Producer Kyle Martin discusses their decision to self-distribute, financial implications, and staying true to the goals of the film "BlueBird", directed by Lance Edmands.
This Month's Musical Artist in the Streetlight is Kosha Dillz. Kosha and I go back to the beginning of this century when he would dominate the freestyle circles in my dirty basement on Somerset St. at Rutgers University. 10 years later my dude is still freestyling, but no big deal, now he’s got Grammy award winning Macklemore beat-boxing for him. When you have skills like Dillz, you eventually blow up. It’s plain and simple. Well, actually it's not that simple at all. You actually can't blow up with just skills...you either need lightning bolt luck, or you need to work nonstop for years and never stop loving and believing in your own art. Enter Kosha:
In Kosha Dillz (aka Rami to us New Brunswick kids back then), we all can find the true meaning of artist success on an Independent level. I believe it was 2002 when Kosha left Rutgers and was on his way to Vegas/LA to realize his dreams of becoming a hip hop star. He had just won a serious freestyle competition against some quality talent in NB. Being one of two white kids in the battle, and surely the only Jewish white kid, Kosha wowed the crowd and embarrassed the competition with his wit and lyrical genius. So talent was never the question, the man had talent. But we all know it is not enough to have talent, it is what you do with the talent that really matters, and this is where Kosha worked his way to in his latest Vlog with Macklemore:
So before Kosha left, he basically told me he was "going to go make it happen". Back then I wished him well, but didn't know that he would turn into a possessed touring maniac who I witnessed travel to every corner of the globe and turn over every stone in order to keep on working at the craft he loved. He is a freestyle rapper, and that is what he was going to do no matter what anyone told him. In the past 14 years I am sure he has had his ups and downs, but Kosha never quit. Even with me personally, he would hit me up every once in a while to see if I had any movies that there might be some collaboration possibilities. It hasn't happened yet, but this is just one of the avenues he was constantly exploring over the last ten years to get his work out there and to keep himself rapping and living in his own freestyle manner. I could always tell how excited he was about his work and about getting it out there, so much so that I am even in the early stages of developing an animated piece that probably will have a spot for Kosha. Here is Kosha's newest music Video Release, which IndieStreet is digging on hard.
Passion is not only admirable, it's contagious. If you glow when you do what you love, live and breath it, and keep pounding the street, then there WILL be others that will get behind you. In Kosha's case he has toured with Matisyahu and many other stars on his crazy journey toward Independent success, so I had to ask a few questions about how he did it:
JWEbb: As an independent rapper that has been doin it for over a decade, how have you been most successful in branding yourself and keeping true to what it is you do as an artist?
Kosha: I just think about continuously working hard and creating opportunity and staying true to my desire. I enjoy working and providing new experience for myself, so I am always trying to rap wherever I can. A blessing and curse at the same time. JWebb: After all of your globe trotting, what was your most memorable place to play and do you have any quick stories that stick out from the rest? Kosha: Well last night I slept in a car for the first time in...Paris. I recall the first time I slept in a car in Boise Idaho in 2008, and forgot to sleep with car on and heat. I woke up quite quickly..and freezing. JWebb: We noticed you have recently started you Vlog web series. What have you learned over the years about growing your audience and connecting with your fans through new forms of media. Kosha: I didn't realize that sometime sharing your passion for things no matter how small can really create a great opp for you. I was discovered on a vlog with nearly 500,000 hits now (Roman Atwood) and that drove me to do my 30 day 30 vlog challenge. I only did 20 but I have learned a lot. JWebb: What do you say to the people who think you are a more skilled freestyle artist than Eminem? Kosha: I appreciate the comment. I want to let you all know that having more skill doesn't mean anything. I guarantee some of the best filmmakers are horrible editors. Some of the best editors are so good they might not ever finish a project because it's not perfect. JWebb: Looking to open for or tour with Macklemore in the future? What is next for Kosha Dillz? Kosha: I think it'd be great to open for him in the future. I also think creating more content is key and that good content will be discovered. JWebb: Any final words of advice to other Indie artists who are hitting the streets to get their work out there? I would say you should go light on the drugs/drinking. Never stop learning and never stop listening. Give yourself a chance before you quit. Whenever I started to count myself out in the last hour, I pushed a little harder and something amazing happens which completely changes the game :) On Indie Street we are proud to present these two new videos from Kosha Dillz, his newest rap video "What's going on upstairs?" and his most recent vlog which includes the Maclemore freestyle session. Kosha's style is a bit quirky and he may never be completely main stream, but aren't most Independent artists that are true to themselves a bit too unique or weird for mass media? Kosha knew from day one that his style touched certain people, and he never looked back. The idea of our new world is you can stick to your guns and create exactly what you want to. Todays access and technology combined with an unforgiving will to succeed, an artist can find a large enough niche audience to make enough $ to keep them doing what they love. And if that is not what you are in it for, than you are not an artist anyway. In short if you are a filmmaker, musician, designer, or painter, with some serious pavement hitting you, like Kosha, can make it happen. Follow Kosha on Facebook or his Vlog on his youtube channel...
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!