, Asia, and other territories?  There's got to be right?  So where are they and how can we access them easier?

    Many a filmmaker in the US have now decided it makes better sense to split up rights across media, license on a short term or non-exclusive basis, and essentially handle the theatrical themselves on a non-traditional basis.  But why would what makes sense in the US, not also make sense in other territories?

    This is one of my wishes for the new year: let's demystify hybrid distribution internationally and build up a good list of companies and individuals to partner with.  If you are out there, let us know!

    GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Not Just a Dickens Novel.

    What do Filmmakers want from film markets and what they can realistically get?

    Discerning the difference between a film that can actually sell well enough to justify having a third party sales agent and going to markets vs a film that is best served by DIY methods that should be planned and employed BEFORE the film’s first exhibition”

    Guest post from Orly Ravid, Founder of The Film Collaborative (TFC)

    We get questioned all the time by members and others about which markets should filmmakers attend and which sales agents should they go with. Having unrealistic expectations is dangerous. It sets people up to do nothing on their own but wait for some third party to make their dreams come true.

    We’re just coming off of AFM. indieWIRE reports growth attendance at the market. See this article if you want to read the stats. They are however only relative to last year, a real low, and not addressing the question on everyone’s mind, what about the sales themselves.  AFM has always been known more for genre films and cast-driven films. Troma films do well for the genre category and Henry’s Crime starring Keanu Reeves, James Caan and Vera Farmiga is a cast driven narrative was being sold this year, for example.

    It was decently busy from my p.o..v and buyers were there a bit more to buy than they were at say Toronto, according to our foreign sales partner, Ariel Veneziano of Re-Creation Media. But, the question is what are they there to buy and at what price?  The shift in the business from the 80’s and 90’s till now is not reversing itself and I don’t think it ever will. Prices have come down, dramatically because ancillary business has shifted so much, retailers have gone under, and supply has grown. That is the case across the board.

    Digital services such as Fluent, Gravitas, Distribber, Brainstorm (all of whom we work with) were all at AFM, digital is where the business is now, not in getting big MGs per territory for most films anymore, not for most art house films. Of course there is some of that business still but the people benefiting from it are the Sales Companies with big libraries and the aggregators with the same. The individual sales prices, after expenses are deducted, are more often than not, not making money for the filmmakers,  not given the terms most companies offer, at least not from our vantage point, . Of course we’re not in the business of selling big genre films or cast-driven films so we are not addressing those. Docs do sell best to TV at doc markets such as Hot Docs and IDFA, to name two, and those so far still seem to be worth it and that business still has value.  And of course a lucky few theatrical-potential docs sell at Sundance and TIFF etc.

    Why do I bring this up? Because we get questioned all the time by members and others about which markets should filmmakers attend and which sales agents should they go with and the truth is, very often the films are not viable for a sales agent because the sales would be too small and if a sales agent did take the film on, the filmmaker would never see a dime after the sales agents recouped their expenses and fees and after one has paid for Delivery. And then the sales agent  / sales company would have the right to do the DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION DIRECTLY that the FILMMAKER SHOULD BE DOING. That is the point of this blog.  Discerning the difference between a film that can actually sell well enough to justify having a third party sales agent and going to markets vs a film that is best served by DIY methods that should be planned and employed BEFORE the film’s first exhibition.

    Stacey Parks recently sent this missive out to her members: “So AFM is coming to a close and the overall good news for everyone out there is that business is picking up from last year. Sales are brisk and even Pre-Sales are brisk for the right projects. I've met with several clients who are here at AFM and all of them are reporting good results in meeting a variety of people and companies as potential financiers for their projects, or sellers, or both.”

    That’s exciting and we know Stacey knows her stuff and she’s a friend so all good. But I still want to know the numbers from everyone who sold a film, or didn’t after spending money trying, and ask all of you readers to share the real numbers, as we will of course (you will soon see), so that people can know what expectations are reasonable and what is not reasonable to expect.

    Having unrealistic expectations is dangerous. It sets people up to do nothing on their own but wait for some third party to make their dreams come true. And then time goes by, months and even years, and one has done anything to build community around the film or get it out there. Then filmmakers are disappointed and blame others instead of making it happen for themselves.  There is no excuse for that anymore.

    We announced a partnership with Palm Springs International Film Festival to help its filmmakers distribute and we will be working with other film festivals to do the same. Filmmakers are embracing Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler’s PMD concept and that can really create success via DIY distribution or get an audience started to give leverage in negotiating a deal.  The options for accessing Cable VOD and digital platform distribution and also having mobile Apps distribute the film are only growing, though of course the space gets only more glutted too.

    But solutions are being worked out for that. Companies such as Gravitas are working with Cable operators vigorously to better program and highlight various categories of cinema, making it easier for audiences to find what they might be looking for. Comcast debuted a VOD search feature that imitates Google’s, and this will help in time: http://www.multichannel.com/article/459677-Comcast_Debuts_VOD_Sear

    Verizon introduced Flex view to help consumers manage content on all their devices and all the players involved in digital are competing with each other to get as much good content to consumers in the most useful and user-friendly way to grow that market further, so whilst the space gets more glutted, there are more solutions in play to manage the paradox of choice a bit better and that’s why it’s imperative that filmmakers get engaged with their own success more and more, and sooner and sooner.  Lastly, these days, aggregators such as Cinetic and many distributors openly rely on filmmakers to do a lot of their own community building and marketing so if you are already doing the work, you might as well keep your rights.

    Again, we do sales ourselves, we know there is still value in that, but we implore you filmmakers to do the research before you give up the rights and before you just forge forward trying to figure out which market to attend or having organizations like us do that for you, for many many films, there is no market you can attend that will be worth your while. Create your own market that will pay off in the long run.

    -Orly Ravid

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema www.TheFilmCollaborative.org Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Sometimes: Think Small And Find Success

    There is a better mousetrap. One of the problems with the old way of making a film -- with the belief that someone would buy it -- is that the apparatus only applied to a few select films aimed at the widest audiences.  Yes, occasionally a filmmaker hit the lottery and everything aligned perfectly to engineer a sale, but by now we see that clearly as the exception and not the rule.  Some of the beauty that is being revealed during The-Collapse-Of-The-World-As-We-Once-Knew-It (COTWAWOKI), is that new experiments bring a wider selection of work to a wider selection of community.

    Reading the NY Times recent article on how music labels are taking they DIY approach that they had for bands, are applying it to films too, frankly warmed my heart -- or whatever that is when you get the warm wave from the top of your head down through your toes. Endomorphines?  Anyway, it gives me hope that one day where ever you are in this country of ours, you could see interesting diverse culture among a crowd of similarly-minded and appreciative audiences, that one day you could find your own community in every county, no matter what you liked, or believed in.  Okay, maybe that's a tad idealistic, but...

    You see, when filmmakers sought to sell their work, the work was supposed to be designed for everybody.  The work was going to be publicized to EVERYBODY.  When you aim widely, you are really limited in both the stories you can tell and how you can tell it.  When the target gets small, the game changes.  We get new options.  In the new game, there can be far more winners.  When we think small, we can think in a much broader manner as to the what & the how.  Thinking of a different game, we can think of far more models than the old one.

    It made me think back to John Bradhum's post on TFF on "Film Gigging". It made me think of Peri Lewnes and others efforts to build a Film Club & Pub circuit.  It made me think of 's Joseph Infantalino's tale of finding cinephiles in New Jersey.  It made me think of way back when Docker's sponsored the Fuel Film Tour and we found bigger indie audiences in Columbus, Ohio than we did in NYC.  It makes me think of micro-cinema and living room theater circuits.  It makes me think of Eddie Burns and his new film "Nice Guy Johnny" designed for digi distro.  It makes me think of the thousands of alternative rock genres, and how music fans support them all.

    The other day I got a great email from Drag City pushing Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers".

    Drag City is seriously considering going into the movie rental business!

    Why not? We've just about done everything else in the entertainment business, putting out music for twenty-plus (and a few minus) years on whichever format the people fancied, and eventually branching into booking live entertainment (music and comedy so far), radio (wherever they'll let us broadcast - thanks WMBR, WNUR and anyone else we may be forgetting), the book world (hardback and paperback books, as well as magazines of various kinds and even a comic book), television (not ready for prime time yet), and finally, the holy grail of the entertainment industries, motion pictures. This summer, we handled the successful and compelling theatrical distribution of Harmony Korine's successful and compelling Trash Humpers across these United States, booking and promoting the film in fifty-plus (and no minus) markets, all told. This was followed with the release of the Trash Humpers DVD on September 21st. So far, we've sold several thousand copies in North America.

    Their email continues in a refreshingly rock and roll manner, biting the hand that feeds.  I suspect as time goes on I will get more and more of such letters, geared towards one taste or another of mine, pushing the product that you can only get from them.

    Someday they will all know where we are.  Someday we will have revealed our tastes to such an extent that the good stuff finds us.  Someday there will be no escape from the things we might love.  And then, when that day comes, it won't be about people trying to appeal to everyone.  It will be about being true to that special someone.  Instead of expanding our reach, we will know we should just direct our reach.  Direct it, and be true, be specific, and be precise.  It won't be that lie of "build it and they will come."  It will be "build it so you can find them".

    A SMALL ACT – The Little Things Count

    Guest post by filmmaker Jennifer Arnold. How much do the little things count when it comes to staying visible?

    My first documentary feature, A SMALL ACT (www.asmallact.com ), opens at the Quad Cinema in New York today. I started the film three and a half years ago with very few resources. DIY filmmaking is hard. We all know that. You have small budgets. You have small crews.

    So how can you stand out when you have very little? The biggest lesson I learned while making this film is to leverage any small triumph into something bigger. Use every resource and relationship you have, no matter how small they are. Eventually, all those small things can add up.

    Trust me, I started out with nothing, but this film has already been seen by almost a million people and it’s actually changed some of their lives. As this blog points out, there are well over 38 (are you up to 76?) things wrong with indie film today, but that shouldn’t stop any of us. Indie film is daunting, but you can still start small – who knows where you’ll end up.

    I promise I’m not going to make this post into a big ad for the film, but the plotline sort of parallels our distribution journey, so bear with me for a moment. A SMALL ACT follows Chris Mburu who was the top student in his Kenyan village, but without money for school fees he had little hope of a future – until a total stranger, Hilde Back, sponsored his early education through a “sponsor a needy child” campaign. She paid roughly $15 dollars a term to keep Chris in school and unbeknownst to her, this tiny contribution paved the way for Chris to go all the way to Harvard Law School. Today he’s a human rights officer for the United Nations. Chris decides to find his sponsor and thank her by starting his own sponsorship program to educate a new generation of kids in his village. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but the core idea is that it only takes one small act to completely change the course of your life (or your film) and there are programs out there that can give us DIY filmmakers a real chance.

    We started production as a crew of two. I wrote, directed, did sound and produced. Patti Lee shot the film, produced, did on-set assistant editor work and also cooked lunch for the postproduction crew everyday. We had two great investors, Jeffrey Soros (producer) and Jane Huang (executive producer) but we were still editing the film in the garage with no idea how to get the film done, let alone distributed, and then we got our first (of many) lucky breaks.

    We got into IFP’s Spotlight on Docs, which is part of Independent Film Week. I think people probably know what that is, but just in case, it’s a market where filmmakers pitch unfinished projects to distributors, sales agents and other helpful people. It was here that we met Lisa Heller from HBO (another lucky break) and Louise Rosen our foreign sales agent. We wanted the film to be theatrically released, but we also wanted maximum eyes on the project – we got both. I should also mention that the first time we applied for Spotlight on Docs we were rejected, so for anyone out there who hasn’t gotten into this (or any of the other programs out there) – keep trying!

    We got a lot of momentum from Spotlight on Docs; we also started making pre-sales (to HBO and ABC Australia), which allowed us to finish our budget. Originally we hadn’t planned on applying to Sundance that year, but with the little momentum we had, we decided to give it a shot. Not only did we get in, we premiered in documentary competition and once again we were the little guys. There were 16 films in competition, I think half of the other filmmakers had won or been nominated for Academy Awards. They all seemed like massive big shots to me. But we had HBO behind us, something that was leveraged from a short meeting at Spotlight on Docs. We had good word of mouth; yes, I asked all my friends to please spread the word about the film. We ended up with standing ovations. Bill Gates and George Soros both showed up to screenings. Roger Ebert wrote a wonderful piece about our film and WAITING FOR SUPERMAN and – the most exciting thing of all – audience members, though totally unsolicited, started handing over donations to the education fund featured in the film.

    Over the course of Sundance (10 days) $90,000 dollars was donated to the fund. This was our next lucky break. A lot of people started talking about the impact the film made. Sundance Documentary Fund (which had given us a grant) invited me to attend the Skoll World Forum and talk about film and social impact. A trailer for the film was shown at a TED event. HBO helped launch a major outreach campaign. Each good thing led to the next.

    We did a limited theatrical release in April and a HBO broadcast in July. Viewers donated $400,000 dollars to the Hilde Back Education Fund and pledged another million for new students as the fund expands. This got even more people talking, and little by little, we decided to broaden our release into something bigger.

    We’re launching the “What’s Your Small Act Campaign?” which is a mix of community screenings and a slow rollout in traditional theatres. We’re starting with the Quad and if our numbers are good we’ll expand. Once again we’re the little guys. There are a lot of great films out there right now and we’ve got no P&A money and no team of people. But being little has worked so far. We’ll see how it goes this week!

    A SMALL ACT has been selected by the NYTimes as "Critic's Pick".  You can view the trailer here.

    Eddie Burns Learns To Love Doing It DIY

    Michael Tully of HammerToNail has a really great interview with Edward Burns on his path from small to medium to sorta big and then back again.  It's filled with the kind of insights that can only be offered by those that have been there -- and are willing to be truly honest, with both themselves and us.

    I remember when we were at Tribeca, and John Sloss, who I’m sure you know, has this new venture called FilmBuff, who is our distribution partner with this film. And he gave me an argument, but not so much for VOD. Maybe five years ago, I had this movie called Looking For Kitty. And the movie got one tiny, tiny distribution offer from THINKFilm. It was one of those no advance partnerships, and we had made the movie for a quarter of a million dollars. John said, “Look, you’re gonna sell the movie for nothing and they’re gonna own it, just so you can satisfy that part of your ego that wants the film to be released theatrically.” He goes, “If you were to just go straight to DVD, you could make your money back. And maybe make some more money.” At the time—this was maybe ’04 or ’05—my ego wouldn’t allow me to do it. So, we sell the film to THINKFilm, get no money, we’re supposed to have a partnership, and we’ve never seen a red cent from it. Years later, when we’re presented with the same kind of offer for Purple Violets, now iTunes is up and the iTunes movie site is in their infancy. And we thought, “Look at how bands are delivering their music directly to their fans. Maybe there’s a way for us to try and do that with the film.” And we did. I don’t have the numbers exactly right but I think it was like a nine-month exclusive window for iTunes. And we did surprisingly good business there.

    Flash forward three years later to Nice Guy Johnny. Two different things happened. We knew what we could make at iTunes even if we didn’t have the kind of “stars” and well-known faces that we had in Purple Violets, which certainly helped. So we said, “Let’s just think the lowest possible number we can do on iTunes. If we’re even gonna entertain theatrical, someone needs to beat that number.” But we never even got there, because John then said to me, “Remember back to Looking For Kitty. This is the moment. We can sell your film for theatrical distribution, and you’re gonna open up on four screens in New York and LA, like you did with Looking For Kitty, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that if this company has enough money to market the thing, we might make an impression, and you can expand to the next level of a platform release. If we do well there, maybe, maybe you can go on and expand fully.” He said, “Or, you can release your film onto VOD and be in 46 million living rooms, in that moment when you’re doing all of your press.” I heard that, and I was like, maybe if I was a young guy and this was my first film, I don’t know that I would be willing to forego theatrical, because you do fantasize about having your movie play in theaters. I don’t want to say “I’ve been there, done that,” but most times I’ve ended up disappointed with how the films were handled theatrically. As my producing partner says, “There’s nothing special about a specialized film release.” We just thought, we’ll take our film and we’ll do the most aggressive film festival tour we’ve ever done. And that’ll satisfy the need to see it in theaters, sit in the back row with an audience, hear the laughter, and get the thrill of theatrical out of that. But financially, it just made absolutely no sense to try and sell the film to an audience theatrically. And those were all of the things that played into embracing this model.

    THANK YOU EDDIE.  There's a whole lot more of it on HammerToNail.  Check it out.

    PPP: (Picture, Parties, Panels) - a formula for success

    Guest post by Joao Amorim, Emmy Award nominee director of 2012: Time for Change, a feature doc offering an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom and featuring leading experts, scientists and celebrities including: Sting, Ellen Page, David Lynch, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Gilberto Gil, Dean Radin, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Stamets, Shiva Rea, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and many more.  It is currently playing in NYC at Loews Village 7 through Oct. 28th. Moving towards an Open Source culture in film distribution with 2012: Time for Change

    Understanding the changing distribution landscape in 2008 while we were financing this project, Mangusta Productions and I decided to build in some P&A monies into our budget.  When we completed the film in March 2010 we all agreed that the best chance we had to reach a wide audience with this film was to take it straight to our fans and build a movement from the ground up, grassroots style.

    I had built some good relationships with environmental groups during the making of the film and we decided to begin by proposing a partnership with Green Festivals – the largest sustainability event in the U.S. that takes place in 4 cities throughout the year.  We suggested that we would bring several luminaries featured in the film to speak on a panel at their expo in exchange for a booth at the festival where we could sell dvd’s and other merchandise, and promote our screenings which would take place in that city simultaneously.  We began this process in San Francisco in April and  were able to put some amazing post-screening panels together featuring people in the film, as well as others activists based in the area.  The results were phenomenal.  We sold out a 280 seat theater three nights in a row and sold out of all our merchandise.  Finally, we co-hosted a party with a local venue and were able to connect directly with our audience and create new relationships that would help in spreading the word about the film.

    We duplicated this model in two more cities with Greenfest; Chicago and Seattle. In Seattle, we decided to experiment with a more traditional theatrical run.  Partnering with Intention Media, the filmmakers that managed the initial release of  What the Bleep do we Know?!, we booked a full run at the Varsity Landmark Theater in Seattle in conjunction with our Greenfest panel. This release was successful enough to get extended for three weeks at that theater, and also allowed us to get reviews in some of the major papers.  We were able to book a theater in Portland because of our results in Seattle.  After seeing the enthusiastic response in these initial cities, and receiving a lot of requests for screenings around the world, we realized that people were hungry for what the film was offering and decided to plan a more traditional limited theatrical release.

    In order to keep building momentum while we planned our proper theatrical release we scheduled a special screening in NYC specifically to attract press.  We did a “green carpet” event with celebrity luminaries and supporters. As with all of our other screenings we had a panel discussion following the screening, this time featuring Sting, Paul Stamets, Daniel Pinchbeck, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Ganga White and myself.  Continuing with our PPP concept, the Picture with Panel was followed by a great Party where the audience could mingle with the luminaries…

    This event gave us a lot of visibility in the media and ended up landing us a great piece on the well-respected BBC World show “Talking Movies”

    Over the final summer months and early fall, we took orders for special screenings around the world and prepared for our theatrical run in NYC and LA.

    In October we opened theatrically in Los Angeles and NY. We stuck to the panel strategy but amped it up, allowing for multiple panels a day, and for several local community organizations to join in.  We also offered media sponsorships in exchange for exposure on our website and promotional materials.  This helped us to blast the word out to hundreds of thousands of people via email (note: another key component in our strategy since the beginning has been collecting peoples email addresses at each and every screening). Perhaps our greatest ally has been Daniel Pinchbeck’s social network Evolver who have helped promote the film and been our foot soldiers for spreading word of mouth from Day 1.

    Our PPP model is proving to be very effective, having already grossed over 60K in the box office. Our first week in NY and in LA we out grossed every other film in those theaters (Loews Village 7 and Laemmle’s Sunset 5, respectively) and are currently rated 9th in the country for per-screen average as of last weeks box office numbers.

    Although some media channels (NY Times) have been very dismissive of the film, we are getting the exact opposite response from our audience. We at Mangusta have learned a lot from this experience, and hope we can get this film out to more cities. I think we are close to reaching a critical mass and with a few more successful weekends, we could have the opportunity to introduce the film to the collective society on a wider scale.

    After our screenings we have had panelists ranging from people in the film such as Gilberto Gil, Sting, Paul Stamets, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Penny Livingston-Stark, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Ganga White, as well as other supporters from the community who were not involved in the making of the film such as Morgan Spurlock, Collin Beaven (No Impact Man), Damon Dash, Mallika Chopra, and John Perry Barlow.

    Michael Moore recently requested a copy of the film for his theater in Traverse City after hearing about it from people in the community who’d asked for it to be screened there.  After seeing it they booked it and we had a very well-attended screening there followed by a Skype Q&A with myself.

    This is all very much still a work in progress but my tentative conclusion is that it takes more then a good picture to get the people to the theater, you need to create a true event out of the experience. That is when I came up with the PPP model. You always need at least two of the P’s to get a group and all three to get a crowd.

    At this point we want to spread the word of the film around the world and have many ways for people to get involved. For more info on our film please visit us at www.2012timeforchange.com and join the movement! Evolve to Solve.

    João Amorim is Brazilian Director and Producer, focused on documentaries and animated films, with a social and environmental angle. João also helps run the NGO CICLO.ORG and the social media company PostModern Times.  He is currently working on the feature animation film "Gaia and Last Forrest".

    Believe In DIY: Believing in The Taqwcores

    Guest post from filmmaker Eyad Zahra,  discussing his DIY experience with his first feature film “The Taqwacores.” “The Taqwacores” world premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and it will be opening in New York City at the East Village Cinema on October 22nd. To learn more, visit www.punkislam.com. My first feature film, The Taqwacores, opens in New York City tomorrow (Oct 22nd) at the Village East Cinema. It’s been one heck of a grind to get it to this point, with so many people helping along the way, at nearly every stage of the process. This was a true DIY film, made with the help of Cleveland’s punk community, and produced out of the basement of my parents house with the help of my filmschool friends.

    Let me pause a second to give a big shout-out to the key players of my team: Allison Carter (Co-Producer/Line Producer), Michael Muhammad Knight (Co-Producer, Co-Writer), Nahal Ameri (Associate Producer/Production Legal), Joshua Rosenfield (Editor/Post-Supervisor/Trailer Editor), and JP Perry (Director of Photography, Colorist).

    Let our film be a sign of hope to other filmmakers. If our ultra low budget movie about a subculture, of a subculture (punk Muslims) can play in thirty international film festival and land solid distribution deals in the US, France, and UK, that means anything can happen. Don’t get bogged down by the negative stuff out there, this really is an incredible time to be an indie filmmaker.

    I remember back in September of 2007, I was hanging out with my Florida State University film school alumni pals, which included Adele Romasnki and Justin Barber. Over hummus and carrots, we were discussing the kinds of movies we wanted to make, and how we were gonna pull them off. All three of us, eventually went out and made our films, and all three films were able to get distribution deals. Justin produced Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melencholy (IFC), Adele produced David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of The American Sleepover (IFC), and I produced and directed The Taqwacores (Strand Releasing).

    What our films had going for them was the fact that they were all very original, and all were made at a very high quality level. I think we all preferred making our films in this DIY manner, as we were all in control of our visions, and we didn’t have any sort of studio-like executives telling how to do things. In a way, we actually were at a place where it takes some filmmakers years in their careers to arrive at. We were making personal films that had great commercial value, and we had final cut rights.

    What more could a filmmaker want?

    We need to do a better job of educating filmmakers on this DIY style of making films, film schools especially. Every major film school should be teaching how to make these kinds of films. Today, filmmakers can easily be coming out of film schools with features, and not just shorts. The technology has become beyond affordable for curriculums to support that.

    Thankfully Ted’s blog is also an incredible resource for DIY filmmaking. I gotta take a second to thank Ted for sharing his life-long knowledge on the craft, and his willingness to constantly explore fresh, new ideas of the filmmaking frontiers. We need more blogs like Ted’s out there.

    We need to empower, encourage, and excite tomorrows filmmakers. We can’t be stuck in the rut of saying things are not the same as they used to be. I can only see things getting better.

    Eyad gives an in-depth presentation about the do and don’ts of DIY indie filmmaking through a workshop he has created called “DIY NOW”. He has presented “DIY NOW” at USC and most recently at the ABU DHABI FILM FESTIVAL. To learn more about DIY NOW, contact EYAD at info@rumanni.com

    Committing To Hybrid Distribution: "The Taqwacores" Story (Pt. 2 of 2)

    Guest post by filmmaker Eyad Zahra.   His first feature film “The Taqwacores.” -- a DIY production -- world premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and opens in New York City at the East Village Cinema today, October 22nd. To learn more, visit www.punkislam.com.  Check out the 1st part of this post here.

    Make no mistake.  The indie film world is pretty topsy-turvy right now.  As anybody who reads Ted’s blog knows, there are fewer buyers out there, all the while the digital revolution has allowed for movies to be made then ever.  The market is flipped upside down, and who knows when or where it will every land back on its feet.

    As the producer and director of The Taqwacores, my first feature length film, I have had the highest of highs, and lowest of lows in my first filmmaking adventure.  I want to be honest here, and not sugar coat the experience whatsoever.  It has been a wild roller coaster to make this independent feature film, a roller coaster ride that has been going on for nearly 3.5 years (and counting).

    As a first time feature length filmmaker, I had thought the biggest hump was production.  I figured, all we had to do was get through those 3 weeks of shooting, and everything else would be down hill.

    The reality is that it never gets downhill.  It only gets uphill, and it gets steeper and steeper the more you go forward.

    That said, I would do this all over again in a heartbeat. That’s how much I love the story I have chosen to tell, and the life-long friendships I have made because of this production.  To any filmmaker out there, you better make sure you love (not just “like”) the people you are working with, and that your narrative is something you can dedicate years of your life too.

    To learn more about how we made the film, check out the production notes here.

    Today we release the film in New York City at the East Village Cinema.

    At this juncture, we are releasing the film domestically through Strand Releasing (Marcus Hu, Jon Gerrans, and David Bowlds), and these guys have been nothing short of incredible.  They have allowed me to be part of the entire release process, and I deal directly with the heads of the company, and my concerns are always answered by them in an immediate manner.   I have been even given an open invitation to swing by their offices any time.

    What I love about our release strategy is that we are using a hybrid method towards launching this film.  We are doing a standard limited theatrical launch in NYC and LA, while along stressing an intense grassroots campaign effort.  It’s a bit of the old and new wrapped in one, which allows me to be involved as much as I want to be.  I have been involved in every major decision for the film.  I also manage our online media (website, facebook fan page, twitter) personally.

    We originally launched the film at the Sundance Film Festival, which we were incredibly fortunate to get into.  You can read about how that happened here.

    At Sundance is where the seeds of our distribution deal were planted.   Our sales team Visit Films (Ryan Kampe, Aida LiPera), were quite remarkable in helping us setup to sell at Sundance in a matter of weeks.  Visit Films is a global sales representative with a business model designed to help first-time filmmakers maximize their audiences on a global scale.  They are really the only people who do what they do in the United States.  By having only one sales agent to deal with all of our distribution deals, and our global film festival outreach, a huge weight had been lifted off our backs.

    We were quite lucky to find ourselves working with both Visit Films and Strand Releasing, and for us, working with these companies has been an incredible fit.  I know there is now a movement for filmmakers to remove themselves from sales reps and distributers, but I urge caution to all filmmakers on this point.  Make sure the route you choose is best for your film.  Research as many case studies as you can, and always think of what’s best in the long run.

    Eyad gives an in-depth presentation about the do and don’ts of DIY indie filmmaking through a workshop he has created called “DIY NOW”.  He has presented “DIY NOW” at USC and most recently at the ABU DHABI FILM FESTIVAL.  To learn more about DIY NOW, contact EYAD at info@rumanni.com


    Old Is New Again

    I have often felt that you could do a shot for shot remake of Godard's A WOMAN IS A WOMAN and win Sundance with it. It feels as fresh today as it did when it came out -- which is both a testament to the quality of the film and condemnation of our current culture. We haven't exactly moved forward in terms of our art forms and storytelling. One thing that has reinforced my conviction that remakes could be the freshest thing on the planet, is Eddie Burns' series of "homage" trailers he's done around his latest film NICE GUY JOHNNY. If I saw this trailer without the context of what Eddie is up to, I would run to the theater to catch the feature. Even knowing that this is the third in a series of trailers that Eddie has done, it still makes me want to see what he's been up to lately. Clearly he's been inspired, and is having a lot of fun.

    Okay, so this homage is not to the french new wave, but it is to a film that was heavily informed by all that those folks were up to, and filtered it through a big Hollywood lens. Did you name it? Got it after the jump.

    The Next Big Thing? Homage Trailers

    Yesterday, I posted how Edward Burns has found inspiration in the classics, or at least in the classics' trailers.  I get a huge kick from his "remakes"  that he has created around his new film NICE GUY JOHNNY.  "Homages" to the greats are both funny to watch and a great discovery tool.  So if you had a jones for more after yesterday's serving of Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA, why stop there?  Here's Eddie's remake of Godard's CONTEMPT:

    And of course, the original:

    NICE GUY JOHNNY opens everywhere on all platforms October 26th.

    Let's Remake The Greatest Movies Of All Time!

    Okay, let's let the the great movies be the great movies (at least for now), but who says we can't have fun with their various extensions?  Eddie Burns is on a role.  He's always gotten a great deal of inspiration from the greats.  THE BROTHERS McMULLEN had a bit of Woody Allen -- in Irish drag -- as it's patron saint.  He's found new inspiration and energy from an embrace of DIY and social media, and as much as he's looking forward, he's drawing on the past.  To get us all ready for his new film NICE GUY JOHNNY (opening on all platforms Oct. 26), Eddie has looked at  the greatest movies ever made, but hey he's a busy guy, so he doesn't have time to watch the whole feature and has settled on the trailers. Does this trailer remind you of anything you've seen before? It should, because it is L'Avventura.  Eddie won't leave it there either; he's got more to remake.  This sort of inspired homage, playful and accessible, is a great example of the sort of innovative approaches filmmakers embrace when there is no corporate overlord lurching above.  You can picture that soon, we will be able to see the entire Criterion collection's trailers remade by Indie filmmakers having fun as they seek new ways to aid audiences in discovering their work.  And hey and if it brings a few fans back to the classics as a result of recognizing the originals..., that ain't so bad either.

    Here's the trailer for Antonioni's original:

    Hunter Weeks On Three Lessons from Three Films

    Guest post by filmmaker Hunter Weeks. I’ve now produced, directed and distributed three documentary films. It’s been exhausting, time-consuming, super-challenging, but all the while, the most enriching collection of experiences I could ever imagine. I don’t know how Ted’s done what he’s done, but I’m pleased to have met him a year ago at Power to Pixel and to now be a guest on his blog.

    Yesterday, I released my 3rd film on YouTube free for approximately two days (2711 minutes to be exact). 2711 minutes because the focus of this documentary is about the world’s longest mountain bike race - the Tour Divide - which crossed through 2711 miles of the rugged and beautiful Rocky Mountains when I filmed it. I’ll tell you the path that led to this strategy down below.

    With each of my three films, I’ve learned a ton about how to market and distribute independent films (and by that term, I mean truly independent or as I like to say baby indies). I’ve had to learn these things because I’m not part of the elite establishment in film (and with the competition that exists to get there, I’ve found it easier to go solo and build my own audience, thereby increasing my chances of survival and growth within this industry). Looking back on the marketing of each film, I’ve gone away with one key learning from each effort.

    For each of my films, I’ve given ballpark hard costs (these clearly do not account for all the sweat equity invested). And the gross figures are loose estimates on total revenue we’ve brought in before subtracting marketing and media production costs.

    10 MPH – Make stories about your story $65K hard costs (grossed greater than 2x)

    It seems that the media is fascinated with anything that is new. So, when Josh Caldwell and I set out to make a film about Josh’s attempt to ride a Segway some 4000 miles across the USA, we certainly got our fair share of major media attention, including multiple interviews with Liane Hansen on NPR Weekend Edition, a feature story in The New York Times, spots on CNN and FOX News, and at least one hundred other decent spots, not to mention thousands of blog articles thanks to the then power house blogger, kottke.org.

    As luck wouldn’t have it, all this attention came before we had a product ready to sell. It would be a year and half before that happened. But something about this new fangled, risk-taking spirit carried into the way that we created the film, finished it up and got it out the door.

    We didn’t get into any top tier festivals, nor receive recognition from the elite film establishment, so we figured we’d pave our own path. We started creating stories about our product and worked the PR angle hard. What would perk the media’s attention?

    In 2007, we launched the film using a combination of DVD release with RepNet, LLC (a sub distributor that sold us into Netflix and dozens of online retailers) and then launched a 26-city theatrical tour. The news stories from these events created momentum for the rest of our strategy. We knew we had to be talked about. So, we kept experimenting and back then very few people were (now, we’re all at it and that includes the bigger establishment). We did a pick your own price model right after Radio Head did it. I wrote the 10 MPH DIY Manual as an effort to be transparent (thanks to influence from Lance Weiler and Workbook Project). All of this got us press and attention.

    But we saved the best for last. In early 2008, after what we deemed a successful release, we became the first feature-length documentary on YouTube. It’s still up there and the attention we’ve received from this, the speaking opportunities I’ve had and the pride we have for being first is indelible (It didn’t hurt that we closed a TV deal and also had significant bump orders for DVDs from Netflix and elsewhere, as well).

    10 YARDS – Don’t market something you aren’t 100% ingrained with $75K hard costs (grossed less than 1/3x)

    Boy, we blew it with this one. While wrapping up 10 MPH, Josh and I felt the need to get another project going quickly. I still feel this is a fundamentally important for any indie filmmaker hoping to create a career, but if you aren’t careful or too hasty, it can come with consequences. After making 10 MPH, Josh and I were pretty spread thin and had just been making enough money to pay back the debt we’d incurred while making 10 MPH. So…not a lot of positive cash flow going on.

    We figured a documentary about fantasy football, a subculture in America that purportedly included 20,000,000 raving participants, was a surefire way to make a very widely know and successful film. We had to make it quick and more debt seemed like a good way to get things going.

    Making the film was fun, especially considering the fact that we focused on our own fantasy football league. That was likely major mistake number one. While we all are our own greatest subjects, that doesn’t necessarily work for the 19,999,990 other fantasy football players out there. They don’t care about our own league as much as we did. And had we really understood the aggregate of that market, we would have made a trashy film with lots of boobs and some ridiculous highly-sensationalized depiction of the male experience of trash talking and thinking you are actually in control of your own NFL team.

    By the time the movie was ready to market, Josh and I were exhausted and had very little motivation and understanding of how to reach the market that we were supposed to make the movie for. We thought we could trick them and get them (and maybe enlighten them) on what we thought fantasy football was all about; your bros and camaraderie.

    Unfortunately, this misfire led Josh back to the cubicle land to get that consistent revenue stream (a fate I think most independent filmmakers eventually face). And while he’s thrilled with his new direction in life, I can’t help but imagine if he had an opportunity to make films for a similar work/income ratio, I’m sure he’d be doing that and having an incredible impact on society. As for me, I limped forward and lucked out when a third opportunity came along just in time to avoid going down a similar path.

    RIDE THE DIVIDE – The Power of the Niche Market $80K hard costs (grossed more than 2x in 5 months of pre-season)

    Mike Dion was working in corporate America as an executive producer for a major television cable network in Denver and was facing an opportunity for voluntary lay off. He was turning 40 and had dreamed of racing in this little known mountain bike race of very large proportions. He started to tell me about it when he was searching for advice and potentially a team to help him make a film about it. I remember thinking that it was a great story, but feeling like it was super niche. If less than a hundred people at that point had ever finished the race, I couldn’t imagine there was much of a market for it.

    He offered a little cash and I figured it was worth taking a risk with it. As I learned more and became invested in the project, I really got excited for the story that was developing (but up until the last few months have always worried about what it might be like marketing it). I’ve been blown away. After completing the filming and then working with Mike on the edit, I was definitely confident we had something really special and super strong. I was ready to finally break and get into Sundance or SXSW.

    But, like my other efforts, the established film elite didn’t find it worthy of bringing it into a top tier festival. That was truly crushing, especially after I got the rejection from SXSW at the beginning of 2010 (Janet Pierson has since sent a very sincere and unique email explaining the challenge of leaving out so many quality projects; more proof that the market for baby indies like myself is way saturated).

    Fortunately, Vail Film Festival (which also launched 10 MPH in 2006) picked up Ride the Divide and we held our World Premiere in the beautiful winter setting of the Rockies and got a surprise by picking up of Best Adventure Film, beating out a multi-million dollar production, among others.

    This boost gave us the momentum we needed to get on a fast track to launch the film to our core market – mountain bikers. We felt if we built this up enough, the film’s universal message of living life to the fullest would eventually reach much bigger circles. Working with Jon Reiss at the Slamdance Film Festival earlier this year and scanning blogs like this one also helped us focus on how to approach this niche audience. We launched an aggressive program of event-based screenings – both that we produced and that were put on by cycling clubs, enthusiasts and bike shops for a licensed fee. In a matter of a few months, we had fifty screenings booked and to this day they keep rolling in. On Wed 9/29/10, we played in Boise on a theatrical screen for the 99th time. And once again, it wass a sell out.

    The screenings have been wildly successful, as we’ve focused on making them events, sometimes adding musicians from the soundtrack, the filmmakers, the stars, bike exhibits, silent auctions for charities, and more. It’s exciting to see this niche audience embrace the film and show up in large numbers at all our screenings. Out of the shows we produced (approximately ½), we’ve only lost money one time. Our best grossing show was in Boulder, Colorado where we grossed close to $10,000 (helped by a ticket price of $18.00).

    All this excitement for the film has generated massive social conversation online and we’ve done very little conventional marketing and PR. The title continues to have demand on every platform we release on. We are now considering ourselves out of the “pre-season”. It’s prime time and we’re launching every way we can. To mark this occasion, The Documentary Channel premiered the movie on 9/22 and we partnered with LIVESTRONG and held a benefit screening in Austin, TX (LIVESTRONG’s HQ).

    We decided with the success of the pre-season along with our niche marketing approach that we should partner with a major non-profit organization and find ways to benefit the organization with the release of the film. LIVESTRONG was a perfect fit given their underlying principle of living life to the fullest. And as an aside, I have to say it’s been quite a rewarding experience to raise close to $13,000 for LIVESTRONG in just a few weeks.

    And that brings us to our YouTube launch. We’re hoping to do a lot of good for LIVESTRONG, while also increasing awareness for Ride the Divide. To do this, we’re offering everyone a chance to watch the movie free for two days on YouTube. Not only does this get us attention and hopefully raise some money, it helps get us beyond the niche market we’ve been heavily focused on. As a bonus, we experiment in a big way in an area the entire industry (established elites, baby indies, and independent) all have to figure out; and of course we make another story about our story.

    Rise Up And Curate! (Part 1 of 2): CINEFIST AND LIVE EVENTS

    Today's guest post if from filmmaker Zak Forsman.

    If you haven’t heard of CINEFIST yet, let me explain what it is: myself, Kevin Shah, Jamie Cobb, Neha Shah and Erik Reese -- all members of the Sabi Pictures family -- needed a new company to separate the production of our films from the distribution and exhibition of them. CINEFIST was born out of that need. When people ask, I say "it handles all things distribution and exhibition."

    If you were to visit the web site you’d see that in addition to an online store (selling DVDs, soundtracks and posters), there is a section for our Quarterly Los Angeles Screening Series and some tools and services on the horizon like our own VOD portal, a private invitation-only community forum, and a digital cinema census. For the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on the screening series, why we started it and what we’ve learned about live events.

    In September 2009, I was reading this blog, Ted's blog, and an new article entitled “18 Actions Towards A Sustainable Truly Free Film Community”. In that article he listed a number of areas where a member of our community could deepen their involvement through mentoring, collaborating, learning, evolving and more. As I went through the list, I was happy to note that we were doing each of these in one form or another with one exception -- curating. We weren’t involved in supporting other filmmakers’ work or elevating our local community’s awareness of the works we admired.

    Around the same time, Jim Kirst of the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles had invited me to program a regular night at his theater. He probably had something different in mind than what I proposed but he was happy to have us experiment with a new model. So we began with the following goals: To provide a path for an audience to discover independent films, to have filmmakers participate in box office revenue, and to elevate the level of audience participation in a theatrical setting.

    I sought out ways for the audience to be involved in the curation process, in the hope that they would feel invested in the selection of films, giving them cause to return to each subsequent screening. Borrowing from something Lance Weiler pioneered at a FROM HERE TO AWESOME event, we created a system using Poll Everywhere, where the audience could watch two trailers, then use their cell phone to send in a keyword vote via text message, and see the results instantly on the theater’s screen.

    In addition, we wanted to raise the perceived value of a $10 ticket, so we’ve coupled each screening with additional components like live bands and educational presentations. When we screened Tom Quinn’s The New Year Parade [VID 1, VID 2], his lead actor’s band played us out after a rewarding Q&A. At another, artist-entrepreneur Justin Evans did a two hour presentation [VID] on leveraging state and federal tax incentives to lower the risk of investing in microbudget features. This was followed by a screening of his film A Lonely Place For Dying, a Q&A and a live band featuring a member of the cast. Most recently, we invited filmmakers Gregory Bayne and Gary King to discuss their successful Kickstarter campaigns [VID] in a fireside chat before Gary’s newest film What’s Up Lovely:

    We ended that night on the rooftop bar of the Downtown Independent Theater mingling with new fans and forging new friendships. That night in particular we had well over 50% of attendees sign-up for the CINEFIST mailing list.

    Part Two continues tomorrow.

    Zak Forsman
    [Sabi Pictures | Twitter | Facebook]

    DIY Chronicles: THE WAY WE GET BY (Part 5 of 5): Going Local Pays Off

    In the end, The Way We Get By by far exceeded our expectations. It was an unbelievably rewarding journey during one of the most difficult economic times in our country. We learned to never underestimate the support that can come from that small niche audience every film has. The people of Maine knew our story and wanted to help support our success. In every screening we’ve attended, there has been someone in the audience with a Maine connection there to support us. Going local paid off for us nationally—literally. Maine was a critical factor in making The Way We Get By a national success. And an amazing blessing for us as well. Leading up to our national broadcast, a group of vendors in Maine decided to throw us an amazing wedding in Maine----for free. A dream wedding we could never afford. Over 60 wedding vendors from across the state donated their services for our special day.

    Leading up to the wedding, Mainers would stop us and tell us how much they enjoyed the film—how it affected them personally—and how much they looked forward to our next films too.

    On October 16, we got married---a three day event on French’s Point in Stockton Maine. (LINK TO PAGE). The New York Times even covered the event.

    THE WAY WE GET BY taught us personally so much about life and living it—and professionally it taught us about the importance of taking calculated business risks. But more importantly, we learned there is an audience for every film and filmmaker—you just have to find it. And for us—that loyal, dedicated audience—is in Maine.

    Since THE WAY WE GET BY was released, Maine media outlets continue to share updates on the film’s success.  A few weeks ago, when we found out our film received a national Emmy nomination, the Strand Theater in Maine celebrated by honoring us on their marquee.

    Now the question is---can we carry our supporters over to our next project. We hope that not only will they continue to support The Way We Get By, but hopefully help fund and support our future films.

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

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

     

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