Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

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.

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:

On My Block NYC Film Challenge

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

On My Block is a film challenge that brings communities closer together by inviting filmmakers to create short narrative or documentary (1-5 minutes) films on their NYC block . The only rule (besides being located in one of the 5 New York City boroughs) is that you can only use your neighbors within a one block radius for all the cast and crew of your film. Read all the rules and eligibility requirements here.

Also, check out their “Filmmaking Steps” for some production tips – like how to recruit your crew, Pre & Post steps and more.

Watch Ryan O’Hara Theisen, one of the co-founders of On My Block Films, explain the mission behind OMB Films and some of the benefits of being an On My Block filmmaker:
[framed_box]

[/framed_box]
Once your film is submitted and approved, it’ll screen online on the OMB Vimeo Channel. After Oct. 31st, it goes offline and the top scoring (most amount of Vimeo Likes) 30 films move on to Judges round. They’ll pick the final 15 which will be screened at a yet to be disclosed location in New York City.

Submissions are open until October 31, 2012. Submit your film now.

DIY Screenings & Distribution

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Some call it “four-walling,” others DIY distribution. Filmmakers now have direct access to their audience like never before and are forgoing the middlemen who used to control the route to theatrical distribution. By and large, artists are now able to gauge their audience’s demand/interest for their work and market it directly to them. CinemaTech’s Scott Kirsner highlighted this movement in his recent book, Fans, Friends And Followers: Building An Audience And A Creative Career In The Digital Age.

Filmmakers are building databases of their fans’ e-mails and zip codes and are utilizing that data to book their film in local theaters – on their own. I believe that the directors of Four Eyed Monsters, Susan Buice and Arin Crumley were the first to use this approach for their 2005 film. They provide a great tutorial on their site titled, “Hearts and love-o-meters” (they used heart-shaped markers that grew with the number of requests for their screening).

Here are some tools and sites that can help you create maps, book theaters and screen your film:

Box Office Widget – provides a tool for you to collect email addresses of people who are interested in seeing your film and charts them geographically.

“How To Make A Screenings Map With Google” – Self Reliant Film’s Paul Harrill shows you how – well, the title of the post says it all.

Theatrical Mapping Project – The Workbook Project (http://workbookproject.com/) – among many things – is building a collaborative database of theatrical venues that can show digital work.

Brave New Theaters – Provides the ability to utilize a community around your film. Think, MySpace/Facebook fan page with a purpose: fans screen your film at home, small theater, community center, etc.

Eventful.com’s Demand service – empowers fans to influence where their favorite films appear by creating viral grass-roots campaigns to “demand” them in their town. Filmmakers are then able to use their service to make informed decisions about where to appear and can communicate with their fans via targeted email tools.

MobMov – a.k.a. Mobile Movie is reviving the great American drive-in. Powered by cars and video projectors, “mobmovs” are easy and affordable to set up. Check out their tutorial. If this interests you, check out Popular Mechanics – “How to Make Your Own Drive-In Movie Theater.”

How-To Notes On Producing A 1 Week Long Run Of A Feature, With Info. On Gear & Costs” – The quintessential “DIY Filmmaker” (who owns that moniker) – Sujewa Ekanayake – explains, in detail what it took to screen his film, Date Number One for a 7 day run in Kensington, MD.

Free Film School via the Vimeo Community

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Their moniker is “Vimeo: People connecting through video.” This includes many filmmakers who are sharing their knowledge – creative & technical. Within Vimeo’s 28,000+ channels, lives several micro groups dedicated to the filmmaking process.

Here are a few good ones:

  • ­SHOOT FOR THE EDITThis channel is for sharing editing and shooting techniques for beginning and advanced video producers.

  • ZACUTO USACreator of FilmFellas, a Webisodic series devoted to getting to the heart of the indie film movement.

  • FILMCAST Live! Channel A Channel Dedicated to the craft of Cinematography and Motion Picture Camera Operation.

I’m sure I missed some so check it out for yourself at Vimeo.com.

Filmmaking Tricks – Using a Rubber Band for a Smooth Pan Shot

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Here’s another simple low-budget trick with a rubber band that stabilizes your tripod for a smooth panning effect. I found this (again) via brusspup’s Channel on Metacafé.

Check it out…

Filmmaking Tricks – Using Your Tripod for Crane-Like Shots

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Here’s a very cool low-budget maneuver you can try with your tripod. It’s a simple idea that can add production value to your shot.

Here are some other related vids on this subject:


DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Props & Special FX – Part 2 “GUTS” (metaphorically speaking)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

In Part 1 (DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Props & Special FX – “BLOOD”), I listed several great resources for making your own “blood” related props and special effects. Now in Part 2 – the “Guts” covers several more great links. I used “guts” as a metaphor to describe all the internal building blocks that go into making movie props and special effects.

To be honest, the word “guts” just works well for a two part series: “Blood” & “Guts.”

We’ll start with a good segue to the “blood” post:

FAKE DEAD GUYS

A mixture of links from Halloween enthusiasts and filmmakers are comprised in this list.

MicroFilmmaker.com“Build a Dead Guy for Horror Films”

StickTowhatYouKnow.com“Making A Dead Guy 101”

HalloweenOnlineMagazine.com“Making A Corpse”

I MakeProjects.com“Charred Corpse”

And one of the signature DIY sites has its own contributions:

Instructables.com“Making a Dead Guy 101,” “BFX: How to Make a Fake Brain,” “How to Make Fake Heads,“How to Make a Fake Hand”

DIY COSTUMES

Costume.org“How To’s”

Studio Creations.com “…tips and tricks that go into making professional style costumes and props that are used in the Hollywood Movies”

DIY Life.com“Costumes”

Milieux.com“Costume Resource Links”

Costumepage.org“The Costume Page (a lot of links)”

Clara.net“The Dyeing Guide,” “The Arming Coat,” “Dress Making Guide”

(more…)

DIY Filmmaking: Make Your Own Props & Special FX – Part 1 “BLOOD”

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

In a previous “DIY Filmmaking” post, I highlighted several great websites like Indy Mogul and Instructables.com. Both provide very useful tutorials for “diy” filmmaking equipment projects. I’ve included several more links from them in this post. They are a great resource for making your own props and special effects. I’ve also discovered several others that cover this topic. In fact, I found so many that I had to split this post into two parts.

For Part 1, my list of sites with DIY Props & Special Effects will cover “Blood” and all the filmmaking special effects that relates to it.

BLOOD

Almost every film uses some kind of blood effect. Be it a simple abrasion or nosebleed; an action flick with shoot ’em up gun-shot scenes or a full on horror slasher film. They all have to produce blood FX in some degree.

Gun Shot FX:

Indy Mogul has a good ‘diy’ gun-shot squib tutorial titled, “How To Make A Blood Shooter.” There is also a video demonstration which was their pilot episode (“Blood-squirting gunshot effect for just $15”) for their series, Backyard FX. Curbly.com has both parts combined.

Instructables.com“Hollywood Gunshot Blood Effect!”

Exposure.co.uk“Blood & Bullets for No-Budget movies” (How to make compressed gas bullet hits); alt link via panzercorps.com

eHow.com“How to Make Fake Blood Squibs for Film, Television and Stage Productions”

MicroFilmmaker“Create a Hollywood Style Gunshot Wound” and “Creating Bullet Hits with Paintball Shots”

(more…)

DIY Film School – Learn from Websites with Filmmaking Tutorials

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Whether you’re a novice filmmaker or a seasoned pro, there is always something new to learn about filmmaking. It could be new technology, software or just a new cutting-edge process or method that someone came up with. We live in the information age and filmmakers from all walks of life are sharing their knowledge online. Here are several filmmaking tutorials and educational sites (in no particular order) that cover the basics to the advanced.

+ The DV Show – Along with producing weekly podcasts dedicated to answering listener questions, The DV Show compiles tutorials from various video sharing sites like Youtube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Blip.tv, and others. Here’s a great one titled, “3 Point Lighting Tips.”

+ BBC Training & Development provides online courses and tutorials in several disciplines. There are a lot of free tutorials here! Check out “Good Shooting Guide: the basic principles” and get a feel for what’s available on their site.

+ Take Zer0 is an online film school which posts filmmaking tips and tutorials twice a week. The site’s “Zer0” name relates to “everything you need to know before take one” – which goes along with the dry wit of its two hosts. Check out “The Storyboard…And YOU.”

+ Fresh DV is another great site with filmmaking video tutorials. It educates you on the basics (“Introduction to Slating and Script Management”) to more advanced techniques (“The Art of Pulling Focus” ).

+ Studio Daily and its “online family” Studio Monthly, Film & Video, and HD Studio are a great source for production information. Here’s one of their tutorial pages.

(more…)