SXSW, upcoming film events, book to be in print

August 23, 2011
posted by sheric

Just a little update for all the readers here.

I am involved in 2 SXSW panel proposals for the 2012 festival. Both contain some pretty awesome people and information that I think you will all find valuable.

Connect with Fans + Reasons to Buy = $$$

This is a workshop/speed brainstorm type of event moderated by Mike Masnick, founder of Techdirt , an online blog focused on analyzing and offering insight into news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies’ ability to innovate and grow.

My fellow panelists are Ross Pruden, founder of the Twitter discussion panel #infdist among other things and Jon Reiss, I think most of you are familiar with him. :) We will be taking  film project examples from participants in the room and dreaming up alternative revenue streams to help maximize your ROI. Gone are the days where you can be completely dependent on making money from selling copies of your film. When copies can be obtained for free online, you could try and sue, issue take down notices OR you could build in other ways to make money so that your revenue isn’t completely dependent on selling copies. New business models are emerging every day in other sectors, why not in film?

I envision a very high energy session with ideas flying out from everywhere so bring a recording device to catch them all. If you think this would be a much more useful session than just listening to the same industry folks sitting at a table talking about how bad everything has become, VOTE! We want to shake things up at SXSW.

Selling Your Film Without Getting F*#ked

Yes the title is a little racy, but we were told that’s what gets attention when people look through the event catalog to choose sessions they want to attend. Besides, you’re INDIE so you can take it.

This is a panel I am moderating and it will include several independent filmmakers who have traveled the distribution path less taken. All have retained some rights over their work and received attention and revenue for their films be it organizing their own theatrical tours, using festivals as a source of revenue by charging screening fees, or enlisting the help of high power industry people to champion their films. Some have even managed to do equitable deals with distributors! Our panelists are Ava DuVernay, Casper Andreas, Thomas Woodrow and our very own co author of Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, Orly Ravid who is also the founder and co executive director of The Film Collaborative, a non profit (on purpose!) organization dedicated to brokering equitable deals mainly with the filmmaker in mind. If you would like to hear from real people in the trenches of the business of independent film who can offer you good and usable advice, VOTE for this panel.

moving on….

I will be traveling to 2 important independent film events in September. The first is the Business of Film Conference held at Rice University in Houston, Texas on September 10. I’m going to be speaking on DIY marketing, some of the tools you can use right now and how best to use them. I will also be on a panel with my friend Orly to talk a little about why we wrote SYFWSYS, key takeaways we learned through talking to all of our filmmaker participants in the book, and how The Film Collaborative helps filmmakers who are trying to negotiate the best distribution deals for themselves, not for the distributor.

Next will be our book launch at IFP Week in New York City. I am scheduled to be a panelist on Monday September 19 for Walking the Line: The Fine Art of Self Promoting Your Film so if you are attending that talk, come up and say hi after. Our launch cocktail party hosted by SnagFilms will be in the evening from 6-8pm and if you want to be invited, leave your email address on the SYFWSYS site under the Get tab. All of the authors will be in attendance and we will be selling printed copy books that you can have autographed if you want or just stare at us in disbelief! There will be wine and I will be having some.

Speaking of printed copies of the book, yeah there will be that option. I know what you’re thinking, this was supposed to just be a digital book with all the lovely bells and whistles currently available such as video, url links, social media sharing. It still will be that and for the month of September, right after launch on September 13, it will be completely FREE on ALL platforms thanks to the sponsors who have helped us make the development of the book possible. Starting in October, that price climbs to a whopping $4.99. But now, due to a multitude of feedback that says to me filmmakers aren’t the early adopters I thought they were, we will have physical copies of the book too just so you can highlight, dog ear and not worry about the battery life of your reading device when reading it. Gigantic thanks to our sponsors, Prescreen who upped their sponsorship commitment for this and Area23a Movie Events, for enabling us to go to print without any personal outlay of money. We are planning to have the physical copies in by our launch party on September 19 and you can leave a presale request on our site. I think a Topspin shopping cart is going to be implemented within days to allow for that. The retail price on the paperback is $19.95

Ok folks, we’re in countdown to launch mode. We have a tips series going on indieWire over the next few weeks. You can find our advice about things to know before you embark on the festival circuit here and audience building tips from me and some of the participants in the book here.

Now that we have concluded the interviews and draft writing for the digital book, it is time to start content marketing to promote it. This week, there were two posts of excerpts from the book. One was from my chapter on using file sharing networks to distribute work, featuring Nina Paley about what made her an advocate for Free Culture. The second one was from the interview with Paul Thomas about distributing American: The Bill Hicks Story. We plan to post every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays so keep an eye out for that and like our Facebook page to see what else we think you might find interesting. Also, one full chapter from the book will be published in this month’s issue of Filmmaker Magazine. It is the only time a full chapter will be released ahead of our official launch during IFP Week in September. I will be participating on a panel during IFP Week. Details on that coming soon.

We understand that this isn’t a book for those who are averse to seeing the job of a filmmaker change from being purely artistic to being an entrepreneur. We also understand some of the facts in this book aren’t going to be particularly easy to hear; that some investors, distributors, and sales agents will not be happy with how they are portrayed. Do know that not every service is a fit for every film. Sometimes projects and their agents are not well aligned and it reflects in the amount of success the film has. Moral of that point, choose your partners and who you give your rights away to wisely.

It also won’t be easy for filmmakers to hear this industry isn’t really paved with fame and fortune despite how glamorous it is usually portrayed. None of the subjects have achieved James Cameron style wealth and fame. Our subjects are working artists who want to create work on their own terms and sustain themselves in order to continue. They aren’t necessarily looking to become part of the studio employed, many of them do not have agents seeking to get them work. Many of them fund their work through grants, awards, and government subsidies, crowdfunding and out of their own pockets. Many of them make a living from a variety of activities such as writing, teaching, and speaking opportunities not only filmmaking, but around the subject of film. We want to show the true reality of being an independent filmmaker; the work and responsibility that comes with that identification.

And we want to celebrate those who are courageous enough to undertake this work and keep going. We hope they will give you the inspiration you need to keep going or the reality check you need to choose a different path.

Stay tuned…

On July 1, I have an article coming out in Microfilmmaker Magazine that takes a look at 3 digital streaming players now available to filmmakers; Dynamo Player, Distrify and Flicklaunch. I talked to the founders of each company to bring you the lowdown on how each works, their pricing and how you, as the content owner, get paid. Here’s an excerpt:

Ed Burns is using Dynamo Player for his film Nice Guy Johnny

Anyone who reads my blog or follows my Facebook page knows I am dedicated to encouraging filmmakers to take control of their own work and bring it to audiences in the most direct way possible. I especially feel this way when it comes to online digital distribution. Why give the rights (and fees and percentages) away to a distributor when you can easily use tools to distribute your work directly and in the most expedient manner?

Lately, several companies have emerged to help filmmakers do just that.  Instead of looking for outside distribution companies to buy your work’s rights, hope they treat you fairly, and wait for them to bring it out for sale, consider these tools to go direct. When you can cut out as many of the layers separating your work from its audience, you’ll profit more….

Rob Millis, co founder of Dynamo, explained that was the aim of the product from the start. “Dynamo is as easy to access as any online video platform, with no restrictions or qualifications. It is available for any legal content you own the rights to, except pornography… The player allows you to upload your film, set a price for streaming it on a website or on Facebook, and publish it with no upfront costs or monthly fees. Fans, bloggers, online publications and organizations can host the player on their sites too in order to share their love of your film with their audience…

Two filmmakers from Scotland, Andy Green and Peter Gerard, founded Distrify. I spoke with them to find out what led them to create this tool to help filmmakers. “We wanted a better business model ourselves so we worked out a technical solution where we’d actually get some of the money from the films we produced by making it easy for fans to buy our films directly,” said Gerard. Distrify’s player adapts to support your film’s marketing at every stage of the value chain. If you’re crowd-funding for example, the Distrify player helps drive viewers to your crowd-funding campaign. If your film is at a festival, you can list all the screenings directly in the trailer, with links to ticketing sites. If you’re doing an indie screenings campaign, Distrify lets your fans sign up to your mailing list, giving you a location-based map of where the demand is for your film. Whenever you add new screenings or products to your film, every player that’s embedded around the web is automatically updated to ensure your fans will always be able to engage with or purchase your film”…

Founded as the first global indie movie distribution platform built on Facebook, I spoke with CEO Craig Tanner about what makes Flicklaunch different as a way to distribute films. The site is in beta. “Flicklaunch was built around the ‘Like’ button. A filmmaker can give away a predetermined amount of free views in exchange for a ‘Like’ to the film page. For example, a filmmaker can give away 1,000 free views and with the average Facebook user having 140 friends, it creates awareness for that film of 140,000 people. Since Facebook is global, Flicklaunch is available to audiences and filmmakers everywhere.”  The rental period for streaming the film is 7 days and audience can choose how they want to view it (through any web enabled device connecting to Facebook). Soon FlickLaunch will offer badges and perks for film fans that drive the most traffic to the film.

In addition, I wrote a chapter on film festivals and how to use them in a book entitled The Modern MovieMaking Movement which will be available from July 1. It is a free ebook that will be available on this site in exchange for email signup if you leave your email address when you click Subscribe to the Newsletter and you’ll get an automated download link. The book was written by 10 of the most outspoken and knowledgeable indie film thought leaders (well, 9 and me ;) ) in the world today and it will cover topics such as successful screenwriting, ways to finance a feature film, fundraising, the director’s role, the PMD and making microbudget features.  Well worth the price of an email address! Plus I don’t send many email blasts personally so you won’t have your inbox bombarded from here on out by me.

I also have 2 other books coming out very soon. One is an anthology of Ted Hope’s Hope For Film blog and the other is Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen. I guess I have been doing a lot of writing lately! More news on these 2 works coming soon.

Help Us Choose a Book Title

May 4, 2011
posted by sheric

I may have bothered a few of you with this on Facebook to help narrow down the choices (thanks for taking the time!), but now we are asking all of our filmmaker friends to help us choose a title. This will be a digital book (to start with, other formats to follow but will be less cool) to take advantage of all the great ways to layer in content, context, additional resources and social media capabilities (c’mon how can we NOT?). It is due for release during IFP Week in September. I am co authoring it with The Film Collaborative’s Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter as well as Jon Reiss so you know it will be the real story, no sugar coating, real numbers. It will be a collection of case studies with practical advice from those in the hybrid distribution/DIY distribution trenches and I think it is going to be epic!!

We’ve got a good cross section of subject matter; documentaries, narratives and my chapter even includes a web series (as well as films) using P2P networks to distribute. I’m going to be taking a look at the piracy debate and creators who have chosen to use the internet as their primary distribution method. In the coming months, you will be hearing more about this, but we need your help to give it a name. Promotion ALL starts with a name. The choices are a mix of the academic to the subversive so we’ll see what wins out.

We will probably test more things like cover art too, but for now, please help us with this most basic element. You can take the survey right here

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VJDLH8Q

Update: we did arrive at a title. “Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul” will be released in September 2011. Thanks to all those who helped us choose!