The Only Logical Response For A Creative Person To This Age Of Abundance

I write today in honor of the Sundance Film Festival (which kicks off today) and if it wasn't for, I probably would have not been able to do what I love for so long.  Here's to new models that are designed with large heart and a complete commitment to the welfare & progress of the artist and their community.  Thank you, Mr. Redford, and may you continue to give rise to so many diverse creatures. I trust that by now all of you who read this blog understand that the Film Biz still functions on an antiquated model that has no applicability to today.  That is, the film industry was constructed around the concept of scarcity of content and control of that content -- and our life is nothing like that now.  Yes, there is still money to be made via the antiquated model, but it only benefits a very few beyond those that control it.  It survives because all industries are essentially designed to keep the jobs of those that have them.  So it goes.  But eventually, we all confront reality, and it often is not pretty.

I also trust that if you are reading this you also recognize that we live in the time of Grand Abundance of produced stories, total access to that content, and a general tendency to be thoroughly distracted from that content.  Looking at the state of film from this perspective can be pretty discouraging, but it is only a partial picture.  I state all of this again, in the hopes that we can soon walk together into the future I know can be before us.

I took to blogging & public speaking because I was frustrated that the film business leaders were only talking about the business aspects of our situation and were neglecting that this is a wonderful time to be a generative, creative person committed to the passion industries.  Over four year years ago, I gave this speech in the hopes of encouraging both artists and film industry leaders to look at things in a different way.  There's been some successes, but I would be lying to say that I am satisfied with what this has all lead to, but it is still certainly worth trying.  I want to make and help others make and appreciate creatively ambitious, emotionally true, appropriately complex stories that aspire us to best aspects of our expansive nature.

There has never been a better time to lead a creative life as a filmmaker.  The tools of production are cheaper and easier to use than ever before.  The tools of marketing, distribution, and financing are cheaper, easier, and more accessible than ever before.  The means of engagement with audiences and ultimate building of communities are more doable than we previously even imagined.  And information is accessible as never previously so enjoyed.  Audiences are growing accustomed to a great variety of story-telling approaches while also exploring more divers content.  I believe our behavior is growing less self-focused and more transparent.  From where I sit, it also appears we are growing less risk adverse and more process (vs. product) oriented.  All good things.  I am excited to be part of these times.

Yet I still get asked by filmmakers, people who already have committed their labor in service to what they love, as well as those that are considering such a mission: "What should I do?  How can I have a sustainable and creative life?"  In this incredible paradigm shift brought on by the twin towers of digital transformation and economic collapse, what is the logical response for a creative person who wants to both sustain & prosper?

In our time of grand abundance, atemporal & platform-agnostic complete access, & audience's intense distraction, the logical response for an artist who wants to sustain a creative life & reasonably profit from doing so, is to be completely ubiquitous and extremely prolific with their work, thus requiring radical collaboration, constant iteration, rapid prototyping,  deviation from singular generation, and overall commitment to innovation.

It's a mouthful, sure, but that's my answer.  Of course it would be better if I could avoid the friggin' entrepreneurial vernacular & jargon, but... can you kick it?  I will give it a plain speak pass soon.

Or perhaps you could say it for me?

 

Only YOU Can Stop Our Indie Film & Media Culture From Vanishing

I was invited to contribute to the "Wish For The Future" series on Good.is.  This is mine:

When do we stop just thinking about ourselves and instead start working together? I am not talking about saving the world; I am writing about preserving and advancing ambitious film and media culture. It’s threatened, and no one individual will ever rescue it. My wish for the future is for the creative community, locally, nationally and globally, to work together to build the better indie infrastructure that is now possible.

For the past four years, I have been noting the problems and opportunities in indie film (along with many triumphs). I now have 99 problems—but I fear our collective inertia may be another one. Some people look at such lists and despair, but the truth is that there has never been a better time to be a media creator. We must learn to collaborate with a far larger circle and crew than ever before.
 
The tools of both creation and distribution are affordable and useable. We can tell what we want, how we want, and connect it with the audience that most desires it.
 
We are in the midst of a vast paradigm shift that could usher in a huge transfer of power—and to the makers, not more gatekeepers. The film industry was built on, and still foolishly depends upon, antiquated concepts of scarcity and control of content. We live in a time of grand abundance, total access, and general distraction from that content. The irony is that we have more at our fingertips, but we discover less—and grow alienated because of it. As with virtually all consumer-centered activity, we can discard the sucker-bet of impulse buys and opt instead for informed choice. Yet with the media business, if we do so, not only will we get the usual additional satisfaction, we will elevate the culture, too.
 
If we don’t alter our behavior, our indie film culture will start to vanish. I have produced close to 70 films, and I know in my heart that movies like The Ice Storm21 GramsAmerican Splendor,Happiness, or In The Bedroom would not get made today. Even if they somehow managed to, they would not get seen, and the creators and their supporters would most certainly not benefit.  Think about that. If that is the case, would they even be worth doing? Think about a world without the stories that bring us together and inspire us with possibility. That could be our future.
 
Creators, and supporters of their work, must be rewarded for and by what they create. Instead of that, we live in a time when only the smallest percentage of filmmakers can sustain themselves by what they create. Even our biggest successes return only a small percentage back to investors Although a tremendous number of movies still get corporately acquired, the rates that are paid are lower on a percentage of overall cost basis than ever before.
 
That is the choice we have before us now: a world deprived of great art and artists, or one that thrives with vibrant diversity. We need people to step up, say culture and community matter, and that we are going to build it better together. We need to move past a culture that only celebrates success, and instead grow transparent with our risks, even our failures. We need to focus on the stories, the form, and the communities that promote them—as part of our cultural glue. We need to do this together. We have to stop waiting for a solution, and recognize that it is in fact us.  
 
Show you value your time and select then next 100 movies you want to see now. Share what you are passionate about with your family and friends and insist they watch it. If you can buy direct from an artist, buy direct from an artist.  Support the crowdsource campaign of a favorite or local filmmaker, demand media literacy be taught in public schools, or join a local film society or institute. Don’t undervalue your work by accepting too low an acquisition fee for your work when you could do as well distributing it yourself.
 
This post originally ran on January 1st, 2013 on Good.is.  You can read it (and "like" it) here.  There's some definitely interesting comments worth checking out there -- and besides Good is an awesome site that is well worth your time.  I guarantee you will discover something there you care about -- or I will refund the time it took to get you there ;-). 

ALL Entertainment Should Increase The Current Value Proposition

Chris Dorr's recent post on MoviePass helped me recognize the world as it truly is today.  It wasn't MoviePass that I needed to recognize.  It was that the same thing that allowed Independent Film to flourish is the same thing that is now spurring on innovation everywhere.  Once filmmakers stopped asking for permission to tell their stories, the floodgates opened to a far more diverse approach to culture generation.  To the powers that be the end of permission looks like anarchy, but to the leaders to come, this is the stepping stone to necessary change.  And we are seeing that now. MoviePass, for those yet to explore it, is essentially the Netflix of Theater-going: One price for access to an all you can eat buffet.  MoviePass also has made a history of getting the stakeholders seriously bent out of shape.  From the onset, MoviePass did not see a requirement to ask for permission to innovate.  And they got shut out by the theaters subsequently as a result.  But they found a work around and sustained. Now they have found a better way, and people are getting riled up again.

The first thing that bothered people about MoviePass was that the theater owners were not consulted.  Unfortunately civil behavior falls by the wayside in the charge to innovate.  Remember when you had to call everyone for a group meeting?  And now you just send a group email.  No one wants to move slow any more.  They prefer to just get it done.  Since MoviePass is paying the theaters for the tickets anyway, why is it such a big deal -- particularly if more people are now going to the movies, buying more popcorn, and shelling out for parking.  Doesn't everyone win?

Oftentimes we know not what we do when we step ahead in line.  Where does this path of efficiency lead.  Virtually all social media and online activity serves one god: the mighty one of data mining.  The aggregation of all our likes, wants, connections, and routes is generating new wealth and multiple hands into our wallets.  Is it really theirs to take?

James Shamus, my former partner and head honcho at Focus Features, pointed out in his recent conversation with Christine Vachon at IFP's Independent Film Week (if you didn't tune in, you can watch it here, or read FilmmakerMag's 12 Tips here):

"Every time you click — on a “like” button, or a download link — you are producing. You’re producing “exhaust data,” information about yourself that is then used to market to you and others like you. Filmmakers need to be aware of this new model. Other people are monetizing it now, but they don’t have the same relationship to film culture” as the previous generation of distributors."

Does the information about our wants, interests, and desires belong to us?  Are others free to take it?  Do they need to ask permission?  What if they just use it, and don't display it?  What if by using that information, they make our life better, or at least appear to be better?  Do people care?  Should they?

As evidenced by people's use of Facebook, Twitter, and many many other social media sites, I honestly don't think most people care about this sort of data mining privacy issue (which is not to say they shouldn't).

I also think many people LOVE the efficiency that comes from data mining . Honestly, if no one is now pairing film goers with discount dinner deals in the neighborhood, do we want to stop them from ever doing so?  If data mining improves the value proposition of movie going, thus increasing attendance and generating wealth for the creators, their supporters, and many folks in between should we be shutting it down.  Shouldn't increasing the value proposition of entertainment be something that all movie people want ?

You can count that many new services are being developed that aim to this, and I think theaters should encourage it as it will make moviegoing more enticing.

As a filmgoer, I tried MoviePass while I was still living in NYC.  I shared my thoughts on the future of film business with them, and the company gave me a free trial membership. I am obviously already an avid moviegoer, but the MoviePass model increased even my attendance and reduced the value of things like Netflix. Why have a hamburger at home when you can have a filet minon in a palace.  Because I felt that I had saved money, despite being tight with my cash, I coughed up for popcorn and other delights.  I had about 7 theaters accessible to me that took MoviePass (prior to this new credit card thing they announced) and it got me to the theaters at least twice a week. The theaters all got paid the full price possible from my ticket — I saw that they regularly input $15 because they could.

I totally get the frustration about not being consulted, but I think Chris Dorr's article is right on: permission is not the business policy of today.

We in the film industry need to come up with ways that are not capital intensive that improve the value proposition of cinema. I think the easiest way to do that is to build more social events into movie going — audience needs to transform into community. Audiences need to be curated as much as films do. Ultimately increasing the social value and utility of movies is one of the services that film festivals play — as do community theaters.

There is huge value in community, well beyond ticket sales. As data mining demonstrates, it can generate wealth.  MoviePass seems to realize that. I bet MoviePass can be moved to become a real ally of community theaters, as well as movie goers. Ultimately everyone wants to increase theater attendance — and that is the only way that I can think of that the MoviePass business model can work (and if it does, doesn't everyone win?).  Filmgoers will get a better experience, theaters will sell more tickets & concessions, and MoviePass has direct access to the customers.  Winwinwin.  Yes?

The Elephant In The Room: Indie Filmmakers Can Not Survive As Things Are

IFP's Independent Film Week in NYC was a great event with many diverse elements. It was a place to be. Like walking into your favorite restaurant, and finding all the chefs -- from the places you wanted to go but could not ever afford -- were hanging out and having a cook off and you were the private taster.  So many riches! Good ideas, access, and a good cool vibe.

From the start, I felt the RE:Invent Story mini-conference was too good to miss -- and I wasn't wrong. Top thinkers, makers, doers, getters, and yes, takers to, all sharing and telling like they see it. A peek behind the curtain or inside the kimono, whatever.  It was a privilege to be there. I was feeling inspired to be in the room and hear all the positive upbeat proclamations. For a moment, I felt life was swell. The sun was shining. I even felt thinner, taller. Was my wallet getting thicker too?  Was this the real reality?  Was my life a fiction?  Or did they just not have the glasses.  You know, the ones from "They Live".

My favorite class ever in high school was the day my history teacher told us he was going to teach us to read. History wasn't what we read on the page,but the ideas they trying to express with showing it, the stuff in between the lines.  The only way to ever read history he said, was to find the bias.  Only the victors get published, but the nature of war is that the losers are the ones that die more.  The numbers that count are the bodies piled up in mounds, not the few who live to reap the spoils; look there for the true tale of what was lost while others won.

As the warm glow of afternoon light sauntered in the windows of Lincoln Center, I looked around at the smiling face and looked for the dark.  The Elephant In The Room is the same one that is forever there and forever ignored.  I didn't want to talk.  I wanted others to step up to the mike, but sooner or later things have to be said.  Someone has to get out on the dance floor first.

As Indiewire reported:

"We’re not really addressing the elephant in the room," said Hope. “As much as it’s a great time to be a storyteller, and as much as the cost of making movies goes down, as disruptive as the transformation from an entertainment economy of scarcity to one of great abundance is, the real issue right now is the artists and the people that support them are not benefiting from their work, and it just can’t be done. I’ve watched six years of my own personal earnings keep going down each year. I talk to all my fellow producers, who are saying, ‘I have to move out of New York, it’s too expensive to live here.’ I’m not making a living producing the movies. And the system as it’s set up right now does not benefit artists or those that support them. Until we can tell stories again of ‘The Wedding Banquet’ or 43 times return on ‘Brothers McMullen,’ until we have our Google billionaires again, there won’t be enough money. We need to develop a sustainable investor class that supports the artists and benefits from doing so. Right now, it doesn’t happen. And that’s what we need to do is focus on that. Because we, in America, live in a market-driven entertainment economy, and it can’t support itself. Filmmaking will be the province of the young and the rich for the next 10-20 years unless we do something drastic to change it. And that’s where we are right now for all the change and disruption we have. We don’t have a system that supports the creators or their supporters.”

 


When Will The Film Business Adjust To Reality?

I have given a few interviews around my new mission as the San Francisco Film Society's Executive Director.  I recently spoke to Cinesource and we discussed a bit about where we are now and where we could hopefully go.  It is always such a challenge because the existing businesses are invested in the status quo -- even when that is predicated on propping up a world that is no longer here.

I said: "The business of film has been oriented around the concepts of scarcity and control—where 50,000 titles can come out every year," Ted points out. "It would take nearly a century to [showcase] just a single year's output of films.” 

“The film industry has not been able to keep up with what the tech industry has brought to the forefront. The business has been stuck in ways of doing things that are not good for business. Transformations need to occur to create a sustainable investment class to continue to help filmmakers market to the new niches.” 

Hope would like to see business practices around scarcity make way for a “super abundance” of quality content, a super niche content world, where filmmakers can market freely to that special someone fascinated by their subject and style, although he admitted that engaging with communities is not a frictionless practice yet.

Read the whole interview here.

Peter Broderick: "The Power of Free"

As always Peter Broderick's latest newsletter is a must read -- this time it's about the documentary "Hungry For Change" and how the directors' incredibly success with the film is precisely because they gave it away for free, online. Once again, Peter's been nice enough to let me share the newsletter here with you. I can't recommend enough that you sign up for Peter's Distribution Bulletin. The extraordinary million-dollar success of HUNGRY FOR CHANGE marks a new era of opportunities for independents. It illustrates how "free" can be used to achieve broad awareness, generate revenue quickly, and build a worldwide audience.

The release of HUNGRY FOR CHANGE was unprecedented. The film: - premiered online (having never screened publicly before) - was available worldwide - was absolutely free (for 10 days only)

The results were remarkable: - 453,841 views around the world during the 10 day premiere - over $1.02 million in sales of DVDs and recipe books in the first 14 days

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE is a documentary that challenges the myths perpetuated by the weight loss industry and shows how to develop a healthy, lifelong diet. It is the second film by dynamic husband-and-wife team James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch, who I started consulting with in 2008 when they were beginning to distribute FOOD MATTERS, which went on to sell over 230,000 DVDs (see Distribution Bulletin #14). James and Laurentine are based in Australia but came to Los Angeles last week, where they told me the inside story of their historic "Free Worldwide Online Premiere."

James and Laurentine have learned how to tap the power of free. They've been experimenting with the possibilities of free for four years, first with FOOD MATTERS and now with HUNGRY FOR CHANGE.

FOOD MATTERS

Free Public Screenings - Instead of following the industry norm of charging organizations fees to hold screenings, the filmmakers took a risk and allowed anyone who registered to host a screening for free. The FOOD MATTERS website encourages the hosting of screenings:

"As part of our vision to provide life-transforming information that is accessible to all people, we are excited to allow free screenings of Food Matters around the globe."

The website provides a free screening resource pack, which includes handouts, posters, and other publicity materials. James and Laurentine believed that the cost of lost screening revenues would be much smaller than the benefit of positive word-of-mouth from a greater number of screenings, resulting in increases in visitors to the website, mailing lists sign-ups, and DVD sales.

Free, Dynamic Website Content - The filmmakers regularly added content to the FOOD MATTERS website, making it a valuable resource for their audience. This included videos that were freely available to all visitors to the website who registered, which simply consisted of inputting a name and an email address.

Free Online Screening - In December 2010, FOOD MATTERS DVDs were put on sale from the website for one week at half price. This resulted in 4600 sales, the best week in 2 1Ž2 years of sales. In October 2011, the filmmakers took a more radical approach with even better results. They allowed all comers to watch FOOD MATTERS for free for 8 days. This stimulated direct and indirect sales of 9800 DVDs, twice as many as were sold when it was offered at half price. Even more impressive, over 37,000 people joined the mailing list during this event.

As James explained, when you offer a film for free you get sign-ups from a good percentage of everyone who views the film. When you are having a sale, you only get the customer information from those who actually make a purchase. "For us, we're about creating a long-term relationship with our followers and not just selling to them," noted James.

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE

After their successful experiments with free, particularly the online screening of FOOD MATTERS, James and Laurentine decided to go all the way with HUNGRY FOR CHANGE. They were aware of some films that had been released free online, such as Michael Moore's SLACKER UPRISING, but knew of no major ones that had premiered online.

Pre-Release Marketing - They chose the term FREE WORLDWIDE ONLINE PREMIERE and released the trailer for HUNGRY FOR CHANGE on March 1, 2012. This was followed by two more eblasts with additional video content, including the first 4 minutes of the film, during the 21 days leading up to the premiere. They also partnered with the experts featured in the film. These experts had their own followers and shared in both the promotion of the free online premiere and the revenues from sales they referred.

Global Reach - The Free Worldwide Online Premiere was an instant hit. On its first day (March 21st) there were 45,211 plays. Tens of thousands of people watched the film each day. The premiere ended with a bang with 58,292 plays on the final day (March 31st). Altogether there were almost half a million views from more than 150 countries across the globe in just 10 days. These are astonishing numbers for an independent film that had never been seen before, had no paid advertising, and was not available through any retail channels.

Subscribers - There were 229,000 sign-ups in 14 days, a significantly greater number than FOOD MATTERS had gained in the previous 4 years. James estimates that less than 30% of the HUNGRY FOR CHANGE sign-ups were FOOD MATTERS subscribers, which means that at least 160,000 were new subscribers, almost doubling James and Laurentine's already substantial online following.

Revenue - Everyone who viewed HUNGRY FOR CHANGE was given access to three special offers: the DVD for $34.95, the new recipe book for $49.95, or the DVD and the recipe book for $74.95. Each order came with free bonuses and free shipping. In the first 14 days, over 20,800 orders were placed totaling over $1 million in sales. Although most purchasers had already seen the film for free, many wanted to buy a copy for themselves or purchase it as a gift for family or friends.

Access - Beyond broad awareness, revenues, and sign-ups, there are other important benefits of free. It removes a major barrier between filmmakers and audiences. If the film is available at no charge, at least temporarily, it is accessible to everyone. From the beginning, James and Laurentine have been motivated by a strong desire to get their message out to more people. Free allows their films to be seen even more widely and enables them to build relationships with viewers.

Good Will - Another major benefit of free is good will, which has allowed the filmmakers to develop a truly interactive relationship with their audience. They talk directly to their followers who tell them what they want. This knowledge has enabled them to make and market films that meet their followers' needs and continue to be seen by more and more people. -----

Taking free to a new level has also expanded awareness of James and Laurentine and created new opportunities for them. They are now writing a book for HarperCollins, which will be published this fall to coincide with the retail release of HUNGRY FOR CHANGE.

© 2012 Peter Broderick

Peter Broderick is a Distribution Strategist who helps design and implement customized plans to maximize revenues for independent films. He is also a leading advocate of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, championing them in keynotes and presentations around the world. You can read his articles at www.peterbroderick.com

Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum's Keynote Speech

I was the keynote speaker at Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum yesterday in Los Angeles.  This is the full text of my speech.  And it is the final draft, as an earlier draft got posted a few places accidently.

 

A THOUSAND PHOENIX RISING

"How The New Truly Free Filmmaking Community Will Rise From Indie’s Ashes
Film Independent Filmmakers’ Forum Keynote 9/27/08

I can’t talk about the “crisis” of the indie film industry. There is no crisis. The country is in crisis. The economy is in crisis. We, the filmmakers, aren’t in crisis.

The business is changing, but for us –us who are called Indie Filmmakers -- that’s good that the business is changing. Filmmaking is an incredible privilege and we need to accept it as such – and accept the full responsibility that comes with that privilege.

The proclamations of Indie Film’s demise are grossly exaggerated. How can there be a “Death Of Indie” when Indie -- real Indie, True Indie -- has yet to even live?

Yes, there’s a profound paradigm shift, and that shift is the coming of true independence. The hope of this new independence is being threatened even before it has arrived. Are we going to fight for our independence and can we even shoulder the responsibility that independence requires? That is: will we ban together and work for our communal needs? Are we ready to leave dreams of stardom and wealth behind us?

When someone says, “Indie is dead”, they are talking about the state of the Indie Film Business, as opposed to what are actually the films themselves. They can say “The sky is falling” because for the last fifteen years, the existing power base in the film industry has focused on films fit for the existing business model, as opposed to ever truly concentrating on creating a business model for the films that filmmakers want to make.

This is where we are right now: on the verge of a TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE, one that is driven by both the creators and the audiences, pulled down by the audience and not pushed onto them by those that control the apparatus and the supply. We now have the power and this remarkable tool for something different, but will we fight to preserve the Internet, the tool that offers us our new freedom? Can we banish the dream of golden distribution deals, and move away from asking others to distribute and market it for us? Can we accept that being a filmmaker means taking responsibility for your films, the primary responsibility, all the way through the process? That is independence and that is freedom.

Indie, True Indie, is in its infancy. The popular term “Indie” is a distortion, growing out of our communal laziness and complacency – our willingness to be marketed blandly and not specifically. Our culture is vast and diverse, and we need to celebrate these differences, not diminish them. It’s time to put that term “Indie” to rest.

Independence is within our reach, but we but we have to do what we have never done before: we have to choose.

It’s a lot like the Presidential election. And it’s also a lot like psychotherapy: we have to ask ourselves if the pain we are experiencing presently is enough to motivate us to overcome the fear inherent in change itself.

We have to change our behavior and make that choice. We have to choose the type of culture we want. We have to choose the type of films we want available to us. We have to choose whether the Internet is the corporations or ours. We have to choose whether we decide for ourselves whether a film is worthwhile or whether we let those same corporations decide. We have to choose who are audiences are and how we are to reach them. We have to choose how we can all best contribute to this new system. And as we act on those choices, we have to get others to make a choice too.

For the last fifteen years our Community has made huge strides at demystifying the production process and providing access to the financing and distribution gatekeepers. Some call this democratization, but it is not. This demystification of production was a great first step, but it is not give the filmmaker real power; generally speaking we are still there with our hat in our hands. In some ways, understanding the great behemoth that is production is also a distraction. It has distracted us from making really good films. And as it has distracted us from gaining the knowledge and seizing the power that is available to us. We have learned how to make films and how to bring them to market. We now have to demystify how to market and distribute films, and to do it in a way truly suited to the films we are making and desire to make.

Don’t get me wrong the last fifteen years have been great. The Indie Period – as I suspect history will call it --- has brought us a far more diverse array of films than we had previously. It got better; we got more choices – but that is still not freedom. We are still in a damn similar place to the way it was back when cinema was invented 100 years ago. And it’s time we moved to a new term, to the period of a Truly Free Film Culture.

If we want the freedom to tell the stories we want to tell, we all have to start to contribute to build the infrastructure that can support them. We need to step back from the glamour of making all these films, and instead help each other build the links, articulate the message, make the commitments, that will turn us truly into a Truly Free Film community. We have to stop making so many films.

The work before us is a major readjustment that will require many sacrifices. We must redesign the business structure for what the films actually are. We have to recognize that a Truly Free Film Culture is quite different from Studio Films and even different from the prestige film that the specialized distributors make. But look at what we gain: we will stop self-censoring our work to fit a business model that was appropriated from Hollywood and their mass market films to begin with. We will reach out to the audiences that are hungry for something new, for something truthful, for something about the world they experience, for something that is as complex as the emotions they feel. We can let them guide us because for the first time we can have real access and contact with them.

Presently, we are divided and conquered by a system that preys upon our dreams of success, encouraging us to squander collective progress on false hopes of personal enrichment. We follow the herd and only lead reluctantly. If we want Truly Free Films we have to stop dreaming of wealth, and take the job of building the community and support system.

For the last decade and a half, we have been myopically focused on production. Using Sundance submissions as a barometer, our production ability has increased eight and half times over -- 850% -- from 400 to 3600 films in fifteen years.

C’mon! What are we doing? Wasting a tremendous amount of energy, talent, and brainpower – that much is clear. If the average budget of Sundance submissions is $500K, that means the aggregate production costs are $1.8 billion dollars a year. That’s a hell of a lot of money to lose annually. And you can bet the Indie World isn’t going to get a government bail out like Wall Street and the Banking Industry have.

We need to recognize the responsibility of telling unique stories in unique ways. We are frequently innovators and groundbreakers, but that brings additional responsibilities. Working at the intersection of art and commerce requires consideration for those that come after us. It is our responsibility to do all within our power to deliver a positive financial return. If we lose money, it is a lot harder for those that follow us. With a debt of $1.8 billion per annum you can bet it will be a lot harder for a lot of people. And it should be – but it didn’t need to be.

We don’t get better films or build audiences by picking up cameras. Despite this huge boom in production, the number of truly talented uniquely voiced auteurs produced annually remains unchanged. What’s happened instead is the infrastructure has rusted, the industry has failed to innovate, and we are standing on a precipice begging the giant to banish us into oblivion. Rebuilding that infrastructure, bringing good work to hungry audiences is a far greater glory than another celluloid trophy for only you to stare at.

There is a silver lining too in this dark cloud of over production that they like to call The Glut. As a young man I never found peace until I moved to New York City; the calm I found in New York, is explained by a line of Woody Allen’s: “in New York, you always know what you are missing”. What’s great about a surplus of options – and we have that now, and not just from movies, but also from the web, from books, from games – what’s great is that you have to make a choice. You have to commit. And you have to commit in advance.

The business model of the current entertainment industry is predicated on consumers not making choices but acting on impulses. Choice comes from research, from knowledge, and from tastes. Speak to someone from Netflix, and they will tell you that the longer someone is a member, the more their tastes move to auteurs, to quality film. Once we all wake up and realize that with films, as frankly with everything, we have to be thoughtful, and tastes will change. We have to make it a choice, a choice for, and not an impulse.

We are now in a cultural war and not just the red state/blue state, participate vs. obey kind, not just the kind of cultural war that politicians seem to want to break this country down to. We are in a culture war in terms of what we get to see, enjoy and make. The Lovers Of Cinema have been losing this war because the Makers have invested in a dream of Prince Charming, content to have him sweep down, pick us up, and sing that rags to riches refrain even if it comes but once a year to one lucky filmmaker out of 3,600.

So what is this TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE I am proposing? It is one that utilizes first and foremost the remarkable tool that is The Internet. It is the internet that transforms the culture business from a business that is based around limited supply and the rule of gatekeepers to a business that around the fulfillment of all audience desire, and not just the desire of mass audiences, but also of the niches.

We have never had this sort opportunity before and the great tragedy is that just as we are learning what it means, forces are vying to take it away from us. The principal that all information, all creators, all audiences should be treated equally within the structure that is the Internet is popularly referred to as Net Neutrality. The Telecos, the Cable Companies, and their great ally, the Hollywood Motion Picture Studios and their MPAA are now trying to end that equality. And with it you will lose the opportunity to be TRULY FREE FILMMAKERS. But they are not going to succeed because we are going to ban together and organize; we are going to save the Internet, and keep equal access for all. Right?

A TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE will respect the audience’s needs and desires as much as Indie currently respects the filmmakers. A TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE recognizes film as a dialogue and recognizes that a dialogue requires a community. Participants in a TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE work to participate in that community, work to get others to participate in that community. We work to get others to make a choice, to make a choice about what they want to do, what they want to see. We all become curators. We all promote the films we love. We reach out and mobilize others to vote with their feet, vote with their eyes, and vote with their dollars, to not act on impulses, but on knowledge and experience.

A TRULY FREE FILMMAKER -- be they producer or director -- recognizes their responsibility is not just to find a good script, not just to find a good cast, a good package. A TRULY FREE FILMMAKER recognizes that they must do more than find the funding, and even more than justifying that funding. The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER now recognizes their responsibility is to also find the audience, grow the audience, expand the audience, and then also to move the audience, not just emotionally, but also literally: to move them onwards further to other things. Whether it is by direct contact, email blasts, or blogging, whatever it is, express what you want our culture to be. And express it to all you know.

The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER also recognizes that knowledge is a true power, and that ownership is a false power. The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER recognizes that others, as many others as possible, sharing in that knowledge will make everything better: the films, the apparatus, the business, and the just plain pleasure of participating. We are walking into new territory and we best map it out together.

The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER is no longer bound to just the 5 or 6 reel length to tell their stories. The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER is no longer bound to projection as the primary audience platform and is not stuck on the one film one theater one-week type of release.

It is this thing that we once called the Independent Community that is the sector that truly innovates. The lower cost of our creations allows for greater risks. It is what we used to call “Indies” that has innovated on a technical level, on a content level, on a story telling approach, and it is this, the TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE that will innovate still further in the future of distribution.

With the passion that produces 3600 films a year, with just a portion of those resources, we can build a new infrastructure that opens up new audiences, new models, and new revenue streams that can build a true alternative to the mainstream culture that has been force fed us for years. We are on the verge of truly opening up what can be told, how it is told, to whom it is told, and where is told. We can seize it, but it requires that we embrace the full responsibility of what independence means.

Independence requires knowing your film inside and out. Knowing not just what you are choosing to do, but what you have chosen not to do. Independence comes with knowing that you have fully considered all your options. It is knowing your audience, knowing how to reach them – and not abstractly, but concretely.

I can assure you too, that this work of slowing down on our projects, learning their possibilities fully, finding their audiences, owning our audiences, not only will make our films better, but it will also get them made; for it will create that evasive air of inevitability around your projects that gets films financed. It will also lead you into the real challenge of reaching that audience and earning directly the reward of true interaction with them.

Let’s make the next ten years about seizing our independence, killing “indie” film, and bringing forth a Truly Free Film Culture.

Thank you.