We Need More Outlets For Community Support/Collaboration

Awhile back in The Huffington Post, Marshall Fine pointed to Comic Con as an example of what is wrong with the Studio Biz these days. I too miss the days when it seemed like there was business in creating work for mature audiences. I will be among the first in line for Innaritu's BUITIFUL for sure, and when I watched FAREWELL the other night, I longed to make a film of that weight, craft, and themes.  Looking at what my immediate future holds as a producer in the USA, I don't think I will get much opportunity for such exploration anytime soon, at least not on a reasonable budget. Nonetheless, as opposed to Marshall, ComicCon does not represent for me what's wrong with the film biz, but quite the opposite.  Although the communities are smaller , and the passion and fervor far less, the art house contingents should take note what ComicCon does.  It is the only populist film event we have in this country.

I am incredibly energized by ComicCon and believe it is a model that can be extended to support work beyond the specific genre it currently supports. That is, if the audience and community for specific genres and subjects can unite the way ComicCon's has, we as filmmakers could truly start to collaborate with audiences the way the fan boy and geek crowd does with their filmmakers.  Taking SUPER to ComicCon was one of the highlights of my twenty plus years in the business.  I felt unbridled support for what we've made, and we only offered up a wee taste.

The following is a bit of an update to the reply that I posted to Marshall on the Huff:

I share your lament about Hollywood abandoning more serious fare, but it is what it is. Let's face it, movies for adults are difficult to execute and difficult to market; how can you blame the studios from abandoning them?

Audiences need to unite and demand what they want. They need to move from being audiences to creating communities. Film festivals and film societies need to move into year round programming that can support more ambitious work. We can't all wait until it goes on Netflix streaming. There is no community in streaming, only convenience.  You know how great it is when people come together into a common space to discuss and appreciate work.  The question is how can we offer that in a way that both sustains and nurtures creators and their appreciators alike.

We have to support the work we want, both as filmmakers and film lovers. You do it with your screening series, Marshal, as many others do too, but it is still not enough to generate more serious film work.  The filmmakers to have to reach out and bring communities together.  No one can afford to wait to have others do it for them.

I've generally made ambitious films for adults, precisely the type of movies you miss (and many that you have programmed and written about). But I am also incredibly excited to take my new film, James Gunn's SUPER to Comic Con. It is a chance to connect with a COMMUNITY who wants the film -- even before we have finished it. You don't get this opportunity in the art house world. By showing their demand for a no-holds-barred look at what a real-life superhero (vs. say... Kick-Ass) would look at, the so-called geek community has given birth to one of the most daring films I have had the good fortune to be part of.

Tools: Organizing Audiences

Mike Hedge pointed out to me that we now have a major distributor using Eventful to organize screenings on a local level. Back when Adventureland was released, I few fans found me to let me know that they had organized screening groups on MeetUp. Both of these are powerful tools, that the indie film community needs to make more use of.

And of course, let's not forget where we first heard of this sort of thing. Arin & Susan paved the way for Dreamworks... ?! Let's make sure this kind of thing becomes an indie filmmaker staple.
Imagine that when a filmmaker announced that their film is going to debut at a major film festival, that in addition to launching their trailer and going into a new phase with their blogging they also utilized these tools to aggregate audiences on a local level. There might be a film that was able to go on a tour immediately following the premiere taking the work directly to the core. I wonder what sort of impact it would have with the old school distributors to hear that a filmmaker already had thirty or more dates that the fans themselves requested.
Filmmakers could motivate fans to organize these screenings and to recruit audiences by offering a wide variety of incentives from exclusive music downloads to Skype Q&A's afterwards. Film clubs could easily do the same. Heck, so could distributors. We have an Indie Film Promotional Army out there, already armed, and waiting for the call.
When I look at the number of tools we have at our disposal (check out the list on the right to start) that filmmakers are still underutilizing, I feel like we have all been given crate loads of matches but we still all live in the Dark Ages.
I would love to hear of some filmmakers direct experiences utilizing these specific tools.

Wanted: Email Invite List Management Software

Okay, so now you've decided you want to start a film club. First you need to invite people. Which means you need a bunch of emails. I was fortunate in that I waited 15 years to start such a club. Which meant I knew a lot of indie film fans in my town to invite. You'd think that would solve the problem, right?

Even when you have the email addresses, it is not so easy to just send out the invites. Bulk emails often get stopped by spam filters. I don't even know if my emails get through, other than by the folks who write back or rsvp. Further, for some reason my ISP or email program only allows me to send 50 or less emails per batch. To send to 800 people (which is how many I have on my list) requires 16 emails. That's a lot of cut and pasting. And updating the lists and sorting it, tagging people, etc. is a real pain in the butt. There's got to be a better way.
Since we can't afford to hire an IT person to solve this, I turn to you, the community; surely you know a way to make this all a whole lot simpler. What do you suggest?

Wanted: List Of Film Clubs & Societies

We've been curating a regular screening series in conjunction with our friends at Goldcrest all year. It's free and every screening has been filled to capacity. We send out 800 emails to "influential media types" here in NYC and have 60 seats. Makers Mark Bourbon gives us some fine sippin' whiskey to share afterwards. The filmmakers always come and we do a Q&A afterwards. It's a lot of fun, the films have been great, and the filmmakers have made important connections from it. Most importantly it builds word of mouth for these films that deserve more. My dream is to get some form of sponsorship so we could give the filmmakers a speaking fee and fly folks in from out of town.

Unfortunately, I don't know of more. My friend Pericles Lewnes and his wife Lisa have a series down in Annapolis, Maryland called The Pretentious Film Society and they have gotten good press. And you can follow them on Twitter here. But there's got to be a whole lot more of such clubs, right? Let's find them.
Imagine if we had a list of 50 or so of these, that could be used to build advance buzz for your films so that when they eventually played in those markets you had supporters who would help promote your film to their social network. Wouldn't that be great?
Imagine if all these societies actually had a little funding to bring filmmakers to town so that they could do advance publicity in anticipation of their release. Field publicity always helps but its expense makes it out of reach of most Truly Indie filmmakers, particularly those taking the DIY route. Finding a way to decrease this cost is crucial to indie film's survival.
So let's get started. Let's build this list. You did a great job building the list of blogs that cover undistributed films (although Jake Abraham still gets the most gold stars for his contribution).
Do you know of any film clubs? How do we contact them? What do they like to show? Do they require filmmakers to be there? Can they pay anything? There is a spot in our Indie Film Hero list for whoever contributes the most information.
Subsequent notes:
Christophe Lepage pointed out on FB this great listing of over 92 Film Clubs world wide:
And finally, if you don't know of a film club in your area, why not start one? We did. I am sure I can put a lot of indie filmmakers in touch with you who would love to screen their film.

DIY Distribution Tips: Use A DVD-Rental Store Approved Vendor

There's a good post today on FilmmakerMagBlog by Jake Abraham on LOVELY BY SURPRISE, a film he produced and is now distributing. The only way DIY is going to really ever become a viable model is for filmmakers to do precisely what Jake is doing, and share the experience. You should definitely read the whole post, but I definitely appreciated this nugget:

we worked with Indigenous to make sure that every possible outlet, both retail and online, would carry the film. They set up Netflix, Blockbuster Online, Amazon.com, iTunes and all those other online rental and purchase sites. Also, as they are set up as a vendor with all the wholesalers that distribute to retail rental stores and purchasers like Target, K-Mart, etc., we have orders coming in from those guys as well. This detail can’t be overlooked. Working with an approved vendor is a key step to getting your DVD in rental stores all over the U.S. (yes, they still exist). Don’t wait until your DVD is pressed to do this. It takes months to get all of this set up properly. The consequence of delaying this process is severe, as your film will not be available everywhere you want it to be when your marketing push is on and potential viewers won’t be able to access it.

Of course this brings up the question:
Who are the approved DVD vendors for the remaining DVD rental stores? It would be great to create a list. Anyone know of any? This is the kind of information every filmmaker needs to have and needs to know where to access.
We screened LOVELY BY SURPRISE at our This is that Goldcrest Screening Series and the film went over quite well with our crowd. The most uniform response I heard was that everyone thought the film was unique and they had not seen anything like it. How great is that?!! I wished I lived in a world where this was the most sought out attribute from all filmmakers. To me such praise is gold. There should be a box where you can check that as your preference. I would join a film club in a heartbeat that promised originality on a regular basis.
Reading Jake's column though, it reminds how early into the wilderness we all are. To forge a path requires a huge communal effort. There is so much I don't know, and I would bet I know a hell of a lot more than you do (not to be smug, but...). But it is not intimidating; it is only reality. When I look at the work everyone did demystifying production, development, festival strategy, and initial sales -- essentially the work of the Indie Film movement of the last 15 years, I know that distribution and marketing are conquerable too. Provided we share that is. So what are the next steps?
We should start a regular column here on DIY Distribution Tips. Let me know if you have any.
Like the DVD-Rental Store Approved Vendor List, also let me know of any further lists you think we need to build.
And check out the LOVELY BY SURPRISE website. It's nice. One thing I think they did really well was the placement of the widgets to add the film to you Netflix or Blockbuster queue. Ditto the Amazon pre-order button. The booking link gets a bit lost due to the consistency of the font and structure, but neatness still counts for a lot in my book. Still since any true indie booker or theater will want this film, it would be nice if it popped a tad more for them.