Post-Fest Era: Further Festival Initiatives

In a post on Variety's Festival Blog, The Circuit, Steve Ramos writes about the unique launch and partnership Miramax is doing with the Heartland Film Festival and their film "The Boy In The Striped Pajamas".

Battsek approved the call to partner with the 16-year-old festival on a single-night, 31-city screening program to promote "Boy in the Striped Pajamas" to Heartland partner organizations like the Boy Scouts of America in an attempt to build national awareness for the film.

This type of re-imagining of the film festival is critical these days.  Hopefully other festivals will follow suit and find new ways to increase a film's exposure when they commit to play at a festival.  A 31 city simultaneous single day screening is possible even for the Truly Free Filmmaker in these days of digital projection.  How many festivals can extend beyond their home base?  Festivals have to think beyond their immediate community and increase their reach if they are going to offer filmmakers something truly meaningful.

I would be curious to hear what other festivals are doing to further their impact and partner with filmmakers.

The Conversation: Live in Berkley 10/18

Scott Kirsner, Lance Weiler, Tiffany Shlain and others put together a great program at Pacific Film Archives this past weekend, bringing together folks from the tech, social entrepreneur, and film worlds.  There was a lot of great stuff on the new world of DIY/Hybrid Distribution.  I imagine Lance will post a lot of it over at The Workbook Project.  

This is a nice low angle (i.e. I am not quite so wide in real life -- or rather I still like to think my self not so wide) shot of my "Coffee Chat" with Scott and Dean Valentine of  It captures and highlights my nasal honk quite well though.   It's the end of the session Q&A and I rant on the transformation from an impulse to a choice economy of entertainment, throwing in some speculation on the coming Post-Fest Era to boot.

On changing Festival world, Variety has an article on how the financial crisis has effected film festivals. Worth checking out.

Preparing For The Film Festivals

Its that time of the year when filmmakers nationwide get all antsy.  Sundance generally starts to let filmmakers know whether their work has been selected for the festival around the end of October.  This ritual extends for about four weeks until Thanksgiving gives everyone a break.

Generally speaking, for fifteen years now, filmmakers approach Sundance with a single plan: to sell their film for a big profit.  The logic of this singleminded pursuit is non-existent.  For several years now, great films with clear audiences screen without getting picked up.  The amount the lucky few achieve has been dropping consistently with a few exceptions.  Simultaneously, the need to work with the mainstream distributors has been dropping rapidly.  One could even argue that these distributors have defined their acquisition strategy so specifically that they need to even bother to attend the festival.
Filmmakers need to recognize that what once was the holy grail now needs to be regulated to Plan C or even Plan D.  I wish it wasn't so and I wish many of the filmmakers could walk off the mountain with their wildest dreams of wealth realized.  But we all need to recognize what Plan A and B really should be these days.
Plan A has got to be that you will need to be the leading force in the distribution of your film.  This is the DIY model.
Plan B is that various experts will all want to work with you on Co-Distributing your film, albeit for a fee.
Plan C is that buyers for different media will want your film and you need to be able to evaluate how to mix and match these offers -- or even accept those offers at all.
Plan D is that someone will make an offer of such an amount that it is worth considering giving up all your rights to your film for the next twenty years.
There are many aspects of each plan that need to be considered in addition to these various plans.  I will be doing my best to examine these aspects in the days ahead.  Although Plan D doesn't really need any further thought than where to find a good lawyer; the indie world has relied on this plan long enough.

The Post-Fest Era

In September, Christian Gaines wrote a provocative two-part article for Variety speculating on a new business models for film rights holders in terms of how they use film festivals.  It's required reading, and certainly got me thinking.

In this month's Independent, Paul Devlin has a piece on lessons he learned on the film fest circuit with his film BLAST.  He definitely has some good information for all, but again it was  's last paragraph that got me thinking again:

Of course, the film festival model will always serve some film very well. But diverging interests may mean that film festivals necessarily become a much less essential element of a filmmaker’s strategy for promotion and distribution. Just as we seem to be entering a “post-distributor” environment in which filmmakers eschew rotten deals and embrace DIY, we may be witnessing the emergence of a “post-film festival” environment as well.

A new model needs to be found for filmmakers choosing (or having no other option than) to hold onto their rights.
Festivals can be a great way to heighten awareness for your film, but generally only in the local community where the film is playing.  To make matters worse, many festivals these days are over-programed and as a result the films simply get lost and overlooked.  The festivals and the communities make money on the sold out shows but not the filmmakers.  With only a few sales happening and then only at the highest festival level, filmmakers can't be attending with the hopes of a deal?  So how can festivals be utilized by the Truly Free Filmmaker?
It would be ideal for local festivals to initiate deals with local theaters so that prize winning films would get an automatic one or two week booking three or four months after the festival.  I have to imagine this is done somewhere already but frankly I am clueless as to where.
It would be ideal for colleges and community centers in and around the local festivals to agree to bring filmmakers and their films out to lecture one or two months after winning at the festival.  This would allow for some local publicity to be done in advance of a future booking.
The most natural fit for regional festivals and TFFilmakers is for the filmmakers to use the festival to launch a specific DVD sale directly at the festival.  At the very least they could take pre-orders.
I found it very exciting when Slamdance announced this year that certain films would be available for streaming directly after their festival premiere.  When I have heard of a film playing a major festival, that is when my "want-to-see" is at its highest.  Six months later another 50 films have moved ahead of it on my queue.  TFFilmakers have to strike when audience desire is highest.