New Articles to Check Out

July 30, 2010
posted by sheric

I have written two articles for next month’s issue of Microfilmmaker Magazine that will go live on Sunday August 1, but I am so excited for you to see them, I will give you a sneak preview here.

About a month ago, Randy Finch made a post entry on Ted Hope’s fabulous Truly Free Film site explaining a MFA track he teaches at the University of Central Florida called Entrepreneurial Digital Cinema. For some reason, this post turned into something controversial. You should read that post and the comments and then read my article. I decided to follow up on what Randy and crew are doing down there in Florida and a story excerpt is here:

We wanted a program that did not stress the goal of blockbuster in the first three months. Rather, the filmmaker would take a longer view for a ROI and would develop low cost works that could withstand such a strategy.  Individual filmmakers would have the chance to be more personal with their work while at the same time better equipped to meet market changes and make these changes work for them. One faculty member saw us as creating ‘pirate ships’ with tiny crews, braving the waves of change while the larger entities moved inland for protection. Our ‘pirates’ could be taught how to read the weather, the waves and better assess their risks. The collapse of the distribution models was the proverbial ‘opportunity’ we all hear about – it will redefine everything: the art; the audience; the filmmaker; the business,” said Steve Schlow.

This month I attended the ARG Fest conference in Atlanta and one of the featured speakers was Mike Monello of Campfire.  Coincidentally, Mike is a graduate of UCF film school! You may remember that Mike was part of the team around The Blair Witch Project and helped to shape the early audience engagement that made the film such a spectacular success when internet marketing was barely a term and certainly not being used to market an independent film. I sat down for a chat (and a brain pick, come on!) with him to talk about what techniques they used then that are applicable to the tools we have now (and we have many more than they did in 1999) to market indie films. This bit is about what they did after they got the initial enthusiasm for Blair started.

“The more we put up, the more the people started to devour it.  It was a combination of seeing pieces of footage that were really intense, with a history that had massive holes in it because we didn’t put the whole thing up,  and it gave a space for people to imagine what they wanted and tell each other stories. The mythology was based on stories that were around, urban legend. I don’t want to say they were historically accurate because none of it was factual information, but it all had resonance with people. It gave people a reason to talk about their own local witch legends and their own scary camping experiences and it just all ballooned from there.”

“We were conscious of the fact that we needed to keep everyone engaged until we had the film available to see.  So, we would read the forums of what the fans were saying and looked at the topics they discussed and we’d think ‘that’s interesting, they are curious about this thing in particular’ and we would look at the information we hadn’t released yet and release what spoke to that curiosity. If we had holes in the information people wanted to know, we would fill those in.”

To read both articles in their entirety, visit

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