Building Storyworlds Podcast (Episode 1, Featuring... Me!)

The always stimulating Lance Weiler has launched a new podcast, and this morning I was his first guest.  Check it out here.  We had a lot to talk about.

Topics of discussion 

  • The future of film - Ted shares the thoughts behind a recent post to his blog  Hope for Film.
  • Finding new froms of value
  • The role of scarcity and abundance in storytelling
  • The internet of things - the emergence of a storytelling layer over the real world
  • Generalist vs. Specialist

Lance has named this new venture "the art, craft & biz of storytelling in 21c", and he shares:

Welcome to an experiment in participatory storytelling. As I gear up for a course I'll be teaching at Columbia University, I've decided to open my teaching process. I've established this tumblr and will soon be joined by the class for what I hope will become an ongoing collection of thoughts, projects, tech and ideas as they pertain to storytelling in the 21st Century. 

I'm hard at work on a trilogy of participatory storytelling projects with the first one entitled, Robot Heart Stories launching this fall. I wish to explore the realities of the connected world we live in and what that means for storytelling. I'm especially interested in the changing role of authorship and its impact on the birth of a collective narrative. In this spirit I'm bringing the class in to this tumblr to share all things story. 

Finally this tumblr will also tie into a book I've been working on entitledBuilding Storyworlds: the art, craft & biz of storytelling in 21C. The book is the basis of the course at Columbia and is an experiment in scarcity vs. digital abundance

"An Amazing Time To Be A Storyteller"

Lance Weiler was the Keynote speaker at the Darklight Festival recently. He shares his journey into transmedia and why he is so optimistic about the world before us. It is nothing short of a state of the union address on Transmedia -- both how we got here and where we are. It includes a pretty solid survey of transmedia projects. Check out his video below if you are one of those types who actually want to know the world you are living in (and not just the one that once was).

Guest Post: Zeke Zelker: DIY Days NYC: You Missed An Incredible Gathering Of Incredible People

Why does it still feel amazing that a whole group of people come together to share knowledge, organize that gathering, and take the resulting inspiration out into the world -- and that they do it for free? That question is worthy of a future post, but for now we are here to celebrate DIY DAYS, the event that we must now ordain as a necessary institution. I was a keynote speaker last year. This year Christine Vachon and I discussed our past and hopes for the future. Earlier I ran a post on Chuck Wendig's presentation he did this year on "Where Storytelling & Gaming Collide" . Today we are happy to offer you Zeke Zelker's overview of the event, which at the very least should make sure you plan on joining us next year. Check it out. I promise you will leave wiser and inspired.

It is always exciting going to DIY Days, It’s like main lining a shot of learn-to-know-how adrenaline straight to the heart. There were many things that I took away from last week’s conference, many of which we will be implementing for WTYT960.com as we push out the site. WTYT960.com is a virtual radio station where bands submit their music to be a part of the playlist, the playlist is created by fan interaction on social media sites and votes.

A couple of highlights from DIY Days that still resonate. Newman’s tell it like it is approach to reclaiming DIY, I just sewed new patches on my britches and am rolling up my sleeves, getting down and dirty with making stuff. Hope and Vachon’s fireside chat on their amazingly prolific careers as the top indie producers, that’s right, each of them have produced 70 films. That’s absolutely amazing. Johnson’s chat about NFC technology that I feel will be another outlet for filmmakers to further expand their storyscape. Weiler’s review of Pandemic 1.0 that we produced at this past year’s Sundance. Chirls introduction of html 5, I’m still wrapping my head around the possibilities of this new programming tool and Clark’s discussion on how he has worked with brands in the past, this opportunity needs to be explored further. There were many others who presented and their insight was worth much more than the price of admission.

The only thing I wish is that more presenters would have been more straight forward on how they do/did things not what they did. I think this would be extremely valuable to those who attend these types of conferences.

When it was my turn with Vlad, who has a really great project, Zenith, it was interesting to see people’s reactions as we discussed our transmedia projects, Vlad’s is wrapping up, mine is just getting started. I take the capitalist money making approach to my filmmaking efforts, where I always encounter push back from the indie film/DIY community. I never understand this. This is show Business people, with a capital B, which is a true balance of art and commerce. Shouldn’t we all take more of a money making approach to our filmmaking? It is truly empowering. Instead of playing the “I hope I can sell my film for big bucks at a festival that I hope I can get into lottery.” Shouldn’t we be more fiscally responsible to our funders? Really. I fund my projects by whatever means possible. Right now I am raising equity, seeking donations, and forging brand partnerships.

I believe that the story telling experience can be augmented for the better with brand interaction. Brands can enable artists to further their storyscape, something that I’m doing with Billboard an Uncommon Contest for Common People! as well as my next three projects. I like giving a big fat hug to responsible corporate brands who can help me further tell my story. We all have those products we love, why not make them a part of, and a device in, the story telling experience? For instance I love my Radius toothbrush, a company with ergonomically correct handles made out of recycled material. Right now I’m brushing my pearly whites with a handle made from recycled U.S. currency. Just living the dream! The company is also from my hometown and these types of things excite me. A great product from my hometown that I’ve partnered with to help tell a story. You can’t get any better than that. How does a toothbrush support a story? Just wait. You’ll see.

Newman http://springboardmedia.blogspot.com/ Johnson www.kineticfin.com/ - Hope now here on IndieWire. Archives at http://hopeforfilm.com Vachon http://www.killerfilms.com/ Weiler http://lanceweiler.com/ Chirls http://chirls.com/ Zenith zeniththefilm.com/ Radius http://www.radiustoothbrush.com/

- Zeke Zelker

Zeke Zelker, filmmaker/entrepreneur, has embarked on his latest transmedia project, Billboard an Uncommon Contest for Common People! a story that transcends various medias as it empowers various artists to be a part of the story telling experience.

PS. If you need a bigger fix, before the DIY DAYS NYC event, way back in 2008, Lance Weiler hosted a DIY DAYS DINNER. I was there and we had the camera running. Check it out here.

This Is Transmedia

I am producing Lance Weiler's HOPE IS MISSING (with Anne Carey). It's hard to call it just another feature film when Lance does so much more to expand the story world. In the past, I have encouraged filmmakers to make a short to demonstrate their skills or help clarify the world they want to create. Yes, Lance made a short for HopeIsMissing (aka H.i.M.), and you can watch it at the bottom of this post, but that's just a tip of the iceberg.

When I speak about it to studio execs, most still don't know what I mean when I say it is a transmedia project. Hopefully that will never be the case again once we make the feature. One would think that this would have already changed though by what has been done already.

Perhaps you were at Sundance and encountered the PANDEMIC. It was an installation at New Frontier. It was an online experience. It was location-based ARG. It was story R&D. Lance explains:

How I Learned to Start a Pandemic from Turnstyle Video on Vimeo.

We had Lance on KillerHope and he explains it a bit more:

The press sure picked up on it. I posted some of it here before. Here's Gizmodo.

Oh yes, and here's the short:

Indie Film Lives, Thrives, Blossoms & Blooms!!!

It is no longer the dawn.  We are now officially in the new era of a Truly Free Film Culture. Yes, the business of indie film is back.  The rapidity, volume, and consistency of deals blossoming ($30M and counting!) at Sundance should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again.  Whew.  But the good news does not end there.

Indie Film has been infected by a new breed that -- like those that came before them -- refuses to ask for permission.  But unlike the earlier wave, their go-get-them attitude doesn't stop at production, it extends into all the pillars of cinema -- from discovery and participation on through production, distro, appreciation, and presentation.  The content, the form, the plans of cinema are not only for re-examination, but the rules have been thrown out.  Time to get out of the way, and let the fresh air disrupt the stale space.

It is so happening in every which way. Yes, there are new stars, but also new ways of working.  This Sundance there are plenty examples of "tribal filmmaking" (thanks to Brit Marling for that phrase) -- teams of collaborators, working together, and moving beyond single authorship.  The web world calls this "collabs", but the spirit of this can be found in Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sound Of My Voice, The Woods, and Another Earth.  We will find more teams taking over in the days ahead -- and it is an incredibly refreshing antidote to the antiquated construct of pure "auteur" cinema.

New spirit is there in old bodies too.  Kevin Smith's self-distribution plan recognizes the realities of the day.  No one in indie film has used social media as well as Kevin Smith has. He understands clearly the need to eventize his picture, and he has done it well. Things started off with a bang at Sundance, and he plans to keep it going.  He gave a nice lecture on his past and his plan for the future.  In between the curses, he lays it out how he plans to go forward.  His roadshow approach of teaming the local premieres with his live act is a value-add propisition that his million plus fan community hopefully can not resist.

Smith's RED STATE plan has the core indie value at it's heart.  To me previously I only really saws this value in terms of content & production, but now has extended well beyond this. Indie refuses to ask others for permission. Smith makes movies his way -- as he learned what happens when he doesn't.  He gets his fans the way his fans get him.  It is not a one way street, but a true community.  He might be divisive, but he is a model to follow.  Perhaps, precisely because he is divisive!

The failure of corporate filmmaking to represent the world we live in, particularly compared to indie's success at that, is evident at fest like Sundance.  It is also painfully drummed home by the Oscar noms, when all the Best Actress candidates hail from indie projects.  As long as corporate filmmaking fails to offer realistic takes on women's lives, Indie Film will always thrive as a welcome alternative.  Sundance must be acknowledged too as a tremendous generator of quality content; Sundance's responsibility in delivering 15 Oscar nominees is nothing short of mind-blowing.  If the world was just, the Oscar would be renamed the Bob.

I left Sundance boosted and relieved.  As great as it was to license our film to a top distributor for a significant profit, it is more the spirit launch that I seriously needed -- and that came from the individuals I got to meet with and hang out with.  We are at time of change -- but as someone pointed out to me, what is so great about the now we are in, is that the new breed recognizes change as a constant.  They will not take this moment for granted.  They accept the fluidity of all.  They recognize how the whole world must turn for that one leaf to fall.  And they are okay with it.

We ARE going to work together to make this better.  Whew!

Ambition In The Best Sense (aka Lance Weiler)

I've had the pleasure of working with Lance Weiler for maybe two years now.  I love how he thinks.  I love how he takes that thought and transforms it into action.  Process is more key to what he does, than virtually anyone else I have worked with.  The journey is the destination.  He is willing to walk without knowing where it all might be going.  He is collaborative to the Nth the degree.  His vision for cinema truly knows no limits.

Wired Magazine singled him out this summer as one of the fathers of transmedia.  BusinessWeek credited him with changing cinema alongside Thomas Edison, The Warner Bros., and James Cameron.  Between his features, The Workbook Project, & DIY Days, the man is profoundly generative.

If you were in Sundance this past week (and even if you weren't), you probably witnessed how he infected Park City with a Pandemic.  Others certainly did.  Jamie Stuart shot this beautiful video for Filmmaker Magazine on Lance's Pandemic activities. FearNet has acquired his short which was screening at the fest. For those that like to hold their stories in their hand, you can follow it on Twitter here. AND  of course there is a website. Granted, I am producing the feature, but believe me when I tell you it is thrilling, horrifying, beautiful, and groundbreaking; it's a shame you have to wait until I raise the money to see it.

Christine Vachon and I also got to speak to Lance for KillerHope on Hulu.

Lance created this short as a style template for collaborators throughout the world to help capture the outbreak in their local territories.  Check it out and get filming!

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

Filmmakers vs. Aggregators: Distribber speaks of Win, Win!

Today's guest post is from Distribber founder Adam Chapnick responding to the question of just what IS Distribber and how can it make the world safer for filmmakers. Distribber was recently acquired by IndieGoGo, and in the wake of the publicity surrounding the announcement, we received a tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm and interest in Distribber's service.  As is inevitable, there's been some confusion around what Distribber does and doesn't do.  

Distribber was created to help rights holders maximize the payback from their work and investment.

More specifically, Distribber was conceived as a solution to several persistent complaints from filmmakers and other creative rights holders about distributors in general and aggregators in particular.  ("Aggregator" is the term used for a company that acts as a gatekeeper between a rights holder and a retail platform, such as iTunes, Netflix, Hulu or Cable VOD operators like Comcast, Time Warner, etc.)  

The complaints surrounded 3 specific pain points: 

Complaint #1.  Eternal revenue-share for finite service
Aggregators (other than Distribber) work on a revenue-share basis, meaning that they make money by keeping between 15% and 50% of your revenue that they collect from the retail platforms on your behalf.  They take this portion of revenue for the entire term of your deal with them.  The complaint from filmmakers was that while aggregators take this money "forever," they didn't seem to be working forever.  To many, it seemed that aggregators placed their film on the platforms and then moved on. 

This situation was even more frustrating for larger rights holders -- production companies, sales reps, etc. -- who controlled the rights to several (often dozens) of titles, and who engaged in significant marketing and grassroots outreach but lacked access to iTunes, except through revenue share entities.  The shared-revenue structure has continued to frustrate these larger companies as they have been the core demand-drivers.

Now, in defense of aggregators, encoding a film, ushering it through Quality Control "QC" and having the access to place it on iTunes or Netflix or Hulu or Cable VOD or anywhere else is indeed a valuable service -- and often a time-consuming one.  

However, it seemed that one could put a fair price on that service that accounted for the work and value of relationships, and offer it to filmmakers cleanly, without the burden of a revenue-share.  This would enable a filmmaker, production company or other rights holder to know their cash outflow in advance, and enjoy 100% of the benefit of their film's success.  So, Distribber adopted a flat-fee-for-service model.

Complaint #2.  Large deducted expenses, often including fees for marketing services that seemed unhelpful or nonexistent
Filmmakers complained that distributors and aggregators deducted expenses that seemed unreasonable, like $1500 for encoding, or an array of costs for marketing services that the filmmaker wasn't sure had actually been done.  

Here, the opportunity was again to charge a fair price, once.  So, Distribber adopted a fair price.  The $1295 one-time fee for iTunes placement was less than some rev-share companies charged for the encoding alone, and after only 185 sales at $9.99 on iTunes, rights holders have been entirely in profit.

Without putting too fine a point on it, it bears emphasizing:  after 185 iTunes sales at $9.99, a rights holder is in profit for the rest of the film's life on iTunes. Going forward, Distribber charges $79 per year for account access, collection and sales stats.  

The best evidence that we were on the right track came when the Age of Stupid production team chose to use Distribber -- they have been incredibly successful trailblazers in the hybrid distribution movement, and their endorsement told us that our service is providing its intended benefits for its ideal users.

To compare Distribber's model with revenue-share models, consider the illustration below.  At 1000 iTunes sales (retail price $9.99), rights holders give up 174% more money under a 15% rev-share than they pay to Distribber ($3,550 compared to $1295).  Under a 25% rev-share, rights holders pay 228% more ($4,250).  At 10,000 sales, Distribber's one-time fee doesn't change, but a 15% rev-share deal now costs ten times the Distribber fee ($13,000), while a 25% rev-share deal costs over fifteen times more ($20,000).  Obviously, at 20,000 sales, the disparity only increases.

Looking at revenue, with Distribber's flat fee, at 1000 iTunes sales, rights holders are paid 65% more than they would be with a 15% rev-share deal ($5,705 vs. $3,450), and they're paid more than twice what they'd get from a 25% deal ($5,626 vs. $2,750).  At 10,000 sales, Distribber clients keep $11,705 more than they would under a 15% rev-share, and  $18,705 more than they would under a 25% rev-share.  And again, at 20,000 sales, a rights holder does even better.


What A Filmmaker Is Charged, With:                     What A Filmmaker Keeps, With:

Distribber 15% Rev-Share 25% Rev-Share Distribber 15% Rev-Share 25% Rev-Share
At 1000 iTunes sales -$1,295 -$3,550 -$4,250 $5,705 $3,450 $2,750
At 10000 iTunes sales -$1,295 -$13,000 -$20,000 $68,705 $57,000 $50,000
At 20000 iTunes sales -$1,295 -$23,500 -$37,500 $138,705 $116,500 $102,500

(The chart assumes Rev-share companies deduct from filmmaker's revenue $2500 for encoding and/or marketing.)

And now, with Distribber's addition of Amazon VOD and Netflix's streaming service, we decided that as a limited-time promotion, for the same $1295, Distribber clients could have our Amazon and Netflix service for free. This of course only makes the above comparison even more lopsided in Distribber clients' favor, since it adds revenue without adding any expense.

Complaint #3.  Late payments, and sometimes no payment

Filmmakers complained that even after resigning themselves to a rev-share deal, and agreeing to the small payout left after expenses and revenue share deductions, they had to chase distributors and aggregators for reports and checks, and sometimes with none being sent at all.

So, Distribber has decided to do away with reports and checks, and instead employ a user account system, whereby clients login with a username and password.  Here they gain access to collection stats by platform, and see their collected funds balance.  Clients withdraw their own money on demand, with the click of a button.  Having all sales stats and collection in one account removed a major, time-consuming headache from our clients lives for $79 a year.

Next: More Pain, More Answers

Even a casual follower of the distribution business knows that there are plenty of areas it can be improved, and in plenty of ways.  Distribber is continuing to actively developing new methods and models to serve rights holders across a variety of platforms, from internet to cable to mobile. 

With the proliferation of tools like Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter and all the plugins and apps that support those services, it's more possible than ever for innovative companies, teams -- or even individuals -- to disrupt old marketing models and connect with audiences.  Filmmaker/marketers like Gary Hustwit, Lance Weiler, Tiffany Shlain and others have shown the way to create demand via their own efforts and investment. Peter Broderick is shepherding rights holders through a hybrid strategy that teaches careful allocation of specific rights to companies that are highly specialized, with the goal of maximizing the revenue a filmmaker keeps.

The key thing to understand about Distribber is that it's a powerful tool to help enterprising rights holders keep the most of their own money.  The more skilled you are at connecting with audience, the more buzz that you've built, the better Distribber's deal works for you.  

ADAM CHAPNICK is CEO of Distribber.com, an IndieGoGo company that places film and TV content on digital sales platforms such as iTunes, Netflix and Amazon for a flat fee while allowing filmmakers to keep 100% of their revenue. Adam can be reached at adam@distribber.com .

Don't Do It Yourself: NYC DIY DAYS Keynote

I am giving the keynote today for DIY DAYS.  This is it, devoid of any adlibs. It is inspiring to be in this room with all of you for this: The first edition of DIY DAYS NYC. All of us. Together. Here.

It took me almost 30 years to get here. Thanksgiving Weekend. 1980. The Clash’s Sandinista! Godard’s “Everyman For Himself” and Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” They all came out on the same weekend and I was home freshman year for break. Seeing, hearing, absorbing all that I thought: ”This is what I want to do: intense, hard-hitting, challenging, personal, political self-expression. “ I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know what the first step could be, I just felt that want. That DEEP DEEP need to create something of my own.

Have you ever recognized that you are in the right place at the right time? The exact right place? In the exact right time? With the exact right people? I have felt it, a few times, and that feeling has pushed me, pushed me forward, in a big way that has brought others along with it.

I felt it when I first moved to NYC. 1984. Second wave of Punk Rock. I saw whom I later realized were the Coen Brothers always in the same late night grocery as me trying to decide which cold cereal to buy just like me and my roommates. Cut to: Subway doors. They open and there’s that big mane of stand up grey hair that I late realize is Jim Jarmusch. Music booms: The Replacement’s “Let It Be “– 1st time I realize I am blown away by a band younger than me. Jump to: the front of the movie theater. Spike Lee is passing out flyers for the film that the trailer inside the theater is also pushing me to see.

It is that feeling -- that incredible feeling --that all is within reach. I may not be able to play the guitar but if I can pick it up and scream with feeling and personality, someone may come. It may not have SFX or movie stars, but if I can shoot it and it is real and reaching and new, someone may come.

Eight years later, 1992. Sundance. The movies are great. I’ve a couple now. The filmmakers are all now my friends. We make ‘em cheap. No Budget Revolution #1. We are challenging each other, sharing information. And the People: they are coming. Companies are buying. This thing, this dream of mine, to take French New Wave and Punk Rock attitude and love of art and character and politics might, just might have a chance to be something more than a hobby. It may be a job. It can pay the bills. A vocation – a life sustaining vocation.

I’ve made sixty movies now. It some ways it feels like: “sure, I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people” I am fortunate. But you know what? You know what I sincerely believe? I wasn’t. I wasn’t where I thought I was yet: it wasn’t the right time or place or people yet.

But I am now: right here with all of you. We can make something happen. Something entirely different. Something the world has never seen or heard or felt ever before. We can have that thing that I always have wanted but never achieved. We’ve never had an opportunity like the one we do right now. But time is short and if we don’t act soon, we are going to blow it.

Do you know what you are feeling right now? It is the feeling of the being in the right place at the right time with the right people.

The question is what are we going to do with it? Where are we taking it? Ask yourself: what sort of world do you want? What sort of culture do you want? One where others tell you what stories can be told? One that requires you to beg others for support to get your work made? One that demands you utilize their resources & techniques to reach and engage audience? One that can turn its back on your offspring and your babies without the bat of an eye? One that can buy those children of yours, for a fraction of their value, for years upon years?

I don’t think so.

We are on the verge of establishing something quite contrary to that horrible vision. The tools and platforms of the digital age can supplant the gatekeeper-controlled, impulse-buy motivated and capital-intensive infrastructure that we’ve played all too long in.. We now have the promise of a newly emerging artist-centric, audience-focused, low-cost collaborative model that can be both achieved and sustained and will deliver us better and more diverse work in a manner both more accessible and participatory than ever before.

You know this – or at least recognize this. That is why you are here today. That is why we all are.

But we are also in danger of losing this incredibly glorious and generous opportunity before the roots take hold and the seeds truly spread. Why? Because we all look to ourselves, and not just primarily, but often, far too often, exclusively. If we want to protect ourselves, promote ourselves, the time is now to focus on community first.

Now there are great examples before us, and they offer the better alternative. This is what this day – DIY DAYS --is all about. Look at what Lance Weiler and everyone over at the Workbook Project have done for all of us, with all of us. This event. That website. They are free. They are open. They are participatory. And they are incredibly useful. They are the start and they are the model. We are all the future, and we all are – or should be – incredibly thankful.

Which one do you want? The old, closed, gatekeeper model? Or the new one that is artist and audience centric that can usher in a true middle class of artist entrepreneurs?

How do we do that? By working together. By sharing. By recognizing that today’s definition of being an artist requires that you be there all the time, from beginning to end – but not alone, not by yourself. You can’t abandon your babies. You can have the child support. Just ask the person sitting next to you today.

Our job description requires that we curate, educate, and aggregate – and not just create and produce. We have to embrace all six pillars of cinema -- of all art forms --and not just the pillars of creation and execution, but also discovery, promotion, appreciation, and presentation. It’s a lot of work, but that problem is also the answer.

Don’t be hesitant. Look at the old way: The only people that benefited from those lines drawn between art and commerce, between marketing and content, are the very same people who are now enjoying the good business opportunity before them now when creators license their work for low fees for low terms on an exclusive basis without access to any of the data their work generates. We have to stop this process. • We have to stop this practice where content is free, but the hardware to play it is extremely expensive. • We have to prevent a world where the aggregators get rich but the creators get a pittance. • We must insist that the data and fans that our work generates is ours, in the fullest sense of the word “ownership”. We have to help each other. We can not settle for the world that has been offered, but must reach for the one that we have dreamed of and can now obtain.

I came here today because I want to ask you all to do one thing, really to beg of you all to do one thing. And that one thing I truly believe can change our world. That one thing can bring the new world, the artist-centric, creator-empowered & participatory culture into being. That one thing is simple: Do not leave here today without committing to do at least one thing for another person that is in this room right here right now, to do something for them and their work.

Commit to curate. Commit to promote. Commit to educate, to program, to organize and to facilitate. To Collaborate. Pledge your help. Give it as a badge of honor for you both to wear. Link up. Do it now. Do it later. Just do it today. Offer your help to someone here today.

We have to build the infrastructure to support a challenging and diverse culture. It may not be as fun as creating yet another movie or game or music or book, but we must accept it as part of our job description. It requires giving and it requires accepting. We can all leave here stronger, wiser, with more potential. But it depends on you.

If you don’t want to help and work together: we can stop referring to it as the film industry, the music business, the comics trade – and instead the next time we get together, we can discuss our hobbies.

The good news is that these are not Do It Yourself Days. You are not alone. We are going to build it better together. Make it better together. It just requires us to reach out. Please make your pledge to help someone else while you are here today. Let’s not squander this opportunity. Tell us what we can do for you. Tell others what you can do for them. Let DIY DAYS be about truly working together. Accept this gift from Lance and The Workbook Project and pass it along. It’s going to be how it works, this new gift economy of ours: the more you share, the more power and value you are going to generate.

Pledge your help to someone here today.

Solutions: New Breed's Pt. 3 (and Pt. 2)

Part Two left with my cliffhanger.  Zak & Kevin have come up with several answers to the questions (along with raising the bar for whatever you'd call the quick release group discussion centered around a common event).  Watching this I was very won over by Sultan Sharrief 's efforts.  I sit with so many filmmakers who remain willing to put their trust in the old way of getting stars and expecting them to bring out the fans, finance, and distrib's appetite.  It is very refreshing and inspiring to see folk like Sultan Sharrief accept the world as it really is and not let it stand in the way of their creative efforts.  And thanks to Sabi Pictures for helping to spread that energy and reality.  Check out their whole series if you haven't.  You will be glad you did.

NEW BREED PARK CITY - Exploring The Solutions, Part 3 from Sabi Pictures on Vimeo.

When you think of it, why has it taken twenty years for the filmmaking community to take advantage of a location specific event like Sundance, and gather together people to discuss what it going on in our community at this time?  Zak and Kevin at Sabi do it so well, here's hoping that other festivals recognize how this type of film can launch their festivals to the next level and should employ these guys to make these films regularly!.

Oh, and since I forgot to post Part Two, here it is:

NEW BREED PARK CITY – Exploring the Solutions, Part 2 from Sabi Pictures on Vimeo.

You can also see Part One here, or check out all of Sabi Pictures posts on Vimeo.

Thank You Manohla (and The New York Times)

Ms. Dargis has been doing an excellent job covering -- and contextualizing -- Indie Film's move towards an artist-centric collaboration with the audience (and away from an exclusive control by the corporations in terms of what is made and exhibited).

And she just gave TrulyFreeFilm some serious props today. Perhaps that is why you are reading this now (that is if they fixed their online link). Anyways, this is that big shout out of thanks.
In regards, to art films current inability to attract young audiences, Manhola quoted me:
it “is really surprising how few true indie films speak to a youth audience.” He continued, “In this country we’ve had Kevin Smith and ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ but nothing that was youth and also truly on the art spectrum like ‘Run Lola Run’ or the French New Wave (‘Paranormal Activity’ not withstanding...),” adding: “Are we incapable of making the spirited yet formal work that defines a lot of alternative rock and roll? And if so, why is that?”
If you want to read the whole post that came from: this is it.
And if you are coming here for the first time, please "follow" this blog (see column on right), follow me on Twitter @TedHope, and come join me on FaceBook. And please join in the conversation by commenting, posting, and retweeting.
We can keep a diverse and vital culture alive and flourishing but only with your participation.

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.

Audiences Are Key To Cross-Media Creation

Lance Weiler has a nice, albeit short, piece in Screen Daily on the audiences role in crafting cross-platform narratives (aka transmedia). Here's a taste, but check out the whole thing:

Pre-production, production and post are melding ― so why do most producers wait until the film is finished to engage their audience? The art and craft of how stories are designed, delivered and shared must catch up with the realities of how audiences are consuming them. This points to a number of new and exciting storytelling possibilities. The audience is telling us what they want, we just need to start listening.

Lance will be at Power To The Pixel, along with yours truly, Brian Newman, and a host of other fantastic folk that I can't wait to meet.

Social Media For Storytellers

Courtesy of The WorkbookProject, comes a power point overview of how one can use to social media to extend a story and generate a conversation around their work. In case you didn't know already, in the end social media can be an effective way to build an audience / community around a project and / or a body of work.  Lance and his gang lay it out nice and clear.  If you aren't a convert yet, what more do you need?

Social Media for Storytellers
View more presentations from lanceweiler.
And here's the direct link:
http://workbookproject.com/2009/07/resource-social-media-for-storytellers/

The Future Of Film

Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't have the answer as to what the future of film is.  

A lot of people though do have some good ideas as what the future may hold and what it is needed, from the small step to the big picture.  I got to sit down with a nice group of very smart people while I was at SXSW and talk a bit about what I might be.  Scott Kirsner who organized the breakfast has put the whole conversation up on his blog.  The other participants are:
filmmaker Lance Weiler 
conference organizer and producer Liz Rosenthal
technologist Brian Chirls
outreach guru Caitlin Boyle
 filmmaker Brett Gaylor
producer and Filmmaker Mag editor Scott Macaulay

The New Crew Positions

In a post entitled "Issues Of Sustainability" on the Filmmaker Mag Blog, Lance Weiler  talks about how we as filmmakers can produce for today's evolving audiences. In talking to filmmakers, I still find they often don't yet fully conceive what it means to adopt a "transmedia" approach to storytelling and marketing.  On the other side of the spectrum though is what made Wired's recent post on "Why Hollywood Needs a New Model For Storytelling" such a gas  -- they've got it and got it good.  Check it out.  We may not need to build the ARGs and seed the story so heavily on blogs and elsewhere as Scott Brown writes about, but we do need to give serious thought about how the hell to build audiences for our stories.  

Let's face it: it just is not enough to have a good story well told anymore.  Sure I still believe in the basics first and building out you narrative on a cross-platform basis is simply not enough to cut it. And yes, the first step towards better filmmaking is to have good material that you have given serious thought to.   
I might harp a bit on the new approaches and filmmakers' lack of thought there, but to be frank that's because there still is a great deal of nothing going on in the old school department.  As good as I found this year's Sundance batch, and as hopeful as I am for SxSW's crop, how do we drill down to the basics and make sure we have our pants riding high?  I mean: what makes a good film good?  Some folks may know how to tell their story nine ways to Sunday, but it still won't sing, if ain't got that swing.  
I've have started a new series over on Hammer To Nail on "Qualities Of Better Film" and promise to go into over twenty such qualities that at the very least makes my motor run.  It may be basic stuff, but I still find these qualities in short supply.  Check it out over the next few weeks.  Let me know what I've missed.  I know that if everyone adopted the approach that I outline, I'd find more films I would want to give prizes to.  On the other hand, since I find it hard even to do that even with my films, maybe we all just need to wake up to how damn hard it is to make good films (let alone better ones), and slow the heck down.
But while I am on the self-promotion tip:  make a trip over to Filmcatcher where Christine Vachon and I hosted a couple of conversations with filmmakers and actors during Sundance (okay so only the teaser's up now, but it tells you what you can anticipate).  But that ain't all.... there's more to come on that front, or at least one similar to it, too.  Stay tuned.

Data Portability, Facebook, & Filmmaker

Filmmaker has a post on Lance Weiler's upcoming article on data portability.  I have been hungering for this one for a long time now.  Data portability's a key issue for all of us.  It would have been on my list of what I want our film culture to be but I thought it was an issue or practicality more than a way of being.  Open source practices and general transparency in actions and practices is something though that is essential to a truly free film culture and it definitely should have been on my list (I have now added it).  What else did I forget?

Scott's post goes on to discuss Facebook's policy of dropping the accounts of those who have grown too large.  It's an irksome situation and something to be aware of.  Check it out.