Cannes From My Perspective

May 25, 2010
posted by sheric

Now that I have been back for almost a week from the Cote d’Azur, I have been meaning to relate my experience from my first ever Cannes.

First, I horrified my roommates by continually telling them I had no particular agenda. This was absolutely true. I did not set up tons of meetings ahead of time, I wasn’t there to buy or sell a film or to watch any in particular (and I didn’t see any either). What was my purpose there then?

One, I was in the area anyway having participated in two TOTBO marketing and distribution workshops in Europe just prior. Two, if you are in the industry you must be where the industry congregates. In mid May, that is Cannes. Three, the Cannes market is immensely educational. Think your film is something special? Something never seen before? Will absolutely set the world on fire, people will clamor to see its genius simply because it is so amazing? Yeah, so do the thousands (THOUSANDS!!)  of other films being touted at the market and you have to see that to believe it. For all of those who proclaim if you create an amazing story, people will simply discover its genius, they are the most in need of a visit to a film market.

This education seems easier to grasp at Cannes than at AFM (haven’t been to EFM, so can’t comment) because it is much more trade show in spirit. The market floor is open with stands and it is easy to navigate the aisles. AFM is housed in hotel suites and less open to perusal by the non buying filmmaker. Everywhere you look is key art of every genre of film. Some with “stars,” lots with blood and zombies, family friendly animals and fantastical animation. Some with strong imagery but most with the utterly forgettable. Lots of people in suits, some even having meetings. I did not even go to the hotels along the Croisette where the more recognizable sales agencies and distributors house their offices. I had seen enough to know that if your film didn’t have its audience identified and gathered before it reached the Marche floor, you were in for immense competition for attention from buyers.

I did attend many discussions in the UK Film Center Pavilion on succeeding in festivals, the future of microbudget filmmaking (I tweeted that one, see #micromovies), success in short films. All free and very intimate. If nothing else, visit Cannes just to hang out in the International Village pavilions to meet the speakers, heads of film funds and film commissions to talk about co production opportunities. There was also lots of talk about the need for better marketing and distribution opportunities for independent film. You know I was all over that discussion, but our European counterparts do seem a few years behind in their thinking about this issue. Maybe it is all of that film fund money clouding their entrepreneurial judgement. From the workshops we organized and meeting some of the filmmakers on the ground, this issue is one that is slowly gaining prominence as the digital revolution spreads to Europe. VOD, mobile and digital platforms are not as developed as in the USA, and I consider ours in infancy. Not to mention crowdfunding. That has to be the next big subject for discussion in Europe.

I attended an informal brunch in the lovely hills above the Croisette to discuss what shape the digital revolution will take in Europe. Those in attendance ranged from old school film commissions intent on keeping everything as status quo as possible to forward thinkers who could imagine a world free of territories and windows for content. The discussions we had there will continue online and I look forward to participating in them even though I am not from Europe so my perspective is less government support dependent.

One of the highlights was watching the antics of filmmaker Chris Jones as he worked the place to chronicle every part of his Cannes journey. The yacht blag was my favorite story! He did his best to make sure that his readers, and now viewers of his LiveStream show, could see exactly what goes on at one of the world’s most glamorous events. Chris is a filmmaker after my own heart as he shares all he knows with other filmmakers and ultimately he is building up a fan base for all of his future work. A role model for sure to those aspiring to build a sustainable career in independent film.

So, as Chris would ask, what are my top 3 takeaways from Cannes? 1)Go, especially before you make a film. It is very valuable to realize that what you are asking to do when you pursue filmmaking is participate in a business. A very competitive and conniving business. That point is made crystal clear when you enter the Marche floor. 2)Soak up as much knowledge as you can from this or any major film event. Try to go without preconceived notions of how things work. At the moment, everything is in flux, no matter what anyone is trying to tell you. Everyone from the most stalwart studio to the newest venture is trying to figure out the future. Your ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s and you have every right to choose and pursue your own path to success. 3)Cannes is very inspirational. The films that play in the festival are considered among the top in the world, no matter what their gross ends up being. It is exciting to feel a part of this industry and I am not sure you can feel that any better than at Cannes. I am not talking about the fame and the glitz. The true artistry, the creativity, the meeting of the minds. All of this really crystallized for me why I would be drawn to such a bizarre profession, visual storytelling. There is so much energy and hopefulness in being around filmmakers from around the world that it sends you home with the feeling that you aren’t alone in your struggles and that your game has to come up so much more to compete.

See you next year on the Croisette!

Cannes 2010

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 28

May 25, 2010
posted by sheric

Do Your International Cut Down When You Are Cutting Your Film

Documentaries usually need a 52-54 minute cut down of their film to sell to foreign television.  I waited a year before doing my cut down for Bomb It, which was way too long.  While it did provide me perspective and made it easier for me to slash and burn my film, I essentially had to repeat the entire delivery process for this edit – which was not fun to say the least.  Further, if you have your cut down ready when you are finishing – you can make package deals for 2 separate DIs and 2 mixes – doing them simultaneously is MUCH better than having to reopen the process later.   For perspective, I would recommend having a different editor do the cut down.  If you are on a budget – this would be an excellent perk to give to one of your assistant editors.  You can then polish it with your editor who is already on staff and might be difficult to engage later.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel.  I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 27

May 25, 2010
posted by sheric

Don’t Do Your Deliveries Alone

Yesterday I mentioned how onerous delivering your film can be.    As a result – Having someone on your team either help with or do your deliveries is manna from heaven. This alone is a reason to have a Producer of Marketing and Distribution.   If you are self distributing or using an involved trans media project, you will have many more deliverables than what is conventional. It is also a reason to start doing them during production when you have the most crew available to help.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel.  I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 26

May 24, 2010
posted by sheric

Start Your Deliveries During Production

As I continue to create delivery elements for Bomb It (for new sales three years after its premiere), I am reminded as to how onerous they are.  Deliverables are the assets you need to deliver to distributors so that they can exhibit/sell your film.    You need to start developing them during production.  You should be organizing your contracts, keeping track of your chain of title (which actually starts at prep) and creating digital assets such as stills and video.  Stills are hugely important and you need three types of stills:  Of the Film, Of the Crew (mainly the director), and Specials of The Actors. Check out a list of conventional deliveries – and then expand that to include any trans media assets you will need.  You’ll thank me for starting earlier than you think.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel.  I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 25

May 21, 2010
posted by sheric

Budgeting

To conclude two weeks of crew tips – a reminder that it is best to be able to pay these crew people.  While sales agents should work on commission, lawyers, web designers, PMDs etc most likely will not.  You should create a budget that is as detailed as a production budget.  In Think Outside the Box Office I created such a budget with detailed explanation, using my budget and several others as examples.  Raising the money at inception will help avoid potentially costly P&A finance rates and last in- first out requirements.   If you have a tax rebate due you, don’t bank it, use it as a large portion (or all) of your distribution and marketing budget.    Here’s a list of what you will need to include in your budget:

-Distribution Crew including those who I have discussed and whoever else you need for your specific release: bookers, publicists, community engagement consultants, social media strategists, graphic designers;

-Marketing creative and materials: including trailer, poster/key art, press kit;

-Print and other delivery materials: Various masters, authoring, replication, digital cinema files etc.;

-Media buys from print to google;

-Travel expenses;

-General office supplies – especially shipping;

And anything else your release needs – the above is a very quick summary.

Let me know what you think!  Follow me  @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page.  Check out the book and workshops here.  I look forward to hearing from you.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 24

May 20, 2010
posted by sheric

Web Designers Pt. 2

Oftentimes the best designer is not the best programmer, and vice versa. You may need two separate people: one for the look of the site (which hopefully is integrated with your key art), another to do the actual programming. If you have to choose to pay one or the other, go for the programmer. It is easier to find good designers for a reasonable rate (i.e., someone needing to build their portfolio) than programmers.

Let me know what you think! Follow me @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here. I look forward to hearing from you.

TOTBO Tip of the Day-Tip 23

May 20, 2010
posted by sheric

Web Designers

If you are not a technically-oriented person, you need an IT person to set up your website. Chances are they will know a lot more about search engine optimization (SEO) than you do. Ask them to set up a site that you can regularly modify on your own, so that you are not spending thousands of dollars over the course of your film’s life. If you can get a qualified person to do it for free, great — but you should be able to find someone to set up a simple site for $500 to $2,000. Maintain your relationship with this person so you can ask them to come back from to time to time to tweak your site (like when you want to sell DVDs, merchandise, etc.).

Let me know what you think! Follow me @Jon_Reiss on twitter, or on the TOTBO Facebook page. Check out the book and workshops here. I look forward to hearing from you.