AUDIENCE BUILDING CASE #2: "Tanzania: A Journey Within" from Sylvia Caminer. A large portion of our population has thankfully grown past the phase of only wearing bracelets to feel like we are agents of change in the world. Today the Earth is small enough and access is great enough for every individual to truly make small changes that can accumulate to create huge impact on life and planet. Filmmakers are some of the most dynamic multi-taskers of our world society, and on top of that they already have a solid medium with audiences they can inspire to make important world changes. With most all film projects, a director must envision some type of change he/she wants to inspire in the film’s eventual audience. Whether it is changing their perspective, making them laugh, or giving them insight into the world around them, your story should have a designed emotional shift for those you share it with. Having a grasp on this desired viewer transformation not only helps a filmmaker determine their core audience, but might also lead toward partners that will help to champion the film and build a larger base of fans for the future; not to mention it might do some good to your world. In the previous post, I interviewed director Sean Dunne and we discussed how crowdfunding campaigns can double as a tap into new audiences. Sean is a very progressive filmmaker who has made films built for the Internet, and has a very steadfast notion on where the future of his films’ distribution will lie. This week I spoke to another IndieStreet partner filmmaker, Sylvia Caminer: an Emmy award winning producer/director whose experience is very distinct from Sean’s. Sylvia has much more experience (20+ years) in film, but when it comes to emerging digital distribution models, she admittedly has as much to learn as the rest of us. However, Sylvia’s experience definitely gives her a great edge with strategic planning and overall instincts. With her most recent documentary, “Tanzania: A Journey Within” Sylvia found a non-profit partner and a theatrical distributor who supported her vision…the result was an innovative, socially responsible, marketing campaign that has already afforded her film considerable success. “But a Movie Ticket, Save a Life.” Learning from seasoned filmmakers like Sylvia is a practice that any level director or producer can benefit from, so listen up. J.Webb: Sylvia, When did you first have the notion of somehow tying a social cause into your film? Can you talk a bit about the journey that ended with this simple, but powerful campaign? Sylvia: Before we even began filming in Tanzania we had the idea of trying to find the right cause to get involved with. Once we were in Tanzania filming so many different ideas presented themselves ... clean water, education, poverty and of course malaria. One of the film’s subjects, Kristen, had started her charity "Malaika For Life" which sells beautiful handmade African bracelets whose profits provide malaria medicine for Tanzanians who cannot afford it. She’d had quite a bit of success with her "buy a bracelet save a life campaign" and so when I heard about what Malaria No more was doing and how affordable the medicine was I naturally came up with the "Buy a movie ticket, save a life" campaign whereas we use a portion of the proceeds from every ticket sold to provide a life-saving malaria treatment for a child in Africa. This campaign is in effect for the theatrical release of the film and our distributor, Heretic Films, is totally onboard! With further distribution we hope to target another need in Tanzania to partner with. I truly love documentary films and how so many of them get you riled up and wanting to get involved. Our campaign gives the audience an opportunity to act on their emotional ties to the subject, giving them the ability to use their purchasing power to support a cause and literally save a life. J.Webb: There are lots of new ways for young filmmakers to start building an audience, it can get overwhelming. As a director/producer who has had many films secure traditional distribution deals what is your take on the changing landscape of film and emerging distribution models? Sylvia: I can't believe how different distribution has become. There are so many options it is a bit mind numbing. I find every project quite unique and there is no longer a set path for a truly independent film. You can literally create your own path. The uniqueness of every film’s path is actually what made the IndieStreet group attractive…the ability for the group to be supportive and flexible in many different ways depending on what was best for each specific film. The good news about all of the new DIY digital distribution is that it is much easier to get your film out there and available. This does make it much harder to get your film noticed because of all the noise and clutter in the film market. A producer definitely has a lot more work to do in distribution these days and you really should budget time for that. I have been working pretty much non-stop on distributing Tanzania since January as well as getting the narrative feature I produced "Grace." into the market place. J.Webb: Please talk about how the campaign with malaria no more help to build your audience for this film, and maybe even for future films. Sylvia: Malaria No More definitely has a lot of followers so having them tweet about the film and be formally behind the campaign adds a legitimacy to it. We reached malaria awareness supporters that would have otherwise not known about the film. However it isn't really an easy homerun - we are just a small part of what MNM is working on and they were pretty much consumed with their World Malaria Day campaign in Africa on 4/25 the day we opened in NYC. I think if this had not all happened at the same time the partnership could have been even more productive, so again it’s a lesson in timing. I do hope to work with them or other NPO's in the future, as I really support the idea of using box office to get behind causes that matter to us. J.Webb: How did you find it working with a non-profit during your release? How would a filmmaker go about starting the process of getting an NPO on board to help push their film and cause? Sylvia: I think it is really important to find a cause that makes sense and doesn't feel forced. Although our film is not a "malaria documentary" I believe the tie-in is quite strong because of Kristen Kenney's bout with malaria in the film and her ongoing commitment to the cause. Through Malaika she has already provided malaria medicine for more than 22,000 people. That just goes to show the power of social media and how moving images can support a cause. It is really important to be on the same page as the NPO and have a clear understanding of how you plan to move ahead together. I also recommend setting up a calendar before all of the craziness begins-lead time is really important. While it is probably a little easier to find a relatable cause to a documentary in Africa than a narrative drama or comedy, it is certainly a worthwhile exercise to explore these types of partnerships early on. Forcing an NPO partnership does not make sense, but it is just one of the many innovative techniques you can work into your crowd building strategy. If you have a dark drama about a specific type of drug abuse, check to see if there are any organizations that might raise awareness. If you have a comedy based on a farm, maybe there is a farmer’s group that will love it and want to promote it. With a small amount of research and discovery work, you may just be able to create a partnership that will help your film’s numbers, and also make you feel even more wonderful than you already do when your film reaches its audience. Even if Sylvia’s Tanzania film had not received the positive reviews it had, the number of lives her efforts have helped to save from a needless disease would be buzz worthy and something to be seriously proud of. The story of a positive social campaign may prove to be as far reaching as the film’s story itself. Jay Webb IndieStreet.com @indiest_films “Tanzania: A Journey Within” website: www.tanzaniathemovie.com You can set up a screening of “Tanzania: A Journey Within” in your community through the wonderful new theatrical platform provided by TUGG!
As a confusing, turbulent 2016 comes to an end and we face an uncertain future ahead with the approaching new year, it’s safe to say that things are changing. The world is changing. People are changing. On top of everything, film distribution is changing as well. Award-winning film “Love is All You Need?” is shaking up the self-distribution field a bit and taking heed of both political and cultural current events by doing things a little differently and donating all of their traditional film distribution profits to charities. Based on a viral short film, director and co-writer Kim Rocco Shields has created a $1 million fund for the film to be distributed to 20 nonprofits that partnered with her during the “Love is All You Need?” MovieMent tour. The film toured 20 cities in recognition of the true events depicted in the film - a film that asks us: what would happen if being straight was a sin and sexual "norms" as we know them were flipped? How do we live if we can't love? Once the film reaches 1 million views, the fund will be activated and the proceeds will be disbursed to the nonprofits. This is a timely film with quite the inspiring charitable initiative. Check out Shields' exclusive interview with PR Newswire and read more about the film over at www.loveisallyouneedthemovie.com. Make sure to watch over on iTunes to contribute to the right kind of change we all need in this country!
Sometimes finding a way to realistically help abused or neglected children is a challenge. Apart from adoption or donating large amounts of money, what more can we do? Actually, sometimes a little can go a very long way in these situations. Act for Kids is an Australian organisation that is involved in working with groups of kids that require attention and help due to abuse. Christian McKechnie and Ben Lees of Act for Kids have developed 3D printed Monster Crayons that are, well, just that - crayons in the shape of monsters! And they are hoping this product will become a source of income for their charity. With art being a big part of an abused child’s therapy, the crayons are also influential to the children themselves. You can read more about their crowdfunding campaign here and back it on Pozible now. Cute, inspirational, magical, and downright charitable, what more can you ask for in a product?
James Franco, the actor that seems to do it all x10, is opening a nonprofit film studio that combines making films, teaching students and benefiting charity. The Art of Elysium charity will combine with Franco’s Rabbit Bandini production banner to support film endeavors of both students and professionals. All proceeds from these efforts will be donated to Art of Elysium. The intent is to create a source of funds for the charity, a favorite among many other A-list celebrities. “This is students and charity coming together to make their own thing, a new thing,” Franco said. Read more about the collaboration of film and charity here.
If you feel a bit unheard or misunderstood, it turns out you are not alone. There are many that would listen given the chance, but they may be hearing things at different frequencies. One of the humans that wants to get us all listening a bit more to the planet and its outsiders is Actor / Activist Adrian Grenier, who is on a quest to find the Lonely Whale. This lonely whale has been calling out for his whole life in the Pacific Ocean at a frequency that no other whales can receive.
I will admit that I was initially skeptical about the idea of supporting a famous actor in a quest for a whale that at first glance seemed a bit trivial in the grand scheme of the world’s problems. Also, as the most Independent of outfits, it is difficult for Indie Street to support a successful Hollywood Actor when there are so many other more “needy” artists out there raising funds.
But in this case, I am thankful that my experience with Adrian’s campaign did not end with me as a typical Indie hater. I decided to attend an event where he was scheduled to speak about his journey through the crowdfunding campaign. I mostly went because my friends Dani & Alex (Founders of Big Vision Empty Wallet) were throwing the event and those ladies are always doing awesome things to help foster independent creators.
To keep this concise, I wanted to mention a few quotes from Adrian during the conversation, that not only swayed me and our support for the project, but also swayed my general opinion of this human being, well, as a human being.
1. The story touched his heart, and will touch yours.
Hollywood Actors have hearts too, and I know he is trained in a craft of persuasion, but I am skilled in poker and reading people, and I’d bet the house that he has a genuine care for this whale and the message it represents. In comparison to any other A-list Actor kickstarter campaigns that I have come across this is the most selfless I have come across.
Adrian: “A whale that is swimming in the pacific all alone calling out constantly and never once receiving a response…I have never come across a project that has so immediately captured my heart.”
2. It’s a relatable story.
Relatable is a word that is thrown around a lot in the realm of story telling, but it is a rare occasion that something in the real natural world (during present day life) can be so organically captivating and relatable. So, for this reason alone, we hope this film gets funded so the story can be told in almost real time.
Adrian: “Unless you are a robot or a sociopath, you are going to feel soemthing about this story, because we can all relate to what it must be like to be in the abyss, in the darkness with no friends…being misunderstood, being an outsider.
3. There are ACTUAL big picture implications.
This was where I was mostly apprehensive about the project going in. The lonely whale, however, will not only bring to light concerns of ocean noise pollution, but may have an even larger positive sociological impact. There are certainly many human beings in our society who feel like they are speaking at 52 hz when the rest of the world is only receiving signals at 15-20. Within this age of connectivity, our youth are growing more and more disconnected to each other, and it is a truly important problem that we should try to investigate through whatever means necessary. Hopefully through getting the youth excited about a lonely whale that they relate to, it can slowly begin a culture change toward acceptance of natural differences.
Adrian: “there is something deeper about that, having tolerance and understanding for otherness, putting yourself in the shoes, or fins, of someone else, so that we can start to listen to not only what the lonely whale is trying to say…but also what the planet is trying to say that we are ignoring or not listening too."
So the short of it is, Indie Street will be supporting Adrian and the project and you should to! After re-analysis, this Indie producer’s humble opinion is that the story of the lonely whale is a personal one, and one that is very personal to Adrian as well. It may be that Adrian has always spoken at 52 hz in the land of Hollywood, and none of the other actor trophy fish or executive whales really understood what he was trying to say. Through his budding career as a documentary producer, he is starting to be heard by the minnows like you and me, and that is probably who he was trying to reach in the first place.
- Jay Webb, Indie Street
A powerful campaign that we urge you to be a part of...1300 children needlessly die everyday from malaria, and you can save one just by buying a film ticket. We are very proud of our IndieStreet partnering filmmaker, Sylvia Caminer, for the film release and this amazing campaign. The Documentary, "Tanzania: A Journey Within" partners up with Malaria No More to donate enough from each ticket sale to provide life-saving malaria medicine for a child in need. It's this type of brave and creative promotional campaigns that Independent filmmakers need to work into their projects to rise above the rest.
Visit the Street Stories WebSite…. where Depaul UK helps young people who are homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged. In the new project 'Street Stories', Rob Dabank of BBC and some famous Street artists depict the stories of some of the homeless youth. You can buy some amazing screen prints from the artists to help ensure that their stories don't end up on the street.
So I guess we should listen. IndieStreet loves brilliant human curation of film, and Scorsese is unsurpassed as a cinephile and film historian. His collaboration with The Criterion Collection on World Cinema Project is a merger of masters, and the first volume of classics does not disappoint. Check out the PopMatters Review here. We highly suggest you read more about the restoration mission of Scorsese's Organization, World Cinema foundation. Major Streetcreds!
Are you a freelance creative but in between jobs? Creative Cares is a Non Profit Organization that connects designers, Indie filmmakers, photographers, and artists to Non-profits in their community that can benefit from their craft. Not only will they connect you with something you feel is a worthy cause, you will probably make some connections with amazing individuals who will want to promote your awesome work (and heart) to others they know. You Win, an NPO wins, and society wins.