How To Get Ready For That FIlm Festival

You are in, and now you have all sorts of wonderful problems -- the kind most filmmakers wish they could enjoy.  You know, you have to do all the things you have to do for a film festival.  I have tried to collect the various blog posts I have written or have found written by others that will really prepare you.  There's a lot more to be written.  But this is a good start:

Distribution:

Preparation:

Producers' Rep (aka Sales Rep):

Publicists:

Q&A:

Sales:

Social Media:

IF YOU KNOW OF OTHER REALLY GOOD POSTS TO HELP PEOPLE PREP FOR FESTIVALS, Please share them here!!!

“A Tree Falls In The Forest” and other ruminations on social/community-based marketing…

by Jeffrey Winter, Sheri Candler, and Orly Ravid.

The old philosophical thought experiment "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" has never been truer for film distribution. With the incredible number of films available for consumption on innumerable platforms, getting some form of distribution for your film is no longer the core problem. The central issue now is: how will anyone know about it? How will you find your audience? And how will you communicate enough to them to drive them to the point of actually seeing it?

Before we plunge into that question, let’s take one step back and discuss the term “distribution.” In today’s convergence universe, where anyone with technical savvy can be surfing the Internet and watching it on their television, every single person with a high speed internet connection is in some way a “distributor.” Anyone can put content onto their website and their Facebook and de facto make it available to anyone else in the world. Anyone can use DIY distribution services to distribute off their site(s), and get onto larger and / or smaller platforms.

Even getting your film onto some combination of the biggest digital platforms – i.e. iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and Cable VOD – is not insurmountable for most films. We’re not saying it is easy…there are a myriad of steps to go through and rigorous specs at times and varying degree of gatekeepers you’ll have to interface with and get approval from. But with some good guidance (for example, we at the Film Collaborative can help you with that), some cash, and a little persistence…these distribution goals can usually be achieved.

But in a certain way, none of that matters. If you have your film available, say, on iTunes…. how is anyone going to know that? Chances are you aren’t going to get front- page promo placement, so people will have to know how and why to search for it. This is why the flat fee services to get onto iTunes (which we now offer too) do not necessarily mean you will net a profit. Films rarely sell themselves. You are going to have to find the ways to connect to an audience who will actively engage with your film, and create awareness around it, or you will certainly fall into the paradox of the “tree falls in the forest” phenomenon… which many independent filmmakers can relate to.

So we arrive at the current conundrum, how do we drive awareness of our films? The following are the basic “points of light” everyone seems to agree with.

• Use the film festival circuit to create initial buzz.
• If you can, get the film into a break-even theatrical, hybrid theatrical, non-theatrical window that spreads word of mouth on the film.
• Engage the press, both traditional press and blogosphere, to write about the film.
• Build a robust social media campaign, starting as early as possible (ideally during production and post), creating a “community” around your film.
• Build grassroots outreach campaign around any and all like-minded organizations and web-communities (i.e. fan bases, niche audiences, social issue constituencies, lifestyle communities, etc.)
• Launch your film into ancillaries, like DVD and digital distro, and make sure everyone who has heard of the film through the previous five bullet points now knows that they can see the film via ancillary distribution, and feels like a “friend” of the effort to get the word out to the public-at-large. • Be very creative and specific in your outreaches to all these potential partners, engaging them in very targeted marketing messages and media to cut through the glut of information that the average consumer is already barraged with in everyday life. This, above all, means being diligent in finding your true “fans,” i.e. the core audience who will be passionate about your subject matter and help you spread the word.

Our book SELLING YOUR FILM WITHOUT SELLING YOUR SOUL and its companion blog on www.SellingYourFilm.com already highlights a good number of filmmakers who have used some combination of the above tactics to successful effect in finding a “fanbase” of audiences most likely to consume the film. Here, in this posting, we illustrate some additional recent films and tactics useful to filmmakers moving forward with these techniques.

WE WERE HERE, by David Weissman Selected for the U.S. Documentary Competition by the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, WE WERE HERE tells the emotionally gripping story of the onset of AIDS in San Francisco in the early 1980s. The Film Collaborative handled festival release for this film, as well as international sales and grassroots marketing support on behalf of the theatrical and VOD (and US sales in conjunction with Jonathan Dana). Theatrical distribution, press, and awards campaigning is being handled by Red Flag Releasing.



On the face of it, WE WERE HERE is a documentary about a depressing topic like AIDS, and therefore doesn’t seem like the easiest sell in the world. However, it also happens to be an excellent film that was selected for Sundance and Berlin, as well as a film that has fairly obvious niche audiences that can be identified and targeted. As soon as The Film Collaborative came onboard, about a month prior to the Sundance 2011 premiere, we set about creating a list of more than 300 AIDS organizations in the United States, and reached out to each of them to ask them to get to know us on Facebook and our website, and also offered to send them screeners, in case they wanted to host a special screening down the road etc. Needless to say, we got an enthusiastic response from these groups (since we were doing work they would obviously believe in), but the goal here was not to make any kind of immediate money…we simply wanted them onboard as a community to tap into down the line.

Simultaneously, we created a targeted list of 160 film festivals we thought were best for the film -- mixing major international fests, doc fests, and LGBT fests – and sent each of them a personalized email telling them about the film and asking them if they would like to preview it. The film (to date, is still booking internationally) was ultimately selected by over 100 film festivals (many not on our original target list of course).

As the screenings began, we reminded the filmmaker over and over to follow every introduction and every Q&A with a reminder about “liking” the Facebook page, and completely to his credit, filmmaker Weissman was always active in all aspects of Facebook marketing…always posting relevant information about the film and replying to many “fan” posts personally. Not surprisingly, a film this powerful and personal generated many deeply affecting fan posts from people who had survived the epidemic etc..., or were just deeply moved by the film. As a result, the Facebook page became a powerful hub for the film, which we strongly recommend you check out for a taste of what real fan interaction can look like ( http://www.facebook.com/wewerehere). Warning….a lot of the postings are extremely emotional! One quick note – some of the most active subject members of the doc were made administrators as well, and also respond to the posts…a clever idea as it surely makes the FB fans feel even closer to the film, since they can talk with the cast as well. This would be an interesting thing to try with a narrative film as well…having the cast reply on Facebook (FB)… which is something we haven’t seen much of yet.

With the basics of community built – between the AIDS organizations, the Festivals, and the FB fans, we now had a pool to go back to…. both on theatrical release as well as upon VOD release (which just recently happened on December 9, 2011). For each major theatrical market, and for the VOD release, we went back to these people, and asked them to spread the word. We asked for email blasts, FB posts, tweets…whatever they could do to help spread the word. And without a doubt the film has gotten out there beyond anyone’s wildest initial dreams…although with VOD release only last month and DVD release still to come, final release numbers won’t be known to us for some time now…

But you can be assured we’ll be hitting up our community when the DVD comes out as well! Also please note that these techniques and efforts apply to any niche. For example, on a panel at Idyllwild Film Festival a filmmaker talked about his documentary about his father playing for the Chicago Cubs and how he sold 90,000 DVDs himself (and he also did event theatrical screenings via Emerging Pictures). He simply went after the niche, hard.

HENRY’S CRIME directed by Malcolm Veneville Starring Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, and James Cannes, world premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Released in limited theatrical run in April 2011, and available on DVD and digital platforms as of August 2011. Although a film with “A-level” cast, the film was produced independently and distributed independently by Moving Pictures Film and Television. The film tells the story of a wrongly accused man (Reeves) who winds up behind bars for a bank robbery he didn’t commit. After befriending a charismatic lifer (Caan) in prison, Henry finds his purpose — having done the time, he decides he may as well do the crime. Ancillaries for the film are handled by Fox Studios. The Film Collaborative’s sister for-profit company, New American Vision, was brought aboard to handle special word-of-mouth screenings for the film, as well as social media marketing, working in conjunction with several top publicists and social marketing campaign companies in the business.



On the face of it, this film couldn’t possibly be any more different than WE WERE HERE. A narrative, heist/rom-com with major names sounds a lot easier to sell than an AIDS doc with no names. And yet, the process of reaching out to the public was surprisingly similar….both in terms of what we did and what other professional consultants on the project did as well.

First, we targeted major film festivals and major film society organizations around the country for special “word-of-mouth” (WOM) screenings of the film – seeking to create a buzz amongst likely audiences. Since the film was to be theatrically released in major markets, we targeted the festivals/film societies in these markets. This result was successful, and we got major WOM screenings in NY, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, as well as Buffalo…which was important only because the film was shot and set in Buffalo and used significant Buffalo-based crew and resources, making it a perfect market for the film.

Next, we broke the film down into logical first constituencies for the film, which we identified as follows: 1) fans of Keanu Reeves and fans of his prior movies, 2) fans of Vera Farmiga and fans of her prior movies, 3) fans of James Caan and fans of his prior movies, 4) twitter accounts that mentioned any of the cast as well as those dedicated to independent film etc., 5) web communities dedicated to anything related to the playwright Anton Checkov (because the film features significant and lengthy scenes dedicated to Reeves and Farmiga performing Checkov’s Cherry Orchard), 6) key websites dedicated to romantic comedies, 7) key recommenders of independent film, etc. Over the course of approximately six weeks prior to release, we reached out to these sites regularly, in an effort to build excitement for the film.

While this grassroots work was taking place, our colleagues in publicity organized press junkets around the film, and of course solicited reviews. In addition, marketing professionals from both Ginsberg Libby and Moving Pictures were constantly feeding marketing assets for the film as well as exclusive clips both to the major press, key film sites, as well as to the official Facebook and twitter for the movie….all with the same goal in mind…i.e. to create awareness for a film that, although it had the feeling of a traditional Hollywood film in many ways, was actually thoroughly independent and lacking the resources for major TV buys, billboards, print ads, and other traditional marketing techniques.

Unfortunately, in the end, HENRY’S CRIME did not truly take hold, and the theatrical release was far less than stellar. The reviews for the film were not complimentary (it is a good film, but not a great film), and the word-of-mouth was also not sufficient to drive the performance of the film.

This of course often happens with independent film releases, and in this case the lessons learned were particularly instructive. It was apparent while working on the film that the community-building aspects of the marketing campaign started far too late to truly engage an audience large enough to support the release (it only began in earnest about six weeks before the film’s release…even though the film had had its festival world premiere nearly SIX MONTHS before). In addition, HENRY’S CRIME proves the old adage that, sometimes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink…meaning that the word of mouth audiences and press reviews didn’t particularly spark interest in the film in the wider community because they weren’t particularly excited by the film.

This is a lesson sometimes we all need to learn the hard way…that in today’s glutted market, it isn’t always enough to put out a decent movie….in fact in today’s competition, you really need to put out a independent movie that is actually great…or at least connects so deeply with your audience that they are compelled to see it.

Of course, one endless question rages on here. What are the long-tail effects of the outreach? Just because people didn’t turn out in droves to see a film in the theater, does that mean they won’t tune in on a later date in the digital platform of their choice. Certainly many people who have HEARD of Henry’s Crime who didn’t see it in the theater may one day rent it on an available digital platform, and that is why the grassroots work is so critical. We are setting up today what we can’t possibly know until tomorrow….or maybe several years from now.

TAKE-AWAY LESSONS from this post

By comparing these experiences, there are several take-aways that filmmakers should be encouraged to keep in mind when thinking about marketing their independent film. Here are some of them….

1) Build a list, both in the real world and online, of every organization and cross-promotional partner you can think of (or google), that might be interested in your film. Reach out to them about your film, and ask for their support. This is arduous work, but it has to be done. From Sheri Candler: “Initially you will take part in the community before you tell them why you are there. For example, I started researching where online the ballet community hangs out and who they listen to. I also endeavored to meet these people offline when I could. If I was going to be in their city, I asked to meet for coffee. Real life interface when you can. I then started following those online communities and influencers quietly to start with and interjecting comments and posts only when appropriate. They were then curious about me and wanted to hear about the film. If I had gone on to the platforms or contacted the influencers immediately telling them I was working on a film, chances are they would shun me and ruin my chances to form relationships. This is why you have to start so early. When you’re in a hurry, you can’t spend the necessary time to develop relationships that will last, you can’t build the trust you need. It helps to deeply care about the film. I think the biggest takeaway I have learned when it comes to outreach is the very personal nature of it. If you don’t personally care, they can tell. They can tell you are there to use them and people are on their guard not to be used. The ideal situation is they WANT to help, they ASK to help, you don’t have to cajole them into it.”

2) Offer your potential partners something back in return. With a film like WE WERE HERE, this wasn’t difficult…because the film naturally supported their work. But, for most films, you’ll need to offer them something back… like ticket-giveways, promotional emails, branding, opportunities for fundraising around the cause, merchandising give-aways, groups discounts, etc. Be creative in your thinking as to why YOU should get their attention amongst the many other films out there.

3) Community-building is an organic, long-term process… Just like making friends in the real world, the process of making “friends” in community marketing and online takes time and real connection. With WE WERE HERE, we had a year to build connections amongst AIDS orgs, film festivals, and attendees at numerous screenings. The opposite was true with HENRY’S CRIME….six weeks just doesn’t work. Ask yourself…how many “friends” could you make in six weeks?

4) Community-building only really works with films that truly “touch” their audience. In today’s glutted marketplace, you need to make a film that really speaks profoundly to your audience and excites them ….unless of course you have a huge enough marketing budget to simply bludgeon them with numerous impressions (this, of course, is usually reserved to the studios, who can obviously launch mediocre films with great success through brute force). You, probably, cannot do this.

5) You need to be very specific and targeted in your outreach to likeminded organizations etc. Don’t rely on organizations to give you “generalized support.” Provide them with very specific instructions on how and when they should outreach about your film. For example….make sample tweets, sample FB posts, and draft their email blasts for them. Give them as close to a ready-to-go marketing outreach tool as possible…with a specific “call to action” clearly identified.

6) You’ll need warm bodies and some technical know-how on you side to accomplish this. There’s absolutely NOTHING mentioned in this post that an individual filmmaker with a talented team of helpers cannot accomplish. But whether its using HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Facebook analytics, or a compelling set of marketing assets and the time and energy to get them out there….you’ll need a team to help you. Remember, all DIY (do it yourself) marketing is really DIWO (do it with others), and you’ll need to build your team accordingly. If you are short on cash…you’ll likely need to be long on interns and other converts to the cause. But if you are seeking a professional team that’s long on experience and expertise, you can find many of them on The Film Collaborative’s new Resource Place page. There are many services out there to help you who have done this before….you are not alone! Sheri wonders: “how many people are reasonable”? Of course it varies, but I think 4 is safe. A traditional publicist with a big contact list for your target publications who handles press inquiries and placements; an outreach/social media person who is a great fit for your audience to regularly post and answer questions/comments from the audience not the journalists; a distribution/booker who figures out how the film will be distributed and all of the tech specs, shopping carts, contracts, festivals, community screenings that are appropriate; and the graphic designer/web designer who figures out the technical and aesthetic elements needed to make the online impact you will need. It is still a big job for only 4 people but it would be completely overwhelming for just one person to do or a person who doesn’t know what they are doing and a bunch of interns to handle.

7) A final take home: You may not see immediate results of each outreach and we know how dispiriting that can be. A lot of times early in the process, you will fail to connect, fail to get a response, but keep plugging away and you will very often come to enjoy the fruits of your distribution / marketing labor whether by emboldening a cause, generating more revenue, or enhancing your career, or all of the above.

Happy Distributing!!!!

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

The Letter 'D': Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player

By Orly Ravid

Dynamo Player is one of the many DIY options we've looked at with close interest over the past year, (See Felicia Ptolemy's Review HERE and Rob Millis' Introduction to the Dynamo Player HERE. Is 2012 the year that it takes off for the indie and artist direct communities? It may very well be, and if so, we can have Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative to thank once again. Today, she sits down with Dynamo's founder and discusses further evidence of it's success and some of the do's and don'ts of the platform.

The Letter “D”

D: Distribution, DIY, Dynamo Player.

I got educated more all about how it works, with owner Rob Millis who I finally met in person at IDFA in Amsterdam. A fine gentleman indeed.

I usually recommend a filmmaker work with at least two DIY options to give customers a choice and just to not have all one’s eggs in one proverb.

Rob explained why Dynamo serves its filmmakers well. He noted its “designed with presentation and high quality” and that the “filmmaker's brand is in front.” It’s not just about the Dynamo brand.

Dynamo can handle any of the popular video standards and offers viewers up to 1080HD quality, a clean crisp presentation and as many extras as one can pack in. Hence it’s a good alternative to DVD, but with the instant gratification of an online rental.

A filmmaker once remarked that the issue with DIY is the “TRUST FACTOR”:

People don’t trust too many places with their credit cards and feel safer with big companies that have built a solid reputation. Well at Dynamo, and some other DIY services, the payment method is secure. Rob Millis explains:

“The key is payment process and protecting information”. Dynamo does not handle any payment information directly. They rely only on PAYPAL and AMAZON. Dynamo does not receive any of that confidential information so as not to risk anything going wrong. They just confirm that one is approved rather than handling payment info.

What about GENRE?

What kind does Dynamo work with and which ones do well with the service:

Most of their success is with DOCUMENTARIES.

“They have the highest value and there are a lot of reasons for that,” noted Millis.

“Entertainment for its own sake is competitive and as soon as it’s online one is competing with mainstream studio product. DOCS have a hook for those interested in the subject matter and hence people are willing to pay for it”.

“Dramas are harder to sell. The marketing for them needs to be more powerful than that for docs. Docs are also EVERGREEN. Dramas die off as soon as the marketing stops and are very competitive. There are hundreds of love stories but only one or a couple docs or at most a few about any given specific topic”. Millis concluded “One can sustain sales for a doc”. However Dynamo still accepts all kinds of films.

In fact the first-ever film rented on Facebook was a Zombie film (“Stag Night of the Dead”) hosted by Dynamo that played on the page for $1.99 and then dropped to $0.99 as a special sale.

DYNAMO DIY RULES | DO’s & DON'TS:

“The most obvious rule is to be in touch with your audience, especially on Twitter & Facebook”. Millis elaborated that in a more vague sense it’s best to put oneself in a viewer's shoes. “Think of them as consumers… Recognize that people have a million options. Film needs to be well-presented and easy to consume, make it easy and possible for them to choose your film instead of all their other options”. I also note this to filmmakers about theatrical releases and suggest they remember how many choices people have for how to spend their time and money.

Millis exclaimed the “BIGGEST MISTAKE FILMMAKERS make is believing that their film is beautiful enough to compel people to watch it just because the trailer reflects that to some extent.” A poorly designed website will not do! "Think about it as a product that is being sold and that you are competing for really valuable time when your audience has a million other really good options available".

$$$ TALK:

Right now iTunes current releases are $6.99 RENTAL for 2 days New Releases for OLDER TITLES it goes down as low to $1.99 or $2.99. Millis thinks iTunes is pricing things correctly. The Dynamo mean average sale price for all sales is approximately $4.00, including shorts and music videos, that amount to approximately 1% of all sales are below $1.99.

Millis told an anecdote that taught the moral of not making content seem too cheap. There’s so much for free online and people judge what is priced like a discount bin, hence the $0.99 rule, which is, most of the time, $0.99 makes your film look cheap!

PRICE RANGES:

$9.99 seems at the top of what works and sells well. Dramas do well $1.99 - $4.99 (“they see a strong drop off on either side of that,” Millis noted). Documentaries can be priced higher – he sees solid sales all the way up to $9.99The best range is $2.99 - $6.99 for most films, except for big films or those with a serious marketing team behind them.

Of course it’s always hard to predict what will work or not. For long tail, mid tail, smaller filmmakers the difference between sales of $5.00 and sales of $10,000 in a month is based on the work done with the audience and a good looking player.

Great films with A-list talent sit idle all over the internet because nobody knows they exist, while independent titles that strike a chord with the audience can catch on fire overnight with just a little bit of communication and an appealing web page.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The timing varies, as one would expect because strategies and distribution needs vary. People sometimes do a first release with Dynamo and then stop to do theatrical and DVD and then start again, or others do it later on in the process and get on Dynamo only at the tail end of the sales.

A film that has been heavily pirated can still do good business because the film looks good this way and one can add compelling extra features. One can read about an example of this: UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US (see her Guest Post on Ted Hope's blog.

What’s the MOST $$$ made for any one DIY film on Dynamo Player?

This information is regarding Independents, DIY only:

$20,000 per film MAX if it’s an independent and with small marketing team. It won’t be bigger unless you have serious marketing experience. But Rob Millis encourages: “don't give up even if you have no traction in beginning, you just may have not hit critical mass yet”.

“I can tell you that sales typically taper off slowly for documentaries, continuing at a rate of perhaps 10-20% of the original month. If a doc did $10,000 in online rentals its first month, with some dedicated online promotion, then you might expect sales of $1,000-$2,000 per month several months later.

Dramatic features are a different animal, and you can expect major sales drops after promotion stops. A lot of residual interest depends on star power and search results, but dramas get stale faster.

Regarding dollar values, I can’t really give a solid estimate in any way that wouldn’t be misleading. No matter what number I give, every filmmaker then expects to reach that number. My biggest hesitation is attributing an estimate to Dynamo specifically, which always makes people really excited or really disappointed about Dynamo. In reality, it’s about the marketplace, and the online rental market can certainly support revenues of 7-figures for independent films. There really is no limit, practically speaking.

For instance, Louis C.K. just produced his own comedy special and did over a $1mm in sales using PayPal and direct downloads in about a week. He’s a well-known comedian, but this was a mid-budget shoot completely financed and marketed by Louis, totally independent. I certainly think his sales numbers would be at least as good if he had used Dynamo, but the success or failure would still lie mostly with his ability to convert the audience.

Beyond that we’re talking about differences of probably 10-50% between different platforms, depending on the customer experience.”

Dynamo is proud to note that its sales are growing overall, significantly. To find out more about Dynamo email info@dynamoplayer.com or visit DynamoPlayer.com to see an introductory video and sign up.

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

New World Distribution in the Old World

By Orly Ravid

Quick tell your investors! Indie Film is safe again. The big waterfall of profits is starting to mount. Haven't you heard the news? VOD is making it all good again. Simple as making a good film that people know of and want to pay for. Seriously though, the news has been coming in and now we are getting numbers about how films perform here. And they look pretty sweet...

The Film Collaborative's Orly Ravid fortunately wants us to know even more and has done some research on the prospects of EU Digi Distro. And now I am smiling. You will be too.

New World Distribution in the Old World

As DVD sales continue to crumble (allowing us to use less petroleum), VOD is growing (now in 65.7 million US homes -- about 55.7% of TV homes, according to MagnaGlobal). Digital distribution revenues are starting to percolate and be more reliable. Worldwide revenue from video-on-demand movies and TV programs will reach $5.7 billion in 2016, up 58% from revenue of $3.6 billion in 2010, according to a new research report. The tally does not include pay-per-view sports events, adult entertainment or subscription-based VOD services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Google, among others, according to London-based Direct TV Research Ltd. It should be noted this is not all related to new film but rather making catalog or library content available digitally. According to the study, “Internet-based TV (IPTV) is projected to overtake digital terrestrial TV (DTT) in revenue nextyear to become the third largest platform globally. Indeed, VOD revenue from DTT is expected to be largely confined to Western Europe” (source.)

In South Korea of course we know almost all have Broadband and watch films digitally but the US digital distribution market has been slower to mature, though it is finally, and so how is new world distribution faring in the old world? I wanted to explore the digital distribution trends in Europe. “The EU records the second highest TV viewing figures globally, produces more films than any other region in the world, and is home to more than five hundred online video-on-demand services” (European Commission “Green Paper” on the online distribution of audiovisual works in the European Union, 7/13/11). It should be noted that this 500 number is more theoretical and that probably only 100 are worth talking about and half of those being the main revenue generators. The EU funds new platforms but not all of them emerge successfully, much like our US government’s funding of alternative energy. “A range of platforms offering transactional on-demand services span multiple territories e.g. E.g. Acetrax, Chello, Headweb, iTunes, Playstation Network Live, Voddler, Xbox Live. These tend to continue the practice of addressing customers "in their own language", and tailoring content to local preferences such as language, film classification, dubbing or subtitling requirements, advertising, holiday periods, and general consumer tastes. This is consistent with the experience of producers and distributors whether large or small scale, who have indicated that although they license content on a multi-territorial basis where there is a business case to do so, targeted and local investments in distribution and marketing are nevertheless required in order to promote and sell films in each country” (IBID). (To read the paper in its entirety go here.)

On a side note: many European countries are used to having films dubbed not subtitled and there is apparently a new software that facilitates dubbing in the same voice as the actor / speaker. I’m looking into it further. In any case, subtitling for digital is getting less and less expensive and can be done via software or labs. If one has played a film at a film festival in another country and then plan to distribute the film there I recommend you ask the fest for access to the subtitles (if cleared for other distribution). Traditionally, Nordic, Benelux, and some others are fine with and prefer subtitles, while others (such as Germany, Spain, and Italy) require dubbing. In the higher educated arthouse/filmfest world, one can often get away with just subtitled versions even in the dubbing countries.

At The Film Collaborative we have noticed that iTunes has just recently expanded its footprint into Europe and is now available in the following EU countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom. Non-English stores include: Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal.

NETFLIX, Amazon (via Lovefilm), and Hulu are expanding their EU footprint too. In the US Hulu is ramping up its competitive edge with Netflix on the SVOD HuluPlus and these days it’s looking for more films that it can do stunts around.

So what are the other key EU platforms? Trends? And which kinds of films are viable?

I asked TFC Board of Advisor / EU digital distribution guru and TFC partner Wendy Bernfeld of Rights Stuff to weigh in. Wendy noted that various international platforms are increasingly interested by now in licensing art house and festival films, not just mainstream, and that they also have room for niches. (For an example, TFC received an offer for 300 EU from one small platform but sometimes the money is quite better, and/or is coupled with rev shares and small upfronts. The point is that the deals are non-exclusive and can ripple through various windows and regions. Keep in mind some platforms are transactional (pay per view) and revenue sharing, others ad supported (free to consumer) and others subscription (e.g. pay per month) and hence the license fee, just like TV, but smaller often though sometimes greater. Wendy notes that whilst some earlier pioneer platforms have gone out of business, others are launching or strengthening, and diversifying into thematic genres instead of only mainstream. Wendy cites that some of those non-USA platforms include Orange, Viasat, XIMON (for art house/festival/docs) in the Netherlands, Voddler (Nordic), Blinkbox (UK), mubi.com (EU), not to mention many telecom and cable VOD platforms that have online offerings of their own Wendy adds that “LOVEFILM in the UK (now owned by Amazon) usually only takes larger packages, not one-offs, if dealing direct with producers/ distributors, otherwise one can go through aggregators/digital distributors and sometimes one is pressed to have had a DVD or local theatrical release already, while in other case they are willing to premiere online or Day & Date. Lesser-known or library (catalog) films can usually find a home on a non- exclusive and on ad-supported (AVOD) basis, but more current films usually start with transactional (TVOD) basis and/or subscription platforms (SVOD)… Many of these platforms are willing to take delivery of art house films via DVD” or a hard drive or digital master (instead of requiring the expensive encoding/digitizing the way Apple does).

Wendy believes that 2012 will see more of the same consolidation that 2011 witnessed. Also some key platforms (such as Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo, Endemol/AOL, Nokia, Canal+, Orange) are selectively commissioning Transmedia and/or branded film opportunities. Ad- supported (AVOD) platforms such as YOUTUBE and subscription platforms such as Lovefilm in the UK (owned by Amazon) are adding premium transactional VOD (TVOD) in order to handle current films and not just library or PAY TV window titles, and some are competing against the premium PAY TV window and occasionally buying an SVOD window exclusively instead of nonexclusively, to beat out a PAY TV licensee (e.g. as with Netflix, Lovefilm recently, in some key indie deals). More platforms are open to REVERSE WINDOWING (a trend growing and succeeding in the US, e.g. Melancholia), which is launching online first and then opening theatrical. Interestingly, EPIX began licensing international festival documentaries in 2010 but have now focused their attention on co-productions instead of acquisitions. As in the US, many traditional PAY TV platforms are going cross-platform and on multiple devices (a la “TV EVERYWHERE”, and similarly the nonlinear online channels are often seeking multiple device rights and/or at least have an App). In terms of trends, it still seems like the bigger funds and bigger platforms are still more focused on more mainstream content. Yet having said that, here’s a summary from Wendy on key platforms for Art House films:

For films not released theatrically Wendy cites among others, XIMON & MUBI (TFC is direct with them and they also often deal directly with filmmakers) and also notes there are the local equivalents of Fandor and IndieFlix in various regions. Some PAY TV film channels have online offerings that explore more niche or arthouse material, even where the film is not on the main channel. MUBI is co-owned by the rights holder to one of the most expansive libraries of art house cinema, Celluloid Dreams. MUBI is technically available everywhere, and is sometimes syndicated as a channel carried on a telecom platform (as in the case of its SVOD service on Belgacom in Belgium). It is also on Sony Playstation, has (last time I checked) 60% of its audience in the US and most of the rest in Europe. Wendy explains that for bigger indie titles and mainstream ones there are about 5-7 or so VOD outlets per country, usually in the form of television related, IPTV, Telecom/Cable companies, (as well as the online and/or mobile sites, and offerings that are being put together by OTT box and consumer electronics/connected TV manufacturers.)

For example in even the small country Holland (where Wendy, former Canadian, resides) there are: KPN, Tele2, SBS/Veamer, Ziggo, Upc/Chello/Film1, . Others in EU include e.g. Orange, Canal Plus, (France etc), Telenet, in Nordic, etc.), Telefonica, Viasat… Most buy TVOD and sometimes SVOD and/or AVOD. Some web-based sites for VOD, according to Wendy, include: Veamer (NL); Popcorn (just launching in UK), Blinkbox and Lovefilm(UK); Voddler & Film2Home & Headweb and Viasat nonlinear offerings (Nordic),. In Benelux, Cinemalink, Veamer , Pathe (soon launching) , idfa.tv and Ximon (Netherlands); Maxdome (Germany); Sony-related Qriocity, Daily Motion & Orange (many countries in EU) , Movieeurope, Zatoo, and sales agent Wild Bunch has launched a platform service called FilmoTV. And there are plenty more!

Wendy’s final and most important kernel of wisdom is this: “It is really important to WINDOW (i.e. Transactional, Subscription, Advod, Sell Through) carefully and balance traditional with new media. But also, windows can be in reverse for certain films, especially indies, i.e. producers can build (and engage with) the audience before the film is even out and perhaps premiere ONLINE first, (or day and date with another cross-promoted window), and then one can still end up in theatres. The key is to know the audience and try to tailor the marketing and distribution patterns accordingly…producers can be more active these days to heighten the chances of film success.

There are a lot of small markets and platforms and all this takes a lot of work but if one has built community around a film and awareness then the effort may pay off and add up to a nice revenue stream. Once the first deals are in place with platforms (deal structures, relationships, contacts, contracts) it’s easier to build on that and add new films to the deals with just short amendments or riders, so the effort at the front end makes years of future dealings run smoother.

My first interaction with Viewster was during its previous incarnation as DIVA.pro which seemed to function more like an aggregator. Now Viewster serves that purpose in some ways but is also a platform. In that way it’s similar to SNAG FILMS, which is now both a platform and an aggregator. Kai Henniges of Viewster describes the company as follows: “today we are largely a consumer-facing cross platform VOD services, a content retailer. Our focus is on a number of CEE markets where we see the opportunity to emerge as the leading one-stop-shop. In parallel we supply movies to leading platforms in the UK, US, Germany (Netflix, Hulu, Virgin, Lovefilm). In these heavily competitive markets we rather work with the leading retailers as an aggregator than position ourselves against them”. Viewster has 18 manufacturer deals and estimate being on 50,000,000 devices now. They are especially excited about their cross platform deal with Samsung. Viewster works with local mini majors such as Kinowelt in Germany, Aurum in Spain and also sometimes individual filmmakers. They have 160 content suppliers so far. When I asked what sort of films Viewster seems as working best Kai noted “a mix of classics such as Death Proof, Crank, or local films such as Empty Nest work well and course Day & Date releases”. Kai added the need for a good trailer and key art, ideally an inspired title (e.g. “Dirty Deeds did fantastic”), preferably a known actor. “Without any of these attributes, films are likely to languish in VOD, the selection is even more harsh than in the old home entertainment business”.

TFC recommends picking a specialist in new media / digital distribution to handle these rights as opposed to letting a more traditional company handle them unless they prove to know what they are doing and offer you fair terms (we like the 15% commission and under model or flat fee).

Filmmakers, whatever you choose to do with respect to your digital distribution, do not forget, one can reach the whole wide world via one’s own website(s) and social networking pages by utilizing DIY digital distro services (for more on this topic please refer to numerous past blogs about digital distribution and DIY platforms and services. For past blogs about these topics go to www.TheFilmCollaborative.org/blog

REMEMBER: Films do not market themselves. There is a proliferation of films (thousands per year, and hence an emerging glut and your film will die on the digital vine if you do not connect-the-dots and create your community around your film (a la Sheri Candler). We had a lovely discussion about this at the Lone Star Film Festival. Ted Hope was especially charming and humorous as he rolled off the staggering stats. Anyway, even when there are better curation mechanisms on platforms or via services, marketing is king.

For those not into monetizing piracy (though we recommend trying it!) well, you can try to stay ahead of the pirate ad-supported sites (because that’s the latest trend in piracy and it’s huge, to the tune of tens of millions). Key would be to 1. Watermark screeners or use private streaming service; 2. Do some serious SEO work (Search Engine Optimization) and hopefully with some other technological assistance redirect traffic your way (as did Wendy’s former ADVOD client in the UK www.IndieMoviesOnline.com) 3. Release your film at the same time worldwide and in as many places as possible and for a reasonable fee that is competitive to free. When we (The Film Collaborative) help filmmakers sell internationally we try for a UNIVERSAL STREET DATE. And per Wendy (and also in Sheri Candler’s case studies in our book www.SellingYourFilm.com), some filmmakers partner with Bit Torrent, Pirate Bay etc to launch their films online, tapping into the audiences already there (e.g. Nasty Old People, The Tunnel).

And, a little something extra never hurts.

Bon Chance!

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "Moving Indie Distribution Forward"

There are few fighters for Indie Film as ferocious as Orly Ravid. In addition to co-founding the only non-profit film distributor, The Film Collaborative, she speaks up and out about the state of things. Today she looks at a recent panel on "15 Years Of Film Distribution" and addresses a lot of what went unsaid.

15 comments regarding the indieWIRE panel at Film Society of Lincoln Center “15 Years of Film Distribution” and Sundance’s Distribution Announcement

On July 16, 2011 at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on indieWIRE Editor in Chief Dana Harris moderated a discussion about the past 15 years of film distribution with (left to right): Richard Abramowitz, Amy Heller, Bingham Ray, Bob Berney, Ira Deutchman, Mark Urman, Arianna Bocco and Jeanne Berney. It can be found here. The Sundance distribution announcement was made last week.

So glad to know, as Mark Urman noted, that even big A-list cast films have a hard time getting listed properly on Cable VOD in terms of cast. We know that Sundance indie Adventures of Power also was not always listed properly in terms of noting its full cast (namely Jane Lynch & Adrien Grenier who both have massive fan bases were sometimes left off the film’s VOD description). What will it take the MSOs to get it together? Please let’s not all name or rename our films with numbers or start with the letters A,B,C,D, or E. If Comcast can insert ads into programming surely they and all the other dozens of MSOs (Multi System Operators) can find a way to help attract an audience for films on their system by categorizing them and filling in complete descriptions even on mammoth platforms.

The glut of content was discussed and the marketing challenges all distributors of cinema face. We all know it’s cheaper to make films now, there are more of them, they don’t die or go away, they just multiply annually and even some of the panelists spoke to younger generations not even committed to being filmmakers, but just making films because they can and it’s made to seem so cool. Indeed. And what I want someone to say, well ok I will just say it, is when the real numbers behind film distribution are revealed across the board perhaps we’ll see a trim in supply. The best, most creative and most committed will survive and thrive. Investors will be choosier because they’ll have all of the REAL information they need to make educated decisions. As for how to clear through the clutter, well, that goes back to the basics of know-your-audience, down to the “T” and don’t pretend it’s everyone. I look forward to even more lifestyle and interest oriented programming and content servicing and all the more reason for filmmakers to cultivate audiences directly, where there is no room for glut or confusion.

They joked about no one knowing VOD numbers, except for Arianna of IFC of course and Mark sometimes when his VOD client (Tribeca Films I presume) fills him in. Well, we have some from our forthcoming case study book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and I want to challenge ALL FILMMAKERS to share your numbers and stop the madness of mystery! And I agree, it’s time that these numbers start getting tracked and reported in a more automated fashion as theatrical box office and DVD sales are now. Still those number only show gross, and not the spend needed to achieve those numbers.

Melanie of Milestone noted younger people have different habits in terms of what they want to view and how they view. So maybe we need younger folks running distribution companies now. TFC is hiring.

Arianna of IFC notes that piracy is a huge issue and that young people do not want to pay for content. So we can either be disturbed by that, or we can work with that knowledge and release in a way that will maximize revenues, instead of forcing audience into outdated window methods. One film we recently observed tried to monetize its distribution via sponsorship, but waited way too long to get started, tried to do so without a distribution plan in place, is having its theatrical launch 6 months after its festival premiere and cannot seem to make a decision on the rest of its distribution whilst it awaits fat-enough-offers that are not coming. That sort of paradigm is a set up for failure and leaves the film open to piracy when a clear plan from the start and an immediate release after festival premiere could have led to quicker monetization (sponsored, DIY and/or via a donation campaign on VODO). We caution against proceeding with filmmaking when there is no viable plan in place.

A question via TWITTER that came in was: Where do you want to be 15 years from now? Richard Abramowitz is amazed he’s still in the biz now… and that’s honest in that it speaks to deep concerns about the changes in the business and the truth is, the more transparent service providers are about their numbers, the more likely they will survive. Those less transparent are not likely to sustain themselves. What I object to is the mythology in this industry and the mask of success that hides the real story of spending more than you made back because there are too many expensive services or middlemen. Who can tell me about their PROFIT? Not just for themselves, but for the filmmakers and investors they represent? Who will publicly admit the numbers on how much was spent for each service even on services they did not really need if they were better educated, and each middleman and what that yielded? When people do not, it’s largely because they want to get the next project funded and, to me, this is no better than a pyramid scheme. You know what eventually happens with those, right? See 2008 for an indication. Anyone who wants to challenge TFC on its transparency please do, I am ready.

‘Theatre going experience is in our DNA (like gazing at a fire)’, says Bingham Ray. The communal experience is what it’s all about. Amen. I say let’s bring back the drive-in. I especially want it for Sundance film Co-dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.

Ira speaks to the Opera audience. He noted, as audiences get older they crave that experience (communal screening) more. I love that Ira Deutchman grew a business out of this niche. Niche is golden. A lesson for us all.

Ira spoke to “eventizing” theatrical– several noted about adding Q&As, live music, director attendance, panel discussions– to enhance theatrical and all of those screenings do well. Indeed. We have observed the same and that speaks even more to filmmakers knowing their audience and being more engaged in their own releases. There is nothing of this that one cannot do.

Ira ends quoting Richard Lorber “everything is possible and nothing works” harking back to 25 years ago when distribs celebrated small victories and spent little – before the rise and fall of indie bubble and the studios dressing big releases in indie clothes. My comment is regarding the “professional” the middle man, the lack of transparency even still is a burden, the fees paid excessive if one analyzes from the point of view of sustainability and healthy business. Service deals are announced like acquisitions. That’s why they say “film business” is an oxymoron but it need not be. And that’s why TFC’s resolve now is to not work with unsustainable filmmakers. We do not want to feed the habit, enable unrealistic expectations. If you spent too much on making your film, if your expectations are unreasonable, if you are not committed to being educated about both film and engaging audiences, and most of all, if you are just a money bag and not a creator but rather buying into the dream that your film (which you did not even create) is going to make you rich or richer, please go home.

And now, on a less cranky and more joyous note: What I love about the Sundance distribution initiative: 11. It’s offering filmmakers a truly filmmaker friendly set up by having a good partner and fair contract terms.

12. The terms offered by a truly excellent partner like New Video were already good in general, but are now even slightly advantaged.

13. That the deal is non-exclusive and allows filmmakers proper agency and control.

14. That I partly inspired it starting in 2009 and that the folks at Sundance listened, discussed, and worked it out slowly but surely and that there is more to come.

15. The Sundance brand connected with its alumni of filmmaker’s brands and on key platforms that function as the key portals to film lovers (and yet not at the exclusion of other viable modes of DIY and traditional distribution) is the model I have always championed even before TFC launched, because it makes sense. It’s good for filmmakers; it’s good for audiences and back to # 1 and #2, initiatives like this are the way to help clear a path through the content of clutter to the curious eyes of cinema loving consumers.

This post originally ran on The FIlm Collaborative.

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "Stop Waiting for Godot & Distribute Your Movie Now Dang Darn It!"

Orly Ravid had some good advice for us all before Cannes. Now that another festival is over, she's got some more critical advice for all with a film made, in process, or contemplating existence. Orly looks at what gives films "value" to distributors, but points out that those are not the only factors, and with a little effort and willingness to take it into your own hands, there's good business to be had. There's one key rule though: Don't Wait For Godot. Film is a perishable good.

WAITING FOR GODOT - "To wait endlessly, and in futility, for something to happen."

In future posts, we intend to track the progress and releases of the films that did deals at Sundance. And we also will track deals and respective progress related to other fests such as Tribeca and Cannes (which seemed to be largely a SundanceSelects play with an occasional TWC and Magnolia deal and a few others coming.). But for now, I want to address a phenomenon that I keep seeing and strongly feel needs to change.

Filmmakers are approaching us with films that had their festival run a year or even two years ago, OR, a film that did not have the benefit of an A-list festival selection, or maybe not even a B-list festival run, or is even more than two years old. I guess they assume that deals are still out there for their films and they are holding off on moving into the market until those deals are struck.

Film sales happen (when they happen) more often than not, for these reasons (I am speaking to filmmakers in America and trying to sell films in and/or from America):

1. FESTIVALS & AWARDS& REVIEWS: The film has the good fortune of being an official selection of a prestigious name film festival (and attended by or at least tracked by industry). By virtue of being an official selection, the festival brand helps the film’s brand and perceived value of that film to potential buyers. Also, publicity that actually occurs as a result of being part of the festival helps the film get noticed and attain perceived value to potential buyers. Winning prizes helps (especially Audience Awards) and getting great reviews help in attracting potential buyers.

2. The value (actual value of a deal that can be done) starts to go down after a festival premiere. Meaning, films that don’t sell at festivals or do not start negotiations at or close to the festival’s start or end date, go down in price. The perception in the market is the length of time between a festival premiere and settling on a distribution deal indicates the amount of value the film has. If there is a long passage of time, the price goes down accordingly and the likelihood of getting any deal fades. of course this depends to a greater or lesser degree on who is selling and who wants to buy and what their motivation is. But usually, prices go down in direct proportion with the passage of time.

3. CAST: The film has cast that increases the perceived value. And if #2 is accompanied by #1, all the better. This is not a cast of unknowns or a cast of former notable talent.

4. GENRE / DEMOGRAPHIC APPEAL / NICHES: Genre appeal, including horror, sci fi, western films often sell better than dramas; docs sell better than mockumentaries, often not always. Hot topic or big concept / trend topic documentaries or documentaries involving key niches or names often sell than more obscure or more personal documentaries, of course there are always rare exceptions. Best not to bank on your film being one of those. Films appealing to specific large enough demographics seem more “valuable” than those that don’t seem to have any specific appeal. Broad comedies can sell but highly depend on notable cast and when they don’t have the cast, it’s almost always the case that they need a big festival to create the buzz that gives them the commercial push. Foreign sales are not attractive for American-centric stories unless they are studio films, genre films, and/or have the cast or had/will have a big l theatrical release.

5. THEATRICAL: A small US theatrical can help usually only if the reviews really were strong and the film has some commercial appeal or at least niche appeal (and there are distributors catering to that niche if it’s not more broadly commercial). Theatrical in the US can’t hurt foreign sales but a tiny US theatrical can also have no impact on foreign sales whatsoever if the film is perceived as too American and does not feel either commercial enough for other territories to compete with all the world cinema or does not fit into niches for which there are buyers (if it’s not broadly commercial enough). Or the film can fit in to the niche but the niche is also glutted so competition is stiff. For Broadcast sales, sometimes it is simply a matter of programming and timing luck; the film fits what the stations are looking for.

We all know there’s no guarantee of a sale and sometimes even when a sale occurs, it’s not necessarily a great one. Even at the top A-list fests, many films do not “sell” so even for those filmmakers a strategy of building community around your film WAY AHEAD of your first public exhibition / premiere is wise, because this way, even if you are afraid of or counseled not to start any distribution in tandem with that premiere or necessarily soon following it, and even if you think you have a shot at the big deal, or a deal and that is what you want above all things.. even then, all that community building will do is increase the perceived value of your film. And guess what? If that deal never comes, or if the offers suck (which you may be more scrutinizing of and careful about when you do the math based on your acquired ability to distribute directly to the fans), you will always have that back up plan.

Many filmmakers come to us with thousands of even tens of thousands of Facebook and Twitter fans, lots of traffic to their site, an email list started and even good reviews of their film if it played smaller fests or if their genre was reviewed by niche film sites and this has all happened months ago or even a year ago or even two, and they are waiting for a DEAL, I have to say, DON’T WAIT. * You already have a deal*, direct to the fans of the film, the ones you have been connecting with and getting the attention of for all this time. Let them see it/buy it and stop waiting! They’ve been waiting and if you make them wait too long, they will either wander off in frustration or they may feel no other alternative but to view the film via P2P networks for free or get a DVD via E-bay that a journalist or programming staffer is selling for extra lunch money.

In short, and yes this blog is short compared to the usual (whew), don’t wait for Godot. There is nothing this marketplace is signaling that merits the wait. Broadcast sales are a different matter, you have a doc, or Latino-interest film, or gay film, or genre film, or even film with some cast.. a TV deal can MAYBE be done but still, there’s all the rest YOU should be doing sooner than later, or working with people who can help you do it if you don’t know how. This includes DVD and Digital off your site, it includes all the key digital platforms and it even includes hybrid theatrical / events and other public performance of the film (educational and/or commercial). And if your films has legs, you can carve out deals and DIY and work it all out. But if you just sit on your film and wait you are risking losing everything and I have to ask you, based on what? What information are you working with? Part of your distribution plan should include how long will wait before you start distribution? What is your path to sales? Plan A, B and C and how can you plan for all of those? It is no longer enough to hope for distribution and sit and wait.

Filmmakers, don’t hate the messenger… I say this with love and as someone who embraces deal making as much as I do DIY. ☺ You must have a plan of action early in your process.

Here’s an example of a filmmaker who we think did it right, and he worked with Peter Broderick:

http://www.peterbroderick.com/distributionbulletins/files/47cea5ca884d84a0e1ed01f23ef06d3d-16.html

And we’ll have other examples and even more details in our forthcoming digital case study book entitled SELLING YOUR MOVIE WITHOUT SELLING YOUR SOUL: Case Studies in Hybrid, DIY, P2P Independent Film Distribution (co-authored by The Film Collaborative, Jon Reiss, and Sheri Candler). Until then, stop waiting and get moving toward bringing your film to its audience.

-- Orly Ravid

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "Going to Market with Your Film, Cannes 2011"

Ah, it's that time of year again. I just booked my travel at Cannes; of course I did it last minute. My love for the market is as great as my dislike, alas. The place is filled equally with hope as despair. The promise of wealth and discovery looms with every glass of Rose and Pernod -- and I am not sure which causes my headaches more. That said, I am packing my bag, glad that once again I have a film playing in the official selection. I wish the first time I went I was armed with all the recommendations that regular contributor Orly Ravid has thought to offer us today.

TEN TIPS for FILMMAKERS Going to Market or Seeking Distribution

Going to a festival / market such as Cannes is exciting. Wine is often cheaper than water. Almost anything you eat there tastes better than almost anything you'll eat here, even though it is a tourist trap. Somehow, no matter how many carbs one eats, one usually still loses weight either because of the hustling and bustling or the fact that the French make their food lighter even when it's rich and they don't use preservatives when we do.... ahh France. But, I digress.

When searching for distribution at or in preparation for, a festival or market, be clear about your goal and the amount of responsibility you have to your investors. You should be conducting a lot of research before you ever hit the market floor to identify which companies will be a good fit for your film. Depending on your knowledge, experience, willingness to take responsibility and the type of film you have, it may be advantageous to sell your film on your own, or it may be better to use a sales agent. Much is entailed with selling a film in different territories and formats and if you do not have experience in doing so, you may be better off working with someone who does. I have some tips for you to follow regardless of how your film will be sold. The Film Collaborative can help filmmakers who have decided to handle their own sales by evaluating contracts and guiding them through the process without taking the filmmakers rights, but it does depend on the filmmaker’s willingness to actively solicit buyers in the first place. Attracting suitable buyers is a time consuming and costly process (travel, marketing, sales skills), so if you have no interest in doing this, it is better to delegate that work (and your rights) to a sales agent. Before signing on the dotted line with ANYONE, (sales agent or distributor) you will need:

1. REFERENCES: Get references, and then call or email the *other* filmmakers the company has worked with. I am only partly teasing. You should be able to find a list of current clients on their website and you can research contact details for those people. It's great to contact the references actually given, but sometimes it gives a clearer picture to contact a few at random. You'll be shocked by how useful this can be to either comfort you that you are doing the right deal or protect you from being stuck in a deal you should not have done. The Film Collaborative has set up a Distributor ReportCard (a sort of “Yelp of Indie Film Distribution”) to help in the research of this. Check out our Distripedia™ section on our website www.TheFilmCollaborative.org

2. CAP EXPENSES: Define and cap all recoupable expenses and evaluate those based on projections. Spending $30,000 - $50,000 - $75,000 - $250,000 ++ is not inherently bad or good. It depends on the upside and the reasoning. Be clear about what the expenses are for, how much is approved, and if you and 8, 10, or 12 other people are being charged back for the exact same bill. Let's not let that happen. Are you paying for a party in Cannes? Maybe that is what is needed to attract buyers…just make sure that you are choosing to do so and that it makes sense. If the expenses are for distribution, have an idea about P&A budgets for different types of releases, the size of the release, the realistic projection of return and how long that return might take. The bigger the release (theatrical to many cities, large advertising spend, high cost publicists), the more expense is incurred and likely the longer it will take to recoup. And one should have a clear sense of the objectives and projections of the theatrical so one can properly analyze expenses.

3. RIGHTS vs RIGHT TO SELL RIGHTS: Distinguish between the right to represent the rights (example, traditional sales agency could choose to do vs taking all rights) and vs having rights to actually directly distribute (example a sales agency that takes all rights so that it can also then directly do digital distribution or a buyer who buys multi territories but then has other companies do the distribution in most of them, or a company that does not do its own theatrical or its own digital or its own DVD. Extra middlemen mean extra fees means less $$$ to you. You may want a company to have both and take care of it all for you and maybe it’s even the most advantageous deal because of relationships and best terms. Just know what the deal terms will be instead of realizing after the fact. This is especially critical when fees and expenses come into play. You may not want or need your sales agent to directly distribute to digital platforms if you can manage this yourself or they don’t end up even doing that in unsold territories but have your rights anyway, or maybe you do. And that brings me to another point about rights, don’t give any away that won’t be “exploited” as they say in the industry (that’s meant to be a nice thing). I.e. have rights revert back to you that are not properly handled and try to not give them away in the first place without knowing why it makes sense to. And I always like to carve out digital platforms a filmmaker can get onto that a sales agent or distributor does not want or choose to (in collaboration with the distributor or sales agent of course).

4. ACCOUNTING: Make sure you know when Accounting is due and when your corresponding payment is due. Try for QUARTERLY unless you don't like money coming in at least 3 times a year since most will pay no sooner than 30 or 60 days after the end of the quarter. Semi-annual accounting is possibly acceptable later into a term if you have no choice.

5. AUDITING & ARBITRATION: Reasonable Auditing and Arbitration provisions are key so you can have a clear way of investigating. Know where the arbitration will be conducted. “Resolving a matter via arbitration may be less expensive and more expedient than having to sue the distributor, but an arbitration provision may also be less effective at encouraging the parties to compromise prior to invoking arbitration than the threat of a lawsuit,” says TFC's legal counsel Cherie Song, an attorney at McGuireWoods LLP. Also, "a distributor should have an obligation to maintain records of all sales and rentals of the film, and give you the right to inspect such records at reasonable hours with prior notice," she says. "If your audit finds an underpayment, the distributor should pay you the difference within 30 days of demand, and if the difference is more than 5%, the distributor should reimburse you for your auditing costs.”

6. TERMINATION: Also set parameters by which a deal can be terminated. Not suggesting this should be random and exploitive of the sales agents or distributor's efforts, but should they be in breach or become insolvent, one needs a remedy if it’s not cured. “If the distributor fails to fulfill a material obligation (e.g., if the distributor fails to pay the MG or your share of “Gross Receipts”, fails to provide statements or fails to market or distribute the film within a certain time period following complete delivery) or files for bankruptcy, then you should have the right to terminate the agreement with notice, with the rights to the film in unsold territories immediately reverting to you," Cherie recommends. "The distributor should also indemnify you for claims resulting from its breach of the agreement and violation of third party rights. Furthermore, the distributor's payment and indemnity obligations should survive the expiration or earlier termination of the agreement.” And our capitalizing of “Gross Receipts” is on purpose. All terms that have any possible key meaning and affect your deal should be capitalized and DEFINED! Many thanks to Cherie for her impeccable services to our filmmakers overall.

7. MARKETING PLAN: In order to distinguish a knowledgeable and reputable distributor from one who is less so, ask for a detailed marketing plan. For filmmakers to be in the strongest negotiating positions on this, a marketing plan should have already been developed and implemented during production and a fan base already started. The distributor will simply be adding extra muscle to this plan, both in terms of financing and staff. If there is no previous plan, ask to see exact specifics on how the title will be handled in-house and the expenses associated with it before agreeing to a contract. This is of utmost importance as the success of your title depends on these efforts. Without a clear understanding of the strategy, you may find your title simply becomes part of a catalog passed along during markets or part of a library that is rarely exploited. The more effort a filmmaker makes in gathering an identifiable audience for their work, the more leverage he/she has because the film has provable potential.

8. BUILDING AN AUDIENCE YOURSELF: Intentionally putting a fine point on this topic! More and more distributors and sales agents are researching your title just as much as you are researching them. If you haven’t made any effort to build an audience, the perception is maybe there isn’t one. You should be looking at the sales agent/distributor relationship as a partnership not as a savior. This makes your film far more attractive to those companies because they can see the money making potential and their efforts will make the title a much stronger earner. Wouldn't you want to have an edge up on getting a better deal or not even needing one if you had already built an audience around your film well in advance of your first premiere? I know I would. (And thanks to our social network marketing guru / strategist Sheri Candler who contributed to this blog and especially #7 & #8).

9. CARVE OUT SOME DIY: Whenever possible, carve out the ability to sell off your own site and also via your own social networking pages and via other key DIY platforms & solutions. We recently did a blog (April 2011) about these so feel free to check out that info via the TFC site.

10. SPLIT RIGHTS / BE AS DIRECT AS POSSIBLE: If there is one thing I cannot stand is big fees taken out for being in the middle of revenue and not doing much to justify the fee. If a distributor is direct to key retailers and key digital platforms and is doing all or most of the release directly great. But if a distributor is licensing your rights for a not-very-huge-fee and hiring someone else to do the theatrical (and recouping an extra fee expenses) and / or not direct with libraries and institutions (if relevant) and/or not direct with key retailers or digital platforms then why bother? Go direct. Be as direct as possible. Split rights as much as possible especially when there is little investment on the MG side and/or little theatrical P&A side that help justify the rights needed for recoupment.

In closing, I will again emphasize research, research, research. Don't be lazy and then regret later. It may have been more difficult to do this as an average filmmaker previously, but it isn’t difficult now. Take responsibility for your work and the business of it. Ask around. Ask other filmmakers, other companies, Ask us. Ask at least 3 people any given question so you can get a sense of the real answer to the extent there is one.

Bon Chance!

-- Orly Ravid

Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

Guest Post: Orly Ravid "New and Compelling Options for DIY Distribution"

Orly Ravid co-founded the Film Collaborative and has been providing us with a great series of posts on the changing market and options for independent filmmakers and their work. Her generosity and commitment is an inspiration. She is a brave thinker. Indie Filmmakers used to think that once they made their movies, their only real option was to surrender -- to surrender to the market and the middlemen who decided on a film's applicability to an audience or community. Those days are now gone and good riddance! The services and tools we have to get our work out and on the screens of what has long been under-served under-educated audiences and communities increase every day. As those options expand, so do the choices of content, form, and aesthetic -- we are becoming truly free in terms of how, what, and where we can tell our tales. The sky hasn't fallen; a thousand phoenix have risen.

Today Orly looks at new platforms and toolkits that allow filmmakers to sell or rent their films directly to fans. The Era of Artist/Entrepreneur is here! Now all we have to do is fight for a free and open internet...

In a new media world in which people sometimes conflate distributor with platform and buyer with online/digital store, I want to draw that distinction and highlight a few new and compelling DIY options (platforms or toolkits) for filmmakers to sell or rent their films to audiences / consumers directly. TFC always encourages filmmakers to develop their own brands while also noting the importance of being connected to other brands that generate significant traffic and indie film consumption. In other words, sell direct to your fans off your site and other sites and social networking platforms and/or via other DIY platforms or tools but also recognize the usefulness of being available where average film consumers go, i.e. via Cable VOD if you can manage it, and other key platforms/online digital stores (depending on the nature of the film) such as: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, Hulu, Sony Playstation, Xbox etc.

The few DIY platforms or toolkits highlighted in this blog are: Distrify, EggUp, Groupees, Stonehenge’s iPhone Apps. Next time we cover this topic, we’ll investigate more into DIY platforms FansofFilm and Open Film (7,000 films, 70% shorts).

Let’s begin.

DISTRIFY

Peter Gerard & Andy Green, the co-founders of Distrify, are both filmmakers who formed Distrify. I met with Andy @ SXSW.

Distrify is not a film sales platform - it's a toolset. One can use Distrify to sell a film anywhere on the web and via social media platforms. Once your trailer and film are on Distrify you embed it on your website like http://www.justtogetarep.com/ and Facebook page like https://www.facebook.com/just.to.get.a.rep?sk=app_203403406338325

You can then start telling your film's fans about it and ask them to embed the widget on forums, blogs, websites, etc. 

Distrify's "sell-movies-socially" tools are designed to make effective social media marketing profitable. If your trailer and film are on Distrify, when you share the clip, you're also sharing the store to buy the film or find out about upcoming screenings. When your audience shares it further, you're always spreading the point-of-sale along the way. Anyone who shares it gets paid a share of sales they generate. 

One does not have to start selling through Distrify right away – one can use it to promote screenings and events through the trailer interface. Here's an example of an upcoming Anime release that is using the Distrify player to promote upcoming screenings: http://www.we-loveanime.com/ 

If the film's not available in the user's area, they can make their interest known directly through the player as well. Distrify compiles the statistics for filmmakers and give them the mailing list data - all free. Any new screenings you add are also automatically listed in all the players that have been embedded around the web. And when you want to start selling the film, you can add it as well. 

There are no up-front charges, fully non-exclusive, and they don't need any rights. They take a small transaction fee on sales (see specifics below). In the Beta period it is free to sign up and upload one film to Distrify. They don't charge for uploading or hosting and there is no subscription fee for a Beta account. They do charge a 30% revenue share on sales. They note that their profit “is around 3% to 5% so it's costing us around 25% to deliver the service to the customer. We're working hard to reduce these costs and when we do we'll hand the saving over to the rights holder.” 

Distrify Beta Pricing

  • Free sign-up for a one-film account
  • They charge a 30% transaction fee on all sales made through Distrify
  • They split the 5% affiliate revenue with the filmmaker.
  • Beta users will be given a special offer when they leave the Beta period, and normal account pricing will be determined at that time. And filmmakers keep all their rights.
  • How do you get paid? Each month if you've earned sales revenue they will send you a sales report and transfer your earnings to you directly via PayPal or bank transfer. You may be charged by PayPal or your bank to receive the transfer. When you get your first sales report, they say “just let us know how you prefer to be paid”. What about affiliates?

    “We will soon offer your audience the ability to earn a share of revenues that are generated from their sharing. Once this is enabled they will earn 5% from each sale they refer to you. We are currently offering to split the cost of the revenue-sharing with you. This means we only charge 27.5% on a revenue-shared sale. You keep the remaining 72.5%.”

    Peter Gerard followed up further noting that whilst still in Beta their pricing is FREE to sign up and sell one film and a 30% transaction fee on all sales through their player and there are no costs for special encoding. Their Beta period ends in June and after they will continue this pricing option and offer some premium plans.

    EGG UP

    “EggUp is a publishing platform for filmmakers and film distributors. We help filmmakers and distributors rent and sell their films online while preventing piracy. Our free online publishing tools can help you distribute and sell your film or video which is all packaged and encrypted into a file called the Egg. The Egg is currently available for download and allows consumers to watch and share with friends and family virally while filmmakers are able to make money. With EggUp you get your own website to promote your film, together with an integrated pay per view solution. We also list your films in our film catalog called GoEggit. Distribute the Egg on your own website, and other online retailers with your very own buy now button without setup fees and inventory.”

    Payment options: FREE, Rental, Purchase. Filmmaker will be able to choose several options. Accept Paypal and major credit cards. Customer credit card information does not go through their servers. They only link to the filmmaker's Paypal account. Paypal holds customer's credit card info.

    They are Worldwide and can Geo Filter as needed.

    Content: Currently about 60 films due to focusing on developing technology and negotiating deals with international governments and studios. They will be ramping up pretty quickly in the next 3-5 months with content.

    When I asked about revenue thus far to filmmakers they answered with this: “It really varies since it's up to the filmmakers. Some filmmakers make $0 due to they are not marketing their content or older film with no cult following. While others are getting consistent purchases daily since they have a full marketing strategy including PR pushing their film. It adds up but nothing making millions”.

    EGG UP’s FEES:

  • Full length features: $1.25 per transaction ($2.00 - $1,000.00 retail)
  • Short film: 15% per transaction ($0.99 - $1.99)
  • EggUp noted that they are reviewing their fee structure and may be changing it soon.
  • Egg Up Overview: Image
  • http://i811.photobucket.com/albums/zz38/Egg_Up/EggUP_Overview3.jpg

    Egg Up Filmmaker Benefit: Image http://i811.photobucket.com/albums/zz38/Egg_Up/EggUP_Filmmaker3.jpg

    JON REISS’ GUEST BLOGGER Solomon MacAuley– Raved about EGGUP: http://jonreiss.com/blog/2011/03/03/prevent-film-piracy-and-globally-monetize-instantly/

    SHERI CANDLER interview for MicroFILMMAKER Magazine about EGG UP: http://www.microfilmmaker.com/tipstrick/Issue58/EggDist1.html

    GROUPEES (YAWMA)  groupees.yawma.net & yawma.net

    I was introduced to this platform via TFC client (and HopeForFilm Guest Blogger) Ari Gold (Adventures of Power). Thomas Brooke who demo’d the platform / service via Cisco’s WEBEX. I was impressed with the simplicity and comfort of the interface.

    Thomas Brooke is the Founder and CEO of YAWMA. YAWMA is the social media technology company that operates Groupees. Thomas describes GROUPEES as:

    “A Flash sale (24-48 hr) platform focusing on digital media entertainment (music, games, film)
- Like Groupon in the sense that we're crowd-sourcing but deal isn't dependent on a certain number of users buying and "tipping" the deal; rather we start with the good deal but the content owners set a goal and if achieved it unlocks extra exclusive content (to incentivize users to work as a group and spread the promo through their social graph)
- There is a high degree of Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally
- Flexible SaaS based system supporting product bundling, multiple pricing options (fixed price, pay what you want), inclusion of charity, etc. We've set Groupees up as an on demand platform where content creators/licensors sign up to run a single promotion, all of which is configured through a web interface. It is a platform by invitation only- we're sourcing quality independent music, games and film.”

    Their next Groupee starts on Wednesday so if you go to: http://groupees.yawma.net you will see the promo vid and count-down clock now live.

    Here is a screenshot and the model we're using for projections on Music groupees.

    FEES: The model split is reflected at 60-40% (in favor of filmmakers).

    When I asked why they were more expensive as Apple (which takes 30%) Thomas answered:

    “While it is true that Apple takes 30%, they don't do anything for their 30% beyond providing a distribution system. Fact is we're not just a point of distribution. We're pretty sophisticated technology with a high degree of customization, strong FB and Twitter integration and 100% pr support (strongly question this, what do they mean by 100% PR support?) for every promotion we run. Groupon is really a better business analogy, and they take 50% but have nowhere near the social media integration or customization features. I do appreciate your asking whether to make mention but I'm certainly comfortable with this.”

    “In terms of film/video, we can support straight download in any format and also video streaming. As mentioned, the service requires buyers to register so all files are secured behind a firewall. I think for indie film the concept of bundling films from different film-makers might work very well as it provides good cross promotion and from the consumer's perspective allows you to get two cool films from a single purchasing experience. Definitely one of the premises of our platform is convenience as people are overwhelmed by our digitally connected world so by featuring quality indie entertainment as a part of a single promotion, consumers get the benefit of a curated good deal on relevant media/entertainment. I think also there is an opportunity to bundle films with music, especially where there's a good thematic connection. Obviously, a soundtrack with a film is a no-brainer as well. We're also currently looking at possibly bundling a video game that is from the horror genre with a horror film. “

    Groupee Platform Features

  • -Support for all digital media formats -Support both video download and streaming -Web-interface for creating and configuring the Groupees promotion -E-payments through PayPal and Amazon payments -Live World map that tracks purchases as they occur around the globe -Facebook and Twitter integration so purchases spread virally -Real time sales statistics and reporting -Flexible promotional programs including Fixed Price or Pay What You Want payments, charitable giving, cross-promotional bundles, goal setting with incentive giveaways -Cloud-based, highly scalable platform capable of supporting 1,000,000 downloads per 24 hrs
  • .

    STONEHENGE – Distributing films worldwide via Phone Apps -- FilmApps...Get Your Film in More Hands

    Stonehenge Productions enables film producers to sell their films on iTunes, Android Market and Amazon Appstore as applications for the iPhone, iPad and for Droid platforms. Their pitch: “With a low start-up cost of just $680, you can have an application of your film available on Phones everywhere !! You keep 100% of sales revenues minus the 30% that Apple charges.” What do you get for $680?

  • An iPhone FilmApp Embedded film in the App (better than streaming) About page/synopsis Twitter/FB/Email (Sharing) integration, A merchandise page for users to buy merchandise, DVD…(e.g. Amazon) Links to the film’s/director’s site (opens within the App) A trailer/video clip viewer (user can watch the trailer, clips, outtakes, behind the scenes) Photo gallery of shots from the film an RSS/News feed for any feed you would like to provide. Custom Graphic design and layout (using your art). Turn around is typically two weeks and then 7-10 days at Apple. Got other ideas? Let us know what you’d like
  • How? Contact Stonehenge Productions and we’ll provide you with further instructions to upload your content. It will then be turned into a customized application. You’ll get final review and you’ll continue to hold all rights to the film. We’ll submit it to Apple and manage the whole selling process through the App store OR we’ll put it on the Android Market or Amazon Appstore.

    A Stonehenge Sales Sheet: http://www.stonehengeproductions.com/sales-sheet/

    Mark Smillie of Stonehenge notes “we are really working hard to build FilmApps that encourage participation over the lifecycle of the film...so pre-release to build awareness and fan base, at release to drive fans to the theater and post release to sell the film through the App channel.”“We build for Apple, Android and sell on the iTunes, Droid and Amazon app stores.”  

    Their latest press release for our App for the film: Race to Nowhere.  It's a good example of a social activism app paired with a film App.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/03/prweb5193274.htm

    Another testimonial Mark showed me is from John Paul Rice of “One Hour Fantasy Girl” "Apps for films work: Itunes report for One Hour Fantasy Girl in Q4 2010, rental/downloads up 558% over Q3. Credit goes to @WeGoTo11"  John Paul Rice President No Restrictions Entertainment from Twitter:https://twitter.com/norestrictions/status/53291871367200768

    * That’s all for now folks. More platforms and tools and DIY solutions next time.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Guest Post: Orly Ravid: Subtitles in Digital America Part 2

    Yesterday, Orly Ravid, co-founder of The Film Collaborative, started another one of her incredibly thorough posts examine the current state of distribution. Her recent focus is on foreign language film distribution in the US, but the outlets she points to are applicable to all of us. You will want to bookmark this one for sure.

    Yesterday's posts focused on VOD distribution on the cable platforms. Today we look at...

    FOREIGN LANGUAGE CINEMA VIA OTHER DIGITAL PLATFORMS and REVENUE MODELS: DTO (Digital Download to Own (such as Apple’s iTunes which rents and sells films digitally) - this space has been challenging for foreign films in the past, and most services do not have dedicated merchandise sections. Thus, the only promo placement available is on genre pages, so the films need to have compelling art and trailer assets to compete. iTunes and Vudu (now owned by WALMART – see below) are really interested in upping the ante on foreign films over the next 12 months. Special consideration will need to be made for the quality of technical materials, as distributors have encountered numerous problems making subtitled content work on these providers.

    SVOD (Subscription VOD such as NETLIX’s WATCH INSTANTLY) - this space is probably the best source of revenue for foreign content because the audience demos skew more sophisticated and also end users are more inclined to experiment with new content niches. Content in this space should have great assets and superior international profile (awards, box office), and overall should evoke a "premium feel" for the right titles, license fees can be comparable to high end American indies. Appetite for foreign titles will increase as the price for domestic studio content continues to accelerate. Genres are a bit broader than VOD/DTO, but thrillers, sci fi and action still will command larger sums ($). Good Festival pedigree (especially Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance, etc.) will also command higher prices. Overall, it’s a great opportunity as long as platforms keep doing exclusive deals. NETFLIX has surpassed 20,000,000 subscribers and a strong stock price and is in a very competitive space and mood again. (See more below). Hulu expects to soon reach 1,000,000 subscribers “to approach” half a billion in total revenues (advertising and subscription combined) in 2011, up from $263 million in 2010. That’s from $108 million in 2009. (see more below)

    AVOD (Advertising Supported VOD – such as SNAG and HULU) - Another great space for foreign content (as evidenced by the recent exclusive HULU - Criterion deal – (see below) although that deal is actually for HULU’s subscription service (Hulu Plus). These platforms are more willing to experiment with genres and content types and favor art films and documentaries over genre films. Depending on the film, annual revenues can approach low to mid four (4) figures in rev share. SNAG recently was capitalized to the tune of $10,000,000 but seems to be spending that money on marketing and not on “acquiring” so a film’s revenue is likely to be dependent on performance and rev/share unless one strikes an exclusive deal with SNAG and manages to get an MG. HULU’s revenues are covered above. Films report low 4-figures but sometimes 5 and 6 figure revenues but up until now those higher performing films have been English language and appeal to younger males.

    TELEVISION / BROADCAST SALES: For foreign language cinema unless one has an Oscar™ winner or nominee, or an output deal, the prospects of a meaningful license fee are slim. Even worse, if you do secure a deal, it will likely preclude participation in Cable VOD, Netflix and any of the ad-supported VOD platforms such as Hulu and Snag.

    KEY SPECIFIC TOP SPECIFIC DIGITAL PLATFORMS / RETAILERS:

    AMAZON reportedly is readying a service that would stream 5,000 movies and TV shows to members of its $79-per-year Prime free-shipping membership program. Amazon being corporately tied to extremely popular entertainment information service IMDB and the film festival submission service WITHOUTABOX gives it a potential edge in the market, one that has never been fully harvested but easily could be and seems to be looming. And since its inception, Amazon has let film content providers open up shop on their site directly without a middle-man. Middle man aggregators get slightly better terms. Amazon presently offers 75,000 films and television shows combined and plans to soon exceed 100,000. It should be noted Amazon VOD has been US-focused though recently bought Love Films in the UK.

    FOCUS FEATURES’ NEW DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION INITIATIVE: There is not much information out on this yet but FOCUS/UNIVERSAL are launching a new digital distribution initiative that may or may not brand their own channel on iTunes etc., but does seem to be focused on niche cinema to some extent and this may speak to foreign language titles. An option to watch out for.

    GOOGLE is working on encroaching into the content delivery market with its launch of GOOGLE TV, which unfortunately has not created quite the fanfare the company planned for. It boasts: The web is now a channel. With Google Chrome and Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Google TV lets you access everything on the web. Watch your favorite web videos, view photos, play games, check fantasy scores, chat with friends, and do everything else you're accustomed to doing online. GOOGLE TV does come with the Netflix App and others. Google partnered with some of the leading premium content providers to bring thousands of movie and TV titles, on-demand, directly to your television. Amazon Video On Demand offers access to over 75,000 titles for rental or purchase, and Netflix will offer the ability to instantly watch unlimited movies and TV shows, anytime, streaming directly to the TV.

    HULU: Hulu’s numbers keep growing for certain films, which has to-date not been foreign language but that may change given the Criterion Collection announcement. Hulu is also now a subscription service (HULU PLUS) and announced the Criterion deal is for that. Criterion of course specializes in classic movies from the canon of great directors–Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, etc.–and has about 800 titles digitized so far, many of which are also available via Hulu competitor Netflix. It’s understood that this will be an exclusive deal, and that the Criterion titles that Netflix does offer will expire this year. Hulu Plus subscribers will initially get access to 150 Criterion films, including “The 400 Blows,” “Rashomon” and “Breathless.” Hulu says the movies will run without ad interruptions, but may feature ads before the films start; the free Hulu.com service will offer a handful of Criterion titles, which will run with ads. Hulu, owned by Comcast’s NBC, Disney’s ABC and News. Corp.’s Fox introduced the Hulu Plus pay service last year. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar says the $7.99-per-month offering is on track to reach one million subscribers in 2011. Competing for exclusive content seems to be on the rise as platforms compete for household recognition and top market share.

    iTunes (APPLE): iTunes dominated consumer spending for movies in 2010 but that may not last long. One can get onto iTunes via one of its chosen aggregators such as New Video, IODA, Tune Core, Quiver… Home Media Magazine reported the findings of an IHS Screen Digest report that showed that Apple was able to hold off challenges from competitors like Microsoft’s Zune Video (via XBOX Kinect), Sony PlayStation Store, Amazon VOD and Walmart’s VUDU. Despite the new competition, the electronic sellthrough and video on demand market rose more than 60% in 2010, Apple iTunes still came out on top, perhaps due in part to the release of the iPad last spring and Apple TV last fall. Research director of digital media for IHS, Arash Amel, said, “The iTunes online store showed remarkable competitive resilience last year in the U.S. EST/VOD movie business, staving off a growing field of tough challengers while keeping pace with a dramatic expansion for the overall market.” However, it’s important to note that although iTunes staved off competition, the overall iTunes consumer spending fell almost 10% in 2010 to 64.5%. It was 74.4% in 2009. Insiders predict it will not hold its market dominance for long.

    • Microsoft’s Zune Video was one of Apple’s biggest competitors last year, accounting for 9% of U.S. movie EST/iVOD consumer spending in 2010 but this does not seem a key platform for foreign language cinema.

    MUBI: www.Mubi.com having added Sony Playstation to its platforms reach, MUBI now has reportedly 1,200,000 members worldwide and is finally in a better position to generate revenue. Still its own figures estimates amount to 4-figures of revenue and that’s for all its territories. Mubi’s partnership with SONY does not extend into the US.

    NETFLIX as reported in Multichannel News “as its subscriber base has swelled, Netflix has become a target for critics complaining that it is disrupting the economics of TV” is now a competitor to Cable and in fact Cable VOD companies won’t take a film if it’s already on NETFLIX’s Watch Instantly service. But Netflix is realizing it erred by losing focus on the independent and is now quietly offering bigger sums that compete with Broadcast offers and that are on par with the 5 and 6 figure revenues generated by Cable VOD for the stronger indie / art house films. Having films exclusively may be the driving force of future monetization in digital, or least in SVOD. Regarding 2011 outlook, Netflix's "business is so dynamic that we will be doing less calendar year guidance than in the past," the execs said. For the first three months of the year, Netflix expects domestic subscribers to increase to between 21.9 million and 22.8 million, with revenue between $684 million and $704 million and operating income between $98 million and $116 million. Internationally -- meaning, for now, Canada -- the company expects 750,000 to 900,000 subscribers with revenue of $10 million to $13 million and an operating loss between $10 million and $14 million.

    REDBOX: Redbox, whose brick-red DVD vending machines are scattered across the country, is aiming to have a Netflix-like video streaming subscription service up and running by the end of 2011, company executives told investors mid February. Redbox is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coinstar. The Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based company claims to have rented more than 1 billion DVDs to date through vending machines at about 24,900 U.S. locations nationwide, including select McDonald's, Wal-Mart Stores and Walgreens locations. It should be noted though that Redbox is very studio title focused and wide release focused but its streaming service will likely move beyond that.

    WAL-MART bought VUDU and is expected to be a major player. Walmart is the world’s largest retailer with $405 billion in sales for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2010. In the U.S., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates more than 4,300 facilities including Walmart supercenters, discount stores, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club warehouses. VUDU, is Walmart’s recently acquired online media source where consumers can rent or buy movies and TV shows for their internet-ready HDTV, Blu-ray Disc players or PlayStation 3 consoles. Like iTunes, there are no monthly fees. Consumers can buy and rent movies when they want, and 2-night rentals are only $2. It will be interesting to see how VUDU will rise as a contender in 2011 and whether iTunes will suffer as a result of their success. Wal-Mart advertises that regarding VUDU: “from Internet-ready HDTVs to WiFi enabled Blu-ray players, you'll find all the VUDU ready electronics you're looking for at Walmart.com. Whether adding a flat panel TV to your dorm room or upgrading your home entertainment center, our selection of VUDU ready HDTVs has you covered. You'll also save money on our VUDU ready products when you select items with free shipping to your home. With VUDU, you'll be able to stream HD movies directly from the Internet to your TV in dynamic surround sound for a great low price. Shop VUDU ready HDTVs and Blu-ray players at Walmart.com — and save. “ And the retail giant makes sure all relevant devices / electronics it carries are VUDU-enabled. 2011 and beyond will be telling. Wal-Mart caters to the average American so it remains to be seen if there is an appetite for foreign language film via VUDU in the months and years to come. In its inception VUDU was catering to early adaptors of new technology and those eager to watch HD but now it seems to be becoming more generic. New Video is a preferred aggregator to VUDU, among others.

    VODO (Free / monetized Torrent): www.VODO.net This has not been tried in the US by most distributors if any and not for foreign language cinema but it has worked for several projects such as Pioneer One which generated $60,000 USD by having the content made available for free and then getting donations in return.

    • Other emerging retailers entering the digital space: Sears and Kmart are the latest over-the-top threats to pay-TV providers' video-on-demand businesses. Sears launched its online movie download service, Alphaline Entertainment, which will let Sears and Kmart customers rent or purchase movies, including on the same day they are released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, provided through digital media services firm Sonic Solutions. Titles currently available to rent or buy from Alphaline include studio and successful TV shows. Under Sonic's multiyear agreement with Sears, the companies will provide access to Alphaline services through multiple devices including Blu-ray Disc players, HDTVs, portable media players and mobile phones. Sears and Kmart, said in a statement. "We'll continue to increase the reach and flexibility of the Alphaline Entertainment service by providing consumers on-demand access to the latest entertainment from a range of home and mobile electronics." Sears, which merged with Kmart in 2005, is the fourth largest retailer in the U.S. The company has about 3,900 department stores and specialty retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. It remains to be seen if they take on foreign language cinema. New Video is also an aggregator to them.

    That’s all she wrote folks. Until the next time.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Top 25 Multichannel Video Programming Distributors

    Today, we started looking at digital distribution possibilities here in the USA for foreign language film, courtesy of the FIlm Collaborative's Orly Ravid. Her post explores the possibilities of VOD distribution for foreign language titles. But you can't know the players without a program can you?

    Thankfully Orly has sourced us a list of the Top possible VOD distributors for all of our work. Check it out.

    Top 25 Multichannel Video Programming Distributors as of Sept. 2010 – Source NCTA (National Cable Television Association)

    Rank MSO BasicVideoSubscribers
    1 Comcast Corporation 22,937,000
    2 DirecTV 18,934,000
    3 Dish Network Corporation 14,289,000
    4 Time Warner Cable, Inc. 12,551,000
    5 Cox Communications, Inc.1 4,968,000
    6 Charter Communications, Inc. 4,653,000
    7 Verizon Communications, Inc. 3,290,000
    8 Cablevision Systems Corporatn 3,043,000
    9 AT&T, Inc. 2,739,000
    10 Bright House Networks LLC1 2,194,000
    11 Suddenlink Communications1 1,228,000
    12 Mediacom Communications Corp.1,203,000
    13 Insight Communications Co., Inc. 699,000
    14 CableOne, Inc. 651,000
    15 WideOpenWest Networks, LLC1 391,000
    16 RCN Corp. 354,000
    17 Bresnan Communications1 297,000
    18 Atlantic Broadband Group, LLC 269,000
    19 Armstrong Cable Services 245,000
    20 Knology Holdings 231,000
    21 Service Electric Cable TV Incorporated1 222,000
    22 Midcontinent Communications 210,000
    23 MetroCast Cablevision 186,000
    24 Blue Ridge Communications1 172,000
    25 General Communications 148,000

    Guest Post: Orly Ravid: Subtitles in Digital America Part 2

    With today's guest post, Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative looks at digital distribution opportunities for foreign film here in the USA.

    Recently I was invited to be on a panel at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and participate in their mentoring sessions and the lab at Cinemart. Great experience. I am always amazed by the difference between the US and Europe. The whole government funding of films and new media initiatives as our government is about to shut down. Well, their policies and practices do take their own financial toll too but one I think is worth it. For all my europhileness I have to note that the Europeans can be just as guilty of not wanting to watch subtitles in fact some countries dub films instead. And of course we know that Hollywood is big business in Europe too. But all in all, art house cinema seems to reach more broadly in Europe and even some parts of Asia than it does in the US. Films in Cannes and other top fests can sell all over Europe and never in the US or success in opening theatrically only in NY and maybe LA and overall it seems to me box office is generally down for foreign language cinema.

    International filmmakers want US distribution and it was painful for me to discuss their prospects at IFFR because for so many, the prospects are slim. But this one’s for you! (Please note this blog is focused on digital distribution and not healthy categories for foreign language cinema such as Non Theatrical including Museums, Films Festival, Colleges, Educational / Institutional).

    Cable VOD was 80% of the digital revenue in the US in 2009 but it’s now declining little by little, now estimated to be in the high 70’s (approx 77%) and may decline further still. The reason for this change, which is expected to continue, is that Internet based platforms are growing.

    Regarding FOREIGN LANGUAGE ON CABLE VOD: Distributors and aggregators agree that foreign language cinema is very hard to get onto Cable VOD platforms and slots for non-English cinema are reserved generally for marquee driven films and/or films with a real hook (name cast/director, highly acclaimed, genre hook). A big independent Cable VOD aggregator notes a real struggle in getting foreign language films to perform on Cable VOD and even Bollywood titles that had wide theatrical distribution and a box office of upwards of $1,000,000 still perform poorly (poorly means 4-figure revenue, 5-figure tops). They have had some success with foreign martial arts films and will continue with those in the foreseeable future.

    Time Warner Cable (TWC) remains more open to foreign language cinema though it plays the fewest films, a range between 190 – 246 at any given time (with a shelf life usually of 60 days and with 2/3rd of the content seeming to be bigger studio product, and the rest indie). By comparison Charter and AT&T play about 1,000 and Verizon plays 2,000, and Comcast plays about 4,000. [See below for the 2010 breakdown of Cable subscription numbers.] Hence, individual titles may perform better on Time Warner Cable for obvious reasons, Comcast may have more subscribers but there’s less competition and TWC is in New York, the best demographic for art house cinema.

    Generally speaking, platforms overall are far more receptive to foreign films following the recent success of DRAGON TATTOO, TELL NO ONE, IP MAN, etc. than they have ever been before. However as one can see from the titles noted, foreign genre films are preferred because they have the opportunity to reach broader audiences than the usual foreign film. Genres that reportedly work include: sci-fi, thriller/crime, action, and sophisticated horror. Dramas have had limited success, and comedies often don't translate, nor does most children's content.

    In regard to Cable VOD - foreign box office is becoming an important proxy, because the marketing and pr tend to build US awareness on the larger titles prior to being available here. Many companies have built very successful VOD businesses pursuing a day and date theatrical or DVD strategy. Again, genre films work best, with horror and sci fi being the top performers. 3 of the top 10 non-studio titles in 2010 were foreign language subtitled releases. Small art house distributors say that at most it’s a small dependable revenue stream via services such as INDEMAND http://www.indemand.com (iN DEMAND’s owners are and it services Comcast iN DEMAND Holdings, Inc., Cox Communications Holdings, Inc., and Time Warner Entertainment - Advance/Newhouse Partnership.) Distributors and aggregators all site Time Warner as being far more open to foreign language cinema than Comcast, because it’s urban focused (NY, LA, etc) not heartland focused as Comcast is.

    In terms of these titles finding their audiences on Cable VOD, Comcast announced improved search functionality by being able to search by title and Cable VOD is aware of its deficiencies and is said to be improving in terms of marketing to consumers but Cable VOD is still infamous for its lack of recommendation engines and discovery tools. Key aggregators work to have films profiled in several categories and not just the A-Z listing.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Guest Post: Orly Ravid: Marketing Is King (Yes, It Is Still So...)

    Today marks the final installment of Orly Ravid's 3-part "If I Was A Filmmaker Going To Sundance..." series. I have been fortunate to have been able to host Orly's look at filmmaker options, both before Sundance, afterwards, and now in reflection. Whereas Part One considered the DIY approach, and Part Two evaluated the sales and how they may benefit the filmmaker or not, today examines what added value a digital partner may bring you. It is a rare glimpse inside the process, and who better to give it than the co-founder of The Film Collaborative, the filmmaker's true friend, the first not-for-profit distribution partner out there. Without any further ado, Orly Ravid...

    Post Sundance what I have to say is this: there were more deals done since I started tracking them along with the rest of the industry, so for more deal counting and analysis please refer to that blog post I wrote up post Sundance.

    But thank you Fox Searchlight, TWC and Oprah for injecting the biz with just the right amount of adrenaline to keep it dreaming big; we hope you’re buying big next year. What else is new? Focus has an emerging digital distribution initiative, Amazon is giving Netflix a run for its money (or not, depends on who you talk to)…. everyone is waiting on Wal-Mart to see how much voodoo VUDU can conjure up and SEARS and KMART are in the digital space just in case you though big retail was dead. Blockbuster is still for sale. Google’s stock price is high as ever and Apple is not going down any time soon judging from its (130,000,000 credit cards on file and that was just the last time I checked) even though some speculate it will meet its match.

    So now that there are almost as many digital plays as they are films (hahahaha of course not literally) how can we distinguish them? TERMS and MARKETING. I have made much fuss about terms before (how long, how many rights, fees and above all, what are the splits between platform/ service and aggregator/distributors).

    We hope that filmmakers and their team build community and buzz around their films and start engaging audiences and potential audiences well before and leading up to and following the first public exhibition of their films. But after a distributor or aggregator comes on board, then what? What do they do for the fees, other than the selling and servicing of the film and its assets to the platforms / services.

    Here is an overview of what a few companies do to market films for home entertainment release, either DVD & DIGITAL or just DIGITAL, and mostly in their own words:

    FILMBUFF

    “FilmBuff is an established leader in the development of innovative release strategies, digital merchandising and promotions. Our strong retail relationships allow us to emphasize merchandising and promotional placement on all platforms and video portals. Our internal marketing builds custom outreach programs to build audience awareness and activate the online communities that are ideal for each film. Custom promos and features on FilmBuff’s social media networks across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a host of online video portals work in concert to ensure that films reach the widest possible audience.”

    We asked FilmBuff for some more detail but we have not received anything yet. As soon as we do we will post the extra information.

    NEW VIDEO

    “New Video’s suite of marketing services for films released on DVD, Blu-ray, digitally and on-demand includes:

    Direct contact with retailers and platforms for developing and supporting in-store placements and point-of-sale promotions. (TFC notes: They have a lot of DVD volume so their relationships are more valuable than a filmmaker can get on their own dealing with the retailer).

    A full-time in-house public relations team directing outreach to national and regional print, online and broadcast media for both industry and consumers- Collaboration with partner organizations to drive grassroots awareness; a custom affiliate program for DVD sales referrals.

    * Best practices to reach existing fan bases online and off with a solid emphasis on social media. * Strategic advertising to maximize ROI. * Promotion at consumer and trade shows.

    The mission of New Video is to leverage 20 years of distribution and marketing experience to provide the broadest possible reach across all distribution channels, while raising awareness through major press, grassroots organizations, and everything in between. Titles we’ve distributed and marketed include GasLand, King Corn, Autism: The Musical, Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and The Secret of Kells. We collaborate with filmmakers, create custom marketing strategies and share our best practices to build on the momentum they have developed over the life of their project. With expert in-house publicity services, our campaigns cover long lead press, short lead, online, industry, and consumer press outlets (both national and regional, in print, online and broadcast media). Our press releases are media-rich and social media-ready for posting and sharing, and we offer next-gen screener service for press review. We have a proven track record in leveraging talent to maximize press and promotion through marketing opportunities such as podcasts and exclusives. We have a hands-on, strategic approach to grassroots marketing, and we employ social network marketing through our own presence on Facebook and Twitter, and through coordination with supporters’ social networks. We prize our longstanding relationships with store merchandising teams, and add enormous value in our ability to customize and create in-store marketing strategy, such as thematic shelves, customized artwork, and priority placements. We collaborate on selective online, print and radio advertising to strategically improve ROI through targeted buys, and we build opportunities around media events, consumer and trade shows to further press coverage and consumer awareness for a property. We complement these practices with a custom affiliate program for DVD sales referrals to incent partner organizations online. New Video is committed to building and maintaining buzz organically, through extended campaigns, early editorial pitching, and social outreach. We communicate with consumers through our website and blog, social media, and a newsletter reaching 15,000 subscribers.”

    TFC NOTES: New Video is a key iTunes aggregator not only for its own titles but for many traditional distributors and even IndieFlix and Indie Rights and TriBeCa Films (remember filmmakers, always ask the questions that help you know how many middle men there are in any given category of distribution). I know that on the ‘Social Media Outreach’ front for iTunes releases for example, New Video sends out social-media releases with images & clips to sites such as Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon and they post release on PR Distribution sites such as ClickPress, i-Newswire, eCommWire, The Open Press. From past experience we know they do a feed-based announcement made available on Google blog search, Technorati, Yahoo! News, Topix, tagged with keywords for easier discovery. New Video does email marketing to its subscribers as well and Trailer or Clip Tagging Promotional clips tagged with “Now Available on iTunes” and syndicated to top video sharing sites (e.g. YouTube, Yahoo!, MySpace, Google, Revver, Dailymotion, Blip, Veoh). They monitor and post reviews in-store Individual reviews posted about the content. On the online grassroots outreach front, they connect to digital portals; targeting topical, genre and talent fansites and blogs and service those with press release and special offers (exclusives, clips, contests, review copies). And they work fans and friends via the social networking sites. (TFC notes: on Facebook New Video as a company only has a little over 1,700 people. The page is largely used to promote titles, not facilitate dialog as Sheri Candler observed.).

    WOLFE VIDEO

    “25 years developing relationships with national retailers, VOD companies, the press and media, film festival programmers, LGBT organizations and our vendors. Over 25 years building traditional and electronic mailing lists, plus a wide social media presence. Wolfe believes that the key aspect to being an effective Distributor is marketing. In the absence of this expertise, a distributor is merely a middleman. Wolfe is widely known for mainstreaming films with gay content. The most invaluable asset Wolfe brings to filmmakers is experience. Wolfe has over 25 years developing relationships with VOD companies, DVD retailers, niche and traditional media, film festival programmers, broadcasters, LGBT organizations and our vendors. Wolfe has one of the largest channels in the gay niche market which includes traditional and electronic mailing lists and a wide social media presence.

    One of Wolfe’s most notable assets is its direct access to gay consumers; better known as WolfeVideo.com. The website supports heavy traffic and is widely known as a commerce site for gay feature films. It should also be noted that Wolfe does not sell adult product, so the website is accessible for many audiences. WolfeVideo.com is supplemented by the QMovieBlog.com and Wolfe's social network strategy includes a variety of ongoing campaigns across all major platforms. Wolfe has a particularly substantial and active following on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube; for example Wolfe’s work on Were the World Mine generated nearly 100K views on YouTube alone and the famous re-release of Desert Hearts promotion generated over 847,000 views! Wolfe’s direct to consumer assets also include significant opt-in mailing lists via email and traditional snail mail, which continues to be a strong sales tool for the company and its products. (TFC Notes Wolfe’s Facebook page has 3,368 likes).

    Sales and marketing via mainstream outlets is key to the success of Wolfe films. Wolfe leverages client relationships with VOD, EST and DVD retailers to further market films. Strategic partnerships bring Wolfe’s films front and center in programs such as the Gay Pride month feature on the home page of iTunes, Internet promotions with Xfinity & dominant presence with DVD retailers such as Amazon.com. Wolfe has also engaged companies like Sony to develop marketing campaigns. The Sony Ebridge program was designed to add value to the DVD. E-bridge gave consumers cool stuff like the chance to win a trip to Australia. It also offered advertisers unique consumer access they would otherwise not reach.

    Other clients that partner with Wolfe promotions include hundreds of non-profit organizations nationwide such as LGBT film festivals and political orgs like GLAAD. These organizations work with Wolfe to both screen films for hundreds of consumers and promote the subsequent VOD & DVD releases. These relationships expand consumer outreach and do the good work of promoting the important work of non-profits

    Publicity is a major focus in every Wolfe campaign. Wolfe's publicists (not in-house) facilitate reviews, interviews and other coverage for all Wolfe releases across a wide range of media outlets from national and regional print publications to blogs and websites. Broadcast networks also work with Wolfe on publicity and marketing. For example, the Logo Network is presently airing Wolfe PSA’s to educate consumers about the effects of piracy featuring actors from Wolfe films.

    Additionally, they not only market films on the Wolfe label, but work extensively with larger labels such as Sony, Universal, Fox, and Showtime to name a few. Every successful distributor with gay content has hired Wolfe to support their products. Wolfe has a “soup to nuts” approach to film marketing and they work hard to reach millions of consumers for every release.”

    INDEPENDENT LENS

    “Independent Lens has a strong social media community including nearly 70,000 engaged Facebook fans —the largest of all PBS primetime series, second only to Antiques Roadshow. Independent Lens social networking and online impact: Independent Lens believes social networking is one key component to reaching new, younger and more diverse viewers for our broadcasts, engagement work and online distribution.

    Independent Lens is the second most popular PBS series on Facebook. We post daily, and our posts average 55,000 impressions each. We receive an average of 100 interactions (Likes + Comments) on each post. This engagement rate ranks first among PBS series and means that 5 out of 6 of our fans see each post. (e.g. their The Calling Livestream event from the Chicago Art Institute in December 2010 attracted more than 3,000 viewers on their Livestream channel on their Facebook fan page.).

    We have more than 11,000 followers on Twitter. We post three or more new Blog postings each week, and they feature interviews with the filmmakers, documentary news, dispatches from filmmakers in the field, live chats with filmmakers and the subjects of their films, and more. In the first quarter of our current season, Independent Lens had 18,000 page views from more than 15,000 unique visitors.”

    GRAVITAS

    “With there being thousands of films available in the VOD marketplace, here are four ongoing tactics we use to raise the profile of Gravitas films:

    1. Traditional PR- As this The Wrap article shows we believe it important to convey to the industry and entertainment enthusiasts that Gravitas continues to innovate in VOD. In this instance, we will be releasing American: The Bill Hicks Story "day and date" in theatres and on VOD in April. This is a film was adored when it screened at SXSW in 2010 and having pre-release PR supporting the film will help us get wide carriage in 100 million North American VOD homes and marketing support from cable and online operators concurrent with the film's debut.

    http://www.thewrap.com/deal-central/column-post/gravitas-variance-pick-american-bill-hicks-story-24145

    We have an outside PR firm on retainer and we also do PR/marketing in house. None of these expenses are charged back to the filmmaker. We work in house, w/ our PR firm and with our Licensors to ensure appropriate messaging is being conveyed. Good reviews are crucial, but of paramount importance is letting the Licensor know when and where the film are being played in VOD. To this end, we communicate with our Licensors every time their film is on a new VOD platform.

    Here are a couple recent links to coverage on IFC.com

    http://www.ifc.com/news/2010/10/2010-holiday-movie-guide-online-vod.php

    http://www.ifc.com/news/2011/01/winter-preview-2011-dvds.php

    2. VOD Guide Optimization- As you know, there are over 100 cable, satellite, and telco operators in North America and each operator has their own VOD guide characteristics. As a result, we spend considerable resources internally making sure that our films are mapped so that customers can easily find them. As a result, we have Slingboxes set up in homes all across North America where we can remotely use our office internet connections to peer in to the cable boxes of friends and family to make sure our films are in as many VOD guide folders as possible. The enclosed images shows the layout of 8 different large operators. Our goal is make sure our films show up 4-5 times within each operator VOD storefront in folders frequently called "New Release", "All Movies A-Z", "Indy Films", "2 Day Rentals", "VOD Premieres", "In Theatres", and the appropriate genre categories like "Documentary" or "Comedy."

    Almost each guide (aka UI or User Interface) is a little different and we monitor as many of the UI’s as possible to ensure that we are aware of any guide changes that we should be taking advantage of that would be appropriate for our content so that it is merchandized appropriately. We do this for all of our licensed content.

    3. Online Editorial Outreach: Gravitas' marketing team has a monthly dialogue (including sending DVD screeners) with dozens of websites and bloggers that cover independent, genre, and new VOD content including: IFC.COM On Demand Weekly Hammer to Nail Twitch Film Film School Rejects Gordon and the Whale 28 Days Later Analysis Fangoria Dread Central Arrow in the Head VideoScope Magazine Horrorphilia Bloody Disgusting

    Here are some recent samples:

    http://www.ifc.com/news/2011/01/winter-preview-2011-dvds.php

    http://ondemandweekly.com/blog/article/ip_man_-_on_demand/ 4. Online and Social Media- Each month we host monthly marketing calls with filmmakers to help implement and grow the online presence of their film prior to and after VOD debut date. Here are just a few examples:

    a. Gravitas Website-We run on ongoing Film Spotlight section off of our home page where we interview writers and directors of Gravitas films currently in VOD release. http://www.gravitasventures.com/films/

    (TFC notes: no info on site traffic and Sheri Candler noted that Gravitas themselves only have a little over 500 people on their own FB page and almost no engagement from fans; few likes, few comments on the material posted there.)

    ORLY asked: “Do you have any plans to expand your social network marketing? Any community engagement you want to speak to? I say this because for example Independent Lens does this very well, but most distribs and aggregators don't. Since you mention it, if you have anything to say about it please do”.

    GRAVITAS answered: “To the extent that our social media sites continue to grow, yes, but it’s equally important and effective to spread best practices with our Licensors. i.e. If Gravitas licenses a film with a FB page of 10K fans, we want to share best practices with that Licensor as to harness their social network to drive VOD activity”.

    Back to the rest of the GRAVITAS info about their marketing ONLINE & via SOCIAL MEDIA:

    “b.) Partner Portal Marketing- Hulu is one example of a key partner portal that we collaborate with weekly to raise the profile of Gravitas films. Here is a screen shot of the well-regarded documentary Circus Rosaire that is currently being highlighted in the top carousel off the Main Hulu Movies page.

    Recently, we were able to work with the website www.Jesse-Eisenberg.com to have them cross promote one of Jesse's earlier films The Living Wake right after he was Oscar nominated for his work in The Social Network.

    http://www.jesse-eisenberg.com/news/2011/01/29/the-living-wake-now-free-to-watch-on-hulu/

    We also frequently collaborate with many of our filmmakers to heighten discussion, interaction and interest in many of our Hulu films.

    http://www.hulu.com/studio/gravitas?sort=name

    c.) Social Media- Gravitas and its film partners are active users of Facebook and Twitter. Here is one example where are Documentaries on Demand partner PBS tweeted about the VOD release of The Buddha to its over 500 thousand followers.”

    http://www.indiewire.com/article/gravitas_ventures_to_launch_documentaries_on_demand_with_pbs/

    BRAINSTORM MEDIA Brainstorm submitted this campaign plan in answer to our desire to what they do on the marketing front. They work with Eventful.

    Eventful What Would You Give Up to Find True Love? Submit Your Answer for a Chance to Win!

    One lucky winner and three guests will win a trip to NYC, stay at the luxurious Kimberly Hotel, get a pampering spa day and more!

    Campaign overview: Eventful will execute a social media campaign to engage consumers around the film, My Father’s Will. The campaign will allow fans to submit their answers to win a trip to NYC, see submissions from other fans, and watch the trailer for My Father’s Will. Eventful will execute digital, email and social media marketing to drive campaign participation.

    The goals of the campaign include: • Drive entries for the sweepstakes • Build awareness for My Father’s Will through trailer views • Build awareness for accommodations being provided, i.e. hotel • Generate social media and viral engagement for the film and sweepstakes • Create an engaged social community for direct marketing of VOD rentals of My Father’s Will with including folder locations for each affiliate

    Phase 1: Social media campaign – Win it! 1. Eventful will design, build and host: • Campaign micro-site including movie trailer and hotel branding • Custom widgets and social media apps for distribution across Facebook, MySpace and other sites, enabling consumers to enter the sweepstakes

    2. Eventful will execute a comprehensive targeted marketing and promotional plan to engage existing users from among Eventful’s audience of 16 million consumers: • Demographic targeting by location, age, gender, and entertainment tastes • Eventful will engage consumers via dedicated email, onsite promotions, and one-click social media sharing tools

    3. Marketing by Eventful will drive participants to the campaign micro-site which will include: • Campaign artwork branded for My Father’s Will • Primary call-to-action to enter the sweepstakes by submitting an answer • Live stream of entries from fans • Official trailer for My Father’s Will • Campaign details with basic rules • Social media sharing tools for Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and email

    Phase 2: Drive VOD rentals of My Father’s Will

    1. Eventful will promote VOD sales for My Father’s Will through a digital and direct marketing campaign targeting all sweepstakes entrants plus a broader target audience within the Eventful user base. Campaigns include: • Dedicated email • Onsite promotions • Email newsletter insertions

    Proposed Timeline: • “Win it!” Sweepstakes: 2/15/11 – 4/15/11

    To see the campaign, access it here. http://movies.eventful.com/campaigns/myfatherswill2011

    (TFC note: we hope to look forward to hearing the outcome on this campaign) -- So, in conclusion, you can see a range of what companies do. In general, some companies are more focused on consumer marketing and publicity and social network marketing than others and some are focused more on marketing to retailers and services and getting best placement and some may do both. We recommend the latter when you have a choice and of course, no one can market your film better than you can. In my experience most companies lack on the publicity side, though I will say First Run Features, for example, (since we did not cover them herein) seems to do a great job on that front working with a wonderful publicist, driving Netflix queue action, hiring outreach teams, posting the trailer all over, and take out ads, e-blast loads, as well as work social network sites etc.

    I am sure other companies will want to chime in here about what they do and filmmakers too about their experiences, good or not-so-much. We want to hear from you so weigh in! Please offer specific examples, not just marketing speak. In the meantime, our resident social network marketing guru, Sheri Candler, has offered her take on what the above distributors have described.

    Sheri Candler says: I am happy to see distributors explaining what they do to market titles under their control. Often, the text on their websites sounds like a generalization of typical activities conducted by any marketing department in any corporation. I urge filmmakers to press for a customized, detailed plan of EXACTLY what will be done on their films and how much it will cost. Ultimately, that cost will be deducted from your backend, so it is important to understand what you can expect from your distributor before you sign up with them. It also gives you an idea of what you will still need to do yourselves. This isn’t fix it, forget it and the money just rolls in.

    As noted above, I think social networking activities by most distributors is minimal at best. If you already have 10K fans on your Facebook page and the distributor offering to perform social networking activities for your film only has 500, they really can’t offer much. Especially look at how they handle their pages. Is it mostly shill? Is there any engagement going on? Evaluate them on what they can bring you that you can’t do yourselves.

    The only impressive distributor in the above list with regard to social networking and utilizing it effectively is Independent Lens. Look at their page and see how they are using it. Very impressive. No wonder they have almost 70K fans. Ask if your distributor has a social media team (not 2 interns!) and ask to speak with those people to get a sense of what they will do with your title or how you can combine efforts effectively. Just getting a large entity to tweet about your title once is not going to do much; it is not a Twitter strategy.

    Retail DVD placement (for the next few years anyway), iTunes, Netflix, and VOD marquee placement, relationships with major publications for reviews and feature stories, these are things a typical filmmaker cannot get on their own and are worth utilizing with a distributor. Sending out eblasts and unsolicited screeners to journalists is really spam; so if that is the extent of your distributor’s publicity efforts, it isn’t worth paying for. Be sure to ask EXACTLY which publications will be approached and evaluate whether those outlets reach your target audience. You should also be consulted on what story angles will be developed for the publications. This is especially necessary if you do not have notable stars or notable accolades from festivals attached to your film as publications will be more reluctant to cover it.

    Since grassroots relationships were mentioned, press your distributor to name which organizations they work with. Are they just affiliate sales relationships? Are they just a member of the distributor eblast list? Real communication should be happening and for a relationship really to be fruitful, it has to be 2 way. Of the above mentioned distributors, only Wolfe strikes me as having actual relationships with target organizations. Their content is of value to the organizations they are affiliated with and I would venture a guess that Wolfe strongly champions the orgs cause and mission too. THAT is a relationship.

    Advertising placement makes sense, but find out what the spend will be and what publications/sites. While I understand that distributors get better rates going with a media broker, the spend is wasted if the placements are in publications or on sites that do not reach your target audience.

    My view on this is a distributor is a marketing partner. The bulk of what they should be bringing you is marketing prowess. Really dig into what their plans are for your film and ask to see examples of work on similar films. When deciding on which distributor to sign with, don’t just sign with someone offering you access to 15 million homes. It sounds great, but if few of those homes know your film exists, there won’t be many sales.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema. Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    DEALS & DIY: A Film Distribution Duet

    Today's guest post is by Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative(TFC), the first non-profit, full service provider dedicated to the distribution of independent film.  Orly was featured as one of HFF's Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010.

    *This is Part II of the “If I Were a Filmmaker Going Sundance...

    *Part III to will be written in the aftermath of the glow of the fest.

    Sundance 2011, insofar as distribution was concerned, saw a spike on both the traditional sales and the DIY front.   26 deals were done so far and more to come. One difference between this year's Festival and those of recent years is that several acquisitions were done prior to the Festival and more deals occurred right at the beginning of the Festival rather than taken several days or weeks to materialize. In addition, some of the acquisition dollar figures were bigger than in recent times. There was a definite sense of ‘business is back’  (though mostly still for bigger films with either name directors or cast or both – and this we address below).  And DIY is seeing a new dawn with directors like Kevin Smith announcing a self-distribution plan and Sundance’s solidified commitment to helping artists crowdfund (via Kickstarter) and market their films (via Facebook for example) access certain digital distribution platforms (in the works and TBA).

    Starting with the deals. So far I counted 26 (one at least was a pre-buy / investment in production) and two so far are remake rights deals.

    I only list the deal points that were publicized… meaning if no $$$ is listed then it was not announced.

    Deals done Pre-Sundance:

    1.     Project Nim (James Marsh who did Man on Wire)  – sold to HBO for a hefty yet unreported sum.

    2.     Becoming Chaz – produced by renowned World Of Wonder and sold to OWN (actually we gleaned OWN invested in the film and at the fest Oprah announced her commitment to doing for docs what she did for books via a Doc Club).

    3.     Uncle Kent went to IFC

    4.     The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Morgan Spurlock) – went to Sony Classics.

    Deals done at Sundance according to sections:

    US Dramatic Competition:

    5.     The Ledge: sold to IFC

    6.     Like Crazy: (Director of Douchebag)  - Paramount for a worldwide deal - $4,000,000.

    7.     Martha Marcy May Marlene: sold to Fox Searchlight, congrats to TFC Board of Advisor EXP, Ted Hope.

    8.     Circumstance: Participant is funding the release and will (along with the filmmakers) choose a distribution partner, we hope Roadside Attractions.

    9.     Homework: Fox Searchlight

    10.  Another Earth: (Mark Cahill) – Fox Searchlight – a $1.5 - $2 mil deal with aggressive P&A as reported and for US and all English speaking territories.

    11.  Gun Hill Road: Motion Film Group

    12.  Pariah: Focus Features

    Premieres (‘names’ in films):

    13.  My Idiot Brother: TWC - $6,000,000 for US and key territories.

    14.  The Details: TWC - $7,500,000 MG and $10,000,000 P&A

    15.  I Melt With You: Magnolia (reported mid-high 6-figure deal reportedly w/ healthy backend)

    16.  Life in a Day: NatGeo Films

    17.  Margin Call: Joint deal with Lions Gate and Roadside Attractions

    18.  Perfect Sense: IFC

    19. The Future: (Miranda July) – Roadside Attractions

    U.S. Documentary Competition:

    20.  Buck: Sundance Selects

    21.  The Last Mountain: Dada Films (MJ Peckos and Steven Raphael)

    22. Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times: Magnolia and Participant

    Park City at Midnight:

    23.  Silent House: Liddell Entertainment

    World Cinema Dramatic Competition:

    24.  The Guard:  Sony Pictures Classics

    Not distribution deals per se but Fox Searchlight bought worldwide remake rights to

    25. The Bengali Detective &

    26. TWC bought remake rights to Knuckle.

    Please let me know if I missed any deals and feel free to comment in this blog. Of course more may be announced even as this posts and I am on a plane.

    So we see mostly name filmmakers or cast but also definitely a few non-names generating deals the details of which are not publicized thus far.

    AND NOW ON the DIY side:

    RE: SLITTING RIGHTS & DIY: Andrew Hurwitz and Alan Sacks wrote an article in the Hollywood Reporter addressing all the same stuff TFC has talked about before, splitting rights, working and sometimes conflating windows and not settling for bad deal terms when one could do better on one’s own working with consultants etc. It’s nice to see trades addressing this in a context that speaks to more traditional industry players.

    THE FLAT FEE MODEL EXPANDS: Distribber (now owned by IndieGOGO) announced a partnership that has been brewing with one of our Cable VOD partners, and TFC Board of Advisor Meyer Schwarztein of Brainstorm Media. Basically it expands Distribber’s flat fee digital distribution offerings to include Cable VOD (and also Hulu).  If a film gets onto all key MSOs the fee is set for now to be $9999 and there are prices per platform if a film cannot make it on to any given platform so that one is not paying for a platform or service they are not getting onto. As per the press release: “The films will be presented to audiences on the new "Filmmaker Direct" label; consumers who purchase films on "Filmmaker Direct" will know that 100% of profits go directly to the filmmaker, instead of to a parade of "Hollywood Middlemen.” For more info check out: http://www.distribber.com.  My only cautionary note: this is not a great idea for smaller films for which the gross revenues that would not justify the flat fee. One must remember and always know to ask about the splits that the Cable VOD aggregator is getting from the MSOs. They range, to the best of my knowledge to-date, between 30% and 60% depending on company and films. Studios get the higher splits for the obvious reasons. And so one has to do the math. And of course also evaluate MARKETING (which will be the focus on the 3rd and final part of this Sundance Blog series).  In any case, we work with both Adam Chapnick at Distribber and Meyer Schwarzstein at Brainstorm and are fond of and trust them both.

    BRAND NAME FILMMAKER DIY: Kevin Smith fueled the torch of DIY in his own flame-filled way.  He auctioned off the distribution of Sundance Premiere Selection RED STATE to himself and has pre-booked theatres and plans to be his own decider in distribution, sans print ads (Amen). We wish him well but caution his very “old world” production and release budget (4mil Prod & and 2.5mil to release (for prints etc)… immediate launch broad release plan… a slow build never hurt anyone.  David Dinnerstein formerly of Paramount Classics and Lakeshore consulted on the release.  For more on this topic just search the WWW.

    ABOUT THE SHORTS:

    DIY Hats off to the Sundance SHORTS filmmaker such as Trevor Anderson and I believe 11 others who are on Sundance’s YouTube Screening Room Initiative with tens of thousands of views. Anderson exceeded 94,000 views as of the other day and has put all his shorts including this year’s HIGH LEVEL BRIDGE on www.EggUp.com which allows him to monetize them via transactional digital sales.  TFC regularly refers filmmakers to EggUp and now also TopSpin though our gury Sheri Candler advises TopSpin works better for filmmakers with an already robust following.  Whilst Anderson may not be getting rich just yet, it’s a perfect model for a prolific and vibrant filmmaker who is building a brand and getting his/her work out there.

    Last but not least, Sundance announces its DIY oriented initiative.

    Sundance Institute announced (I’m now quoting from its press release) its Three-Year Plan with Kickstarter as Creative Funding Collaborator / Facebook® to Provide Guidance to Institute AlumniA new program to connect its artists with audiences by offering access to top-tier creative funding and marketing backed by the Institute’s promotional support…The creative funding component was announced today with Kickstarter, the largest platform in the world for funding creative projects.  A new way to fund and follow creative projects, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects on Kickstarter every month. In exchange for support, backers receive tangible rewards crafted and fulfilled by the project’s creator. Support is neither investment, charity, nor lending, but rather a mix of commerce and patronage that allows artists to retain 100% ownership and creative control of their work while building a supportive community as they develop their projects… In the coming months, Sundance Institute will build an online hub of resources related to independent distribution options, funding strategies and other key issues.  The goal is to provide for filmmakers a central location to explore case studies and best practices, in addition to live workshops and training opportunities with Institute staff, alumni, industry experts and key partners.  As the first of these partners bringing their expertise to the community, Facebook will offer Institute alumni advice, educational materials, and best-practices tips on how to build and engage audiences via the service…Further development will include access to a broad and open array of third-party digital distribution platforms backed by Sundance Institute promotional support.  In the future, additional opportunities for theatrical exhibition will be explored in collaboration with organizations such as Sundance Cinemas, members of the national Art House Project, and others.”

    I have been championing festivals getting involved with exhibition since and distribution beyond the festival itself since 2005 and discussed some options and ideas with Sundance staffers last year and am thrilled about this powerful and liberating announcement that so connects up with TFC’s mission whilst having some serious muscle and we look forward to being involved in some way hopefully.

    MARKETING IS KING:  One thing no one talks about in much detail is MARKETING. Of course the big guns have the cash to buy marketing but the small distribs and aggregators are starting to be difficult to distinguish at times, and yet sometimes distributors do earn their fees by investing real talent and expertise and even money in marketing. So comparing what one can do oneself (if one does not get the big fat offer) with what traditional but small distribution deals bring will be the focus of the 3rd and last post in this series to come after Rotterdam but hopefully before Berlinale.

    Over and out for now. Questions and Comments always welcome!

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema.  Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    If I were a filmmaker going to Sundance….

    Today's guest post is by Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit, full service provider dedicated to the distribution of independent film.  Orly was featured as one of HFF's Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010.

    * This is part 1 of 3 parts to this Sundance focused blog.

    * Part 2 will be written during the festival.

    * Part 3 will be written in the aftermath of the glow of the fest.

    If I were a filmmaker going to Sundance, and let’s say that I had a film with no recognizable press-generating cast that would be attractive to a distribution company for a large MG… What would I do? Seriously, I asked myself that question. And I realized how tempted I would be, even I, to find some sexy publicists and rockstar agents or sales company so that I could get the hot sexy sale at Sundance and make all my dreams come true.

    What can a distributor do for you that you cannot do yourself with just a little bit of money, not even a lot, and some low fee consultation? And above all, what are you giving up by not building community for your film before and during the fest, instead letting other people run your show, potentially losing out on the momentum of the festival?

    Let’s look at some films from Sundance last year that were in this position and the routes they took and what they may have netted. These are films that cut distribution deals of some kind and got less than wide releases from their distributors:

    A Small Act (Doc): Distributed by HBO, I don’t know exact sale price but suspect it was less than $150,000 and they did not need a sales agent to do that.  They are also a TFC client for festival distribution. TFC handled film festivals for the filmmaker though by the time we got involved HBO had aired the film and that hurt our festival bookings and hence diminished potential revenues to the filmmaker. The director, Jennifer Arnold, is presently closing a DVD deal as well that she got herself.

    *Gasland (Doc): Distributed by HBO, TFC consulted at Sundance along with their lawyer Michael Donaldson, and they did not need anyone to help them get a good HBO deal though they did have help handling offers and pursuing interest. The deal came to them directly and would have come to them regardless.  They did some self-distribution for theatrical (Box office $30,846) and festivals. The film is now available for DVD.  Zipline did PR and the film got its good rightful share of it.  The filmmakers received a deal that has worked out very well, with some great PR and it played lots of fests. It’s shortlisted for the Oscars too.

    *Extenuating circumstances: Debra Winger executive produced this film and she definitely helped a lot. Josh Fox is a very committed activist and spokesperson of the film’s critical message so he is very embedded in the community that would be most interested in this film. It’s a great example of a film that got a lot out of being at Sundance and the filmmakers got a deal they are happy with and they probably recouped as a result given the low budget of the film.

    A Film Unfinished:  Distributed by Oscilloscope. I will say that $320,000 theatrical box office is very very good (I have no idea what they spent though to release the film but it’s likely some money was made on the theatrical). The film had a sales agent (CINEPHIL from Israel) and I am almost positive the MG was less than 6-figures. My judgment is that the filmmakers could have done just as well releasing on their own with just some money set aside for a booking agent and a publicist, especially for this niche.  It is a doc that hits a niche audience that works consistently and is lucrative and I can’t say that the filmmakers needed a sales agent and a distributor to be in between the film and its audience. I doubt the filmmakers will make as much money as they would have handling the film on their own with just some low fee consultation.

    The Dry Land - reported budget from imdb $1mil, box office  $11,777

    Most likely a service deal since it was theatrically released by Freestyle Releasing. Freestyle service deals are not cheap; most of their releases involve budgets of $200,000 + (though sometimes less) and most for-profit service deals involve fees of tens of thousands of dollars). Clearly not a good result here, but we assume hoping to recoup in home video.

    Douchebag -Paladin is distributor and so that generally means it was a service deal paid for by the filmmakers. However the filmmaker Drake Doremus told us: "douchebag was not a service deal paid for by the Filmmakers. Paladin bought the film from us for an amount way above the budget of the film." Bravo! Box office return however was $20,615. Also, not a good return.

    Bhutto - Distributed by First Run Features. Just released December 3, to day box office $16,216, only playing 2 theaters. A large advance was not paid and most of what was accomplished could have been done by the filmmakers themselves without large percentages paid.

    Taqwacores: Distributed by Strand , most likely a very small advance was given. The box office was $9,347 on 2 screens. Another example of a film that could have done this much better and faired better overall without a distributor involved. With just some low fee consultation, time and money set aside, the filmmaker would still be in control of their film and able to work up the audience.

    I am not knocking these deals, simply noting that if one is to do them, one should at least cut out excess middle men and do them smartly, reserve some rights, negotiate carefully on the back end, monitor expenses, maybe even have been better off not doing these deals.  It would have helped all of these films to build community around the film leading up to the festival and exit the festival with a bang, ready to reach audiences immediately. I think a lot can get lost during the time it takes for distributors to bring films to market, especially for the smaller films.

    I think the decision to cut a deal with a distributor, no matter what, is emotional because even when I put myself in the filmmakers’ shoes I realized the emotional power of having an offer made to just take care of this for me. It signals that what has been made must have value and was done well. It also allows for one to not have to get hands dirty with the money stuff and the business stuff.

    But, if you are a filmmaker, you did choose the most expensive art medium in the world and unless you are rich or your investors don’t care about getting their money back, I want you to at least consider this: You don’t NEED traditional distribution. For MOST of you, without special connections or name cast, MOST traditional distribution will not serve you. Most distributors don’t pay enough or do enough or are fair enough, and many of them have to raise P&A anyway, or hire the same service providers you can, so do the math, think twice, and be careful.  And remember, buyers are happy to buy direct, especially many TV buyers and VOD platforms, and you can get inexpensive help negotiating.

    The more you can set up to do on your own the better for you and your investors in the long run. You run a risk doing nothing in terms of building community around your film or not setting up a distribution plan, having several layers of middle-men and waiting for Godot.  When you do the math, the Sundance dream often connects up to cast-driven films and just a few rare gems each year, and there are those to be sure, each year, but just a very few.  Most other deals you could get anyway if you wanted them, with someone on the side advising you in a fair way.

    PS: Here is additional info on films from Sundance 2010:

    * 3 BACKYARDS: Screen Media all rights, no verifiable release.

    *12th AND DELAWARE: HBO Films, premiered on 8/02/10,currently HBO OnDemand.

    * ANIMAL KINGDOM: Sony Pictures Classics, Box office $1,008,742 and this is a great example of a film that might otherwise have done no business were it not for Sundance.

    * CATFISH: Rogue Pictures / Universal with a box office of $1,315,573 and it is definitely a great release for a doc and if the deal is good for the filmmakers then it’s a dream come true. Of course that’s an ‘If”.

    * CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY: Magnolia Pictures, $175,865 – and this is directed by Alex Gibney one of the most famous doc directors but sadly probably lost market share to the feature starring Kevin Spacey.

    *EXIT THROUGH A GIFT SHOP: Producer’s Distribution Agency (a distribution company set up by John Sloss specifically to handle this film), Box office $3,291,250. I am in love with that film, and it’s to Banksy’s credit the film did what it did and some in the industry actually think it was a financially weak release given how much was spent, estimates are put at over a million. In any case, most filmmakers cannot imitate a set up that had John Sloss turn down a just over 6-figure advance (as far as I know) because he wanted to handle the release himself and he did with the help of Richard Abramovitz and had the reputation and cult following of Banksy, Shepard Fairey , and Thierry Guetta.

    *FAMILY AFFAIR: OWN the Oprah Winfrey Network, air-date:  possibly spring.

    * THE FREEBIE: PHASE4, the box office was just  $16,613 the deal was allegedly worth low - mid six figures for US & Canada, all rights.  The film was sold by Visit films.) Now I have inspired Phase4 to buy two films I did not take a commission on.  I am not saying Visit films is not great and I am not saying it’s not great to have guidance at a festival or market especially when there is a bidding war, which there was apparently, I am just saying buyers buy films they want, not because of who is selling them.  We hope the filmmakers of all these films weigh in on their overages and overall bottom line.

    * FREEDOM RIDERS: PBS with an outreach campaign by outreach campaign by American Experience...www.pbs.org/freedomriders, film to

    be shown in May on 50th anniversary of the original rides. Ok that’s cool.

    *GROWN UP MOVIE STAR, NO US or INTL distribution, E1 entertainment is the sales agent, Mongrel Media (distributor in Canada)

    * HESHER: NewMarket, reported budget $7mil, no release info

    * HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE (DISTRIB: Anchor Bay, release was supposed to be in March but as far as we know it has not happened yet).

    * THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE: no info

    *JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: The Radiant Child (Arthouse Films (which also produced the film), Box office was $250,129. A big hit in France, what a great niche and great doc. The producers did handle their film themselves in the US.

    *LAST TRAIN HOME, Zeitgeist Films, released: 9/03/10-TOTAL GROSS: $282,092

    (Here is a good example of a good doc sales company from what we hear and a good US distributor and a doc that probably sold well relatively speaking).

    * LOVERS OF HATE: IFC –which is primarily a VOD play and some very traditional deal terms.

    * MY PERESTROIKA: no info

    * THE OATH: Zeitgeist, box office $42,273

    * OBSELIDIA-reported budget $500K, still with a sales agent it appears

    *THE RED CHAPEL, Lorber Films, opens 12/19/10 at IFC Center, Lorber Films plans a theatrical release of the film in the U.S. and Canada, followed by television broadcast and a DVD release.

    * RESTREPO (US distribution: National Geographic Entertainment, Box office $1,330,058 –another Sundance success story to be sure, assuming terms are good for the filmmakers, which we have no information about

    * SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS: Maya Entertainment (US, media)

    * SKATELAND: Freestyle Releasing in March 2011 – and this means most likely it’s a service deal and paid for by the filmmaker. I should note that sometimes Freestyle helps raise the P&A. (though I don’t know what their cut is; one day I will ask).

    * TWELVE: DISTRIBUTOR is Hannover House and the box office gross was $183,920 (somewhat shocking given the cast and the director.

    *UNDERTOW: (Sundance World Cinema Audience Award Winner) TFC is doing theatrical and worldwide festivals and consulted on the distribution deals. We will be covering this in a case study to be written after the release is completed.

    *WASTE LAND, Arthouse Films, released 10/29/10-TOTAL GROSS: $96, 597

    Arthouse Films handled the theatrical release later followed by a DVD and digital release on the Arthouse Films label in early 2011...E1 Entertainment holds the international rights and is managing worldwide sales which to date include Australia (Hopscotch), Hagi Film (Poland) and Midas Filmes (Portugal). E1 Entertainment will also distribute the movie in Canada and the UK. Downtown Filmes is the Brazilian distributor.

    * WINTER’S BONE: Roadside Attractions, Box office $6,210,516, and this is a great example of a film that would have likely lingered in oblivion were it not for Sundance and the right distributor);

    * Other films not listed in detail are Cyrus, The Kids Are Alright, Waiting For Superman, Splice, and The Runaways because they all have big names involved, in a few cases the deals were done before Sundance and not all of them even had great releases in the net analysis.

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema.  Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010 Edition

    We have a bit of a redundancy in the recognition of those that create good work, but that good work does not end with what is up on the screen -- which is the part that everyone seems to want to write about.  I feel however that we must recognize those that focus not just on the development and production of good work, but those that commit themselves to ALL of cinema, including discovery, participation, appreciation, and presentation -- what I consider the other 4 pillars of cinema.

    Last year at this time, I put forth a list of inspiring folks, people who by their acts and ideas were giving me the energy to keep striving for a better film culture and infrastructure, one that was accessible to all, and slave to none. We are closer to a truly free film culture this year than we were last year, and I remain optimistic that we can be a hell of a lot closer next year than we are today, thanks in no small part to the 40 I have singled out these two short years.

    This list, like last year's, is not meant to be exhaustive. Okay, granted I did not get to the quantity to the 21 Brave Thinkers that I did last year, but the quality is just as deep.  Regarding the lesser amount, I don't blame the people -- I blame the technology (of course).  I wish I had better tools of discovery that would allow me to find more of the good work and efforts that are out there. I know I am overlooking some BTs again this year. But so be it -- one of the great things about blogging is there is no need to be finished or even to be right (although I do hate it when I push publish prematurely -- like I did with this -- when it is still purely a draft).

    I know I can depend on you, my dear brave thinkers, to extend and amend this work into the future.  I do find it surprising how damn white & male & middle aged this list is.  And that I only found two directors to include this year.  Again, it must be the tools and not the source, right?  Help me source a fuller list next year; after all, it is as Larry K tweeted to me about regarding who are the most brave these days: "Those whom you don't know but who continue, despite the indifference of all, to create work that is authentic,challenging and real."  How true that is!

    Last year I asked and stated: "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."

    This year, I recognize even more fully that bravery is a generosity of spirit, as well as a generative sort of mind.  It is extending the energy inside ourselves to the rest of the world.   I often get asked why I blog (or why so much), and I have no answer for those folks.  It can't be stopped, for I believe if we love the creative spirit as much as the work it yields, if we believe we create for the community and not for the ego, how can we not extend ourselves and turn our labor into the bonds that keep us moving forward.  In other words, no one can afford to create art and not be public (IMHO).  If you want a diverse and accessible culture of ambitious work, you can not afford to simply hope it will get better -- you have to do something (or get out of the business, please).

    So without any further adieu, here's my list of the nineteen folks who have done more on a worldwide basisto start to build it better together, to take what remains of a crumbling and inapplicable film culture & infrastructure, and to try to bring it into the present. They all share a tremendous generosity and open spirit, embracing participation and collaboration.

    This is no longer a world of scarcity and control. These nineteen have begun the hard work of designing a new world of film based on surplus and access -- and the resulting community that grows from that --, and their actions and attitude give me hope for what is to come.

    1. Wendy Bernfeld - The transformation from an entertainment economy designed around scarcity & control, to one built for surplus & access requires new business models and new sales models.  Filmmakers struggle with this more than anyone as most of the sales agents still push for the deals that deliver them the highest return for the least amount of effort.  This is not so for Wendy, whom through her company Rights Stuff has started the task of moving towards the short term non-exclusive license world this new world requires.  Furthermore, Wendy has shared her knowledge both on my blog and at speaking engagements the world over.  Her openness and forward thinking is an example for all of us.
    2. Peter Buckingham - Until the UK shuttered the Film Council, Peter ran their innovation fund.  Perhaps it's just that I sit in America, but to think of  a public official who is so committed to moving both the dialogue and the process forward as Peter, is no easy feat.  Peter helped launch the UK's Digital Cinema Initiative.  His insight on the possibilities of meta-datat are always inspiring.  We could use an ample dose of his high energy leadership on our shores if we are going to get some real things done here.
    3. Edward Burns - Although he has more access to the Hollywood machinery than most, for his latest film, Nice Guy Johnny, Eddie not only went the no-stars micro-budget route, but he set out to distribute it himself from the start.  With no marketing or advertising spend, Eddie has enjoyed a revenue return far in excess of his investment.  As much as I admire his courage and commitment, it his openness about the process that I find most inspiring.  In festivals, colleges, and even The Today Show, Eddie has shared his frustration and hope.  He's also consistently looked for new ways to help people discover his work.  His Homage Trailers, where he remakes trailers of classic movies using footage from his own film, are filled with wit and humor and not to be missed.
    4. Efe Cakarel & The Mubi Team Of the folks listed here, Efe may be the one I am most remiss about not listing last year.  The former Auteurs -- now Mubi -- remains the most robust community of film fans on the web, while being a dynamo curator of quality film on a global basis.  Yet, it seems good that I overlooked Efe and his Mubi team last year, as the transformation to Mubi and their extension onto the Playstation platform gives film fans more access than I could have previously imagined.  The challenge of bringing quality work to the community and generating discussion remains large, but these folks are leading the way.
    5. Henning Camre - President of the Think Tank on European Film and Film Policy,  former head of both the Danish Film School and UK's National Film and Television School, and the Danish Film Institute, Henning is pushing through the necessary change in the Scandinavian Film Industry -- but it is a ripple that will resonate throughout the world.  I got to participate in the Think Tank as was deeply impressed at the quality and depth of the presentations and organization.  No one ever likes to volunteer for the heavy lifting, but Henning has several times over.  Change only comes when we recognize the pain of the present outweighs the fear of the future, and Henning's clarity of vision towards the new reality has no equal on our shores.  He embraces both the new and the old, the conservative and the radical, subscribing to the reality first, probing beneath the perception to unearth the hard facts about access and practice.
    6. Sheri Candler When you believe in something you want to share it, right?  Sheri embodies this statement like few others.  Her commitment and faith in audience and community building is contagious.  An avid user of social media, it is hard to miss Sheri in the virtual world, as she lends her voice, heart, and hand to filmmakers trying to sort out a way to connect and build the necessary bridges. Added bonus for following Sheri?  Her ideas are good and well thought out!   Last year's Brave Thinker, Jon Reiss attests: "I met Sheri just over a year ago after I had just finished Think Outside the Box Office – where else – but on Twitter. She reached out to me, as she does with countless others, and since our first meeting has been an invaluable partner – passionate, incisive and always on the hunt for new ideas and new people that can help filmmakers (myself included) connect with their tribe and help solve the problems facing us all in this challenging time. Her tireless engagement and generosity sharing her wisdom and discoveries is a constant inspiration to me and should be to all in our community."
    7. Adam Chapnick CEO of Distribber.com, a 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.  As Adam said in his HopeForFilm post: "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."  Distribber, and Adam's efforts, are key tools in the building of a middle class of artists who own and profit from the work they create.
    8. CineFamily - When it comes down to email blasts that I love to receive, nothing rivals Cinefamily's.  Bold programming, well presented.  As curators, they expand my knowledge.  As a hardened New Yorker myself, these Losangeleans give me a reason to long for the west coast.  They show us all how to use the web, and use it well.  In an era and city of mass conformity, they show that it is still both set & setting, programming broadly to the narrow, with verve and attitude. Sure this kind of stuff goes over in quirk capital's like Austin, but little did I suspect LA to deliver so much fine weirdness. To quote their own site: "The Cinefamily is an organization of movie lovers devoted to finding and presenting interesting and unusual programs of exceptional, distinctive, weird and wonderful films. The Cinefamily’s goal is to foster a spirit of community and a sense of discovery, while reinvigorating the movie-going experience. Like campfires, sporting events and church services, we believe that movies work best as social experiences. They are more meaningful, funnier and scarier when shared with others. Our home is the Silent Movie Theatre, one of Hollywood’s most beloved and beautiful cultural landmarks. There, The Cinefamily will provide a destination spot for Los Angelenos and others to rediscover the pleasures of cinema."
    9. Dylan Marchetti & Variance Film - I may not have heard more filmmakers praise a distributor this year, than Dylan.  Furthermore, I don't know of a distributor who maintains such an accessible and vocal presence online, thinking aloud, and engaging the community on the search for a new model that could serve the widest definition of film.  Working on a flat fee basis versus a percentage of the gross, committed to a firm code of ethics, committed to 100% transparency in accounting, and 100% control for the filmmakers at all times, Dylan is a true partner in the emerging artist/entrepreneur economy.
    10. Thomas Mai - I have had the first hand pleasure of sitting in the audience as Thomas pitches filmmakers on the power of social media and the new era of truly free film ahead of us.  I have seen the skeptical grow empowered from his presentations.  Thomas, a former sales agent, has taken his rant on the road, sharing his insights with audiences worldwide.  From a base in Brazil, Thomas has used a shaky internet connect to distribute his lectures across the global.  And he has given quite a few public speaking tips along the way, not to mention writing well-shared posts for HopeForFilm. You can check out one of his lectures on his site www.thomasmai.net.
    11. Karol Martesko-Fenster Brian Newman summed it up well, about Karol: "While he is no newcomer to the scene, having either founded or been part of the founding of a great part of the indie scene (Resfest, Filmmaker Magazine, indiewire) he continues to reshape it at Babelgum. Under the direction of Karol, Babelgum has been licensing (i.e. paying real money) work from independents who push boundaries. Whether it's funding the Workbook Project, helping Sally Potter to be the first filmmaker to release a feature on a cellphone (day and date with it's festival premiere) or funding the "prequel" docs leading up to the film "Bombay Detective," Karol is pushing the field forward with the development of new artistic practices and business models."
    12. Thom Powers Founder of Stranger Than Fiction, programmer at TIFF, co-founder ofCinema Eye Honors, this year Thom expanded his base still further as one of the founders of the DOC NYC fest.  Few have done as much to further the community and appreciation of film in NYC.  He has helped to build an energetic and passionate doc community, and never stops thinking about how to extend it further.  A man with a mission if there ever was.
    13. Casey Pugh We need to facilitate collaboration between the tech and filmmaking worlds.  Having been involved in building the Vimeo player and then Boxee, Casey's already done a lot (and I think he is only 26).  An Emmy award joined his list of accomplishments this year, and the cause of this award, is my favorite film of the year, Star Wars Uncut.  I am eager to see his latest project, VHX launch in the months to come, as I am confident it will be another step forward for a truly free film culture.  Casey sees the big picture, the full definition of cinema.  In his work he's building the ramps and bridges connecting the six pillars of cinema: discover, development, production, participation, appreciation, and presentation.
    14. Orly Ravid & The Film Collaborative - A not-for-profit film distributor has long been a dream of mine, but it took Orly and her team to actually do it.  For a truly free film culture to exist, sustainable enterprises must be built that facilitate the connection between unique work and audiences on terms that go beyond profit.  THE FILM COLLABORATIVE is the first non-profit, full-service provider dedicated to the distribution of independent film.  Not much more to be said, but Orly's demystification of the sales and distribution processes, a refreshingly open approach to the numbers and realities of the distribution effort, via her blogging have gone a long way to helping filmmakers across the globe understand the world we are living in.
    15. Michel Reilhac of Arte France I asked Brian Newman about Michel: "Michel has probably embraced the "new paradigms" of the film/media world better than anyone else, and he speaks and writes about it with an eloquence sorely lacking in the field. For just one example, see his "Gamification of Life" speech at the Power to the Pixel forum.  He has helped transform Arte France into a leader in the support of transmedia, even pushing them to think about how this affects their daily work. He is also a mentor and friend to many filmmakers, helping them find and tell their stories in both new and old ways - but always better. But what most endears me to Michel's work was his recent decision to stop funding conferences and training, instead giving more money to filmmakers to push the field forward by experimenting in their craft. Great idea: less talk, more action." Amongst many round-breaking projects are their award-winning documentaries, Gaza-Sderot and Prison Valley -  beautiful examples of new approaches to story-telling using the web and interaction.
    16. Mike Ryan - Perhaps no post on indie film initially infuriated me as much as Mike's Filmmaker Mag piece on the "current preoccupations of the indie film scene".  I strongly disagree with Mike's blame-it-on-the-audience and build-it-and-if-it-is-good-they-will-come approach, but as the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to month, the necessity of his central message of needing to be driven by the art and not the business resonated in deeper and deeper ways with me.  It is a brave thing to say, particularly as a producer, that you do not care if something makes money and that the art comes first. Mike leaves no doubt that he is  a man of bold visions and strong opinions; he is not afraid to speak truth to power.  He is both rigorous and playful in his thinking, and he invests it in new projects and filmmakers, not because of the business or opportunity, but because he believes that what they have to say and how they choose to say it is important.  American Indie would not be the fertile ground it is these days without Mike's efforts, but his efforts don't end there: Mike helped to co-found HammerToNail with both Corbin Day, Michael Tully, and myself; Mike helped start an initiative in Memphis to train underprivileged youth in film, and Mike has trained many another up and coming producer.
    17. Yancey Strickler & Perry Chen Of any one on this list, Yancey and Perry are probably the only ones whose creation has moved from an object to a verb.  In certain circles I have heard Kickstarter to stand in for crowdfunding.  Although they are not the only game in town when it comes to mobilizing the community to put worthy projects into being, they've certainly been among the most prominent.  Mark Rosenthal of Rooftop Films makes their commitment clear: "It’s brave to share your creative dreams with the world, to put your faith in people, to seek support from strangers. Everyone who’s putting their films and albums and paintings and gizmos on Kickstarter is taking a chance that people will like what they’re doing. But it takes other brave people—like Yancey and Perry—to spend years of their lives building the site and enabling the community to build. Great job, guys."
    18. Timo Vuorensola PowerToThePixel's Liz Rosenthal said: "Timo Vuorensola is a film director from Finland and an early advocate of crowd-sourcing and social filmmaking. His first feature, the sci-fi comedy Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning was several years in the making. He and his team built an active community of 2,500 around the making of the film . The community co-created around 50% of what made it into the final film, They helped with aspects of casting, writing, music, 3D modelling, CGI effects, translating the film into more than 30 languages. It has since achieved cult success, his evangelical community helping spread the word and has been downloaded over 8 million times through official torrents whilst the team sold DVDs and merchandise of the film. Timo launched wreckamovie.com, a new web service that enables filmmakers to build and collaborate with online communities around their films.Timo’s second feature, the sci-fi comedy, Iron Sky, which tells the story of Nazis who come from the Far Side of the Moon, is due to be released in 2011 and has a budget of 6.5 million euros. Fans have already been able to help with ideas in Wreckamovie and helping to fund the movie by buying merchandise, donations and also offering a chance to invest in the movie and share its possible profits."
    19. Rainn Wilson As I stated the other day: "Rainn gives back in a big way. I am a bit in awe in how generative and generous this man is. There's a reason why he has over 2 million twitter followers and it's not just because he's really funny. He cares about things. He cares about people. He cares about process. He's thoughtful."  If you haven't ever checked out Soul Pancake, a site he helped found, nows the time.  I got to know Rainn this year as he both Executive Produced and starred in SUPER (which I produced with Miranda Bailey).  It was Rainn's tweet that he and "James Gunn were going out with a low budget f'd up Watchmen" that drew me to the project.  His commitment to social media definitely played a big role in the financing and sale of the film.  Through Rainn's commitment to a better world, he is inadvertently building a better model both for film and us as individuals.

    I recognize that many of these folks have written for HopeForFilm, but it is something that I encourage people whom I admire to do (even some that I don't!).  There are also some on this list that are good friends, but I like to socialize with such types, so what can I say?  Some people on the list are folks I have or have had business with, and some I plan to have business with in the future, but the same holds true for the professional sphere as is in the personal -- when people do good things, I want to get to know them.  Is that at all surprising?

    I remain thankful a great deal this year including making one film and selling another.  This list is my thanks to some of those who inspire me.  We can build it better, together.

    P.S.  I solicited nominations this year from last year's Brave Thinkers.  David Gertz went as far as to write a whole post on the companies that are doing the work that will allow a new infrastructure to take hold.  Check out his post here.

    GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Not Just a Dickens Novel.

    What do Filmmakers want from film markets and what they can realistically get?

    Discerning the difference between a film that can actually sell well enough to justify having a third party sales agent and going to markets vs a film that is best served by DIY methods that should be planned and employed BEFORE the film’s first exhibition”

    Guest post from Orly Ravid, Founder of The Film Collaborative (TFC)

    We get questioned all the time by members and others about which markets should filmmakers attend and which sales agents should they go with. Having unrealistic expectations is dangerous. It sets people up to do nothing on their own but wait for some third party to make their dreams come true.

    We’re just coming off of AFM. indieWIRE reports growth attendance at the market. See this article if you want to read the stats. They are however only relative to last year, a real low, and not addressing the question on everyone’s mind, what about the sales themselves.  AFM has always been known more for genre films and cast-driven films. Troma films do well for the genre category and Henry’s Crime starring Keanu Reeves, James Caan and Vera Farmiga is a cast driven narrative was being sold this year, for example.

    It was decently busy from my p.o..v and buyers were there a bit more to buy than they were at say Toronto, according to our foreign sales partner, Ariel Veneziano of Re-Creation Media. But, the question is what are they there to buy and at what price?  The shift in the business from the 80’s and 90’s till now is not reversing itself and I don’t think it ever will. Prices have come down, dramatically because ancillary business has shifted so much, retailers have gone under, and supply has grown. That is the case across the board.

    Digital services such as Fluent, Gravitas, Distribber, Brainstorm (all of whom we work with) were all at AFM, digital is where the business is now, not in getting big MGs per territory for most films anymore, not for most art house films. Of course there is some of that business still but the people benefiting from it are the Sales Companies with big libraries and the aggregators with the same. The individual sales prices, after expenses are deducted, are more often than not, not making money for the filmmakers,  not given the terms most companies offer, at least not from our vantage point, . Of course we’re not in the business of selling big genre films or cast-driven films so we are not addressing those. Docs do sell best to TV at doc markets such as Hot Docs and IDFA, to name two, and those so far still seem to be worth it and that business still has value.  And of course a lucky few theatrical-potential docs sell at Sundance and TIFF etc.

    Why do I bring this up? Because we get questioned all the time by members and others about which markets should filmmakers attend and which sales agents should they go with and the truth is, very often the films are not viable for a sales agent because the sales would be too small and if a sales agent did take the film on, the filmmaker would never see a dime after the sales agents recouped their expenses and fees and after one has paid for Delivery. And then the sales agent  / sales company would have the right to do the DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION DIRECTLY that the FILMMAKER SHOULD BE DOING. That is the point of this blog.  Discerning the difference between a film that can actually sell well enough to justify having a third party sales agent and going to markets vs a film that is best served by DIY methods that should be planned and employed BEFORE the film’s first exhibition.

    Stacey Parks recently sent this missive out to her members: “So AFM is coming to a close and the overall good news for everyone out there is that business is picking up from last year. Sales are brisk and even Pre-Sales are brisk for the right projects. I've met with several clients who are here at AFM and all of them are reporting good results in meeting a variety of people and companies as potential financiers for their projects, or sellers, or both.”

    That’s exciting and we know Stacey knows her stuff and she’s a friend so all good. But I still want to know the numbers from everyone who sold a film, or didn’t after spending money trying, and ask all of you readers to share the real numbers, as we will of course (you will soon see), so that people can know what expectations are reasonable and what is not reasonable to expect.

    Having unrealistic expectations is dangerous. It sets people up to do nothing on their own but wait for some third party to make their dreams come true. And then time goes by, months and even years, and one has done anything to build community around the film or get it out there. Then filmmakers are disappointed and blame others instead of making it happen for themselves.  There is no excuse for that anymore.

    We announced a partnership with Palm Springs International Film Festival to help its filmmakers distribute and we will be working with other film festivals to do the same. Filmmakers are embracing Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler’s PMD concept and that can really create success via DIY distribution or get an audience started to give leverage in negotiating a deal.  The options for accessing Cable VOD and digital platform distribution and also having mobile Apps distribute the film are only growing, though of course the space gets only more glutted too.

    But solutions are being worked out for that. Companies such as Gravitas are working with Cable operators vigorously to better program and highlight various categories of cinema, making it easier for audiences to find what they might be looking for. Comcast debuted a VOD search feature that imitates Google’s, and this will help in time: http://www.multichannel.com/article/459677-Comcast_Debuts_VOD_Sear

    Verizon introduced Flex view to help consumers manage content on all their devices and all the players involved in digital are competing with each other to get as much good content to consumers in the most useful and user-friendly way to grow that market further, so whilst the space gets more glutted, there are more solutions in play to manage the paradox of choice a bit better and that’s why it’s imperative that filmmakers get engaged with their own success more and more, and sooner and sooner.  Lastly, these days, aggregators such as Cinetic and many distributors openly rely on filmmakers to do a lot of their own community building and marketing so if you are already doing the work, you might as well keep your rights.

    Again, we do sales ourselves, we know there is still value in that, but we implore you filmmakers to do the research before you give up the rights and before you just forge forward trying to figure out which market to attend or having organizations like us do that for you, for many many films, there is no market you can attend that will be worth your while. Create your own market that will pay off in the long run.

    -Orly Ravid

    Orly Ravid has worked in film acquisitions / sales / direct distribution and festival programming for the last twelve years since moving to Los Angeles from home town Manhattan. In January 2010, Orly founded The Film Collaborative (TFC), the first non-profit devoted to film distribution of independent cinema www.TheFilmCollaborative.org Orly runs TFC w/ her business partner, co-exec director Jeffrey Winter.

    Sales Agents: Are they Distributors or like Real Estate Brokers?

    Guest post by Orly Ravid of TheFilmCollaborative.org Our friend and beloved social network marketing guru Sheri Candler posed a question to me today. She noted that filmmakers are often confused by this issue of “what is the difference between a sales agent or distributor selling a license to your film or selling your film outright for 15 – 20 years?”. She posited a real estate metaphor. So here I go: Sales agents are not like Re-Max brokers only having the right to sell your house for you, if you approve. They usually take your land and then resell it and its territorial clones all over the world, or as much as they can. Meaning, they first take the rights and take delivery (at least usually that is the way they do it) and then they license those rights territory by territory for a term, a minimum guarantee, and usually a royalty split. Sometimes all rights deals are done and sometimes rights are split.

    I just did a redline to a sales agent’s deal/contract for a documentary we are consulting on. We do our best to protect filmmakers in these deals. We also do foreign sales so we do both the contracts with the filmmakers to handle their sales and we help them do contracts with other companies handling their sales. Here’s how it shakes down usually:

    Many foreign sales companies do deals as if they were actual distributors in that they take rights. One is actually licensing them rights full on, in all media usually, for a very long time which is yes, sometimes as much as 15- 20 years. This is very much the old standard and I started in foreign sales twelve (12) years ago and saw it shake down even on napkins in Cannes. The sales company gets the rights to the film for a long time (though to be fair to them, often they pay producers up front for that though less and less these days). The sales companies also spend money shopping the films, but they also recoup expenses against any income that comes in and those expenses are not always actual and even when they are, they are not always sensible to put it mildly. It may be a bunch of films that are all paying for the same expenses, over and over again if you get what I mean. Not all companies are that way of course but we have seen statements from sales companies that will make your hair curl if it’s straight and straighten if it’s curly.

    So, those companies like to take ALL your rights for a big fat TERM of 10, 12, 15, 20, 25 years and they will usually just resell those rights to a distributor who takes all rights for a particular territory (e.g. German & German Speaking Europe, or Korea, Japan, Greece.. you get the idea) in a market or via phone / email. They may also use those rights directly let’s say for Broadcast deals or DIGITAL platform deals (for example Mubi, or Content Republic or Love). Once the sales agent or sales company has those rights the rights are THEIRS to do what they want, unless you are contractually resolved otherwise.

    The Film Collaborative does foreign sales in house and also with its partner Ariel Veneziano or Recreation Media. We do NOT take rights, our deals are done directly between BUYER and FILMMAKER almost all the time (exceptions only when buyer insists because they only want to work with companies). We are even offering a low fee program to have films positioned for sale at markets, again, no rights taken and filmmaker makes all decisions. TFC also helps filmmakers do deals with other sales companies / sales agents as I said above. Not all companies are quite as transparent and filmmaker friendly but they can still be worth doing business with because they have certain relationships that you don’t and they are going to markets that you aren’t and they have leverage with buyers to get paid because they have a steady stream of ‘product’. So we don’t say not to all those options. We do however say this:

    Do not do a deal for such a long term as 15 or 20 years or even 10 for that matter. Put in performance clauses and of course there are loads of other needed protections that should be part of any deal that are beyond the scope of this blog post. You can let them enter into longer deals if necessary and for the right price but there is no reason they should have such a long deal. Also try to let them have buyers pay you directly, though most won’t do that. At least get approval rights for deals and get complete accounting. Approve and CAP expenses. And get references before you get into a deal to see if you have some hope of seeing any revenues. Do not give or license rights to them if you can help it but rather give them the right to enter into deals licensing rights and have you be a party to those deals (if you can do that). Many sales companies won’t play ball this way but we do and we recommend you try hard to do it this way so that you don’t live in regret watching your sales agent travel the world and eating well at film festivals while you get tiny checks, if any at all. I heard an amazing story of a sales agent who called a filmmaker and thanked her for making her (the sales agent) millions, so many that she was now retiring in the South of Spain. The filmmaker never made a dime over the advance. That’s the other thing, if possible, get an advance, always, that may be all you see. Of course that may not be possible so you have got to do your best in negotiating and being protected. In any case, save the direct distribution for yourself if you can unless there’s a great deal your sales agent can get you that you cannot do yourself but have the right at least to approve that. And as technology changes, you will able to do more and more yourself. The pirates manage to do it all, including subtitling and getting film seen around the world so surely, so can we.

    TAKE HOME: Do a deal with a sales agent as close to the real estate model as you can, because if you don’t, you may end up as just a part of their library being monetized for their sake, and not yours.

    This post was previously posted on TheFilmCollaborative.org.

    Orly Ravid is the Founder and Co-Executive Director of The Film Collaborative www.TheFilmCollaborative.org, the first non-profit devoted to distribution. Having started out in the business doing foreign sales and previously served as a distribution executive at Senator and Wolfe, and worked as a Programming Associate at Sundance and Programming Consultant at PSIFF, she also co-owns New American Vision, a boutique B:B marketing services company whose clients include AFI Fest, LAFF, IDA, and Roadside Attractions.

    Theatrical: To Do… or NOT To Do.

    Today's guest post is from Orly Ravid of The Film Collaborative. Theatrical: To Do… or NOT To Do. (or perhaps more, HOW and WHEN To Do):

    We all struggle with this, filmmakers, distributors alike. I remember giving a presentation to distributors about digital distribution and theatrical came up. I talked about the weirdness of showing a film 5 or 6 times a day to an almost always-empty house save a couple showings. This makes no sense for most films. When I released Baise Moi in 2000 we broke the boxoffice records at the time, and the “raincoat crowd” did show up at the oddest morning hours, but that is the exception, not the rule. Not every film has an 8-minute rape scene that just must be seen by post-punk-feminists and pornography-lovers alike. It’s an odd set-up for smaller films and it’s not the only means to the end we are looking for.

    Recently The Film Collaborative released Eyes Wide Open in NYC, LA, Palm Beach and Palm Springs. We have a little over $10,000, all in it will be about $12,000 tops). We have made our money back and the great reviews and extra marketing / visibility will drive ancillary sales but we also did not invest or risk too much as you can see. That is a great formula (one that small, disciplined and seasoned distributors such as First Run Features, Strand, Zeitgeist, employ) but it is not viable for all films. First of all we have an “A” list festival film (Cannes & TIFF & LAFF) and second it caters to two or three niches (gay and Jewish/Israeli) though one can argue that the niches also slightly cancel each other out to some extent, the film did well so obviously the campaign worked.

    But there are many films for which that strategy would not work, either theatres could not be booked, or reviews would not always be great, and / or the film would simply not galvanize a theatrical audience. Plus, once you start adding up 4-Wall Fees the bottom line leans more likely to be shades of red. The Quad Cinema sent an E-blast promoting its 4-Wall program. It was a good sales pitch and I am not going into it all here but the take home is that you’re more likely to get a broader theatrical, and/or a distribution deal, and/or picked up by Netflix and other digital platforms if you open theatrically in New York. I would argue that is true to some extent but also VERY MUCH dependent on the FILM itself and there should still be a cost-analysis and overall strategy consideration before one pays the Quad for their services and hopes for the best. Here is a link to the info and we are happy to email the blast to any who request it www.quadcinema4wall.com . It should also be noted that generally speaking, The New York Times does not consider your film among “All the News That is Fit to Print” unless it’s opening wider than just New York.

    So how to decide? Companies such as Oscilloscope are all about theatrical but they pick their films carefully and my guess is Adam Yauch can afford to lose money too if it comes to that. Home Video companies such as New Video, and Phase4 are doing some theatrical but on an as-needed basis and yes, to service the ancillary rights, but that’s a very experienced analysis on their part. When we posted on Twitter about the Cable Operators warning they will start requiring a ten (10) city theatrical, all at once, believe me, if everyone blindly follows suit the bar will get raised even higher right until we all go broke. The point is to mitigate the glut and distinguish films in the marketplace not get us all to be lemmings and empty our bank accounts. There is math to be done and I know it’s hard without all the back-end numbers at your disposal but they are coming. We will publish case studies of all our films and we encourage you to get down to the detailed back-end numbers analysis before spending more on the front end and often gratuitously.

    We have both experienced and heard about the impact a filmmaker can have in his or her city when working the film and then really impact the gross.. and that is inspiring but usually not long-lasting because it takes a lot to get people to pay to see your film in a theatre when there are so many other films, and so many more marketing dollars behind them. And what’s in it for you? The only reviews that matter are the big ones and we all know what they are… and remember what we said above about The New York Times.

    The general perception of indie film releases is interesting. Most don’t take into account the money that is spent to get the “gross”. More of the time the distributor or whomever booked the film gets less than half of the boxoffice revenues. Sometimes as little as 25% - 30% though of course sometimes more. And there are the expenses. The Kids Are Alright may not even be in the black right now but you’d never know that reading certain coverage. I love Exit Through A Gift Shop and actually flagged that release as stellar release and then I learned that the marketing spend was actually a lot more than I realized such that the spend may be up to a million dollars. I don’t actually know, and not sure anyone will tell me. I do know that the bottom line for many of The Weinstein releases was reported to be in the red because of spending. And you know if you have a film that can sell a lot of units and especially in an evergreen manner, and if you can trigger a great TV sales and if you have foreign sales legs than there’s a real upside. If you don’t, then be clear what you’re goals are. Sometimes it’s just a career move and that makes sense. Canadian filmmakers need a theatrical release to get their next projects funded (say that like this: ‘pro-jects’). Sometimes people just want that awards qualification and that’s another ballgame.

    We have written some of our TFC Distribution Tid Bits about Hybrid Theatrical and Marketing options but here is a bit more on the topic:

    If creating buzz is what you want, you don’t need a traditional theatrical and you definitely don’t need to overpay for the privilege.

    Some OPTIONS – try HYBRID THEATRICAL – do FILM FESTIVAL, CREATE EVENTS, HOLD SCREENING WITH ORGANIZATIONS, show in MUSEUMS (in some cases), other ALTERNATIVE VENUES depending on the film, and also there are all sorts of ways to book a few days here and a few days there at theatres (we cover that below). Theatres are and will continue to do this more and more. AMCi announced their intentions and they are still in the marinating phase but we know you’ll all be ready when they are.

    We’re interested in these companies and services:

    1. Cinedigm: They have a program in the works that is meant to be similar to ScreenVision and Fathom (which is no longer handling indie films generally speaking, as far as we know) but aimed at independent cinema, and working with all the big theatre chains (Regal, AMC, Cinemark). I asked them to write a few words for me about themselves and their plans: Cinedigm Entertainment, a theatrical distributor, has built several “channels” of content for movie theatres. This is niche content that plays at what is traditionally slower times for the theatres. Examples are; Kidtoons a monthly matinee program; Live 3D sports, like the World Cup and NCAA Final Four basketball; and 3D and 2D concert films with artists from Dave Mathews to Beyonce. For each “channel” the most appropriate theatres are chosen and theatres sign on to play the content as a series, thereby creating the expectation in the marketplace for the next installment. In the company’s newest “channel” it looks to apply the concept to indie-films which will provide filmmakers with the theatrical element for distribution.

    2. Emerging Pictures: Owned by Ira Deutchman (now also a Film Prof. at Columbia University) I spoke with Joshua Green who I have known for a while and booked with, though no real revenues were made in the past, their latest network of theatres sounds potent. They connect up to 75 theatres and they do very well with Opera, Ballet and Shakespeare but also indie films. They work with all the usual indie film distributors either taking on 2nd run of films in major markets or handing the first run in secondary markets. On screen now for example is Mother & Child, My Name is Love, and Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. 30% of the Gross is paid to the distributor or filmmaker. They charge usually a 1-time encoding fee to get the files needed for the theatres. The fee is $1,000. If that’s an issue that can sometimes in advance to make sure the bookings will happen to make the fee worthwhile. They create a Hi Rez file 720p VC1 file which is a professional HD version of MS Windows. They work with the Laemmle theatres in LA and Sympany Space in NY and lots of others across the country. What does well on the Art House circuit will do well with them I was told. Makes sense.

    3. Variance Films: Dylan Marchetti (former exec at Imaginasian and Think Film) is a firm believer in Theatrical and it’s his business. He may promote its necessities a bit more than I will and its not his money to spend and he was honest about the range of success (meaning not all films work theatrically and sometimes money is lost, and we know of at least one example but it happens). We spoke for the first time and I was comforted by his grassroots approach (they do that work themselves) and his commitment to alternative low cost venues: event screenings, niche-specific / lifestyle specific venues, as well as traditional theatres (all the usual chains and small theatres etc). He noted that generally speaking they do not charge more than $50,000 and that they get paid via back-end fees only. He said a release in NY and LA for $20,000 can be done. Variance is not a believe in print advertising; they have to believe in the film to take it on; and Dylan said that there is no correlation between P&A spending and a film’s success. Amen. They don’t do PR but rather refer out to outside agencies, as does The Film Collaborative.

    The Film Collaborative is theatrically releasing UNDERTOW (which won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance). Stay tuned.

    Orly Ravid is the Founder and Co-Executive Director of The Film Collaborative, the first non-profit devoted to distribution. Having previously served as a distribution executive at Senator and Wolfe, and worked as a Programming Associate at Sundance and Programming Consultant at PSIFF, she also co-owns New American Vision, a boutique B:B marketing services company whose clients include AFI Fest, LAFF, IDA, and Roadside Attractions.