IMHO: Action Is The Best Solution

I wish I could put into practice more of my recommendations and all the good ideas others have bought me.  I wish I could raise money for the marketing as well as the production of my films.  I wish I could plot out a six to nine month marketing & publicity campaign for my films, particularly when I don't have a distributor to collaborate with.  I wish I could slow down and take it one film at a time.  I wish that I could engage in more experimental innovations that could pave the way to the future. I believe in strategy.  I am all about planning.  Yet this world we are currently living in, just like the world I got my start in, requires action above anything else.   We need to make this happen.  We need to bring ideas into reality.

To large degree, I am a facilitator first and foremost.  Sure, I am pleased when I contribute creatively to a project, but I don't always, and I certainly don't have to.  Sometimes I am a second set of eyes; sometimes I am a sounding board.  Sometimes I am the strategist, and sometimes I am the instigator.  The list can go on, but the key thing is I am generative.  I get things done.  I make them happen.  I bring it forward.

Yes, I love discussion, but it is not worth much unless you also create, or aid in the creation.  Discussion leads to innovation. Discussion leads to strategy.  Yet, a Plato-ian ideal is always out of reach, but that does not mean it should be ignored.  We look towards our destination and from where we stand to start a path.  Hopefully that path does not become a rut.  Instead of standing still and looking at what direction we should head, I like to put one foot in front of the other and get moving.

Knowing "Best Practices" is a huge benefit, but I must confess I probably won't follow them -- or at least not all of them.  I would always rather raise all the money before I shoot, but I am not going to sit around and wait for the golden apple to fall -- I will grab a smaller one if it is in reach.  If we have enough money to make a movie, then I am going to want to make the movie, even if it is not the same movie that we initially set out to do.  I am going to get it done.

Back when James Schamus and I licensed Ang Lee's THE WEDDING BANQUET to Samuel Goldwyn, Sam Jr. posed a question to us, one that still lurks behind most of my actions  and to me still serves as the litmus test between whether something is corporate Indiewood or Truly Free Film.  Sam asked us "Are you businessmen or filmmakers?" .  I foolishly thought at the time that we could be both.  Both sides certainly have a lot to gain by working together.  But both can not drive the same being.  It comes down to doing things that are best for the business of film or doing things that truly facilitate the work getting made.

The filmmaker is the artist. The filmmaker will embrace action, over strategy and discussion.  The filmmaker knows they have to get it done, despite the circumstances.  Most movies don't get done because they were a great idea, a work of art, or a sound business plan.  Most movies get made out of sheer bullheaded arrogance.

I mourn that I can not do more.  I muorn that I can not chase both rabbits.  I know that by looking out fully for the business of my films, it will only serve them better in the long run.  But I know that many of them wouldn't get made if I didn't compromise and just get it done when it can get done.  Sometimes we just have to take action.  Action is always the best alternative.  Action is the solution.  Damn the torpedos!  Full steam ahead!

The Twenty New Rules: What we all MUST TRY to do prior to shooting

I am prepping a new film with the shortest amount of time I have ever had to prep a movie. It is also one of the more ambitious projects I have been involved in. There is so much to do I can't afford to squander any time (luckily I have been prepping some blog posts in advance, so this doesn't take time -- it expands time!). The short prep is also unfortunate because now is a time that the producer has to do even more than ever before.

My To Do List may be more of a Wish List these days. Instead of doing everything I think I should be doing, I have to focus first on what absolutely needs to be done to get the film in the can.

Now is the time we should be doing things differently; yet given the opportunity to make the film I want, with the cast I want, even at a fraction of the budget that I want -- how can I let that opportunity go by?
Having more options and better tools, doesn't solve everything by any means.
These times are tough indeed. Everyone knows it is hard out there for an indie filmmaker, particularly for a truly free filmmaker. Most would acknowledge that it is harder now than it has ever been before. Few have revealed (or admitted) how the current situation will change their behavior. I think right now, with reality staring me in the face, I can only speak about what I wish I could do. There is still a big gulf between thought and expression. How does the present alter what we all wish to do on our films?
Personally speaking, I would say we need to evolve the definition of what it means to be ready to shoot a film. Granted, more can always be done on the creative level and that is certainly worthy of discussion, but here -- on TrulyFreeFilm -- we are discussing the apparatus, the infrastructure, the practices that can lead to a more diverse output, robust appreciation, business model, and sustainable practice of ambitious cinema. So, what would I do if I really had my shit together? I have been trying to answer this and share my thoughts along the way.
Today's version:
  1. Recognize it is about audience aggregation: Collect 5000 fans prior to seeking financing. Act to gain 500 fans/month during prep, prod., post processes.
  2. Determine how you will engage & collect audiences all throughout the process. Consider some portion to be crowd-funded -- not so much for the money but for the engagement it will create.
  3. Create enough additional content to keep your audience involved throughout the process and later to bridge them to your next work.
  4. Develop an audience outreach schedule clarifying what is done when -- both before and after the first public screening.
  5. Curate work you admire. Spread the word on what you love. Not only will people understand you further, but who knows, maybe someone will return the good deed.
  6. Be prepared to "produce the distribution". Meet with potential collaborators from marketing, promotion, distribution, social network, bookers, exhibitors, widget manufacturers, charitable partners, to whatever else you can imagine.
  7. Brainstorm transmedia/cross-platform content to be associated with the film.
  8. Study at least five similar films in terms of what their release strategy & audience engagement strategy was and how you can improve upon them.
  9. Build a website that utilizes e-commerce, audience engagement, & data retrieval. Have it ready no later than 1 month prior to first public screening.
  10. Determine & manufacture at least five additional products you will sell other than DVDs.
  11. Determine content for multiple versions of your DVD.
  12. Design several versions of your poster. Track how your image campaign evolves through the process.
  13. Do a paper cut of what two versions of your trailer might be. Track how this changes throughout the process.
  14. Determine a list of the top 100 people to promote your film (critics, bloggers, filmmakers,etc)
  15. Determine where & how to utilize a more participatory process in the creation, promotion, exhibition, & appreciation process. Does it make sense for your project to embrace this?
  16. How will this project be more than a movie? Is there a live component? An ARG? An ongoing element?
  17. How can you reward those who refer others to you? How do you incentivize involvement? What are you going to give back?
  18. What will you do next and how can you move your audience from this to that? How will younot have to reinvent the wheel next time?
  19. What are you doing differently than everyone else? How will people understand this? Discover this?
  20. How are you going to share what you've learned on this project with others?
As I've said, I know I am not doing all of these yet on my current production, but that leaves me something to strive for the one following. The goal is to keep getting better, after all. But man, I wish I could be doing more!
The desire to do more is so huge, but time and resources limit me, limit us. Sometimes it feels like an accomplishment to at least get the film financed. Still though, I can't claim to be doing my job (producing) well if I am not doing all of these. I have to do better. I know it is even harder on smaller jobs. Still though, as much as our job descriptions keep expanding as our salary level decreases, this list is what we must accomplish. Or at least it is the list I think we need to accomplish right now.
I am going to shut up now and get to work. There's too much to be done.

Sklar & Workbook: Moving To Best Practices

Todd Sklar has finished has Range Life tour has a lot to tell you about what he's learned. He's posted it up at the indispensable Workbook Project: Part One, Part Two

Part One counsels filmmakers to build up their promo content and hold until the key release time.  He identifies two main tendencies to the contrary (and explains why you need to avoid them):
  1. You jump the gun on building buzz and then lose momentum and interest before it’s time to utilize that buzz.
  2. You jump the gun on your release and can’t support it with the necessary content or resources & planning b/c it’s a full time job just maintaining whatever momentum and interest your gaining from the film’s release.

In part two, Todd expands upon new rules:

  1. You need to have a solid website 5 minutes after you’ve written the script.
  2. You need to have a solid trailer 5 days after you’ve wrapped shooting.
  3. You need to release your DVD within 6 weeks of your premiere.
  4. You need to start making your DVD 6 hours after you’ve made your final cut.
  5. You need to do your theatrical release within 2-4 weeks of your festival premiere You need to implement a festival premiere into your release platform, and there’s no better/other way to do it than utilizing it as the springboard for your theatrical release.
  6. You need to look at the theatrical release as a brand building and audience building campaign and focus on exposure and press secondly.
  7. You need to be ready to make your next one before your release this one.
  8. You need to roll with the punches and remember to focus on your planning your work and working your plan.
  9. you need sell DVD’s during your theatrical release.
Read the posts.  We all need to.