Recommended Reading: Mynette Louie's "Innovate Or Die"

It took me a week but I finally caught up with Mynette Louie's IFP Blog Post "Innovate Or Die".  She does an excellent job at capturing the Indie Producer's life at this point in our cultural era.  More importantly, she makes a fantastic and necessary plea to us all:

"let’s put our  heads together and figure out how to sustain not only ourselves, but ultimately, the art that we love so dearly, and the diversity of artistic voices that make it. There is a better way, and we’ve got to find it soon."

Read the whole post here.

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.

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Are Glad They Went DIY

Again today we have a guest post from Mynette Louie and Tze Chun, the producer director team behind CHILDREN OF INVENTION. The film opens this weekend in New York and their whole journey through DIY/DIWO distribution has been fascinating to watch and a learning experience for us all. They have been truly brave and really generous sharing a lot of information along the way. I really love this film and truly admire both of them. Please support their film. Yesterday they shared their Top 10 Reasons Why They Turned Down The Distribution Offers They Received. Check it out.

Top 10 Things We’re Glad We Did 1.   Didn’t take an all-rights distribution deal. For reasons enumerated above, but most of all, for freedom!

2.   Played as many film festivals as possible, and traveled to as many of them as possible. We were one of the smallest films at Sundance.  It's a great festival to premiere at, but the press does give most of the attention to the star vehicles and bigger films.  So, it was really over the course of the entire festival circuit that we got our buzz, awards, and reviews.  It was also great to interact directly with audiences, who essentially act as focus groups for your film.  We were able to discover what people respond to in the film, and which demographics respond best.  Building a relationship with your audiences is really important.

3.    Sold DVDs after every screening and online. We started selling DVDs at festivals immediately after Sundance.  We found that about 10% of audiences will buy the DVD after each screening, and 20% of audiences will buy if it's an Asian American fest.  We've made back over 20% of our budget on the festival circuit by selling DVDs and collecting screening fees (another benefit of playing as many festivals as possible).

4.    Sent out a press release to local press whenever we had a festival screening. We could only afford to hire a publicist for just Sundance, so after that, we had to do our own PR. It was actually at some of the smaller festivals where we got our best reviews, because it's easier to get the attention of local press in smaller cities where there's simply less "newsworthy" stuff happening.

5.    Offered sneak previews of the film to special interest groups. Throughout our festival run, we did free screenings for affinity and "tastemaker" groups such as Asian American college associations, film classes, corporate groups, nonprofit organizations, etc.  One of these was Ted's brainchild, the This is That Goldcrest Screening Series!  If you think of everyone who sees your film as a potential cheerleader for it, then these kinds of screenings make a lot of sense.

6.    Participated in the YouTube rentals launch. This "experiment" has generally been derided as a failure in the press, but we're glad we did it!  Our trailer got more hits in 3 days than it did in 8 months off our website. Nowadays with so much media and promotional noise out there, you can't really afford to pass up free publicity when it's offered to you--take anything that will potentially help distinguish and elevate you above the media din.  Plus, we sent out a press release of our own to announce the film's availability on YouTube, and it was picked up by a number of significant outlets and blogs, so we were able to direct even more attention to the film.  And while the YouTube revenue itself wasn’t significant, we did see our DVD sales spike, and ended up earning a good chunk of change during those 10 days.

7.    Offered free content. In addition to posting behind-the-scenes photos from production, we documented the "behind-the-scenes" goings-on during our festival and distribution phases too. We also created 2 new exclusive clips of the film for the Apple/iTunes Trailers site, and got the main promo spot on the home page--prime real estate!  Additionally, we launched Tze's Sundance '07 short WINDOWBREAKER for free on the YouTube Screening Room last week--it's the film on which CHILDREN OF INVENTION is based.  And fortuitously, SILVER SLING, the ITVS short we made in the midst of our festival travels last year, launched for free on ITVS’s Futurestates site a few days ago.  These have been great cross-promotional vehicles for us.  Visual content is the best way to spark and sustain people's interest, so the more of it you've got, and the freer you can make it without giving away the store, the better.

8.    Decided to do DIWO distribution in NYC with Dave Boyle's WHITE ON RICE. Since most major press still won't review your film if it doesn't do a week at a commercial theater, a way to split the cost and share the work of promotion is to partner with another film, switching off showtimes but still playing a week.  Who needs 5 screenings a day?  Also, through Dave, we met Dylan Marchetti of Variance Films, who engineered our DIWO release and is really one of the unsung heroes of DIY distribution because he really knows how to distribute a film theatrically for very minimal P&A.

9.    This is technically something we didn't do, but we didn't four-wall any of our theatrical screenings. That would have been very expensive, and therefore, not very wise.

10.  Made a film that we're proud of and still love after nearly 2 years of making and selling it. DIY distribution is tough.  Imagine how much tougher it would be if we didn't believe in what we were selling.

Please support the NYC theatrical premiere of CHILDREN OF INVENTION and WHITE ON RICE on March 12!  The films will run March 12-18 at the BIG Cinemas Manhattan (formerly the ImaginAsian), 239 E 59th St (bt 2nd/3rd Aves).  CHILDREN OF INVENTION is also making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere on March 12, and will run March 12-17 at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St (bt E 2nd/E 3rd Sts).  Buy tickets and get more info here.

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

Today we have a guest post from Mynette Louie and Tze Chun, the producer director team behind CHILDREN OF INVENTION.  The film opens this weekend in New York and their whole journey through DIY/DIWO distribution has been fascinating to watch and a learning experience for us all.  They have been truly brave and really generous sharing a lot of information along the way.  I really love this film and truly admire both of them.  Please support their film. Tomorrow they will share their Top 10 Reasons Why They Are Glad They Turned Down The Distribution Offers They Received.  Stay Tuned.

Top 10 (alright, 11) Reasons Why We Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

1.    Couldn’t get straight answers about revenue projections, accounting and recoupment. Why this is bad is self-explanatory.

2.    Term was too long. Yes, it's a lot of time and hard work to self-distribute, but we could always choose not to exploit some distribution channel if we figure it's not worth it. We can't, however, choose to get out of a 10 to 25-year deal. And if we did a 25-year deal, we'd probably be in old-person diapers by the time the rights revert to us.  And that's just sad to think about.

3. Revenue share was too small. We know that specialty distributors have it tough too, and respect what they do (more than ever now that we've been through it) but revenue splits still have to be mutually beneficial for the filmmaker and the distributor.  With the state of things being so uncertain, it's tough to figure out the fairest deal, but one thing's for sure: if you can no longer offer an advance, then the other terms have got to give to make up for that.  A distribution deal today is a partnership, not a hand-off.

4.    Delivery requirements were onerous and costly. Some of the tape formats made us think they were distributing the film back in the 1980s.  We may as well have been burning Laserdiscs.

5.    Distributor was overloaded with other films. We didn't want to be sitting on a shelf indefinitely or helplessly harassing our distributor to pay attention to us.

6.    Couldn’t get straight answers about marketing plans. Suspected that they had no marketing plan.

7.    Wanted more control over how our film was marketed. In our DIY mode, the approval process for our marketing materials is literally the two of us, director and producer, exchanging a few emails. Tze does all the graphic design and Mynette does all the web design.  Yes, it's more work for us, but you really can't beat the speed and efficiency of this model.

8.  We'd already done most of the hard work ourselves by the time people came to us with weak distribution offers. No thanks.

9.    Other filmmakers warned us not to do business with them. Warning to distributors: We all talk to each other.

10.  Distributor misspelled the name of the movie in their inquiry e-mail. Okay, we didn't turn down the deal because of this, but it didn't help.

11.  Distributor used the phrase "T&A" in conversation. Don't do that, even if you're talking to a guy.

Please support the NYC theatrical premiere of CHILDREN OF INVENTION and WHITE ON RICE on March 12! The films will run March 12-18 at the BIG Cinemas Manhattan (formerly the ImaginAsian), 239 E 59th St (bt 2nd/3rd Aves). CHILDREN OF INVENTION is also making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere on March 12, and will run March 12-17 at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St (bt E 2nd/E 3rd Sts). Buy tickets and get more info here.

Finally, join the CHILDREN OF INVENTION Facebook group and follow @InventionFilm and producer @mynette on Twitter!

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.