Distribution

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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It’s always been about Hybrid

Distributing pictures and making a decent return has always been a multi-diciplinary project. In the 80’s it was about making ancillary-products, 90’s VHS and DVD and now? This online game has thrown everybody and so the innovators try and fail, the cynics sit on the fence and say it will never work and alot of us hope for the best.

From a great new site I found called Magnet Media. I’ve used again only excerpts so check it out for yourself.

The Panel was: Efe Cakarel, Graham Leggat, Peter Becker, Sara Pollack

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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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VODO

What is VODO?

VODO is trying to help solve three problems:

(1) How do we get works (texts, films, music) distributed efficiently and widely using current peer-to-peer and filesharing technologies?
(2) How do we market these works in a way that can help artists gain widespread recognition?
(3) How can we help creators distributing via filesharing systems to develop a sustainable and even profitable, practice?

We approach these problems by, first, gathering quality “unpublished” content (books, films, music) from a variety of sources. These may, for example, be commissioning boies who know about work they’ve comissioned that couldn’t be or wasn’t published; they may be “slush-piles” from literary agencies; they may be first albums submitted directly by bands, or offered by managers. (The fact is that a lot of great content will never make it to a mainstream publication –– for a variety of reasons that we won’t go into here, but NOT just because they’re not good enough.)
Second, we filter the content. Once it’s uploaded, we allow VODO’s Regular Supporters to download or stream any work they like, in order to comment and vote on it. Taking into account these votes and comments our team select works to distribute.

Third, we are bringing together some of the world’s largest P2P services and sites to help promote and distribute winning works. Works selected are promoted prominently to our ‘Distribution Coalition’, which has many millions of eyeballs. The promotions we place on these pages will link directly to the works, which will be seeded in partnership with Bittorrent and other filesharing services.

Finally, at the core of VODO is a commitment to providing revenue for creators of media content, in a world in which the systems for distributing, copying and viewing that content are cross-territorial, rapidly changing and difficult to predict or control.

Put simply, we provide a freely accessible “look up” table that stores hashes of works we’ve helped distribute, against payment details (e.g., PayPal) for producers. With this table, any site that implements the VODO system can offer donation links for VODO works. In time we’re aiming to extend this to all sorts of works, even those not published by us. But as you can guess, this will take some time!

With the system we’ve developed, we’ll be able to let consumers of media shared through P2P networks make voluntary donations to our creators wherever their works are shared.

BACKGROUND

Until recently the assumption has been that if consumers cannot be made to pay for copies of media obtained through traditional channels, revenue is entirely lost to creators. However, content/distribution projects such as Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ and our own STEAL THIS FILM 1 & 2 have shown that a proportion (in Radiohead’s case, 38%) of people consuming media through P2P networks are willing to make entirely voluntary donations.

If a small proportion of the massive amount of P2P users downloading works through VODO decide to donate on a regular or semi-regular basis to some of the artists whose works they are sharing, these creators would be able to build an excellent means of support. One of the advantages of direct, after-the-fact donation is that there is no friction and much, much more of the money makes it into the artists’ pockets.

VODO makes it easy for users to donate and is part of a culture in which it will become normal for them to do so. We think there is a great opportunity for small-to-medium sized media producers to maximise usage of efficient, free P2P networks by encouraging free copying and distribution of their materials, while actively seeking voluntary supportive donations. We also think that around works distributed this way, we can build all sorts of new revenue channels for creators.

Films and music establish a powerful relationship between ‘producer’ and ‘consumer’. One of VODO’s key benefits lies in distributing payments out to players and downloading software, making it as trivial as possible for donors to initiate voluntary donations when they feel most ‘connected’ to the artist: at the point of enjoyment of the media.

VODO began in 2006 as the Pretext project, which was kindly supported by a grant from the Arts Council of England (ACE). Pretext’s aim was twofold: to distribute quality, minority texts over the internet, and to find a model that could remunerate authors while they did it. Back then, Pretext was Jamie King, artist/programmer Jan Gerber, then-CC-UK head Christian Ahlert, Hannah Upritchard and noted author Hari Kunzru.

To cut a long story short, it took us just less than two years to realise that ‘revolutionising’ the publishing industry was VERY hard way to tackle the problems that really interested us: how online distribution was changing what it means to communicate, to ‘get published’, to be a creator and an author in the ‘network society’. In the meantime, two of the original team — along with other friends — happened to make STEAL THIS FILM 1 and STEAL THIS FILM 2, which represented some of our thinking around this topic, live and very much in the public eye.

Artist/programmer/guru Sebastian Lutgert was another person instrumental in developing the ideas behind VODO during late 2007/early 2008. Sebastian and Jan are now working on the very significant Pad.ma system, mostly from Mumbai, India.

After STEAL THIS FILM, we focused on the core question how to distribute content of all kinds using existing P2P infrastructure (i.e., without re-
inventing the wheel!) and how to sustain content producers while doing it (i.e, get them paid!) A third, and equally important question circulated through much of our pragmatic research: how to help creators get as much attention as we’d got with the STEAL THIS FILM project. Without attention, you might as well upload your work to YouTube and hope for the best — not an enticing prospect for many.

So we came up with VODO, short for ‘voluntary donations’ but really much, much more than that. VODO is the publishing system we first started
trying to create with Pretext in 2006; it’s the distribution system that filmmakers all over the world have been wanting ever since they knew about distributing films online; it’s the same attention-gathering machine that was behind STF — only much, much more powerful.

In short, VODO is the culmination of a lot of thinking, a lot of work and lot of goodwill. From the initial funding offered by ACE, we were carried
through by grants from the OSI’s Information Programme, support from the BRITDOC Foundation and the UK’s Emerald Fund. We know that in the current economic environment, finding funding to continue developing VODO is going to be tough. That’s why we’ve designed VODO to be lean, simple and easy to maintain.

Today, VODO’s core development team comprises filmmaker/technologist Jamie King (UK/transient), programmer/activist Rama Cosentino (Argentina), documentarist/advocate Adnan Hadzi (UK), and BRITDOC’s delightful Jess Search (UK), who sits on our as-yet-not-really-existent board. In addition we’re delighted to welcome Stu Tilly (Shooting People) as a collaborator, and Pixeco, who’ll be helping us out with design before we go live.

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.

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.”

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

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.

Start a Digital Cinema

I am looking for information about the relationship between Cinemas and Studios. I want to know who makes the calls, where does the money go etc. So far I have found out that its a rather tenuous relationship with studios trying to limit costs and cinemas demanding more profit. Obviously.

Enter the Digital Cinema. The “saviour” of expensive distribution costs, big print overheads, scratched prints and heavy loads. The digital cinema release wants to be able to get their copy via a click of a button. This was all eight years ago.

Still digital cinemas are not the prevalent cinema. Studios fight with them because they don’t meet the technical requirements and initial investment is massive with no incentive to provide proof of return. Recently though 3D digital cinema has clearly stood out regarding quality and now there is value add for digital.

South Africa has many digital cinemas (its the ones where tickets are cheaper) and I wonder how and what the cost structures are for these cinemas.

If you are interested in opening your own cinema here is a great research piece on how-to:

From MKPE

What is a VPF?

The Virtual Print Fee (VPF) is a financing mechanism for funding the first purchase of digital cinema equipment. It is based on payment by a content-supplier of a fee per booking. The goal of the VPF is to achieve a neutral P&L for studios, such that the expense for delivering a digital print (including financing fee) pluf VPF is no greater than the cost of delivering a film print.

Payment of the VPF will terminate once the equipment expense is fully recouped. Conditions for receiving a VPF may include additional factors, including the use of DCI compliant equipment (see Digital Cinema Technology FAQs, and access to security logs. Such factors may vary from studio to studio.

Virtual Print Fee (VPF) Neutral Cost Structure
vpf-cost.png

What is meant when an 3rd party deployment entity announces the signing of VPF agreements?

Several entities (such as AccessIT, DCIP, Arts Alliance Media, XDC, and others) have announced the signing of VPF agreements with a number of major film studios. The VPF agreement is made between a 3rd party integrator and a studio. The agreement simply says that the studio agrees to pay a certain fee per booking if certain conditions are met. It does not mean that the 3rd party integrator has the financial backing needed to roll out digital cinema, nor does it mean that exhibitors have signed up to the plan. With the exception of DCIP, who has approximately 14,500 participating screens guaranteed by its owners, relatively few theatre owners at this time have signed up to the several VPF financing deals now available.

Do I need to sign up with a 3rd party integrator to gain access to VPF financing?

Two studios are offering to pay direct VPFs to exhibitors, in addition to their agreements with 3rd party deployment entities. Invariably, these direct agreements are intended as a temporary arrangement, requiring the exhibitor to signup with a deployment entity to recoup the entire equipment cost. This is particularly true given that only two studios at the time of this writing are offering direct-to-exhibitor payments.

What are the challenges associated with financing digital cinema?

The relationship between parties is complex, making these deals difficult to understand and increasing the apparent risk. This is shown in the diagram below:

vpf.png

Virtual Print Fee (VPF) Relationship of Parties
The strength of the VPF is that it rests on the delivery of movies by multiple studios, which limits risk. Even if one studio were to cut back on the production of movies, the demand would likely be filled by other studios, resulting in a safe cash flow. However, the equipment required for the delivery of movies must meet the DCI specification, a requirement that no equipment actually complies with today. A test plan has been initiated to validate compliance with the specification, and testing of products has begun. However, no products are expected to 100% pass the complex set of tests, requiring the manufacturer to individually ask for approval from each of the major studios. This approval could be temporary until the product passes all tests. So while testing offers the promise of leveling the playing field and bringing confidence to the marketplace, it is unlikely to happen overnight. Depending on how the deal is constructed, the cost to upgrade equipment as further compliance is achieved is borne by either the exhibitor, the manufacturer, or the 3rd party integrator. Thus, the financial condition of the party that must bear this expense comes into play, adding an element of risk that would not exist if equipment fully met specification today. The current goal is for digital cinema equipment to fully meet the DCI specification in the 2010 timeframe.

Why can’t a studio simply credit our film rental?

The recent offer of direct payment of VPFs to exhibitors is as close to crediting film rentals as will be achieved.

Why is 3-D a driver for digital cinema, and what are the economics?

Digital cinema projectors are capable of projecting stereoscopic 3-D images with a level of quality and reliability not possible with film equipment or in the home (at least, not in the home without significant upgrade of equipment). Audiences have demonstrated a willingness to pay a ticket premium of 20-30% to view 3-D movies, and movie directors have demonstrated a strong appetitite for the creation of 3-D product, resulting in an expected release schedule of one 3-D movie per month throughout 2009 and 2010. Up until the introduction of digital 3-D, digital cinema introduced no new opportunity to increase box office revenue on weekend nights. This makes digital 3-D the primary value-add feature of digital cinema.

The economics of digital 3-D are affected by more than box office, however. The systems that studios are willing to finance through the virtual print fee are strictly 2-D. To project 3-D images requires add-on technology from companies such as RealD, Dolby, XpanD, or Master Image. This add-on technology comes at significant cost to the exhibitor, and must be calculated for in any evaluation of return-on-investment. The differences in the various add-on technologies is discussed further in our Digital Cinema Technology FAQs page.

Should I wait and buy used digital cinema equipment?

There are a few facts that allow one to safely predict that there will not be a significant used equipment market in digital cinema:

Unlike film projection equipment, digital projection equipment has an estimated 10 year lifetime. If you buy a projector that is 5 years old, then you have 5 years of life left. Lifetime is limited by parts availability and the obsolescence factors associated with high technology. While a part for an old film projector can be customed machined in the worst case, no such fall-back is possible with sophisticated digital equipment. Semiconductor technology changes quickly, and the investment required to re-engineer the circuit boards of old products with new parts is better put to work in developing entirely new products. If you’ve ever tried to repair a 10-year-old personal computer, then you understand the problem.
The capex required to replace older equipment with new equipment is simply too high for conducting an early replacement cycle. If exhibitors are struggling today to raise capex for 1st time digital equipment expenditures, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll go through the process again in 5 years. Consider that for DCIP screens, this would amount to $1B of capex every 5 years.
Any realistic strategy for purchasing equipment must take into account the limited lifetime it has and the re-investment in capex required every 10 years. Waiting to convert is not a bad strategy. Equipment prices, particularly those for smaller screens, are bound to improve, as is the digital supply chain itself. But if you are waiting for used equipment, you should consider the points above.

Is compliance with the DCI specification sufficient to receive a digital movie?

Technically, the answer is “yes.” But the interpretation of the DCI specification varies widely among studios. Some studios have a conservative interpretation and will withhold content if you don’t comply with every nuance, which can include motorized control of lenses and installation of a 5.1 sound system. Some studios are more pragmatic, and focus their concerns on basic quality level, security, and a common distribution format. In addition, some studios require the exhibitor to sign a separate digital rental addendum to the existing film rental agreement, which may stipulate further requirements that must be met prior to delivery of a movie.

The Forum Videos

Craig and Jesse form Public pool took the time to cut the footage of our first Forum, The Changing Landscape, and I posted them to Vimeo today. My summarized are brief as I would prefer tou guys to watch them! leave a comment for others to ad to the conversations. For your watching pleasure -

Louw and I sat at a coffee shop and brained the idea for The Forum together…here he is giving you the low-down on what its all about.

Zaheer Goodman Bhayat, producer and panelist on the forum had a lot top say. Here he talks us through where the indy film industry is at. Albeit a bit bleak at times he is still doing it (and doing well) so it cant be all bad!!

Our one panelist, Pam from Zoopy, made a comment regarding cinema in SA and that “Local is Lekker”. Simon Hansen whom I quote often in my blog, had something to say about that statement.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of where it starts, and our inspiration for the next Forum, Zaheer talked about writing. The idea that writers have this space where they can “just write what I love” does not exists. If you really want to do that either starve, live with your parents or get better and have people pay you.

Lastly Simon talks about shifting our paradigms. Having an idea of something is fine but if your idea isn’t the same as reality its not reality that’s wrong. If you want to live in your ideas then change your reality paradigm and come up with something unique and with value.

Four Types of Fans

HAPPY DAYS! I finally got my book from Scott Kirsner FRIENDS, FANS AND FOLLOWERS and am so amped to read it! In this vein my first post of the day is an article on the four types of fans. Remember the article on 100 true fans, this is a nice follow-up? At the end of this article Kirsner suggests a nice breakdown on percentage of each type of fan.

I had a meeting with my crew from THE FORUM (videos to be posted in the next couple of days) today and one of our topics was audience aggregation. This topic will become more important as it is the DIYS ideology becomes prominent. Finding and more importantly keeping an audience will become an art - maybe even a career in the future - perhaps one day you can have a business cards that reads Audience Aggregator. That might be cool.

Ultimately though it is the work that you do that speaks the loudest. However, doing good work doesn’t necessarily mean you will have an audience. They need to find you and the way they find you is that you actively seek them… its the circle, the circle of life….

Happy hunting!

The Four Kinds of Fans

One of the biggest questions is how do you spur your fans to actually do something? Once someone has joined your Facebook fan group, friended you on MySpace, or started following you on Twitter, how can you actually get them to buy a ticket, a DVD, a download, or some merch?

An important starting step, I’d suggest, is to start thinking about four different kinds of fans.

  1. The Impulse Fan. The impulse fan sees a video you’ve made, or hears about your band from their roommate, and signs up to follow you on Twitter or joins your Facebook group. This fan will never do anything else — ever. They are good only for your ego: yesterday, you had 1000 followers on Twitter, and today you have 1001.

  2. The Prospective / Occasional Fan. The prospective fan is someone who can be lured out to a show or screening, or convinced to buy a new CD/DVD, but with some effort. You may need to dangle free samples. You may need to offer a free ticket to a pre-release, top-secret, underground album listening party. You may need to mention that there will be free, limited edition t-shirts given to the first 25 people who show up. The prospective fan can be activated, with a little creative strategizing. They can be “converted” into an occasional fan, showing up every once in a while to your events or buying a book or digital album download every couple years. And they may even be transformed over time into a True Fan.

  3. The True Fan. Kevin Kelly defined the True Fan as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name.” A True Fan will follow what you’re doing on your own site, your blog, your Twitter feed — wherever you choose to communicate. You shouldn’t ignore their care and feeding, but these fans have already been activated.

  4. The Super Fan. The Super Fan is a True Fan who is willing to help you out in some way. In Fans, Friends & Followers, the singer-songwriter Jill Sobule says she has a super fan who built and helps manage her Web site. Cartoonist Dave Kellett talks about super fans who have given him a lift from the airport in their city to a local event, or have been willing to accept shipments of books on his behalf and cart them to a book signing. Jonathan Coulton says that super fans have helped him find a great concert venue in which to perform. Super Fans, if you ask nicely (and offer them copious thanks and credit) will post flyers for you in their city, or point you to the best bar for a post-screening cast party.

I don’t purport to have discovered all of the keys as to how you activate Prospective / Occasional Fans. But two things are certainly essential: making them feel part of your circle, and that you’re grateful for their support. Incentives and discounts and give-aways can help. So can events that feel special, secret, unique, limited in space, or invitation-only.

What do you think the typical breakdown is between these four types of fans, for the typical artist? Just to throw something out that you might think about, I’d suggest:

  • 25 percent Impulse Fans,
  • 50 percent Prospective / Occasional Fans,
  • 20 percent True Fans, and
  • 5 percent Super Fans.

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.

Sites that review unreleased Indie

Aah, Trulyfree blog is always a little bit of awesome. This time Ted has posted some sights that review Indie films. I hope the guys from Orgie, Party of Three and Capitalist Pigs make use of of any of these!! If you do - let me know and well post something onnit….

Ted has placed the name of the individual who recommended the site next to the blog (to spread more names of people doing stuff)

http://brendonbouzard.com/blog/ Brendon Bouzard
http://cinemaechochamber.blogspot.com/ Brandon Harris
http://wwww.cinematical.com Tze Chun
http://www.cinevegas.com/blog/ Christophe Lepage
http://d2dvd.blogspot.com/ Bill Cunningham action,horror, pulp,sci-fi, thriller
http://www.filmthreat.com/blog/ Christophe Lepage
http://www.filmschoolrejects.com Tze Chun
http://www.hammertonail.com/ Ted Hope
http://iradeutchman.com Christophe Lepage
http:/www.ironweedfilms.com Christophe Lepage
MyFiveYearPlan Brendon Bouzard
http://www.nerve.com/CS/blogs/screengrab/default.aspx Christophe Lepage
http://www.notcoming.com Tze Chun
http://www.sf360.org/blogs Christophe Lepage
http://www.slashfilm.com/ Slashfilm
http://www.spout.com Tze Chun & Christophe Lepage
http://twitchfilm.net/site/ Tze Chun
http://videocrity.blogspot.com/ Dave Nuttycombe

I am a member of Ironweedfilms and read Slashfilm OFTEN. Both these sites offer great indy information and enjoy the odd, the strange, the creative and unique, as I can imagine all these sites do. Hammer to nail is Ted’s site and is part of his site collective of which trulyfree is also part.

Enjoy, its a great resource… make use of it!

D9 at The Comic-Con

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This week saw the Comic-con take place in San Diago and saw a host of movies being screened, promoted and talked about there. To name a few: Iron Man2, 9, Avatar, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Where the Wild Things Are, Zombieland and Sherlock Holmes. For a more comprehensive list go here and cry a little.

Anyways, I’ve done my crying a little and decided to try and find out more. I am really interested in D9 (as you may already know) and knew that Sharlto was going to be on a panel discuss with Peter and Neill all about D9. The bastardo’s had a full on screening of the movie - aargh - adn this panel was done right after the film. I have here for your enjoyment all four parts, download them from youtube at work and watch them at home later. That way you don’t use your bandwidth, your not skimping on your work and you have them to share them with your friends later…

1:

2:

3:

4:

Then, jsut for fun, here’s a little vlog from Slashfilm doing a review of the movie and some hints of what to expect on Assassins Creed. Go Here

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.”

Workbook project

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Here is a Powerpoint on how to think about film and integrating it with other media… Courtesy of the Workbook Project, they continue to divulge their ideas on how we can make movies and do it well. Follow them, bookmark their site and read ALL of it. There are great lessons to take from their the examples, many of which should be used in an emerging market like ours!

Sci-Fi Squad

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The cats from AOL want more online traffic. The way they are going about it is to broaden their online user based through Niche sites. The latest: SciFi Squad and Horror Squad. The names are rather self explanatory and the sites themselves are very full with place to put a lot of information. Being a fan of the SciFi genre myself I chose to there instead of Horror and check it out.

In the side bar you will find all things Sci-Fi: Trailers (including the Moon trailer which is a MUST for EVERYONE!!), Tv shows, films in cinema, news and DVD releases. The blog is also well written with very pretty pictures!

What you can expect from this site is more of the same great content you’re used to reading on Cinematical and TV Squad from the same world famous writing staff (plus some new faces). Generally we’ll be geeking out over the latest sci-fi news in film, television, books, comics, wherever, if it’s science fiction related, you bet we’ll cover it. Each day you’ll see an assortment of posts on the site; from sci-fi stories that originated on Cinematical and TV Squad to original pieces, our main goal is to give you fans a place to rant, rave and relax 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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The second part of the site that caught my attention is the news on D-9. Peter Jackson along with director Neill will be going to the Comic con to further promote the film. There are pics of the outside marketing that D-9 has done and if you have been following the D-9 viral marketing you know these guys are hotttt.

D-9 ( Watch Trailer ) is apparently very South African (Neill Blomkamp is a local-yokal). The story may be supernatural but from the trailer one can tell he is staying close to important themes about SA society and involving characters that are true to this space. This can definitely work in his favor. The uniqueness that South Africa holds has mostly been unexplored but a film like this is a great vehicle to exploit it. Unlike other films set in SA (read Stander) this movie is not afraid to utilize what is different here, instead it makes it a strength… Well talk again when we all have seen the film.

Personally I am going to add SciFi Squad to my RSS and keep a close eye. It looks great.

Beam me up…dude.

CNN Screening Room Competition

Cannes Film festival really created a buz this year and it’s around this buzz that CNN has launched their very own film competition. Having recently posted about SMS Sugarman (which I am sure you all watched by now) I thought this to be appropriate.

The Film competition is all cell phone based. The premise, simple: make a short film (no longert than 5min) on a cell phone and upload it to Youtube.com/cnn. The prize, get to be on CNN as the director. Now I know there is sometimes an unfortuante air of, how do I say this, distaste for the commercial aspect of film making. I also know however that my talented friends can pull off a 5min short in a day. So I challenge all my talented friends to make a film that wins the competition and when your actually are on CNN do what you will as long as you wear rubber gloves.

This is a fun way to make an expressive film with technology that is around us everyday and use the tools we are all to familiar with.

My dear friend Tristyn took part in the Cannes Young Lions competition of making a commercial in 48hrs. The prize here is greater (you get to go to the festival and represent You-Tube) but then again you only had 48hrs to make and upload the 45sec ad. You can watch and vote for his ad here by typing in “newandcolourfilm”.

So there is plenty of opportunity for us (film makers) to get a taste of our work out into the big wide world. It may actually be a good idea to build a reportoire of stuff that wins prizes because sooner or later someone will offer you a something (hopefully that something is a contract with a budget!!)

Check it out. If you do make something let me know and I’ll link it here.

Out.

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

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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.

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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

Mashable Social Media

If you are a regular blog reader, or if you use Twitter you may have already stumbled upon Mashable.com. This website is a guide to any and all social media related quandaries. From how-to’s to the latest updates and quirks for various social media platforms. The site features various stories and features on whats going on in the world of social networking.

This site has proved to be a great way to learn how to use social networks due to the mass amount of “top 10’s” and “how-to’s” that they offer. I recently got best Iphone Apps, Wolfram’s easter eggs, what’s up with Facebook privacy and a some other valuable information. Actually writing this list it seems like such strange topics to call important…Wolframs Easter eggs…really? Yes, by looking at those and then further experimenting I keep finding new ways to optimize searches and in return it makes me think of how to market my own films. Alot of this information is valuable to me as a film maker due to the changing nature of our industry. I don’t just mean the Film industry either. The entire media industry is under construction and much like when Radio first started we had no idea how to make it profitable. By immersing myself in this new media it all starts to come together bit by bit and Mashable helps with that immersion process..

That’s all I really want to say about that. Check it out, follow on twitter (that’s where I find the most valuable information from them) or just Delicious the site for later use. Either way, if you participate in social media then a worth while resource!

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

SMS Sugarman

I heard of SMS Sugarman a couple of years ago when I started making shorts on my Cell Phone. It must have been 2005?… During that time cell phones where starting development with video and resolution was a problem. I know when I got my Ericsson that could shoot 640x480 I was super chuffed…much like that feeling I got when my PC upgraded to a 1gig hard-drive. Since then I have worked with the D.O.P. Eran a couple of times shooting TV and he is a great filmmaker.

The big problem was a exhibition for this film. Having been shot on tiny res, the film had to be captured by basically shooting it again off a high-res screen. The end gets convoluted and I am not sure if that really worked. Either way I didn’t see it in Cinema and until now I wasn’t sure what actually happened to it.

So, without further adue, here is the full feature for your watching pleasure absolutely free! I haven’t watched it yet but will in the next couple of days. Let me know what you think…

Also, some words from the SMS Sugar Man blog.

Q&A with Eran Tahor excerpt….I really liked his closing statement!

Q: Will you be making further films in this manner, and what would you do differently?

Sure I want to make more films in this manner, for me it’s not about the technology. Using cellphones to shoot a feature film proved that with the right people, story and creative spirit we can make it happen.

Whether I shoot on cellphones, HD or film it’s about being creative, innovative and realizing that here in SA we can and must create a new kind of cinema, we must find new ways to transcend our limited resources and create something new as opposed to making low budget copies of what’s already out there.

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“a fairy tale assumption in which an all but non-existent condition is assumed to be rampant” —Samuel R. Delany

South African film maker Aryan Kaganof shot his new film SMS Sugar Man entirely with a cell phone. That the media is the message is old news, so it’s hardly surprising that most readings of the film have focused on its presentation of the superficiality of our hyper-real late capitalist society. And indeed in Kaganof’s film is a relentless presentation of error, bad taste, artifice and a lack of truth or reasonableness, chronicling with zeal the hyper-violent banality of South Africa as a cell phone society where media image replaces reality and texting replaces language as a means of communication. What these readings fail to consider however is the films textuality and inter-textuality, and how Kaganof employs these strategies as a radical alternative to the banality of “sms society”. This paper investigates how Kaganof’s gleeful weave of fucked up fairy tales, nightmarish slapstick violence, literary references, mythology, personal narrative, b-grade trash and a wistful quest for spiritual unity encapsulates a cinema of multiple artistic personalities and irreconcilable differences. It is as if the film passes from the reality of our suppressed lives into the history we dream of making, and back again — left in ruins, our dreams haunt us like memories of an imaginary homeland that has disappeared from the map. In this context, Kaganof offers a reading of contemporary South Africa far more hopeful, far more complex than could ever be encapsulated in the 128×160 screen resolution of the cell phone.

In keeping with Kaganof’s refusal of the traditional dichotomies between art and popular culture, academic and b-grade strategies, this investigation presents itself as much as a fiction, an sms and a tabloid review, as a traditional academic analysis or paper.

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

Caachi your online distributor

The conversation of whether film makers should distribute via traditional outlets or use alternative methods is, to me, redundant. All methods are valid and offer the same something, a positive return on investment. The difference now is that you are not requires to “go traditional”, you may experiment with many different tools and networks to get your film sold.

The word Hybrid is being used in the car industry all the time and I think the word should be used more often in the independent film world. A hybrid of economies, cultures and traditions are being used today to create, finance and sustain film makers. Many of the fundamentals of film making have stayed the same, however, our approach and execution are changing dramatically.

Caachi is an online distributor that takes only 25% of sales for their distribution service. They have hundreds of films in their library already covering all genres including an African section. Some of the films can be downloaded and watched for free, others you (obviously) need to pay for. Prices range from $10 to $2. The site sports a nice blog and also allows film makers to create “vidgets” (Video Widgets) so that they can display trailers on social networks.

Some titles that stood out:

24 Hours on Craigslist

Witness a day on Craigslist.com in San Francisco: An Ethel Merman drag queen searches for the perfect backup band for her Led Zeppelin covers. A suburban professional woman assembles a diabetic cat support group. A couple seeks the perfect rabbi for their marriage. A would-be mother finds her ideal sperm donor. Doors for sale, one night stands, compulsive roommates, transsexual erotic services. The mundane and the sublime, the ridiculous and the profound, all come together to paint a portrait of a thriving, humanistic community in the midst of an ever-accelerating culture.

Last Exit

LAST EXIT delves into the alternate and dark side of Copenhagen. Nigel, a loser in every sense of the word, is escaping his criminal past in England and is wedged in a loveless relationship with his wife Maria in a run down Copenhagen apartment. Nigel is constantly under pressure from loansharks and needs work badly

A commitment to gritty reality and honesty that is missing from a great deal of film making these days, …those of you who still think of “Sundance” as the epitome of independent film making, this movie will be an eye opener” Richard Marcus, Blog Critics Magazine

Hard as nails and cool. Drama , black comedy, psychological thriller and splatter in the same movie! [I]t had my with eyes glued to the screen from beginning to end” MovieMix Magazine

I F*cking Hate You

A compelling glimpse into a young man’s ill-conceived scheme to redeem himself in the eyes of his ex- girlfriend. Ain’t It Cool News hailed it as “Brilliant”.

And I thought we where all 2k

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Discussing this topic of 2k digital distribution and exhibition with my friend Daniel in Lake Constant, we realize this conversation is not new to say the least! In 2006 when we both worked on Spoon (shot on full raw 2k camera) digital distribution was a very popular late night conversation. Alas, this conversation should never have ended.

With a hundred years of film history and 35mm film technology, the exhibitors of the world still consider it a better format and see no real reason that they should spend to convert to digital. In their eyes, if a distributor wants to distribute digitally they should at least fit the bill to project this (2k) image. In turn the distributor looks at the Studio for some sort of budget compensation or inclusion for this plan and of course he is turned away at the door.

Obviously there are numerous reasons for this belated digital party with only a small percentile of exhibitors world wide going digital and this number (unlike twitter followers) are not growing exponentially. This is caused most severely, in my opinion, by new creation of technology combined with un-relinquished history.

The more we code and encrypt new technology the more detailed it becomes. Coding is becoming similar to the art of molecular research where you realize that you can continue ad infinitum. There are codes for every bit that is transferred and no code may clash with another. If it does then you need to write a patch code and so the tale continues for capture, grading, exporting, encrypting and exhibiting. Of course there is no help form the hardware designers (read SONY) who have coded their own machines to their specific manufacturing code. Oy vey.

My other point regarding history is simpler to examine. It is a cultural and generational point. Albeit that it is easy to identify this chasm, it is not as easy to overcome. Indeed, coding a missive video and audio app that enables streaming data to converge and display with a unique code each time may be easier to configure than this conundrum would be to discombobulate. For an exhibitor that has been doing this since the “olden days” looking at a 2k projection and receiving nothing more than a file is, to say the least, a push in personal boundaries. Similarly is the idea of the entire digital age to the older generations which doesn’t make our case for digital any easier. I do not want to discredit the Boomers at all, but it is true that presently they run, well, the world and really none of these people have ever seen Google reader or tried to figure out why the damn fire-wire wont friggen work!

The point is, it is going to take time. Like most good things in life. It is also going to take experimentation, like most good things in life….

Here are some links to the Digital Distribution World
Digital Cinema Report
Celluloid Junkie Article
DCinema
LA Times Article

Indie and the Internet

For those interested in this topic here’s another article about indie film and the internet relationship. Having been written last year, some of the stats may have changed. The idea and the people behind it are still there though and that’s the point. On a note, I found this article on WIRED. I find this great because film is again so intertwined with tech that making a film has garnered another dimension. That’s all.

The process is very different from using the Web to sell theater tickets or even DVDs. “Companies always wonder why they don’t see more tangible results” from using social networking or viral videos to promote traditional films, he said. “It’s because you are asking people who live their entire life online to then leave their computer, go out of the house, go to a theater, and buy a ticket.”

Dentler and C.R.M. recognize that the tipping point for online film consumption hasn’t been reached yet, though they anticipate rapid growth soon. (In this, they’re not alone. The Web video site Jaman boldly, if somewhat self-servingly, predicts that the online video distribution business worldwide will grow to $12 billion a year by 2012 from the current $2 billion.)

It is certainly being utilized, but primarily by younger consumers, college kids or recent college graduates,” Dentler said. “I think Christmas 2008 is going to be an incredibly big season for the acceptance and the accessibility of a lot of this material and a lot of this hardware because giant HD televisions are going to have this capability programmed in.”

Read Full Article

Online principals - Free(dom) and community

When I think back to the internet in my formative years I remember how happy I was that I could get so much for free. Obviously because back then I was a kid and had no money but also because the idea of “nothing comes for free” was challenged. Sure my mom paid for the bandwidth which meant I was only allowed to be online after eight in the evening until seven the next morning because that was super-cheap time, but these costs where tiny. This lead me to become a night owl over week-ends and even some week days spending every second I could online. Yahoo searching strange things, joining weird chat rooms where I had to lie and click on the “I am over 18” button and download patches and freeware for my desktop. The net was a world where no-one could stop my imagination and everyone was experimenting with this new tool.

Since then two things have really become fundamental pillars for the internet. The constant push in boundaries for usage and most importantly the ecenomics of the free. Free-conomics is something we all have come to expect when on the net. From Bit-torrent to joining social networks and groups, reading blogs and news all for free. If it is not free we simply change the URL and go looking somewhere else, for now…

This economic model of the free is an interesting one because for the first time in our economically driven world this system favors the consumer 100%. So mush in fact has become free that if you wanted to you could run a small business free of most office overheads. Buy a little Netbook (not quite a laptop but costs about 10% of the price), use Linux OS (free), install skype (free), get a Google account to use Google docs (free) or download the Sunsysytems Openoffce (free) which looks exaclty like microsoft office. This personal package is a very small look into what is available in the realms of free business apps.

Here is a video and an article going over some free business apps.
Read
Watch

Ok so the thing is that this freedom is driving business to a stand still. If it’s all free then there is no profit. The New York Times has changes its model from an all free one and many publications will follow. The idea is that if you like the sample enough you will purchase the entire product. I think that is a fair assumption. I would prefer to read an in depth, well researched article on the financial crisis than a vague opinion from a popular blogger. Albeit for now I can still find that free in depth article with a little bit of searching…

So to the movies. The thing is that there are so many ways of making a film these days. You can find funding before you start writing or filming (traditional financing method) or shoot a promo and then pitch on it, or crowd surf and aggregate audiences…the list and combinations go on for a loong time. How does this trend toward free/purchase help you or me? I think psychologically the user will slowly warm up to the idea of paying for top content. Our mission is to get them interested in our films for free so that they will be willing to buy it when it is done and being distributed. Once you have your whole idea in front of you, i.e. your story, marketing campaign and idea of what budget you have in your pocket, coming up with a practical working free-conomics model is like building a puzzle.

The beauty is there is no right or wrong and anything is possible. Your model will be completely dependent on which resources you have available. If you can a build a site for free start there, maybe something on you-tube to create numbers, the list goes on. Ideally you would want to give away as much as possible and keep the golden nuggets that will make your money back or create alternative cash flow. Just to add, if you are able to make it all free and build a large, active online audience you can leverage that to an investor. Your audience is equivalent to bums on seats which means income…

All onliners are looking for the best (free) thing. Something they can Digg or Tweet or become a fan of. The primary motives for online usage is still community and freedom. Build a smart model around these principals and so much is possible.

Africa wants Hollywood glory

My last article for today from another source, I promise.
What it reminded me of was conversations I have had with film makers in South Africa that generally included these sentences:
“Africa has a unique voice and lots of talent but no money or distribution.”
“If we get Hollywood interested in our films and ‘crack’ the US audience our films will make profit”
“First world industries are stealing our stories and we either shouldn’t allow them OR step up and make them better because its important for the films honesty.”
Criticism toward the person who made the film but does not belong to that ethnicity about being authentic….

These are a few sentences I have often heard film makers use in conversation at parties or talking about African films and recently they are starting to feel stale. Maybe I will look into these themes more and write a bit about them to be able to add some relevant insights into why we feel this way toward our industry, our films and the big ‘Ol Hollywood.

I got thinking about this again after reading this article:

Ouagadougou - The African equivalent of an Oscar - the Golden Stallion of ennenga - has been awarded to a film about Ethiopia’s bloodthirsty past. But for now, Hollywood acclaim remains far out of reach for most African filmmakers showing at the Fespaco festival in Burkina Faso last week.

Directors and producers on the continent contend with tight financing, few editing facilities and sometimes impossible distribution hurdles, as cinemas continent-wide close down.

We in the Diaspora really need to start working with people in Africa,” said Nigeria-born US-based filmmaker Chike Nwoffiah, whose film was selected for the competition. “Co-production can bring together funds, location, equipment and expertise. Together we have the connections and the network to launch blockbuster films.”

Potential of developing world films

The winner at this year’s 40th pan-African Fespaco film festival in Ouagadougou, Teza, took 14 years to make, even with the benefit of support from director Haile Gerima’s US-based production company, German co-production and French donor backing.

Movie buffs have also been directed to the potential of developing world films, following the success of Slumdog Millionaire, a feel good film about young slum-dwellers in India and directed by Briton Danny Boyle. It swept the board at this year’s Oscars, winning best film and best director in addition to 6 other awards, and has taken more than $200m at the box-office worldwide.

Disney also recently struck a deal with a Bollywood film company to produce an animated Hindi-language film set in India.

Lots of people have been asking why Slumdog Millionaire got an Oscar, but not Teza,” the winning film’s associate producer and director’s sister Selome Gerima told Reuters after winning. “This film has got a lot of prizes and it is definitely good enough.”

That’s not to say African movies can’t make it - South African film Tsotsi (Thief) won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2006, but many critics say Hollywood’s embrace of the movie, about gangsters and poverty in a Johannesburg township, reinforces negative stereotypes about the continent.

Speed and showmanship

Hollywood …. makes Africans into pimps, whores and drugged-up cops,” said South African director Zola Maseko, who four years ago came first at Fespaco for his stirring drama Drum, about a black journalist who campaigned against apartheid. “We have to be careful about how to look at Slumdog. I’m quite concerned that a film about India is made by a Western director,” he said.

African films have often been criticised for nurturing a slow French-influenced desert village feel, lacking the speed and showmanship necessary for films to do well amid the action-packed dramas of Hollywood.

I don’t see why we shouldn’t have our own Slumdog Millionaire one day,” said Tendeka Matatu, producer of Jerusalema, an edgy, fast-paced South African film about Johannesburg gangsters which won 3 awards at Fespaco, including best editing. “We put a lot of time and effort into the technical aspects of the film. We wanted it to be so fine that even if people didn’t like the story, they couldn’t fault the look,” he said.

Whatever their style and pace, African films don’t lack fans at home.

In Burkina Faso’s sweltering capital Ouagadougou, local cinema lovers queued well into the night, streaming back from 3 entry points at cinema hall Cine Burkina, for the chance to see Fespaco’s winning film on the big screen.

The question is whether Americans would be prepared to do the same for an African-made film.

It’s going to be very difficult for one of my films to find Hollywood backing,” said Maseko. “But then again, Americans have just voted in Barack Obama, so perhaps they are more ready to see Africa through African eyes.”

  • Reuters

PS. Bang Bang Club is scheduled to shoot in May ‘09. Canadian production, South African Story, next Oscar by international crew??!!

YouTube blocks music videos for UK

Google unable to renew license with PRS
Taken from Variety

LONDON. Google Inc. said Monday it will block U.K. users from watching music videos on its popular video-sharing site YouTube after negotiations with Britain’s music royalty-collecting body broke down.

Google said it would begin blocking British users starting Monday night. The Internet titan said it knew the move would cause “significant disappointment.” But it said its hand was forced by PRS for Music, which it said is asking for royalties that would cause Google to lose money every time a video was played on YouTube.

Our previous license from PRS for Music has expired, and we’ve been unable so far to come to an agreement to renew it on terms that are economically sustainable for us,” Google said in a statement. Until a solution is found, it added, “we will be blocking premium music videos in the U.K. that have been supplied or claimed by record labels.”

PRS for Music, which collects money on behalf of writers and publishers worldwide, said it was outraged by Google’s move.

Google has told us they are taking this step because they wish to pay significantly less than at present to the writers of the music on which their service relies, despite the massive increase in YouTube viewing,” the group said in a statement.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Burma finds distibution home

At Sundance this year I had the fortunate pleasure of seeing an incredible documentary about the VJ’s (Video Journalists) in Burma who where getting news video out into the world under extreme circumstances, the film is called Burma VJ
If you don’t know yet, Burma is a Iron Clad state run by the military. No video is allowed to be taken, there is no such thing as free speech and if you are thought to be against the state you simply disappear. This is real. When the Monks from Burma, who are most respected as its is a Buddhist country, came to stand against the government the military stepped in. Hundreds of Monks disappeared, students rallied and where shot dead and no news crews where allowed in the country. The only way that the world could find out about what was going on was through a handful of journalists inside Burma.

They are guerrilla to the max. With little hand held cameras and a single satellite feed, they would shoot footage during the riots, gather information, smuggle tapes and then send it to a base in Europe. Their footage sparked outrage across the globe as many of you will know because you belong to social groups in protest of the massacre.

The film itself is a compilation of actual footage shot during the uprising and re-enactments that allow you to follow the story of one of these journalists. It is, to say the least, a gripping tale of bravery. Having to deal with insurmountable cruelty and injustice the Burma VJ’s have one calling - to contribute to the freedom of Burma.

Armed with small handy cams undercover Video Journalists in Burma keep up the flow of news from their closed country. Going beyond the occasional news clip from Burma, acclaimed director Anders Østergaard, brings us close to the video journalists who deliver the footage. Though risking torture and life in jail, courageous young citizens of Burma live the essence of journalism as they insist on keeping up the flow of news from their closed country. The Burma VJs stop at nothing to make their reportages from the streets of Rangoon.

Anders is a soft spoken man who has a long history in documentary. He had originally wanted to make a personal story about one of the characters but the topic of Burma and the Monks was just to important to sideline. In the end you have a story that pulls you into the characters and also a topic so unbelievable it feels strange to think that it is real.

Burma won the Editing award at Sundance and also two awards at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). It was just a matter of time before it would find a distribution home. Finally it has…Oscilloscope Laboratories based in New York. The company now has theatrical and non-theatrical rights with DVD’s to be release in 2010. The first exhibition will be in July while HBO holds the broadcast rights.

Disney Rental?

Disney Looks At Online Video Rental Service

Still more news from the Deutsche Bank 17th Annual Media And Telecommunications Conference: Bob Iger said Walt Disney Co is considering creating a subscription-based online movie and TV rental service from the company’s huge video library. It could be an online Disney video club that mails DVDs or downloads video files to members.

By Nikki Finke on Tue, Mar 3rd, 2009 at 05:32PM

Your Tube…Getting it

Scenario: You’ve just filmed actors (your friends) in a comedy-skit and your strategy is to upload the skit to YouTube and then get famous. Your video is under three minutes, it is actually funny and you’ve even tagged Leo De Caprio to get a bigger audience. Before you tell your dad to piss off and start packing for LA check the stats and then go back upstairs to check the hits on your masterpiece. Oh, none…except for the five you hit to check if the video is working.

With 65000 videos being uploaded daily and generally the most popular being sleeping cats and farting fatties it should come as no surprise that your intellectual, quirky, self deprecating comedy goes unwatched. Tisk, tisk. In order to create a successful video campaign here are three tips that may help.

1) Being funny is a good start.

Being funny in the first couple of seconds is the challenge. Mostly videos that stimulate immediately go onto becoming popular. Considering the amount of videos You Tube audiences watch they have become quite savvy in deciding the content they want to see, hence the sleeping kitten and singing baby “phenomenon”.
Another simple but effective example is the “will it blend” select. Blendtec from Utah started by posting a clip of their blender discombobulating a rotisserie chicken, a McDonalds Extra Value meal, a bag of marbles and a rake. Shortly after Digg.com picked up the piece and within a week the video had more than 5 million hits.

Blendtec now has a regular segment “Will It Blend” on You Tube and their videos have been viewed more than 200 million times. Blendtec VP George Wright said very aptly ” We’re not creating commercials, we’re making videos people want to watch”. And that’s the point….

2) Aggregate an audience.

I’ve touched on this previously on Read/Write in that online is all about a following and somewhat dedicated audience. This is not a short process. It takes diligence and time. By writing on blogs that may share your view or like your content you may gain some audience. Don’t be that person though. You know, that person that spams someone’s blog page all in CAPITOLSWATCH THIS AWESOME VIDEOCOS IT’S AWESOME!!!!!!” that sucks. Community is important, be a voice that contributes not just overwhelms. It’s much better to have a group of people that know you voice. They will ultimately help you in finding your audience by linking to your clip or posting it themselves or mailing it onto others. If you have a clip already and you don’t know the blogger post it and ask them to watch it. If you do this a couple of times over on various blogs you may get lucky….

3) Optimize the search.

Entering all the info when uploading i.e. clear title, description and key words are the basics. As the old saying goes, get the basics down. They are important, they will help your audience find you.
There are tools such as Youtube Analytics that shows you how your video is being found and who is watching it. There are mixed responses to this tech but I’m an optimist and any tech to help on the on-line sphere is happily welcomed. If you find that people from England watch your video the most, add England as a keyword for further searches.

Some “Tubers” have focused on ‘piggy backing’. Basically hitching a ride on an already popular video. You can do this by responding to specific popular videos. A great example of this is a video highlighting a glitch in an Electronic Arts’ video game that appeared to show a pixelated Tiger Woods walking on water. In response, the gamemaker posted a video that showed the real Tiger Woods literally walking on water.
This should give you a kick start to your video watch-count. It has happened that responses become more popular than original video so keep that in mind.

Since Youtube is now also paying their selected video-creators it may not be a bad career start. Make something that people want to see, find an audience and keep your information updated and precise..sounds simple enough.

Good luck to all, and may the Tube be with you.

P1 Pocket Projector

Now you can be your own cinema with your Iphone an empty room and this little device….

By AZADEH ENSHA
Published: February 18, 2009
New York Times

Miniprojectors are a dime a dozen these days, which is why most don’t stand out from the pack. Fortunately the same can’t be said about AAXA Technologies P1 Pico Projector

In addition to its six-ounce weight and 640-by-480-pixel resolution, the P1 offers one gigabyte of memory, a microSD slot and an onboard media player, which means the P1 can decode most media formats and play them straight from the projector.

Additional features include a built-in speaker, 1,000-to-1 contrast ratio and a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. The battery, which can be replaced, lasts 45 to 60 minutes, depending on speaker use.

The AAXA P1 Pico Projector is available from the company’s online store (aaxatech.com) for $260. You can also buy a $15 AAXA P1 iPod A/V cable so you can adapt audio and video files to your Apple iPhone, iPod and iTouch.

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SAFE. The perfect 10.

I worked with Inspired Minority back in 2005-2006 during production of SPOON. The film it self is still in Post Production due to the fact that these film makers are doing it all Indy styles. As a matter of fact that’s the only style Inspired Minority does. So far at least.

Spoon was entirely self produced with Simon and Sharlto taking big risks to get the film made, including hiring a young bunch of enthusiastic film makers to make it. Although Spoon is still getting graded I ever so often have a stranger come up to me and ask me when the film will show becuase they were an extra in a scene somewhere and it made a great impression on them. That is the effect of these film makers.

South African Film Exchange (SAFE) is now Simons baby. We spoke of the idea shortly after finishing Spoon in a broad sence and I offered my two cents on why such an idea would work. It is a great idea to spreads the risk for investors and creates a sharing community amongst film makers.

Instead of trying to convince an investor to give you R1 milj. for a film and then hope to God that your plan works so that you can make the next, SAFE is about a community. A concept I am turning to more and more. The community would make 10 films, a group of investors would invest in 10 films. At the end of the day the community would need two of these films to be really sucesfull in order to make the return on say a R10 milj. investment.

With two workshops already done, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town, the Perfect Ten are making way. Besides looking for 10 scripts, they are also looking for acting talent, a sore point in Indy film making in South Africa. With hope to start pre-production on some of the films by the end of 2009, SAFE is looking for talented and inspired film makers to join in.

I hope to make at least one or two workshops this years and be part of this great vision. You can find SAFE on Facebook and join the group if you are interested. Here is a great opportunity for film makers to actuate their dream.

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Lance Weller: Head Truama

Lance Weller was one of those kids who was making home movies from the age of eight. With the advent of the internet and user video upload he swiftly became an indy-film maker showing, distributing and selling his films online. His biggest project, or most prolific was his film “Head Trauma”. The film was made completely independently and recouped investment through multiple distribution methods.

When trying to get his film to be a top hit on Google he started a bunch of sites and then cross linked them. He used interactive and mash-up techniques to broaden his audience. Finally the project was picked up and is now being turned into a TV series.

Through every project process he puts all the information back on his film maker site Workbook Project and so grows the knowledge base for other film makers. Watch the video on Workbook Project of Lance talking about Head Trauma and how it got made. It may inspire…

Launch time for ‘From Here to Awesome,’ a New Twist on the Film Festival

Three of the most thoughtful and high-energy DIY filmmakers around; Lance Weiler, M dot Strange, and Arin Crumley have launched a new kind of online festival.

Called ‘From Here to Awesome,’ they’re accepting submissions of full-length features and shorts right now. As with all festivals, the goal is to bring more attention to deserving work — and the FHTA crew plan to use the Internet to achieve that, rather than, say, inviting a couple thousand friends to a snowy ski town in Utah.

There are no submission fees, and the festival will connect the “top ten” filmmakers with scads of distribution opportunities. (Most of these are distribution opps that any filmmaker can take advantage of without being part of FHTA, but the festival has prizes — like free DVD replication of your movie, or free E&O insurance.) There will also be a “virtual conference” later this spring…. which seems like something to stay tuned for…

GoTo CinemaTech Blog Entry

When the audience takes control

You will see one my first posts here is about1000 True Fans. D.I.Y. presents an insightful panel that takes a look into what is really needed to aggregate that 1000 keep them “live” and help them help you.

The future of independent film is not in content aggregation, which is quickly becoming commoditized, but in audience aggregation. Sustainability for filmmakers lies directly in the hands of the audience. Direct to audience models have shaken the core of the music industry. But the power of Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 true fans” seems good in theory but where do you start? What are the steps to building an audience around your work and most importantly how do you keep the conversation going? Discussion Leader: Saskia Wilson-Brown (Current TV) - Arin Crumley (Four Eyed Monsters) - Micki Krimmel (expert in social media and online community) - Alex Johnson (digital media strategist / filmmaker) - Lance Weiler (The Last Broadcast, Head Trauma)

Zuna Vision

This little piece of technology is fantastic. Scenario: You shoot a music video, complete it, and post it. After a while a corporate wants it or you see a great opportunity to make some money and include the brand in your video. Instead of having to re-shoot, you simply go to Zunavision and use their tech to upload and place the desired brand logo inside your completed video.

Now don’t imagine a badly pasted Windows Paint looking job, the technology allows the logo/pic to really blend with the video.
The company invoices job-to-job basis as every job has different needs.I cant imagine that it’s too costly as they are aiming this product at people who cant afford big post costs and want to make it a user base program. They want people to integrate their technology with websites and businesses.

Besides being able to stick labels on walls and surfaces you can also include videos inside your video. Zunavision also do clickable ads but say that their focus is logo overlays.
If any of this appeals to you visit ZunaVision

On Creative Commons

In a world in the future we will make a film using digital technology and upload it to our virtual platform. The Film will automagically be distributed to agreed cinemas, sites, networks and festivals on the agreed dates. The idea of a hard copy may dissapear completely. Your marketing will be 70% digital, and will seep into every digital social space your marketer can lay his grubby fingers on. Imagine….

With the advent of You-tube and since then multiple other video streaming apps, the idea of digital distribution for films, using digital technology in actually making films, P2P sharing, video mash-ups, social networks and finally making money I am finding myself looking more to Creative Commons. For those of you who have not heard of it or think its gone away, think again. Just to refresh your memory:

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of other creators.

Now I know these commons don’t directly cross paths with what is known to be film rights. They also don’s contribute the same way that existing laws do regarding sales and distribution activities. However, this is a tool to get your film out there without anyone having to become a law breaking citizen. Imagine you have a scene in your film being mashed up by 20 different people who all post it, flog it on Facebook etc. These mash-ups and content grabbing vid’s retain the status of the originator but is accessible to many more eyes. You’ve just broadened your possible audience and created an alternative marketing tool by doing, well, nothing.

There is power in a digital community because there are numbers. With millions on the net daily and video content a big hitter you must consider that we cant keep the current way of making and distributing our films. If the way we do it changes so will the laws and business models have to change. The economics will remain because try as I may I seem to have to eat and then consequently sleep. I feel though that CC is an inroad into getting our films to an audience effortlessly through the digital medium.

Although I have not seen the CC license actually help get a film sold over the net, I think the digital revolution will need new rules.Liberté, égalité, fraternité is just another way of saying Creative Commons.

For more info:
Wikipedia
Creative Commons South Africa
DeProductions

14 Steps to Social Media Plan

This post is focused for business people but with a little imagination you can use these steps for your own film. Have a look, bookmark it and read it again when you actually have a film project going.

Many folks ask how to go about creating social media for their company. As a service to the industry, find here an open source version of a draft social media content development process.

This process is general enough to guide development of specific initiatives. It does not recommend blogging or video, per say. Rather the process allows content creation to move towards the market’s needs, and within the company’s resources. There are 14 steps in all:

1) Clearly articulate who your stakeholders are before you begin.

2) Clearly articulate the key issues these stakeholders care about as it relates to your offering. Use a bulleted list with no more than three or four words per item.

3) Begin by researching which, if any, top bloggers are discussing these issues. Use your bulleted list to search. The following are good places to start:

  • Technorati
  • Del.icio.us
  • Google Blogsearch
  • Ask.com Blogsearch

4) Inevitably, any substantial subject matter area has a back channel where top bloggers and influencers chat. For example, PR and marketing bloggers and tend to connect on Facebook, Twitter, and to some extent, LinkedIn. This back channel can yield powerful connections to highly influential minds who may not have blogs with top statistical ranking.

Read all Steps

Found link on Trulyfreefilm

THE BIZ Art meets crafty in the indie market

This is a creative industry and so when we’re in a tight spot we either use gaffer tape or get creative. Finding money creatively -

As banks increasingly opt out of funding, directors are using new ways to raise revenue to make movies.

Wanted: 1,700 brave investors each willing to shell out $30 for a credit as a co-executive producer on an independent movie about New York’s illegal graffiti street-art scene. The reward: striking a “blow for artistic freedom.”

That’s the pitch espoused by tyro filmmaker Alice.ia Carin in a full-page ad that ran recently in the Nation magazine, a fundraising attempt for her film “Don’t See This.” Carin also promised to send profits from the currently unproduced soundtrack, book and film to “help fund [New York City] public school programs in music and fine arts.”

By Rachel Abramowitz
November 23, 2008 in print edition E-1

Read Full Article