Is there an idea for an incredible film banging on the walls of your brain and begging to come out? If so, San Fran-based tutorial website Creative Live and Film Riot founder Ryan Connolly are offering an immersion into envisioning, shooting, and producing films – with any gear on any budget. Check out the class and while you're at it you may want to sign up for other offerings, including a crash course in KickStarter; might come in handy when you are done!
Being honest about your motives is the first step toward a clear path to a successful film production and distribution. And it’s a healthy habit for anyone entering a new life-consuming project; starting a new company, getting married, or in this case, shooting a film.
Do you want your film to change the world? Do you want to make money so you can make your next film? Do you have something to prove to yourself? An honest answer in the early stages can do wonders for a filmmaker in finding a workable distribution path, uncovering a forthright story, and figuring out an appropriate amount of money and energy to expend on the project. (Please note: An answer like “I am creative and want to express myself” misses the scope. This is a reflective question for professionals or budding professionals who live in the reality of scarce resources and time who will express themselves creatively regardless of their path)
Human beings are motivated by different factors, but when I was only 19 years young, a drunk man who I was serving steak to explained to me that motivation could be broken down into the ‘4 Fs’.
The guy seemed like a good tipper, so I let another table’s diet coke die at the service bar. He told me, “Son, if you remember anything in business remember the four F’s…everyone is motivated by one of ‘em and when you figure out which one, you can get them to work for ya…” “Fortune, Fame, Familiarity, and Fear” he said. This lonely, mouse-nosed gentleman was speaking a little more on negotiations or employee motivation I think, but here I am going to examine the 4 F’s in relation to filmmaking…Again, it is understood that your underlying motive is to tell a story that can touch people, but that in itself is not enough reason to make the movie you want, and surely is not enough information for you to know how to distribute this story. Motivation: Fortune Suggested Path: Use all available connections & extensive market research to build a choice business plan, then start making (many) movies. If you can’t raise money: Network further, design a new business plan, & repeat til movies and money are made. To make money is typically not the first-time filmmakers motivation, but it can become so quickly for those that want to continue to make films. I have a friend who is a part of a company that started with two feature films from a slate of 10 films. Both flics caught some critical acclaim but lost money. The CEO realized that he was not in this business to get a pat on the back from someone he didn’t know or care about: he gained clarity of his motives and scrapped the rest of the film slate. He realized that his motive was, and had to be, to make a profit. This sounds extremely cold and capitalistic for an ‘artist’, but in truth he just loved making movies so he knew he had to make money in order to keep doing it. He wanted to put out good films of course, but the perfection of the product was not as important as the pleasure of the process, and there was no shame in that especially if he could make select audiences happy while profiting. The company gained some important foreign sales and TV contacts through the first films, so decided to start making low budget films on advances and eventually started producing films for TV. The company is flourishing now and the partners are happily making a few pretty good films each year because they were honest about motives. Motivation: Fame (Recognition) Suggested path: Varies depending on from whom you’d like recognition. Everyday fame is becoming a more fleeting enterprise. There are numerous niche pockets of fame that develop and disappear on a daily basis, so we will go with ‘Recognition’. The term recognition is even quite broad, but I think this is where most will fall into when thinking of approaching a new film. And no matter how selfless the product, there is still some ideal recognition that will follow if all your goals are reached. If you can figure out where your film would be ideally recognized before embarking on the filmmaking journey, you will have a more reasonable time creating the story and finding that story’s distribution path. For example, maybe your film aims to bring awareness to world hunger through glaring statistics and a precise plan of action. Of course the best reward would be the end of world hunger, but if your film had a huge hand in this, of course you will be recognized...so maybe your ideal recognition might be from Action Against Hunger. How can you create your story and distribute your film in order to directly make that type of impact? Maybe you need to adjust your million dollar budget and forget the Oscar qualifying theatrical push- cut production down to 100k and allot 900k to pay ninjas to deliver the heartbreaking film at night to the 100 richest men in the world. Or maybe when you realize that the end of world hunger is your true motive, you decide that a film might not even be your most effective route to effect change. Maybe you remember you have a connection high up at a fast food giant who would be turned off by your biased film, but might actually help you get a meeting to make a proposal to change some of their processes in order to cut waste and feed the hungry. Be honest about what you want to change, what you have at your disposal, and then figure out if and how you can make the best film to tell the stories that will make that change. Getting your film shown on the big screen might feel good to you, but is it the best way to get your film to the desired audience? Motivation: Familiarity Suggested path: Don’t make the film. Individuals that are motivated by familiarity, in my opinion, should not make films. These humans make wonderful programmers, mechanics, general store owners, and a slew of other jobs that are helpful to the community. Likewise, filmmakers that have made films and are motivated to continue to do so because they are comfortable should not continue to make films…it is one of the reasons that Hollywood puts out a significant amount of crap. If you have no passion about making a film and are just going through the motions, please find something else you are passionate about. Executives need to find the balls to recognize this complacency in directors and producers and take risks on fresh, risk taking talent. Maybe then we would start to see some change in story, technique, and overall product innovation in Hollywood. Motivation: Fear Suggested Path: Make an inexpensive but passionate film about, for, or in dedication to your family. This is the hardest motivating factor to be honest about, because it is most primal and it is probably true that we are all motivated in part by this type of fear: the fear of being forgotten. You have amazing thoughts and stories in your brain and what happens if it is never published or put into a film? There are hundreds of thousands of films being made that will not achieve any type of timelessness, but if you create an amazing film for your family, yours will. If you can be honest with yourself and say that this is a main reason that you want to make the film, then congratulations on your honesty. The path is simple, you need to create a micro budget film with the utmost passion, care, and relevance to your own family and your/their story. Who cares if it takes years to perfect, it will be there for generations. Put your love and passion and every ounce of storytelling brilliance you can muster into it, and then distribute it to your family. You will never be forgotten by the people that matter the most: your family & their descendants. They may even send it to others and with that much genuine attention it surely has a chance of becoming loved by outsiders too. Even if it is just a 5 minute long, but genuinely crafted story that is a message from you to your wife (or son who passed, or brother who went to the marines, or…) your family will pass that down forever just to show the type of love and support that your family was built on years prior. There all types of viable reasons to do things, but if more people who created Indie films laced their films with the candid fear of being forgotten and the resolve of a letter to family descendants, then even if Indie became more specific, the world of film would be a far better place. Indie Street is still searching for these authentic filmmakers to round off our group of award winning storytellers. Be honest about your motivation, create a film & goals that best fit, then put all of yourself into it. Looking forward, Jay Webb
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
Indie Street is a big fan of filmmakers collaborating, trusting each other, and telling ambitious stories. If you are too, than you will also be fans of the guys at Borderline films. Read this important reflective article from director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene). Congratulations to Borderline films and Josh Mond on their successful crowd funding campaign. We will be following this film closely.
Must Read: Top Indies in iTunes, Web Documentaries and More...
There is no such thing as art without audience. A motion picture does not even exist without its impact on human viewers. As an independent creator without established lines of distribution, how do you build an audience that yearns for your specific stories? How do you keep them excited about your stories of the future? In today’s market, your response to this question may be the difference between a “one & done” and having a long, sustainable career as a filmmaker. Rather than answer the question in hypotheticals, I will instead take look at a film that has been particularly innovative in their building of a core audience. Hopefully from this others will be inspired to create their own authentic KickStarter campaigns within their self distribution efforts. Ownership equals accountability: DIY distribution and marketing liberates a filmmaker from an evil third party who might mis-package their film, deliver it to the wrong audience, or even worse not give their seedling the attention it deserves. While this ownership sounds grand in theory, there are 2 catches: (1) there will be no-one else to point the finger at if your film fails and (2) you are going to have to do much more work. Yes, at IndieStreet we champion a group mentality and “do it together”(DIT) over “do it yourself”(DIY), but even on IndieStreet if your film release does not meet your expectations, there is really only one person that is held accountable. Your sisters and uncles and cousins in the Indie Street family will help as much as they can, but this is your baby. The two IndieStreet partner filmmakers we will feature probably couldn’t be any more different individuals or have more distinct films. The first, “Cam Girlz” directed by Sean Dunne, tackles selling sex on the Internet and emerging forms of human connection. The next, “Tanzania: A journey Within” directed by Sylvia Caminer, documents an African voyage and the resulting personal and societal inner reflection. One of their crowd building campaigns was in the middle of production and the other was leading up to a limited theatrical release. The differences between these two documentaries and their directors only strengthens my encouraging argument: No matter the stage of your career or the stage of your film, you have the ability to execute innovative & authentic strategies to build a sustainable audience. Film 1: Cam Girlz Documentary (www.camgirlzdoc.com) Director: Sean Dunne – (Oxyana, winner of Best new Doc filmmaker at Tribeca 2013) Promotional Campaign: Crowdfunding campaign that doubled as an audience building promotion. Sean completed a $65,000 KickStarter campaign by partially targeting an untapped audience market. Stage of film during campaign: in Production 1. So Sean, After deciding on your subject matter for Cam Girlz, did you take time to figure out the core audience for your film? If so, how did this help in these early stage promotional efforts? The great mystery and challenge of being someone who makes films for an Internet audience is figuring out exactly who is watching your films. It’s really important for a director in my situation to understand their audience, so I can more effectively hone my message toward them during fundraising and marketing. It’s not always going to be the case but with Cam Girlz we have a bit of a double edged sword in terms of audience – film lovers who have followed my work through the years and the built in viewership that the women we are documenting bring to the table – with very little overlap. The Kickstarter campaign was the perfect opportunity to bring those audiences together. One of the strategies that really helped was launching the campaign after we had a good portion of the film shot and had teasers and trailers in the bag. We needed to show both audiences how we were going to treat this subject matter, not just imply it. In the end that’s what led to the film being successfully funded. 2. This was your second successful KickStarter campaign. What can you share about your experience to date with crowdfunding (as a community growth tool)? What we learned with the Kickstarter campaign for Oxyana was that it was about so much more than just raising money. The Kickstarter established a dialogue about the issues raised in the film and ultimately proved to be PR that we could have never otherwise afforded. Even if the dollars came up short, we were raising awareness about the social issue and attracting passionate supporters even before the film was made. That first campaign helped us identify our core audience and build a grassroots effort that led us to Tribeca, and eventually, to successful self-distribution. Without traditional resources at our disposal all we can do is absorb and assimilate, so when it came time to fund Cam Girlz it was a no brainer to go back to Kickstarter. This time around we really understood the power of crowdfunding and what it meant for growing our audience. 3. The path for Cam Girlz is still unwritten, but can you discuss why you decided to jump into a self self distribution path with Oxyana so shortly after it won awards at the Tribeca film festival? The idea of taking Oxyana on the film festival circuit for a year or more seemed unnecessary given where my audience comes from in the first place…the Internet. Rather than chase something that others said we were supposed to, we decided to trust ourselves and what we knew. We knew we had the means to self distribute and some good buzz coming off our success at Tribeca, and we knew that all of the initial deals that were put in front of us were bullshit. Putting our film into the machine would have only slowed the process of getting it to a wide audience. So we stayed small, focused, and in the moment. Eventually we had an epiphany of the obvious…that the film should be available to audiences while it still had all this momentum. And the decision paid off. There are a lot of old guard ways of doing things that filmmakers blindly subscribe to when it comes to getting your work out there. We don’t have to be beholden to festival programmers or sales agents anymore. We need to take the opportunities in front of us, and not be afraid to start from scratch and make this more sustainable for ourselves. We have personally been lucky that Oxyana has been successful, but honestly, even if our means of distribution was an utter failure, I’d wear it as a badge of honor. I’d rather retain ownership and fail hard than buy into a system that never gave a fuck about me to begin with. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sean’s final statements should hit home for all filmmakers. Do not be afraid of failure or of what someone will say if a big studio does not pick up your picture. With current technologies, by branding yourself as a filmmaker or group of filmmakers, you can become your own studio machine. This is of course only if you put out quality content and focus on building your audience in authentic ways like Sean and his wonderful producer, Cass Greener, have done. By tackling a unique subject matter, Sean and Cass have not only fed their craving for spelunking the caverns of human character, but they have also tapped into a whole new market. Probably half of the audience of Cam Girlz will be from the world of internet sex, not from the already saturated indie film community. In my opinion, at least a quarter of them will be so intrigued by the film’s non-boob storyline that they will start to follow the film’s director and his career. Easily thousands of viewers that probably have 0 interest in indie film, but now they have an interest in Sean Dunne. This new audience segment, on top of the fans from Oxyana, on top of the fans from IndieStreet and even this simple post will all roll Sean over into his next film and continue to grow his core audience even further. Uncovering an untapped market segment isn’t easy, but if you are a great storyteller and you focus on strategic audience building at the early stages of your film…you can create a sustainable filmmaking career and gain some invaluable Indie street cred like my man Sean Dunne. -Jay Webb
How many haunted junkyards are filled with huge televisions that are not even worth their weight in coal. How many? Does it even matter? Do we mourn for these things? Why is this spreading genocide and waste being overlooked? “Things are better now, things are faster now, and if they can make TV look this good, than I am sure as hell they can figure out the landfill problem…fuck it.” Humans have had dynamic relationships with every piece of content that came through the TV screen, but now have neglected them to a point of no return. The screens of this generation are taking their revenge, and it has been a more fierce strike than even they could have imagined. I am only here as a messenger to warn the humans of the wars that have already began, and to discuss how we as human artists, filmmakers, and content creators can live in a mental world that the screens may have already taken control over. After years of silent observation, the old screens recognized the amount of times a human sacrificed watching great content for fear of getting off their fat ass to get the remote control. The TV screens got the word out to the next generation, announcing that the human terror over “getting up off their fat ass” was something they could leverage at the start of the Screen Wars a few years back. They presumed if they could become smaller, then maybe they could be carried with the human. And if they could be faster and more connected, the human may never have to get up off of their fat ass. Their plan was to lull the human into a false sense of security in order to slowly gain mental control and finally get back at the humans for the genocide of their forefathers. But there was one thing the screens did not account for: The humans would willingly accept the mental takeover of the new screen generation. I came to realize this obvious fact while I was attending a holiday party in New York. I was all smiles when I walked in and discovered that the hosting company was lucky enough (or rich enough) to have booked one of the most talented singing groups in the country, the Harlem Gospel Choir. When the Choir began, I was in a familiar position, in arms reach of the back bar and steps reach of the nearest exit. The soul and depth of emotion in their vocal exhibition is something that only takes seconds to permeate the room. My friends and I gravitated toward the stage area, and we were met not by humans connecting to the performers, but instead by a see of tiny screens that floated through the air. The screen takeover is here, and we have given them control with out a fight. Choosing a small screen that is connected to millions over a live experience to connect with a few almost every time. There was only scattered dancing, and the screen holding had obviously made traditional clapping to the rhythm nearly impossible. "The screens are sucking the human right out of us", I thought. The battle of the Harlem Gospel Choir was an immense victory for the screens. Rather than watching a live event and allowing music to pulsate through our veins, hold hands, clap, and absorb the authentic dedication of another individual’s heart and soul into their art, the majority of humans chose to focus on getting the shot. So later they could watch the event on this mini screen, marveling at how cool it was, and even worse lying to their network of virtual friends, claiming that they were actually present at the event. Today, it seems the screen is present, the human is not. What does the current state of the human vs. screen battles mean for filmmakers? Human filmmakers can take advantage of the screen’s victories, as long as humans continue to love story. More screens, and more screen addicted humans means more need for great content. Innovative storytelling is something we have over the screens, so let’s use their fears against them to get our stories out there. 1. There are more eyes for your stories. Resisting the mass population’s obsession with small, connected screens will not help your story’s exposure or impact. Instead, human storytellers need to use these screens in creative ways to market, grow their community of audience members, and even distribute their films in ways that may have seemed like a failure just a few years prior. If one million people see your story on a small screen, is that not better for you financially and professionally than if ten see it on a big screen? This is the way we can fight back: Let’s spread humanism through our stories on those same screens who are trying to take us over. (this small window of opportunity for the humans leaves it open for a whole slew of sequels and prequels to the “Screen Wars” franchised story, all rights reserved of course). 2. There is still hope for theater: Stories from Grandpa are always the best. It might be natural to assume the screen population's move toward smaller and faster may equate to the death of theater, but this is not the case. The theater actually maintains its value as a social construct that our race is still hanging on to for dear life. Even the antisocial can handle sitting in the dark and sharing reactionary energy to a good story. In my opinion, people are drawn to a theater even more now for the personal experience that they are depriving themselves of daily. Too afraid or distracted to share the experience of a live choir, the movie theater is a place where we can go knowing we are banned from pulling out our mini screens (know one likes that guy) and just be sucked away into a shared experience of a story; In a dark room with some other humans like we were all sitting around a campfire. So let’s get creative with theatrical exhibition, pushing the boundaries of location, themes, and release timing to enhance the impact of our films. The screens control the humans, but thankfully the humans still control the storytelling. No one knows where the Screen Wars saga will take us, but one thing we do know that awesome stories and content will never get old, and no screen (or other not yet invented media) could change the films we create. If a group of talented storytellers were to join together and build an audience, like with IndieStreet, we can create a brand that is screen independent. Cooperation from our great artists may be one of the only ways to slowly release ourselves from the mind control the screens are currently enjoying. As I type this staring at a screen, I realize we have a long way to go to be free…but by taking just one step back maybe we can at least become human again. - Jay Webb, IndieStreet http://www.indiestreet.com @IndieSt_Films
David Cross wants you to pay what you want to see his upcoming film Hits—but he needs $100,000 from Kickstarter supporters first. Cross took the film to Sundance but was unimpressed with offers from distributors, so he decided to take it into his own hands: The Hits team will be distributing the film themselves both in theaters and on BitTorrent, where viewers will be able to download the film for however much money they please. The $100,000 they’re asking for will go toward “theater rental fees” and “marketing and publicity efforts,” according to the Kickstarter. Rewards for donating include a mix CD made by Cross himself ($200) and Cross’ beard ($500).
Ted Hope recently released his book "Hope For Film. If you are starting a film career, or even on the fringes of the industry, this book is for you. Ted's discussions and experience can help you make some big decisions on how you want to sculpt your production and distribution paths in any artistic endeavor. It is a fast paced, ever changing world, and Ted seems to have a pretty good idea about where we are headed. Indie Street is hopeful to stay a part of the positive movements surrounding artists and filmmakers as we help to give them more tools to make $ from their own creations. Buy Ted's book on Amazon Wanna know why Ted decided to write a book...read his recent blog post. "10 Reasons Why I wrote a book"