Posts Tagged ‘Distribution’

Interview with Writer/Director Nathan Ives on his DIY Grassroots Theatrical Plan

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Every independent filmmaker has to face the innumerable challenges in every phase of making their film – which usually forces them to a ‘do-it-yourself’ solution.  Nathan Ives, writer/director and producer of It’s Not You, It’s Me is currently ‘DIYing’ his theatrical distribution by renting theaters and taking his film on the road.

Writer/Director Nathan Ives

I had the opportunity to ask Nathan about his marketing plan to tour his film.

Filmlinker: You have a unique diy/grassroots approach to theatrical distribution – booking theaters and charging the audience whatever they’re willing to pay. Was this initiative part of your original business plan that was presented to your investors?

Nathan Ives: It wasn’t, actually. I think I originally had the ‘build it and they will come’ attitude that a lot of indie filmmakers have, it’s hard to admit, but I think my basic idea was that I would win Sundance, my career would take off, and Weinstein would buy the film outright for ten times the budget. I now realize that’s not a marketing plan, it’s a lottery ticket at best, a losing one since we didn’t even get accepted to Sundance. The original business plan outlined the more traditional model of selling to distributors, domestic and foreign, based on the cast, etc.

FL: How do you approach prospective theaters with this “pass-the-hat” approach – i.e. do you need to share the revenue or are you totally four walling?

NI: When I came up with idea, I just did a Google search for ‘independent theaters in NC’ and started cold calling them about rentals. I’ve found that a typical theater, on a weeknight (they typically won’t rent on weekends) runs between $250-$800 depending on size, location, etc. I’ve learned, that for the model to work, I can only spend about $300 and still cover my rental costs and maybe a little extra for gas via passing the hat and DVD sales. I’ve also found that as I’m able to get out 50 or so people, theaters are willing to cut deals for additional rental nights since they do well on concession sales.

FL: Are you also screening your film at other, non-movie theater venues?

NI: I’ve screened at some colleges, I’ve also been speaking to college film classes, but that’s about the only non-theater stuff I’ve done.

FL: Have you used any theatrical on-demand services like Tugg or Gathr? Any other useful resources that you can share?

NI: I haven’t used Tugg or Gathr. I’ve mainly been trying to get exposure through media, blogs, newspapers, radio, etc. – I’ve found it to be the most effective. I will also come into town a day or so before a screening and walk the streets handing out fliers, but really engaging each person I give one to, telling them a little about the film. I send people to my website to the ‘special event screenings’ section where they can reserve tickets through Brownpaperticket.com which captures their email addresses.

FL: What’s your goal with this initiative – i.e. recouping your budget, exposure for marketing your film?

NI: I have a number of goals with the tour. First and foremost is to make the money for my investors, by driving VOD sales, so I can then make my next film. I want to build the ‘Mule Films‘ brand. I want to build a substantial email list of indie film lovers. Over all I want to build a sustainable business model that will allow me to continue making films until I eventually keel over.

FL: What’s the next phase of your distribution approach? Are you going to use an aggregator or do you have a “DIY” VOD plan?

NI: I used Bitmax in Los Angeles to get the film on iTunes and Amazon, I found them to be excellent and the cost was $1,250 and they didn’t take percentage of sales. I’m still early in this marketing plan, and think it will take six months or so to see if I’m truly driving VOD sales. Just a quick note that the process takes 6-8 weeks from giving the aggregator the film and it being released on iTunes.

FL: Are you also submitting to film festivals? Have you screened at any festivals?

Ives at Naperville Independent Film Festival

NI: We took the film to several festivals, recently won Best Actress (Joelle Carter) and best Director (Nathan Ives) at The Naperville Film Festival outside of Chicago. While I enjoy the festivals, unless it’s on of the big ones, I think they’re more social media fodder than anything else. In my opinion they do little to help recoup your budget, and it can get quite expensive to enter festivals at $40-$100 per entry.

FL: What’s worked well in this initiative and what hasn’t worked?

NI: Well, I’d say that I’ve definitely found media outlets to be the most effective way to get people in seats. Walking the streets with fliers is less effective, but I still think has value in just getting the word out. The Q&A’s after screenings seem to be quite popular and really give people that personal touch and something to remember you by, I think that’s very important in building a following for future films. Spending more than $300 for a theater definitely does NOT work. Stay away from small towns, it’s hard to get people out. I’ve found mid-size towns, think Raleigh, NC or Charleston, SC to be best. If there is a college in the area, all the better, I’ve found when I speak to a college class, word gets around and I get a number of students out to screenings.

FL: How have you utilized social media to spread the word on your film?

NI: I keep daily updates on Facebook and try to keep Twitter updated a couple of times a day, but I think there’s is simply too much content on most of the social sites and it’s very difficult to engage people over the long term. I think an email list is far more powerful. That said, keeping up with social media is definitely important and gives someone a place to go to learn about the film. Oh, and on the email list subject, use a company like Aweber.com to hold your list, that way your emails will mostly stay out of spam folders and you get great analytics about how many emails were opened.

FL: Any final thoughts – words of wisdom that you can share from your experience that can help other filmmakers?

NI: 1. First an foremost, raise as much money for marketing as you do for your film, you may win Sundance and not need it, but if you don’t, you’ll be glad you have it. 2. Before making your film think long and hard about your demographic and how you’re going to get people to pay to watch YOUR movie in the sea of other movies out there. What’s unique about your film or marketing plan? ‘It’s going to be a great film’ isn’t going to cut it. 3. If you’re making a 10K guerrilla film, I wouldn’t worry about a lawyer, if you’re raising money through equity investors, be sure to hire a good lawyer. 4. Only do films you’re passionate about, it’s far to much work to do something you don’t really love. If you’re only it for the ‘money’ there are FAR more sure-fire ways to make a buck. 5. Filmmaking can be a wonderful process, it’s a collaborative one, be kind to everyone, you never know who you’ll be working with or for down the road. 6. I’m glad to share what knowledge I have and help other indie filmmakers in any way I can, please feel free to contact me at nathan@mulefilms.com.

It’s Not You, It’s Me is about a serial commitment-phobe, played by Ross McCall), who struggles with his decision to break up with his near perfect girlfriend – played by Justified’s Joelle Carter). All the while, the couple has to deal with their inner voices – one played by Vivica A. Fox. Check out the trailer (below):

You can purchase the film on iTunes and Amazon.  I also encourage you to join their email list at www.itsnotyouitsmefilm.com, “Like” the film’s Facebook page and follow Nathan’s progress.  Show your support for a true independent endeavor.

What If Seed&Spark Is Successful?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

There’s been a lot already written about Seed&Spark. My first thoughts on S&S are that it’s a very interesting take on the whole crowdfunding landscape with an angle on a ‘fair trade’ filmmaking movement. The “wedding registry” wish-list is also a unique set up that gives an alternative to a cash donation. That makes a lot of sense since filmmakers will have an endless list of expenses that will use that cash. Any donation of meals, locations, loaning equipment, etc. will go a long way for a tight indie budget. Some contributors may find it easier to provide a needed service or product – rather than straight up money – times are tough. Additionally, Seed&Spark will offer a distribution outlet (80/20 split) – with 100% of the rights maintained by the filmmaker. Plus, they have a bonus (a.k.a. “Spark”) that incentivizes and rewards their consumers/moviegoers/fans to join and watch as many films as possible. Great ideas all around – right? Absolutely!

Then I had some additional thoughts on this… comes in as more of a question: what if this type of service succeeds, really succeeds and becomes the go-to standard for all indie filmmakers? Let’s think about this for a moment… it would be great, wouldn’t it? I have been looking at a lot of different filmmaking services and websites since I started working on my first feature, Nothing Without You. Through that process – I started Filmlinker. I usually gravitated to whichever service was applicable to that stage of production we were in – i.e. screenwriting, financing, pre-pro, production, festivals, distribution, etc. Back to my question – what if this type of service succeeds and becomes the go-to standard for all indie filmmakers? I think it would cover ALL the stages – from start to finish of what independent filmmakers are looking for – making a film, getting it to an audience and sustaining a creative career. Remember when YouTube first launched (before Google bought it)? YouTube now supports several video creators.

Crowdfunfing sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have facilitated the financing possibilities. The current filmmaking technologies have brought production costs way down. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has allowed filmmakers to communicate directly with and grow their fan base. There’s a plethora of self-distribution choices (VHX, Vimeo On-Demand, IndieFlix, Distribber, etc.) and many more that seem to launch everyday. All good – but Seed&Spark is combining all these services into one.

Let’s root and support this type of initiative. The future can be now.

Free Producer’s Master Class with Ted Hope and Christine Vachon

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Chris Jones – who runs workshops at the Guerrilla Film Makers Master Class just made available the 4-hour Producers Master Class seminar, titled, American Independents Day in London with veteran indie producers, Ted Hope [IMDB] and Christine Vachon [IMDB]. They’ve both produced 68 films each – so they obviously have a lot to teach us.

You can get all four hours/parts HERE (for free) – all you have to do is register an account on their site.

Here’s the first hour:

Here’s some of the eye-opening insights that they discussed:

What is the film business? The film business is about people keeping their jobs. That’s the most important thing by anyone who is employed in the film business. Not getting your movie made. Not getting an audience for your film…”  — Ted Hope – On how to strategize the production of your film – knowing their primary agenda is an advantage on how to approach it with your project.

Filmmakers are still seeing the web [production or distribution] as the second best [option] or a failure – the same way that they looked at TV a few years ago… now it’s astonishing how many A-list directors are directing their first television pilots… Scorecese with Boardwalk Empire, Jonathan Demme, David Fincher… it’s no longer a ghetto if you’re in director jail.” – Christine Vachon  – In reference to producing and distributing to the web.. Vachon uses Vuguru as an example of a web production company that she’s currently working with on some projects.

Here’s the outline of the first part/hour:
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0.20 Introduction of Ted Hope & Christine Vachon
1.30 Killer Films and how Christine started producing films.
4.30 How to find an audience for you’re film.
6.30 How to produce lots of films regularly & why its important to make the right choices.
9.20 The making of a horror film and how to make a B movie.
13.50 Why ignorance is bliss and how direct contact with industry professionals pays!
16.00 Lessons learnt and why its important to go out to film festivals.
19.05 The film Super and how to negotiate your terms.
20.40 How fear is the key ingredient to making films & why its good to keep an open mind to do things in a different way or platform.
23.35 Online film platforms and the benefits from distributing online.
27.25 The importance defining a brand & how to make a living out of making films.
31.30 Ways of getting an audience for your low budget film & the importantance of communicating through different platfroms.
34.50 Why you can expand your brand into different genres & how it is easy to get trapped.
36.30 How to find the right producer for you & why its about finding the right fit for that project.
39.45 Why it’s important to play the long game in working with collaborators.
43.00 How collaboration teams are the way of the future & why you should have a wide range of collaborators.
46.20 Legal issues and how to get your project permitted.
49.00 How online video on demand services have changed the model of distribution.
51.25 How does online platforms effect the way we tell stories.
53.00 Why making content for platforms like Hulu can benefit your career.
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Get access to all the four parts/hours at americanindependentsday.com.

Photo above from Andy Wright of Evermore Films (who attended the seminar and wrote about his experience here).

New MPAA Report Shows Hispanics Trending As Higher Percentage Moviegoer

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report for 2012 this week. The report illustrates that global box office revenue for all films worldwide reached $34.7 billion in 2012 (+6% over 2011). The U.S & Canada rev was up 6% to $10.8 billion with a 6% increase in admissions to 1.36 billion. One very noticeable piece in the report was that Hispanics – while only representing 17% of the population in the U.S & Canada – encompassed 26% of all movie ticket purchases.

Although Caucasians make up the majority of the population and moviegoers (140 million), they represent a smaller share of 2012 ticket sales (56%). Hispanics are more likely than any other ethnic group to go to movies, and purchased more tickets in 2012 compared to 2011. (source: MPAA)

Hispanics report the highest annual attendance per capita, attending on average 6.4 times per year, compared to closer to 4 times per year for African Americans, Caucasians, and Others. (source: MPAA)

In 2012, the ethnic composition of frequent moviegoers looks much the same as in 2011, with Hispanics oversampling as frequent moviegoers relative to their proportion of the population. (source: MPAA)

So what does all this information this mean to the independent filmmaker? For one – we can see that there’s a target audience that is not being directly served by the big studio films. This also seems to be a great opportunity for four-walling a film and bypass traditional distribution system. If you have an eager audience that wants to see films, why not make films for them.

Click HERE (PDF) for an infographic of the report.

Click HERE (PDF) for the full 2012 MPAA Theatrical Market Statistics report.

Tribeca Film Festival’s Vine Competition Announced

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The Tribeca Film Festival just announced a call for entries for Vine powered 6 second shorts (#6SecFilms). After its initial release in January, Vine has become a popular platform/app for creating very short videos (6 seconds is the limit) that are shared on Twitter (its parent company) and Facebook. The 6 second limit on the Vines have forced its users to be even more creative with their looping films – same as Twitter has revolutionized the creativity of the 140 characters written snippet.

Here’s the gist of the competition:

– Create a Vine (a.k.a. short film) that tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

– Tag your Vine with #6SECFILMS and the appropriate category hashtag of in one of the following areas:

#GENRE (Horror, Comedy, Sci-Fi, etc.)
#AUTEUR (artistic visionary story or script)
#ANIMATE (animated short)
#SERIES (serialized Vines – up to three)

– Then post it to Twitter (you must also follow @TribecaFilmFest).

– The deadline is 11:59 pm ET on 4/7/2013.

Read their Official Rules (here).

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Here’s the rest from TFF’s official announcement:

All Vines submitted to Twitter using the relevant hashtags before the deadline of 4/7/2013 will be reviewed by the Tribeca Film Festival programming team. A shortlist of select Vines that meet the creative requirements will be chosen by the programmers and displayed on Tribecafilm.com the week of 4/17/2013.

Our panel of distinguished judges will deliberate over the shortlist and select a winner in each category. The winners will be announced 4/26/13.

SHORTLIST, WINNERS AND PRIZES

Shortlisted Vines will be recognized and showcased on TribecaFilm.com.
Winners in each category will receive $600 (a hundred bucks for each second).

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Self Distribution via Vimeo On-Demand

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Vimeo recently announced the launch of their self-distribution on-demand (VOD) platform that will allow filmmakers to sell downloads or rent their films to the public. It’s available now through their ‘PRO’ service ($199/year).

I’ve been looking at all the self-distribution options for the feature film I produced and co-wrote with director Xackery IrvingNothing Without You. As we come to the last leg of the Festival phase of our film (next screening to date at the Sarasota Film Festival – April 6 & 7) we’ve come across several options. There are many ‘pay-wall’ type options similar to what Vimeo is now offering – but I think they all do not have the same brand cache and audience that Vimeo brings to the table. Plus, Vimeo’s revenue share is unmatched with their 90/10 split favoring the filmmaker.

[Vimeo On-Demand] is completely open, so anyone with a Vimeo PRO account can create a VOD page, sell their work, choose their price, choose the regions they want to offer and the time that it will be available, make it look beautiful, then push a button that says ‘publish’… and it’s open to the world.” – Blake Whitman, the company’s VP of Creative Development.

You can read Blake Whitman’s full interview with IndieWire here.

Here’s the Vimeo On-Demand trailer:

JuntoBox Films Can Green-light Your Film

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

JuntoBox Films is a collaborative film studio and social media platform that allows filmmakers to pitch their ideas and have film fans rate & vote on projects that can ultimately be funded, produced and distributed. To get started, create a project and profile in the JuntoBox platform. This is where you’ll present ideas to the JuntoBox Films Collective (see their “How-to Junto”).

Filmmakers will then rise up through the Five Levels of development by building their film’s profile through fan participation and completion of various tasks. When a project has risen to the top of the JuntoBox ladder, it is eligible for development. JuntoBox Film’s co-chair – actor, producer and director, Forest Whitaker recently announced that they will be funding and green-lighting five films in 2012!

JuntoBox’s 5 Levels

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images/illustrations from juntoboxfilms.com

Beyond a business, JuntoBox is aspiring to be part of a new business culture that aligns talented people in need of support with accomplished mentors who want to give something back and encourage the stars of the next generation.” — JuntoBox founder Philippe Caland

The success of this type of initiative is crucial to the development of truly independent films. Check it out, sign up and and show your support by pitching your film idea and/or rating other’s projects.

Mobcaster is Crowdfunding Indie TV

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Mobcaster is another crowd-funding site, but specializes exclusively on indie produced television content. It has it’s own online TV channel (Mobcaster TV) – which will broadcast the funded shows’ series and will share ad revenue (50/50 net split) with the show’s creators.

Mobcaster sells advertising around the series broadcast on Mobcaster TV and all Showrunners of such shows are entitled to half of our net advertising revenue. Because Mobcaster TV is dedicated to audience supported (and funded!) TV, Showrunners will have the opportunity for greater revenue participation than nearly anywhere else online!” – from mobcaster.com/faq 

Mobcaster’s biggest success to-date is a show called The Weatherman (watch the pilot episode here). It not only surpassed its $72,500 goal, but it will get a distribution deal with TiVo’s digital streaming service.

I watched The Weatherman pilot episode and it was really funny, well written and produced (by Dark Heart Productions). They are setting the bar pretty high for all the other proposed shows that will try to get funded through Mobcaster.

If you have an idea for a TV show – go ahead and pitch it (free of cost) to the Mobcaster audience. Follow their steps: Pitch -> Fund -> Produce -> Broadcast.

Gathr is Theatrical On Demand

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Gathr is a new service that attempts to democratize theatrical distribution by allowing the movie-goer the ability to bring independent films to local theatres – coining the phrase, “TOD” Theatrical-On-Demand. Described as if “Kickstarter met Netflix and had a love child,” (from Filmmaker Magazine) Gathr utilizes Kickstarter’s crowdfunding route as a down payment reservation for local theaters. Screenings can only happen if a minimum number of people reserve tickets before a screening request expires. If the minimum is reached, then the venue is guaranteed the funds committed because all reservations are not just intentions to attend, but a paid in full (credit cards are charged) pledge.

Gathr was created by a fellow filmmaker Scott Glosserman (IMDB) who was frustrated by the distribution process he experienced with his own films…

I was so disappointed by the difficulty I had getting my movies out there that I decided our industry had to innovate or filmmakers like me were going to continue to languish.”

There are similar services out there that you should also check out like OpenIndie, Tugg and Eventfull.  I’ve also covered a few others in a previous post titled, “DIY Screenings & Distribution.” The success of these types of non-traditional distribution outlets will greatly benefit our ability to collate an audience for our independent films.

Win $1,000 Scholarship in Fair Trade Colleges & Universities Short Film Contest

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Fair Trade Colleges & Universities (a non-profit campaign to institute ‘fair trade’ on campuses across the U.S.) is running a short film contest with a grand prize of $1,000 scholarship, a trip to Latin America with a documentary team – plus other prizes!  If you’d like to know what their organization is all about – check out this video (below):

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The Contest:

Produce a short (30-90 second) film using your unique perspective as a current or former college student to explain the important role that students can play in the empowerment of farmers, workers, artisans and consumers through Fair Trade.

Eligibility:

You must be currently enrolled or have been enrolled in an institution of higher learning in the past 5 years in order to enter.

Grand Prize –

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    • Trip to Latin America with a Fair Trade documentary team
    • $1000 Cash Prize
    • Keurig Coffee Brewer + a year’s supply of coffee
    • $250 Fair Trade gift card
    • A free trip to the 2nd National Fair Trade Campaigns Conference

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2nd Place Prize –

    • $500 Cash Prize
    • Keurig Coffee Brewer + a year’s supply of coffee
    • $100 Fair Trade gift card
    • A free trip to the 2nd National Fair Trade Campaigns Conference

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3rd Place Prize –

    • $250 Cash Prize
    • Keurig Coffee Brewer + a year’s supply of coffee
    • $50 Fair Trade gift card
    • A free trip to the 2nd National Fair Trade Campaigns Conference

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The contest is open for submissions now – [highlight]click here[/highlight] for more information