Business

Fractured Media


As well as offering the audience a chance to participate with as little friction as possible we need to fracture our content and intercept audiences.

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Amazon Studio


Although not “hot off the press” it is still pretty cool and worth noting! Amazon Studios will not “make” you but they may buy you a house in Camps Bay and that is good enough for me!

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The return of Zombie


Its all been Vampires lately, Zombies are soon back and they mean more to us than we give them credit for.

I’ve been researching Zombie flicks over the last little while and have now had the pleasure of watching Zach Sniders “Dawn of the dead” (which is a superbly crafted narrative) and Norwegian recent called “Dead Snow” - a gory romp of Nazi Zombies in snow, its amazing!

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$100K Paramount Plan

I heard late last year (post the Paranormal Activity phenomenon) that a studio was going to start a devision to produce a slew of $100K features. 20 a year to be exact, which is a lousy $2 milj a year. Thats about the make-up budget on a normal studio picture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly criticizing, I think its a great idea and more than that it goes to show that we as independents are onto something that the studio wants. Every time we make a film we walk that line of break-throuhg VS failure and that makes us innovative and highly creative.

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Branded Content

Branded Content - remember those BMW ads that came out a couple of years ago. Suddenly the idea of films made by brands became real. The explosive nature of the internet and so the death of many newspapers and magazines further drove brands to seek new ways for their audiences to know and think about them. We have seen AD banners on Youtube videos, overt branding in films and also television series and the holy grail, the artful product made with the mounds of money from a corporate - the branded content.

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Miramax Dies on Thursday

Its 1996, I’m 14 and in the USA visiting family. Somehow I got to watch Pulp Fiction that holiday and it had a great effect on me. Obviously. It was Miramax that presented that picture. It was Miramax that presented a slew of my top films since then including “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, “Clerks”, “The Aviator” and many more memorable pictures that have defined the last two decades of Film making for me. As much as this is true Miramax was also the epitome of the Film-business with Bob and Harvey Weinstein at the helm of the 31 year old company. Now it seems, things have changed.

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TWC TBC?

I’ve always loved the Weinstiens, and who hasn’t right? They pioneered the idea of mini-majors and basically created Tarintino, Soderberg, Kevin Smith and a slew of other Indie (now not-so-indie-anymore) directors. But WTF has been going on behind those doors at The Weinstien Company (TWC) since they split form Disney? Here is a the long and short of it aggregated from other media sources to ensure your reading pleasure..

Now through the magic of The New York Times and Anne Thompson’s Thompson on Hollywood, I can bring you a condensed version of what’s going on with TWC.

The Weinstein Company was founded in 2005 after Bob and Harvey Weinstein left Miramax – the company they created in 1979.
Last month, the company hired Miller Buckfire, an investment consultant that specializes in companies close to bankruptcy and those that have pressing needs, to help restructure their debt. It’s not to say that things are impossible or even bleak for the company, but they are definitely taking steps to make sure that the walls of their castle are reinforced.

Back in 2005, TWC partnered with Goldman Sachs for $500 million in equity and an additional $500 in securitized debt.
(Securitized debt is essentially a long-term loan that’s been repackaged into marketable securities that are purchased by investors).

TWC has had a few missteps – most notably Grindhouse ($53 million budget/$25 million gross) – without many huge money-makers.

This year (2009), and with this year’s economy, isn’t much different unless Inglorious Basterds and Nine can pull in a solid amount of money.

Also in this awesome economy, the debt that TWC holds as securities isn’t worth as much, and it matures in 2014 – which seems like a long way away unless you’re a company looking straight ahead through the 2012 filmmaking season, desperately needing a win.

The statement from TWC regarding Miller Buckfire is that restructuring will allow them to expand their animation department while keeping everything else going at the same pace.
Which makes sense – so TWC might not be in as bad of trouble as it might seem.

However, the guarantor for a portion of that devalued debt, Ambac Financial Group, is having difficulties of its own.
So that sucks.

Like most companies within the past year, TWC had to fire 24 of its employees (out of its 218-person workforce) back in late 2008 while it was pouring money into an Oscar-campaign for the film The Reader (which only brought in $34 million).
The cherry on top for perspective – no Weinstein film has hit $100 million at the box office.

This little layout is from The Filmschool Rejects site

And here a more updated story on what’s going down from Niki Fink’s Deadline.com

Eric Robinson, a senior production exec at The Weinstein Company, is in talks to exit the company after a decade. CFO Larry Madden has already left. Meanwhile, there’s another round of massive layoffs coming along with talk of another restructuring. Seriously, how is that place surviving? To get down to its goal of 90 employees from 112, The Weinstein Co has to do more firing. Even if Nine does eke out a win or two this Sunday because of its 12 Golden Globe nominations, the most of any studio, thanks to Harvey’s usual manipulation campaign of those faux foreign journalists who make up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it’ll be too late: Nine is losing a shitload of theaters this coming weekend. And it’s a financial disaster.

How bad were the economics of Nine and its impact on The Weinstein Co? When it was also heavily funded by Relativity? First, you have to understand that my experience is that these two companies have a huge problem telling the truth about anything money-wise. Oy vey. But, from what I understand, the Nine financing was rather unique.

TWC produced the feature but only took foreign rights. Given the pedigree of the project and cast, it did well “selling” the film to distributors around the world for an advance guaranty. (Unlike a major studio, companies like TWC sell off the foreign rights to distributors in each territory). Both TWC and Relativity claim $50 million in foreign sales was generated. But my sources not only very much doubt that number, they laugh at it.

But let’s assume for the moment that this is correct. TWC then sold the domestic rights to Relativity. TWC agreed to market and distribute the film on behalf of Relativity in the U.S. for a 15% fee. Relativity claims it put up up advance of $16 million, but my sources say it was close to $30 million for domestic.

Relativity insists it did not cover P&A on Nine, rather TWC did. My sources say the film will never recoup its P&A understood to be $45 million. (Relativity insists that’s a “very inflated and inaccurate” figure. But they also don’t correct it. My sources say it’s right.)

Both TWC and Relativity will get hurt together. And both companies say these projections on Nine are wrong. So let’s do the math: The film’s box office is currently $17+ million. Let’s be generous and say it ends up at $25 million. This is North American box office, so when you take out Canada (which was licensed to Alliance as a pre-sale), the U.S. will be around $22.5 million. Translated to gross film rental (what the distributor takes from the box office), there will be about $10.7 million taken in By TWC. Add PPV - $1.25 million, DVD/VOD - $17.5 million, Pay TV - $3.5 million, Free TV - $2.5 million, and the total is $35.7 million in revenue.

Now compare the costs: Theatrical P&A - $45 million, Residuals - $2 million, Gross Participations - ?, TWC Distribution Fee (15%) - $5.35 million, DVD Marketing and Distribution Costs - $7 million, and the total is $59.35 million (without any assumption for gross participations).

Since The Weinstein Co is responsible for the P&A costs, then they will lose at least $20 million on the film ($25 million shortfall, minus the $5.35 million fee they earn for distributing on behalf of Relativity).

As for The Weinstein Co, it’s supposedly considering several deals to restructure its finances yet again while its liquidity is on life support and its creditors breathe down their necks.

Isn’t moviemaking a fun business?

THANK YOU NIKI!

Isn’t moviemaking a fun business!

2010 and The Film maker

I’ve really come to like the end of a year. A place where becoming nostalgic over the last years events is acceptable and coming up with ideas of the future year dinner time conversation. Having a hint of optimism in thought brings out the best in us and so our futures seem bright and full of opportunity. Now having practiced some of this rhetoric together with vast amounts of wine “tasting” this past festive season I would like to share my view on what we could expect of 2010 in the context of film making.

The recession is the first thing that comes to mind and the fact that the mini-major is a dwindling business operation. The middle-man it seems is dead although the idea of major studios investing in smaller films is far from it. With successes like Paranormal and even to some extent District 9 the major studios know that there is still great money to be made on film makers with a good idea. Thus the $1 000 000 movie is going to make a come-back. Studios may have sold or liquidated their money spending teen-age studios but that wont deter them from trying to find that golden nugget that will cost them next to nothing and earn them the same as a one of the tent-poles.

This year will be an up for SA films. More being released this year that 2009 for sure! Consider most films produced last year where predominantly funded in 2008 so just before the great depression (sic) and will be coming out this year. Just of the cuff, Nightdrive, Master Harold and the boys, Schuster 2010, Bang-Bang Club and I believe there’s a White Wedding 2 in the making…? This output will either help to increase the long tail productivity of our indy industry with good stories made well or otherwise not do anything and a re-hash of ill-made films will be still be our cross to bear.

The advent of super-success of SA stories globally is giving us a moment in the sunshine. This year more producers will be selling their wares than before. The generation of capitol investment for film will go into up-turn due to some hard selling in the international markets where we (as an industry) have been going for years. This investment up-turn may be small on a local scale as we as film makers try to steal the imaginations and bank balance points of those more “fortunate” than us. However this is still a battle for some years to come. I presume most of the income generation for films in 2010 will come from international sources.

There have been more treaties signed with countries like Ireland and France which will all lead to more options and scope for co-productions. The only potential stumbling block is the R10 mil DTI cap for bigger blockbuster style films. However, this cap is great for smaller films and up-and-coming producers. Relations with SADC is is also becoming a potential gold-mine for investment. New companies like Black Irish in Johannesburg are making their first features on the giant back which is Africa. Even Big World Cinema in Cape Town is making some core business choices to include and produce African cinema.

Government and economic policy is still not clear on section 21 TAX and although producers in SA are doing their best to make it a working system its stays a point of contention. It will still be the DTI 35% rebate that carries most sales and now with an offer of 70% of gap-financing to afford a completion bond the DTI is setting itself up as the daddy of film finance.

To talk about the NFVF only hurts and one line that comes to mind is “good intentions pave the way to hell”. So far their politically charged agendas have done little to create a sustainable, intelligent and entertaining industry. Don’t let that deter you though, they do have a mandate and a budget and if you have the project and the pitch go get yours…

The ex-film schooler will find out that this is a hard nut to crack but opportunities lie in making good content. I hope to see some “bed-head cinema” this year from fringe film makers. I hope to get invited to some screenings in apartments and basement. Films that shock, that are terrible and majestic. This is why the indy-world is so great. Anything is possible.

How will the soccer affect us? I’m not sure. But if you have a soccer film about a young black boy making it and fulfilling his dream (in soccer) despite the obvious obstacles, thats a good place to start.

Enjoy this year of 2010 and keep that slither of optimism about you, its what brings out the best in us after all.

All in a weeks work

These last months have been something to write about - so thats where I’ll start this 2010. Last year I worked on some small projects, short films if you will.

The first was the 1minutetosavethesworld shorts. Done under the Sandbox Collective umbrella,we produced two projects and one of them did very well and ultimately went on to show at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference. The project was Justine’s idea and was directed by Louw.

The Sandbox Collective is a group initiated by Zaheer Goodman who is exec producer at Spier Films. This “collective” has a aim to collaborate and create interesting, creative and impact-full media. Coming together and choosing a project of the cuff was a very intuitive process and there wasn’t a moment when we sat down to determine what the pro’s and con’s would be and who would do what on these films. The outcome was thus both very exhilarating and excruciating. We created a project that went on to show in Copenhagen and also made a project that didn’t make its way out of the post facility. This is the bias of intuitive only production. It either felt right or not - but when it did it felt real good.

When the project was completed we had to have a little de-briefing with exec - Ultimately we should have just done one project and done it well. HAving this second project on our minds messed up the full potential of the group. alas.. Hopefully that will not be our last as the Sandbox Collective still has a lot of potential to make great stuff!

Moving on, I produced a short film with Daniel Wilner. He is predominantly a theatre director that wanted to make movies. What I liked about Dan was his attitude toward making this film. It was a “I will do anything to make it happened” attitude. After asking me to produce it he quickly produced the script, I liked it and it took us one week to organize (although the evening before we had to recast our major players thanks to some external issues) and it cost us in total R2000 (thats about $280). We shot with a tiny crew of 5 people (thats Director, AD, DOP, Sound & PM) and three actors. Our cost went into Camera hire (Take2 Films always supporting!), catering, petrol and a parks release. Right now the tapes are in Canada waiting to be transferred and edited.

This project was great because the roles where clear. Everyone bought into the execution strategy and was was part of the planning process. Dan was open to ideas and given the small, but very talented crew, the ideas where of high quality and all added to the making of the film. The shooting day was relaxed and although we had to drop an establishing shot (which we got the next day) we got all the footage and then some.

Finally I produced a 3minute montage about ideas. This project was financed by a consulting firm who deal with futures consulting and wanted something to show clients that would “open their minds to new ideas”. The brief was short and time was shorter so within literally 4 days this project had to be out. Richard Lackey became the editor/sfx guy and I was researcher, director, producer. With so little time there was not much time for concept approvals and cut approvals but we did manage to get out three versions and the clients where very accommodating regarding feedback. This was a tremendous help to both me and richard who become very wrapped up in what we where doing.

Because the project needed to be viewed globally I uploaded it Vimeo for future showing as well as dropping a version onto DropIO which is a free service and works like a bomb! This way the clients where able to download any of the versions, watch and then just mail me concerns or ideas. The workflow was a bit sketchy but if we do another project with this company I think it will be 100% smoother.

Virtual Consulting - a Video about Ideas from Jozua Malherbe on Vimeo.

Looking forward, working with small crews has its pro’s. Being malleable, sharing high quality ideas, and being able to pull of projects within a small amount of time. However the small team needs to be people you know, people who you (preferably) have worked with before and absolutely respect their ideas and execution. Without this prior knowledge I find it hard to communicate succinctly and ultimately either the relationship or the project suffers.

Keep in touch this year. READ/WRITE PLAY.

Pink Flamingo.. Cinema for the auteur?

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Gone are the days of “ag please daddy wont you take us to the drive-in..”, flat coke, stale popcorn amassed with MSG and mono sound out of a 5.1 surround system. Although still steeped in retro the Pink-Flamingo Cinema on top of Grand Daddy Hotel has gone posh.

The cinema will be showing classic cinema… Everything from “The Hudsucker Proxy” to “Breakfast at Tiffanys” and “Howls Moving Castle”, allowing any decerning movie goer (well at least those of you who have an account at DVD Nouveau) the pleasure of watching your favorite movies in style.

Kitted out with leather couches the movie experience is already satisfying and now add chilled refreshments and a kiosk that sells Toffee Apples, Candy Floss, Eskimo Pie and of coarse delicious butter popcorn. Tickets are sold at R50 a pop but include your choice of Pop-corn, candy floss or ice cream as well as a old skool styled candy cone.

What’s more is that you can book the entire place for R2500 for the night which will include drinks for your 35 guests. That sounds like a night out waiting to happen.

This is a great innovative new take on what cinema can be and can offer. What a great place to have your movie premier for example and at such a low cost to book the whole place a pitch session to investors in a classy environment is totally possible! Although seemingly quite pricey for broke film makers like me, when I do the math and its only R100 (me +1) for a evening of great movie and snacks its rather reasonable.

How flippen cool!

Check it out here
You can also check out the FaceBook or follow them on Twitter

Showing films that have stayed in a happy corner of our memories; The Pink Flamingo is part drive-in, part social event and part adventure. Set in the world’s only rooftop trailer park hotel, The Pink Flamingo celebrates the silver screen in a silver setting – right beneath the night sky.

SA Rebate Guidelines

Now you know!

South Africa Film Rebate Guidelines

Investor All Sorts

I have been despondent. Over the last couple of months my life has been turned upside down (kick-in Fresh Prince, without the awesome mansion in the end) and I have need stifled trying to write positive, cool stuff. This post is not a ” I’M BACK ” post because I haven’t really been gone either.

I have come to see the role of investor differently over the last while though. The actuality of making films is a part of the bigger process of making films. What I am getting at is that we as film makers have lots to do before actually rolling a camera or starting pre-production. What has been getting me down is getting this stuff (in-between) to become cash generators. I tweeted this earlier in the day and got massive response from film makers echoing their current situations.

The truth is that if it where easy, more people would be doing it…my question, does it really have to be THIS hard?! And the answer back to myself is probably not.

Investors are people too. They are just blessed with the affinity to recognize talent or a good investment with probable return. The last part of that sentence being the crux of this article. See, I don’t believe anymore that the only way to find investment or to use investment is in the practical making of the film. I am on a new kind of mission. People who will invest (money or otherwise) in me to maybe find the money, or do the research or meet the people that will make my films possible. I am in the business of me. What I can contribute at the end of the day is a film, yes, but more than that, I have skill sets that make me commodity.

Being a commodity gives me a value. The value may be that I am the right person to send to a conference, to write an article, to produce a film. What I am looking for as a commodity is to be used and then paid. I want to take a project and use my skills to make that project a reality.

I will be sure to let you know how this “new” way of looking at investors goes and what doors it may open!

TALK - From Here To Awesome

Production has become democratized while digital distribution is quickly becoming commoditized thus fragmenting the marketplace and resulting in little to no revenue. The problems that the independent film industry faces are well documented but where do we go from here? What are the new models of discovery and distribution? How are storytellers going to fund, create, distribute and sustain from their work? ARIN CRUMLEY (Four Eyed Monster, As the Dust Settles) SCOTT MACAULAY (film producer & editor of FILMMAKER MAGAZINE) NOAH HARLAN (film producer & mobile app developer), SCOTT KIRSNER (journalist and author), DON ARGOTT (ROCK SCHOOL)

Indie Self Distribution

Quentin Tarantino never had to go through this..

By MICHAEL CIEPLYNY Times

“The Age of Stupid” will officially open in the United States with showings paid for by the filmmakers and their backers.
When “The Age of Stupid,” a climate change movie, “opens” across the United States in September, it will play on some 400 screens in a one-night event, with a video performance by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, all paid for by the filmmakers themselves and their backers. In Britain, meanwhile, the film has been showing via an Internet service that lets anyone pay to license a copy, set up a screening and keep the profit.
The glory days of independent film, when hot young directors like Steven Soderbergh and Mr. Tarantino had studio executives tangled in fierce bidding wars at Sundance and other celebrity-studded festivals, are now barely a speck in the rearview mirror. And something new, something much odder, has taken their place.

Here is how it used to work: aspiring filmmakers playing the cool auteur in hopes of attracting the eye of a Hollywood power broker.
Here is the new way: filmmakers doing it themselves — paying for their own distribution, marketing films through social networking sites and Twitter blasts, putting their work up free on the Web to build a reputation, cozying up to concierges at luxury hotels in film festival cities to get them to whisper into the right ears.

The economic slowdown and tight credit have squeezed the entertainment industry along with everybody else, resulting in significantly fewer big-studio films in the pipeline and an even tougher road for smaller-budget independent projects. Independent distribution companies are much less likely to pull out the checkbook while many of the big studios have all but gotten out of the indie film business.
“It’s not like the audience for these movies has completely disappeared,” said Cynthia Swartz, a partner in the publicity company 42 West, which has been supplementing its mainstream business by helping filmmakers find ways to connect with an audience. “It’s just a matter of finding them.”

Sometimes, the odd approach actually works.

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” a documentary about a Canadian metal band, turned into the do-it-yourself equivalent of a smash hit when it stretched a three-screen opening in April into a four-month run, still under way, on more than 150 screens around the country.
“I paid for everything, I took a second mortgage on my house,” said Sacha Gervasi, the film’s director.

Mr. Gervasi, whose studio writing credits include “The Terminal,” directed by Steven Spielberg, nearly three years ago, began filming “Anvil!” with his own money in hopes of attracting a conventional distributor. The movie played well at Sundance in 2008, but offers were low.
So Mr. Gervasi put up more money — his total cost was in “the upper hundred thousands,” he said — to distribute the film through a company called Abramorama, while selling the DVD and television rights to VH1.

The aging rockers of Anvil have shown up at theaters to play for audiences. Famous fans like Courtney Love were soon chattering online about the film. And an army of “virtual street teamers” — Internet advocates who flood social networks with admiring comments, sometimes for a fee, sometimes not — were recruited by a Web consultant, Sarah Lewitinn, who usually works the music scene.
The idea behind this sort of guerrilla release is to accumulate just enough at the box office to prime the pump for DVD sales and return the filmmaker’s investment, maybe even with a little profit. “Anvil!” has earned roughly $1 million worldwide at the box office so far, its producer, Rebecca Yeldham, said.

Finding even relatively small amounts of money to make and market a film is, of course, no small trick. “The Age of Stupid” raised a production budget of about £450,000 (about $748,000) from 228 shareholders, and is soliciting a bit more to continue its release, Franny Armstrong, its director, said.

“Money has simply vanished,” said Mark Urman, an independent-film veteran, speaking of the financial drought that has pushed producers and directors into shouldering risks that only a few years ago were carried by a more robust field of distributors.
Many of those distributors have either disappeared or severely tightened their operations, including Warner Independent Pictures, Picturehouse, New Line Cinema, Miramax, the Weinstein Company, Paramount Classics and its successor, Paramount Vantage.
Typically, the distributors have paid money upfront for rights to release films. That helped the producers recover what they had already spent on production, but it often left the distributor with most or all of the profit.

Mr. Urman’s own position as president for distribution at Senator Entertainment evaporated this year when financing fell through for a slate of films. So he started a new company, Paladin, to support filmmakers willing to finance their own releases.
In September, Paladin is expected to help the filmmaker Steve Jacobs and his fellow producers release “Disgrace,” a drama with John Malkovich that is based on a novel by the Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee.

The film won a critics prize at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but no attractive distribution offers. One key to releasing it without a Miramax, said Mr. Urman, is to minimize expensive advertising in newspapers or on television and play directly to a friendly audience — in this case through extensive promotional tie-ins with Mr. Coetzee’s publishers.

“Everyone still dreams there’s going to be a conventional sale to a major studio,” said Kevin Iwashina, once an independent-film specialist with the Creative Artists Agency and now a partner at IP Advisors, a film sales and finance consulting company. But, he said, smart producers and directors are figuring out how to tap the value in projects on their own.

Some big companies will still be on the hunt in Toronto this year, where the annual festival is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.
“We’ll be there in full force,” said Nancy Utley, a president of Fox Searchlight Pictures, which last year acquired rights to “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Wrestler,” both screened in Toronto.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Robert G. Friedman, a chairman of Summit Entertainment, which acquired “The Hurt Locker,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The film was offered in Toronto last year and has already been mentioned widely as an Oscar contender.
But some filmmakers and producers pointed toward the festival have already started working for themselves, rather than waiting for the few remaining, and ever fussier, buyers to swoop in.

In fact, the next-wave Tarantinos are in Canada already — coddling not prospective buyers, but concierges, who just might steer people to promotional parties and screenings.

“These guys have figured it out,” Barry Avrich, a member of the festival’s governing board, said of the do-it-yourself crowd. “They’re into all the cool hotels, to get the concierges thinking about them.”

Interview with the Producers of NIGHTDRIVE

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The Producers of NIGHT DRIVE: James Carroll and C.A. van Aswegen

Hi guys, thanks for doing this interview/questionnaire for ReadWrite. I am very excited about this for two reasons; one: this is the third Film Factory endeavor followed by your first hit Bakgat! and two: Horror movie.

Lets start with the basics shall we… What is NIGHT DRIVE?

Night Drive is a South Africa horror / thriller set in the bush. Sean Darwin (Chris Beasley) used to be a maverick undercover cop with the Endangered Species Protection Unit, but after an operation involving a smuggling syndicate goes bad and results in the death of an innocent woman, Sean is kicked out of the police. Feeling disgruntled and shell-shocked, Sean tries to find comfort in a bottle, but it does little to stop the constant bombardment of haunting flashbacks to the tragic incident.

A dying wish is about to change Sean’s life forever. His terminally-ill mother (Jennifer Steyn) asks him to scatter her ashes back home at Nyari Game Reserve, where the escalation in poaching has resulted in an all out war between Sean’s estranged father - the jaded ex-special forces soldier now turned game ranger, Jack Darwin (Greg Melvill-Smith) – and a band of ruthless poachers.

On arrival in Nyari Game Reserve, Sean is forced to join a group of tourists on a night drive safari. For married couple Karen (Corine du Toit) and Ian (Brandon Auret), it’s a chance to escape the traumatic memories of a home invasion that left Karen feeling suicidal, and turned her husband Ian into a trigger-happy cocaine addict. For golden oldies Rodger (David Sherwood) and Mary (Clare Marshall), it’s a chance to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in Africa – a lifelong dream. For Tumi (Matshepo Maleme) and Denzel (Antonio David Lyons), it’s another opportunity to continue their steamy love affair.

Africa has often been thought of as The Dark Continent, but for Sean Darwin and this eclectic mix of people, it’s about to get even darker. It’s not long before they make a gruesome discovery: the poachers are now hunting people for their body parts to be sold on the black market! The evidence is left behind by a refugee woman’s mutilated body - the work of a gang of muti poachers who extract their victims’ organs while they’re still alive. Hell-bent on tracking them down, Jack leaves the group in the care of his timid, superstitious tracker, Akani (Yule Masiteng).

Sean becomes the group’s only hope for survival, but if he’s going to keep them all alive he’ll have to confront his own inner-demons before they drive him to the brink of insanity…and everyone else to their graves!

Why did you guys choose to go Horror as a follow up to Bakgat? Considering Bakgat! was a comedy and did amazingly for you do you think audiences will follow you into this genre?

The success of Bakgat! was due to carefully developing a film that would attract the largest possible Afrikaans audience. The fact that it has spilled over into a non-Afrikaans market only serves to prove the strength of the script and genre. Local audiences like seeing themselves represented in a way that’s attractive, proud and endearing. Night Drive is our first English language film and again, we want to attract the largest possible market segment. Horror/thriller films do decent money in South Africa and Night Drive is something audiences locally or internationally haven’t seen before. It isn’t about monsters attacking people or mutant wildlife – it’s about the scariest monster of all - man. It has a basis in reality in terms of the muti murderers. In recent history poachers out towards the border have been found with human body parts.

The response from media regarding the film has been amazing – and they haven’t seen a single frame yet! The film looks incredible, it has the who’s-who of South African performers and the subject and context are seriously thrilling. Night Drive was developed to be our calling-card to an overseas audience whilst giving local audiences a film they have been waiting for.

I was on your website and noticed a couple of your sponsors. Are these people involved as executive producers / investors? How have you incorporated other businesses into Night Drive regarding your investment needs?

The sponsors who’ve come onboard to support us have been fantastic. While they haven’t provided us with cash, the product and services they’ve offered have made the film possible. Proaction provided all of Chris Beasley’s outfits as well as loaning us a KTM 990 bike for his specialist training and the shoot. Guess have dressed the majority of the leading cast – a massive saving considering all the triples that were required. Face to Face did all of the extensive prosthetic make-up and gore as well as providing students to work as crew. Conrad from Skinbling did all the hair for the shoot and publicity. Jaded Ink did tattoo designs and applications for several of the actors. When audiences see Chris or Chang’s (Kenneth Fok) tattoos, they will be convinced they are completely real.

We had brilliant support from service companies like Media Film Service, Motion Picture Effects, Nate’s Audio Visual and Digital Film. They are just as passionate about the feature film industry in South Africa as we are. Our primary location host Pelinduna Adventures in Broederstroom helped tremendously by also catering, housing and transporting us while we were shooting.

With all our projects, The Film Factory is always first in on the investment front. Some people say we’re crazy to do this, but we view it as a show of good faith to both our investors and the people we work with. We have, at best, conservative budgets and pay our crew and cast a fraction of what they are worth but they understand where we are coming from and we all want to make good films.

How did you guys decide on director and cast for this film? The cast all look great and have a real sense of normality to them, they gave me the feeling that they are all real, normal people. Was that intentional?

We’ve worked with Justin Head (director/writer) before and pitched the story outline to him in the middle of 2008. He loved the idea and we immediately went into development with the film. He’s also the first writer we know to deliver quality material early. He’s really professional and loves what he does. The casting was completely intentional. We had over 150 people read for Chris’ role before casting him. Again, it makes such a difference working with experienced, talented people. We’re really proud of our cast and think audiences are going to be blown away at what they see.

I noticed in your production stills on Facebook that you have built a camera rig for a CANON DSLR. How are you using technology in shooting this film?

As far as we can tell, we are the first feature film worldwide to shoot completely on Canon 5D Mark II cameras. We’re definitely the first in SA. It’s completely bizarre shooting on what is essentially a stills camera but for the purpose of Night Drive, the look we required, the budget we had, it was the best choice. Trevor Calverley, our DP, pitched us the idea and we did extensive tests before deciding on this format. He was spot on.

Our grip Justin van Zyl built us several different rigs that are used in the film including a body mount rig, a shoulder rifle rig and even what we’ve termed ‘panga-cam’! The results are terrifyingly good and it gives the film an epic feeling. The world that we’ve created feels massive and real. We had to build these as there simply are no rigs for the gear! Getting the camera onto a jib was a challenge, especially with a tiny follow focus, but the results are worth it.

For productions on a small budget like this, the 5D levels the playing field. We have 35mm ‘weight’ on a DV budget. Yes, we’ve had to find workarounds for sound and post, but these ‘hindrances’ have actually helped us. All our sound is recorded separately as opposed to running through a mixer back into the camera – this gives our sound designer, Bibi Segola, four channels of quality material to work with.

We developed a workflow for converting the 30p HD footage to a workable 25p HD format. It took a little while to work this out and the conversions are tedious, but the system is no more difficult than working RED or D21 footage.

Have you found using social media in the pre-marketing for the film to be useful and actually convert to selling tickets? And how are you guys involved with your audience prior to cinema release?

Social media is essential – the Bakgat! group is standing on 45,000 fans. That’s insane when you think that we haven’t advertised our group – people have actively sort it out and joined. It becomes a very powerful direct marketing base for a willing and receptive audience. The sequel to Bakgat! happened because of public demand.

It’s very important to continuously update the groups – on Night Drive for example we had a Twitter feed giving the public a timeline of our progress. The majority of our behind-the-scenes will be available first online followed by traditional broadcast.

We pay attention to what audiences are saying online and don’t take their praise and criticism lightly.

You are almost done shooting now. How has it been going and where can we keep up to date with the picture?

Yes, principal photography wrapped on Friday. It was an incredible, exhausting experience. Lots of night shoots, lots of gore, lots of pyros and stunts. We were incredibly lucky with weather and the film gods blessed us with a talented, motivated crew and cast.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and on our website. We’ll be releasing promo material consistently over the next couple of months leading up to festivals and eventually our cinema release in South Africa in the middle of 2010.

When are you looking at opening the film and can you tell us anymore about your distribution strategy for NIGHT DRIVE?

We’re looking at releasing the film country wide in the middle of 2010 through our local distributor Ster-Kinekor. We’re also talking to sales agents at the moment to get the film into markets overseas.

What is your take on making films for local audiences VS making films for international audiences?

It’s a difficult divide. Local audiences are very supportive of local content – if it’s in their language. English language films battle because they are competing with major studio films; films with budgets, films with stars and films with production values that people are used to. Our advantage comes from the improving quality of films that have come out of South Africa in recent years – Jerusalema, District 9, White Wedding. Audiences are responding positively and they are seeing real value. Time will tell if Night Drive performs well locally – we think it will.

Well, thanks so much for your time and making this film! Please send the trailer when you have one so we can post it on ReadWrite!

Absolutely!

And so to their las tpoint here are some still frames from the actual Film . Horaa!

chris_03.jpeg
leroy02.jpeg
brandon-1.jpeg
corine.jpeg

Age of Stupid

One of the most important films of the year (perhaps decade) is about to be released. Take note. While this film is about the collective future of humanity, this film is equally or more important because it represents the future of film, film culture and film distribution and marketing.
Since the recent collapse of the independent distribution and monetization model (of about 5000 feature films produced a year, perhaps a handful will recoup their investment), independent filmmakers have been searching and experimenting with new DIY and hybrid models of distribution and marketing. It has become apparent that no longer can filmmakers rely on a white knight to swoop down, pay them handsomely and guarantee them a release (if that ever really happened).

Filmmakers need to realize that getting your film in front of an audience is at least half of their job as filmmakers.
The filmmakers behind The Age of Stupid get it. They get it to the nth degree and it is exciting. They are blazing a trail for filmmakers to not only release their films in their home countries, but around the world.
We are on the verge of a new dawn, where fans support the films they want to see and where those films can create a worldwide theatrical release without studio support.

Premiering on 550 screens in 45 countries today, September 21st, (in the United States) and tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22nd, (in the rest of the world) the hardworking folks at The Age of Stupid have done with limited means what corporations spend millions of dollars trying to do: create a world wide cinematic event.
I’ve spent the last year writing a book about the transformation of film distribution and marketing for the digital era. A couple of key points about the world of film distribution and marketing and The Age of Stupid:

  1. Theatrical is not dead. It is being reborn. Filmmakers must take back the theatrical experience and reclaim it as live events/theatrical.
    Live because it occurs with an audience and emphasizes the important communal nature of the filmgoing experience.
    Events not only because it happens at a specific place and time, but because the future of the theatrical model for independents are screenings that feel like happenings or special occasions, aka events. The Age of Stupid is the first independent film to do this on a global level.
    Theatrical because independent filmmakers like to say that they had a theatrical release. It’s a term that has been in use for decades; let’s not
    throw it out yet, let’s take it back.

The Age of Stupid is creating this event by having it take place on only two nights, throughout the world, selling advance tickets (you better get your ticket — my preferred theater was sold out on Saturday!)
They are also having musical performances, live appearances, and environmental events occurring simultaneously: Greenpeace is broadcasting a melting glacier. Thom Yorke is playing live from his studio in London. Kofi Annan is appearing in NYC. And more.

  1. Engagement with your audience is the future of film. Do this as early as possible. Any aspiring or established media content create observe how The Age of Stupid got it done:
    They created alliances with organizations and NGOs such as Greenpeace, MoveOn, etc.

They created a dynamic website (that has a great sense of humor but is straight and to the point) that encouraged their audience to get involved, providing clear concrete actions such as:

Funding the film. Most of the money for The Age of Stupid, £857,000 for their film, came through direct contributions from their fans. They have even provided a how-to crowdfund on their website.

The audience is screening the film. Through indiescreenings.net they are engaging their audience to create screenings for the film.

You should go see this film not because I feel it is a great film (I haven’t seen it yet!) but because you will be participating in the rebirth of film culture.

It’s not just the film, it’s how you get people to see it, stupid!

For more about independent film distribution and marketing go to jonreiss.com/blog You can follow Jon’s thoughts on film distribution and marketing at: www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss.

Original Article @ Huffington Post

Declaration of Independence: The Ten Principles of Hybrid Distribution

by Peter Broderick (September 21, 2009)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That whenever any form of distribution becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new distribution most likely to effect their livelihood and happiness.

When a long train of abuses and usurpations reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such distribution.

Thomas Jefferson (liberties taken by Peter Broderick)

Hybrid distribution is the state-of-the-art model more and more filmmakers are using to succeed. It enables them to have unprecedented access to audiences, to maintain overall control of their distribution, and to receive a significantly larger share of revenues.

This article is a sequel to my report, “Welcome to the New World of Distribution,” which was published exactly a year ago in indieWIRE. Since the report appeared, the Old World of Distribution has continued to decline. The vast majority of filmmakers making Old World deals (in which they give all of their distribution rights to one company for up to 25 years) are ending up dissatisfied, including producers and directors who had previously succeeded in the Old World. Many of them have told me that the traditional distribution system is broken and that they are determined to find a new approach.

Meanwhile it has been a banner year in the New World. Hybrid distribution has come into its own with such successes as “Valentino: The Last Emperor” and “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” both of which hired service deal companies to handle their theatrical distribution. Working with Abramorama, ANVIL has grossed over $675,000 in U.S. theaters. Through Truly Indie and Vitagraph Films, “Valentino” grossed more than $1,755,000 theatrically. In addition to consulting on “Valentino,” I also consulted on a number of other films that successfully combined theatrical service deals and semi-theatrical runs, including “The Singing Revolution” (Abramorama), “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” (theatrical: Balcony Releasing; semi-theatrical: Film Sprout), “Note by Note” (Argot Pictures) and “Throw Down Your Heart” (Argot Pictures).

I coined the term “hybrid distribution” in 2005 to describe the innovative model I had been developing for several years alongside a handful of pioneering independents. Inspired by the example of “Reversal” (which Jimi Petulla sold so lucratively from his website), I helped design the strategy for one of the first hybrid breakthroughs—Mark Neale’s documentary “Faster.” Since then I’ve worked with hundreds of filmmakers to develop and implement hybrid strategies. Each film I’ve consulted on—from features such as “Ballast” and “Good Dick” to documentaries like “King Corn” and “The Future of Food”—has helped me refine the hybrid distribution model.

As this model has been used more widely, the meaning of the term “hybrid distribution” has become less precise. When Thom Powers asked me to give a presentation at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, I took the opportunity to define the core principles of hybrid distribution. My goal was to break the concept into essential components that filmmakers can use to create customized distribution strategies. This article expands on my Toronto presentation.

Let’s start with a definition. Hybrid distribution combines direct sales by filmmakers with distribution by third parties (e.g. DVD distributors, TV channels, VOD companies, educational distributors). In the Old World of Distribution, Plan A was to give all your distribution rights to one company and Plan B was self-distribution. In the New World, Plan A is doing your own direct sales while splitting up the other rights; Plan B is making an all-rights deal with one company.


Today many filmmakers are as determined to retain “distribution control” as they are to maintain “creative control.” Distribution control is the power to determine the overall structure and sequence of distribution, select distribution partners, and divide up distribution rights. While single source production financing usually means the loss of some measure of creative control, single source distribution through an all-rights deal always means the loss of distribution control.

A hybrid approach enables filmmakers to choose partners with the resources and expertise to maximize distribution in different channels while allowing filmmakers themselves to do what they do best—reach core audiences directly.

The following ten principles are distilled from the experience of filmmakers I have worked with across the country and overseas. As their distribution strategist, I have been by their side as they have explored the New World of Distribution.

  1. Design a customized distribution strategy.

Every film needs a customized distribution strategy. Ideally this strategy should be designed before the film is made, increasing the chances of securing financing. To create a strategy, filmmakers must clearly define their goals and priorities, identify the film’s initial core audiences, plan different versions of the film (e.g. theatrical, television, DVD, foreign, educational), determine distribution avenues and a release sequence, identify potential partners, and decide how to initially position the film both online and off. The strategy should be flexible, implemented one stage at a time, and regularly assessed and refined.

  1. Split distribution rights.

While in the Old World of Distribution all domestic rights were usually given to one company, hybrid distribution enables rights to be split more finely and effectively. Filmmakers retain direct sales rights, including the right to sell DVDs from their websites and at screenings, and the right to sell downloads and rentals from their sites. Most often filmmakers also retain theatrical and semi-theatrical. VOD, television, and retail DVD deals are usually made with separate distribution partners. Deals are often made with educational partners but some filmmakers are retaining these rights. Digital rights for avenues like iTunes are more complicated—they are sometimes given to the retail DVD distributor or the VOD distributor and sometimes licensed separately.

Rights can be usefully divided into eight domestic and two international categories:

DOMESTIC
Theatrical
Semi-Theatrical & Non-theatrical
VOD
Television
Retail DVD
Direct DVD
Educational
Digital Rental & Download

INTERNATIONAL
Television
Other (Theatrical, DVD & Digital)

While splitting up rights is complicated and time consuming, it allows each right to be exploited well, avoids cross-collateralization (where expenses from one area of distribution eat away at revenues from others), and allows a filmmaker to retain overall distribution control.

  1. Choose effective distribution partners.

In the Old World where all domestic distribution rights were usually lumped together, certain rights were often poorly utilized or completely overlooked. In the New World, it is important to determine how best to exploit every right without neglecting any of them. Filmmakers can handle some rights most successfully on their own. In other areas, the goal is to find the distribution partner with the skills and experience to be most effective. Ideally this partner has an impressive track record with similar films or particular niche audiences. Before signing any deal with a distribution partner, it is essential to speak with other filmmakers currently or recently in business with the company.

  1. Circumscribe rights.

Grant each distribution partner only the specific rights they can handle well. For example, if a company is strong in retail DVD and digital, give them these rights, but do not also give them VOD if they have no experience with VOD.

Carefully limit the rights (scope, term, exclusivity) granted to each partner. Make sure the rights given to different distributors complement each other without conflicting. Make as many deals as possible at the same time so the rights given in one area do not subsequently prevent you from making deals in other areas.

  1. Craft win-win deals.

Design deals that will work well for both your distribution partner and you. Divide revenues fairly and define responsibilities clearly. Build in guarantees (e.g. minimum number of cities and marketing spend, performance guarantee), approvals (e.g. deals, marketing, editing), and safeguards (e.g. escape clauses, expense cap, bankruptcy protection, limits on assignment, dispute resolution).

  1. Retain direct sales rights.

Retain the domestic and international rights to sell DVDs (from your website and at screenings) and downloads and streams (from your website). Also retain the rights to screen the film theatrically and semi-theatrically.

Direct sales are the lynchpin of a hybrid distribution strategy. They have four significant advantages over third-party sales:

• Higher profit margins – A DVD sold directly from a filmmaker’s website can easily yield profit margins 7-8 times as high as DVDs sold in retail.

• Faster payment – Filmmakers usually receive payments faster from PayPal or a fulfillment company than they would from a distributor.

• Revenues aren’t split with middlemen – Filmmakers receive all of the revenues, after manufacturing and fulfillment costs.

• Customer information – Filmmakers receive data on all customers who make purchases from their websites, but do not get any information on consumers who buy through third-party retailers. This data enables filmmakers to stay in touch with purchasers and offer them other products.

  1. Assemble a distribution team.

It is as important to have a distribution team, as it is to have a production team. This team includes some or all of the following: strategist, producer’s rep, foreign sales agent, webmaster, outreach coordinator, theatrical and semi-theatrical bookers, print and online publicists, and fulfillment company.


  1. Partner with nonprofits and online communities.

Nonprofits can be indispensable distribution partners. They can build awareness among key core audiences by hosting screenings at national conventions and local chapters, by co-sponsoring house parties, and by promoting films through their publications and websites. Online communities can also increase buzz, audience, and sales (through affiliate marketing), potentially helping your film go viral.

  1. Maximize direct revenues.

In addition to selling DVDs directly from their websites, filmmakers can also sell other products they produce (e.g. soundtrack albums, companion books, posters, hats, and t-shirts). Filmmakers can also purchase related products from third parties (e.g. books, DVDs, CDs) that will be of particular interest to their audiences. As online retailers, they can buy these products at wholesale and resell them from their sites at retail.

  1. Grow and nurture audiences.

Independents can expand their films’ audiences by building mailing lists, communicating effectively and developing ongoing relationships with subscribers. They should provide them with valuable and engaging content, while keeping sales pitches to a minimum. They should also create a content-rich, dynamic, and interactive website that encourages participation. Their ultimate goal is to develop a core personal audience that can support future projects through contributions and purchases.

While hybrid distribution is the state-of-the-art model for the New World, it is not the best approach for all independent films. Some movies are better served by an Old World all-rights deal with an experienced distributor. The best distributors have resources, relationships, and expertise, which can be essential to a wide theatrical release. They may also have advantageous deals in place for VOD, DVD, and digital rights. If filmmakers do due diligence (by speaking with other filmmakers involved with the distributor they are considering) and are able to negotiate a fair deal, their best choice may be an all-rights deal. Higher budget, more mainstream features are better suited for an Old World approach.

Hybrid strategies are ideal for most documentaries. Lower budget, more distinctive features, like “Good Dick,” may also be better off splitting up their rights in the New World. Features with strong core audiences can also do well implementing a hybrid model. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” used a theatrical service deal to gross over $241 million domestically.

Just as the development of digital filmmaking tools in the ‘90s meant that no one could stop determined independents from making movies, the evolution of hybrid distribution in this decade means that no one can stop tenacious filmmakers from bringing their films into the world.

As the New World of Distribution continues to expand, hybrid distribution will become the optimal model for a wider array of films. It offers three major advantages over an all-rights deal. By enabling filmmakers to retain “distribution control,” it allows them to use strategies that are much more customized and better targeted. Hybrid distribution gives filmmakers a significantly larger share of revenues through direct sales and fairer terms in third-party deals. By providing filmmakers direct access to viewers, it also lets independents develop a supportive audience around films and to build a personal fan base that can help sustain them over time. Hybrid distribution can make the difference between being a dependent filmmaker in the Old World or an independent filmmaker in the New World

Indy Distribution & Marketing

Anyway, to all: would most indie filmmakers pay $1000 a year (that’s about $84 a month) to make sure someone promoted & distributed on a regular basis (even passively distributed - made available to interested customers & or free viewers in whatever media) their $10K or so indie feature? Probably, I know I probably would - specially if the distro work being paid for brings in either some useful exposure & or more than $1K in sales (over 100 DVDs at $10 each would do that).

So, let’s say 1000 filmmakers buy into such a service (a company promoting their finished real indie features on a regular - daily or weekly - basis all year long for $1K a year), that would mean a $1 million revenue stream for that company.

So the company now has 1000 real indie films to promote & sell. And it would be good for the company if their clients - the indie filmmakers - were able to make more than $1K a year because of their services - ‘cause that way the filmmakers are not losing money on retaining this distro & marketing service & would most likely continue their account w/ the company the following year. So who do the company sell the 1,000 films to. I guess they are looking at a possibly significant chunk of the wired population in the US (for web marketing & sales) & anyone with a mail box (for mail order DVDs), & possibly people on the web in other English speaking countries, & possibly other developed countries in general, if the films have subtitles, etc (also possibly non-western countries, but maybe that would take more work, with currency exchange rates & censorship issues, etc. that would probably require a more tweaked model).So, basically, this hypothetical indie distro & marketing company has the challenge of selling/trying to sell copies (digital or physical) of 1,000 movies to perhaps 100 million (in the US) to a half a billion (in the western world) potential customers.

How much might it cost to do such a thing & make a profit?

Who knows? But perhaps $500,000 would be a good start - for year 1. ‘cause if a company that has that much $s are able to secure 1,000 clients who pay $1000 each a year for their services & are also (the company is able to) able to accomplish their marketing & distro work for less than $500K for 1 year, then they will not lose money in year 1 but will make $500K that year (i think i am doing the math right here, right? - raise & spend $500K & make $1 million = 100% profit? - i think so).

Anyway, that’s just a very rough scenario. I think there is a sufficient amount of money being raised & spent in real indie film production in the US for 1 or several excellent (able to accomplish the task well) indie marketing & distro companies to make money by making as many of those indie movies available for sale as possible. On top of that, they need to widely market the films that they represent/distribute (non-exclusive, this distributor/company that I am thinking of would be like a distributor for hire, they make money from fees paid to them by indie filmmakers/the owners of the films that they represent - this company would just market, facilitate sales, maybe even take care of fulfilment - digital & physical, etc.).

Anyway, lots more details where those came from, if anyone is interested.

Also, such a distro company could also be formed by oh maybe 100 to 500 filmmakers & other interested people coming together - at least for the financing part - each investing $1K each to get the business up & running = $100K - $500K start up $s. The actual running of the company will need to be done by competent people who are very enthusiastic about the work, not necessarily the filmmaker/investors (though, being the owners & funders of the company, they will have the ultimate say in things).

So that’s just one possible way to go to solve the real indie distro & marketing problem by using a for-profit (& relatively) small company approach.

Oh, the marketing done by the company cannot just be web only - it needs to be done through all possible media & methods. Maybe start with web & build up to other media quickly. I don’t think the real indie distro options - the few companies who do that kind of work now - advertise & or market enough at this point (probably cause it is expensive or time consuming = expensive, but, that’s where a lot of that $500K start up cash would probably come in handy).

So, bottom line, I think it is possible to create a profitable marketing & distribution business with real indie filmmakers as clients and with the success metrics including the clients making a profit from the fee paid to the company (or the company facilitating perhaps 200 sales of $10 each = $2K a year per project, client doubles the $s spent) & or other measurable indicators such as press coverage, getting work for hire gigs due to work done on behalf of the filmmaker client by the company, etc.

The numbers involved for this model are: 1000 filmmaker clients pay $1000 each a year for the company’s services (being marketing & selling 1 feature film per client) = $1 million in revenue for the company, & the company, in turn, attempt to market & sell the 1000 projects to a potential customer base of 100 million + people (in the US & elsewhere), in an attempt to secure at least 200 sales of $10 each for each of their clients = clients get $2000, or they double their money, and if the company can accomplish this service for $500K a year, they would make a profit of $500K. Everyone wins :)

There can be many different approaches to how the above mentioned company does its work & makes $s for the clients - the above mentioned approach is just one simple one.
And, most importantly, to make sure the customers win, the 1,000 projects selected for year 1 of the company would each have to be considered interesting or entertaining or good or something along those lines by at least a few thousand people who are willing to pay $s to see it.
Let me stop here before Ted kicks me out for taking up too much comment space :)”

Sujewa

Disney VS Marvel. Disney wins @ $50 a stock

090831-disney-marvel-ff.jpg

News to you…to me too! What a bold move by Dinsey to solidify their position as the top animation studio in the world. With both Pixar and Marvel in the fold Disney has every market segment locked - at least every biggest spending market segment.

Bought for $4 billion dollars cash and stock acquisition, Disney is very serious about growth. It is true after all, recession is the best time to buy!

Instead of a comic-book noob trying to tell you the story of marvel and its (actual) littered history of buy-outs and sales here it is straight from the horses mouth otherwise known as Hypergeek.ca

trust me - you’ll love this one!

Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: MVL) is far more than just a comic company, and has subsidiaries and divisions in involved in toys and merchandising, movie productions, animation, internet productions, property… and much more
The company that would become Marvel Comics was founded in 1933 by Martin Goodman. Goodman began a small pulp magazine company whose first release was the May 1933 publication of Western Supernovel magazine. Goodman saw how popular superhero comic were becoming, including his own company’s character, Ka-Za (1936), and in 1939 he formed Timely Publications, basing it at his current company. Timely’s first effort, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct 1934) featured the first appearance of such long-standing and well known Marvel characters as The Human Tourch, The Angel, and Namor the Sub-Mariner (actually created for the unpublished movie-theater giveaway comic Motion Picture Funnies Weekly earlier that year.)

In November 1951 timely became Atlas Comics, before eventually becoming Marvel Comics in August, 1961.
In the Northern hemisphere fall of 1968, company founder Goodman sold Marvel Comics and his other publishing businesses to the Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation. It grouped these businesses in a subsidiary called Magazine Management Co. Goodman remained as publisher.
In 1973, Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation changed its name to Cadence Industries, which in turn renamed Magazine Management Co. as Marvel Comics Group. Goodman, now completely disconnected from Marvel, set up a new company called Atlas/Seaboard Comics in 1974, reviving Marvel’s old Atlas name, but this lasted only a year-and-a-half.
In 1981 Marvel purchased the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises animation studio from famed Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng and his business partner David H. DePatie. The company was renamed Marvel Productions and it produced well-known animated TV series and movies featuring such characters as G.I. Joe, The Transformers, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, and such TV series as Dungeons & Dragons, as well as cartoons based on Marvel characters, including Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
In 1986, Marvel was sold to New World Entertainment, becoming the Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.
In 1989 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc was sold to MacAndrews and Forbes, owned by Revlon executive Ronald Perelman, for $82.5M.At the time Perlman was quoted as saying

“It is a mini-Disney in terms of intellectual property,” said Perelman. “Disney’s got much more highly recognized characters and softer characters, whereas our characters are termed action heroes. But at Marvel we are now in the business of the creation and marketing of characters.”

As part of the sale, Marvel Productions sold its back catalog to Saban Entertainment (acquired in 2001 by Disney).
In 1991, Perelman took Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc public in a stock offering underwritten by Merrill Lynch and First Boston Corporation. Marvel’s market value topped $3 billion
Following the rapid rise of this immediately popular stock, Perleman issued a series of junk bonds that he used to acquire other children’s entertainment companies. Marvel’s debt exceeded $600 million.

In 1992 Marvel acquired Fleer Corporation, known primarily for its trading cards, and shortly thereafter created Marvel Studios, devoted to film and TV projects. Avi Arad became director of that division in 1993, with production accelerating in 1998 following the success of the film Blade.
In 1992, the Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. purchased the bubblegum manufacturer Fleer.
In 1994, Marvel acquired the comic book distributor Heroes World to use as its own exclusive distributor. As the industry’s other major publishers made exclusive distribution deals with other companies, the ripple effect resulted in the survival of only one other major distributor in North America, Diamond Comic Distributors Inc.

In 1994 Marvel Purched both Malibu comics and Welsh Publishing

In 1995 Marvel Subsiduary Fleer puchased Skybox International, an American trading card manufacturing company

In 1996 Marvel Went bankcrupt

In 1997, after protracted legal battles, control landed in the hands of Isaac Perlmutter, owner of the Marvel subsidiary Toy Biz. With his business partner Avi Arad, publisher Bill Jemas, and editor-in-chief Bob Harras, Perlmutter helped revitalize the comics line. After the merger Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. became Marvel Entertainment, Inc.

In December 2003, Marvel Entertainment acquired Cover Concepts from Hearst Communications, Inc
On March 15, 2007, Stan Lee Media filed a lawsuit against Marvel Entertainment for $5 billion, claiming that the company is co-owner of the characters that Lee created for Marvel.

On March 30, 2007 a lawsuit over the Ghost Rider Character was filed by Gary Friedrich and Gary Friedrich Enterprises, Inc.
On August 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company reached a deal to acquire Marvel Entertainment for US$4 billion, with Marvel shareholders being issued $30 and about 0.745 Disney shares for each share of Marvel they own.

The company’s operating units include:

Divisions

Marvel Toys (formerly Toy Biz): a toy company owned by Isaac Perlmutter since the 1990s.
Spider-Man Merchandising, L.P.: A joint venture of Marvel and Sony Pictures Consumer Products Inc. that owns the rights to Spider-Man movie related licensed products.
Marvel Characters B.V.(The Netherlands)
MVL International C.V.(The Netherlands)
Marvel International Character Holdings LLC (Delaware)
Marvel Entertainment International Limited (United Kingdom)
Marvel Property, Inc. (Delaware)
Marvel Internet Productions LLC (Delaware)
Marvel Toys Limited (Hong Kong)
MRV, Inc. (Delaware)
MVL Development LLC (Delaware)
Marvel Film Productions LLC (Delaware)

Subsidiaries

Marvel Characters, Inc.: intellectual property holding company;
Marvel Publishing, Inc.: publisher of Marvel Comics;
Marvel Studios: a film and television production company;
MVL Film Finance LLC: holder of Marvel’s Movie debt and theatrical film rights to the ten characters as collateral.
Marvel Animation: Subsidiary charge with oversight of Marvel’s animation productions.
Film Slate Subsidiaries”
MVL Rights, LLC: subsidiary holding movie rights of all Marvel Characters with some on contract with MVL Film Finance
Iron Works Productions LLC: subsidiary holding debt to finance the Iron Man movie.[14]
MVL Productions LLC: an indirect wholly owned a film development subsidiary
Incredible Productions LLC (Delaware): subsidiary holding debt to finance the Incredible Hulk film
MVL Iron Works Productions Canada, Inc. (Province of Ontario)
MVL Incredible Productions Canada, Inc. (Province of Ontario)
Asgard Productions LLC (Delaware)
Green Guy Toons LLC (Delaware)
Squad Productions LLC

Former units

Fleer Corporation
Malibu Comics
Marvel Productions (1981 to 1997)
Panini Group: Italian sticker manufacturer
SkyBox International
Welsh Publishing: comic book publishers

Audience Slide Share

In my previous post I mentioned knowing your audience. Here is phenomenal slide regarding this topic. It was presented at the Powe To Pixel Presentation last year.

Money, money, money

Ive been having alot of meetings lately on business models and finance structures for films. I have just finished reading “Friends, fans and followers” and watched multiple videos from The Workbook project. There is so much out there at the moment regarding this theme I thought I would join my friend Richard in talking more about it and seeing what you guys are thinking!

SOme things that have stood out to me is the need to innovate and come up with models that suit our industry. We know by now that there is no magic hand-out we need to FIND the money. Whether it be from audiences online or multiple small investors or a brand, we have to take each product and dissect its possibilities, look at the distribution options and then calculate a plan on where this money could possible come form.

By the time you speak to an investor your brain should be clear on where this film could work, how you could sell it and who the audience is. I mean very clear. There is so much media going on that painting in broad strokes (white males between 16 and 23) will do you NO good. Richard did a great piece recently titled the “Internal Green-light”on what you should be thinking about before making a movie.

An internal greenlight refers to a process of greenlighting a film, a concept, a screenplay, even an idea or premise that meets a certain minimum criteria (incorporating story, likely production and marketing budget, audience, and likely financial return), before substantial effort and resources are spent on it’s development, and certainly before pitching it to financiers and distributors.

This process will help create a space where you can identify potential investors. Again, there is no ONE investors, THE ONE does not exist outside The Matrix. For me the answer is Hybrid economies ( I am a Lawrence Lessig fan) . I believe that in our mash-up, post modern society we have the freedom to mix and match to suit our will. This is not great if you like structure and a clean, neat order of things. It is a bit chaotic and definitely still unclear as to what the exact rules are.

Hybrid between what?

This mash-up is lies between the lines of conventional investment and alternative sources.
One example is that of Indiegogo which “provides tools for fundraising, promotion and discovery to the film and media industry.” You can post your film with byline, pics, CV’s et al and people contribute to your idea….with cash. Only once you have made set targets does Indiegogo release the finds into your account. The concept is inspired and can be translated in many ways.

Find an audience for your film, offer a unique selling point and have them pay to make your movie. Whether they become “investors” or co-conspirators, whatever the title, the point is to get people to participate in the making of your project. I think this method can go a far way in having audiences in SA to start trusting product again. This concept has the potential to become a cool hobby. “So what film are you investing in?”. The audience can help you decide on casting decisions through pole participation, get free tickets to the first screening so they get a return on their investment. The online participation method has potential. the downside is that it takes alot of time to aggregate an audience big enough to make a substantial contribution and also then to continue your communication so that they don’t feel “left out”.

Branding is becoming more popular as budgets for commercials become bloated but the exhibition becomes limited… If a brand spends the same amount of cash in investing into your film and the genre allows for a broad audience watch there are obvious tie-ins that exist. Although we know that these corporations will wait as long as they can before instituting ANY change, we can, as film-makers, be banging on the doors and offering new solutions.

There are people doing interesting things. Simon Hansen from SAFE (South African Film Exchange) is going with a 10 slate program. Utilizing the same crew and production group to produce 10 films with lower budgets. By putting a crew on a retainer as opposed to paying freelance fees and using them to produce all the movies may result in ten great pictures. Spreading the risk for investors and also delivering a constant out-put of films.

At the The Forum - The changing Landscape Simon made a great point about Paradigms. A writer asked how can she make money writing only what she wants to. That there is no system to support her. The answer: Change your paradigm. Create your own reality of how things are supposed to work and then create value for yourself. The same goes for financing films. we need shift and re-create our paradigm. Anything can work, just because no-one is saying it does not mean you aren’t right in your thinking. Being a creative is your advantage, think out the box and hybrid some economies!

There is a new resource for those looking for information on ways to fund work. “The Film Finance Handbook - How to Fund Your Film,” provides a comprehensive look at traditional and new models of funding.

“With information on funding and tax incentives in over 50 countries, details of more than 1000 funds, a new chapter on the Internet, 400 entry glossary and significantly expanded information about low and microbudget production, Production Finance, the new UK, German and US tax incentives, and approaching the industry. At 480 pages, it’s the first book to pull together international legal information, global film funds and the theory and practice of funding and packaging films in one place. From first short film through to international multi-million co-production the book is aimed at novice and expert alike.”

To read a FREE chapter on using the interent for film funding, marketing and distribution click here.

SA Incentives better for film industry

This article from Variety is a great summary of what the top producers in SA are using. Although I have heard and read about these incentives I haven’t yet been able to action them. Soon, I swear it!
A great read for anyone interested in actually producing films in SA -

Co-productions, treaties can unlock government funds
By KEVIN KRIEDEMANN

South Africa may offer versatile locations but the world of production incentives is cutthroat.
“Visiting the Locations Expo in Los Angeles, it dawns on you that there are hundreds of options for producers that all offer incentives, and that the $1.25 million we offer is just a drop in the ocean compared to the 30%-40% uncapped rebates available in other territories,” says Film Afrika producer Vlokkie Gordon, speaking about the Dept. of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) soft funding for projects shot in South Africa.

“Marketing South Africa has to be about making our partners aware of all the other extraordinary benefits of shooting here,” Gordon continues. “The rebate is just the cherry on the top, rather than the whole dessert.”

At the start of 2008, the DTI introduced a revised film production incentive, comprising the Location Film and Television Production Incentive Scheme and the South African Film and Television Production and Co-Production Incentive Scheme. Those programs paid out R209 million ($26.1 million) on 44 projects last year, a sign of the local government’s continued support for the growing film sector.

The Location Film and Television Production Incentive Scheme replaced the Large Budget Film and Television Production Rebate, which the DTI implemented in 2004. The new incentive is available to foreign productions with qualifying South African expenditure of R12 million ($1.5 million) and above, down from the original R25 million ($3.1 million). It provides a rebate of 15% of the qualifying spend.

The South African Film and Television Production and Co-Production Incentive Scheme is available to both South African productions and official-treaty co-productions with a total production budget of R2.5 million ($312,500) and above. It provides a rebate of 35% for the first R6 million ($750,000) and 25% for the remainder of the spend.

South Africa has co-production treaties with Canada, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, while further treaties with Australia, Ireland and France are in the process of being finalized.“There are very good financing options through co-prods,” says Gordon, who is a producer on HBO’s “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.” “Other than an increased rebate from 15% to 35%, you can access other regional funding offered by the co-prod partner.”

Both DTI rebates apply to feature films, TV movies and drama series, documentaries, animation and shortform animation. “Foreign films need to shoot here for 50% of their time and a minimum of four weeks, while co-productions and South African films need to shoot here for a minimum of two weeks,” Gordon says.

The DTI, which has identified the film industry as one of 11 strategic growth areas in South Africa, has been roundly praised by producers for its helpfulness and the rebate’s ease of use.According to Genevieve Hofmeyr of Moonlighting Films, the South African production partner on Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,” rebate payments tend to be made within four to six weeks of a film’s completion of filming on a non-co-production. The major complaint about the rebate is that it’s capped at a maximum of R10 million ($1.25 million) per project.

“We have lost business to other countries because we can’t compete for large movies when the producers have other options,” says Michael Murphey of Kalahari Pictures, which co-produced “District 9″ for Sony.

Despite the limitations, the local biz believes issues can be resolved in time.“The DTI has proven to be very flexible and accommodating with regard to refining or modifying their guidelines where it improves the overall effectiveness of the rebate program and the attractiveness of shooting in South Africa,” Hofmeyr says.

Apart from the DTI, the other main source of financing is the Industrial Development Corp. (IDC), which caps its investment at 49% of the overall budget but receives more mixed reports than the DTI. Gordon says, “The high interest rate makes affordable financing difficult. The IDC has been a disappointment; their deals are expensive and unrealistic.”

Hofmeyr adds, “Certain protocols within the IDC are fairly bureaucratic, and this can cause delays in the financial close, so some streamlining would be beneficial.”

However, Hofmeyr is positive: “They place a lot of emphasis on developing the local industry, and they are a critical source of local funding in South Africa. In our experience, they have helped to empower the local producer, which is a big positive. Although up to now it has been very difficult for small-budget films to access IDC funding, recently there have been some encouraging indications that the IDC may modify their investment structure to accommodate these types of films going forward.”

More promisingly, the Independent Producers’ Organization has been making presentations to Parliament around reviving and clarifying the Section 24F tax break, which fell into disuse after being abused in the 1980s. Local producers also are starting to explore pan-African financing, with talk of funds in Nigeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but this is still embryonic and untested.

For now, South African financing remains the cherry on a very large cake. As Murphey concludes, “More important than the rebate, than exchange rates, than co-production treaties is that South Africa is simply a great place to make a movie. Nearly every foreign producer who has made a movie in South Africa comes back again.”

Read original article here

Durban’s FilmMart to grow

It is anticipated that the Durban FilmMart will provide African filmmakers with the opportunity to pitch film products to leading financiers, sales agents worldwide and obtain feedback from internationally-recognised directors and producers which could lead to future collaborations.
“We envisage that the establishment of an international co-production market in association with the Durban International Film Festival (in Durban) has the potential to act as a key driver raising the visibility of film content from the African continent,’ said Toni Monty – acting CEO of the Durban Film Office at the launch of the project during the 30th Durban International Film Festival earlier this month.
This is no flash-in-the-pan idea as the DFO and DIFF have spent the past 18 months researching the situation and forming a business plan ‘that would work within the realities of the African context’.
The key findings were as follows:
· Festivals and markets are key components within the global film economy;
· The scarcity of African projects accessing these markets indicates a need for platforms in Africa which would, not only bring the world to Africa, but improve Africa’s access to the world;
· There is a scarcity of investor-ready projects to sustain a market in the short-term unless they are coupled with training interventions (aimed at developing these products for the market place);
· Public – private partnership is essential for sustainability;
· International Best Practice indicates that the success of these markets is dependent upon affiliation with a recognised and established film festival.
“By providing a funding a co-production forum, the Durban FilmMart aims to redress the paucity of film production on this continent and make a vital contribution to film financing and industry development in a time where stability and growth is sadly sporadic,” said Peter Rorvik – Director of the Centre for Creative Arts and the Durban International.

by Ailsa Windsor

Excerpt from Newsonline

Hollywood 2.0

Scott Kersner pointed me in the direction of John Ott and his blog Making the movie. Its a great clean, well organized site with cool reviews, ideas and well, cool film stuff. The thing that caught my ATT was John’s article called Hollywood 2.0 (the title of the book on the topic, if he ever gets that far).

There are many ideas on what Hollywood can/should do to “save” the film industry. John just flips it upside down. Again using the music industry as a lead staff, he suggest making more music and taking theatrical to an exclusivity status.

What if you released your movie streaming online, then for download — going to the t.v. through people’s box of choice - then on DVD/Bluray and, finally, in theaters? You could theoretically have so few screenings (such scarcity) that the filmmakers or actors could tour around the country with it, making personal appearances. You wouldn’t have to shell out for the theatrical tour until you knew, from statistics on download and home video sales, that the movie had a sizable audience

I think the idea deserves some novelty points. It not just crazy talk, there is a plan behind it. Roll out the film mass scale, get people watching, in my opinion on ANY medium, and then build your audience. Charge premium for theatre tickets and sell out on every show.

Its alot like what Arin Crumley did on Four Eyed Monsters. Taking their film across the US once they had a full cinema in any city - that was achieved through google earth and some other free apps or networking sites.

John admits that this model wont easily work for the studios, since they have the whole theater thing under their belts and audiences are already pretty conditioned to paying x for tickets. To think they will now suddenly pay x*200% is not likely. Except maybe if you turn it into an “EVENING AT THE THEATRE” and you actually do get to sit next to Zooey Deschanel and make idle chit chat while thinking that you have a chance with her…..wait I’m getting distracted.

This model, like music, will work on “social scale”, if your movie is big and famous you get to charge more in a premium theatre, if its small and grundgy then thats what you get. Easy.

ya, think about it, read/write and rock-on.

More Friends and Fans

Last time I wrote about my favorite “creating fans” guru Scott Kirsner. NOw I found someone else who also has I wanted to share it with ya’ll..

Posted: Tue, June 09, 2009, 11:06 AM From Thompson on Hollywood

Cinematech blogger Scott Kirsner drank the digital Kool-aid some time back. So the author of 2007’s The Future of Web Video and 2008’s Inventing the Movies decided that he had to self-publish his newest book, Fans, Friends and Followers. “If I was writing that artists had to be their own entrepreneur,” he says, “then I had to do it too.”

For no up-front charge (and no advance), Kirsner selected his own fonts at Amazon’s CreateSpace. He sent a PDF of the cover and interior to upload. They sent him back galleys to correct and within 10 days of signing off, he had books on sale at Amazon, and collects a bigger percentage of royalties than a publisher would pay. “If I had waited for traditional publishing it would be out in the fall of 2010,” he says. “This stuff is timely, it’s not the history of MGM. It would have been stale.”

For the book, which has sold more than 10,000 copies, Kirsner interviewed three dozen do-it-yourself types in film and video, art and music, from internet pioneer and short video maker Ze Frank to animator M dot Strange. “Until the last three to four years,” says Kirsner, “you made a film and either you picked up a distributor at SXSW or Sundance, or not. There was no plan B. You never thought about what might happen, how to get the movie out there. I tried to talk to people about Plan B.”

In 2006, Strange persuaded the Sundance Film Festival to play his film We Are the Strange at a midnight screening at the Egyptian by using his YouTube following to prove that he had an audience. He then distributed the film through Film Baby and via YouTube (with a DVD click-through button) in April 2008. According to Kirsner, he made enough money to not only pay off the debt from the film, but to finance his next one.

Here’s the trailer:

The agricultural documentary King Corn debuted at SXSW in 2007, went on to other festivals, had a theatrical run, aired on PBS in April 2008, and was one of the biggest selling films on iTunes. Aaron Wolff, Ian Cheney, Curt Ellis and their team kept building a database of fans in FileMaker, then created an email list on Constant Contact. They barraged their fans with new info, updated their website constantly, and kept the promo stream going by guest-blogging at different sites that they knew would be receptive to the film’s green subject matter. Here’s the trailer:

A lot of online communities are interested in what you’re doing, whether it’s a sci-fi movie or a documentary about U.S. future policies,” says Kirsner. “With the internet there’s a direct link between that review or write-up and where you buy a book. People are closer to the transaction. There’s a lot of innovation in terms of business models. People are trying different things. With places like Home Star Runner, which avoids advertising and built their model on selling t-shirts, merchandise and DVDs, or Lulu and CreateSpace, you can see there’s a whole new infrastructure, a new pathway for getting books, DVDs, and CDs out there.”

But DIY takes work, Kirsner admits: “The promotional energy has to come from you, using blogs and Twitter and getting people to write about your project. It’s a whole new world. There are no more sugar daddies taking care of problems. With the old school Hollywood dynamic you had to shuck and jive to get observed by a talent agent, that was the only path to making it. Now you do what you want to get noticed and build up an audience. Then you have a choice to do a deal with a studio or record company, or do your own thing. Some will do it, some will not. But you don’t have to wait around and cross your fingers and hope.”

Kirsner has been working overtime to get out the word on his book. He’s created a Power Tool Wiki that lists tools for building an online fan base. Here are some reviews, including Wired editor Chris Anderson, who log-rolled thusly:

Making a living in the Long Tail means taking matters into your own hands, crafting a marketing strategy that’s just right for you and your work. This book compiles the stories of those who’ve done it best. You’ll get ideas from every one of them. Inspiring and incredibly useful—Kirsner’s assembled a playbook for the social media age.”

Indexed

I cant help it. It just really funny!

TRUST BERNIE

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Go and visit This is Indexed for more classics!

Focus Films Africa First Competition

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Again it dawns on me that there is some serious conversational problems with our little “independent” film industry.

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

I received an email from a friend in namibia yesterday regarding this incredible film competition opportunity. So only now am I able to share this knowledge. I was just wondering why the hell I haven’t heard of it before. Where is the mass email from one of my fellow film makers letting us all know? Where is the Facebook status with the link or the sms or send your pigeon for heavens sake!

My point is just that if we want to raise the bar, make better movies we have to challenge one another and then applaud those who do well. Secrecy was part of the Apartheid legacy, lets move on!!! Share information, any information. A new camera tool, a business idea, a link to a pretty colour or a a way to achieve a set construction. As long as we hope that no one notices us and we keep hiding what we are doing the longer we will take to draw attention to our little industry and get investors to believe that it is viable to make films in South Africa..

And thus, after my little rant here is another key to getting your films out there and making mark!
Do it, win the competition and draw attention, then do it again…

The Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program supports films that aspire to artistic excellence and accomplished storytelling, and substantially contribute to the development of local film industries. Award recipients of the 2009 Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program can use award money received from Africa First to complete initial production and to pay for post-production costs such as laboratory fees, sound mixing, and editing.

Applications must be fully completed and postmarked by the August 1, 2009 deadline and received no later than August 15, 2009 in order to be accepted. Individuals can only submit one film. Submissions that are made with an incomplete application or applications that are submitted without the supporting materials will be disqualified. Submissions that are obscene, pornographic, libelous, or otherwise objectionable will also be disqualified. Recipients will be notified on or about October 1, 2009 of their status and must be available to travel to New York City for the Summit Weekend of November 12 - November 16, 2009.

REQUIREMENTS
All projects entered into the Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program must meet the requirements below:
Produced in continental Africa;
5-25 minutes in length with narratives taking place exclusively in Africa. Feature and/or documentary submissions will not be accepted;
In preproduction, production, or postproduction;
Project must be filmed in continental Africa and contribute to the development of the local film industry by using local key production staff and using local facilities;
All Program documents must be written in the English language; however, if the original language of the screenplay was not in the English language, an English-language translation of the screenplay is acceptable;
Project must be either (i) in the English language or (ii) if not, be delivered with English-language subtitles in 16mm, Super 16mm, 35mm, HDTV, DigiBeta, or Beta format.

Go here to get application form and visit the site!

Pirate Bay, going once going twice…SOLD!

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Oh yes Pirates. Our beloved, illegal and awesome bit torrent site has been SOLD. And for a mere $7.5 milj ….. pittance.

An Imagination Scenario
Imagine for a second, an English war ship pulls over a pirate ship (which is beaten and battered), the english ship’s Captain invites the Pirate Captain on board for a rum and coke. The Pirate Captain agrees (first mistake) and swings across to the English ship, “If I’m not back within the hour maties, wait ye longer and then shoot all the bastards!”.
Finally, the Pirate Captain returns, he is sporting a new coat and a shiny new blade. His crew are stunned but trust their old and brave Captain who only utters the co-ordinates of a famous English harbor. They all know the place because they have fought there and killed many army bastards and pillaged the towns around! He tells his crew that for some money they will now be a legal entity. They are still known as THE PIRATES but no army will shoot at them ever again, and they will not be pillaging any longer, they will bater and sell goods. “Ai me maties, nothing will be changed, we shall be the PIRATES still!!! Har Har” he yells from Starboard. The Pirate crew look unimpressed and not convinced by the new legal pirate entity.

A legal, Pirate Entity….hmmm..

The listed software company, Global Gaming Factory X AB (publ) (GGF)
acquires The Pirate Bay website, http://www.thepiratebay.org, one of the 100
most visited websites in the world and the technology company Peerialism,
that has developed next generation file-sharing technology. Following the
completion of the acquisitions, GGF intends to launch new business models
that allow compensation to the content providers and copyright owners. The
responsibility for, and operation of the site will be taken over by GGF in
connection with closing of the transaction, which is scheduled for August
2009.

We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and
copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site, ” said
Hans Pandeya, CEO GGF.

That does sound appealing though doesn’t it. Everyone getting paid… download something you might receive money. Yes please, I’ll have one.
The move in my opinion is the right one. The alternatives for TPB owners included more jail time and bigger fines, not so appealing when your the one going to jail, regardless the street cred that you gain!

Watch this space for more. Many pirates are pissed off and I wonder what the subscriber backlash is going to be. I don’t think pretty. Go and check out The Pirate Bay Blog to read their response to the sale and there is ALOT of messages posted varying from F-U to “That sounds great, what’s Pirate bay..” LOL.

I leave you with this from the CEO of GGF:

”The Pirate Bay is a site that is among the top 100 most visited Internet sites in the
world. However, in order to live on, The Pirate Bay requires a new business
model, which satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content
providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary. Content creators
and providers need to control their content and get paid for it. File sharers ´need
faster downloads and better quality, ” Hans Pandeya.

An article on the deal at The DealBook Blog

ARG + Films = New Business?

The convergence of Gaming and Filmmaking are becoming inventible. Watchmen Prequel will be a game and there are more that have been spoken of. Wired Magazine has posted ideas of how film and game will converge, Ted Hope talks new business models, the collapse of finance structures is happening and everyone is scrambling to come up with new innovative ways to produce films.

If these models where being talked about a couple of years back films like “Primer” may have gone on to be produced a lot differently. Alas.

This mysterious new model has many hidedn secrets (sounds like the opening of game…) and should be explored by as many film makers as possible. Soem questions i have pondered; does the model lie in the narrative, the ancillary products or the product placement. What is the balance of all these elements?

Richard Lackey divulged some ideas on his blog recently which I would like to share. He talks specifically about the ARG and how feature films and ARG’s can become hybrids. Using models and techniques from both genres to create new films/games which, in his discussion, could lead to larger investment opportunities.

I think he is on the right path and he closes the blog post by stating that this is a work in progress. Indeed it is, and the more we share our thoughts on how to make this work the faster it will happen with success.

Excepts from Richards great site Digital Cinema Demystified

The game, utilizing sometimes hundreds of websites, real phone numbers, email addresses and real-world locations, physical media and objects engages players individually and collectively through online communities where players discuss and solve clues leading them to ever more cryptic and confusing clues. The “puppetmasters” keep constant tabs on individual players, changing the game and twisting the plot during gameplay to stay constantly one step ahead.

The ARG has been used to great effect as a form of online viral marketing, for products and for films, but the boundaries of form and method are constantly being pushed.

The power in the ARG as the online narrative native to the internet is in its ability to engage the full senses of the individual participant and rudely, unexpectedly involve him or her as a key player in something far bigger than they can possibly know. The player does not know he is playing a game, does not know who or what his opponent is or what they want from him, and in fact one of the most important design principles in the ARG is that the game never lets on that it is a game.

Just as linear, narrative fiction on-screen did and still does provide an audio-visual escape into another world outside of the viewer’s own, the ARG crosses all the boundaries that limit the ability of traditional audio-visual mediums to actively involve the audience as a participant and change-agent in the plot of the story itself.

What the film needs is no overt branding whatsoever, yet in my ideal, it needs to be free to view. When combined with an ARG campaign however, the opportunities for appropriate in-game advertising and product involvement (not just placement) are far greater, in fact are limited only by the imagination (and chosen storyline) of the game designers.

Some more Ichan-die

Here from Variety, Ichan buys more stock from mini-Major Lionsgate to total his shares at 20.11 million. That’s just under 20%.If Ichan reaches his 20% then:

Ownership of more than 20% could cause a default on Lionsgate’s $340 million revolving credit line under the company’s change of control provisions.

So, read full article here

Keep an eye on this because the mini-major is fast becoming a scare specimen!

5 Things Investors look for in Business Plans

There is just never enough one can read about the topic of making/finding/investing money. I was having a beer with my friend last night and she mentioned the book “Atlas Shrugged”. Its been high on my “To-Read” list and after hearing her talk about it I am now determined to get into it. Regardless, the comment she made from the book was that one thing that set America apart with regards to money was the idea of “Making Money”. As if out of nothing, it is an art…chew on it for a while and just for some light reading, here is 5 Things Investors look for….

1.Investors will want to see your background in the industry and business experience as well as that of your management team. Many small businesses fail because of weaknesses in the management team.
2.Not only do you need to show how your product is unique, you need to prove that there is a demonstrated need for your product or services and a large enough market potential to make the investment worthwhile. Investors don’t want to invest in “little” ideas - you have to show them the potential to be a big success.
3.No matter how unique your product or service may be, you must show that you know your demographics and will reach your target market in an ongoing manner. Your pricing and sales strategy have to be clearly defined and in line with industry norms.
4.Investors want to know that you have acknowledged and researched your competition thoroughly. In addition, they will want to see how you plan to contend with your competitors and distinguish yourself. What will give you the competitive edge?
5.Investors expect to see a return on their investment. Therefore, they want to see realistic financial projections that show how long it will take for the business to show a profit and for them to recoup their initial investment. They will also want to see a clear exit strategy: a way to make a profit and move on to the next deal.

Excerpt from NYTimes

Warner Bros. bites into iPhone apps

Applications; we lack many of them on Istore.co.za but despite our small(er) buying community the application industry is growing. Like every good corporate giant, only once the new thing is making (lots of) money will they start investing. I love the bit where Warner spokes person mentions that they (Warner) wanted to roll out 40 applications in 2009….40, only…bah.

I guess application building is not a Warner core business, and soon distribution also wont be (read Pirate Bay tee-he) but at least their taking their time to figure out where they stand in all this new-media, we are all to old and boxed in to think outside any box without labels and will just slow down the world’s media until we get CEO’s who actually owned a computer before they started working…space.

It must be tough to have so much risk and see everything changing and the corporate haters rising..However I digress.

Here is the article from Variety about Warner moving into Application…ooooh.

We’re more than just a film studio,” Bohn said. “We’ve established ourselves in the physical world; now we’re trying to do the same in the digital world.”

Warner has developed and released about 15 apps so far and is planning to have a total of 40 out by the end of the year. Some will come from its theatrical unit and Warner Interactive, others by outside developers.

Warner is not alone among studios developing apps around film properties. Paramount just released “Star Trek” comic book apps with iVerse, in addition to its “Top Gun” and other movie-related game apps. Sony has an “Angels and Demons” game app, and Disney put out a Fairies game app last year tied to its DVD premiere release, “Tinker Bell.”

The studio also is considering animated episodic video apps and other apps built around Warner brands, Bohn said.Bohn said the studio is positioning itself as an end-to-end app distributor capable of doing everything from developing the app to getting approval from Apple to sell it in the App Store to marketing it.

Part of the appeal for developers in partnering with Warner, Bohn said, is the studio’s relationship with Apple.”It’s difficult [for developers] to have a direct call into Apple,” Bohn said. “We spend time talking with them weekly, if not daily.”

Also appealing is Warner’s marketing muscle, which it is using to differentiate its apps through social media marketing, print and TV advertisements, and for movie apps, trailers on DVDs.

Read Full Article

Sundance and Ultra Low-Budget Films

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I went to Sundance this year and was Amazed at the quality of the films. It really inspired me regarding the quality, aesthetic and stories that independent film makers have been able to achieve. Regardless of my wonderful experience though there is criticism that Sundance has lost touch with the “true Indy”. Questions rise as to where are the LOW-BUDGET films? What happened to the Clerks, Pi’s and Primers of Sundance? In this vein Sundance is now re-introducing Low-Budget categories for their 2010 slate. This is great news and means that films from a broader spectrum globally will be able to compete.

One of the more notable revelations from the duo was the possible addition of a new category for “low-budget film.” When asked what the difference would be, as most films at Sundance are already considered low budget (relative to standard studio fare), Cooper emphasized the “need to differentiate between ‘low budget’ and ‘low budget aesthetics.’” These changes are expected to happen over the next few years; some even possibly for the 2010 festival.

It’s no secret that in recent years, Sundance has been on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism from members of the film press, as well as independent filmmakers, questioning the festival’s gradual move away from truly independent, low-budget filmmaking (all relative terms), to a more star-driven prohibitively-financed annual line-up of films, as those low-budget/no-budget garage-films, get shafted, leaving the filmmakers no choice but to take their films to upstarts like Slamdance, a festival that has grown in prominence, thanks in part to Sundance’s paradigm shift.

There have also been various articles touting Sundance’s demise, stating that the festival isn’t as relevant as it once was, as some filmmakers and even distributors are reportedly skipping the festival altogether. Some are opting to self-distribute their work; the Internet now provides independent filmmakers with release opportunities and far-reaching audiences than they ever had access to previously. Others are realizing that it might be in their best interest to target very specific smaller/genre festivals and venues, where their films feel less like tools of trade

Read Full Article

All my Friends are Philanthropic

The richest media people meet to talk about the “worlds NEEDS” behind closed doors. Probably that, and “how-to” take over the world. Say hi to Ted, Oprah and Bill….Media conglomerates…

Indie in a Box

Films mostly have no home. Theater is hard to get to and there are millions of DVD’s to choose from. There is however another option, television. Oh yes friends, pay television is now giving Indy film a second wind and a new place for exhibition.

Getting independent films into cinemas, never easy, has become much harder in the past year. Some specialist distributors, such as Warner Independent Pictures, have closed and others are buying fewer films. The credit crunch and the strong dollar have cut foreign sales. Meanwhile cheap digital-video cameras and editing software have produced a flood of content. Some 5,500 films are chasing buyers in Cannes this year. Last year just 606 new films were released in American cinemas. Many lost money. “The economics just do not make sense,” says Jonathan Sehring of IFC, an independent distributor.

Hence the rapid growth of an alternative. This year IFC will release about 100 films “on demand”, meaning they can be called up for a fee in most households that get their television via cable or satellite. Many will be available on the same day that they first appear at film festivals such as Sundance and South by Southwest. Later this year IFC plans to launch a new on-demand channel to showcase documentary films. Cinetic, a powerful independent-film broker, will also get into the game this summer. Most radical of all is Magnolia, a distributor which has inverted the traditional release schedule for many films. Next month it will release “The Answer Man”, a comedy starring Jeff Daniels, on cable. The film will only appear in cinemas four weeks later.

The reason for the rush is that, for low-budget films, the economics of video on demand do make sense. Cable companies, which take a cut when they sell a film, help with advertising. Mr Sehring says IFC makes about as much when a film is sold on demand as when a punter buys a cinema ticket, even though the ticket costs almost twice as much. He reckons he recoups his costs and returns money to filmmakers more than half the time—not bad for films that might otherwise have disappeared without trace.

So ja. As film makers in South Africa we should also consider making films for TV. At least you know you have an audience and a budget.

Read Full Article

The Venda Film Industry

Within South Africa’s vast cultural landscape and little communication between each space there is little surprise when I read that there is a budding Venda Film Industry in South Africa. Much like the Nollywood film scene these are low to no budget films using friends and family as actors and the films generally deal with everyday issues.

The films are predominantly comedies and the film makers all have other jobs (obviously) in Johannesburg. Apparently they make back their money within the first month of release which is all straight to DVD. The NFVF has averaged SA films industry at about 9 films a year with approx R8milj budget. This average I suspect is based on theater release and does not account for the these sort of films that are actually building a film community on a grass roots level.

I do have a thought about the production of these films: Why has a rich investor, or smart producer, not taken R1milj and produced 10 such films to made a neat profit over a year.
If anyone does end up doing this please let me know!

Thanks TVSA

Investment Returns in Film

Investing in film is risky business. The investor’s reason for putting money into your movie is normally varied, anyhting from personal interest in movies to not trusting current markets (read recession) or he just likes your face (yeah right). The point is what should you offer your investor? When you are writing a business plan what sort of return should you offer - well, here is some idea from allaboutindiefilmmaking.

The standard rates of return are anywhere from 110% to 125%. This means, should your film make enough money to pay your investors back, they can expect 100% recoupment of their investment plus an interest of 10 to 25 percent (depending on your offer). Of course, you can go lower or higher. It’s up to the filmmakers to set the rate of return.

Why these figures? Well, you want to be competitive with other investment vehicles. Over time, the stock market has shown a rate of return of 10% over the long term. So 110% has you on par with the stock market.

Also, if you have a film that is riskier than others then you may want to go with a higher rate of return in order to make your film more attractive to investors. I have offered 25% a few times because I knew the film was a riskier investment.

What makes a riskier film?

1) First-time director
2) First-time producer
3) Difficult subject matter
4) Niche audience project
5) No name actors
6) High budget required

There are many other factors that could make your film riskier than others. You need to weigh that risk and also the difficulty of finding investors and decide what kind of return you want to provide, accordingly.

Now what about profits? How do you split profits?

The standard split of profits is 50% to Producers and 50% to Investors. Producers can take their 50% of the profits (otherwise known as Back End) and give it out to people like the cast or crew or even vendors in order to attract them to work on their projects. Normally, you do not touch the investor profits when giving out Back End. The Investor 50% remains with investors members only.

For example, you might pay Joe Actor $20,000 in pay upfront but also offer him 2% of the Producer Net Profits.

In addition to offering returns of money, you can also offer credits (like Executive Producer) if an investor brings a significant percentage of the budget to the project.

Just remember, a return from a film investment should never be guaranteed. And you must be extremely clear about that from the start. Shout it from the mountaintops if you have to — just don’t mislead your investors. Investing in film is risky and recoupment and a return is not guaranteed.

Ted’s 38 Reasons

Producer Ted Hope came up with 38 reasons he feels the Indie-Film “scene” is under stress. The points he raises are very good and not wanting to become pessimsitic (it’s too early in my career) I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, coming from a realistic, positivist generation feel that we should listen to those offering advice and keep these things in mind when making our own films.

There are certainly problems we face as film makers today. Besides the over abundance and accessibility ANYONE has to call themselves film makers (I wonder if it was like this in the 80’s with stockbrokers?) there are also no working business models that satisfy “The Money” to invest in our new distribution methods. But, democracy takes time and living in a country with a fledgling democracy I can tell you that it’s more-difficult than it is easy, if you catch my drift. All we have to go on is the passion we had to start off and a sh*t-hot script. The stories we tell are indubitably part of historical record and mark social spaces in our history. Society will never be able to forget the films we have made because they are part of an era and an age. They are more true to history than textbooks if you believe in the anecdote that history is written by the conqueror. That makes what we do more than entertainment even though that is what we pitch in the present. Hoeraa! and all the other psych terms you use to get up in the morning to get behind (or in front) of that camera!

Here’s Ted:

*Distrib’s abandonment (and lack of development) of community-building marketing approaches for specialized releases (which reduces appeal for a group activity i.e. the theatrical experience).
*Distrib’s failure to embrace limited streaming of features for audience building.
*Reliance on large marketing spend release model restricts content to broad subjects (which decreases films’ distinction in marketplace) and reduces ability to focus on pre-aggregated niche audiences.
*Lack of media literacy/education programs that help audience to recognize they need to begin to chose what they see vs. just impulse buy.
*Threat of piracy makes library value of titles unstable, which in turn limits investment in content companies and reduces acquisition prices, which in turn reduces budgets, which in turn limits the options for content — so everybody loses.
*No new business model for internet exploitation at a level that can justify reasonable film budgets.
*Emphasis on single pictures for filmmakers vs. ongoing conversation with fans has lead to a neglect of content that helps audiences bridge gaps between films and that would prevent each new film to be a reinvention of the wheel for audience building.
*Lack of marketing/distribution knowledge by filmmakers limits DIY success.
*Filmmakers still believe that festivals are first and foremost markets and not media launches.
*The ego-driven approach to filmmaking vs. one of true collaboration generally yields lower quality of films and greater dissatisfaction amongst all participants.

To read all 38 reasons go here please…

Crab in the pan

As ReadWrite slowly becomes more steady and film panels worm their way into the “things to do” category, I find this lovely group of people. Crab in the pan is a collective that seems to want to nurture and educate young film-makers.

The first panel is going to be this Saturday (9 May) and will feature various “events” during the day that you can participate in. For R45 the day is your.

Before I over-complicate matters or say things that I later regret I will withhold opinion until after the event. All I can say for now is that I have a confirmation that I may post the day’s lectures (Dylan Voogt, Trevor Lyle, Reghardt van den Bergh) on ReadWrite. Now to find out if their actually recording it….

Please do support this effort and come around.

Crab in the Pan

09h00 - 09h15 INTRODUCTION ~ Conference Hall ~
09h15 - 09h45 On Film Producing | Dylan Voogt ~ Conference Hall ~
09h45 - 10h00 Q&A with Dylan
10h00 - 10h15 BREAK
10h15 - 11h30 Option 1a:
Camera Operation & Technology
Visual Impact: Magus
~ Conference Hall ~ Option 1b:
Controlled Lighting | Trevor Lyle
~ Studio ~

11h30 - 11h45 BREAK
11h45 - 13h00 Option 2a:
Apple Final Cut Training | Labspace
~ Conference Hall ~ Option 2b:
Uncontrolled Lighting | Trevor Lyle
~ Outdoors ~

13h00 - 13h30 Q&A with Labspace
13h30 - 14h00 LUNCH
14h00 - 14h30 On Directing - Reghardt van den Bergh ~ Conference Hall ~
14h30 - 15h00 Q&A with Reghardt
15h00 - 17h00 Super 14 - Sharks VS Waratahs
~ Live in the Shed, Oude Molen ~ Bonus Practical - How to do a basic Green Screen Shoot
Teaching Yourself:
Utilising resources on the web

Lionsgate Relativity closing deal…

I love DHD for its insightful take on Hollywood business. Here is Nikki’s futures projection come to life…

SANTA MONICA, CA (April 27, 2009) - LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), a leading next generation filmed entertainment studio, and Relativity Media, a premier media and entertainment company, announced today that they have finalized a new multi-picture, multi-year deal under which Lionsgate will acquire U.S. distribution rights for up to five Relativity Media productions per year. The agreement builds upon the successful relationship established by the companies during the past two years, when they partnered on the critical and commercial hits THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, 3:10 TO YUMA and THE BANK JOB. The announcement was jointly made by Joe Drake, Lionsgate President, Motion Picture Group, and Co-Chief Operating Officer, and Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media.

Said Drake, “Ryan Kavanaugh and his colleagues at Relativity Media have built an extraordinary company that is one of the industry’s most prolific suppliers of broad-appeal, talent-driven motion pictures. This agreement solidifies the long-term relationship we built together through successful partnerships on 3:10 TO YUMA, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM and THE BANK JOB. We are thrilled to bring these new movies into the Lionsgate family, adding to the tally of first-rate productions that will define the Lionsgate release slate going forward.”

Said Kavanaugh, “This deal represents a big step in the evolution of a partnership between two forward-thinking companies. Lionsgate is defined by its keen ability to take smart risks on compelling films. Lionsgate treats its distribution of films as an owner, thinking creatively about how to approach every film uniquely and maximize the value of each and every project. These films are in great hands thanks to this relationship.”

The first title to be released under the new agreement is BROTHERS, the highly anticipated new film directed by six-time Academy Award® nominee Jim Sheridan (IN AMERICA, MY LEFT FOOT). Tobey Maguire, Academy Award® nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Academy Award® nominee Natalie Portman star in this drama about the rivalry and ultimate redemption of two brothers in love with the same woman. Based on the award-winning 2004 film by Danish writer/director Susanne Bier, BROTHERS is expected to be released by Lionsgate later this year. It will be followed by the supernatural thriller SEASON OF THE WITCH and the action/comedy THE SPY NEXT DOOR, both of which are currently in postproduction. Directed by Dominic Sena (GONE IN 60 SECONDS), SEASON OF THE WITCH stars Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman and introduces Claire Foy in the story of 14th Century knights transporting a girl suspected of being the witch who has spread the Black Plague. SEASON OF THE WITCH marks Relativity’s first film in their output arrangement with Charles Roven’s Atlas Entertainment. Directed by Brian Levant (ARE WE THERE YET?), THE SPY NEXT DOOR stars Jackie Chan as a mild-mannered suburbanite who agrees to babysit his neighbor’s unruly kids, only to have them accidentally blow his cover as a secret agent. Additional titles will be announced at a future date.

The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Jason Constantine, President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions, Wendy Jaffe, Executive Vice President Business & Legal Affairs, Acquisitions and Co-Productions, and Sean Kisker, Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning & Operations, Motion Picture Group; and by Ryan Kavanaugh, Chief Executive Officer, Tucker Tooley, President of Production, Andrew Marcus, Chief Operating Officer, and Linda Benjamin, Executive Vice President Business & Legal Affairs on behalf of Relativity Media.

Picking up the 3rd world internet bill

Consider that Facebook stores up to 850milj new photos and 8milj videos each months. Imagine the disc farms. The story continues to return revenue. If all those people who uploaded pics and vid’s actually added to the online economy by clicking on ads or better yet actually buying something this conversation would be a mute point. However, many of the users who use social networks and the like can hardly afford a loaf of bread, not to speak of “Sexy lingerie for you and your lover”.

This brings the Utopian vision of world sharing and online equality under some serious skepticism. The couple of milj users who actually DO click and buy cant sustain the rest of the world so now what. Some have answered by excluding ISP’s from specific countries or regions in Africa and India for example. Other alternatives are using simpler displays and lower quality pics and vids for these users to see. MySpace may try something called Profile Lite which would be a simpler layout that would use less bandwidth.

Bandwitdh cost money and not everyone has money so now what…this is going to become tougher question as revenue and usage become closer and closer. At the end of the day it’s all about the bottom line….

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From NYTimes

This intractable contradiction has become a serious drag on the bottom lines of photo-sharing sites, social networks and video distributors like YouTube. It is also threatening the fervent idealism of Internet entrepreneurs, who hoped to unite the world in a single online village but are increasingly finding that the economics of that vision just do not work.

Last year, Veoh, a video-sharing site operated from San Diego, decided to block its service from users in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, citing the dim prospects of making money and the high cost of delivering video there.

“I believe in free, open communications,” Dmitry Shapiro, the company’s chief executive, said. “But these people are so hungry for this content. They sit and they watch and watch and watch. The problem is they are eating up bandwidth, and it’s very difficult to derive revenue from it.”

Web entrepreneurs like Mr. Shapiro of Veoh, still struggling with his decision to restrict his site from much of the world, might have to find a way to soothe their battered consciences.

“The part of me that wants to change the world says, ‘This is unfair, it shouldn’t be like this,’ ” Mr. Shapiro said. “On the other hand, from the business side of things, serving videos to the entire world is just not supportable at this time.”

Read Full NYTimes Article

Selling overseas

Reading my daily digital newspaper (Google Reader) I found this article on foreign sales on Truly Free Film. Ted asks a colleague to explain how do foreign sales come up with the numbers. In short, based on a budget percentage, but it doesn’t end there by any means.

After this interesting read I was lead to Wall Street Journal for another article on the dismal state of foreign sales at the moment. It discusses the lack of interest in American cinema and the boost of local content world wide. I thought this was great news because SA now just has to catch up with the trend.

Enjoy the read!

*Glen Basner on Truly Free Film*

There are many factors in determining what a territorial license fee should be, a percentage of the budget is only one. These are standard amounts that are “typical” for an individual territory based on what distributors have paid historically (Yes, the world has changed quite a bit recently!). I don’t believe that they apply in singular fashion unless you are contemplating some form of output deal.

On a single picture license, a distributor will want to know what the budget level is so that: a) they understand what the production value will be; and b) they can feel comfortable that they are not paying an excessive amount in relation to the cost of the film. These are valid points but what people forget is that ultimately the budget of the film does not necessarily have a correlation with its success at the box office (Blair Witch etc).

Our approach is to think like a distributor and run estimates, both revenue and expense, for a film in all media to determine a low, base and high value a film is likely to have in any given territory. With these estimates we can back into a license fee figure that would allow for a distributor to make money should the film turn out well. The budget comes into play if the sum total of our international estimates do not raise enough money to finance a film.

Excerpt Wall Street Journal

Indie Films Suffer Drop-Off in Rights Sales
* APRIL 20, 2009

In the latest challenge to the American movie business, a crucial source of funding for independent films; sales of foreign-distribution rights, is rapidly drying up.

For decades, independent movie producers in the U.S. have routinely been able to fund their films by selling the rights to distribute them abroad. If the production featured a big-name actor or director, the rights were often sold before the movie was finished, providing producers with 50% or more of their production budget.

In addition, shifting tastes in many markets have favored local films over American fare. The breakout success in France of “Welcome to the Sticks” last year and, more recently, “LOL (Laughing Out Loud),” has persuaded some distributors to stick with products made on their native ground.

The success of local movies has diminished the demand for U.S. movies that don’t have a cross-territorial appeal,” says Bill Block, a veteran film financier who bought “The Blair Witch Project” a decade ago and went on to found QED International, a film production and foreign-sales company.

Read Full Article

Lionsgate finds private sales

Seems like Ichan is loosing the battle to not only win over Lionsgate board members but also buy Lionsgate debt and future slips…

More from Variety Business

In a move that may put a damper on any takeover effort by Carl Icahn, Lionsgate is refinancing $66.6 million of its debt in a private deal.

Meanwhile, Icahn had not indicated Monday afternoon whether he would extend his offer to buy $350 million of the Lionsgate debt or allow it to expire.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday, the mini-major disclosed that it had renegotiated with noteholders to exchange $66.6 million in existing notes due in 2025 for a new issue of the same bonds with two annual interest payments. The new notes have a lower conversion rate - $8.25 a share, compared with $14.28 - and mature three years later in 2015.

Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns told Daily Variety, “It’s a private transaction with two of our major bondholders on terms that are attractive to both sides.”

Read Full Article

AOL being dislodged from Time

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If Time Warner is able to “spin” AOL and split it form the mother ship, Time Warner earning projections should double from 2009 - 2012 says DealBook. Read here for the details and hefty plans of the corporate world…

Mr. Nathanson said by separating AOL, Time Warner would double its estimated earnings growth from 2009 to 2012. He estimates that AOL would be valued at $2.4 billion on a stand-alone basis, a far cry from some estimates of up to $10 billion last year.

And with the extra cash Time Warner may look to some bargain hunting, Variety speculated. One fund manager told the publication that Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive, the video game companies, could be attractive to the media conglomerate “because the stocks are cheap and it’s the fastest-growing industry in the media field. And I think it makes more sense to buy rather than build.

Icahn and the Lion Cont’d

Lions Gate Says Icahn’s Move Could Risk Default
March 27, 2009

From Dealbook - Here’s the latest on what is going on with Icahn. He wants it all, no surprise considering the strength of LG library which include the Madea franchise.

Mr. Icahn, who controls 14.5 percent of Lions Gate shares, has launched an offer to buy $325 million worth of convertible notes issued by the studio, producer of the popular “Saw” and Tyler Perry movies, and the “Mad Men” cable TV series.

If Mr. Icahn were to successfully buy the debt and convert it all into equity, his stake would double to about 28 percent to 29 percent. The offer expires on April 20.

Lions Gate said on Thursday its board decided to adopt a “neutral” stance toward the activist shareholder’s tender offer, but warned that, if Mr. Icahn owned more than 20 percent of the company, it may constitute a change in control that could result in default and accelerated payment obligations on another Lions Gate credit facility.

Read Full Article

Future of Independant film

Scott Kirsner interviewed Independent film makers at a breakfast about the future of Independent Film.
The recording is not great because of the background noise, if you can take it you may hear some pearls about distribution, business models and where are we going….

Eight folks who were in Austin this week for the SXSW Film Festival sat down yesterday morning to have breakfast and talk about the one big idea or big challenge or big shift that we’ve been thinking about most these days. We recorded the conversation so you could listen in, but be forewarned that there’s a lot of background noise; the restaurant was noisier than is ideal for audio recording. (It gets better as the recording goes on, as the restaurant empties out.) The order in which people speak in the recording is:

producer Ted Hope
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

Listen Here

Bulldog to bad dog - Racehesky may be turning on Icahn..

Dr. Mark Rachesky, former wunderkind of Icahn in the 90’s and now CEO of MHR (19.2% share in LGF) may not be the ally Icahn thought him to be. In the case of Lionsgate, Rachesky followed suit when Icahn doubled his stock giving the impression, at least to the press, that the two may be in cahoots to make a move on LGF. However, latest news may tell a different tale.

March 19
Dealbook

Is Carl C. Icahn’s former investment chief turning against him as the activist investor seeks to increase his influence over Lions Gate? With Mr. Icahn threatening to mount a proxy battle against the film studio, Lions Gate may be turning to its largest shareholder, MHR Fund Management, run by a former Icahn lieutenant, Mark Rachesky, for help, BusinessWeek says.

MHR, which holds just under 20 percent of the Hollywood studio, said in an S.E.C. filing that in “recent days” it had held “preliminary” talks with the studio about the possibility of adding an MHR nominee to its board. The announcement comes as Lions Gate prepares to its defense against a possible fight with Mr. Icahn. Reuters reported Wednesday that Lions Gate had hired an advisory team, including the investment bank Morgan Stanley and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, to help it fend off the moves by the activist investor.

And BusinessWeek reported Thursday that Lions Gate had been trying to build closer ties with MHR and Mr. Rachesky, as well. Furthermore, the magazine said, citing those with knowledge of the investors’ actions, Mr. Icahn and Mr. Rachesky have both talked with Lions Gate recently and have not always appeared to be in sync, or even close to one another.

I love when a good twist in the tale!

Previous:
Icahn and the Lion
Icahn prepares a Lions share

Company of friends

So you want to start a company. Yes, good idea. Not only that, but you want to run it with your best mate. Sound good…to you.

Friends have bled and died for each other. They have been betrayed and made up again. Friends have shared girls/boys, under ware, rooms, booze, family, ideas and road trips. Not much can get between friends, that is true. There are however some instances where friends should not necessary be together. One of those examples is business. When it comes to money and power friendship seems to take a neat third position and very soon your best friend is a lying fake who has done nothing but suck up you energy to promote himself and take the profit!

In other words, be careful. I have attached a link to a good story about this topic and also some use full tips when considering venture like this. Personally, I started a company called “Big Eyed Deer” with three friends and in the end, although very amicable, we struggled to make it a BUSINESS. To come up with a business model we could all agree on or decide what the vision for the company was. Even though it was fantastic to hang with my friends all day and run a “company” in the long run it was not sustainable. Our friendship was more important than the company. We are all still very good friends which may have not been the case we pursued “Big Eyed Deer”.

Some things to consider before starting “Best Mate Inc”

*  Make your agreements explicit so that you don’t break implicit promises
* Detail your agreements so that your promises are clear
* Don’t be afraid of discussing negative scenarios, so that you don’t add the stress of misunderstanding to already bad situations
* Write things down so you’ll remember
* Don’t make things work at all costs, so that you don’t spend the next years living with a deal that’s not acceptable to you
* Don’t assume things will get better with time, so you’re not surprised when they don’t

For more reading on this topic and an in-depth account visit:

DanielTenner

Icahn prepares a Lions share

LGF is putting together a board of “A” league players before Icahn puts in his tender to buy up LGF debt.

The mitts are coming off as both sides prepare for the inevitable clash. LGF is calling Icahn a distraction to business and I am sure they wish that this whole debacle could just go away.They are definitely prepping themselves for the worst which includes changing board members, changing business tactics and ultimately changing their CEO… Icahn is still busy with some serious strategy play as he is keen on pushing the September scheduled Board meeting earlier to make a play.
Either way, this game is far from over and the outcome is very unclear.

Read more:
Niki Finke
Icahn and the Lion

Icahn and the Lion

Over the last couple of months starting October 2008 financier, corporate raider, and private equity investor Carl Icahn has incrementally been buying a bigger stake in Lionsgate Films. When the market crashed in September 2008 the Hyenas came to feast and Icahn was quoted in saying that Lionsgate is undervalued stock. He quickly dove in and doubled his initial stock in LGF from 4.1% to 9.6% in October.

So that you know…LGF is a mini-major studio and is probably best known for their gore fest SAW collection. These films have kept the company going so far, well that and their phenomenal film library with nearly 12,000 titles (8000 TV shows and 4000 films). These titles include hits like Dirty Dancing, Reservoir Dogs, Terminator 2, Basic Instinct, Total Recall, The Blair Witch Project, the Saw franchise, Crash, Monster’s Ball, and the smash television series Weeds. This library generates more than $250m a year in recurring revenue. The positive cash flow of approximately $100m also covers the $90m a year in overheads and creates a stable platform for the company to focus on their core business.

It all went quiet for a while over the holiday season and then in February, BAM!Mark Rachesky buys 1.7m shares giving him a total of 17% stake in LGF. What is the point of this transaction you may ask…? The point is Rachesky is known to be Icahn’s “protege” in the fierce and feisty finance world. He worked for Ichan from 1990 - 1996 and the two are known compadre’s. From this position it seemed as if Icahn was maneuvering to take more control of the management of LGF and cause some stir as he did at Time Warner not to long ago. For the record, that did not end completely in Icahn’s favor. Link

January 2009 Icahn starts talks with LGF about including some board members of his request. These talks continue while the press try and figure out his next move might be including perhaps the sale of LGF. Icahn raises some issues about LGF’s financial state and it’s management that do not sit to well with CEO Jon Feltheimer. Icahn reiterates that he thinks LGF is undervalued and could be making better profit by spending money more wisely and specifically to core business. Feltheimer had recently purchased TV Guide (a TV Network which Feltheimer sais falls into LGF long term strategy of broadening LGF business) which Icahn said was “reckless”.

Jump forward to March and the talks crumble. Feltheimer calls a stand still on the talks saying that although he is happy to listen to stock holders ideas his loyatly is toward shareholders.

Santa Monica, CA, and Vancouver, BC, March 11, 2009 — Lions Gate Entertainment Corp confirmed today that it has ended discussions with Carl Icahn about potentially adding his designees to the Lionsgate Board of Directors.

Lionsgate Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns said, “Lionsgate has a strong track record of successful growth over the past nine years and is committed to building value for its shareholders. We are always open to hearing the ideas of our shareholders and exploring ways to incorporate them. Over the past three weeks, our Board of Directors has been in discussions with Mr. Icahn to consider how we could accommodate some of his requests, including the possible appointment of his designees to the Board of Directors. However, the Board ultimately concluded that it could not meet his requests and continue to serve the best interests of all of our shareholders, which is our number one priority.”

On March 13 Icahn offers to buy $325m of LGF debt. This will allow him to flex more board power and he may turn this debt into LGF shares. Icahn has made it clear that he is not interested in selling LGF in the current climate but this move is deliberate and clear to put pressure on management for board seats.

Icahn has not finished with LGF and this little “mellow” drama has not reached it’s final episode in this season.

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For more reading:

Dealbook
Nikki Finke