CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Are Glad They Went DIY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHILDREN OF INVENTION: Why They Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten* Filmmakers I Would Crowd Fund*

In celebration of Arin Crumley & Keiran Masterton's success using Kickstarter to fund development of OpenIndie.com, I thought I would launch my annual grants. Or rather my annual promise of grants. Money! $ For Films! Free!*

If any of the following filmmakers had a crowd funding page for their next film (provided the film was $300K neg.cost or less), I would donate some money to get it made. And I would encourage others to do so.
Who would you fund?
I know there are more than ten* I could have listed, but I thought this was a good start, and you have to draw the line somewhere. Plus, being an indie film producer in a land that does not demonstrate that it values what I do, I don't have enough cash to go beyond this list! And even still, my contribution would not be significant financially; it would be more of a vote of support in hopes that others would be encourage to support the culture they want. I would give in order to become part of their team, to hear what they are up to, to get updates.
I listed artists who have are all early in their careers -- but have already directed a feature. I listed filmmakers whom I was confident could deliver a whole lot for a little. I listed filmmakers whom I am not already involved with.
Yet before I gave to any of these filmmakers, I would want to see a commitment to building audiences PRIOR to filming -- say a pledge to not commence until they had collected 5000 unique fans. I would want to know that they had a plan to market and release their film that went beyond bringing it to festivals and hoping for the best. I would want to know that they would set up an e-commerce site on their websites -- and that they had a website (which they refreshed with regular content). And of course I wouldn't transfer the money until they had reached their goal in pledges. Then I would gladly give money to them to get that next film made (and not ask for anything in return other than the satisfaction of having helped).