While conventional media has shown us that women make up only a tiny percentage of the leadership in the film community, I am heartened to find that we are tiny, but mighty! As a tribute to International Women’s Day, I want to highlight a woman who is of particular inspiration to me and who was kind enough to take time out of her busy day way back in December to share her wisdom, her courage and her savvy with me. [ed. note: Ava, I'm sorry this has taken so long to be published, but girl you haven't stopped and every time I go to publish this piece, you up and do something else incredible and I have to add to it!]
Director Ava Duvernay has many things to be proud of in the last few years. Having successfully produced, directed and self distributed 3 films of her own (This Is The Life, I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere) and distributed 2 films made by others (Kinyarwanda and Restless City) using her own money, she knows the challenges that come with being an independent, especially for black cinema. She recently won the John Cassavetes Award from Film Independent for Middle of Nowhere, previously she was the first black female director to win Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2012 for Middle of Nowhere, she collaborated with fashion house Miu Miu to direct a short film called The Door (released online), and she is now in production on a documentary for ESPN Films’ Nine for IX titled Venus VS, described as an in-depth documentary that explores tennis star Venus Williams’ fight for fair pay for female tennis players at Wimbledon.
Ava started out in the film business as a publicist, working on high profile campaigns for films by Steven Spielberg, Bill Condon, Clint Eastwood and Michael Mann. She has taken that knowledge and those media connections with her into her new career as a film director and into a company she launched in 2011 called the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) dedicated to releasing black cinema theatrically. I asked her what led to the creation of AFFRM.
“In 2003, I started a division of my PR agency, called Urban Beauty Collective . It was a network of urban beauty salons and barber shops providing in- salon entertainment and programming. I was always interested in reaching the African American community outside of all the nuts and bolts stuff my competitors did, you know, call Jet and Ebony and send out a street team. I wanted to do something that was like the Tyler Perry brand. Everyone knew of Tyler Perry before his deal with Lionsgate, he was an undercover brand. So I was always finding new ways to tap into the African American community and networks to bring my clients’ projects to them in new ways,” said Duvernay.
“In becoming a filmmaker, I knew that I could tap into those networks for promotion, but there weren’t clear cut pathways for distributing films, especially not for films I was interested in making. I started thinking about those wonderful black film festivals that I had started visiting with my first documentary, This is the Life. I went to a lot of these festivals and film series and got to know the organizers. A lot them were these amazing, stellar leaders with bold ideas and well formed infrastructures and adamant about creating a space in their local communities for the black cinematic image. There were about 4 or 5 really dynamic people and I thought they should all know each other. And that lead to the idea of self distributing my film. And that lead into ‘Why would I build up an infrastructure for self distribution and then dismantle it?’ I see so many filmmakers self distribute a film and get into the rhythm and really understanding how to do it, and then they walk away from it. Then they have to come back later and start all over again, or why don’t they leave the structure in place for the next person?”
“All of those thoughts were in my head when I decided to approach those festivals to see if we might all work together to distribute a film and, if it really worked out, we would leave it standing to distribute more films so that other filmmakers could come through it.”
It is no small feat to get a group of enthusiastic and strong people to commit to working together in an organized way. Each usually has their own agenda and personalities can clash causing the effort to fail. Ava said this hasn’t been a problem so far. “Each member is the distributor in their market. I don’t pretend to know what to do in Philadelphia, or New York, or DC. I know about the marketing and publicity and the bookings. What they brought to the table was expert knowledge of the audience of their regions. There was no stepping on toes. We curate the films together. It was structured to be very respectful of everyone’s lane. While we had heard early on that we probably wouldn’t be able to all get along, we’ve never had an issue. These are all well rooted organizations that have been in their markets for a long time.”
“They benefit. There’s financial benefit, there’s branding benefit as there are only a handful of festivals that are branded AFFRM festivals, they have all seen an increase in admissions to their normal festival activities, they’ve seen increase in local press coverage. Really, it is about giving these films a theatrical presentation that they otherwise wouldn’t have. No one is getting rich here believe me, but we strongly believe in the theatrical presentation of the films and a cultivation of the audience.”
I know that it can sometimes be difficult to get a filmmaker to commit to a smaller or emerging distribution entity. I can even imagine that filmmakers do not want their films branded as “black cinema” hoping instead to reach a mainstream audience. But Ava explained that AFFRM films are not denied the ability to reach wider, either in press coverage or in the theaters they are shown in. ”We don’t just distribute to the black community. Our films are playing mainstream theaters in Times Square New York, on Sunset Boulevard in LA, those theaters are open to any audience. We get press coverage in the New York Times, LA Times, NPR. Every filmmaker who has gone through AFFRM has had a CNN piece and we do very intentional outreach to black press as well. The press our filmmakers get, I would argue, is above and beyond what one would get from distributors like Cinema Guild or Strand Releasing. We get mainstream and niche press. So they get a NY/LA run at minimum and VOD after that.”
“Unfortunately, there is no one else here in this space. I think there should be more people in this space, and I hope people will duplicate this model in the Latino film space, the women’s film space, the LGBT film space, anything outside of dominant culture. This is a great way to distribute films theatrically without needing a lot of financial resources.”
Ava explained that the 2 films released so far that were made by other filmmakers, Alrick Brown’s Kinyarwanda and Andrew Dosunmu’s Restless City, were destined to go straight to home video and would not have been released through conventional theatrical. “They were going to be going to DVD, nothing at all in support and we thought those films should be seen. When Roger Ebert called Kinyarwanda one of the best films of 2011 and I knew that 7 months before, it was headed to DVD only release, I am proud that we didn’t let that happen. I want more people to see the work of Andrew Dosunmu and Bradford Young and Alrick Brown and for them to have a proper theatrical release and proper reviews. AFFRM is nourishing the filmmakers and also the black arthouse community.”
Any conversation about film distribution will inevitably lead to money. I wondered if AFFRM is really a service company, being paid to release films theatrically. If so, how much do they charge? But Ava set me straight. “No, I am the crazy one putting my own money in. We lost money on some of the films, but I loved them and couldn’t stand to see them go by the wayside. We license the films because, as a filmmaker myself, I set this up to be beneficial to filmmakers and I am not going to tie up rights longer than the standard theatrical window of 3-6 months. We give the filmmaker a theatrical window and the promotion of their film, a full scale multi market promotional push that comes from having a theatrical release. They are no longer only going straight to DVD/VOD, they can get the momentum from a theatrical that will propel those ancillaries to help make their money back and make another film. No one is getting rich here though, most theatrical campaigns as you know do not make money. Someone has to take the plunge and cultivate this audience and no, it isn’t going to make money right away. But this isn’t about just money. We work tirelessly for 3 months on these campaigns to make up for the advertising we can’t buy so we’d better love and believe in what we are doing because there isn’t necessarily going to be a check at the end of it.”
Many of those working with AFFRM are volunteers called AFFRM Mavericks. A small army has been amassed of people willing to devote their own time and effort to spread the word about the films. “They are just people around the country who are activated around the idea of having options in what films they are seeing. Most of the AFFRM Mavericks are just regular people from plumbers, bus drivers, mamas with 3 kids, to professionals who run companies and have creative ideas. Folks that are canvassing posters and postcards on the weekend, barbers who put all of our branding in their shops. Basically we say what can you do, what do you want to be involved in?”
“They sign up on our website. We have a national maverick coordinator who talks to them to find out what they can do, make sure they will be responsible and helps to coordinate all the efforts. We have about 500 people. We also have digital mavericks who live in places outside of where we will be screening the films who just want to help in some way. There are 20 people manning Instagram, 75 people covering Twitter, a maverick digital captain coordinates all of them. It is very cool the amount of support we have from volunteers.”
On March 15, AFFRM’s new label ARRAY (which is now handling multiplatform releases, instead of only theatrical) will release their next film, Storm Saulter’s Better Mus’ Come, in New York and LA as well as one night screenings on March 13 in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, London, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Amsterdam.
I often hear filmmakers complain about having to think about and set aside time to promote their own films and about a lack of significant theatrical release options. I asked Ava how she found the time to do this work, not just for her own films, but for filmmakers she admires. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say I have a background in marketing and publicity at a very high level before I became a filmmaker. I could say ‘Hey, just do it’, but I came from a history of this kind of expertise. It is very second nature for me to do the publicity and marketing. The hard part came from learning the booking side. It was challenging and still is because of all the politics that surround it. It is hard to break in to that community with new films from people that cinemas don’t already know.”
“What I have struggled with is the balance between the creative and the business. If I want to go shoot for 3 months and I don’t want to go into the office, I can’t do that yet. Or if I need to do office things, but I want to go edit. It is hard for me to mix my days, creative and business. I can’t do business related things in the morning and then go into the edit suite or go write or go scout locations in the afternoon. I can’t do that. I do it by days. This is a director day, or this is a distributor day. It is about finding what your strength is and tapping into other people who have what you don’t.”
“But you have to be willing to stretch yourself because in 2013, you’re kidding yourself if you think all you will be doing is directing films. That is an antiquated model, the old guard of filmmaking. Very few of us will be able to make a film and hand it off and know that it will be well taken care of. It certainly isn’t me or anyone who looks like me. No women, maybe one came to mind, can think like this. You no longer have an option to say I don’t want to do that.”
Thank you Ava, from being so giving of your time and sharing your knowledge with all of us.
About 2 years ago, I made a checklist on this site of major items you should prepare and duties to perform at different stages in production in order to implement the marketing strategy of your film . This is an updated list.
Some form of direct distribution (self distribution) should be incorporated into the overall distribution plan of independent films. This helps to safeguard investment should no attractive distribution offers come in for your film because you can at least start recouping the money by getting the film into the market yourself. But it also allows you to see a payoff from all of the hard work you have done in gathering an audience during production. Remember, no one will work for your film as hard as you will so why should you agree to pay sales percentages to an entity that did not take any initial risk in producing the film? In order to put this plan into action, marketing preparation needs to be completed.
Always carve out the ability to sell copies (DVD for now, streaming from now on) and set up your own event screenings where the production has first dollar payment of the proceeds. If any company wants all rights, they should be paying VERY handsomely for them and be willing to submit a marketing proposal with budget attached that clearly outlines what their marketing plan for the film will be. Otherwise, you are squandering all of the months (or years!) you have put into building up a fanbase by giving up the monetary payoff to a third party who hasn’t clearly explained what they will do with that audience and how they will expand it.
This checklist takes into consideration that you have ALREADY identified and researched the core audience of the film. Also, you have written your marketing plan and budget. The plan is your guide, but this is actually building the road. These items are in no certain order apart from the headings and timeframes.
Marketing/Distribution Check List
Pre-Production (two-four week timeframe)
-Source an on set photographer and set schedule for those days. See this post for more details.
Also arrange for a videographer to shoot separate video content for later use.
-Draft a synopsis – paragraph, 3 lines (100 words) and one line versions (20 words) for festival submissions, website/social media sites, press kit, media inclusions etc.
-Brainstorm creative ideas for film branding, partner with graphic designer and manage production of all branded media/materials going forward.
-Publicity – draft early press release to the trades announcing principal photography.
-Continue audience research and online listening to “influencers,” bloggers, and grassroots organizations.
-If interested in product placement/branded entertainment opportunities, prepare a pitch document for presentation to companies and set meetings with them.
-Start the process of website development for the film’s official site-source a web designer and flesh out all elements to be included.
-Choose email database program to maintain a fan contact list.
-Think about any additional media/merchandising that could be created for maintaining audience interest/additional revenue streams.
Production (six week timeframe)
-Write content for website and digital press kits (bios/about/synopsis/production notes/trailer/blog/email signup/estore). Work with graphic designer to match film branding.
-Design website/manage website design firm.
-Publicity – coordinate with local press for coverage on the set.
-Coordinate video shoots of content to be used later for the website/released on social channels.
-Oversee stills photography shoot with actors on set for use as content on website, social networks, on the DVD, media coverage, festivals etc.
-Start researching appropriate festivals.
-Complete and launch website.
-Start utilizing Director’s/Production blog of what is happening on set, respond quickly to questions and feedback.
-Set up Google Alerts keeping a list of relevant links that you can share with your audience on social channels.
-Procure a recent film delivery list from any sales agent/distributor to ensure that you are collecting every item. Put all materials in an organized filing system.
-Start stockpiling material to be used on website/social channels in lead up and throughout release.
Post Production (4-6 months before release)
-Set up IMDB and production listings management once a firm film title and completion date is known because it can be difficult to change a title or production date later.
-Start utilizing email list with weekly blasts of material relevant/useful to your audience.
-Devise a content calendar and start releasing content to populate website/online channels. This material should be well spread out to ensure you will have regular content.
-Choose final publicity stills from the library of photos taken and retouched by the photographer. You will need a mix of scene shots and a few behind the scenes.
-Key art creation. Working with a professional designer is strongly recommended.
-Outreach to influencers, organizations and bloggers and keep them updated with regard to the film.
-Set up social networking sites and start populating. These will need continuous maintenance and responses to feedback from fans. Best to start when you have an idea of the premiere date.
-Set up online monitoring tools to analyze all conversations and press mentions happening around your film and respond to them. Collate weekly reports.
-Edit/update press kit. Multiple video clips/photos needed for various online media and website/social networking sites as well as DVD content. Upload to your website.
-Edit the most gripping trailer anyone has ever seen. Use a professional trailer editor. Choose a date to premiere it to start buzz in lead up to film’s release. Engage the services of a video seeding company.
-Coordinate test screenings of the rough cut, collate notes to give to the editor for adjustments.
-Submit inquiries/applications to festivals or settle on venue and date for film premiere.
-Finalize Key Art layout. Print the posters, business cards, postcards.
-Update IMDB/productions listings with photos, trailer etc.
-Identify possible affiliates for DVD/digital streaming sales if doing this through your own site in future.
-Prepare press release copy for festival acceptances, this can be altered as needed.
-Set up database of all publications and editors to contact for press opportunities. Set up separate page in database to track press breaks/mentions.
-Start theatrical/public screening booking process if possible. May not be possible until outcome of premiere.
-Determine paid advertising placement and book space. Create the ad according to specs.
-Determine and ensure long lead press placement.
-Attach a sales agent if applicable or finalize distribution roll out based on audience media consumption habits/interest from distributors.
Release (6-12 months)
-Plan and coordinate premiere party or event.
-Maintain social channels and website.
-Maintain email communication with fans/influencers.
-Set up/reply to public screening requests.
-Reply and coordinate promotional materials with theater/screening event publicist or event host.
-Apply for award competitions.
-Keep press kit updated.
-Continue to pitch press on feature stories and reviews.
-Encourage audience to leave feedback on imdb, Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon, iTunes etc.
-Set up own digital distribution outlet on website and estore goes live to sell merchandise direct. Manage fulfillment of sales and run special promotions.
These are main points and clearly the person who is primarily responsible for getting these items accomplished will not be working occasionally. A thousand little things will happen in the course of distribution so make sure you have a responsible team and a significant budget to handle it.
Creative commons photo from <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nocklebeast/6245106345/”>nocklebeast</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
I edited this piece and it was published on the Sundance Artist Services blog and The Film Collaborative blog. I am reposting it here because I think this film is the first and only one so far to eschew the typical Sundance offers, have the courage to know what distribution path is best for it and launch into the market straight after the festival. Also, I hope it serves as informative and inspirational to all who read this blog. My great respect goes to truly empowered filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot.
written by Bryan Glick, with assistance from Orly Ravid and Sheri Candler
Indie Game: The Movie has quickly developed a name not just as a must-see documentary, but also as a film pioneer in the world of distribution. Recently, I had a Skype chat with Co-directors James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot . The documentary darlings talked about their indie film and its truly indie journey to audiences.
Swirsky and Pajot did corporate commercial work together for five years and that eventually blossomed into doing their first feature. “We thought it would take one year, but it ended up taking two. I can’t imagine working another way, we have a wonderful overlapping and complimentary skill set, ” said Pajot. “We both edited this film, we both shot this film. It creates this really fluid organic way of working. It’s kind of the result of 5 or 6 years of working together. I don’t think you could get a two person team doing an independent film working like we did on day one. It’s stressful at times but the benefits are absolutely fantastic, ” said Swirsky.
According to Swirsky, Kickstarter covered 40% of the budget. “We used it to ‘kickstart’, we asked for $15000 on our first campaign which we knew would not make the film, but it really got things going. The rest of the budget was us, personal savings.” The team used Kickstarter twice; the first in 2010 asking for $15,000 and ended up with $23,341 with 297 backers. On the second campaign in 2011, they asked for $35,000 and raised $71,335 with 1,559 backers.
The hard work, dedication, and talent paid off. Indie Game: The Movie was selected to premiere in the World Documentary Competition section at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival winning Pajot and Swirsky the World Cinema Documentary Film Editing Award . “[Sundance] speaks to the independent spirit. It’s kind of the best fit, the dream fit for the film. Just being a filmmaker you want to premiere your film at Sundance. That’s where you hear about your heroes,” noted Swirsky. “Never before in our entire careers have we felt so incredibly supported…They know how to treat you right and not just logistics, it’s more ‘we want to help you with this project and help you next time.’ It was overwhelming because we’ve never had that. We’ve just never been exposed that,” interjected Pajot
They hired a sales agent upon their acceptance into Sundance and the film generated tons of buzz before it arrived at the festival resulting in a sales frenzy. The filmmakers wanted a simultaneous worldwide digital release, but theatrical distributors weren’t willing to give up digital rights so they opted for a self release. “There were a lot of offers, they approached us to purchase various rights. We felt we needed to get it out fairly quickly and in the digital way. A lot of the deals we turned down were in a little more of the traditional route. None of them ended up being a great fit,” said Pajot.
Several people were stunned when this indie doc about indie videogame developers opted to sell their film for remake rights to Scott Rudin and HBO. Pajot explained, “He saw the trailer and reached out a week or so before Sundance. That was sort of out of left field because it wasn’t something we were pursuing.” Swirsky added, “They optioned to potentially turn the concept into a TV show about game development…As a person who watches stuff on TV, I want this to exist. I want to see what these guys do with it.” The deal still left the door open for a more typical theatrical release. However that was only the start of their plan.
“We had spoken to Gary Hustwit (Helvetica). We sort of have an understanding of how he organized his own tours. We had to make our decision whether that was something we wanted to utilize. Five days after Sundance, we decided we would and were on the road 2 weeks after… Before Sundance this was how we envisioned rolling out…[We looked at] Kevin Smith and Louis C.K. and what they’re doing. We are not those guys and we don’t have that audience, but knowing core audience is out there, doing this made sense,” said Swirsky.
They proceeded to go on a multi-city promotional tour starting with seven dates and so far they have had 15 special events screenings of which 13 were sold out! This is separate from 37 theaters across Canada doing a one night only event. They also settled on a small theatrical release in NYC and LA. When talking about the theaters and booking, they said theaters saw the sellout screenings and that prompted interest despite the fact that the film was in digital release. They accomplish all of this with a thrifty mindset. “P&A was not a budgetary item we put aside and if an investment was required, we would dip into pre orders. We didn’t put aside a marketing budget for it,” said Swirsky. Regarding the pre order revenue, they sold a cool $150,000 in DVD pre-orders in the lead up to release of the film. From this money, they funded their theatrical tour.
While the theatrical release was small, it generated solid enough numbers to get held over in multiple cities and provided for vital word of mouth that will ultimately make the film profitable. The grosses were only reported for their opening weekend, but they continued to pack the houses in later weeks.”I don’t look back at the box office. The tour was more profitable than the theatrical…They both have the benefits, having theatrical it gets a broader audience. It was more a commercial thing than box office,” said Swirsky. “We are still getting inquiries from theaters. They still want to book it despite the fact it’s out there digitally,” said Pajot. ”We had this sort of hype machine happening. We didn’t put out advertising. Everything was through our mailing that started with the 300 on our first Kickstarter and through Twitter,” said Swirsky. Now the team has over 20,000 people on their mailing list and over 10,000 Twitter followers. In order to keep this word of mouth and enthusiasm going, the filmmakers released 88 minutes of exclusive content – most of which didn’t make the final cut – to their funders, took creative suggestions from their online forum and sent out updates on the games the subjects of their film were developing over the course of the two years the film was in production.
Following the success the film has enjoyed in various settings, Indie Game: The Movie premiered on three different digital distribution platforms. If you were to try and guess what they were though, you would most likely only get one right. While, it is available on the standard iTunes, the other two means of access are much more experimental and particularly appropriate for this doc.
It is only the second film to be distributed by VHX as a direct DRM-free download courtesy of their,‘VHX For Artists‘ platform. Finally, this film is reaching gamers directly through Steam which is a video game distribution platform run by Valve. This sterling doc is also only the second film to be sold through the video game service, where it was able to be pre-ordered for $8.99 as opposed to the $9.99 it costs across all platforms. This is perhaps the perfect example of the changing landscape of independent film distribution. Every film has a potential niche and most of these can arguably be reached more effectively through means outside the standard distribution model. Why should a fan of couponing have to go through hundreds of films on Netflix before even finding out a documentary about couponing exists, when it could be promoted on a couponing website?
As they are going into uncharted territory, both Pajot and Swirsky avoided making any bold predictions.”It’s just wait and see. It’s an experiment because we’re the first movie on Steam. We’re really interested to look at and talk about in the future. I don’t want to make predictions…I do think documentary lends itself to that kind of marketing though. We’re trying to not just be niche but there is power in that core audience. They are very easy to find online,” said Swirsky.
Just because they are pursuing a bold strategy doesn’t mean they were any less cost conscious. “The VHX stuff, it was a collaboration, so there were no huge costs. Basically subtitles, a little publicity costs from Von Murphy PR and Strategy PR who helped us with theatrical. Those guys made sense to bring on,” said Pajot. “A lot of our costs were taken up by volunteers. If they help us do subtitles, they can have a ticket event, a screening in their country,” added Swirsky.
They also note that a large amount of their profit has been in pre-orders. 10,000 people have pre-ordered one of their three DVD options priced at $9.99, $24.99 and a special edition DVD for $69.99 tied with digital. While the film focused on a select few indie game developers, they interviewed 20 different developers and the additional footage is part of the Special Edition DVD/Blu-Ray. That might explain why it’s their highest seller.
All this doesn’t mean that any of the dozens of other options are no longer usable. Quite the contrary, they have also taken advantage of the Sundance Artist Services affiliations to go on a number of more traditional digital sites. Increased views of a film even if on non traditional platforms can mean increased web searches and awareness and could be used to drive up sales on mainstay platforms.
The real winner though is ultimately the audience. For the majority of the world that doesn’t go to Sundance or Cannes each year, this is how they can discover small films that were made with them in mind. The HBO deal aside, this is bound to be one incredibly profitable documentary that introduces a whole new crowd to quality art-house cinema. “We are still booking community screenings. If people want to book, they can contact us…We are thinking maybe we might do another shorter tour at some point,” said Pajot.
Here’s to the independent film spirit, alive and well.
Part 2 of a 10 part series sees filmmaker/author Jon Reiss giving us answers to the most asked about questions regarding the new role on a film production, the PMD or Producer of Marketing and Distribution, that he coined in his book Think Outside the Box Office.
What are the responsibilities of a PMD?
The responsibilities of a PMD are wide and varied. Not all films will utilize all of these elements (since every film is different and will have a unique approach to distribution and marketing), but each should be considered when strategizing and planning for the film’s release.
1. Identify, research and engage with the audience for the film.
2. Develop a distribution and marketing strategy and plan for the film in conjunction with the key principles of the filmmaking team. Integrate this plan into the business plan for the film.
3. Create a budget for the M&D plan.
4. As needed and appropriate strategize and implement fundraising from the audience of the film in conjunction with or in replace of traditional financing which would include: crowdfunding, organizational partnerships, sponsorships and even modified versions of traditional fundraising.
5. Assemble and supervise the necessary team/crew elements to carry out the plan which can include social media, publicity, M&D production crew for extra diagetic material, key artists, editors, bookers etc.
6. Audience outreach through organizations, blogs, social media (including email collection), traditional publicity etc.
7. Supervise the creation of promotional and (if necessary due to the lack of a separate transmedia coordinator) trans media elements: script and concept for transmedia, the films website and social media sites, production stills, video assets – both behind the scenes and trans media, promotional copy and art/key art.
8. Outreach to potential distribution and marketing partners including film festivals, theatrical service companies, community theatrical bookers, DVD distributors, Digital and VOD aggregators, TV sales agents, foreign sales agents as well as sponsors and promotional partners.
Just FYI – nearly all of the above and much of 9 happen before the film is finished.
9. Supervise the creation of traditional deliverables in addition to creation of all media needed for the execution of the release as needed including:
• Live event/theatrical: Prints either 35 or Disk or Drive. Any other physical prep for event screenings.
• Merchandise: All hard good physical products including DVDs and any special packaging (authoring and replication) and all other forms of merchandise: books, apparel, toys, reproductions of props etc, and hard versions of games.
• Digital products: encoding of digital products, iphone/Android apps etc.
10. Modify and adjust the distribution and marketing plan as the film progresses as information about audience, market, new opportunities, partnerships arise.
11. When appropriate, engage the distribution process, which includes the release of:
• Live Event Theatrical – Booking, delivery, of all forms of public exhibition of the film including all elements that make the screenings special events (appearances, live performance etc.)
• Merchandise – Distribution of all hard good physical products created for the film.
• Digitally – oversee all sales of the film in the form of 0s and 1s: TV/Cable/VOD/Mobile/Broadband/Video games etc.
• This not just in the home territory – but also internationally.
• Some of these activities may be handled in conjunction with a distribution partner in which case the PMD would be supervising the execution in conjunction with that partner.
12. Ramp up the marketing of the film to coincide with the release, which includes:
• Social Media
• Organizational Relationships
• Sponsorship Relationships
• Affiliate and Email Marketing
• Media Buys (as warranted)
• Pushing Trailers and other video content
• Any specific marketing especially tailored to the film.
• Promoting and releasing trailers and other forms of video material
• Transmedia campaigns
This list should indicate how it would be difficult, if not impossible to expect existing traditional crew categories to accomplish or even coordinate the work outlined above. In addition while some of the work above is “quantifiable”, much of it is not – just like much of what a producer or even director does is not “quantifiable”.
I just found this in my Google alerts regarding comments made on Ted Hope’s Truly Free Film site about self distribution. It is an open letter on FilmUtopia.Posterous.com addressing some of his comments and asking a few more questions, good questions. Then Ted made a response, then Clive made another response. So the debate went on and you can participate too if you want. Debate is good, debate is healthy, it will help us all create community and find answers.
This article was sent to me today, but published last fall in Filmmaker Magazine written by Jon Reiss. It chronicles his adventures in self distribution for his film BOMB IT. Below, you will find an extremely helpful budget for both typical service deals and what Jon actually budgeted and spent to self distribute. A great resource.
Visit Jon’s blog or buy his new book Think Outside the Box (Office): The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing in the Digital Era for great advice and case studies on other filmmakers who are self distributing and navigating the new digital landscape for indie film.