ALL Entertainment Should Increase The Current Value Proposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Schamus & Christine Vachon Live On YouTube!

My former business partner and a regular collaborator of mine -- both good friends -- will be speaking live at Independent Film Week in 30 minutes at 4P EST. They know as much as anyone on the past & present of indie film;  maybe they can see the future too.  You can watch it live for free on YouTube here.

Office Hours: Hope & Vachon's Killer/Hope Twitter Q&A

This past Tuesday Christine Vachon and I did a Twitter Q&A. For one hour we answered whatever questions the community put forth. We tracked them under the unifying hastag: #KHQA (which also happened to be a radio station's call letters, but...). These sort of Twitter meet ups are not only a lot of fun but a great way to connect and share info. I think it should become standard operating procedure for any filmmaker who premieres a film or is about to. They can also then be repurposed into a blog post so it keeps generating new content!

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- TONIGHT-- Ted Hope and I answering your questions from 8pm to 9pm EST here on twitter!
-- Tonight's hashtag for Ted Hope and me is : #KHQA

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- Tonight's Twitter Q&A w me & Christine Vachon @kvpi will be using #KHQA Tweet in at 8P Eastern.
-- 30 min countdown to the 1st ever Killer / Hope Twitter Q&A. Join me and Christine Vachon on #KVQA
-- Oops. Typo on my hashtag. THe Killer Hope Q&A is actually #KHQA and not what I just typed on the last tweet...

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @TedHope are you tweeting under the influence???? you mean #KHQA!!!

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @kvpi Right you are. Not about the TWI but about the mashed hash tag. It is #KHQA. 17 minutes and counting...

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- ted is using 2 screens (I only have one computer) so I will be slower-- sorry in advance--#KHQA

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- What if you threw a twitter Q&A and no one asked a question? 6 min until @kvpi find out! #KHQA

@Swishpan (varda the message) -- @kvpi Can we submit questions now?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Swishpan!

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi Too early to post a Q? Is there still a market for an indie film that is not integrated into a transmedia platform?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 A market yes? In fact, #Sundance is that this month. But w so many films I wonder a just-a-movie gets discovered unless they've got $
-- Okay the Q&A has started

@Armakk (Randy Mack) -- @TedHope SUPER made me think "Yup, this is definitely how a real Batman would play out. And hence nobody trying to film this before."

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- Yes, SUPER had some of the greatest cinema moments of 2012.

@kingisafink (King and Keck) -- Who's in for the @TedHope / @kvpi Q&A?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @kingisafink @kvpi We are!

@JJoshua_Johnson (Jonathan J. Johnson) -- Is it at all possible to see more $500k indie films, well developed, with both seasoned and new producers, and new talent, per year?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @JJoshua_Johnson absolutely-- we're making several right now--

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JJoshua_Johnson see? as in screen or have more made? The trick for most is how to earn a living at that budget

@JJoshua_Johnson (Jonathan J. Johnson) -- @TedHope @kvpi See them made. Making a living is always the trick. Somehow it seems there is a sweet spot in there somewhere. Thanks!

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @JJoshua_Johnson @TedHope agreed

@brianjude (Brian Jude) -- @TedHope @kvpi Where else can one go for development funds when personal connections/crowdfunding seem to have been exhausted?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @brianjude I spend years developing financing contacts. The trick is how to supply deal flow so you educate them

@passerbyco (Passerby.Co) -- @TedHope @kvpi Better indie film scene: NY or LA?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @passerbyco What's "better"? just different. LA has to be in Hollywood's shadow whereas NY is the unwanted orphan

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @passerbyco @TedHope I think both are good but LA getting more interesting--

@Swishpan (vardathemessage) -- Varda the Message asks @kvpi who/where was your 1st rock concert in nyc? best concert? Thanks for fab music films! Keep making them!

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Swishpan best concert-- clash at BOND'S (6 times!)
-- @Swishpan first concert: AMERICA in central park!

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi So, is a project with a sort of "transmedia development plan" more likely to get a prod co interested?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 @kvpi for a budget below $5M & w/o financing, I ONLY want to consider one with a transmedia plan

@FalseCheese (False Cheese) -- @TedHope What would be an artist's best bet in getting work in a film's art dept? Is sending a portfolio to a prod co advisable?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @FalseCheese Yeah I think having a great portfolio AND great connections is best to get on art dept. It's what I wanted 2do but had neither!

@averagejenn (Jennifer Liao) -- Paying personnel fairly & not breaking budget: Can it actually be better to budget more days rather than know there will be crazy OT?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @averagejenn but the problem often is the financier won't approve a budget that way. People blv you'll hit OT no matter what

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @averagejenn yes-- if you have the choice-- problem is the bond co often holds you to the fewer days scenario)

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi How do you structure a team to dev a project that is anchored in film and "grows" in diff directions in multiple media ?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 It's a lifelong process: surround yrself w good ppl talentd in many varied fields & sharing ideas & being willing to brainstorm

@tanktv ( -- @TedHope @jcle1 @kvpi might sourd stupid here but what is a transledia dvpt plan

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @tanktv Transmedia development plan= how to extend story world to different platforms & forms of engagement byd core

@averagejenn (Jennifer Liao) -- @kvpi @TedHope Thank you both! Follow up: Is there anything novices overlook in what crew most appreciate when working low budget?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @averagejenn Respect, preperation, organztn, good food, good examples & leadership, personal sacrifice, sense of humor, quality

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi What role does potential global mkt/media exploitation play in your decisions to dev/prod a project? What are key terr for u?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 I do my own P&L and foreign estimates; compare vs. "experts" -- US & the six major territories are key always

@AquariusFilmsOz (AquariusFilms) -- @TedHope @tanktv What are some good examples of excellent transmedia models for film Ted and Christine? To use as case studies

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @AquariusFilmsOz @tanktv True, we need good transmedia models and beyond TV they are few& far betwn

@cinemamusings (Cinema Musings) -- Your best advice for a producer bringing their first film to a festival.

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @cinemamusings which festival? important to set your goals, know who your audience will be there--

@myjumpsuit (Cort Johns) -- Have you looked at the reworked 2012 Michigan film incentives?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @myjumpsuit Briefly. Shame that minimum was raised but glad they brought back. Tax incentives are job stimuli

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @myjumpsuit no-- can you give us all an outline?

@WZRichard (Zack Richard) -- @TedHope Any advice for a DP looking to shoot bigger budget indie features? Just bought an EPIC.

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @WZRichard Buying an EPIC is a great start. Where are you located? I am sure there are filmmkrs who need a DP!

@WZRichard (Zack Richard) -- @TedHope I'm in NY.

@reelclever ( -- What are 3 main questions a filmmaker should ask when looking to attach a producer to their film project? How to choose right one?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @reelclever 1) Do they want to make the same movie as me; 2) Can we eat dinner together & grow; 3) Can they make it happen

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @reelclever make sure you both want to make the same film first and foremost--

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi Can you envision a time when you'd anchor a project on the INternet (webisode/stream) and use other media as ancillary?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 @kvpi Absolutely. Both @kvpi & I are platform, budget, genre agnostic

@Armakk (Randy Mack) -- @TedHope @kvpi My concern: directors will "cut the corner" to marketing, create films around hype/controversy/etc & those'll dominate

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Armakk @TedHope the real filmmakers won't-- and audiences really want authenticity

@JJoshua_Johnson (Jonathan J. Johnson) -- @kvpi @TedHope Audiences, esp online, seem to be increasingly content hungry. Can't get enough. Could reward prolific indie producers.

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JJoshua_Johnson @kvpi But are audiences willing to pay for great content or even good content? I think so if they respect creator

@myjumpsuit (Cort Johns) -- What's the best no-name approach to fundraising?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @myjumpsuit I think crime & bribery are great fundraising approaches as long as no one gets hurt or finds out

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @myjumpsuit be more specific

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @kvpi what was the most difficult decision you had to make on a film?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @TedHope always when to walk away
-- @TedHope what's yours?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @kvpi My most difficults were firing actors, putting an actor in rehab, calling Health Dept about hepatitis outbreak

@Christina8ryant (Christina L Bryant) -- @TedHope @kvpi Emerging writer w/ list of SW labs/contests to enter, but looking at past winners, all loglines sound same. Thoughts?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @Christina8ryant Orgs generally support artists like the others that succeeded. Best to always differentiate yourself. but may not win

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi What's the most amount of time you put into a project before you abandoned it

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @JCle1 @TedHope Boys Don't Cry had 7 years, Savage Grace almost 15-- we don't abandon, we just pull back!

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 I like to see ppl stick it to the pricks & never give up

@AquariusFilmsOz (AquariusFilms) -- @TedHope @JCle1 @kvpi But aren't revenues generally higher from other platforms for indie films?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @AquariusFilmsOz @JCle1 @kvpi Yes theatrical is generally a loss leader and ego builder

@averagejenn (Jennifer Liao) -- @kvpi @TedHope Really enjoying this Q&A! How do you gauge the readiness of the script? External reads, mutual agreement among team?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @averagejenn @TedHope unless its very high concept I say script necc

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @averagejenn To get financing, you MUST make it "feel" inevitable. Script goes a long way + image book + attachments + projections

@kingisafink (King and Keck) -- QUESTION: What's more valuable for screenwriters: getting agent/manager OR getting screenplay produced on an indie level?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @kingisafink obviously getting a (good) screenplay produced!

@Rebeckakaka (Rebecka Pitman) -- For an aspiring producer about to graduate. What is the best way to learn the film industry? internship or make independent films?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @Rebeckakaka Jump in and do it. Don't ask permission. Always b student learning. B prolific. Ask how 2 stay motivated despite haters

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Rebeckakaka ha-- both! you can't REALLY learn the biz till you are in it, film school is a fake place for a producer-

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi Do you think there are themes/ideas you care about personally that come through ea of your projects? If so, what?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 Mostly I like stories that have emotional truth and take me somewhere I cant get on my own
-- @JCle1 I love stories that make me care about someone I don't think I hv much in common w

@kingisafink (King and Keck) -- @kvpi Thanks so much for answering my question! Do producers watch other ppl's work, approach writers based on produced work?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @kingisafink absolutely-- all the time!

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi Is it easier to pick projects since you've gained some success (and $$) or more difficult?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 "easier?" I have made so many commitments I rejoice when I have the space to take on something new

@passerbyco (Passerby.Co) -- @TedHope @kvpi Biggest risk you've taken in your career (and outcome)?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @passerbyco @TedHope I have taken so so many-- taking some as we speak! 1st time directors, unknown actors- DPs/PDs on their first gigs..

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @passerbyco Biggest risks? Each movie is a testament of faith in artist & humankind in general
-- @kvpi @passerbyco Even taking on rent and employees is a risk in this time of economic collapse!
-- @passerbyco Each film is a five year minimum commitment (often MUCH longer) & world could end b4
-- @passerbyco But I have claimed several times I could do things I did not know how to do in order to get the opportunity

@ Swishpan (vardathemessage) -- @kvpi I still regret missing Clash at BONDS!

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Swishpan yeah, it was pretty awesome...

@AquariusFilmsOz (AquariusFilms) -- @TedHope @kvpi @passerbyco How do you keep the costs down but still keep up with the workload?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @AquariusFilmsOz @kvpi @passerbyco Yeah, that's the challenge: job description increase tenfold. Billfold reduces 10x further!

@Armakk (Randy Mack) -- @TedHope @kvpi What're the most common mistakes in thinking you've seen in young/new producers lately?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Armakk @TedHope that theatrical is the holy grail and only thing worth making

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @Armakk Common new producer mistake? Not collaborating w many, not staying prolific, not increasing skill set, not audience bldg

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi What would you say are the key successes of your particular business model? Creatively, financially, operationally?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 I try to make sure that I love what I do, whom I am doing it with, how I am doing it, & the terms I am doing it under

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @JCle1 @TedHope I don't HAVE a particular biz model-- different one for every movie!

@myjumpsuit (Cort Johns) -- @kvpi What did you learn producing Hedwig and Velvet Goldmine?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @myjumpsuit how FUN it is to make music driven movies-- still love doing them, LCD Soundsystem movie at sundance this year

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi Better ... what do you find are the key challenges to raising financing NOW and how are you addressing those

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 Financiers & collaborators are risk adverse. What gets funded easiest is not what I want to invest my time in

@Groovyfokker (David Hughes) -- @tedhope @kvla If you had a Martha Marcy May Marlene-style script (The Bends) but no ambition to direct, who should you point it at?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @Groovyfokker I would definitely give it to Sean Durkin, Antonio Campos, & Josh Mond. Or Michael Heneke

@Groovyfokker (David Hughes) -- I've optioned an unproduced Peckinpah script, 40 years old but with many modern themes, and low budget. How do I go about casting it?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @Groovyfokker Even great projects need 2hv a coalition behind em. Get ppl to recognize it's greatness first. You can only reveal once

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Groovyfokker if its a great script it won't be hard

@passerbyco (Passerby.Co) -- @TedHope @kvpi Who helped you launch your careers? Key early mentor or moment?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @passerbyco closest to a mentor was Jill Godmilow. Lindsay Law was great help. But the directors are who launched my career

@kingisafink (King and Keck) -- @TedHope: enjoyed yr talk at @FlywayFilmFest, yr mention of The Bible as greatest #transmedia idea ever. Question...

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- Thanks @kingisafink @FlywayFilmFest Thanks 4 reminding me that The Bible as greatest #transmedia idea ever

@myjumpsuit (Cort Johns) -- @TedHope @kvpi what are your feelings about seasoned producers lending their name to up&coming producers?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @myjumpsuit we do it a lot IF we like the movie. I think its a great way to help each other--

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @myjumpsuit "lending" name diminishes everyone. Either be in or not at all I feel

@kingisafink (King and Keck) -- @TedHope QUESTION: How involved are u w/ transmedia for yr projcts? Do u bring in experts / ppl w/ good transmedia track record?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @kingisafink I am working with @LanceWeiler on one. Is he an expert?

@grking (Gary King) -- @kvpi @TedHope what are some of your favorite film fests that you like to attend?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @grking sundance of course--- love venice and sarajevo--

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @grking I like film festivals best when they have cultivated a real community w artists & audiences

@ Swishpan (vardathemessage) -- @kvpi @myjumpsuit And to have made a must-see rite of passage for teens! If it's ok, can you tell us if G has seen Hedwig and/or VG?

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- @Swishpan she's seen hedwig-- not VG yet--

@averagejenn (Jennifer Liao) -- @kvpi @TedHope Really enjoying this Q&A! How do you gauge the readiness of the script? External reads, mutual agreement among team?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @averagejenn script is ready when the director can answer all of my questions. when it is true.

@JCle1 (Just J) -- @TedHope @kvpi Just curious ... Why did you each want to do this Q&A?

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- @JCle1 @kvpi did this Q&A for those that could not attend our masterclass & because ppl give us so much. People need answers

@TedHope (Ted Hope) -- Thanks to all for joining the Q&A with @kvpi and me. It was fun and hopefully helpful. Let's do it again sometime! Gotta go

@KVPI (Christine Vachon) -- thank you for participating!

Video: Christine Vachon Does A Good Ted Hope Impression

Christine Vachon recently had a talk with Anthony Kaufman at the NewFest Visionary Award presentation and had many interesting things to say about her career, producing, and indie film -- all that plus a lovely impression of yours truly.

The interview is a wealth of good advice. Add this video to your film school curriculum. Scott Macauley has selected some of his favorite quotes for you. And IW's own, Anthony Kaufman -- who moderated the event, gave a nice brief of the discussion, here.

Wake Up Early & Join Me Tomorrow...and maybe I will give you a free gift (seriously)...

I know told you before, but why say something once when you can say it two or three or more times? I am here to help. I am here to share what I have learned. I am here to offer some hope. At least for the moment... So tomorrow I am participating in two public events. One is free. The other you have to pay, but the money goes to support a great organization (IFP). And to someone who knows the secret word and meets me at either of the events, I have a gift to give you. So if you come to either....


And by either I mean:

tomorrow's IFP ScriptToScreen conference where I will be moderating a case study of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE with Borderline films, including writer/director Sean Durkin, and producers Antonio Campos and Josh Mond.

DIY DAYS NYC where I will be conducting a conversation with indie film producing legend Christine Vachon.

Come find me and stand on one foot while you tell me the actual name of the Lou tune that Mike Connel in the movie I did with Greg Mottola butchers the title of, and I will give you a couple of DVDs and other swag, and of course thank you for coming. I might as well as start clearing out those closets, right?

Sometimes I feel like I am an infomercial, so why not give out the indie equivalent of a knife set?

Indie Film Lives, Thrives, Blossoms & Blooms!!!

It is no longer the dawn.  We are now officially in the new era of a Truly Free Film Culture. Yes, the business of indie film is back.  The rapidity, volume, and consistency of deals blossoming ($30M and counting!) at Sundance should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again.  Whew.  But the good news does not end there.

Indie Film has been infected by a new breed that -- like those that came before them -- refuses to ask for permission.  But unlike the earlier wave, their go-get-them attitude doesn't stop at production, it extends into all the pillars of cinema -- from discovery and participation on through production, distro, appreciation, and presentation.  The content, the form, the plans of cinema are not only for re-examination, but the rules have been thrown out.  Time to get out of the way, and let the fresh air disrupt the stale space.

It is so happening in every which way. Yes, there are new stars, but also new ways of working.  This Sundance there are plenty examples of "tribal filmmaking" (thanks to Brit Marling for that phrase) -- teams of collaborators, working together, and moving beyond single authorship.  The web world calls this "collabs", but the spirit of this can be found in Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sound Of My Voice, The Woods, and Another Earth.  We will find more teams taking over in the days ahead -- and it is an incredibly refreshing antidote to the antiquated construct of pure "auteur" cinema.

New spirit is there in old bodies too.  Kevin Smith's self-distribution plan recognizes the realities of the day.  No one in indie film has used social media as well as Kevin Smith has. He understands clearly the need to eventize his picture, and he has done it well. Things started off with a bang at Sundance, and he plans to keep it going.  He gave a nice lecture on his past and his plan for the future.  In between the curses, he lays it out how he plans to go forward.  His roadshow approach of teaming the local premieres with his live act is a value-add propisition that his million plus fan community hopefully can not resist.

Smith's RED STATE plan has the core indie value at it's heart.  To me previously I only really saws this value in terms of content & production, but now has extended well beyond this. Indie refuses to ask others for permission. Smith makes movies his way -- as he learned what happens when he doesn't.  He gets his fans the way his fans get him.  It is not a one way street, but a true community.  He might be divisive, but he is a model to follow.  Perhaps, precisely because he is divisive!

The failure of corporate filmmaking to represent the world we live in, particularly compared to indie's success at that, is evident at fest like Sundance.  It is also painfully drummed home by the Oscar noms, when all the Best Actress candidates hail from indie projects.  As long as corporate filmmaking fails to offer realistic takes on women's lives, Indie Film will always thrive as a welcome alternative.  Sundance must be acknowledged too as a tremendous generator of quality content; Sundance's responsibility in delivering 15 Oscar nominees is nothing short of mind-blowing.  If the world was just, the Oscar would be renamed the Bob.

I left Sundance boosted and relieved.  As great as it was to license our film to a top distributor for a significant profit, it is more the spirit launch that I seriously needed -- and that came from the individuals I got to meet with and hang out with.  We are at time of change -- but as someone pointed out to me, what is so great about the now we are in, is that the new breed recognizes change as a constant.  They will not take this moment for granted.  They accept the fluidity of all.  They recognize how the whole world must turn for that one leaf to fall.  And they are okay with it.

We ARE going to work together to make this better.  Whew!

Ambition In The Best Sense (aka Lance Weiler)

I've had the pleasure of working with Lance Weiler for maybe two years now.  I love how he thinks.  I love how he takes that thought and transforms it into action.  Process is more key to what he does, than virtually anyone else I have worked with.  The journey is the destination.  He is willing to walk without knowing where it all might be going.  He is collaborative to the Nth the degree.  His vision for cinema truly knows no limits.

Wired Magazine singled him out this summer as one of the fathers of transmedia.  BusinessWeek credited him with changing cinema alongside Thomas Edison, The Warner Bros., and James Cameron.  Between his features, The Workbook Project, & DIY Days, the man is profoundly generative.

If you were in Sundance this past week (and even if you weren't), you probably witnessed how he infected Park City with a Pandemic.  Others certainly did.  Jamie Stuart shot this beautiful video for Filmmaker Magazine on Lance's Pandemic activities. FearNet has acquired his short which was screening at the fest. For those that like to hold their stories in their hand, you can follow it on Twitter here. AND  of course there is a website. Granted, I am producing the feature, but believe me when I tell you it is thrilling, horrifying, beautiful, and groundbreaking; it's a shame you have to wait until I raise the money to see it.

Christine Vachon and I also got to speak to Lance for KillerHope on Hulu.

Lance created this short as a style template for collaborators throughout the world to help capture the outbreak in their local territories.  Check it out and get filming!

How I Spent My Sundance Non-Vacation

To think I once got to see movies when I went to film festivals...

I had one film to share with folks this time around, Sean Durkin's MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, which I had the pleasure and good fortune to Executive Produce -- even still I did not plan to see any others.  I knew I was going to be too busy with the work that festivals have become for me.

The reception for the film was great -- which has generated a lot of meetings (and which has yielded some nice announcements ).  I forgot to read the latest Exec Prod job description though and did not realize it now means moderating press conferences.  Check out the video here, and let me know how you feel I did.

When I wasn't dealing and celebrating Sean's movie, I was doing my part to aid in the promotion of indie film.

Christine Vachon and I have been doing this talk show on and off now for several years, now dubbed KILLER / HOPE.  Hulu's got it up on their Sundance page. Please check it out while you still can (at least in all its glory). New episodes will be added daily throughout the festival.  Additionally, we were invited to talk to Eugene Hernandez for the local NPR station.  Gotta get the word out, but man does all that yapping, make for some seriously dry mouth.

But man, what a test of will power it is.  I admit I am an addict for great film, and even noble failures.  To be in Park City and to have booked myself into back to back meetings to extent that I am unable to watch movies, leaves me quaking and shaking.  I want to see some movies!

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Co-Production Studies: Strategic Partners Forum

Guest post by Yael Bergman A few days at Strategic Partners, Halifax, Canada and a crash course at International Co-Production Financing.

I saw Ted in Toronto a few days before heading to Strategic Partners in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He suggested I write on his blog with what went on there. I am reporting back now...

I write this as an Australian producer who recently produced a romantic comedy in Australia called I Love You Too.  It was completely financed within Australia, largely with Australian and state government investment, and the tax rebate (up to 40 per cent of Australian spend). We are fortunate in Australia to have this public funding as a resource, and whilst it is perpetually competitive, it is the way most film and television is made in Australia. It sustains the industry and ensures we continue to tell Australian stories.

My producing partner, Laura Waters, who is originally from Colorado but has lived in Australia for almost 20 years, regularly comments that she can't believe governments actually give you money to develop and make stuff here. Well, it's true!

To some independent American producers, this must sound like the gold pot at the end of the rainbow, but the reality is it's a limited pool and the funding bodies (and consequently, the producers) are always trying to work out a way to make it stretch further.

One good way is via co-producing, i.e. we split the cost of making a project over two or more countries that has a vested interest, and then we can each claim it as our own as a “national film”. Arguably, the project should be culturally relevant to each producing country and there needs to be a fair split between creative elements and financial contribution, but on the whole, with a bit of juggling, it can work very well if the project calls for it.  (NB: This applies for international producers entering into an official co-production with Australia, the project becomes automatically entitled to the Producer Offset rebate as an Australian project, up to 40% of Australian spend.)

Australia has official co-production treaties or Memorandums Of Understanding (MOU) with countries such as Canada, China, Singapore, Israel, NZ, UK and most European countries. Canada has treaties with more than 50. Unfortunately for the American independent producer community, no official treaties exist with the US. If you are an American independent producer and "that sucks" has just crossed your mind, be aware that its not all upside - dealing with bureaucracies to make films is often slow and time-consuming, which is time and energy that could otherwise go into the creative process… but nonetheless, we are absolutely grateful it exists.

The state of play is, however, changing. As the marketplace gets tighter and more competitive, there is a general appreciation, certainly within Australia anyhow, that we need to open up to wider markets, including the US. We just need to be creative in how we do it.

So, it was with much curiosity that I noticed the organizers of Strategic Partners, the international co-production market in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, from Sept 16-19 (which I attended thanks to support from my local state funding body, Film Victoria…) decided to spotlight the USA, as well as Germany, as potential co-production partners. Despite having no official treaty, is there a way international producers can partner up with US producers? Apparently yes. While the spirit of traditional co-productions is to align the interests of international producers whose domestic markets are too small to compete with the US in the global marketplace, it appears that unofficial alliances between US and other countries, are becoming more accepted, especially via co-development and co-financing. (Note: in Australia, Screen Australia has launched a development program where they will match development funds up to $50,000 with funds from a third party with marketplace credibility i.e. financier, sales agents, distributors, broadcaster, etc. who can be from any country).

So within this context, over 3 and a half days at Strategic Partners in Halifax, 180 international producers, financiers, distributors, TV executives, sales agents, and representatives from national and state Canadian funding agencies were matched in 30 minute meeting blocks at tiny tables in a large hotel ballroom to talk about projects, possible collaborations, exchange information and hopefully find some common ground. These sessions were interspersed with inspiring guest speakers who generously shared their war stories and views on the current state of play. Christine Vachon spoke about the challenges of working with first time filmmakers in this risk averse environment, the downward pressure on budgets, and the opportunities opening up within the digital age, but her overarching message was that its always been tough and we keep getting used to the changes, so we just need to keep producing creatively (Christine is now producing a TV series for the first time for HBO with Todd Haynes directing, based on the original book of Mildred Pierce.)

Other keynote speakers included Toronto-based producer Laszlo Barna (whose company Barna-Alper Productions was acquired by E1 Entertainment in 2008) who was big on the message that Canada’s potential as a co-production partner is still underexploited.

Another Canadian producer and EP, co-production treaty expert and former law professor, Martin Katz, also shared his experiences, and among his many anecdotes, he shared how financing on Hotel Rwanda came together just days before cameras rolled with the last piece from Italy conditional upon casting at least one Italian role, so the writers wrote in an Italian Priest. Katz admitted they chose not to finance Hotel Rwanda as an official Canadian co-production because European casting rules are more flexible than Canadian.

There was a session on how to wrangle money from private investors. Essentially, the panelists concluded that money is still around and wealthy investors who have been waiting out the GFC, are poised to come back in given the right sort of project compatible with their philosophical and/or risk profiles. One panelist remarked investors like to feel good about projects they invest in, so it isn’t always about a financial return. There was also talk about how to creatively finance today by breaking down the rights, and assigning values to rights such as digital, soundtrack and itunes rights which traditionally haven’t offered much value.

Continuing the idea of rights, there was a fascinating session tightly facilitated by Janet Brown of Cinetic Rights Management on the current state of digital revenue, especially cable and broadband VOD, game outlets such as X-Box, Wii and Playstation, and mobile rights. Whilst this space is becoming increasingly significant as a potential content revenue stream, and the major companies are aggressively entering it, the golden goose example of how everybody will benefit over the traditional model is still elusive.  When it finally happens, and it is close, the landscape is destined to change…

By the end of the few days at SP, I felt as though my own personal landscape had changed in view of financing, producing and collaborating on film and television projects with global partners.  It’s a big world and partnering can open up creative choices. Can co-producing help us tell bigger stories to more people?

Of course, there are a million questions some of which are technical, and many of which are creative,

(…is there a place for local stories in global partnerships? How do we make sure bureaucratic box ticking doesn’t get in the way of creative decisions?) but like all aspects of producing, naturally it comes down to whatever works best for the project.

Personally, I love the idea of potentially reaching bigger audiences by working with talented storytellers from around the world with something in common to say. It seems, today at least, that it has never been easier to do it.

Yael Bergman has been working with Melbourne-based production company Princess Pictures ("Summer Heights High", "We Can Be Heroes", romantic comedy "I Love You Too"), developing and producing projects for film and television since 2004. She also co-wrote and co-produced the low budget feature film "Love and Other Catastrophes" which sold to Fox Searchlight.

Christine Vachon on the State Of The Indie Film Union

Okay, so the traffic is sometimes louder than the dialogue, but hey, this is Indie!  I had wanted to partake in this interview that David Poland did at TIFF this year.  There was only one hour when Christine and I were both in Toronto though, and it took a bit longer to close the SUPER deal than I had anticipated.  Christine and David paint a pretty good picture of what things are like for  indie producers these days.

9/21 Update:  Seems like the link I found for this kind of jumped the gun.  It came down as I was watching it.  I assume David Poland will post soon on the MCN website.  And hopefully the video will work again.  Hope hoping here...

Update 9/21 #2: It's up on MCN, but I can't embed it for some reason

If I Were A Rock Star...

Like that would ever happen. I am one who can't even dream such things. My son has even banned me from ever singing in his vicinity. Being tone deaf, as I am is one thing, but add to it a nasal honk that some have compared to a goose (but with a less sweet sound), and you see why that particular pursuit is out of my reach.

But that doesn't stop me from recording. Two of my recent yackfests have gone up on line this week:
Showbiz Sandbox with both myself and Christine Vachon talking about the current state of the union for independent film:
Give them a listen and let me know if you have any questions.