Tag Archives: Prescreen

Highlighting 10 DIY Tools & Services You Should Know About

Since we are completely committed to providing you with information that will make your filmmaking lives easier, today’s post looks at tools. Many of these services are found in the book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul with explanations as to how the filmmaking teams utilized them. Or they are ones that we reached out to for support of the book because we believe in what they’re doing.  For sure there are others to be covered in future posts.

 

1. Amplifier– ECOMMERCE TOOL-

This company powers the estore for Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues. She sells DVDs (both standard edition and artist signed edition), tshirts, necklaces, pins and soft toys. Amplifier is an ecommerce tool that allows you to sell custom merchandise directly to your fans, cutting out the retailer middlemen, by providing fulfillment and customer service. If you don’t have a warehouse and staff and equipment to store, pack and ship your merchandise and deal with any complaints (and I know you don’t), Amplifier takes orders from your site, stores your merch in their warehouse or fulfills just in time merchandise, ships it out and handles any customer problems seamlessly. They can also service custom orders (like give freebies to any order over $50 if you want to do that, or they can fulfill print on demand merchandise) all under one roof.

 

2. Believe Limited– Monetizing YouTube and Viral Videos

Adventures of Power utilized this service to help raise their Youtube profile. There is a whole section in the book written by Ryan Gielen about what Believe did for the film. The gist of their service is video marketing that helps a film reach the top spots on Youtube, Amazon, iTunes etc by spreading video content around, collecting large amounts of views, comments and subscribers (in the case of Youtube). They design branded channels and help craft video content that is compelling enough to spread and help seed it around the Internet to ensure that it spreads. According to their service sheet for a $50K campaign that runs 6 months, they recommend creating 20-25 pieces of video content that they can drive roughly 5-6 million views on Youtube. They start from the film’s target release date and work backward to help plan out the content release strategy that will ensure a continuous build up of interest and viewers. 

 

3.  ConneXtion – Fulfillment services of all Media

Jon Reiss recommended them to handle fulfillment for our book and he has been happy with them as is Topspin which considers them a preferred vendor.  The ConneXtion was founded in 1997 and has been running the direct2fan (d2f) business for artists, labels, authors, filmmakers, comedians, nonprofits ever since.  They’ve worked with films such as The Yes Men.  They handle fulfillment and manufacturing for DVDs, CDs, Merch, books both on digital and brick and mortar side.  COSTS are: OFFICIAL D2F STORE: $200 setup fee & 80% paid on all physical items and digital albums sold direct2fan. DISTRIBUTION to DIGITAL RETAIL: No setup fee; 85% paid on each dollar from retail. ConneXtion’s services are: DISTRIBUTION -D2F:  physical and digital cds/merch/etc sold via an estore; DIGITAL to RETAIL (ie iTunes, Amazon, Emusic/400+ others); PHYSICAL to RETAIL (ie. brick and mortar stores); DISTRIBUTION of PHYSICAL items via AMAZON, eList/Newsletter Management (coming Fall 2011), Tix, Licensing, and Clearance of Cover Songs,  and eMarketing.

 

4. Dynamo Player Direct to Fan Distribution Tool

Filmakers use Dynamo Player by embedding the video viewer on their own website and by having a film’s fans embed it on their websites or blogs for a rental period of the filmmaker’s choosing. Prices are set by the filmmaker, payment is immediate via Paypal and a monthly statement is sent letting one know how many streams were sold, geographic information, and where the traffic originated. Dynamo is non-exclusive and enables any filmmaker to immediately upload their film, set a price, publish the film on their own site and elsewhere with no up-front costs or monthly fees. Filmmakers receive 70% of every transaction, every time, with no hidden costs, no matter what features they use and they get paid immediately by every viewer, no matter where they watch the film. They can include a free trailer, supplemental videos, multiple language versions and other bonus material at no additional cost. Viewers pay easily with PayPal, Amazon or credit card in just a couple of clicks. A single-click auto-debit option is coming soon as well. Payments are made to the rights holder by PayPal or Amazon, on-demand, at any time. Some filmmakers get paid every week if they want and we are happy to write checks for high volume publishers. Dynamo accepts all currencies and works in any country.  Dynamo provide sales numbers and a range of related data by day, week, month or by a custom range of dates. Sales statistics are immediately available, so there is never a need to wait for a monthly report to see your sales performance, but a formal downloadable or printable monthly report will be available in July. Filmmakers can also see statistics for trailer views, player interaction, payment follow-through and more, so they can gain insight into viewer behavior and tweak the presentation of their film to boost sales.  Filmmakers can control access by DVD Region, continent or country with a simple set of checkboxes. Dynamo enables geo-blocking at no cost because we consider it absolutely necessary for independent filmmakers to have this option while shopping their films in different markets. Dynamo often includes films in public announcements, blog posts, tweets and other marketing efforts. Dynamo filmmakers have been featured in stories on IndieWire, GigaOm and other media sites, and have earned new sales when their films have been embedded within the articles.

5. EggUp DIY Distribution Platform / Tool

EggUp is a publishing platform for filmmakers and film distributors. They note that they “help filmmakers and distributors rent and sell their films online while preventing piracy”. Their free online publishing tools can help one distribute and sell film or video which is all packaged and encrypted into a file called the “Egg”. The Egg is made available for download and allows consumers to watch and share with friends and family virally while filmmakers are able to make money. With EggUp gets a website to promote their film together with an integrated pay per view solution. They also list your films in our film catalog called GoEggit. One can distribute the Egg on a website, and other online retailers with your very own buy now button without setup fees and inventory.  They are Worldwide and can Geo Filter as needed.  Again the key is marketing one’s film; they can’t do it for you.

For pricing and fees etc go to:

http://www.eggup.com/how_it_works/transactionfees

http://www.eggup.com/pricing

6. DISTRIFY– DIY Distribution Toolset

One can use Distrify to sell a film anywhere on the web and via social media platforms by embedding their widget. Ideally one gets one’s fans to embed the widget on forums, blogs, websites, etc.. If your trailer and film are on Distrify, when you share the clip, you’re also sharing the store to buy the film or find out about upcoming screenings. When your audience shares it further, you’re always spreading the point-of-sale along the way. Anyone who shares it gets paid a share of sales they generate. One does not have to start selling through Distrify right away – one can use it to promote screenings and events through the trailer interface. If the film’s not available in the user’s area, they can make their interest known directly through the player as well. Distrify compiles the statistics for filmmakers and give them the mailing list data – all part of their service. Any new screenings you add are also automatically listed in all the players that have been embedded around the web. And when one wants to start selling the film, one can add it as well. There are no up-front charges, fully non-exclusive, and they don’t need any rights.  They take a 30% transaction fee on sales and split the 5% affiliate revenue with the filmmaker. Distrify worked with Adventures of Power and is also working with Lionsgate in the UK, for example.  Excerpt from the book regarding Adventures of Power: “In terms of the player/purchase options, Ari noticed a huge emerging fan base in Mexico that he speaks of in his interview. He realized 50% of his 100,000 Facebook fans were in Mexico. Distrify added Spanish closed captions as well as English and they introduced streaming as an option in Mexico. They’ve been told that several companies prevent streaming in Mexico, and they added the Mexican Peso as a currency that people can sell with.” The Adventures of Power team was especially impressed with the Facebook tab – which will soon have customizable art, html linkage, and of course, the Distrify player widget.  It’s easy to add (embed) the widget – so not only is it easy to get on the film’s website and blog, etc. but it is easy for affiliates to embed as well. NOTE: The key will be to have consumers be comfortable with buying films this way and via DIY services in general and that should get easier and easier with time. And of course marketing and publicity are up to the filmmaker’s team as usual.

7. LBi ePR and Internet/Viral Marketing Services

Case study Adventures of Power utilized LBi for their ePR services paid for by their distributor Phase4. LBi focused on media placement for trailers and news stories on a large array of film and entertainment websites. LBi provides a multitude of services, including social media maintenance, but AoP did not find their “voice” authentic for the film’s social media sites and instead funneled the firm’s work into utilizing relationships with website editors and bloggers to secure unpaid editorial features for the film, a useful service since filmmakers typically do not have these relationships.

8. Prescreen -Streaming PLATFORM

Prescreen is a new platform that curates films and distributes them via a daily email to an opt-in audience.  Their list is presently approximately 40,000 and growing daily. It is free to sign up to receive the Prescreen daily email. One has the opportunity to ‘rent’ the movie to stream. Each movie they feature lives on Prescreen for 60 days (and this is an exclusive period in terms of digital distribution). On Day 1, the movie costs $4 and one will have up to 60 days to view the film; while on Days 2 – 60, the movie costs $8 and one has 60 – (x days) to complete the film. Though a moviegoer has up to 60 days to complete the film, ‘renting’ on Prescreen is similar to that of any other the other mainstream steaming services offering 48 hours to complete the film once one starts the stream.  TFC worked with Prescreen for its first film during the Beta phase, HOW TO START YOUR OWN COUNTRY, and the numbers of transactions are as follows:  As of 10/18/2011 (when this was drafted) the movie will still be available on Prescreen for another 27 days, so the numbers will probably change. 19 sold during Private Beta; 46 sold on Day 1; 18 sold after Day 1 (21% of total sales have come after Day 1).  Prescreen noted: “This 21% is consistent with the breakout we’re seeing for other movies as well. Across the site we’ve seen about 22% of purchases come after Day 1.” RE: The 60 Days and WINDOWS (I quote Shawn Bercuson Founder & CEO): “Individual filmmakers typically view Prescreen as a marketing and distribution outlet while bigger libraries and producers tend to see prescreen as a promotional tool given the finite amount time a movie lives on Prescreen (60 days)… We built Prescreen as a way for content owners to gain more visibility into their target market and transparency about their core audience. At scale, we believe Prescreen is most powerful when used as a promotional tool along side other distribution windows in other mediums (theatrical, DVD, etc). By doing so, a content owner is able to leverage existing marketing dollars from other windows and capture (and capitalize) on the audience however way they want to consume online. Once the content owner understands his/her audience, they can market within the digital medium much more efficiently and cost effectively. “

9. SonicbidsPAIRING BANDS TO BRANDS

Sonicbids is an online matchmaker between bands looking for gigs and promoters and brands who need music. According to their website, their mission is to help create and empower an Artistic Middle Class through the use of innovative technology. The site helps fashion an EPK for bands who are looking for bookings, either live or in partnership with brands (your film is a brand) so that they may be found by promoters or marketing people. They also allow bands to search people looking for talent for international music festivals, clubs, songwriting contests, radio, licensing and more and vice versa. This how Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion found music for their film Ride the Divide‘s soundtrack.

Excerpt:

“In the case of Ride the Divide, they specifically targeted bands that lived in one of their niche communities. They used a source for music called SonicBids.com, where musicians offer their music for use in films, events and concerts. Half of the musicians in RTD came from Sonicbids and they specifically searched for musicians from the states along the Rocky Mountains.”

10. VODOPeer-to-Peer (P2P) Monetized File Sharing

Case study Pioneer One has been releasing their episodes on VODO since day one. To date, their series has been downloaded over 3.2 million times and raised almost $80,000 for the production costs through fan donations.

According to their website, VODO was launched in late 2009 to help creators promote and distribute their independent films, music and books using Peer to Peer technology [some call them pirate sites]. VODO believes there is immense untapped potential for independent creators in P2P distribution and that the new model of networked, free-to-share, peer-powered distribution will soon present better opportunities for creators than the old scarcity-powered models (theaters, DVD, etc.). Each month they release and promote one free-to-share film, in conjunction with their distribution partner BitTorrent and viewers are encouraged to donate funds to the productions they view. Pioneer One raised $30,000 in its first eight weeks using VODO. The Yes Men Fix The World raised over $25,000 in its first month using VODO.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Both Prescreen and Dynamo player sponsored our book but we pursued them because we believe they provide a good service to films and filmmakers and are great solutions.

 

8 tips on on planning, negotiating deals and releasing your film digitally

Co author Orly Ravid is our resident expert on negotiating digital distribution deals and it is something that the organization she co founded, The Film Collaborative, helps filmmakers navigate often. Here are her tips on planning, negotiating deals and releasing your film digitally.

1.  CARVE OUT DIY DIGITAL:

Distributors and Foreign sales companies alike often want ALL RIGHTS and including ALL DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS.

What to watch out for overall is not the purview of these tips, however this is:  No matter what, at least CARVE OUT the ability to do DIY Digital Distribution yourself with services such as: EggUp, Distrify , Dynamo Player, and/or TopSpin Media , on your own site, on your Facebook page, and also directly to platforms.  Several of our case studies employed or will now employ these options even when sometimes also engaging in traditional distribution (e.g. Adventures of Power, Violet Tendencies, American: The Bill Hicks Story to name few). Platforms and services can almost always Geo-Filter thereby eliminating conflict with any territories where the film has been sold to a traditional distributor and often times a distributor will not mind that a filmmaker sells directly to his/her fans as well in any case. ADDITIONALLY, since I wrote this blog Prescreen, www.Prescreen.com launched its platform and we used it and so far it seems like really a great way  to boost the profile of a film and jumpstart one’s digital distribution.  It worked well for How to Start Your Own Country and we are trying other films now too.

2.   PLATFORMS ≠ AGGREGATORS ≠ DISTRIBUTORS:

Platforms are places people go to watch or buy films.

Aggregators are conduits between filmmakers/distributors and platforms. Aggregators usually focus more on converting files for and supplying metadata to platforms and that’s about it.  Marketing is rarely a strong suit or focus for them but it should be for a distributor, otherwise what’s the point? Aggregators usually don’t need rights for a long term and only take limited rights they need to do the job.

Distributors usually take more rights for longer terms.  Sometimes distributors are DIRECT to PLATFORMS and sometimes they go through AGGREGATORS.

It makes a difference because FEES are taken out every time there is a middleman.  Filmmakers should want to know the FEE that the PLATFORM is taking (because it’s not always the same for all content providers though usually it is other than for Cable VOD, for example) and  know if a distributor is direct with platforms or goes through an aggregator.  Also, filmmakers should have an understanding what each middleman is doing to justify the fee.  On the aggregator/distributor side, we think 15% is a better fee than 50%, so have an understanding of what services are included in the fee. If a distributor is not devoting any time or money to marketing and simply dumping films onto platforms, then one should be aware of that. Ask for a description in writing of what activities will be performed. Companies such as New Video (worked on our case studies Bass Ackwards, Note by Note and Best and the Brightest) function well as both a distributor and an aggregator.

3. THINK OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS AS STORES

A film should try to be available everywhere however sometimes that is too costly or not possible and when that is the case one should prioritize according to where the film’s audience consumes media. Think of digital platforms as retail stores.

Back in the DVD days (which are almost gone), one would want a DVD of an indie film in big chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video but especially a cool, award winning indie would do well in a 20/20 or Kim’s Video store because those outlets were targeting a core audience. With digital, it’s the same.

While many filmmakers want to see their films on Cable VOD, some films just don’t work well there. Some films make most of their money via Netflix these days and won’t do a lick on business on Comcast.  Other films do well on iTunes and some die there whereas they might actually bring in some business via Hulu or SNAG. Docs are different from narrative and niches vary.

Know your film, its audience’s habits and resolve a digital strategy that makes sense. If money or access is an issue, then be strategic in picking your “stores” and make your film available where it’s most likely to perform. It may not be in Walmart’s digital store or Best Buy’s. Above all, if you dear filmmaker have a community around you (followers, a brand), your site(s) and networks may be your best platform stores of all.  Though there is something to be said for viewing habits, so I do recommend always picking at least a couple other key digital storefronts that are known and trusted by your audience.

4. CABLE VOD LISTINGS

By now many of you may have heard that it’s hard to get films marketed well on Cable VOD platforms. Often the metadata either isn’t entered or entered incorrectly and it’s nearly impossible to fix after it goes live. Hence, oversee the metatags submitted for your film and check immediately upon release. Also, since genre/category folders and trailer promotion are not always an option for every film, it is the case that films with names starting in early letters of the alphabet (A-G) or numbers can perform better. Then again, there’s a glut of folks trying that now so the cable operators are getting wise to this and not falling for it. All the more reason to focus on marketing, marketing, marketing your title, so audiences are looking for it and not just stumbling upon your film in the VOD menu. There are only going to be more films to choose from in the future, not fewer.

5. ART must work SMALL

Filmmakers, if there is one thing I must impart to you once and for all it’s this:  TAKE GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY!!!  Take it when making your film.

Remember, most marketing imagery if not all for digital distribution (which will be all of “home entertainment”) must work SMALL so create key art and publicity images that also work well small and in concert with the rest of your campaign. Look at your key art as a thumbnail image and make sure it is still clearly identifiable.

6. KNOW YOUR DIGITAL DISTRO GOALS

This harkens back to Jon Reiss’ points. I have seen distribution plans wasted because a vision for the film’s path was not resolved in time to actualize it properly.

If your film is ripe for NGO or corporate sponsorship and you want to try that, you will need loads of lead time (6 months at least!) and a clear distribution plan to present to potential sponsors (who will always need to know that before agreeing).  If making money is a top concern, then know how YOUR FILM’s release is mostly likely to do that and plan accordingly. It may be by collapsing windows or it may be by expanding them. All films are different and that’s why our case study book has different examples to look at.

American: The Bill Hicks Story for example did Day & Date Theatrical/VOD with Variance & Gravitas.  That strategy can increase revenues, but is not for every film so know what sort of release makes sense for the film before starting so you don’t inadvertently lose out on options. With Prescreen now an option, if interested, one needs to carve out that window before EST (electronic sell through) / DTO (digital download to own) and streaming digital rights are sold. TFC is doing this with the film HOW TO START YOUR OWN COUNTRY for example. If showing the industry that your film is on iTunes matters to you for professional reasons more than financial then know that is your motivator but also understand that getting a film onto iTunes does not automatically lead to transactions, marketing does.

7. TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Digital distribution often has to be done in a certain order if accessing Cable VOD is part of your plan. That is not the only reason to consider an order and an order is not always needed, but it can be a consideration.  Sometimes Cable VOD is not an option for a film (films often need a strong theatrical run before they can access Cable VOD) and, in this case, the order of digital is more flexible and one can be creative or experiment with timing and different types of digital. However, Cable VOD’s percentage share of digital distribution revenues is still around 70% (it used to be nearer to 80%) so if it’s an option for your film, it’s worth doing, at least for now.

It is very often the case that if your film is in the digital distribution window before Cable VOD (on Netflix for example), that will eliminate or at least dramatically diminish the potential that Cable MSO’s (Multi System Operators) will take the film or even that an intermediate aggregator will accept it.  There is more flexibility with transactional EST (electronic sell through) / DTO (download to own) / DTR (download to rent) services such as iTunes but much less flexibility with YouTube (even a rental channel) or subscription or ad-supported services such as Netflix (subscription) or Hulu (which is both).

Films that opted to be part of the YouTube/Sundance rental channel initiative (such as Children of Invention) could not get onto Cable VOD after. The Film Collaborative has to hold off on putting films in its YouTube Rental Channel if cable VOD is part of the plan.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule due to relationships or a film proving itself in the marketplace, but better to plan ahead than be disappointed.

Companies such as Gravitas are also programmers for some of the MSOs so they have greater access to VOD, but they too discourage YouTube rental channel distribution before the Cable VOD window and they do Netflix SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) distribution after. In general, films are often released on transactional platforms first and ad-supported last with Netflix being in the middle unless it’s delayed because of a TV deal for example. This is not always the case and some distributors have experienced that one platform can drive sales on another but in my opinion it depends on the film and habits of its audience.  You should know that Broadcasters such as Showtime will pay more if you do your Netflix SVOD after their window rather than before.

The question you have to resolve is what value does each option have and what is the best order for your film given your resources.

This tip was written for the Sundance Artists Services initiative: http://bit.ly/ArTiSts

8. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DEFINITIONS

This tip was also written for the Sundance Artists Services initiative (http://www.sellingyourfilm.com/blog/2011/08/25/the-devil-is-in-the-definition-know-what-vod-means/).

There is no standard yet for definitions of digital rights. IFTA (formerly known as AFMA) has its rights definitions and for that organization’s signatories there is therefore a standard. But many distributors use their own contracts with a range of definitions that are not uniform. When analyzing distribution options, be aware that terms such as VOD can mean different things to different people and include more or fewer distribution rights and govern more or fewer platforms.

Consider the term “VOD”. In some contracts, it’s not explicitly defined and hence can mean anything and everything. IFTA is clear to categorize it as a PayPerView Right (Demand View Right) and limit it to: “transmission by means of encoded signal for television reception in homes and similar living spaces where a charge is made to the viewer for the rights to use a decoding device to view the Motion Picture at a time selected by the viewer for each viewing”.

However in some contracts, it’s defined as “Video-on-Demand Rights,” meaning a function or service distributed and/or made available to a viewer by any and all means of transmission, telecommunication, and/or network system(s) whether now known or hereafter devised (including, without limitation, television, cable, satellite, wire, fiber, radio communication signal, internet, intranet, or other means of electronic delivery and whether employing analogue and/or digital technologies and whether encrypted or encoded) whereby the viewer is using information storage, retrieval and management techniques capable of accessing, selecting, downloading (whether temporarily or permanently) and viewing programming whether on a per program/movie basis or as a package of programs/movies) at a time selected by the viewer, in his/her discretion whether or not the transmission is scheduled by the operator(s)/provider(s), and whether or not a fee is paid by the viewer for such function/service to view on the screen of a television receiver, computer, handheld device or other receiving device (fixed or mobile) of any type whether now known or hereafter devised. Video-on-Demand includes without limitation Near VOD (“NVOD”,) Subscription Video-on-Demand (“SVOD”,) “Download to burn”, “Download to Own”, “Electronic Sell Through” and “Electronic Rental,” for example.  This example includes everything and your kitchen sink.

One has to ask if a definition of VOD or another type of digital right includes “SVOD” (Subscription Video on Demand) and includes subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus. Why does this matter? Well if the fee to the distributor and/or to you is the same either way then it may not matter. If there’s a difference in fees depending on the nature of distribution, then it will.  Recently an issue in a deal came up with respect to distinguishing ad-supported specifically from general “free-streaming”.  Is ad-supported governed by a “free-streaming” rights reference?  Why wonder, Just spell it all out; better to be safe than _____.

Another example, if a contract notes a distributor has purchased “VOD Rights” but does not define them, or defines them broadly, then do they have mobile device distribution rights as well? The words “Video-on-Demand” sometimes are used only to refer to Cable Video on Demand and other times much more generally. In a “TV Everywhere” (and hence film everywhere) multi-platform all-device playable universe, the content creator needs to know.

The devil is in the definition which you must read carefully BEFORE you sign on the dotted line.  Know what you want for and can do for your film in terms of distribution and carve it up and spell it out.

The free period for all digital platform downloads has ended, but you can still get the book at a reasonable price. Digital copies, apart from the forever free pdf version, are $4.99 from Amazon Kindle and Apple iTunes.  You can also get ePub and .mobi files for any reading device and the printed edition from our site. The printed copy is $9.99 plus shipping on our site only.

We will have our second book launch party, in Los Angeles this time, on October 28 at the UCLA Library directly following the popular and FREE DIY Days LA. We will send out invitations to all of our email list so if you are in LA and wish to attend, please RSVP. As always, you can  follow us on Facebook where we post regularly and read our posts on Twitter under the hashtag #syfnotsys.

 

 

 

 

Launch Day!

books in every platform

The day has come at last and probably most of you can relate. Our baby is finally out for the world to see and we hope you all find her beautiful.

You can access the store here where all of the digital edition downloads can be found. But a few explanations…

-Our experience in dealing with the Amazon Kindle platform as a self publisher was a little frustrating. We can’t set the price at free due to a download charge they impose, so…we have a free .mobi edition on our site that you can manually upload very easily to your Kindle. It keeps the integrity of the Kindle edition with the photos and the links intact. We will have this on the site until October 1, after which time the edition will be $4.99 on the Amazon site and you can use the Whispernet system to download it in one click.

-Even though we sent the files to iBooks about 2 weeks ago, they still haven’t made it out of the processing system so the video versions are not available today unless we discover they somehow made it out. Keep checking back on this as it could be any minute. You can get the ePUB without video for your Apple device from the site.

-The free pdf will be forever free, but does not contain photos, charts or any URLs. Since the other, more enhanced versions are free for September, you may want to download those first.

We would like to express sincere gratitude to our developer David Averbach who put up will all of our incarnations of the book, our requests, our demands and a boatload of emails. We would also like to thank Jon Reiss and his assistant Alexandra Tapley for spending so much time uploading the Topspin store for our site.

We would love to thank all of our sponsors who have made this book a reality and given us the ability to publish on our own and keep control over the work. Prescreen and Area23a for the print edition, Prescreen, Dynamo Player, Gravitas Ventures, Topspin Media, Snagfilms, EggUp, as well as all of our media sponsors and in kind sponsors for the digital edition.

A huge thanks to all of the courageous and pioneering creators who participated in this book. You inspire us every day with your generosity and leadership in the cause of empowering artists to take charge of their work, their livelihoods and show them how it can be done.

I saw a great quote today that I want to share with you as it is especially fitting for the ideals behind this book. “When the heart is willing, you’ll find a thousand ways, and when it’s unwilling, you’ll find a thousand excuses.” This book is for those with willing hearts to help them find their way.

Happy Reading!

~Orly, Jeffrey, Jon and Sheri

 

Excerpt: Bass Ackwards

Co author Jeffrey Winter interviewed Bass Ackwards producer Thomas Woodrow to find out why a small film chosen as an official selection at one of the most prestigious film festivals for independent films, Sundance, would choose to launch straight out of the festival rather than wait for the distribution offers to roll in. That’s what is known to happen at Sundance, right?  The offers just roll in? Here’s a look at the situation.

Bass Ackwards was an official selection at Sundance 2010

With Bass Ackwards’ acceptance into Sundance, producer Woodrow had once again done everything right, and obviously the “logical” thing to do was to follow the same model he’d tried with True Adolescents [premiered at SXSW 2009 and only now finding distribution] by bringing aboard a respected sales agent and hoping for the best. Sundance is considered the “golden ticket” for U.S. indies; the best of all possible launches in North America for low-budget, character-driven films, but look carefully at its line-up every year–through the best years as well as the worst–and you’ll find that many films get no distribution offers at Sundance. In fact, the vast majority of films don’t leave Sundance with good distribution opportunities. Even those that do get distribution offers very often don’t get the kind of offers that make a picture “whole”…meaning offers that are big enough to make back the production budget of the film.

Of course there are spectacular exceptions every year, but Sundance is hardly a guarantee of distribution for films like Bass Ackwards. In fact, the film had been accepted into the newly created NEXT section of the festival, for low and no-budget films. Unlike the higher profile Premiere and Competition sections, the more “outré” sections like New Frontier, NEXT etc., are likely to be overlooked by traditional distributors who are pre-occupied with the flashier fare.

Given Woodrow’s disappointing experience only months earlier with True Adolescents, an idea began to take shape. Rather than trying to get traditional distributors to attend the Sundance screenings only to have them pass once again, Woodrow made the decision to take matters into his own hands and, as he puts it “flip everything on its ear this time.”

“We knew that the only one thing Sundance guaranteed us was a tremendous amount of publicity, a chance for people to hear about the film and to be curious about it. We also knew that we had an anti-commercial film, difficult to market, without an obvious target audience outside of the people that go to film festivals. We knew we had virtually no chance for traditional pick-up, and imagined that if we did things the regular way and waited for other companies to come to us, we’d probably see ourselves on IFC’s digital platform six months later, and nothing else. We also knew that we had spent so little on the film that we could afford to take risks. So we decided to just go for the jugular and to use the publicity generated by Sundance to release the film directly to the audience. We knew we couldn’t wait until people forgot about the Sundance press, so we decided to launch the film as wide as possible immediately after the Festival, meaning February 1st…one day after the festival concluded.”

To find out how this strategy worked, read Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by Prescreen coming in September 2011. Also “like” our Facebook page and keep up with our tweets here.

Excerpt: Adventures of Power

One of Orly’s case studies takes a look at the 2008 Sundance official selection Adventures of Power written, directed and starring Ari Gold. AoP  took a long and winding road to market and Ari was extremely open about mistakes he made and things he got right.  His film was finally released on DVD in January 2011 by Phase4 and he had a small theatrical release working with Variance Films in the fall of 2009.

Ari Gold shared his experiences in releasing his film Adventures of Power

One thing Ari shared with us is his experience in handling publicity.

“Having never done [a theatrical tour] before, I thought ‘ok let’s do it, let’s do what an indie [theatrical distributor] would do.’ But what I didn’t realize was how much work goes into putting a movie in theaters than just getting it into a theater. Consistently in our theatrical release, we would do better on the last day than we would on the first day which was a sign that in a sense we were doing the right thing because word was spreading in each town, but because the way the theaters are, they determine whether a film will continue its run within the first 48 hours so that didn’t work in our favor. I would come into a town on Friday when the film would open to try and get some press but [articles] didn’t run until Sunday or Monday and by then they [the theater] had already cancelled the extension of the run. It wasn’t until my last city, Portland, Oregon, that I realized we had structured this incorrectly in the sense that I had to be in each city at least a week or more ahead of time to do press.”

“At the same time, the local newspapers have all been hard hit by staff cuts and we couldn’t get the film reviewed locally. We were playing their theater, but we weren’t deemed press worthy because we weren’t a mainstream release and that is frustrating.  Studio indies have the muscle of the studio marketing and publicity machine behind them, they can force a review to be done and we didn’t and that is when I realized I had to turn my focus away from mainstream press and doing what a studio machine would do, instead I concentrated on connecting directly with the people of those communities.  That’s what’s good about the internet, you can really pinpoint people in a community who would like your film.”

“The traditional publicity that came with our DVD release was not able to get us much press and not on rock music stations. So my partner and I bought an email list of every radio station in the US and Canada and we emailed them all. I had to use a spam email program to do that and probably about 15% of the emails made it through past a filter and then to actually be read. But it lead to maybe 40-50 radio interviews with college and traditional radio that we got completely on our own. I got an email from one of the colleges after I did the interview with them and they said our movie was the number one movie rental on campus.  No one would have heard of the movie much less rent or buy it if I hadn’t done that interview.”

“On the one hand, I can do all of the work that a studio marketing department can do, at home on my laptop and with a camera. But the flipside is, I HAVE to and where will I find the time to do my next work, my next film when I have to spend so much time reaching the fans of the film I just made?  It would be great to be one of the few doing this inside of the system or who was plucked out of Sundance to be the next ‘made man’ and you go to premiere and the press just shows up and everything is paid for by Fox Searchlight.”

But he wasn’t the “made man” for this release and most people aren’t with their films so it is better to plan for taking on this work as Plan A and Plan B is that the load will be lightened if you do get the golden ticket.

To read more about the story behind bringing Adventures of Power to an audience including the amount of time, effort and money it took, read Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen coming in September 2011. Also ‘like’ our Facebook page.

 

 

 

Sponsor Spotlight: Prescreen

In addition to highlighting material that will be available in the book, we will be publishing information on the sponsors who are supporting our efforts to bring this information to you, especially giving us the ability to provide the free copy version. All of the sponsors are resources and tools for the indie filmmaker and we hope after learning more about them, you will seek out their services.

Today marks the launch of our Presenting Sponsor, Prescreen. Thus far, if you visited their web page, you were asked to submit an email address to be kept informed of their activities. Even I wasn’t quite clear on what they are offering until I did this interview. Prescreen curates films and distributes them via a daily email to an opt-in audience. Today, they will start accepting applications for films to be showcased on their site, but they will not accept every film. “Unlike some of the other services that currently exist, we will not be a sea of titles. We will do our best to try and create signal out of noise,” said founder and CEO Shawn Bercuson.

What will PreScreen mean for the indie filmmaker?

“For the indie filmmaker, Prescreen means you now have a viable alternative to distribution. That said, we do not intend to replace any of the existing channels, we are merely a tool to help make the marketing and distribution efforts much easier. Being featured on Prescreen means revenue instead of marketing spend, analyzing demographics of *your* audience instead of looking at the audience of comparable titles, and increasing the potential to go ‘viral.’ We give the filmmaker and distributor relevant information that they can use to maximize the success of each title.”

“We believe there is a lot of great content that exists that never finds a home or has a hard time reaching the right audience. As we all know, movie distribution has historically been a very arduous and risky endeavor for filmmakers, distributors, or studios alike; however, we now live in a world with exciting technology that enables us to communicate in real time with…everyone. If you use these tools correctly, the supply vs. demand curve can be shifted. Whereas, before content was created, money was spent, and hours of work were completed prior to the release of a film trying to create demand for a title; we can now gauge demand at the beginning of the process such that the entire endeavor is more efficient.”

Will the service cost anything, either for filmmakers or for audience? If so, what?

For moviegoers, it is free to signup to receive the Prescreen daily email. If a movie catches your eye, you have the opportunity to ‘rent’ the movie to stream. Each movie we feature lives on Prescreen for 60 days. On Day 1, the movie costs $4 and you’ll have up to 60 days to view the film; while on Days 2 – 60, the movie costs $8 and you’ll have 60 – (x days) to complete the film. Though a moviegoer has up to 60 days to complete the film, ‘renting’ on Prescreen is similar to that of any other the other mainstream steaming services and you’ll have 48 hours to complete the film once you start the stream.”

“Why 60 only days? Movies live on Prescreen for 60 days for many reasons. First, to allow a film to capture (and capitalize on) the word-of-mouth exposure that organically ensues throughout the social graph. Movies are inherently social. If all my friends are talking about a specific title, I don’t like to be left out of the conversation and I’ll want to partake. 60 days allows people to join the conversation. The second reason is piracy. As iTunes has successfully proven with the music industry, people are happy to pay for content as long as they have access to it. For example, if a movie is screening in 6 cities not named Omaha, Nebraska and I live in Omaha, my only option is to illegally download that title. 60 days allows access to content that people might otherwise be forced to get through illegal means.”

“For filmmakers and distributors, there is no out of pocket charge at any point throughout the entire Prescreen process. Prescreen is only successful if the movie is successful. Prescreen will send the filmmaker a check for 50% of the revenue generated from the sales on Prescreen along with a ‘Prescreen Performance Report’ that details all of the relevant information a filmmaker or distributor would need to continue to reach the targeted audience including: a Prescreen performance summary, detailed demographic information, the size of the addressable market, and suggested continued marketing plan.”

*NOTE*: Prescreen has a strict privacy policy that protects all of the personal information of its subscribers. All information shared with the filmmaker or distributor is aggregated and does not compromise any personal or contact information that could lead to any unwanted use or abuse.

“At any given point in time, Prescreen has up to 60 films featured on the site: 1 featured film and the 59 previous featured films. As one movie enters  our library through their feature, another one leaves. After 60 days, the filmmaker should have enough data points and insight to continue to market their film effectively and reach the right audience.”

How does one sign up for an account?

“For filmmakers and distributors, visit prescreen.com/submit. Here, you can submit your film to Prescreen to be the ‘Featured Film.’  The featured film is the highlight of our daily email that goes out to all of our subscribers and will also be the only film on our homepage for 24 hours.”

On what devices is the service geared toward viewing?

We believe that movies should live where moviegoers want to see them. Because of this, Prescreen plans to be platform agnostic and live on the web, mobile, and other connected devices like streaming TV’s, gaming consoles, and set top boxes. However, as any Prescreen engineer will tell you: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ so we’ll start on the web and prioritize platforms based on where our audience is telling us to go.”

If you are interested in having your film considered for the service, you can start submitting today.

Keep following our posts here for more information on the book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by Prescreen and like us on Facebook.