June 2011

If You Build It They Will Come

Filmmakers of the world!

This digital case study book is just the beginning.  In the beginning of September of 2010 I thought of the idea of writing a case study book. I immediately discussed it with my business partner Jeffrey Winter (TFC Co-Executive Director).  Very quickly I shared with social network marketing strategist Sheri Candler and then Jon Reiss, filmmaker/professor/consultant/author of Thinking Outside the Boxoffice and more books to come.

I wrote to them:

“The concept is this:

– It’s both an E-book and a V-book…

– The goal is to have very thorough and detailed analysis of film releases that are either only DIY or hybrid releases but in a filmmaker empowering way.

– Not all the cases will be as successful as others but the goal is to have enough of a cross-section of cases whereby one gets a lot of education of various ways to reach audiences, monetize a film, create a filmmaker brand and achieve other success (defined by the filmmakers themselves).  It will be a lot of ‘this worked well’, ‘this less so’… and real details and real numbers.”

And then I wrote…

“Sheri said this book should be a ‘MYTH BUSTER’ and I like that phrase and think we should consider it for part of the title*. I also think the message should be that this book helps filmmakers make their own dreams come true and not passively hope for others to do it, which rarely happens”.

(* We went through a lot of title options, even ones that had the word “Deconstruction”… and then thanks to Meredith Scott Lynn and the Survey Monkey results that helped us select it, we have SELLING YOUR FILM WITHOUT SELLING YOUR SOUL.)  It will be available September 13, 2011, a full year almost to the day after the idea gestated, a year after a tremendously pleasant collaboration.

You deserve transparency.  You deserve to have a sustainable creative career if you work for it authentically. BUT! You are also responsible!  You want distribution. Worldwide distribution ideally.  Well, please note:  if you do not share the real information about what happened with your film with your fellow filmmakers.  If you do not read, listen to, and internalize the real information about what happened with other filmmakers. If you do not ask the hard questions that don’t always lead to the rosiest picture for your investors or potential investors or always justify a 7-figure budget or even high 6-figures, than you are not helping yourself and you are not helping your fellow filmmaker.  SELLING YOUR FILM WITHOUT SELLING YOUR SOUL is the start of an ongoing series of works that we will create, collectively, collaboratively and also individually.  Many details will be shared.  Many lessons will be shared and learned.  Occasionally some details will not be legally printable (but call me, I’ll whisper them to ya :-))

But what am I driving at?  It’s still a confusing time.  Things looked bleak and then people got excited again with lots of deals being announced.  The key is, understanding what the deals really mean, what they really amount to, and what is going to lead to success (by your standards).  It’s not black or white in my book. Not all deals are bad but not all deals are good and all rights deals are more often than not a mistake or cop out in my view.  What I have noticed time and time again is that fear and / or simply not knowing has left filmmakers often entrusting their work with others who do not service the work nearly as well as it could be or should be. AND here is the real crux of my point, the utility of Hybrid, DIY, and P2P distribution will be greatly enhanced by use and sharing of information and empowering others with that education. And so doing will elevate those potentials, making them more appealing, and the often deleterious  cop out less tempting.  If you build it they will come.  Train your audiences. They want to support you, not some rights baron.

We must get to the bottom of the real details and the real numbers and the real career building or career crippling experiences and learn what leads to what… but in any case, it should never be that selling your film = selling your soul so I’d say buy this book and your soul will be set free but so is this book.

Till soon.

– Orly



What’s this book all about? and why digital?

Thanks for stopping by to find out more about our book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. Yes, we are calling it a book even though it will be published only in digital form to start with. If we find that there is an overwhelming desire for filmmakers to hold a physical copy, lovingly plucked from the shelves of their local bookstore and personally signed by our intrepid authors, we will do what we can to make this possible. In the meantime, you’ll be able to try before you buy and read it online for free or purchase a premium version from iBooks or Kindle (or whatever other formats we think will be popular) and download it into the portable device of your choice.

What’s this book all about?

It is a book of case studies that takes a look at the ways filmmakers are now approaching distribution. None of the cases have used the purely traditional route of make a film, sell all rights to a distributor and hope they do a good job and earn overages beyond the advance. All have either split rights or gone totally DIY and my chapter looks at creators who are using file sharing sites to give their work away while still meeting their goals of either making a name for themselves or getting the widest audience possible for the least cost and/or making money either from crowdfunding or as revenue.

Confirmed cases are PioneerOne (a webseries), The Cosmonaut (a feature film/transmedia project), Sita Sings the Blues (feature animation), Ride the Divide (feature documentary), Note by Note (feature documentary), Bass Ackwards (feature narrative), Adventures of Power (feature narrative), Undertow (feature narrative and LGBT themed), For the Bible Tells Me So (feature documentary, LGBT themed). The cases will present an accurate picture on revenues and where they came from, marketing and distribution spend, and production budgets because we want this to be an unprecedented work; the true picture of what it takes to succeed and what success really looks like not the secrecy and  myth that largely surrounds the film industry.

Knowledge you will find in the book:
-Sales numbers in applicable windows and territories
-Budgets both production and P&A
-Outreach and partnerships with organizations and influencers, how it was accomplished
-Sales numbers on other revenue streams like merchandising, speaking gigs
-What tools and services were used to achieve results
-advice on crowdfunding and building communities around your work
Following along in these courageous filmmakers’ footsteps, this book will be self distributed because we know our audience, we know where they congregate and what they read and how to reach them. It doesn’t really make sense to turn the work of marketing and distributing (and our rights!) this book over to a publisher. We are paying for the development costs of the book and the freely distributed copies through sponsorship. Our Presenting Sponsor is PreScreen with contracts out to 2 other Official Sponsors. If you have a company that wants to reach the independent filmmaker community, please have a look at our sponsorship deck. We anticipate a lot of excitement for this book and our sponsors will surely get their brand in front of a very targeted audience. We will launch the book at one of the most premiere events in the independent film calendar, IFP Week in the brand new Film Society of Lincoln Center facility in New York City in September, but promotion of the book will continue throughout 2011/2012 at various other high profile events.

Why digital?

This book was conceived from the start in digital format because 1)The future is digital and to make this a physical text book didn’t make sense considering the themes being discussed in it, namely the future of film distribution. 2)We wanted to include a richer experience than text books could provide. There will be video interviews with the filmmakers, video samples of their work, URL links to articles used as source material or additional info the reader can use to do further research, some social media capabilities and charts/graphs/photos. 3) Orly and I were adamant that at least one copy (text only) would be given out for free online to anyone in the world who wanted this knowledge. With restrictions on physical distribution of a paper based book, that wouldn’t be possible or feasible. By using the efficient distribution abilities of the internet, we won’t be hampered by distribution logistics and costs to get the book anywhere in the world.

During the summer, we will be releasing excerpts from the book, some content that had to be cut for length or because the participant got off topic during interviews, highlights of our lovely sponsors and extra film stories that couldn’t be featured in the book, but offer valuable advice. Stay tuned because we are just getting started. We also have a hashtag on Twitter #syfnotsys (Selling Your Film Not Selling Your Soul, we have to conserve characters!) and a Facebook page, so come join us there.

You can also follow all of the authors on Twitter @shericandler @filmcollab @jon_reiss because we post some good stuff!

Take care