How To Get Ready For That FIlm Festival

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

Distribution:

Preparation:

Producers' Rep (aka Sales Rep):

Publicists:

Q&A:

Sales:

Social Media:

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

"Not Dead Yet" Jon Reiss on The Tremendous Rise Of The PMD

I posted my query last week whether we could truly build a class of TrulyFree / Indie marketing & distribution experts. Many people believe this can happen naturally. I think we need a unified industry effort to make this happen at the speed the all the great movies being generated these days need. Some beg to differ...
Yet, DIY/DIWO "guru" Jon Reiss has been witness to many of the efforts from this new breed, dubbed PMDs. Although, he and I agree on the need, we disagree on the term (but why squabble over semantics?). People need their films to connect with audiences. Audiences need to connect with each other, and films are a wonderful way to accomplish this. Can we hope that the market and filmmaker need & desire will solve our needs? Or do we need an intervention to solve this crisis? Jon has a front row seat to all that is happening, and today shares his observations.
I believe the amount of comments that Ted’s post last week (“Can We Create The Future Of Indie Marketing & Distribution—Or Is It Already Dead?”) indicates that this is a vibrant area of independent film and is in no way dead.
It is only 2 years since I coined the term Producer of Marketing and Distribution in my book “Think Outside the Box Office” and I continue to encounter people either working as PMDs such as Joe Jestus who is the PMD for a film production company; Amy Slotnick who functioned as the PMD for “The Business of Being Born” (she received producer credit for her work) and did outreach for “Red State”; Stephen Dypiangco who recently served as the PMD for “How to Live Forever” as well as the PMD for the Oscar winning short “God of Love”; Michele Elizabeth Kafko who is the first IMDB credited PMD for “Revenge of the Electric Car”; and Errol Nayci, who is a PMD working in the Netherlands. And there are more. Adam Chapnick of Indiegogo/Distribber told me that he gets several calls a week from people stating that they are “the PMD for _____ film”. I recently consulted with The Scottish Documentary Institute who via funding from Creative Scotland is hiring a staff PMD to work with all of their films.
I believe that the concept is taking hold because of the need for the concept. With an explosion of films (and media) in the past five years, side by side with the disruption of traditional models of media distribution, content creators of all kinds have been faced with the need to distribute and market their own work. But also they are privileged now to have access to a worldwide audience for a very low cost that was previously closed to them. However, many artists do not have the time, desire and/or skill set required to handle these new responsibilities and to fully take advantage of the opportunity. I don’t think there is an argument that if filmmakers are now responsible for distribution and marketing, then there needs to be new team/crew members to handle this new work – hence the Producer of Marketing and Distribution. There will need to be a number of other people working under or coordinated by the PMD just as there is a Line Producer for production who supervises the various production departments. Really in the best of all worlds the PMD starts with the director, writer, producer at inception and works hand in hand with all aspects of the filmmaking process – and hence the “Producer” of marketing and distribution.
But even though the need might be recognized, it is another issue for filmmakers to allot the resources to fulfill this need. I believe more and more filmmakers are allotting financial resources to distribution and marketing, realizing that no P&A genie exists or that raising P&A after the fact is starting too late. When I was in the UK recently, it was heartening to see that agencies in the UK are allowing film funds not only to be used for distribution and marketing, but also to be used for alternative distribution models that incorporate a PMD. I applaud film funds that support the distribution and marketing of independent film, but I feel that it is important for these funds to free filmmakers from an antiquated system of traditional distribution and to allow them to experiment with new models.
For territories without such funds (or for those without access to these funds), filmmakers need to find a way to fund it themselves. What is important for filmmakers to realize is that connecting to an audience can be as, or even more, expensive than making your film. Musicians who have had to deal with a changing distribution and marketing landscape for longer than filmmakers, have already realized this and recognize that it is a fact of being an artist. Many musicians also have people who help them distribute and market their work. Topspin has a team of staffers who do this work – and they are called “producers”. Musicians pay these producers to plan and execute their distribution and marketing. The sooner we as filmmakers follow the lead of our fellow artists, the better.
The flip side of having resources, is having a pool of talent to do the work required. As I indicated above, a growing talent pool of people skilled as PMDs is emerging. I do feel that organizations such as Sundance, IFP and FIND can do more to push this along as can film schools. I welcome the creation of a PMD Lab, just as there are directing labs, screenwriting labs etc. The IFP Filmmaker Lab, as the first completion, distribution and marketing lab, is a first step in this direction. This lab emphasizes distribution and marketing from day 1 and a number of the teams bring on PMDs. Ted and I also started to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum combining courses from film and business schools. Until this process becomes more uniform, it will take place on individual films. Sheri Candler and I have started training PMDs on specific films.
The shift towards a new paradigm is slow, frustrating and fraught with pitfalls, and will mean a mindset shift for artists which is painful to some, but I personally see more cause for hope than for despair. Assistance from schools, labs and funds would be great and would speed the process along – helping many artists in the process, but in no way are the new concepts “dead”. The purpose of creating the role of the PMD was to formally name this needed position within independent film so there would be a pool of people trained to help facilitate that process. I know the concept will not die because there will always be people who are too driven to create work and will seek out help to connect that work to an audience.
Jon Reiss can be found on Twitter and Facebook. His new book co authored with The Film Collaborative and Sheri Candler “Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul” launches at IFP Week September 19th, 2011. His forthcoming book on the PMD will come out in 2012.

Most Read HopeForFilm Posts Of 2010

I wasn't sure what to call this post. "Top Posts"? "Most Popular"? They are not necessarily the most engaging, as they don't always correspond with the "most commented" -- if that qualifies for engaging that is... But I thought it would make some sense to see what was the most viewed.  I thought I would learn from it.

One of the things that I am proud of regarding this blog is the fact that it has become a community forum.  I learn from the comments people post.  I have made new friends from such comments (and identified a few I hope to avoid!).  It's been really great how much people contribute, and I love that almost half the most popular posts are from folks other than myself.

So, what were HopeForFilm/TrulyFreeFilm's most read post of the past year?  Surprisingly, they are all quite recent.

38 More Ways The Film Industry Is Failing Today - With over 10,000 views this clearly hit a nerve.  Everyone likes lists, but I like to think  so many folks went to this for a dose of preventive medicine.  We are going to conquer this right?

Ten Things To Do Before You Submit A Script - Getting your script read by the right people will always be a challenge.  As will making the best film you are capable of.  We all need advice, and I probably can come up with a few more posts like this.  You certainly want it.  I have listened.  I hope the advice was helpful!

The Hard Truth: Filmnaking Is Not A Job - I aim to be 100% truthful about what I do.  I want to demystify what producers do.  I think the readers of this blog and the community around it that you have built wants us all to say like it is.  I must confess that occasionally I let the struggle of getting movies made and seen, get me down.  Fortunately I get great support from my wife and friends, yet nonetheless sometimes I produce posts like this one!

The Good Machine No Budget Commandments- Oldies can be Goodies.  I always got a lot of demands for this list that I drew up for a NYU Grad screenwriting class.  It's nice to see people still use it!

Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010 Edition - clearly this is going to have to be an annual tradition now.   It looks like the community needed something that pointed more to ideas than just to the work at hand.

Miao Wang On The Secret Of Her Kickstarter Success-  This was the year that crowdfunding really came of age, and everyone wants to know how to do it well.  We will only learn the answers by all of us sharing, and people responded well to the lessons Miao learned.

Filmmakers vs. Aggregators: Distribber Speaks Of A Win,Win! - Adam Chapnick contributed this post on the dawn of Distribber being acquired by IndieGoGo, and outlined the problems facing all filmmakers in placing their work online.

Jon Reiss on Proper Prior Planning Prevent Perplexing Problems - The most commented post ever!  It's surprising that it remains a question how much filmmakers should focus on the distribution and marketing of their films, but it something that people love to talk about it, and Jon is one of the best at it out there.

Thoughts On The New Festival Model -  Film festivals are evolving, and when Tribeca announced their VOD initiative, people took notice.  I wasn't alone in my commenting for sure.  And there is still a lot more to say on the subject. I expect more big moves in 2011.  As a post format, I enjoy this kind of "thinking out loud" pieces, and wonder if this is a vote for more of them...

Children Of Invention: Why They Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers- Mynette & Tze were some of the Brave Thinkers of 2009 and it is precisely due to posts and actions like what they share here.

There were also a couple of old posts from the prior year that were viewed enough times in 2010 to place them in the top ten.

The 21 Brave Thinkers Of Truly Free Film 2009 - The prequel to this year's #4 hit -- all of them worth noting as much for what they did in 2010 as the year before.

38 American Independent Film Problems/Concerns - This was the prequel to this year's most popular post.  I guess I am going to have to dig up another 38 for 2011 to keep the tradition going.

Well, it is a new year.  Let me know what you want to discuss.

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.

PMD Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Jon Reiss

Coping With Symposium/Workshop Brain Fry

Today's guest post is once again courtesy of Jon Reiss.  Back before Jon wrote the book on DIY distro in the digi age (literally), he and I started brainstorming on the need for a marketing & distribution lab for filmmakers, somewhat modeled on the existing screenwriting & directing labs that many organizations run.  We had some real specific goals on this and pitched it to several key entities.  Everyone wanted to do it, and I believe everyone still wants to do it.  Money and time still are limited supply though, and our dreams have been deferred.  Yet, the initial steps have been taken by a couple of organizations, and most recently Film Independent put together: Seize The Power last weekend.  Jon's post below, is a bit of  an extension from that remarkable collection of speakers and participants and information. I heard a number of comments after this weekend’s LAFF Seize the Power Symposium that people where overwhelmed – that their brain’s had been fried by so many ideas and so much information.  To me that’s a sign that we succeeded.  When Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival asked me to help them devise the Symposium (and accompanying Distribution Boot Camp for competition filmmakers) we were in immediate agreement that the event would focus on: 1. Nuts and bolts practical information for filmmakers.  2.  Forward thinking thought leaders indicating what the future might be.  3. Practical case studies of filmmakers who were using the new tools of distribution and marketing.  We wanted to avoid people sitting on a panel rehashing how we got here.   I also get the same brain-fry feedback when I give my weekend workshops – and I’m delighted.  This is what I suggest to people:

1. Focus on the Inspiration and Creative Potential One of the best uber-takeaways is how a symposium or workshop can inspire filmmakers to new creative opportunities.   Allow these ideas to run through you and don’t get caught up with any of the specifics just yet – you can delve into those when the time comes for you to act.

2. Identify on What Resonates With You.  Many ideas and concepts are presented – but no two filmmakers are alike and no two films are alike.  Take a moment to check in with your gut and see what resonates most with you, what makes sense for your current project, what makes sense for your artistic trajectory.

3. One Step at a Time.   Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once.  Do one thing first.  See how it feels – works for you. The world of distribution and marketing can seem overwhelming – they each comprise an entire division at every studio.  You are one person – reread item 1.

4.  Connect and Collaborate.   Further the connection with the people that you meet at these events.  Create study groups and film cooperatives.  Film distribution and marketing does take a village.  I was really excited to hear that some of the attendees of my Vancouver workshop formed a PMD discussion group to process the information and more importantly to work with each other in order to act on it.   I still feel that cooperatives among filmmakers is one of the ways to handle all the new work and potential.

5. Revisit the information.   You can be sure that any of the speakers have written about the ideas that they have presented.  The day after the symposium Henry Jenkins posted the basics of his talk on his blog.   Subscribe to Peter Broderick’s newsletter.  Check out The Film Collaborative’s site. Read Truly Free Film.  Keep up with Film Independent’s ongoing educational program.   Heck – even check out my blog or my book Think Outside the Box Office – I wrote it so that all filmmakers could have a companion to this process.   And of course – if you are inclined, follow all of the above on Twitter – and then engage.

-- Jon Reiss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Jon Reiss

Jon Reiss on Proper Prior Planning Prevent Perplexing Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do this for five reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information:  www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

Or www.jonreiss.com/blog

Looking For Solutions

Sabi Pictures - Zak Forsman and Kevin Shah - have done a three part series (so far) on this year's Park City and filmmakers' efforts to get their work seen and appreciated. They do very nice work. Check out all the episodes on Vimeo.

NEW BREED PARK CITY – Exploring the Solutions, Part 1 from Sabi Pictures on Vimeo.

Free Sundance Hybrid Distribution Consultation w/ Jon Reiss

Today we have a guest post from Jon Reiss announcing his generous offer to do some free consulting for filmmakers with features at Sundance.


As some of you might know, one of the reasons that I wrote Think Outside the Box Office was after those first Filmmaker articles I wrote in Fall ‘08 about my experiences distributing my graffiti doc Bomb It, many filmmakers contacted me to help them with their films. However they were all broke, as most filmmakers are. The book started as a brain dump so that I could share my experiences with others. I figured people could at least afford $20-$25. (After many requests the book is now available as a PDF from my site for $14.95)


But filmmakers still need individual advice; how to apply the new distribution and marketing models and landscape to their specific films. And unfortunately since filmmakers in general are not saving money for distribution and marketing, they are still broke.


So I wanted to do some kind of community consulting “event” at Park City this year. I thought about sitting in a coffee shop for 2 hours a day and having online sign ups for 20 minute sessions (I still might do this if enough people request it).


However, Lance Weiler asked me to do a live consulting session at the Slamdance Filmmaker Summit (Saturday January 23rd) with two filmmaking teams one narrative/one doc. Anyone in Park City can attend and it can also be live streamed (along with the rest of the Summit that I recommend you all check out).


I’ve decided to expand this to 10 more feature filmmakers from either Sundance or Slamdance. I will provide 45 minutes of consultation by phone or Skype before the festival begins and 45 minutes during the festival. This can be used in any way the filmmakers want, from helping to devise a complete DIY scenario, to getting my opinion on any deals being offered.


For selection any interested film should email me by Thursday January 14th by noon at reiss.jon@gmail.com. Send me what you have eg synopsis, trailer, website, plans you have in mind etc.


I will pick the films and announce them by Friday January 15th.


For any other Sundance/Slamdance filmmaker not chosen I will be reducing my consulting rate before and during the festival from $75 an hour to $50 an hour. This rate will apply even for the chosen films if they want to go beyond the first hour and a half.


Hey Sundance Filmmakers! Whachagonnado with your film?

A little more than a year ago, I started this blog partially because I couldn't bare the thought that another group of filmmakers were headed to Park City with false dreams of gold, mistaking the festival for a market, and thus missing out on an important media launch. I am not sure if any filmmaker truly headed into 2009 Sundance though with their "A Plan" to launch out of the fest i some sort of way. Some did adopt DIY or hybrid distribution afterwards, but this year shows a much different picture, with already at least four films declaring the festival as their launch.

With their being very little of an acquisition market in The States these days for specialized film, what are the other filmmakers doing? How can they fully consider their options? Hope has risen. There is an answer.
Filmmaker, TFF blogger, author, and distribution consultant Jon Reiss is very generously offering up ten FREE consultations to filmmakers with films in the Sundance selection. This is a fantastic opportunity to figure out what is best for your film. Maybe you already know, but even then how great is it that you get someone to bounce your ideas off of.
Details will follow tomorrow, but let me see it would be very wise for you to give some thought NOW as to why you need to speak to Jon and how your film could benefit.

Jon Reiss: 20, No 25, Points To Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere

Today we have a guest post. Jon Reiss returns!

20 25 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere: Part 2

by Jon Reiss

Author of Think Outside the Box Office

The first part of this article concerned how to approach festivals if you want to still pursue a more conventional sales oriented strategy within the new landscape of distribution for independent film.

This second part will address what you should consider if you are going to use your premiere festival (or one of your festivals) to launch the actual

distribution and marketing of your film. Linas Phillips, Thomas Woodrow and company are doing this for Bass Ackwards at Sundance in conjunction with New Video. Sundance just announced today that three more films will at least be releasing their VODs day and date with this year’s festival. While these three films are being released by the Sundance Select series on Rainbow, it is actually run by IFC who has been pioneering festival/VOD day and date (this and more about revising filmmaker’s approach to festivals is covered extensively in Chapter 14 of Think Outside the Box Office.)

I am writing this piece for 2 reasons: 1. To aid any filmmaker who is considering launching the release of their film at their premiere festival aka Sundance/Slamdance (even though I lay out a lot of challenges to this strategy, I am still a huge fan of this approach) and 2. To assuage the guilt of many filmmakers who have been kicking themselves for not utilizing this strategy in previous years. I spoke to a number of filmmakers who were mad at themselves because they saw the amount of exposure their festival premiere generated, and they never reclaimed that exposure with the theatrical release of their film. Hence they reasoned, “if only I had released my film day and date with my _______ festival premiere”. They realized, smartly, that it is best to have all guns blazing in your release to penetrate the media landscape and that top festivals are very good at creating audience awareness. Hence why not monetize that audience awareness with the release.

However it does take a fair amount of advance work and planning in order to enact this strategy. So this year you should not kick yourself for not doing it. (Later this year or next year when filmmakers should know better – they should kick themselves!) If you are premiering at Park City and aren’t ready for this strategy now, I have a suggestion at the end of this piece about how to engage this strategy at a later date.

So here are some points to consider for a festival launch of your film’s release.

1. You should create a thought out distribution and marketing strategy that will guide you and your team through this release. Have you analyzed your goals for your film, your potential audience, and your resources? (I know this was the first point to consider for the last post – it is that important)

2. Very important in this strategy is what rights are you releasing and when. What is your sequence of rights release? Is everything day and date with the fest or only VOD or DVD? If all rights are not day and date, when are the other rights being released and how will those rights be promoted?

3. Of particular concern is theatrical. Are you launching what I term a live event/theatrical release at the festival (Section 3 of the book)? Conventional theatrical usually requires at least 3 months. But perhaps you will have alternative theatrical after the festival and then ramp up conventional theatrical. How long is your theatrical window? How does this integrate with your other rights?

4. Consider if your film is the kind of film that will generate a lot of interest and press at Park City? Perhaps do some research into the types of films (particularly those that reviewers and film writers will respond to) and see if that makes sense for your film. Even though Park City shines a great spotlight on films, it does not do so for all films, and many films get lost in the shuffle.

Perhaps there is an alternative time of the year that might shine a brighter light on your film – e.g. if there is a national month or date dealing with your film’s subject.

5. Do you have all of your materials ready to go for a release whether DIY or through a distribution partner? Are all your deliverables ready to go? Have you authored your DVD? Do you have key art? Have you printed your key art?

6. Is there a distribution partner who is interested in your film who will help you launch your film at the festival? Note that all of the films mentioned above are partnering with a larger company to help enable the release. You don’t need one company, perhaps it is a group of companies. Perhaps you have one company for DVDs and another for VOD. Many distributors need a long lead time to prepare a film for release, so chances are that this option will be difficult unless you already have it in play. However you can begin discussions with potential partners at Park City or after for such a release later down the line. More on this later.

7. If you don’t have a distribution partner in any particular rights category, do you have a DIY approach to monetizing said rights category? Do you have replication and a fulfillment company lined up? Do you have digital distribution in place for download to own, download to rent?

8. Do you have a marketing and publicity campaign that you have been developing for a couple of months? Do you have a publicist who has been talking to journalists to lay the ground work for your release?

9. Many filmmakers at Park City will just have been finishing their films to get them ready to screen. Many or most will have been so absorbed with the completion of their films that they will not be ready to release their films at Park City. In that case it is probably wise to hold off on your release for when you are more prepared. Use Park City to lay the groundwork for that later release. Don’t just think about the overall deal, actively court distribution partners who will work with you on a split rights or hybrid scenario. Find out what press is a fan of your film so that you can book live events/theatrical releases in those cities. (Have them hold the review!)

10. If you are at Park City – chances are you will be invited to other fests. Use one of those festivals (or a combination of festivals) to launch your release when you are ready. Weather Girl premiered at Slamdance last year, didn’t sell, regrouped and then launched their theatrical at LA Film Fest 6 months later. Two of the IFC releases premiered last year at Berlin and Cannes.

If you are following both posts of this two-parter, you will see that there are actually 25 total points to consider instead of the promised 20. My apologies. BTW – I am preparing a distribution and marketing tools website which is approaching its beta launch – keep posted.

Also – I will be doing a live consultation session at the Filmmaker Summit at Slamdance this year Saturday January 23rd. Projects are being submitted on line if you want to be considered. Go to: http://slamdance.com/summit/

The 21 Brave Thinkers Of Truly Free Film 2009

Earlier this year, while looking at Atlantic Magazine's list of Brave Thinkers across various industries, I started to wonder who are of this ilk in our sector of so-called Independent Film.

What is it to be "brave"? To me, bravery requires risk, going against the status quo, being willing to do or say what few others have done. Bravery is not a one time act but a consistent practice. Most importantly, bravery is not about self interest; bravery involves the individual acting for the community. It is both the step forward and the hand that is extended.
Frankly though, I think anyone that commits to creating film, particularly independent film, and specifically artist driven truly free film, is truly brave... or at least, insane. It is a hard road out there and growing more difficult by the day. All filmmakers getting their work made, screened and distributed deserve recognition, support, and something more significant than a good pat on the back from the rest of us. As great their work is both creatively and in terms of the infrastructure, it's easy to lose sight of how fragile all this is. Our ability to create and screen innovative and diverse work is consistently under threat.
It is a truly great thing that this list of BRAVE THINKERS is growing rapidly; I first thought it would be ten, then twenty. I expect we will see some new folks joining this list in the months ahead. I know there are those whom I've forgotten that deserve to be included here. This list, although it includes many artists, is about those who are working and striving to carve a new paradigm, to make the future safe for innovative and diverse work, to build an artist-centric content economy. The TFF Brave Thinkers lead equally with their ideas, actions, and generosity. They set examples for all of us and raise the bar. These are indie films true new leaders, and for those that think they are in power, those that are just starting out, or those that want to find a new angle on industry you work in, you should make sure you meet these folks in the coming year, because they are redefining the way we fund, develop, create, define, discover, promote, participate, curate, and appreciate that thing we still call cinema.
  • Franny Armstong - After making THE AGE OF STUPID via crowdsourcing funds, Franny also looked to the audience to help distribute her film, creating IndieScreenings.net and offering it up to other filmmakers (see The Yes Men below). By relying fulling on her audience from finance to distribution, Franny was able to get the film she wanted not just made, but seen, and show the rest of us to stop thinking the old way, and instead of putting faith in the gatekeepers, put your trust in the fans.
  • Steven Beers - "A Decade Of Filmmaker Empowerment Is Coming" Steven has always been on the tip of digital rights question, aiding many, including myself, on what really should be the artist's perspective. Yet it remains exceedingly rare that individuals, let alone attorneys, take a public stand towards artist rights -- as the money is often on the other side.
  • Biracy & David Geertz - Biracy, helmed by Geertz, has the potential to transform film financing and promotion. Utilizing a referral system to reward a film's champions, they might have found a model that could generate new audiences and new revenue.
  • Peter Broderick- Peter was the first person to articulate the hybrid distribution plan. He coined the term I believe. He has been tireless in his pursuit of the new model and generous with his time and vision. His distribution newsletter is a must have for all truly free filmmakers and his oldway/newway chart a true thing of beauty.
  • Tze Chun & Mynette Louie - Last year, the director and producer of Children Of Inventiondecided that they weren't going to wait around for some distributor to sweep them off their feet. They left Sundance with plans to adopt a hybrid plan and started selling their DVD off their website. They have earned more money embracing this new practice than what they could have hoped from an old way deal. As much as I had hoped that others would recognize the days of golden riches were long gone, Tze & Mynette were the only Sundance filmmakers brave enough to adopt this strategy from the start.
  • Arin Crumley - Having raised the bar together with Susan Buice in terms of extending the reach of creative work into symbiotic marketing with Four Eyed Monsters, along with helping in the design of new tech tools for filmmakers (FEM was encouraging fans to "Demand It" long before Paranormal Activity), co-founding From Here To Awesome, Arin launched OpenIndie together with Kieran Masterton this year to help empower filmmakers in the coming months.
  • IndieGoGo & Slava Rubin - There are many web 2.0 sites that build communities, many that promote indie films, many that crowd source funds, but Slava & IndieGoGo are doing it all, with an infectious and boundless enthusiasm, championing work and individuals, giving their all to find a new paradigm, and they might just do it.
  • Jamie King - The experience of giving away his film "Steal This Film" lead Jamie to help build VODO an online mechanism initially built to help artists retrieve VOluntary DOnations for their work, but has since evolved to a service that helps filmakers distrubute free-to-share films through P2P sites & services, building on this with various experimental business models. Such practices aren't for everyone, but they are definitely for some -- VODO has had over 250,000 viewers for each of its first three releases in 2009 -- and the road is being paved by Jamie's efforts.
  • Scott Kirsner - Scott's book Friends, Fans, & Followers covered the work of 15 artists of different disciplines and how each have utilized their audience to gain greater independence and freedom. Through his website CinemaTech, Scott has been covering and questioning the industry as it evolves from a limited supply impulse buy leisure buy economy to an ubiquitous supply artistcentric choice-based infrastructure like nobody else. His "Conversation" forum brought together the tech, entertainment, & social media fields in an unprecedented way.
  • Pericles Lewnes - As a filmmaker with a prize winning but underscreened film (LOOP), Peri recoginized the struggle of indie filmmaking in this day and age. But instead of just complaining about it like most of us, Peri did something about it. He built bridges and alliances and made a makeshift screening circuit in his hometown of Annapolis, MD, founding The Pretentious Film Society. Taking indie film to the bars with a traveling projector and sound system, Peri has started pulling in the crowds and getting money back to the filmmakers. A new exhibition circuit is getting built brick by brick, the web is expanding into a net, from a hub spokes emmenate until we have wheels within wheels within wheels. Peri's certainly not the only one doing it, but he brings an energy and passion we all need.
  • Cory McAbee - It's not enough to be a talented or innovative filmmaker these days. You must use the tools for entrepreneuarial activity that are available and you have to do it with flair. We can all learn from Corey. His films, his music, his live shows, his web stuff -- it all rocks and deserves our following and adoption.
  • Scott Macauley - some producers (like yours truly) write to spread the gospel, happy just to get the word out, not being the most graceful of pen. Scott however has been doing it with verve, invention, wit, and style for so long now, most people take his way wit words as a given. Not only is it a pleasure to read, the FilmmakerMagazineBlog is the center of true indie thought and appreciation. It's up to the minute, devoid of gossip, deep into ideas, and is generally a total blast. And the magazine is no slouch either. And nor are his films. Can we clone the man?
  • Brian Newman - After leaving Tribeca this year, Brian has showed no signs of slowing down, popping up at various conferences like PttP and the Flyaway Film Fest to issue missives & lectures helping to articulate both the problems facing indies these days along with starting to define how we will find our way out. Look to Brian to be doing something smart & exciting in the media world in 2010; somewhere someone smart should find a way to put this man to work shortly, but here's hoping he does it on his own so we can all benefit from his innovative ideas.
  • Nina Paley - In addition to successively adopting an "audience distribution" model for her film Sita Sings The Blues, Nina has been incredibly vocal about her experiences in the world of "free", helping to forge a path & greater understanding for other filmmakers. And now her film is getting traditional distribution at the IFC Center in NYC (and our whole family, including the 9 year old spawn, dug it!)
  • Jon Reiss - After adopting the DIY approach for his film Bomb It, Jon chose to share the lessons he's learned in ever increasing ways, from his blog (and this one), to articles for Filmmaker Mag, to finally to the must-have artist-centric distribution book THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE. Anyone considering creating a truly free film, this book is mandatory reading first. Full disclosure: I penned an intro to Jon's book.
  • Mark Rosenberg - What does it take to create a new institution these days? Evidently quite a bit, because I can only think of one in the film space and that's Rooftop Films. Mark curates and organizes with a great team of folks, who together have brought new audiences new films in new venues. NY is incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Rooftop's work, but here's hoping that Mark's vision spreads to other cities this coming year.
  • Liz Rosenthal - There is no better place to get the skinny on what the future for film, indie film, truly free film, artist-centric film, and any other form of media creation than London's Power To The Pixel. Liz founded it and has catapulted what might once have been fringe truly into the mainstream. Expanding beyond a simple conference into a year round forum for future forward media thought, PttP brainstorms, curates, and leads the way in transmedia creation, curation, & distribution. Full disclosure: I was PttP keynote speaker this year.
  • Lance Weiler - In addition to being a major force in both Transmedia thought, DIY distribution, and informative curatorial,with his role in Power To The Pixel, From Here To Awesome, DIY Days, & Radar web show but his generous "Open Source" attitude is captured by The Workbook Project, perhaps the most indispensable website for the TFFilmmaker. He (along with Scott Kirsner) provides a great overview of the year in tech & entertainment on TWP podcast here. It's going to be in exciting 2010 when we get to see him apply his knowledge to his next project (winner of Rotterdam Cinemart 2009 prize and now a participant in the 2010 Sundance screenwriters' lab). Full disclosure: This is that has signed on to produce Lance's transmedia feature H.I.M.
  • Thomas Woodrow - As a producer, Thomas has embraced the reality of the marketplace and is not letting it stand in his way. There is perhaps no other producer out there who has so fully accepted the call that indie film producing nowadays also means indie film distribution. He's laying out his plan to distribute BASS ACKWARDS immediately after its Sundance premiere through a series of videos online. Full disclosure: I am mentoring Thomas vis the Sundance Creative Producing Lab.
  • TopSpin Media - As their website explains: "Topspin is a technology platform for direct-to-fan maketing, management and distribution." They are also the tech behind Corey McAbee's activities and hopefully a whole lot of other filmmakers in the years behind. Founded by ProTools' creator, Peter Gotcher, and Shamal Raasinghe, TopSpin is a "white label" set up thathas the potential to usher in the Age Of Empowerment for the artist/creator class. Today it is primarily a tool for musicians, but expect it to migrate into filmdom fully pretty damn soon.
  • The Yes Men - The Emma Goldman ("If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution") TFF 2009 Award winners for keeping both politics and film marketing fun, these pranksters hit all the fests, winning awards, and using it to launch their own distribution of THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD. Bravery's always been their middle name, but they are among the first of rising tide of filmmakers willing to take for full responsibility for their film.
Who did I forget? I know this list is very US-centric, but I look forward to learning more of what is going on elsewhere in the days to come. Who will be our Brave Thinkers for next year (if I can muster the energy to do this for another year, that is)? What can you learn from these folks? May I humbly suggest that at the very least, you do whatever you can to find, follow, and converse with these folks in 2010. The more we learn from them, the better off this film industry will be, and, hey: it may turn out to be a good new year after all.

20 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere (Part 1)

20 Points to Consider in Approaching Your Festival Premiere Part 1

by Jon Reiss

Author of Think Outside the Box Office

One of the biggest discussions that came out of @Jon_Reiss on twitter a couple of weeks was about filmmaker preparation to launch a film at a film festival. I talk about this in the Film Festival chapter of Think Outside the Box Office I gave out on IndieWire last week. This concept of initiating the release of a film at the film’s festival premiere was spawned by my talks with filmmakers who had had big splashes at premiere festivals, but were never able to generate the same level of promotion or interest eight months later when their film was finally released. Further, there are a couple of companies pursuing this course of action as a strategy – IFC Festival Direct and Snag Films have launched releases of films at film festivals. In fact, specialty divisions have recognized the buzz generating power of festivals and have been using them for many years to launch films.

Premiering at Sundance and Slamdance provides a film with one of the biggest world stages to launch a film. A savvy filmmaker might consider using the festival to launch a national release of their film. Even though I am a fan of this idea (especially for the films that have been developing their marketing and distribution plans for many months) I want to provide a bit of caution to filmmakers who might consider this path without being prepared.

I do not recommend attempting to initiate the actual release of your film if you are just scrambling to get it finished and have not prepared for distribution or marketing.

One alternative if you are not ready at Park City to launch a full release, is to do so at your next big festival 4-6 months down the line. This approach was used by Weather Girl to good effect last year.

I am going to break up this discussion into 2 different posts. The first is what I feel that every filmmaker should consider before going to their premiere festival especially if if they are not ready to launch the full release of their film. (I will refer to Park City below – but it is interchangeable with any premiere festival)

1. You need to develop a distribution and marketing strategy for your film. This does not mean “sell my film for $ 5 million to Fox Searchlight”. That is not a strategy. Your strategy should takes into consideration Your Film, Your Needs, Your Resources, Your Audience.

2. In evaluating your film: how likely is it that you will garner an all rights deal at Park City? (there were approximately four of these out of Toronto).

3. Have you created an alternate plan of action for your film in case a magical overall deal does not happen for your film? You should have a sense of what your alternatives might be before arriving at Park City so you know how to evaluate offers.

4. Very important: How will you use Park City to help enact that strategy? Perhaps the best opportunity at Park City is to lay the groundwork for a split rights arrangement. You should have a sense of what those pieces are and how they might fit together before you get to Park City.

5. What team will you assemble for Park City? The old school approach is a sales rep/lawyer and publicist. Concerning sales reps, Peter Broderick recommends (and I agree) that you should create your strategy before you engage a sales rep so you have a basis with which to evaluate what they are telling you (and so that you can use this mind set to evaluate who will be the best sales rep for your specific film). In fact in the new split rights world, strategists/consultants can be a big help. I will publish a list of some consultants who I have either worked with or know on my blog in the coming days – and I’ll announce the list on @Jon_Reiss.

6. Concerning a publicist – some publicists have also started to move into the distribution strategy realm – such as 42 West. Have you discussed with your publicist the desire to hold your press for release? Few publications will give you more than one review. As publicist Kathleen McInnis recs: You have to balance buzz building with having material to release upon release. Fest roundup coverage is great. But publicists can be expensive which brings up another issue:

7. How much money do you want to spend on “opening” your film at your festival. Sure you want hype – but I would strongly recommend keeping as much of your resources as possible for the proper release of your film. With the sales climate such as it is – does it make sense to spend $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 on Park City if you don’t even have that much reserved for the release of your film. Resources are limited – use them wisely. Resources also include the time you can request of your cast and of yourself and your team as well.

8. What do you want from your deals? How might you fit various offers into various split rights scenarios? Is your rep prepared to work with you on setting up split rights scenarios if there is no overall deal. Are you prepared to walk away from low ball offers. How do you choose various distribution partner(s) for monetizing different rights?

9. Are you prepared to engage the audience for your film that the festival will generate so that you can retain them in your fan base? This includes the following:

10. Do you have a website that invites engagement? Do you offer something to viewers to collect their email list. Check out onetoomanymornings.com (who sent me their website – as they were probably spamming it around – I recommend this – if you send me your site and I like it – I’ll tweat it). One Too Many Mornings offer a mix “tape” for your email address (but it is well below the “fold”. I recommend that they and you give people all a number of options of connecting with you “above the fold” eg in the top of the section of a website. This includes email list sign up in exchange for some kind of digital swag. Facebook, Twitter and Rss links. (the latter presumes you have a blog – which you should) Not everyone will want to give you an email address, some people prefer Facebook (tip from Cynthia Swartz of 42 West), others Twitter. Onetoomanymornings already has a robust Facebook fan page of over 1200.

11. Collect email addresses at every screening. Pass around several pads and pens and announce before the screening that you want people to sign up. Have pads ready outside of the screening for people who don’t want to wait for the pad in the theater. Keep a folder for each festival so you know where the email addresses came from originally. You want Name, Email Address, Zip, Country. (Another tip pounded into my head by Broderick)

12. Do you have a trailer? Many films at Park City last year did not have trailers in advance of the festival that could be viewed on line. The sooner you have one the better. But it should be good. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Do you have more than a trailer? Might you video blog from the festival or partner with your cast? Something unique that shows your imagination.

13. Key Art is important. A central compelling image speaks volumes for your film. See if you can get a someone with marketing experience to work on your “copy” eg the text of the poster. Get a good graphic designer to do the art. You can crowdsource this through crowdspring.com On-line postcards are very cheap these days but you should balance price vs shipping cost. Business cards are also cheap, making new ones with some graphical branding of your film is a good idea. Have all of the ways people can connect with you and your film on your card: email address, facebook page for film, Twitter, Blog.

14. Especially if you are doing your publicity DIY, or making a deal with a publicist so that you have to do more of the work: Consider putting your press kit, photos, compressed trailer etc in a drop.io account so that you don’t have to constantly attach those items to your emails. Set up an auto signature with the drop io link and you will be able to handle those multitudes of press requests with ease.

15. Are you going to sell DVDs? It doesn’t take much to author a festival edition and replicate 1000 for $1000. (You’ll need at least 200-300 for press and other festival submissions anyway). Say you are in 5 biggish festivals (which by virtue of being in Park City most likely you will be in at least that many). Say you sell 100 at each festival – a conservative amount – live sales are some of your best sales (especially if you make it a collector’s edition). That’s 500 dvds at $20. That’s $10,000 which should just cover your Park City publicist. Peter Broderick has been advocating this for years. We held back the sales of the DVD for Bomb It at our premiere at Tribeca and yet it was still available as a bootleg on Canal St. one week after the festival. If you have a film that might be very popular on pirate sites – you should think through selling your DVD and what your strategy to deal with piracy is going to be. I don’t feel that any DVD company worth their salt is going to worry about this level of sales from you (if they are worried – how many are they going to sell on their own for you.)

So that’s Part One.

I would love to hear what you think at www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss

All of the above points are covered more extensively in my book Think Oustide the Box Office. Come visit the brand new site at: www.thinkoutsidetheboxoffice.com

Jon Reiss on The New Way To Think Of Theatrical

I wasn't at DIY Days. If I had been, perhaps I could have saved some time that I just spent brainstorming and writing it all down. Dang.

Jon puts a lot of good stuff out there. With most of the new crop of Sundance films having gotten their golden tickets this week, their makers would do well to listen up to the words that Mr. Reiss speaks. Is that you?
And if you look at the list of To Dos that I served up on that last post, you would do wise to heed his advice and fire your DP and hire a Producer of Distribution & Marketing. Open your ears:

And here's a nice round up of Jon's talk from Sheri Candler.

Jon Reiss’ new book Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era


Although Jon's book is not set to be released until November 2009 if you happen to find that charming man around IFP's Independent FIlm Week in NYC -- and you have some money in your hand -- you might just be able to get your paws on an advanced copy!

Most of the following is taken from the press release, but, it is still all true (not like some other stuff):
"If you’re only going to read one book about filmmaking in the new millennium, this should be it." Kathleen McInnis Festival Programmer, Strategist and Publicist
Covering everything from theatrical, non-theatrical, semi-theatrical, alternative theatrical, grassroots/community, publicity, live events, to DVD, fulfillment, affiliates, print ads, educational, t-shirts, boxed sets, web marketing, sponsorships, to VOD, download to own, download to rent, streaming, to Web 2.0, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Hulu, Babelgum, Amazon, blogging, tagging, webisodes, to crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, transmedia, release winows, audience identification and targeting, – the book is your guide on how to use all the new tools available to you, and I know, because I wrote the forward.

If you don't know Jon, check out B-side's interview with him, but whatever kind of content you create – feature film, short, webisodes, transmedia, You Tube – this book will be invaluable.
The independent film community is a buzz with the collapse of the traditional independent film distribution model. No longer can filmmakers expect their films to be acquired and released nationally. But just as the digital revolution created a democratization of the means of production, a new hybrid model of distribution has created a way for independent filmmakers to take control of the means of distribution. This hybrid approach is not just DIY or Web based it combines the best techniques from each distribution arena, old and new.
Pioneering filmmaker and author Jon Reiss spoke with countless filmmakers, distributors, publicists, web programmers, festival programmers and marketing experts to create this ultimate guide to film distribution and marketing for the digital era.
My blurb and I mean it with 100% sincerity:
Open this book! Eat up every morsel Reiss provides. Internalize it and make it your second skin. It is not a question of “just doing it”: we need to educate each other, tend to one another’s children, and inoculate our villages against the viruses of despair and isolation. Reiss translates the formula for world peace to apply to Truly Indie Film Distribution and beyond!


200 copies of the preview edition will be available only at personal book signings/appearances in September and October:
Jon Reiss will be appearing:
Sept 22nd Independent Film Week, IFP Conference New York
Book Signing 7pm to 8pm in the lobby outside Haft Auditorium immediately following the panel – STATE OF DISTRIBUTION – THE CURRENT & FUTURE INDIE MODEL 5:30pm-7:00pm at Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), Haft Auditorium 27th and 7th Avenue
September 24th DV Expo Pasadena Convention Center
Book Signing 12pm - 1pm Jon will be teaching two seminars between my filmmaker career development seminars: Top 10 Tips: Career Development in 2 sessions 10:30am – 12 noon and 1:30pm to 3pm
October 2nd: Vancouver International Film Festival Forum
Book Signing 2:15 - 2:45 pm and 5-6pm in the Lobby of the Vancouver International Film Centre, 1181 Seymour Street That day, Jon will be on the panel: 21st Century Doc Distribution Strategies 1:00 - 2:15pm.
October 11th: FIND Filmmaker Forum Jon will be on the Distribution Case Studies panel 9am - 10:30 am at the Director's Guild of America, Los Angeles
For more information and to receive a $5 off coupon and be able to buy the book on day one of wide release in November go to:www.jonreiss.com/blog

Cheat Sheet #4:Jon Reiss' Web Marketing List

Today's post is again brought to you courtesy of Jon Dieringer, and is part of continuing series of cheat sheets from prior TFF posts.


Jon Reiss’ web marketing list:
1. Go to Godaddy.com and purchase a domain name. Get one that ends with .com. Get your movie title. If it is unavailable add “movie” or “themovie” or “film” to the end. (You don’t need to purchase any other services during check-out.)
2. Sign up for WordPress.com. Make your blog the title of your movie/ domain. Start posting press releases and other articles, such as reviews.
3. Sign up for Youtube.com. Make your username title of your movie/ domain. Post your trailer, or you can do a video “pitch”.
4. Sign-up for an account on Facebook.com.
5. Sign-up for Flickr. Get your username title of your movie/ domain.
6. Sign up for an account at del.icio.us. Bookmark your domain, facebook page, blog page and you tube page.
7. Sign up for a google account, to use their alerts, place connect with people who talk about you.
8. Sign up for Box Office Widget. Place this on your website and on your blog. Use it as your signature on forums.
8. Sign up for Spottt. Place this banner code on your myspace page, blog, and the thank you page from Box Office Widget.
10. Go to Yahoo! Groups and find all the groups that may have interest to your film and join. Participate in the group, rather than just spam the group.

Cheat Sheet #3: Profit From Festival Play

Today's post is again brought to you courtesy of Jon Dieringer, and is part of continuing series of cheat sheets from prior TFF posts.

Other ways to profit from festival play (from Jon Reiss)
(http://trulyfreefilm.blogspot.com/2008/11/film-festival-plan-having-film.html)
1. Some festivals will pay you
2. Maybe they can do a PAL dub for you
3. Foreign fests could supply you with translation that you can use later on DVD
4. Connection to local theaters

-With five united filmmakers you have a booking block, a touring film festival of your own making. (http://trulyfreefilm.blogspot.com/2008/10/film-festival-plan-beyond-bonding.html)

-What about using a festival to launch direct DVD sales/promote self-distributed film rather than looking for distribution (see links to other “post-festival” posts: http://trulyfreefilm.blogspot.com/2008/10/post-fest-era.html

(will festivals let you sell there? Check in advance)

-Festival Secrets book, download full pdf: http://www.filmfestivalsecrets.com/book/issuu/

52 Reasons Why American Indie Film Will Flourish

Is there something in our wiring that makes us respond more to problems than to the positive aspects about our situation?  I started the year out with a list over 52 Reasons To Be Hopeful.  Last week I posted a shorter list, a virtual brain dump, on the problems I felt we all faced on the American Indie side of the film industry.  

On one hand I was very inspired by all the comments that flowed to this blog as a result of the list.  But I couldn't help but wonder why the earlier post far less traffic.  Was it because I broke it up as a series?  If I splatter it in full across this screen will it get more traction?  Or was the recent post's increased traffic just because we get more excited by the bad news?
So sorry about the recycling of posts, but hey Monday was a holiday and 52 things was a pretty long list.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: WHY INDIE FILM CULTURE WILL SURVIVE

1.It is so easy to blog that everyone could have their own page in a matter of minutes. I thought about having a blog for several months before I made the leap and then I was up and on it a matter of minutes.

2. The more people are exposed to quality films (and culture in general) the more their tastes gravitate towards quality films. I would love to see an actual study on this, but I was told it by one of the Netflix honchos in that their members gravitate to the "auteurs" the longer they've been a member.

3. Committed Leaders To A Open Source Film Culture have emerged. I have been incredibly inspired by all the work that those I have labeled as Truly Free Film Heroes have done. Even more so I am moved by their incredible generosity in their sharing of all they have learned.

4. The Tools To Take Personal Control are available, numerous, and fun. There are more than I can list (but the TFF Tools List is a pretty good start).

5. Giving it away for free is good business. Anderson's essay is required reading. Look at Google who gives away 90% (est.) of what they create (the search engine) and drives a good advertising business in the process. For years The Greatful Dead were one of the top grossing concert acts, driven in a good part by their willingness to allow their fans to "bootleg" their concerts and "distribute" them themselves. The question is what do you give away and what do you use to produce revenue.

6. Film Festivals are evolving. Local film fests have already identified the core film lovers in every region. For decades these festivals have been content to live in a single period each year, overloading their audiences with too many choices come festival time. Now festivals are giving theatrical bookings as awards (help us build a list of these). Some are moving to a seasonal subscription model. Some are even paying significant screening fees. And then there are the cash awards (those are still around somewhere, aren't they?).

7. Internet Streaming is being used by filmmakers to build A WORLD of Word Of Mouth. Slamdance has announced that they will stream films right after the festival. For years we have know that word of mouth is the primary way that a specialized film succeeds. But it is costly, but now that has changed.

8. 2008 is the strongest year for under $1M EVER. I have seen almost 20 films this year by filmmakers who clearly will develop a great body of work. Only a few were at Sundance. They keep on coming. They may still be hard to find, but the films are out there and at a quality and quantity as never before. Check out Hammer To Nail's list of top 13 films of the year and get watching.

9. Plenty of DVD manufacture & Fullfillment places (see sidebar).

10. Plenty of places to place your content online for eyeballs to find (anyone want to generate a comprehensive list to share?).

11. Things like Netflix and Blockbuster.com make it possible for anyone with a mailing address to see any movie he or she wants. A lot of viewers who haven't had access to theaters or even video stores that stock smaller films can now get them if they know about them. (thanks Semi!)

12. The Major Media Corporations retreat from the “Indie” film business. This will open up distribution possibilities for entities not required to produce high profit margins or only handle films that have huge “crossover” potential and necessitate large marketing budgets.

13. A new turn-key apparatus is evolving for filmmakers who want to “Do it with others” in that they can hire bookers, publicists, marketers – all schooled in the DIY manner of working. Instead of hoping for a Prince Charming to arrive and distribute their film, TFFilmakers are seeking out the best and the brightest collaborators to bring their film to the audiences.

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

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

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

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

18.A feature film is no longer defined as a singular linear narrative told in under two hours. Filmmakers are recognizing the need to extend the filmic world beyond the traditional confines. Whether this is in Judd Apatow’s YouTube shorts for KNOCKED UP or in Wes Anderson’s prologue short for THE DARJEELING EXPRESS, the beginning of new models have emerged helping filmmakers continue the conversation forward with their audiences.

19.New models for production are being utilized. The most widely noted in this regard is “crowdsourced” work. Massify has recently brought together the horror film Perkins 14. This year brought us Matt Hanson’s and A Swarm Of Angels open sourced / free culture start-up THE UNFOLD; the trailer is mysterious and I am looking forward to the feature. These massive collaborative works are the ultimate union between audience and creator.

20. Grassroots has come to distribution. The Living Room Theater model advanced by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Theaters empowers audience members and filmmakers alike bringing them together and invested in each others success. Filmmakers give the audience more power and control, and audiences recognize that they have to fight to preserve the culture they want. 

21. The independent art house theaters are organizing. Sundance is hosting the first Art House Convergence this year prior to the festival, helping to build the knowledge base of these theaters and enhance their collaboration. This platform will be key to preserving the theaterical experience for films outside the domain of the major media corporations.

22. Financiers are collaborating with each other. Groups like Impact Partners that provide regular deal flow, vetting, and producerial oversight for investors with common interests lowers the threshold number for investors interested in entering the film business. IndieVest is another model based on subscription, deal flow, and perqs. The high amount of capital needed to enter the film business has limited its participants. The film business has its own vernacular, and mysterious business practices. It is an industry of relationships. Collaborative ventures like this help to solve many of these threshold issues.

23. The US Government, at the city, state, and federal levels, recognize the positive economic impact of film production and has created a highly competitive market for tax subsidies and credits. The vast amount of experimentation in this field has allowed for it to grow forever more efficient. Although these benefits are designed to attract the highest amount of spend, and are thus most beneficial to Hollywood style models, the steady employment these credits have helped to deliver, develop a crew and talent base more able to also take risks on projects of more limited means. The “soft” money they provide a project is often key to getting the green light.

24. A greater acceptance of a variety of windows in terms of release platforms is emerging. Filmmakers were once the greatest roadblock to a pre-theatrical release DVD. Filmmakers are experimenting with everything from free streaming to the filmic equivalent to a roadshow tour. It is only through such endeavors that we will find a new model that works.

25. Industry leaders have said publicly that they will share the meta-data that a VOD release generates with the filmmakers. Although license fees have dropped considerably, filmmakers have new options on what to ask for in return. I spoke on a panel with two notable industry leaders who said they would put it in their contracts that filmmakers can receive and share the data the VOD screenings of their films generate. This information will become important the more filmmakers seek to maintain direct communication with their audiences.

26, Collaboration among filmmakers is recognized as being a necessity among filmmakers. Todd Sklar’s tour of films with their filmmakers brought vital work and their creators to places that generally went lacking. The teamwork approach benefited everyone. One can easily imagine that this model, like the collaborative finance model, will extend to production too, and not just in the aforementioned crowdsourced way, but in ways that will make individual personal films stronger too.

27. The Independent community has demonstrated that it is quick to action and embraces both tolerance and strength. Over five years ago, the indie film community joined forces to defeat the Hollywood Studios’ and the MPAA’s Screener Ban, but despite a lot of activist attitude they have not joined forces in a significant way.

The indie film community was very vocal about their opposition to California’s Proposition 8 referendum, but never in a unified way. Similarly, many major figures within the community defended the LA Indep. Film Festival’s head’s, Rich Radon, right of political expression when it was revealed he had donated funds in support of Prop 8, refusing to engage in blacklist tactics. In the end, the obvious conflict of an organization that defines itself by tolerance, being then led by someone supportive of a discriminatory act, albeit on what is called religious grounds, seemingly led that individual to resign. There was no true organized effort by the film community itself either to defeat Prop 8 or to remove Radon, but one suspects the outcome of each will bring more unified action in the months to come.

The community’s embrace of a new issue will be a test of their abilities to act in a unified way.

28. The embrace of the “1000 True Fans” model: filmmakers are recognizing that they need to engage in regular communication -- via a regular output of varied material – with their core audience. Not only is necessary because it speaks of a model of how filmmakers can earn a living , but it also offers a manner of working that will allow filmmakers, and artists in general, greater variation in the type and form of work they do. The dialogue with the audience will also keep filmmakers more attuned to what their audience responds to and why, all the while, strengthening the bonds between artists and their community.

29. Rational consolidation and expansion is taking place in the blogosphere. Entities need to have funding if they are going to truly cover this space (man, what I could do with a few bucks...).  Indiewire, the premiere indie film news site, was acquired Snag Films, the leading documentary film streaming aggregator. GreenCine, one of the leading sites for art film appreciation, had its lead blogger go over to IFC – greatly strengthening that site. Movie City News got another great editor. As these core film appreciation sites improve, we all benefit. Audiences need to know where to go to find the type of films they love and this bit of consolidation could help.

30. Some of the major specialized distributors recognize the need to build film education and appreciation into their job description. Focus Features “Film In Focus” website, in partnership with Faber & Faber, demonstrates this impulse beautifully. Independent, Specialized, Art, Foreign, and Truly Free Film all need an audience who acts out of choice not impulse. They need to remain review driven despite the loss of so many critics nationwide. They need to be able to recognize what qualities make a film better or unique. They need to recognize what makes a film art. They need reading that helps their love of cinema grow.

31. The need for digital preservation of indie films and their history is slowly being recognized. Granted this is a little hard to document, but I have had a handful of conversations this year with organizations contemplating both the preservation of specific films and of filmmakers’ archives. In this digital age, preservation is all the more difficult due to the lack of physical copies. Additionally the technology changes, and what was stored on form of drive is not compatible with another. Blogs are born daily and evolve so quickly, we are left wondering how to chart their progress.

32. Communities are renovating their historic town center theaters and turning them into community centers, with capabilities of film and/or digital projection. The great old movie theaters are the shrines to the first century of cinema, and a truly wonderful way to see a film.. Organizations like the League Of Historic American Theaters and the Theatre Historical Society Of America which are dedicated to the restoration and operation of these palaces. Often situated on the old main streets of many American cities, the restoration can often be the cornerstone for the revitalization of the old downtowns. But apart from being great for the local municipalities, for filmmakers these palaces are the antithesis of small screen viewing experience that most seem to think has become the defining indie experience – they are places of worship.

33. Theater owners and managers recognize the need to make the community vested in their success. I have heard of theaters giving back Monday nights to different community groups to program and in doing so building loyal audiences. Michael Moore’s Traverse City theater has 25 cent admissions for childrens’ matinees and Wednesday classics – investing in the youth and education of their community. New and best practices are developing and the theater community is sharing it’s knowledge.

34. Theater chains recognize the need to give the audience something more than they can get at home and have started to develop upscale theaters that cater to a more sophisticated taste. Village Roadshow’s Gold Class theaters offer top projection, sound, and seating, along with valet parking, wait staff and a good wine list. It’s important to make theater going a unique experience that can not be topped and it’s exciting to see what state of the art will be come.

35. Film schools are waking up to the need to educate students on how to survive – it is not enough to know how to direct or produce, graduates must have real world skills too. Jon Reiss is developing a specific curriculum on this, and I have heard from others who are looking to do the same.

36. Filmmakers are recognizing that film festivals are more of a launch platform than a marketplace. More films have trailers available prior to Sundance than ever before. Some wise filmmakers even come to their festival premieres armed with DVDs to sell. Will this be happening at Sundance? Are there any filmmakers reading this who plan to? Let us know.

37. Cultural institutions are stepping into to fill the void left by mainstream media’s abandonment of the art film space. MOMA in NYC now schedules films for regular runs. If we want to see art, why not go to a museum? We need shrines to see beautiful projection and I hope there are many other institutions picking us MOMA’s lead. It could become an actual circuit.

38. The fight to restore integrity of the producer credit continues. The PGA continues to lead the charge here and looks poised to step it up. The recognition of the need to a specific financier credit is becoming part of the conversation – namely that the Executive Producer credit should not be used for line producers but preserved for those who help finance. There is so little dignity left in the role of producer, one hopes that the rest of the industry recognizes how they are all vested in restoring integrity to the credit. Granted there are times when more than three individuals truly are producers on a project, but twelve? Wouldn’t it be a great world if even the distributors committed to stopping over-inflated credits? If an organization like the PGA actually went after the individuals and companies who push for such false credits? Real producers are always in a vulnerable position when looking for cast and financing and a soft position will not get this done. Why does a distributor or sales agent seek such credits anyway?

39. Producers are being recognized for doing more than just sourcing or providing the financing and administrative structure to a production. A good producer makes a better film and not just by making it run smoothly. Sundance – who has been recognizing producers’ contributions for years -- just held its first Creative Producing Initiative. There still remains a lack of clarity in the public’s mind as to what a producer does, but when leading organizations like Sundance take the effort not only to clarify that producing is a creative act, but also help producers to build their creative skills, change will come. This clarity and the restoration of the integrity of the producer credit won’t just restore producers own recognition of self-worth, but will lead to stronger films.

40. Senior film organizations, like the IFP, Film Independent, and IFTVA/AFM are working together, along with advocacy organizations like Public Knowledge to try to maintain key policies crucial to indie’s survival like Net Neutrality and Media Consolidation. If everyone with common interests learned to work together…. Wow.

41. There appears to be real growth beyond navel gazing in terms of subject matter among the new filmmakers. Filmmakers aren’t just interested in whether the boy gets the girl or the boy gets the boy. We seem to be moving beyond strict interpersonal relations in terms of content and looking at a much bigger picture. Chris Smith’s THE POOL, Sean Baker’s PRINCE OF BROADWAY and TAKEOUT, Lance Hammer’s BALAST, and Lee Isaac Chung’s MUNYURANGABO to name a few, point to a much more exciting universe of content to come.

42. New technology makes it all a whole lot better. Whether it is new digital cameras or formats, digital projection, or editing systems, it just keeps getting better, faster, lighter, cheaper. Reduced footprints, sharper images, and quicker turnaround: who amongs us does not believe all these things lead to better films?

43. Both the creative and business sides of the film industry are embracing the streaming of features. Both Hulu and Snag are looked at as success stories, although the short form and clips remain most popular with audiences. The key to specialized films’ success has always been creating word of mouth. Regional screenings and publicity has always been an expensive undertaking, prohibiting niche film from truly undertaking such a campaign. Streaming makes it all possible. A limited streaming campaign could do wonders for building an audience’s desire to see a particular film. When directors like Michael Moore and Wayne Wang climb aboard the streaming bandwagon (as both did this year), one can only hope legions will follow.

44. Green awareness: slowly the entire industry is waking up to the fact that there is no away to throw to. Last year less than half of the distributors distributed their award screeners in cardboard packaging. This year all the major ones did. Granted you still have to police sets to make sure bottles are being recycled, and offices to make sure that paper is – but it is much improved from before. I still haven’t been asked to put a carbon offset into a budget, but I am confident that day will come. Green carpets became the vogue over red this year. At the very least, the industry seems to be embarrassed by their waste. Maybe the days of excessive consumption are numbered…

45. The career/financial sustainability of producers is at least now recognized as an issue somewhere in the world. In the U.S. we have watched virtually every studio cut virtually every producer-based overhead deal. On one hand it seems that the US film industry has forgotten what a producer does, but across the ocean, there is a ray of hope. It has been enacted as law that the UK tax credit must be counted as the producer’s equity, thus increasing the back end a producer would have on any given project. Once local municipalities in the US start providing prolific producers with office space then we will know we are on the right foot! The longevity of producers is the cornerstone of fostering a film community’s growth.

46. Filmmakers are recognizing the benefits of limiting the time spent between films. When the American Indie scene kicked into gear in the late 80’s, the directors were quite prolific. Up until recently, the new generations of filmmakers seemed to take five more years in between projects. The directors’ pursuit of larger budgets necessitated this to some degree, but also limited their ability to build a loyal following worldwide. Whether it is the Mumblecore crowd of Swanberg or The Duplass Brothers, or the world vision practitioners like Sean Baker and Ramin Bahrini , this new generation is aiming more for growth in their work than growth in their budgets. The audience will benefit as these directors mature.

47. Actors are truly embracing indie film and seem to be doing it because they love it. We know they don’t do it for the money or just because the schedule is short and shooting quick, but when you know they are getting offered bigger paydays and chances for true stardom and yet they still keep on doing indie movies, you have to accept they do it because it is the kind of cinema they adore. Michelle Williams , Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Peter Skaarsgard, Maggie Gylnehal. Quality actors delivering quality work time and time again.

48. The Jacob Burns Center in Westchester has raised over $20M for a Media Literacy Center and it looks like an incredible addition to our culture and a wonderful model for others to follow. Imagine if every community had something like this! Check out the press release at: .

49. Power continues to decentralize. Time and time again it is proven that a good idea can triumph and change will follow it. Frank Leonard’s brain child, The Black List, the annual report that lists executives favorite scripts, has been instrumental in getting unique (dare we say “quirky”) projects appreciated, bought, and even made. Sundance was once the be all and end all of festivals. Virtual festivals like From Here To Awesome give everyone a chance at being seen now.

50.We are getting new film movements faster and faster. 2007 was the year of Mumblecore. 2008 was the year the neo naturalists broke (Wendy & Lucy, Chop Shop, Ballast, etc.). The speed of which common aesthetics form speak of better communication. Multiple filmmakers working in the same vein can only lift the conversation higher and raise the bar for technique. Work will progress faster and the audience will again benefit.

51. Life Sustaining tools slowly are proliferating. The Freelancers Union Health Care program offers a good option for indie filmmakers looking to have basic health care coverage, Creative Capital alum Esther Robinson’s brainchild Home Loans ___ , offers artist financial planning services and consultation on home buying. As we live in a nation without real government support for the arts, creators have to assume they will be partially financing their work themselves -- developing the wherewithal to plan for the future and not put oneself at significant financial risk is part and parcel to being able to choose what stories you will tell.

52. The great beacon of hope I find in the film horizon is the often TFF-cited Lance Weiler and his gang of collaborators at The Workbook Project and From Here To Awesome. The open source generosity and advocacy stemming from their platforms provide a plethora of information and point to the real possibility that artists everywhere can not only create the work they want but have the ability to find, access, and join with audiences everywhere. They show that power is not in the hands of the establishment but in the community. Lance and his team having taken a host of good ideas and put them into action -- and it appears to be just the tip of an iceberg that we can expect to come from them. The revolution is being podcasted; it’s time you got the URL tattooed onto your soul.

So that was my list.  I would love to see yours.