Do Film Festival Awards Matter?

September 3, 2013
posted by sheric

award cupMy second article for MovieMaker Magazine dealt with whether film festival awards make any difference. For the filmmakers, any kind of recognition is a boost to the ego and a confidence builder because it suggests that the work had value. But do festival awards make much difference to the industry or the market? I talked to several people in various capacities within the industry to give me their take. Here are the short answers:

Jeffrey Winter, Co Executive Director, The Film Collaborative

“There are three major ways that festival awards matter. First of all, an award distinguishes a film from the glut of available titles at any given festival. Meaning, if you are the kind of person (industry buyer, press, or consumer) who is paying attention to a particular festival, then of course one easy way to determine what to see is by starting with the winners. I think this is particularly true for other film festival programmers, who face the daunting task of pouring through thousands of available titles and submissions to their festival.

Secondly, discerning film consumers looking to discover new films to watch pay attention to the films that are winning the awards. I think the right festival awards have tremendous marketing value…but only for the discerning consumer.

Finally, let’s not downplay the fact that a lot of festival awards come with MONEY! There are some staggeringly large Festival awards out there…Dubai, Heartland etc. When a film starts to rack up a few awards, it can certainly get into the five figures of revenue.”

Ira Deutchman, Managing Partner, Emerging Pictures

“The most reliable audience for any film that doesn’t have a major studio marketing budget is the art film audience, which is entirely dependent on reviews and word of mouth to get their attention. Film festivals offer a way to gather awards and quotes that elevate the profile and perceived quality of a film for that audience and therefore do make a difference.

While the most prestigious festivals, such as Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, etc offer the biggest potential bang because they are covered by larger press outlets, a film can build up a head of steam coming out of a number of smaller festivals as well. A collection of laurels can look impressive even if they don’t include the big ones. Also, don’t overlook the niche festival like Gay fests or Jewish fests, as they have their own cachet with their intended audiences.”

Arianna Bocco, SVP Acquisitions and Production, IFC Films

“I think it’s very specific to the film whether or not awards from regional or low profile festivals make a difference.  For instance, if the film is an indie comedy and it wins the Aspen Comedy Festival, then that’s very helpful to use in marketing materials. At IFC, we try to use the awards judiciously in marketing our films. It’s the film that has to work and none of those awards are ultimately going to make or break it.”

For the full article, visit MovieMaker Magazine.



Are you brave enough to shun social media?

August 31, 2012
posted by sheric

This post was originally published on The Film Collaborative blog on August 29, 2012

It is a question I was thinking deeply about because I encounter filmmakers and industry players all the time who say that they put up a Facebook page, opened a Twitter account, started a Youtube channel, but the people didn’t come, views didn’t go up and the sales didn’t happen.  So what’s the point? It doesn’t work, clearly. I know they opened those accounts because it is “the thing to do” and besides it was free which is totally budget friendly, but just opening up accounts with no time, commitment, team, strategy, budget to maintain and grow them and truly utilize what they are best at  is not going to work and I recommend to go ahead and close them. Seriously!

Yes, social media is the newest communication tool (really it isn’t that new, but some still think it is) and Americans in particular spend almost 80% of their time on the internet (30% are online globally), with 22% of their time on social networking sites and 21% of their time in internet searches (there are over a billion search queries on Google every day!). I’m sure you can find another way to communicate with these people though, perhaps visiting door to door or cold calling or throwing obscene amounts of money into advertising all over the place and crossing your fingers (works for Hollywood). You’ve got that kind of time and money, yes? Honestly, start now thinking about what tools you will be using instead.


Which one has been your strategy?


Once I look at what is being done with these sites, I am hardly surprised that it isn’t working. Most artists do not have a commitment to building up strong ties with an audience, they do not use social tools for “listening” and researching what audiences respond to, they do not post regularly except for “please make it happen for us on Indiegogo,” “Vote for my film on (name some film contest site),” or “my film is now available on iTunes.” Basically the chatter is all “do something for me” which is really tedious to read (I would say every day, but they don’t usually post regularly). For many publicists, this is how the channels are used as well; here’s a press kit, write about my client except that instead of only reaching writers, they are broadcasting to everyone and rarely listening at all.

 I wrote some time back about how Facebook wasn’t a good sales medium and I still stand by that post though there have been changes at Facebook that affect showing up in a newsfeed and the use of landing pages. Facebook, of course, would have you believe that it is a good sales tool, after all they have the most to gain from perpetuating that idea  in the business community.

If all you are using social media for is sales, STOP. I release you from feeling the burden of using auto tweeting and sending that same message through all of your profiles. No longer should you hire outside companies to do it for you either and pretending to be you. If you have done this, you already know it doesn’t work. Stop paying companies to send 5 prewritten tweets a day about your film to their 60K+ followers. You will not find that it makes much difference if that is the only effort you are making. Stop making inquiries for “some of that social media stuff” so your trailer will “go viral.”

Here is what the tool is very best used for; name/brand recognition, trust and loyalty building, sustained interest, long term sales and that most indescribable feeling of connection that begins to permeate. This is really an emotional space and it is something I would think independent artists would understand, you express ideas and emotions in your own work, right? And you hope to convey that to other people and elicit some kind of emotion from them. I know you don’t usually start from “I’m making a product that’s going to sell” point of view so why do you use social sites that way?

I say indescribable because you can’t point to that one “campaign” that brought your work to someone’s attention, it is an ongoing process that sinks deeper than “a message” or tagline and begins to spread and lasts far longer because little pieces of your thoughts, your connections and projects leave footprints behind online; not just on Twitter and Facebook, but everywhere on the internet globally. Someone who stumbles across your efforts, even years later, can find you and evidence of your work. No ad campaign or newspaper clipping is going to allow for that. Many people point to Twitter streams and Facebook newsfeeds as being fleeting and they are, but you can make more, endlessly. Can you do that for little money with an ad in the Times (pick a city) or a magazine cover story? While you may feel like you reach more people in a short amount of time, there’s a new cover story tomorrow or next month about someone else. There are only so many covers to fill, only so many talk shows to be on, only so much space in the newspaper or magazine for ads. Should you ever use traditional media? Should you ever use advertising? Yes, of course, but now you can have one more tool to use that is available to anyone, anywhere. You can choose to use it or not, but make sure you understand how to use it correctly and commit to doing it, every day. Also come to terms with the fact that if you are choosing not to use it, you are totally dependent on having third parties promote your work. New artists emerge every day and very few companies [and consumers!] are truly committed to anyone.

Without a commitment to developing a community of supporters by using social media, save your time and possibly money and find another tool. You won’t be successful here.

Sheri on Google+


Today’s post is from my from my client and friend Chris Olsen, a filmmaker/animator/photographer from Chicago. It is also his birthday. Chris and I have many philosophical talks about what it means to be an artist and how digital media tools can enhance the creative process.

Today is my birthday, and as birthdays go, I’ve been doing a fair bit of of reflecting on my life, my career, and my hopes for the future.  While I’ve found that there are in fact MANY rewards for getting older, my favorite is that I’ve gained some valuable insight into the moments that have helped shaped me into the person I am today.  I’ve always been a guy who loves a great story, and more than anything, my idols are those incredible storytellers that have whisked me away to faraway lands, filled my mind with indelible images, my heart with wondrous emotions, and left my view of the world forever changed.  These are the people that have inspired me to tell my own stories, and to pursue as many mediums, tools, and techniques possible to translate the stories I see in my head into something tangible for others to see.

Of all the arts, Film has by far been my single largest influence.  Film is a medium that connects with me on nearly every level, tying my passions for clever wordplay, impassioned performance, dramatic design, and exuberant music into a wondrously shiny bow that I just can’t stop staring at.  And of the many incredible films I have been lucky enough to see, there is a select group that have inspired me to further explore my own views of the magical, mystical, fantastical, and humorous arenas of our existence.

Many of these films have connected with me in ways that are truly indefinable.  And miraculously, through this indefinable connection, I have discovered a remarkable kinship with others like me, enlightening me to a very important fact – Being a fan knits you together with those like-minded individuals for all of your life.  (There are few things more delightful than mentioning a film’s title and finding an instant connection with others in a room, where all involved recognize each other as kindred souls.)

So, as part of my annual reflections, it occurred to me that I owe a debt of gratitude to the films and filmmakers who have helped pave my way into the craft.  Now, to be fair, this list is far from complete, but each of these ten films has in some way influenced the manner in which I translate my personal stories to the screen.  As such, I humbly thank each and every one of the filmmakers who contributed to the making of these films, applaud them for their dogged pursuit of your craft, and hope these films will continue to inspire others as much as they have inspired me!

A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964) – This is a movie I saw far after its initial release, but Oh Man!  How I laughed when I finally got the chance.  Hard to know which gag’s my favorite… from the stellar unfolding of indiscretions in the opening sequence, to the nudist colony-plus-guitar bit, to the hilarious drunken Clousseau, Kato, and Elke Sommers “Menage a Trois”, this film is both a goldmine, and a national treasure. (Thank you Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers for among many things, making bumbling so cool.)

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) – Although initially released in 1975, I knew nothing about this film until the weekend after receiving my driver’s license in ‘86, after which I ended up seeing Rocky Horror every Saturday night at Midnight till I hit college, and even after for a few years. Time Warp is one of the few songs that can cause me to stop and dance no matter where I am, or what I am doing.  (Thank you to Jim Sharman, Richard O’Brien, and Tim Curry for inducting me into world class camp, and introducing me to “garter belts”… Hotcha.)

MURDER BY DEATH (1975) – Sure, not everyone agrees with me on this, but IMHO, this is one of the funniest movies of all time.  Truthfully, I still don’t completely “get” the “fake maid in the suitcase” bit, but it doesn’t matter, because Neil Simon is a freakin’ genius. (So, Thank You Neil! ‘Nuff said.)

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) – My folks took me to see this film at a drive-in in downstate Illinois.  (Oh, how I miss drive-ins…) This amazing film, while supposedly about “alien contact”, is an inspired illustration of the human reaction to the magical and positive aspects of the unknown.  Visually brilliant, aurally inspired, and characteristically stunning throughout, I was hooked by the 5th note. (Thank you Mr. Spielberg, for among SO MANY THINGS, making films infused with wonderment and awe.)

STAR WARS (1977) - I was lucky enough to be introduced to this film as a 7 yr old boy opening night in Chicago by a rambunctious uncle.  I proceeded to see Star Wars in theatres thirty more times that year, and managed to see every sequel on opening day, all the way through till the last release of each shagging episode of the “prequels”.   Star Wars was my “gateway” film. (Thank you, Mr. Lucas, for blowing the doors off the movie making process!)

GREASE (1978) – One of the few soundtracks to which I can sing every song, every line, every note.  Travolta as Danny was absolutely the coolest, Newton-John as Sandy was so totally the hottest… This is by far one of the greatest “Guy meets Girl” movies, and perhaps the naughtiest “Family film” ever made.  Yay! (Thank You to Randal Kleiser, and one of the best ensemble casts EVER!)

HALLOWEEN (1978) – My first real Horror Film, and IMHO one of the scariest movies ever made.  I don’t care if he was wearing a painted “James T. Kirk” mask.  The original Michael Myers spooked me for years… and I loved it! (Thank you, John Carpenter, for scaring the living crap out of me, and for the theme song that still defines the holiday 32 yrs later!)

FLASH GORDON (1980) – Incredible Art Direction, Insane Costumes, Epically Campy Visual Effects, and QUEEN delivering one of the best soundtracks of all time… how could you NOT love this movie? (Thank you to Dino De Laurentiis, Mike Hodges, and Freddy Mercury for making the best damn Sci-Fi Rock Opera ever made.)

TRON (1982) – I was first in line opening day at the Virginia Theatre to see this film, and it so completely blew my mind I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the week… this is the film that changed the way I saw EVERYTHING, and got me into Computer Graphics. (And yes, I’m totally geeked about the upcoming “TRON: Legacy!”) (Thank You, Steven Lisberger, for loving Video Games and championing Computer Animation!)

CINEMA PARADISO (1988) – Because I’m a hopeless romantic who loves movies, so of course I loved watching a movie both about lovers and movies.  I’ll also forever be a sucker for a really good screen kiss, so there you go. (Thank you, Giuseppe Tornatore, for loving film so damn much you had to make a film about it.)

There are dozens of other  films that I could have included in this list,but I’ll save them for another installment down the road. For now, I have some celebrating to do…  so on my behalf, please have a fantastic Friday!

Christopher Kai Olsen is an Emmy®-winning filmmaker based out of Chicago. Part writer, cinematographer, and animator, his playful storytelling approach can be seen in a variety of high profile projects, including the award winning PBS documentary “THE ARTSIDERS®”, the hit animated television series “VEGGIETALES®”, the film festival favorite “BUTTERFLY”, and the musical children’s video series “THREADS™”. In addition to his film work, Chris enjoys teaching and lecturing to educational institutions across the country, and has been known to walk miles out of his way in order to procure a well-made chai tea latte. He can be reached via Facebook, Twitter @CKOlsenPresents and on his blog .

Tweetup in NYC

June 1, 2010
posted by sheric

Some of you may know that I will be participating in the IFP/Jon Reiss TOTBO workshop in NYC this weekend. I am a late add, so you won’t find details about me on their event site. You can look me up on Google or on this site under About. Promise, my ticket is booked and I will be there. I have proposed a tweetup in the city the night before the workshop.

Friday June 4, I would like to have everyone come to the Rooftop Films screening at the New Design High School, 350 GRAND ST., NEW YORK, NY 10002 in the lower east side of town. The doors open at 8pm, screening starts at 9pm. If it rains, there is an inside venue at the same location. I have requested that they give us a small discount on the admission price, normally $10. They haven’t given me a definitive answer yet, but I wanted to get this news out so that you can plan accordingly. I will let you know their answer as soon as it comes and what the high sign will be for the discount (probably a twitter hashtag).

After a little cajoling, mostly because he is afraid of having a late night right before the early morning workshop, Jon has agreed to come along for a bit that night too. So if you would like to meet him, see what he is about, on the fence about joining us the next day, whatever, come. You can still sign up the morning of the workshop if you want. Come even if you have NO interest in the workshop, we might pout, but we’ll get over it and you can meet some of your fellow NYC filmmakers, people you don’t yet know in real life. AND since most of you have expressed a desire to see the tradition of indie films screened in a live setting continue, this will be a good chance to support the idea with a local organization trying to keep that spirit alive.

Hope to see all our NYC tweeps there. Please come up and introduce yourself to me, maybe even wear a badge with your Twitter handle so everyone knows who you are. Mine is @shericandler.

UPDATE: a discount of $4 off the admission has been arranged, but per Rooftop’s request, I can’t publicize the password that you have to say to get the discount at the door. Send me an email on Thursday and I will send you the word. shericand at gmail dot com


Building Your Online Brand

August 20, 2009
posted by sheric

This post could really be for anyone, but I will focus it on the emerging filmmaker because I think it is just as important to showcase yourself online as it is to showcase your film.

I check out the online profile of everyone I meet or am about to meet. It may sound a little stalker-like, but I like to know who I am talking to and what we have in common. If I can’t find out anything about you when I Google your name, it is as if you do not exist. Well, your personal brand doesn’t exist at least. So what are you doing to build your personal brand? What methods can be used?

The reason for building a personal brand online is to establish how you want to be known. If you want to be known as a director, screenwriter, actor etc., you must cultivate that online. Constructing a simple blog or website, a Linkedin profile, an imdb page, or a separate Facebook page from your personal profile page are all good ways to build and control your personal brand. I recommend that everyone Google your name and see what pops up. It may be a reference to you in an article or a comment you left on some one’s blog or it may be your last Amazon purchase. You can remove that Amazon information by changing the settings on your Amazon profile, by the way. If you don’t find any personal references, that is a bad thing. You don’t exist online and you need to change that.

First, go to this site and use the online identity calculator to assess where your online brand stands right now. How did you do? Are all of the references relevant to your brand? Next, evaluate your strengths, goals, the offerings that can only come from you, and establish to whom you want these traits presented (your target audience like investors, industry contacts, production companies, agents etc.) and who your competition is. You have to differentiate your talents from the billions of other people out there, some with online brands already in existence. If you don’t already own your vanity domain, claim it. You can go to any web hosting site like Yahoo Hosting or Go If your name is already taken, come up with a recognizable alternative that you can work with. Your personal site will become your baseline on the Web and where everything else will link back to. Since this is the site you’ll have the most control over, this is the one you want ranking above everything else. With your target audience in mind, create your site with information that would be of interest to them.

Now to spread yourself around the Internet. Grab some social accounts (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flikr etc.) as having these accounts help you to rise to the top of Google, especially Linkedin. There is a service called Knowem you can use to create social media accounts on a ton of sites with just one submission. You don’t have to join them all, just the ones you plan to keep maintained. You could also maintain a blog, use online networking sites (indieProducer, Tribe Hollywood, MyProducer etc.), publish online articles with services such as EzineArticles and participate in web-based communities. You should try to do all of these.  Use these tools wisely and you cultivate an online presence that ensures you’ll show up in search results the way you want to be seen. Always monitor these references too, as the algorithms that establish the rankings change frequently. Google your name every Monday morning to see if anything has changed. Set a Google alert with your name so that you can track any new progress on your personal brand.

This should get you started on establishing an online brand and as the references pile up, more opportunities to promote yourself will come your way. Good luck.