Hey NYC & LA Filmmakers!! Your Personal Invite (& DISCOUNT) To Distribution U!

Today's guest post is letter to YOU from Peter Broderick. Okay, it is to me, but only so I can forward it to you.  This is a can't-miss-event.

Dear Ted,

We would like to invite your colleagues and readers  to Distribution U and offer them a special discount (see end of post).  It is a unique event that will give them the latest information about new distribution models and connect them to many of the people who are pioneering cutting edge strategies. The event is being presented by me,  Peter Broderick, a leading strategist and pioneer of new distribution models, and cutting-edge author and tech analyst Scott Kirsner.

This one-day crash course on the New Rules of Crowd Funding, Audience Building & Distribution is being held Saturday, November 13th in New York at NYU and the following Saturday, November 20th in Los Angeles, where it is co-sponsored by UCLA's School of Film, Theater, and Television.

We are very excited about the stellar roster of resource people who have already committed to participate. They are pioneers who are creating and implementing the latest distribution models and strategies.

Richard Abramowitz (who organized the successful theatrical rollout of "Anvil: the Story of Anvil") and Marc Schiller (the digital marketing expert who heads Electric Artists) will present a case study revealing how they guided the release and marketing of "Exit through the Gift Shop" so effectively, without a director to promote it.

So far our other resource people include:

Caitlin Boyle (semi-theatrical maven and head of Film Sprout)

Jim Browne (theatrical booker and founder of Argot Pictures)

Adam Chapnick (founder of Distribber, the innovative company that works with filmmakers to maximize their digital revenues)

Brian Chirls (the tech guru who developed much of the Internet strategy for "Four Eyed Monsters")

Jonathan Dana (producer and producers rep "Road to Nowhere")

Ira Deutchman (producer and Emerging Pictures CEO)

Sandi DuBowski (producer/director "Trembling Before G-d" and outreach director for The Good Pitch)

Madelyn Hammond (marketing guru and former Chief Marketing Officer at Variety)

Justine Jacob (director of "Ready, Set, Bag!" and an attorney at the law firm Lee & Lawless)

Scott Macaulay (producer and editor of Filmmaker Magazine)

Slava Rubin(CEO and co-founder IndieGoGo)

Jill Sobule(singer/songwriter "California Days" and crowdfunding pioneer)

Anne Thompson (journalist and blogger "Thompson on Hollywood")

Other directors and producers include:

Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo ("Made In LA")

Jennifer Dubin and Cora Olson ("Good Dick")

Roberta Grossman ("Blessed Is The Match")

Joel Heller ("Winnebago Man")

Meg McLagan ("Lioness")

Vladan Nikolic ("Zenith")

Ben Niles ("Note by Note")

Jim Tusty ("The Singing Revolution")

Our resource people will lead off-the-record discussion groups in their areas of unique expertise and will be available to participants during networking opportunities throughout the day.

The experience of these resource people will be complemented by that of participants, many of whom have also been working on the frontiers of distribution. Scott and I have designed the event to give everyone a chance to connect and potentially collaborate in the future.

Here are discount links:

Distribution U. New York, November 13th


Distribution U. Los Angeles, November 20th


There is also a small group rate if two or more people sign up at the same time. For 2 it is $185 a piece and for 3 or more it is $175 per person.

We hope many of your readers and colleagues will be able to attend.

Onwards and upwards,


P.S.  From Scott:

Here's what Manohla Dargis wrote about last year's event, at USC: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/movies/17dargis.html

We're also giving away a pass to one lucky person who tweets the URL (http://distributionu-nyc.eventbrite.com) along with the hashtag #distribu. (We'll pick the winner Wednesday at 5.)

There's also some MP3 audio of one of the case study sessions last year, featuring the director of "Anvil" and the producer of "Good Dick," both of which were at Sundance 2008.


The 21 Brave Thinkers Of Truly Free Film 2009

Earlier this year, while looking at Atlantic Magazine's list of Brave Thinkers across various industries, I started to wonder who are of this ilk in our sector of so-called Independent Film.

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.
Frankly though, I think anyone that commits to creating film, particularly independent film, and specifically artist driven truly free film, is truly brave... or at least, insane. It is a hard road out there and growing more difficult by the day. All filmmakers getting their work made, screened and distributed deserve recognition, support, and something more significant than a good pat on the back from the rest of us. As great their work is both creatively and in terms of the infrastructure, it's easy to lose sight of how fragile all this is. Our ability to create and screen innovative and diverse work is consistently under threat.
It is a truly great thing that this list of BRAVE THINKERS is growing rapidly; I first thought it would be ten, then twenty. I expect we will see some new folks joining this list in the months ahead. I know there are those whom I've forgotten that deserve to be included here. This list, although it includes many artists, is about those who are working and striving to carve a new paradigm, to make the future safe for innovative and diverse work, to build an artist-centric content economy. The TFF Brave Thinkers lead equally with their ideas, actions, and generosity. They set examples for all of us and raise the bar. These are indie films true new leaders, and for those that think they are in power, those that are just starting out, or those that want to find a new angle on industry you work in, you should make sure you meet these folks in the coming year, because they are redefining the way we fund, develop, create, define, discover, promote, participate, curate, and appreciate that thing we still call cinema.
  • Franny Armstong - After making THE AGE OF STUPID via crowdsourcing funds, Franny also looked to the audience to help distribute her film, creating IndieScreenings.net and offering it up to other filmmakers (see The Yes Men below). By relying fulling on her audience from finance to distribution, Franny was able to get the film she wanted not just made, but seen, and show the rest of us to stop thinking the old way, and instead of putting faith in the gatekeepers, put your trust in the fans.
  • Steven Beers - "A Decade Of Filmmaker Empowerment Is Coming" Steven has always been on the tip of digital rights question, aiding many, including myself, on what really should be the artist's perspective. Yet it remains exceedingly rare that individuals, let alone attorneys, take a public stand towards artist rights -- as the money is often on the other side.
  • Biracy & David Geertz - Biracy, helmed by Geertz, has the potential to transform film financing and promotion. Utilizing a referral system to reward a film's champions, they might have found a model that could generate new audiences and new revenue.
  • Peter Broderick- Peter was the first person to articulate the hybrid distribution plan. He coined the term I believe. He has been tireless in his pursuit of the new model and generous with his time and vision. His distribution newsletter is a must have for all truly free filmmakers and his oldway/newway chart a true thing of beauty.
  • Tze Chun & Mynette Louie - Last year, the director and producer of Children Of Inventiondecided that they weren't going to wait around for some distributor to sweep them off their feet. They left Sundance with plans to adopt a hybrid plan and started selling their DVD off their website. They have earned more money embracing this new practice than what they could have hoped from an old way deal. As much as I had hoped that others would recognize the days of golden riches were long gone, Tze & Mynette were the only Sundance filmmakers brave enough to adopt this strategy from the start.
  • Arin Crumley - Having raised the bar together with Susan Buice in terms of extending the reach of creative work into symbiotic marketing with Four Eyed Monsters, along with helping in the design of new tech tools for filmmakers (FEM was encouraging fans to "Demand It" long before Paranormal Activity), co-founding From Here To Awesome, Arin launched OpenIndie together with Kieran Masterton this year to help empower filmmakers in the coming months.
  • IndieGoGo & Slava Rubin - There are many web 2.0 sites that build communities, many that promote indie films, many that crowd source funds, but Slava & IndieGoGo are doing it all, with an infectious and boundless enthusiasm, championing work and individuals, giving their all to find a new paradigm, and they might just do it.
  • Jamie King - The experience of giving away his film "Steal This Film" lead Jamie to help build VODO an online mechanism initially built to help artists retrieve VOluntary DOnations for their work, but has since evolved to a service that helps filmakers distrubute free-to-share films through P2P sites & services, building on this with various experimental business models. Such practices aren't for everyone, but they are definitely for some -- VODO has had over 250,000 viewers for each of its first three releases in 2009 -- and the road is being paved by Jamie's efforts.
  • Scott Kirsner - Scott's book Friends, Fans, & Followers covered the work of 15 artists of different disciplines and how each have utilized their audience to gain greater independence and freedom. Through his website CinemaTech, Scott has been covering and questioning the industry as it evolves from a limited supply impulse buy leisure buy economy to an ubiquitous supply artistcentric choice-based infrastructure like nobody else. His "Conversation" forum brought together the tech, entertainment, & social media fields in an unprecedented way.
  • Pericles Lewnes - As a filmmaker with a prize winning but underscreened film (LOOP), Peri recoginized the struggle of indie filmmaking in this day and age. But instead of just complaining about it like most of us, Peri did something about it. He built bridges and alliances and made a makeshift screening circuit in his hometown of Annapolis, MD, founding The Pretentious Film Society. Taking indie film to the bars with a traveling projector and sound system, Peri has started pulling in the crowds and getting money back to the filmmakers. A new exhibition circuit is getting built brick by brick, the web is expanding into a net, from a hub spokes emmenate until we have wheels within wheels within wheels. Peri's certainly not the only one doing it, but he brings an energy and passion we all need.
  • Cory McAbee - It's not enough to be a talented or innovative filmmaker these days. You must use the tools for entrepreneuarial activity that are available and you have to do it with flair. We can all learn from Corey. His films, his music, his live shows, his web stuff -- it all rocks and deserves our following and adoption.
  • Scott Macauley - some producers (like yours truly) write to spread the gospel, happy just to get the word out, not being the most graceful of pen. Scott however has been doing it with verve, invention, wit, and style for so long now, most people take his way wit words as a given. Not only is it a pleasure to read, the FilmmakerMagazineBlog is the center of true indie thought and appreciation. It's up to the minute, devoid of gossip, deep into ideas, and is generally a total blast. And the magazine is no slouch either. And nor are his films. Can we clone the man?
  • Brian Newman - After leaving Tribeca this year, Brian has showed no signs of slowing down, popping up at various conferences like PttP and the Flyaway Film Fest to issue missives & lectures helping to articulate both the problems facing indies these days along with starting to define how we will find our way out. Look to Brian to be doing something smart & exciting in the media world in 2010; somewhere someone smart should find a way to put this man to work shortly, but here's hoping he does it on his own so we can all benefit from his innovative ideas.
  • Nina Paley - In addition to successively adopting an "audience distribution" model for her film Sita Sings The Blues, Nina has been incredibly vocal about her experiences in the world of "free", helping to forge a path & greater understanding for other filmmakers. And now her film is getting traditional distribution at the IFC Center in NYC (and our whole family, including the 9 year old spawn, dug it!)
  • Jon Reiss - After adopting the DIY approach for his film Bomb It, Jon chose to share the lessons he's learned in ever increasing ways, from his blog (and this one), to articles for Filmmaker Mag, to finally to the must-have artist-centric distribution book THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE. Anyone considering creating a truly free film, this book is mandatory reading first. Full disclosure: I penned an intro to Jon's book.
  • Mark Rosenberg - What does it take to create a new institution these days? Evidently quite a bit, because I can only think of one in the film space and that's Rooftop Films. Mark curates and organizes with a great team of folks, who together have brought new audiences new films in new venues. NY is incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of Rooftop's work, but here's hoping that Mark's vision spreads to other cities this coming year.
  • Liz Rosenthal - There is no better place to get the skinny on what the future for film, indie film, truly free film, artist-centric film, and any other form of media creation than London's Power To The Pixel. Liz founded it and has catapulted what might once have been fringe truly into the mainstream. Expanding beyond a simple conference into a year round forum for future forward media thought, PttP brainstorms, curates, and leads the way in transmedia creation, curation, & distribution. Full disclosure: I was PttP keynote speaker this year.
  • Lance Weiler - In addition to being a major force in both Transmedia thought, DIY distribution, and informative curatorial,with his role in Power To The Pixel, From Here To Awesome, DIY Days, & Radar web show but his generous "Open Source" attitude is captured by The Workbook Project, perhaps the most indispensable website for the TFFilmmaker. He (along with Scott Kirsner) provides a great overview of the year in tech & entertainment on TWP podcast here. It's going to be in exciting 2010 when we get to see him apply his knowledge to his next project (winner of Rotterdam Cinemart 2009 prize and now a participant in the 2010 Sundance screenwriters' lab). Full disclosure: This is that has signed on to produce Lance's transmedia feature H.I.M.
  • Thomas Woodrow - As a producer, Thomas has embraced the reality of the marketplace and is not letting it stand in his way. There is perhaps no other producer out there who has so fully accepted the call that indie film producing nowadays also means indie film distribution. He's laying out his plan to distribute BASS ACKWARDS immediately after its Sundance premiere through a series of videos online. Full disclosure: I am mentoring Thomas vis the Sundance Creative Producing Lab.
  • TopSpin Media - As their website explains: "Topspin is a technology platform for direct-to-fan maketing, management and distribution." They are also the tech behind Corey McAbee's activities and hopefully a whole lot of other filmmakers in the years behind. Founded by ProTools' creator, Peter Gotcher, and Shamal Raasinghe, TopSpin is a "white label" set up thathas the potential to usher in the Age Of Empowerment for the artist/creator class. Today it is primarily a tool for musicians, but expect it to migrate into filmdom fully pretty damn soon.
  • The Yes Men - The Emma Goldman ("If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution") TFF 2009 Award winners for keeping both politics and film marketing fun, these pranksters hit all the fests, winning awards, and using it to launch their own distribution of THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD. Bravery's always been their middle name, but they are among the first of rising tide of filmmakers willing to take for full responsibility for their film.
Who did I forget? I know this list is very US-centric, but I look forward to learning more of what is going on elsewhere in the days to come. Who will be our Brave Thinkers for next year (if I can muster the energy to do this for another year, that is)? What can you learn from these folks? May I humbly suggest that at the very least, you do whatever you can to find, follow, and converse with these folks in 2010. The more we learn from them, the better off this film industry will be, and, hey: it may turn out to be a good new year after all.

One Day Crash Course In The New Distribution & Marketing

Saturday November 7th in LA Scott Kirsner & Peter Broderick lead what looks to be a mindblowing overview of the how-to in hybrid distribution. Order tickets here:

This one-day course will reveal the techniques successful filmmakers are using to:

• Design customized distribution strategies

• Harness the Internet and social media to launch their projects

• Reach core audiences directly

• Maximize revenue from multiple distribution channels

• Build a fan base to support your future work

Pricing DIY DVDs & Other Fetish Items

Adam Chapnick twittered about NeoFlix's  DIYFlix blog posting about most popular pricing techniques for their clients.  It ran counter to my instincts as I would have thought more gravitated to the high and low end, but by far the most popular price point is $15-$20.  The DIYFlix blog itself has a pile of good advice & food for thought, so check it out.

Some of the best advice in this category comes from the example of HELVETICA.  As Scott Kirsner points out in his indispensable right-of-the-moment guide to building an audience (Fans, Friends, & Followers) "Selling just one thing is old hat".  
Multiple versions and merchandising is the way to go.  So much more can be done with this.  By all means there should be multiple versions of all films, with different additional content, commentary, even cuts.  Why is that we only get the dvd with the film, and maybe a t-shirt or action figure?  If fans want to show their appreciation for a work there should be something more substantial.  One of my favorite pieces of film fetish paraphernalia is this: Brendan Dawes' Cinema Redux print of Kubrick's 2001 The film is reduced to one image from every second of the film in high resolution.  Each row has sixty frames in it.  
Why can't we have more beautiful works derived from the films we love?

The Future Of Film

Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't have the answer as to what the future of film is.  

A lot of people though do have some good ideas as what the future may hold and what it is needed, from the small step to the big picture.  I got to sit down with a nice group of very smart people while I was at SXSW and talk a bit about what I might be.  Scott Kirsner who organized the breakfast has put the whole conversation up on his blog.  The other participants are:
filmmaker Lance Weiler 
conference organizer and producer Liz Rosenthal
technologist Brian Chirls
outreach guru Caitlin Boyle
 filmmaker Brett Gaylor
producer and Filmmaker Mag editor Scott Macaulay

Models & Experiments In Indie Distribution

I was bummed that I missed the Sundance panel on the New World of Indie Distribution.

Luckily, Scott Kirsner has the audio for download on his CinemaTech site.  If you see me walking to work, crossing on the orange hand, headphones burrowed into my ears, you know they are speaking well of the future.  Check it out (and I guess I should take a cue from Scott and start to record the panels I partake on...).
The Film Panel Notetaker has a few posts up too on some of the other panels.  There is enough going on in the panels to fill a full year of film school curriculium.  Still, I was hoping to find some more sparks.  
I participated in "The Panic Button" and for all the heavyweights participating, I would've thought they'd be more coverage; I guess The Inauguration pulled the press away.  Go figure. Maybe the biz is getting tired of hearing the old white guys speak.  Reuters was there though.  IndieFlix too. I did my best to get the business side (I was the only filmmaker) to recognize that they have to start giving back to the community a bit more if they don't want to see what's vibrant vanish, but Reuters only got the start of that argument.

What works: ITVS Digital Initiative

I wish I had spotted this earlier.  

ITVS hired Scott Kirsner to find out what digital tools filmmakers were using and what was working.  The report focuses on three main changes:
  1. Opening Up Production to Participation
  2. Finding New Audiences
  3. New Distribution Opportunities
They have five top strategies for social issue filmmakers.
And they have five case studies to read.  Here's the one on TFF Hero Tiffany Shlain.
One thing that particularly resonated for me -- and I have heard from other filmmakers as well -- is that the filmmakers wish that they had DVDs for sale at their premiere.  I wonder if any filmmakers at Sundance will head this advice...
What are you waiting for?  This is Required Reading.

Aggregate NOW!!

I was listening to Scott Kirsner's podcast from Futures Of Entertainment 3 Conference on Digital Distribution recently, and heard Jim Flynn of EZTakes say they currently don't charge clients to digitize and upload their content -- that is clients that provide twenty or more titles.  Since the two approved indie aggregators for iTunes (New Video & Docurama) evidently charge $500/title, EZTakes is looking like a sweet sweet deal.  

This gives every Truly Free Filmmaker out on the festival circuit the mandate to aggregate on their own: you have got to find the other 19 filmmakers you want to keep company with AND YOU HAVE TO FIND THEM NOW.  There's got to be some young smart producer out there who wants to curry favor with 20 good filmmakers, right?  If I was such a filmmaker I would definitely pay a cut of my revenue to whomever pulled such a feat together.
Maybe saving $500 is not enough of an incentive for you, or even getting your film up on the internet for digital download to own is still not enough of an incentive.  All I can say is the reasons to keep good company, and as much of it as you can, will continue to multiply.  I think at every festival the Truly Free Filmmakers need to organize their own summits and band together to maximize future opportunities for their films -- be it building their own traveling festival, sharing theatrical booking tips, accessing download sites, or whatever: the filmakers united, will never be defeated.  The others on the other hand...

What Scott Learned

Scott Macauley interviewed Scott Kirsner for Filmmaker Mag Blog about Kirsner's new book "Inventing The Movies".  Scott's answers about what he learned from self-publishing and self-distributing the book are directly applicable to fimmakers:

Three things. You really need to have a platform and a built-in audience to really be successful promoting something now. The platform that I built over a couple of years is the CinemaTech blog, and that has a couple of thousand people who come to it every week. Two, you want to make things available in a lot of different ways that are convenient for people. A lot of publishers don‘t pay any attention to the ebook, but I wanted to have the book available in print and, for instant gratification, in digital form. I had a debate at the IFP conference with Tom Bernard from Sony Pictures Classics where I argued that the moment a lot of movies get the most attention is when they appear at a festival, so why not let people pay a premium price and download the movie then, or the week after? I wanted to do that with the book. And the third thing is something I did a little bit of, which is sharing the material as I was gathering it. I did a couple of interviews with Mark Cuban, and I posted those interviews on the blog and it was interesting to see other people‘s comments. He even posted some comments on the blog himself. So, by posting raw material and seeing what people want to know about [the audience] can steer you in directions you never would have thought of. I‘m trying to carve my way through the jungle of a new approach to book publishing in the same way that filmmakers are trying to find a new way to make movies.

Or in other words: seed, sort, and test.

New Revenue Models: #1 of ?

In Filmmaker Mag, Scott Macauley interviews Scott Kirshner about his new book "Inventing The Movies".  In the interview, one thing caught my eye:

Another concept I really like is letting people quote sections from a movie, and that‘s something you can only do in digital form. For example, there‘s a great car chase in this movie, and I want to quote it on my blog. That‘s something that can be ad supported. And people can say, “Wow, this car chase is great, I‘d like to see the context around it,” and they can buy the whole movie. It‘s the same way that publishers are beginning to sell individual chapters of books. As a writer, I‘d rather someone buy one chapter of my book than none at all.

Whether it is in narratives or docs, we are all in need of a new sort of editor -- one not to cut our features together, but one to take them apart so that audiences can more easily find how the film relates to them.  Points of access are not always at the beginning -- and we have to not only accept that, but promote that.

Precisely: The Conversation

Scott Kirsner has blogged about the the highlights of The Conversation last weekend, which I had the pleasure of participating in.  

film is just one component of a story that you start telling before your first festival showing... and continue to build on and embroider even after you've released the DVD and digital download. The "movie release date" becomes just one milestone in this conversation between you and your audience. Some people who participate in the conversation may never actually buy a ticket or a download... while others may become so engaged that they buy everything you offer, and help market your movie to everyone they know.

This is two things:

1) utilizing the power of the internet to be different media all at once.

2) This is branding. Intellectual property building.

Filmmakers and novelists and other creatives need to figure this out now. Their book, comic, movie, animation, music, radio drama, is only the beginning. A book isn't just between the covers. A movie isn't just onscreen.

Don't think small. Think about how you can add to your creation. How you can translate it. How it can have further value - both to you and your audience