All The Great Old Cinemas In America (and more)

What a great resource  Cinema Treasures is!  It's got a listing of 1000s of cinemas. And if you want Art Houses, PBS' Independent Lens made this nifty map. Now you can find out where you want your film to play anywhere in the 'ol USA. Hat tip again to MovieCityNews for leading the way with these pieces.

Finding the right place to play your film has never been very easy. That sort of specified knowledge has been one of the many reasons traditional distributors have hung around as long as they have. That's all starting to change though. The Workbook Project has been doing a theater mapping project for years now. You've gotta love their map.

Of course if you want to start booking your own theaters, it's not so easy.  There are some nice new developments out there though.

Check out Good Screenings in the UK, and Open Indie here.

Thoughts on The New Festival Model

I love that the Tribeca Film Festival has facilitated an immediate VOD launch for some of the films premiering there this year.  This is a key step in freeing festivals from their geographic limitations.  With the collapse of print and the firing of local film critics, festivals have become our most vital curatorial voice.  Whether we like this or not, it is the time we are living in, and it requires festivals to aggregate their audiences and expand their base; that is if they really want to help film culture grow and deepen, which I thought was their mandate (maybe that no longer is what it about; maybe it is now, like everything else, primarily financially motivated). Unfortunately though the VOD experiment as currently structured (or at least as I understand it) is not the distribution or marketing solution for filmmakers that is necessary.  I worry that the lack of prior promotion,non-existant window, and filmmaker-led marketing will lead Tribeca's bold step forward to mirror the popular (and negative) wisdom that came from the Sundance YouTube experiment (i.e. Fail!).  This is totally avoidable.  We already have better answers.

It's great that most of the film industry now accepts a festival launch as the media launch and not the market launch for most films (okay, so-called producers' reps may still have motivations to think otherwise...).  But a media launch does not translate into immediate audience want-to-see.  Without want-to-see failure is a forgone conclusion. We still need to manufacture the desire for our films (and for the culture and world we want too while we are at it!).  It's not like the films with their festival slots were creating lines around the block, selling out shows with rapidity.  We need to harvest word-of-mouth, seed it, and corral it.  And that takes time, labor, promotion.

Festivals and Film Organizations need to launch Marketing & Distribution Labs akin to the Screenwriting & Directing Labs currently endorsed worldwide. Sending filmmakers into the distribution world without proper tools is irresponsible.  Granted filmmakers are not helpless creatures, and most are not ignorant of this necessity these days.  Yet, it is rare that filmmakers arrive at the festival having built a full campaign, armed with engaged and aggregated audiences.  The established players, and most certainly the platforms offering the opportunity, need to offer more support and guidance to their filmmaker constituency (or is that not really their constituency after all...).

If filmmakers are not prepared to exploit the opportunity of VOD or Online Streaming availability of their film, those that offer this opportunity are aiding in the destruction of a new model before it has been given the opportunity to prove itself.  One step forward, two steps back.

It is not as if we are lacking in good films to view.  It is not even as if we are lacking in good films to view instantly.  New films compete against the entire history of filmmaking.  What new films offer that the classic movies don't is the opportunity for an audience to engage with one another in a new and unexpected way all at the same time.  The launch of the conversation is a key component in the launch of a film.  You can't make movies by yourself (okay other than a few folks out there) and you can't start and lead a worldwide conversation by yourself.  Availability on VOD is not a conversation starter.  The big winner in the current model of festival VOD launch will be the content aggregators again.  Yay, right?  Not.

We need to pave the path to make this new model work.  AMPAS currently will deny films award consideration if the films don't first premiere theatrically.  Award consideration has historically been one of the most dramatic and cost effective ways to increase want-to-see; cross that out from your strategy plan.  Or maybe we should organize to get some rules changed...  and organize marketing & distribution labs while we are at it.

It seems to me that a more effective strategy would be to have released a series of transmedia content prior to the festival launch, using that content to create a robust database of engaged fans, tracked geographically.  As the festival approaches, utilize a crowdfunding campaign, not so much to raise $ -- but of course that always helps -- but to further engage the super fans.  In the final weeks leading to the fest, mobilize the audience to demand the film locally via a service like OpenIndie.  All the while feed the hungry with increasingly available updates to a site that offers a wide variety of related products for purchase (audiences do want to support the artists they respect).  With this crowd now identified and engaged, launch a series of regional (and ideally sponsored) screenings following that festival media launch, whereby the audience gets involved to help spread awareness.  And only after all of that, launch the VOD release.

Well, that's my two cents, but I only recently got up, and need my coffee -- and besides, I wasn't charging you for this (not that I do).  You may not agree.  I am sure you have some thoughts of your own and I hope you will share them.  This was all news yesterday.  We shouldn't be so damn slow to respond.  Let's figure out the right way.  I make myself pretty available. I would have liked to discuss this before, but happy to do so after too.  Share your thoughts.  We can make this work if we work together.

P.S.  Since posting this yesterday, there's been a lot of great comments and deep thinking going on.  Please make sure to continue reading below.

ADD 3/5: Tribeca's VOD has grown as an issue over the web.  Filmmaker Magazine and TheHotBlog here.

MIke Fleming addresses the marketing question head on and states:

Gilmore believes the festival's growing momentum creates a high awareness level among specialty film lovers for a dedicated Tribeca VOD channel. That effort will be helped by promotional clout provided by longtime festival sponsor American Express, which signed on to become Founding Partner of Tribeca’s VOD distribution program, as well as a separate online venture that will show short films and broadcast filmmaker panels during the fest's run from April 21-May 2. While it’s not exactly clear yet how much promotional might Amex will bring, one thing is for sure: promotional spends won’t be deducted from the film’s revenues the way traditional P&A costs are.

ADD:  The story is being covered really widely;  the NY Times has joined the fray.  Yet no one seems to be doing any real reporting.  Where's the facts?  How much are they paying for these VOD rights?  What's the filmmaker's split of the revenues? Where's the beef?

Support Your Family! Give To Indie/Art Film Infrastructure

I have always supported the idea that you need to vote for the world you want with your dollars. I am the odd bird that believes in both optional and mandatory contributions to a better world; what's all the beef about taxes? If our tax dollars really went to things I cared about, I would be all for more of them (as long as there was REALLY HEAVY penalties for corruption too that is). Hey, I'd even vote for mandatory conscription if it had more options than just military and if they provided some real training to the participants. But that's a different subject, better suited for rants elsewhere. Let's get back to the world of cinema...

Here on TrulyFreeFilm the goal is to find a way to build an infrastructure that can support diverse work (and promote it -- the work, the participants, & the infrastucture). To that end, I think everybody that partakes in and benefits from the infrastructure, should give back to it. Sometimes this giveback comes in the form of labor and participation, and sometimes it depends on $$money$$. It costs to build the world that we want and being responsible means accepting that fact, and recognizing that it is our place to contribute.
By that standard, how much show one give to build the infrastructure for the culture we want? Should it be 5% of your income like they encourage in some churches? Perhaps even more is mandated when it also is your livelihood that needs support, right? If we don't support our industry's infrastructure, how can we expect it to be around to support us?
Beyond money though, we must fight for what we want with our actions. The phrase "stand up for what you believe" always felt off to me. Shouldn't it be more "Step forward for what you believe". Even if you are broke (it is indie film afterall) then hopefully you still have some time you could you give weekly to move the culture a bit closer to the one you want. Why don't more people use their labor in this way?
So... what should we all be doing? Well, I have made that list before.
Maybe it's time to air our laundry. Show our true colors. Perhaps we should discuss what we each really do, and figure out what more we can do. I am pretty public with my thoughts already, and with most of my actions too. But is it enough?
So... this is that list of mine as to what I have done this year to support indie film in terms of donations. I am showing you mine, not so much in hoping you show yours too, but to motivate you & others to do likewise). I recognize this list is just a start. I want to get more on the ball. I hope this list doubles next year -- particularly in the artist support category (this is the dawn of crowdfunding). We all have to do a whole lot more. I know I have to give more money for a more diverse and vibrant cinema. I need to do more to support the existing apparatus. So this is that list in hopes that maybe you will be motivated to give a little more.
$ DONATIONS FOR A NEW MODEL:
$ DONATIONS FOR ARTISTS I SUPPORT:
$ TO SUPPORT EXHIBITION & CURATION:
Exhibition Membership: Film Forum
TIME DONATION: MENTORSHIP:
Sundance Creative Producer Lab Mentor
Made In NY Mentor
This is that Internship Program
WHAT I AM NOT YET DOING:
Active Membership In Organizations
The thing that I have been wrestling with is that I do not participate in any organization. I have previously been on the board of the IFP and have been on various advisory boards, but as of now I am not on any other than the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. I have thought hard about becoming more involved in the PGA, the IFP, & FIlm Independent but for various reasons of my own, haven't thought my time is best spent there, as much as I admire each organization. I think this is a failing on my part but am not sure how to best to resolve it. I like to work where I am most needed and those organizations have a lot going for them already -- although personally speaking I still think it is a lame excuse.

Supporting More Artists
Hopefully this will become easier to both identify and give in the new year with the rise of crowdfunding models.

Supporting More New Model Exploration
Hopefully this too will become more widespread and easier with crowdfunding in the new year.
Note to self: resolve to do better in 2010.