Sync Up Cinema in New Orleans

April 25, 2013
posted by sheric

Since I will be speaking on Monday, April 29 at the Sync Up Cinema Conference, I thought I would share some details about that free event and give you a taste of a few things I will talk about.


Sync Up Cinema will be presented by the Jazz and Heritage Foundation and the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) in conjunction with The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) and held at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It is a conference focused on Louisiana film production and the emerging opportunities in the film industry.

My conversation with Clint Bowie of the New Orleans Film Society will start at 5:30pm and we’ll be talking about all things independent film marketing, film festivals and film distribution in the digital era. As this won’t be a panel discussion, I have created some notes of case studies, statistics and other information that you won’t want to miss. How can a filmmaker brand herself using the internet? How to formulate a film festival strategy? What is an impact festival? How to decide which distribution route to take based on the film you have? What are typical advances being paid and for what kinds of films? How much to budget if you plan to have a self release of your film? Do you need a theatrical release in order to have a successful ancillary release? Why social media cannot be the only tool you use to market a film?

I don’t know if the session will be recorded and uploaded online later for those who are not in New Orleans, but I will keep you posted if that happens. The hashtag for the event is #SyncUpCinema if you want to start following it this weekend. I hope to see many New Orleans filmmakers at this event!

Sync Up Cinema is free and open to the public. Major sponsors of Sync Up Cinema include National Endowment for the Arts, Cineworks Louisiana and Entertainment Partners.

For more information about the conference and the up to the minute schedule of Sync Up Cinema events visit 


Production still from scifi short film Similo

Production still from scifi short film Similo

My latest article for Microfilmmaker Magazine dropped today. Here is a little excerpt:

The latest buzzword sweeping the microbudget filmmaking, indeed all of indie filmmaking, is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding describes the process of aggregating small amounts of money from many people to help fund projects. This money comes in the form of donations, not investment, so it will not be repaid. However, most of the crowdfunding sites do offer the ability to provide a donor with a perk for his/her donation. Perks vary in range andW are dependent on the amount of donation made. There are many donation sites available to the microbudget filmmaker and I will be covering three of the most well known over the course of the next few months. The first is Kickstarter.

Kickstarter officially went live in April 2009. The platform is not exclusively for film endeavors. Many creative projects can be funded on the site; everything from comic books, video games, and unique apparel to theater and music events and help with expenses for educational trips. While my requests for an interview with the founders was declined, I did manage to find an interview on Lance Weiler’s brilliant site The Workbook Project with one of the founders, Yancey Strickler. Essentially the way Kickstarter works is that you set a funding goal and a deadline by which the goal must be reached. If you do not reach the goal by the date, all funding is cancelled. So, when you pledge a donation, you are not actually charged anything unless the goal is reached. “It might seem harsh that you can be a dollar short and not get any of the money, but people who raise funds normally would tell you that it serves as a nice motivator. It is a way to protect yourself really because it encourages you to raise your funds before you start a project rather than getting a little bit of money and starting a project, but not having the funds to finish it,” said Strickler.

Story continues on the Microfilmmaker Magazine site.

The Screenwriter is Now an Entrepreneur

September 1, 2009
posted by sheric

Today, my friend and filmmaker Chris Jones posted a great podcast with Hollywood scriptwriter and instructor John Truby.  One of the things John noted is how the practice of the “spec” script is dying in Hollywood. A screenwriter has to think of him/herself as an entrepreneur/producer. Your best chance of finding studio work, an agent, or having your feature script turned into a studio financed film is to make a short film piece that showcases your talent. It will make you stand head and shoulders above the standard script submissions that agents receive every day and prove that you have a solid, marketable talent.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

RaindanceWhoa, what a quote! I came across this on the Raindance site from Elliot Grove, founder of the UK Raindance Film Festival and  instructor of the Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking Course. Elliot’s site is chock full of useful information on the film industry, film festivals, and film courses. You can check it out here.

This particular article is on Hollywood’s 4 Biggest Lies. The first lie is that filmmaking is an art. Making art usually doesn’t involve paying for a lot of supplies and tools, finding additional personnel to help produce it and making a profit from it. An artist largely makes his work for the joy of making it, giving it away for others to enjoy and/or displaying it without regard for pleasing the tastes of other people.  To be a successful filmmaker, one must have regard for the tastes of others. The goal is to have the film seen and ideally for the audience to pay to see it. Successful filmmaking involves raising money, negotiating and generating revenue. Does this sound like art? Sounds like business to me.

The second lie is the filmmaking industry is about making films. The industry often spends more on marketing a film than on making one. The costs associated with marketing are of more concern to a distributor than the cost of making the film. Why? The film industry is a marketing machine that creates perceived values. Making a film has no value to an audience. Anyone with a camera can make a film. Blank DVD’s are sold every day in the office supply store. Audiences pay to see a movie that is packaged as an experience, the experience has value. Packaging a film experience has a large cost. It is commonly called P&A (prints and advertising) and without P&A, audiences would never go to the cinema. They would watch free TV at home, play video games or read a book. The marketing costs of attracting an audience are enormous but they have to be for the return that is needed to pay the cinema owner, repay the P&A investment, provide revenue for the distributor and give the filmmaker and his investors a return. We are mainly talking about theatrical here, but P&A costs extend to DVD releases too. Basically, without marketing costs, a film will never be seen, so what is the point of making it? Hence the title, “the film industry is a film marketing industry, not a filmmaking industry.”

The third lie is what the budget of a film is. No filmmaker, Hollywood or otherwise, will ever tell you the true budget of a film. The largest costs of  Hollywood film productions are star talent and promotion. Never put your trust in the budget numbers that are given for producing a film.

The fourth lie is the film industry makes filmmakers deals. This lie largely pertains to the beliefs of an indie filmmaker. The problem with all filmmakers who want to make a film is they think they can make a deal with a studio or distributor to get the money to make one. Elliot contends that this will never happen, this is putting the horse before the cart. In order to get money from a studio or a group of investors to make a $20 million film, you must have already made a $2 million film that made money. To get money to make a $2 million film, you must have already make a $200K film that made money and so on. So in order to get money to make a film, you have to have already made a film that made money. Make a film and, if that film makes money…then you’ll make a deal!

When To Quit

July 31, 2009
posted by sheric

I have introduced you to the wise words of marketing guru Seth Godin before. He has amazing insight into the inner workings of marketing strategy and using it to your advantage. He has a book called The Dip which is about quitting. Yes, quitting is a success strategy that goes against everything anyone has ever told you about succeeding. The reason I want to talk about it here, where filmmakers come to read my thoughts and advice about film marketing, is that learning about quitting is a valuable tool to use before you embark on a career in filmmaking, or any career for that matter. I realize that this is not a popular concept, but hear him out.

With the proliferation of digital cameras and tools, the process of filmmaking has become simplified. So much so that practically anyone can give filmmaking a try and the market is now flooded with cheaply made, varying quality films all hoping to succeed. So how does one succeed and stand out from this  pack of new filmmakers? Seth explains that the dip is the barrier that exists to keep the masses out. When you start off being a filmmaker, it is so exciting. You are filled with enthusiasm for your project and you infuse that energy in the people around you so that they are also excited and supportive. Everyone starts out with a full head of steam when they start.

Then comes the part where you have to come up with a great and strong story, raise money,  find crew and talent who are skilled but willing to work for little to nothing. If you get into the production, it is often without a real sense of what is going to happen at the end and all of that enthusiasm starts to wane. This is the dip, the hard part that inevitably comes. The barrier that separates the truly committed and talented from everyone else. Proper planning, a clear determination toward your goal and an amount of research into what successful filmmakers before you have done to survive the dip will help you come out of it. That is what separates the successful from every other filmmaker.

If you are not willing to commit to coming through the dip, do not start. Do not even attempt it. It is imperative that you do not get into the dip and then quit. All of the time you spent at the start will have been wasted and you will never enjoy the benefits that come after you make it through the dip. You could have directed that time and effort into something else more rewarding. Only the focused, prepared and committed will make it through the dip. Everyone else should quit and devote their time to something else that will make them a success.

Here is a short video of Seth Godin explaining his philosophy on quitting and making it through the dip.