So, you made a film. You’re proud of it. You want it to be seen. Naturally, this is the obvious path to take with a new project. However, your big setback is that there is no longer a clear route towards distribution (at least as it was once known). Things have changed. This was the topic at a Portland Film Festival Panel with Drafthouse Films COO, James Shapiro, and others in the industry. From traditional models shifting towards the streaming world, what does a filmmaker need to do to get their film seen by the world in the year 2016? Shapiro’s advice? Focus on niche markets and always consider self-distribution as an option. Read here for more, via Filmmaker Magazine!
Alternative distribution models are no longer the experiment, but are now the norm for the vast majority of filmmakers. However because of a variety of reasons, including not least contract obligations and a fear that exposing numbers may not show the filmmaker in the best light, many filmmakers have been reticent to give out the real numbers from their film’s releases.
As a result, for last October’s Getting Real Documentary Conference, held by the International Documentary Association, I wanted to create a panel where the participants were required to reveal the data about the releases of their films. I wanted to see how these filmmakers might be working within new models to not only release one film, but how they are starting to use these individual releases to create a long term career path. I always intended to publish the data and since I will be presenting a Distribution and Marketing Masterclass with the IDA this Saturday May 9th and I will be heading to NY to participate in the documentary section of the IFP Filmmaker Lab on May 11th, I thought this would be a good time to get this information out into the world. Read more
Want to be an indie filmmaker? Of course, you do! In this tongue-in-cheek essay, filmmaker and actor Kentucker Audley explains why you should make indie films. With TV shows on the decline and facing a troubled future (and mark my words, virtual reality is a fad) indie filmmakers are now at the forefront of a new media landscape. But there are plenty of reasons to make indie films besides being on the cutting edge — let's take a look at why so many of our most talented youngsters are turning to indie film…CLICK HERE
Archiving documentary footage and films may not be a sexy issue, but in this digital age, it's an increasingly critical one. To help call attention to it, the IDA and DOC NYC are hosting a two-day Documentary Preservation Summit, which began March 31 and continues on April 1.
The speakers at the summit include Academy Award winning directors D.A. Pennebaker ("Monterey Pop," "The War Room") and Barbara Kopple ("Harlan County USA," "American Dream"); producer-director Warrington Hudlin, the founder of the Black Filmmaker Foundation; Margaret Bodde, the executive director of The Film Foundation, and Sandra Schulberg, the head of the IndieCollect film documentation and preservation campaign. More HERE
Within the past three years, the emergence and maturation of lightweight, user-friendly technology platforms like Quiver Digital, Vimeo, and VHX has made distributing films easier than ever. As new technologies and distribution approaches continue to disrupt conventional release windows, funding cycles, and acquisition deals, how do indie filmmakers navigate this shifting landscape while balancing audience engagement and revenue? Get your distribution hacks here from a Sundance panel of experts.
For those of us working with limited means, this is undoubtedly the best time in the history of American cinema to be making movies. Ideas are being tested and new aesthetics developed by filmmakers with no money using inexpensive equipment. Movies made for a few thousand dollars can be streamed instantly all around the world. Crowdfunding platforms and social media have made building an audience possible without a publicity team or millions of dollars. Read on here
The Rebirth of the Indie Video Store Experience:
Why human curation will never die.
By Lindsay Blair Goeldner
At Indie Street we are holding on to all hope that the interpersonal human elements of storytelling will never fade away into obsoleteness. The following piece comes from one of Indie Street’s own curators. While she is not programming a film festival or being one of the coolest computer programming chicks in the game, Lindsay finds time to work at one of the last Indie Video Rental Stores in Canada. Who better to get a street level breakdown about the effects of technology on film consumer’s behavior…Enjoy!
The death of the indie video store is imminent. At least that’s what everyone tells me. Working as a video store clerk in one of a handful of stores (Queen Video) in Toronto is both a blessing and a burden. While the job remains interesting, I’m continually receiving remarks about how great it is that we’re still open. In the wake of the Blockbuster collapse, the independent video store flourished. Business seemed better than usual around late 2011 when the last Blockbusters were closing down in Canada. At that point in time, Netflix had already arrived, and streaming was still popular, but for some reason many people did not want to let go of the video store experience.
Our store’s customers range from our regular cinephiles to young families that are excited to show their children what a video store is. Even my great store seems close to its end, but an anomaly of a customer that came in recently re-assured me that the spirit of the Indie Video Store will never perish. Humans like interaction with each other, especially when it is “cool”. This customer was a teenage boy who rented a Fellini film. Now, I’m usually hesitant to mention the dreaded streaming site Netflix in the store, but after telling me he had just gotten into “old Italian movies” I had to ask what brought him in. The answer was simple: “Going to the video store is cool. My friends all download but they’re missing out.” This young trend re-setter inspired me to think about what has made the video store experience a popular one, and likewise what the future of film renting should try to preserve…so I have narrowed it down to two crucial factors:
1. The Inherent “Cool” Factor of the Video Store.
Coolness is indeed a reason older technology comes back to life. The resurgent popularity of vinyl is embodied by way of the expanding independent vinyl shops around the city. Vinyl-enthusiasts, who may easily download the same content online, brandish their title as “collector” like a badge on their chest. They may argue the sound quality is better than digital or that they’re expanding on their already well-established collection, but either way, they could have opted to download and yet, they don’t.
Video rental is a little different; no one claims ownership or is excited to tell you about their invoice history at the rental store. Instead, there is something inherently cool about going back to the video store while everyone else stays cozy and warm in their apartments scrolling through Netflix or downloading content online. I like to think of current video renters as cultural purveyors of an era that has passed as they help keep in place a system others have long forgotten. It’s outdated, sure, but because of this it’s also not mainstream and hence, cool.
As the last physical video stores prepare close their doors, these cool video renters like the Fellini teen will not just disappear, they need a new cool place to congregate outside of Netflix and Hulu. Highly curated online film platforms like IndieStreet and others will help to fill this gap, but these platforms need to be extremely conscious of being more “cool” than Netflix, and more importantly they need to remember critical factor #2.
2. The Human Advantage
Algorithms on YouTube and Netflix recommend titles based on the user’s previous picks, but can never come close to the recommendations of a human who has similar tastes. These algorithms keep in the general theme of the user’s preferences but can not figure out the nuances of human likes across genres. On top of that they often point out other selections that are big-budget Hollywood flicks or syndicated television series. These systems look at keywords and umbrella terms in describing the body of films a user selects so the choices remain in the mainstream. A video store clerk, on the contrary, will most often point a customer in the direction of something less well known, a hidden gem that once exceeded their personal expectations. Quite often that is precisely what customers are asking for; they want a hand picked film experience that can create a personal connection with the curator and give them something to discuss with their friends.
As great as an online suggested pick might be, it can never top a recommendation from someone who loves film and loves to talk about it. I’m frequently caught up in conversations with customers about a great Danish television series they just finished, or a French film they loved. These are the times I often forget that I’m working. The human interaction of talking to a video clerk is precisely what made me want to work there, and now what makes me interested in helping the next generation of the online Indie video store. I’ll never forget sifting through film cases as a kid in Movie Village in Winnipeg. I would be looking at the horror film titles my mother would never let me rent, and I distinctly recall a clerk telling me how great Sleepaway Camp is as they walked by (much to the chagrin of my mom).
When discussing this article concept, I asked Jay Webb how he thinks IndieStreet can retain the “cool” and the “human advantage” of the Indie video store that we have come to adore:
“First, I do think there is still hope for a physical video store if someone like you comes along and incorporates tech or event elements into the model. My hope for this lies mostly in the fact that kids never want to have the same interests as their parents. Mom is on facebook, maybe I will go hang out with my friends instead of chatting online. I have heard a rumbling of teenagers who are going anti-social networking so maybe the next generation actually will continue to experience human contact.
As far as IndieStreet goes, I think the cool factor will hopefully happen organically by only selecting cool and innovative filmmakers into our group. Our newest member, Sean Dunne (won Tribeca award for best new documentary director in 2013), has upped the cool factor to a level I am having trouble keeping up with…As far as the human factor, IndieStreet will be focusing on community events and screenings, connecting customers to the filmmakers throughout the process, and all of the selected films we will feature on our site will also be curated by a passionate group of humans. But we are open to suggestions.”
As Jay paraphrased, generational cycles prove that trends and technologies that were once popular will be so again in a few years time, so one may hope that video stores reappear as a nostalgic encounter. If they are doomed, I think Netflix, Hulu, IndieStreet, and other streaming sites could really benefit from finding a way to interject the “coolness” and human element the video store has within their system. Therein lies a negotiation between old and new, and the cycle of trends would become conflated.
It remains to be seen if an online streaming site can become cool in the way the rental store is or if they can really integrate a human element in recommending content without being face to face. I don’t have the answers, but if this article helps IndieStreet figure it out, I expect a larger profit share! – thanks.
Walking down Main Street of the Sundance film festival this year, it felt like there was an ever-growing gap between the east and the west side of the street. Hollywood and Independent seem to be growing further and further apart, making the Sundance film festival, and other L.A. hyped festivals like it, such an increasingly awkward phenomena. You have a festival director who wants to keep the slate as Independent, fresh, and intriguing as possible, an audience that attends who has come to expect way more “accessible” stories, and big biz owned media companies like Variety claiming the festival “suffered from too much Brooklyn” and squawking at 2 million dollar advance tags for indie films in today’s market. We feel for you Mr. Redford, we do…but you created this monster, and now it ‘s become a near perfect representation of the dichotomy within the film Industry. The divide: This is not an East vs. West thing, but more of a continued divide in mentality and approach to film. It is exclusivity, public relations, and celebrity versus collaboration, community building, and storytelling. Old Hollywood versus new thinkers. Creatives vs. creative exploiters. I think there is some ancient adage about a poor old man with a paint brush who grew frightened he may never be able to buy paint again if something were to happen to his even older brother who convinces the village people that the old man’s art is worth money. If there is no adage, then now there is. The artist and the thinker are inherently self-critical and the Hollywood older brother is inherently opportunistic. Ah’ the parties: As this is more of a state of the industry post and not a review of the actual films we saw, I think it is appropriate to tell a story of this microcosm within the microcosm. I was able to attend a few LA parties and a few non-LA parties, and from my vantage point, the two settings were effortlessly distinguishable. In the same evening we attended: At Party One: A writer/filmmaker engaged me and got me excited about new methods of audience building he had executed that I had never even considered. I offered him some biz techniques that were working for us at IndieStreet. Awesome for us. At Party Two: After a quick intro, a girl yells out to me that they were just at a party and Aaron Paul was there. Awesome for you. She then stared waiting for a reaction or possibly a one-up name drop. So I yelled over the pumping bass, “I was just at a party with Zack Lieberman Betchhhh. (the filmmaker I had met earlier) The girl laughed at the Jesse impression, and assumed that my name drop was of some Hollywood celebrity that she just didn’t know yet. She didn’t ask who he was, because guess what, she didn’t care. And this woman is not at all representative of the creative capital in Hollywood, but is representative of the focus of Hollywood. Get the masses salivating about names and exclusivity and make that money. 3 conceivable paths from the growing divide: At Sundance, there was panel after panel of NY and SF and other natives discussing how to navigate a sustainable career as an artist and new ways to own your product through distribution. In opposition to this progressive think tank atmosphere, the LA crowd was sending out fluff about how wow they can’t believe how low the sales were this year. Indie filmmakers better start making more relatable films they said (films that they can sell to their mass markets). God forbid an artist tells a story in their true voice that may only relate to (and knock the socks off of) 200,000 people and the content creator make the majority of the revenue from the film’s exploitation. That’s not good business for the west side of main street. So with this continuing divide comes a few crossroads, and many individual choices will determine the aggregate path of Indie film, with SunDance as a small but representative piece. Here are three paths (or some combo of the 3) that could arise from the growing gap in philosophy. 1. Big Brother reels Independent back into a headlock, leaving Indie with a continued Identity crisis. This path would be driven by Hollywood’s acquisition of progressive production & direct-distro companies. Money talks, and if this occurrence is too prevalent in the near future at least a few amazing films will not be made that should be. 2. A new breed of middle ground filmmakers arises to fill the gap created by the divide. If the most talented of story tellers keep pushing the envelope, their stories will continue to slowly lose mass appeal. This combined with studios continuing to opt for lower risk epic franchises might create a new more clearly defined space for soft Indie products. Films with Indie feel that have formulaic stories. Old stories wrapped in hip new boxes: the middle child that isn’t as tough as the older one, and isn’t as smart as the youngest. 3. The most talented Indie filmmakers change their philosophies. Realigning goals away from the traditional “Success = Hollywood recognition” and toward more self or group reliant success routes. We know that it is nearly impossible to not get sucked in when there is an opportunity for mass exposure. Creating a film that is finally getting some type of official stamp of approval is something we all yearn for, but if the goals when beginning your project can shift, the landscape and power of big brother will shift with it. If you center the goals around building an audience that will care about and support your future career, then the fantastical aura of Hollywood will lose its luster. A true storyteller will be at the happiest (=most successful) when they can personally see and experience his/her impact on their audience. The more new talent that finds the courage to give themselves that stamp of approval and take some control of distribution, the less reliant the Independent community as a whole will be on their older brother who really just doesn’t share the same interests. Based on the risk-taking films at Sundance and the energetic bursting of forward thinking companies like Tugg, Heretic Films, Seed and Spark, Big Vision Empty Wallet, Candy Factory Productions and many others we had the pleasure of meeting, we are all smiling wide on the sidewalk of IndieStreet; gazing toward the west with a subtly confident smirk (that Hollywood will hopefully confuse as growing insecurity) - Jay Webb, IndieStreet www.indiestreet.com @indiest_films
IndieStreet believes that 2014 is the year the cracks widen in the film distribution system. These cracks will make room for entrepreneurial artists to take back deserved revenue generated from their own content. In 2014, Filmmakers will begin to eliminate middlemen, customers will support more creative talent directly, and at least one studio will fall due to its lack of preparation for the cooperative artist revolution. By nature, an artist who looks to distribute their work is an individual with an ego. Someone with a unique vision who feels passionately that other humans will be impacted by looking at the world through their lens. This inner confidence is the artist’s, “Creation Ego”, and it’s surely prevalent in Indie filmmakers. This ego is not only healthy in an artist or filmmaker, it is actually necessary to maximize creative potential. If you did not think that your vision as an artist was special or worthy you would not take the necessary risks that make you shine creatively. The creation ego must be preserved and celebrated in the artists of our time, but it should be contained to the process of creation. When looking to distribute, we urge Independent artists to acknowledge this ego, but then temper and separate it when it comes time to distribute your beautiful story to the world. Creation is a time of solitude, distribution needs to be a time for connection and togetherness. This is true now more than ever for the Independent Artist who lives in a dynamic age of social networking. It has always been difficult for artists to find a balance between the creation & distribution ego, always searching to maintain artistic integrity but also maximize number of eyes on the product. In the past, channels were in place that stimulated a competitive (kill or be killed) philosophy between professional independents, but we now have the technological resources and platforms that can maximize audiences without fighting amongst ourselves and without giving up as much control our artistic forefathers. Here are three things to remember when reinventing your “Distribution Ego”. 1.Unique Vision does not mean your audience is only yours. Unless you have invented a whole new form of media, it is likely that people that have consumed other stories or enjoyed other art might also like yours. Consumers of creative products typically don’t pick one creator and stay faithful only to their works. Even the most die-hard David Lynch fans have still at least checked out a Christopher Nolan film, no matter how traditional or mainstream his stories may feel in comparison. Honest acceptance that audiences are overlapping and must be shared between artists (whether you cooperate or not) is your first step to separating your egos. 2.Be proud of your work, enough to put it along side of other talented creators. As an artist you are undoubtedly a fan of other artists out there. Some of them have larger networks than you, some have smaller ones. Regardless they are most likely a fan of talented story tellers as you are. Sending your film to other filmmakers you admire or to a group platform like IndieStreet can start your exploration on what you can do to promote the works of others and what they might be able to do to help get your stories in front of more eyeballs. No matter how you slice it, when you start cooperating with another filmmaker you are creating a sort of brand. There are thousands of sites that are either social networking or film related or both who are grouping and recommending filmmakers based on their audiences. Why not use these social groups of fans to find other filmmakers like you as well. Your film deserves your additional effort to put it along side of other great films, making your film stronger and making it easier for your audience to find similar impactful stories. 3.Staying flexible, supportive, & long term. Group Distribution needs to be a philosophy that is adopted for the long term but declaring a dedication to cooperating does not mean that any filmmaker in a group of Independents would be expected to turn down a great third party deal if presented. Being incredibly flexible is something an artist would never accept during creation, but it can free us during distribution to see that options are not limited to a black and white choice between “studio” or “alone”. Finding other artists in any creative industry to support in a group can open up your distribution and marketing plans to a number of hybrid efforts across communities. At the end of the day most of us want the same thing: For innovative filmmakers to keep making films. For this to happen their films have to reach interested audience members in ways that the creators can have sustainable careers. And everyone in the film community should want at least that for other talented filmmakers. Even if one of your film projects gets picked up by Fox Searchlight with a huge advance, that is no time to abandon your new group mentality. Just because this film was marketable, be honest with yourself. Do you think that all the amazingly beautiful and risk-taking stories buried deep in your mind will all be so marketable? Use your personal success as an opportunity to help your group and brand of storytelling, even if it is in incremental ways. It will further fuel the collective approach and will come back to you in the future for less mainstream products. And other artists in a distribution support group need to check their egos as well if one group member decides to go with a larger company for one film project. Be elated for them, as their success can only be good for your group brand’s awareness and reach. By combining the networks of a multiple artists & staying flexible, the overall support of your personal creation ego will also be an inevitable side effect. More aggregate eyeballs for your work means some of those eyeballs will be in the investment, grant, or fundraising space. As many of you reading this are Indie artists or professionals in the creative world, we urge you to join this resolution and embrace the new distribution ego that can ultimately lead all you wonderfully innovative individuals to preserving your creation egos that make your work so remarkable. IndieStreet 2014 “The year Artists Unite” Jay Webb www.indiestreet.com @indiest_films