Ten* Filmmakers I Would Crowd Fund*

In celebration of Arin Crumley & Keiran Masterton's success using Kickstarter to fund development of OpenIndie.com, I thought I would launch my annual grants. Or rather my annual promise of grants. Money! $ For Films! Free!*

If any of the following filmmakers had a crowd funding page for their next film (provided the film was $300K neg.cost or less), I would donate some money to get it made. And I would encourage others to do so.
Who would you fund?
I know there are more than ten* I could have listed, but I thought this was a good start, and you have to draw the line somewhere. Plus, being an indie film producer in a land that does not demonstrate that it values what I do, I don't have enough cash to go beyond this list! And even still, my contribution would not be significant financially; it would be more of a vote of support in hopes that others would be encourage to support the culture they want. I would give in order to become part of their team, to hear what they are up to, to get updates.
I listed artists who have are all early in their careers -- but have already directed a feature. I listed filmmakers whom I was confident could deliver a whole lot for a little. I listed filmmakers whom I am not already involved with.
Yet before I gave to any of these filmmakers, I would want to see a commitment to building audiences PRIOR to filming -- say a pledge to not commence until they had collected 5000 unique fans. I would want to know that they had a plan to market and release their film that went beyond bringing it to festivals and hoping for the best. I would want to know that they would set up an e-commerce site on their websites -- and that they had a website (which they refreshed with regular content). And of course I wouldn't transfer the money until they had reached their goal in pledges. Then I would gladly give money to them to get that next film made (and not ask for anything in return other than the satisfaction of having helped).

Ted Hope Live On Fox Business Network: Is Indie Film Dead?

I never did get to my 38 Reasons but I did get one good answer in.  Peter Guber got my questions (but man, is he GOOD!  He answered the challenges questions better than I could of) and Marina kept getting my other questions.  I did get to give props to Lance Hammer but he was only the first of at least ten people I wanted to mention!  I have to admit though it was a lot of fun.  Many thanks to Reed Martin for getting me on the show (read/buy his book now!).

It's All One Big Continuum...

My post on "Is There A "Too Many" When It Comes To Playing Film Festivals" generated some good questions and points in the comments.  I hope to get to them all in the days and weeks ahead.

One thing that truly resonated for me though was Jon Jost's dismissal of the box office performance of Ramin Bahrani's, Lance Hammer's, and Kelly Reichardt's recent films.  These artists, along with a few others, represent some of the great hope for American Art Film in the near future (and Jon probably raises them precisely for that reason).  
It's a mistake to take the theatrical results of their most recent films as the criteria for their financial success.  No one can think about a single film anymore as the litmus test.  When all filmmakers still dwelled in the world of acquisitions, that way of thinking was understandable; people felt you were only as successful as your last film.  What your film sold for and how it performed was all that seemed to matter.  In a world where it makes less and less sense to license your film for all media in exchange for a paltry sum (should you even be so fortunate to have such offers), new ways to evaluate success are emerging.
Bahrani and Reichardt licensed each of their last films to quality art-house distributors.  Hammer took another approach.  Yet, Bahrani and Reichardt built on their audience from the prior film, as you can be assured that Hammer will too.  These are what the music business would see as catalogue artists.  Their fan base will grow with each new release.  The more they are able to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their audience, the richer a dialogue they can offer, the more that audience will support them.  It is not about the one-off film anymore -- nor that film's results.  It is all about the community of support that artists can develop for their work.  That community will only flourish to the degree that there is both dialogue within the community, and well-maintained flow of content.
Artists who maintain a rich dialogue with their community will benefit in many ways from what they have built.  Some of it will be directly financial, both in terms of amount of that reward but also predictability thereof.  Other ways will include increased access to audience (which has a wide and varied group of benefits), decreased marketing & distribution costs, and new streams of revenue.
The more filmmakers can think of how to maintain and deepen the on-going dialogue with their supporters the better off they will be.
P.S.  I disagree strongly with Jon's comment that the aforementioned films and filmmakers don't do anything "aesthetically daring or difficult" -- but this isn't where I chose to look at such issues.   But since it was raised, dare I say that whereas no one is reinventing cinema, that compared to the norms, each one went out a limb without a net -- and they flew pretty damn high when they jumped.  And man that ain't easy  -- and it is extremely brave is this world of ours.

Hope For The Future pt. 10: The List #'s 39 -42

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?

Tips From The Gotham Breakthrough Directors

Scott Macauley of Fimmaker Mag Blog moderated a discussion between the The Gotham Awards Breakthrough Director nominees. They are a great group of directors and a great group of films. Many of them also made the Hammer To Nail list too. They all had different approaches to their filmmaking. 

We don't usually focus at all on production related issues here at TFF as our efforts are towards finding a new way to get films to audiences (and how that in turn will shape the film you make). I have been preparing a post on all you need to do when and, well, it is surprising how much of it needs to be done even before pre-production and continued into the production and post process. 
I wasn't at the panel so I can't vouch why the same concerns did not appear to reach these filmmakers - maybe they did and you needed to be there. I wish the IFP put video of these events online.  Nonetheless I like the takeaway synthesis Scott put together. It clarifies that really is no common template.  Read about it here (click to link).

NYC DIY Days Dinner

A whole bunch of us got together for food, drink, and lots of blab about the way this world of film is changing -- and now you can join us!  

The good folks at The Workbook Project made this happen with a little help from their friends of course.  Come join Lance Weiler, Arin Crumley, Susan Buice, Lance Hammer, Faye Dunaway, Paul Rachman, Stephen Rapael, Slava Rubin, Joseph Marin, Jennifer Kushell, and of course myself.  This is just the intro segment.  Two more to come.  
I was mentioning this dinner to my friend Christine Vachon, telling her how I thought it was a good idea it was, a lot of fun, quite informative, and how well it was shot.  Christine's response was "Did anyone get a word in edge-wise?".  In this episode I don't start to rant until the 27:27 mark, so you be the judge.   

Non-theatrical RULES! Send Us Your Venues

Another post from Jon Reiss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you know of any non traditional venue that has screened films on a regular basis - such as museum, film society, college student or screening association, please send them to me at:

jon@jonreiss.com 
and I will add them to the list (And of course post them here at TFF via a simple comment!)

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