By Sheri Candler

Here is the second part in a series on European distribution tools. I met OnlineFilm AG CEO Cay Wesnigk, based in Germany, while attending the FERA General Assembly in Copenhagen. Like most people in attendance, he is trying to understand the repercussions and opportunities of the online space to the film industry. His response was to come up with a solution that allows filmmakers themselves to profit and to spread their work to territories outside of their home country by using the internet.

SC: What does OnlineFilm hope to accomplish for European filmmakers and film audiences?

CW: The Onlinefilm.org System is a multilingual marketplace for films and an application service provider for digital distribution and marketing services, owned by a collective of independent producers/ filmmakers. Any rights owner from all over the world can use its technology to offer films as download to own and stream to rent or both.

To reach these goals, we want to strengthen and enlarge our network of national partners that are running the Onlinefilm.org system in their territories and run national websites that use the same technology to develop local markets. Together with our partners we want to develop new tailored ways of marketing by using social media and viral campaigning in their languages and territories and then learn from each other and teach our best practice examples to the film makers to empower them to use the onlinefilm.org system in the best possible way to market their films.

Our motto is “Films are made to be seen” and we want to make it possible for the international audience to access the films they are interested in and find those they did not know existed, helping the makers to find and access their audience.

SC: Do you think the audience is ready to start watching full length films online or on mobile devices?

It should be added to the question, “legally aquired”  films. I think it is a proven fact that our audience is watching films on those devices, just go through a train in Europe and you will notice how many people are watching films on laptops and tablets, some even on smart phones. In catalogues of supermarkets, hard disks are offered that have a connection to regular TV and a remote control as well as Network access that make it easy to bring downloaded films to the TV screens. For us, the question is not if there is an audience out there for our films, the question is, is there an audience willing to pay for them?

But there is another angle to your question,  a topic for online watching of films is the deceleration of the audience. It is difficult to watch 90 minutes linear programming with no interaction expected on a computer or tablet when the IM Messenger pops up, the Skype rings and your email program reminds you that a new mail has arrived in your mailbox…  For that we need to find ways to decelerate our audience. One is the easy connection of the device with the TV set as mentioned above. Leaning back in front of the TV with the mouse out of reach is half of the trick. The other half still has to be developed.

SC: There are already many online streaming platforms for films, many of them are free streaming and ad supported streaming. What is the plan for driving audience interest to OnlineFilm?

CW: A film is a little bit of celluloid and a lot of marketing…

We have experienced that many film-makers do not promote their films once they have upload them in to the system by using the tools and strategies actively that we supplied for them. Some of them do not even link to the films from their own homepages, let alone think about how to promote their films through other channels that would generate audiences for them.  Even a good Google ranking for film titles searches that we can supply does not bring the revenue, since for that, the customer has to know that a film exists and must actively search for it. So we have drawn the conclusion that we must act more on the filmmakers behalf to create more sales and such make the option to offer films through the Onlinefilm.org system more attractive.  One measure we took was the cooperation with other outlets and websites by offering them tailored Mediatheks for their visitors, creating more outlets and chances that audiences will find a film by chance.

The next step will be to create best practice examples through social media campaigns that will lead to more sales of the promoted example films.

We offer tools to the filmmakers to help them create their own audiences.  We offer at the same time a Platform for curators, for the hunters and collectors. They can use the search tools the site offers them to find the raw diamonds. They can browse through the categories, use our full text search in German and English or search for directors or film titles they might already be aware of.

Film of the week on the OnlineFilm homepage

The film of the week section on the landing page of www.onlinefilm.org can change its focus on three different film categorie; Docs, Short- or Feature films, or offer a mixture of all of them (default). With this preselection we want to promote films to people who just drop by our platform with no special film or interest in mind. We often change the selection and try to keep the offer interesting and diverse so every visitor should find something of interest to him and, if not, might be motivated to dig deeper into the catalogue, to find out more about its wealth of topics and genres.

In the second line “the featured films”, the recommendations also changes accordingly once a customer selects where his point of interest lies (docs, short, feature). If someone tells us he is interested in shorts, the site will offer him different shorts. If he tells us he likes docs, he will be offered mainly docs. This is how we try to keep our first time visitors on the site and offer them selected films out of our large catalogue that might be of interest for them. The more we get to know from a visitor on the site, the more we want to tailor the offers made to his interests. 

Our national portal Strategy – many different editorial lines 

If a visitor decides to “explore the Network” he will be guided to the overview map with all national sites that are active so far. He can then select one of them, where our national Partners have the editorial control, offer national content or content they consider interesting for their fellow country man. Their editorial line is subjective. They will offer the films from their country and others they have found in the system and deem interesting for their audience. We plan to extend the editorial possibilities of the partner pages so the partners will also have their own film of the week and other editorial possibilities to promote certain films on their sites.

By creating sub portals with a special focus, it is also always possible to follow a new editorial line if enough films to justify that are in the system..

Our Greek partners www.greece.onlinefilm.org  are the most advanced, they have been with us right from the very beginning of the project in 2007 and they also have made the most out of the technology that onlinefilm.org  has offered them so far. As an example, on their editors page,  they made their own sub categorisation and such made it possible to browse through the films via topics they have selected on their own.

Greek director Roviros Manthoulis’ collection page

They also have published the Roviros Manthoulis collection  and make it possible to browse through the films of this renowned Greek filmmaker. Both serve as an example for an individual editorial line of a partner portal.

Another example is Ireland.onlinefilm.org. Our Irish partner has chosen quite a ew titles from the system and publishes them on his  site. Among them a French/Greek film called IRLANDE: LA MEMOIRE D’ UN PEUPLE  about Ireland and its music in the 70s.  This film has become quite popular on the Irish website and no one in Ireland would ever have known about this document of Irish folk music if it would not have been uploaded by our Greek partner and found  and published by our Irish partner.  Also interesting to note is that our Irish partner translated the site into Gaelic language, another way to make the site something special. We use a multi language editor that makes it possible to translate any of our sites in as many languages as necessary.

Since it is always also possible for any rights owner to upload any film from anywhere, we have many films from countries where we do not have a partner installed yet. The more films we get from one country the more active our search for a partner there becomes. We always offer anyone who uploads at least 30 films to get his own Macro shop. This would entitle him also to get a promoter percentage of 8% for any customer that enters the System through his shop. If the relationship develops well and we see the person is active and well connected, he can apply to become a national partner and will then be able to also add other films he has not uploaded into his shop. If he is willing to invest into the cooperation, he can apply for full partner status that would also guarantee him part of the revenues any film uploaded from his territory might generate as a partner percentage. An example of a tailored Macro shop of a German distributor is here: www.filmgalerie451.onlinefilm.org 

This is how we slowly built our Network of national partners and built more and more local outlets with their own editorial line.

Some more examples you will find here

www.kurzfilmtage.de/videothek the Videothek of the Oberhausen Shortfilmfestibval, run with onlinefilm technology and with Onlinefilm films

www.freitag.onlinefilm.org  A videothel of a German Newspapers Website, run on onlinefilm technolog and with Onlinefilm films

SC: Is this platform mainly for German films or is the focus on all foreign language films?

CW: Any one can upload a film no matter where he or she comes from. We encourage people to upload the film in its original language version and in English. Subtitles are sufficient. More language versions can be uploaded and offered for different self chosen conditions.  We even offer a tool ( in Beta) with which one can create subtitles to a film which is uploaded into our system and save and offer them. Subtitles can also be imported into the tool and exported into many formats if produced with the tool. The subtitle tool is designed in a way that a filmmaker could ask a professional or friend in another country to create the subtitles of a film he has uploaded. We are also planning to create a system to allow a person who has created subtitles to opt in and get a piece of the revenue as remuneration for his work, any time the film is watched with his subtitles.

SC: What prices are being asked of the audience to pay?

CW: The price per download or stream is defined by the rights owner who offers the film via the onlinefilm.org system. Over the last 2 year,s the average download price per title has increased from € 2,50 (2008) to € 5,00 in 2010  and to € 6,00  in June 2011 (from a range between € 0.99  and € 16,00).  Our bestseller right now costs € 8,50 per download (around $10 USD).

SC:  How do you handle payments on the system for all different currencies? Can those not on the Euro still use the OnlineFilm system? How about those who don’t have credit cards?

CW: Right now you pay via Paypal in Euro, that works also with a credi card via Paypal guest status, then you can stream or download the film direct when redirected by Paypal after the payment is done on their server. We are looking into possibilities to offer films in different currencies viaPpaypal right now and hope to offer that kind of service in the near future!

As an alternative, we already offer payment through international bank transfer via IBAN and BIC to our account in Germany. Once the money is sent to our onlinefilm account, the buyer sends us a pdf with the view of the online money order ( screen shot or what the online banking software offers) and we sent him or her the download links via e mail or put the film for streaming into his or her account at onlinfilms under “my films” This sometimes takes a few hours to fulfill but it is better than nothing. So far it has been used mainly by Paypal haters.

SC: What is the revenue split for filmmakers? Are there any fees that have to be paid for the films to use OnlineFilm?

CW: No fees are asked just to offer the film on onlinefilm.org. If you just use the system to host trailers/teasers and use our promotion tool to send free downloads and streams to selected people, but you do not offer the film for payment to a general audience, we would ask you to pay for used bandwith and storage. But there is a free amount of traffic per month, sufficient for trailer hosting of average films, that anyone can use before that happens.

The revenue is split as follows. 51% of the turnover always goes to the producer/ rightsowner. If the rightsowner buys 1.000 shares of the Onlinefilm AG and such becomes co-owner of the system  ( option) he can get 5% more which then ads up to 56% . If he sells the film via an embedded shop or Macro shop from his own page and opts in for the affiliate percentage, he will get an extra 8% which then makes his or her revenue climb up to 64% of the sales price (the Affiiliate system still has to be implemented).

SC: What kinds of films are doing well at the moment? documentary, horror, drama? What might these successes all have in common? Do they have notable names, festival accolades, strong coproduction deals that have given lots of promotion, great mainstream media reviews?

CW: We mainly have quite old films on the platform so far, this has many reasons in copyright issues unclear, release windows and power play of the old gatekeepers trying to hinder the films going online all together. Only very few of the films could profit directly from any marketing campaigns.

The films that are successful right now have a campaign behind them or at least some promotion mostly done by the filmmaker via personal website or mailing list. The others are just occasional sales by active seekers for exactly that title. They live on their past time fame.

One very successful 15 year old film Deckname Dennis  is a first part of a film called Die Mondverschwörung presenting the same character and using the same technique, that has been released theatrically recently. Through the press the new film received and by creating a social media campaign for the new film that clearly stated its predecessor was available online (Facebook, Youtube, a website, Twitter) we made that film popular again. You might say it went viral and made quite an impressive turnover  for its rightsowner. To download the film, the price is 8,50 Euro. We were extremely happy that through a good text the director posted in the blog of a pirate site where the film was also available, we got them to link to our legal offer and take down the illegal offer. Through our link statistics, we can see that many people come from there to us.

SC: I know that the German film industry is particularly concerned about online piracy, how does a site like OnlineFilm help alleviate this concern?

CW: We do not use DRM systems simply because we do not believe in them and we do not want to make it difficult for the customers. Also we do not want to greet our customers as criminals that we do not trust. We follow the principle of “digital rights fair trade” in short “do not bullshit your audience and your audience won’t bullshit you”.  Our download is DRM free, whoever buys it will also be able to download the film again, when he needs to. He just needs to log in with his username and it will be in the “my films” section.  Since our streaming technology is “dedicated flash streaming” it is not quite as easy to save the stream as with other techniques. The stream is rented for 48 hours and usually cheaper than the download, but it can also be offered solely if people want to better protect their work and do not want it downloaded.

SC: Is there a geoblocking mechanism on OnlineFilm so that if a filmmaker has sold a online sales territory or has a sales agent looking to sell a territory, that territory is blocked? I know that many sales agents ask for a hold back timeframe on titles so they can sell those territories around the world. Is the site mainly to exploit titles that are no longer active in the marketplace? In effect, taking films out of the “library” mode and putting them back out into the marketplace?

CW: At the moment we do not offer geoblocking. Anyone half clever seems to be able to enter any system with a false IP and ridicule these mechanisms. Secondly, we think if a customer wants to legally purchase a film we should sell it to him and not tell him to go elsewhere (namely the pirate sites). We will nevertheless implement an IP scan and geolocation tools in the near future. We have to since the industry seems not to change its ways as fast as it should. We hope to be able to serve the customer by offering a revenue share with the person or distributor who has the rights in the territory where the customer comes from. But this might still take while to program and implement.

SC: Does OnlineFilm do any marketing on the part of the titles? Or is the filmmaker expected to conduct their own marketing strategy to drive traffic to the site?

CW: Onlinefilm does marketing for the site and through the many partner sites also tries to drive more traffic towards the films. We also market some titles that we select via our onlinefilm Facebook page and via the film of the week and the recommendations on the landing page. We have a space on the Kulturserver Network where we can promote individual titles.

When our staff has time left, we also try to encourage links to topic driven films from topic driven websites.  We offer marketing support for filmmakers that are open for it, but we ask for a fee if they want a campaign run by us. Then we try to build a social web campaign with them and show them how to, or do the job for them depending on their skills and time or money they want to invest.

This is something we definitely need to put more energy in because far too many filmmakers here do not know how to self promote their films and rather invest their time in making a new one.  The revenue made online with many of the films is so far not big enough to encourage distributors or filmmakers to invest a lot of time or money in extra marketing. But since we see that the turnover with  films is growing constantly, we hope that this will change and lead to an exponential growth of sales once people will be willing to invest more in marketing once they see the potential.

We are preparing a social media campaigning and online marketing handbook. At the same time we are trying to connect with people who specialize in the craft of online film marketing. We want to develop business models with them that will work for them and the rights owners possibly also on a revenue share basis.

My thanks to Cay Wesnigk for taking the time to talk with us and explain how his company is helping European filmmakers make the shift from a primarily cinema driven distribution model to an online one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 25th, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, Distribution Platforms, Facebook, Marketing

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By Bryan Glick

Just because you didn’t premiere at Sundance or Cannes doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Though not living up to the sales quota of last year, there are two dozen premiere films from SXSW that have sold in the U.S. Here’s a wrap up of the film sales from SXSW.

Anchor Bay stuck with their niche and took North American rights to two midnight entries Girls Against Boys and The Aggression Scale, while Cinedigm (who recently acquired New Video) went for U.S. Rights to In Our Nature and the midnight audience award winner Citadel. Pre-fest buys include Crazy Eyes which went to Strand Releasing for the U.S.  and Blue Like Jazz courtesy of Roadside Attractions. Blue Like Jazz was promptly released and has since grossed close to $600,000 theatrically in North America.  Lionsgate is handling DVD, VOD, and TV through their output deal. Meanwhile Crazy Eyes just started its theatrical run on two screens pulling in a little under $5,000 in its first week.

Millennium Entertainment took the gross out comedy The Babymakers and yet another midnight film, The Tall Man was bought for the U.S. by Imagine.  If you’re a midnight film at SXSW, odds are things are looking up for you. The same could be said for The Narrative Spotlight section where two thirds of the films have since been acquired including The Do-Deca Pentathlon  taken by Red Flag Releasing and Fox Searchlight. Red Flag is handling the theatrical (The film grossed $10,000 in its opening weekend off of 8 screens) while Fox Searchlight will cover the other ancillary markets. The Narrative Spotlight Audience Award Winner, Fat Kid Rules the World was bought by Arc Entertainment for North America and Frankie Go Boom was the first film to reap the benefits of a partnership with Variance and Gravitas.  It will be released in the U.S. on VOD Platforms in September via Gravitas followed by a theatrical in October courtesy of Variance.

And though they did not premiere at SXSW, both Dreams of a Life and Electrick Children had their U.S. premieres at the festival and have since been bought.  U.S. rights to the documentary Dreams of a Life were acquired by Strand Releasing. Meanwhile, Electrick Children was snatched up for North America by Phase 4. Phase 4 also nabbed North American rights to See Girl Run.

Sony Pictures and Scott Rudin took remake rights to the crowd pleasing Brooklyn Castle while HBO acquired domestic TV rights to the doc The Central Park Effect.  Meanwhile, after showing their festival prowess with their success of last year’s breakout Weekend (which was sold by The Film Collaborative’s Co President, Orly Ravid), Sundance Selects proved they were not to be outdone and got the jury prize award winner Gimme The Loot for North and Latin America.  Fellow Narrative competition entry Gayby sold its U.S. rights to Wolfe Releasing, a low 6-figure deal. That deal was also negotiated by TFC’s Orly Ravid. And not to be outdone, competition entry, Starlet rounds out the Narrative Competition films to sell.  It was acquired for North America by Music Box Films.

S2BN Films’ Big Easy Express became the first feature film to launch globally on iTunes. It will be released in a DVD/Blu-Ray Combo pack on July 24th by Alliance Entertainment followed by a more traditional VOD/Theatrical rollout later this year.

Other key deals include Oscilloscope Laboratories acquiring North American Rights to Tchoupitoulas, Snag Films going for the US Rights of Decoding Deepak, Image Entertainment’s One Vision Entertainment Label aiming for a touchdown with  the North American rights to The Last Fall and Factory 25 partnering with Oscilloscope Labs for worldwide rights to Pavilion.

Final Thoughts:  Thus far less than one third of the films to premiere at SXSW have been acquired for some form of domestic distribution. While that may seem bleak, it is a far better track record than from most festivals.  In The U.S., SXSW is really second to only Sundance in getting your film out to the general public. The festival also takes a lot of music themed films and more experimental projects with each theme getting its own designated programming section at the festival. Those films were naturally far less likely to sell. The power players this year were certainly Anchor Bay and Cinedigm each taking multiple films that garnered press and/or have significant star power. Other companies with a strong presence and also securing multiple deals were Strand Releasing and Oscilloscope.  Notably absent though is Mark Cuban’s own Magnolia Pictures and IFC (Though their sister division Sundance Selects made a prime acquisition). Magnolia did screen Marley at the festival, but the title was acquired out of Berlin, and IFC bought Sleepwalk With Me at its Sundance premiere.

While it is great that these films will be released, it also worth mentioning what is clearly missing from this post. There is almost no mention of how much these films were acquired for. The fact is films at SXSW don’t sell for what films at Sundance do and it is safe to assume that the majority of these deals were less than six figures with almost nothing or nothing at all getting a seven figure deal.

As for the sales agents, Ben Weiss of Paradigm and Josh Braun of Submarine were working overtime, with each negotiating multiple deals.

SUNDANCE UPDATE: Since the last Sundance post, there have been two more films acquired for distribution. Both films premiered in the World Documentary Competition. The Ambassador negotiated successfully with Drafthouse Films who acquired U.S. rights for the film which will premiere on VOD August 4th followed by a small theatrical starting August 29th.  Also finding a home was A Law in These Parts which won the jury prize at this year’s festival.  Cinema Guild will be releasing the film in theaters in the U.S. starting on November 14th. 75% of the films in the World Documentary Competition now have some form of distribution in the US.

A full list of SXSW Sales deals from SXSW is listed below. Box office grosses and release dates are current as of July 12th.

Film COMPANY TERRITORIES SALES COMPANY Box Office/
Release
See Girl Run Phase 4 North America Katharyn Howe and Visit Films
Starlet Music Box Films North America Submarine
The Babymakers Millenium US John Sloss and Kavanaugh-Jones Theatrical Aug 3rd
DVD Sept 10th
Citadel Cinedigm US XYZ Films and
UTA Independent Film Group.
The Aggression Scale Anchor Bay North America Blu-ray/dvd Epic Pictures Group
Girls Against Boys Anchor Bay North America Paradigm
Tchoupitoulas Oscilloscope North America George Rush
Gimme The Loot Sundance Selects North and Latin America Submarine Entertainment
The Tall Man Image Entertainment US CAA and  Loeb & Loeb August 31st
Elektrick Children Phase 4 North America Katharyn Howe and Paradigm
Blue Like Jazz Roadside US The Panda Fund $595,018
Crazy Eyes Strand US Irwin Rappaport $4,305
In Our Nature Cinedigm US Rights Preferred Content
Brooklyn Castle Sony Pictures Remake Rights Cinetic Media
Scott Rudin
The Central Park Effect HBO US TV Submarine Entertainment
Gayby Wolfe US The Film Collaborative
The Do Decca Pentathlon Fox Searchlight North America Submarine Entertainment $10,000
Red Flag Releasing
Fat Kids Rules The World Arc Entertainment North America Paradigm
Decoding Deepak Snag Films US N/A October
Big Easy Express Alliance Entertainmnet Worldwide DVD/VOD Paradigm and S2BN July 24th DVD/Blu-Ray
Big Easy Express S2bn Worldwide Itunes Paradigm and S2BN Available Now
The Last Fall Image Entertainment North America N/A
Pavillion Factory 25 Worldwide N/A Jan
Oscilloscope Labs
Frankie Go Boom Gravitas US Rights Reder & Feig and Elsa Ramo VOD Sept
 Variance Theatrical Oct
Dreams of a Life Strand releasing US Rights eone films international Aug 3rd

 

July 18th, 2012

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, Theatrical

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By Sheri Candler

As a result of my recent trip to Europe to participate in the annual FERA General Assembly and Sheffield DocFest, I found some great new independent film resources I would like to share. Sometimes we get too focused on North American resources so it is good to pull in useful information from all over the world. This will be a series of posts over the next few weeks that highlight these new services. First up, Assemble

Assemble (formerly MovieSparx) is a tool for filmmakers and distributors who want to ease the headache of building audiences and selling films on the web. It  is clever software that creates and manages your web-presence, gathers and tracks your audience and provides a sales mechanisms to sell your film and related products. I spoke with Founder James Franklin about how the software works.

What made you want to build this? What need did you see in the industry that wasn’t being fulfilled properly?

JF: Simply put – we felt that the vital online presence for a film was almost always a hit and miss affair. Film websites are too often rubbish and do the film a disservice.
About 8 years ago I founded a London based design studio working just for indie film projects. We ran a lot of promotional campaigns for films around the world and learnt an enormous amount over some very high profile projects. Whilst doing this, and when I would speak at festivals about what we learnt, the same questions and problems would come up from filmmakers over and over again.

The main problem was that although everyone agreed that promoting a film and finding an audience online was important and a great opportunity, the reality was that it was very time consuming, had a steep learning curve and was a prohibitively difficult and painful struggle. Just to make matters worse, the budgets were always too small for creating the necessary marketing assets and the tools available at the time had to be hacked by techies to work for an indie film. Generally the assets for each film project – website, widgets, mailing list, shop etc – would be about 70% the same as every other project and about 30% unique. But each time everyone would have to work hard to just get that 70% out the door – we and the filmmakers felt like we were constantly re-inventing the wheel. And so we decided about 3 years ago to create a web-tool that would power these elements out of the box – film  website, online shop, widgets etc. It was going to be easy, efficient, flexible and beautiful. We would also pour our knowledge and experience into the system so that best practice was baked into it from the beginning. The very first release was at SXSW in 2010.

There are a few guiding principles we’ve stuck to. Firstly, that it’s always in the filmmakers interests to help promote the film direct rather than promote yet another platform – it’s all about the film project not us. Secondly, that the production team are always the most committed and passionate of advocates and with the right tools and experience can do the best job of promoting and selling the film. Lastly, we understand the importance of the film’s marketing materials /key art / branding – this is what really sells the film and is very important online. Anything we make has to work with the branding and be both functional and well designed.

What does Assemble do for productions? Walk me through the steps all along the way of a production using Assemble from conception of a film to distributing it. Are there some example films at different stages? Describe what they are doing.

JF: We provide the best possible web presence that adapts to each stage of a film. That web presence includes the film website, branded trailers & embeddable widgets, facebook apps, a shop and other important modules. Each Module is made just for film so it works exactly as you would expect out of the box. For instance, adding an award adds a laurel to the website. Each module works with the others, so the shop can appear in Facebook and the trailer for instance. Each of those modules adapts depending the stage the project is at – so in development, it makes the most of the one photo and short synopsis you often start out with. Then the modules adapt for fund-raising or crowd funding, production, festivals and finally distribution.  Lastly each module adapts by country so that it can properly support different territories being at different stages – ready for download in the USA but in theatrical in Australia – without interfering with each other.

Currently the modules are:
– Website
– Blog
– Shop
– Widget / Branded Trailer
– Facebook page app
– Screenings
– Mailing List
– Sign-up for media
– Crowd-Funding support
– Gallery
– Awards and Laurels
– Reviews

There are too many features and options to go through everything in detail. But to give an example about how this this works just for film and is designed to be more efficient, take a look at the screenings module. This handles events and screenings either as part of a theatrical release or at festivals. Usually screening dates and times end up on a single page which has to be constantly updated and is hard to find or a film relies on a potential audience remembering at a later date.

With Assemble, once the production team have entered an event or screening’s details into the back end it appears automatically, in chronological order across all assets – on the website, the trailer, in Facebook and so on. It can be automatically added to the Facebook page as an event for people to share with others. People can even send it to a friend as an invite, or share it to social networks. It can even set up a reminder for you so you’ll get an email the day of the screening. If there’s a screening near you it will flag up on the website home page. When a screening date has passed it’s automatically added to the past screenings. We can even supply a feed of data for partners.

Of course, if there isn’t a screening near you, you can demand one with a simple form or if available, you can set up semi-theatrical or community screenings and sell screening licenses. All of this works straight of the box.

We’ve also worked hard to never lose a potential customer. For instance, if someone in Canada wants to watch the film but it’s not available on DVD or for download yet, rather than giving the unhelpful message ‘this is not available in your region,’ the system will automatically work out an alternative (it may be on at a festival near them, or available from a distributor, or on Amazon – we can route them through to wherever is best). At the very worst, if it’s not available at all to them we can get them to sign up to the mailing list or demand it.

Some example sites at each stage are:

How Far Is Heavena simple film website
The Spirit Level – integrating with IndieGoGo
 Planeat – shop with downloads and merchandise
Just Do It – powering the shop only alongside a VODO release
Black Gold – long tail of distribution (the film is from 2006)
Europe Loves Cinema – a site with a slate of films
Tigerlily Films-a production company site with many films

As the above all geo-detect, the design changes depending on where you are visiting from.

Is the software mainly built for one title at a time or for a production company in the long term?

JF: It works well for both. The system really comes into it’s own when you run a production company or distribution website and your slate of titles off the system. They all integrate together and save a lot of time and work as well as collecting all the valuable data across the whole lot. That is key, if production companies are to thrive in the
future they must take ownership of their audience data and take it with them to the next project. That way it gets easier every time. Only Assemble can make that part happen.

What advantage would it be for a filmmaker to use a distributor to access this since your site says it is for distributors as well?

JF: It’s a flexible system and so will work for both individually. Ideally, the production team should be on the system from development and running even a basic web presence from the beginning, that way they can start to take control online. And the big advantage for a production team is that our tools work with even the most complicated rights and distributor structure.

When Assemble says it builds websites, is that on the production’s own URL or is it through your platform as a 3rd party?

JF: We power websites for films, much like wordpress powers blogs. You can use your own URLs with the system. The design for each site can be done either through us as a customised project or by a third party designer. The idea is that it’s as flexible and beautiful as possible whilst still being easy.

The description says it builds an embeddable trailer. Do you mean it makes a trailer built by the production embeddable? Why wouldn’t we want this on Youtube instead where we can track views and where they come from? Does Assemble do that too?

JF: We’ve made a very flexible widget that acts as a branded trailer. We think it’s very important to use Vimeo and You Tube as part of a campaign and so we use these to provide the trailer video – You Tube and Assemble play well together. The widget then ‘wraps’ around the Youtube video to create a branded trailer which also can hold extra modules like the shop, a watch the film page, twitter feed, blog, screenings and so on. And you still get your view count up and can track who’s watching it with You Tube.

Does Assemble provide training on how to use the system? For many indie productions, this whole process of building an audience and selling directly is completely unknown so how does Assemble help demystify the process?

JF: Yes, we provide training. We’re also adding a series of how-to videos to help things. We also hope to add more general videos on how to make a success of the project using Assemble.

Does Assemble help market the projects or is it only a tool to use by film productions themselves? Would the audience ever come to Assemble or are you more a B2B?

JF: We are not another platform. We are a B2B business, we don’t want to build a relationship with a project’s audience, rather we provide the tools to enable the production team to do that. However, we do help market projects in various ways and we can advise on how to do this as we’ve many years experience at this. One of the key ways a film can market itself online is firstly through social media sharing and secondly affiliate networks.

Assemble heavily supports sharing with social media and building an affiliate network. We help advise people if needed on how to make both of these work hard for a film project. For example, we have by far the most flexible and innovative affiliate tracking system, you’re not tied to one rate and can offer different percentage kick-backs. We find discount codes can work just as well and sometimes better. In addition, we are constantly innovating and testing, then putting what we learn back into the system.

When you say you sell downloads, what makes those downloads disabled to be reuploaded on the internet? Is there a mechanism for hampering that activity?

JF: If a project sells DVDs then these can be easily ripped too. We do review for Youtube and download links. Our own download mechanism can alert us if there are excessive downloads on a single link. We think the pricing of downloads should mean that for a potential customer, it’s easier to just buy the download rather than have the hassle of finding the torrent or download link. People who would pay generally prefer to pay honestly, thats the best way to stop piracy eating revenue.

July 10th, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, DIY, Facebook, Marketing, Social Network Marketing

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The Film Collaborative recently started a fiscal sponsorship program to help filmmakers get access to funds they would not be able to obtain without 501c(3) status.  The program is now fully up and running, headed by Lynnette Gryseels, former Fiscal Sponsorship Director at Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco.  We have been getting lots of questions from interested filmmakers so here are the answers to many of them.  There is also a lot of information available on our website.

What is fiscal sponsorship and how does it benefit artists? 

Fiscal Sponsorship is used primarily when a non-profit film/video project or event wants to secure funding from private, foundation, government or corporate sources that give only to nonprofit organizations with IRS tax-exempt status. To be considered exempt, an organization must hold a current 501(c)(3) certificate from the IRS.

What are the benefits to the filmmaker that they couldn’t do on their own?

Many funding opportunities are not available without tax exempt 501(c)(3) status

What does TFC look for in projects to grant fiscal representation?

Projects must be consistent with the Film Collaborative’s charitable purposes. This means that any project you are proposing must be noncommercial and represent an imaginative contribution to the film or video art form.  Project can NOT be a “work for hire.”  Once that criteria is met, we look for projects that are well thought out and have a good chance of getting funding and being completed.  Prior filmmaking experience is helpful or if you are new, it helps to have a production team of experienced  people; an advisory board with experience mentors is helpful as well and will help make up for a lack of experience with new filmmakers.  A polished proposal is essential.  Send us your best effort following the directions and if your project looks promising, we will help guide you to develop your proposal further.

If I apply, am I guaranteed to get accepted?

No.  The Film Collaborative is not obliged to supply fiscal sponsorship.  We will sponsor projects that are in alignment with the TFC mission and have strong, fundable applications.  When we agree to become your fiscal sponsor, we are allowing you to use the TFC name to show support for your film.  Therefore, we will only approve a project when the proposal is ready to be submitted to funders.

Is it only for US citizens or those operating within the US?

You do not need to live in the United States or be a citizen to apply for fiscal sponsorship.  As long as one of your project’s named project directors has Social Security Number (SSN), Employer Identification Number (EIN), Independent Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or other type of IRS registration.  See the IRS for more information on obtaining the correct tax registration for non-residents.

Does one have to be a member of TFC to apply?

Yes. Applicants need to be a TFC member at the minimum Contributor level.  See http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/join.html to sign up.

How does one qualify?

To qualify, you must have

-A film project; documentary, narrative or short in any stage of production;

-You must  join the Film Collaborative at the Contributor level or higher;

-Your project must be consistent with the Film Collaborative charitable purposes, is noncommercial and/or educational and represents an imaginative contribution to the film or video art form;

-The project may not be “work for hire”;

-You must be seeking donations in the form of grants from public agencies, foundations, corporations, or individual donors including fundraising benefits.

What is the submission process?

1.         Join The Film Collaborative;

2.         Pay the $35 fiscal sponsorship application fee;

3.         Fill out and submit the online application form, and upload a PDF of your project proposal.

The application you submit to the Film Collaborative will also serve as a blueprint that you will use to secure funding by applying for grants or present to prospective contributors.  Our goal is to help you build the best possible proposal in order to go forward and successfully raise the necessary funds to realize your project.  Therefore, we accept projects with proposals that are ready to go.

What is the submission deadline?

There are no submission deadlines.  Applications are open.

After I receive backing from TFC, what happens?

Once accepted, we will send you a copy of the Fiscal Sponsorship contract, a W9 form, a welcome package which includes a fiscal sponsorship support letter, tax ID number, a copy of your signed contract and information on how to set up online donations.  Donors to your project can contribute online using a credit card or write checks to the Film Collaborative.  Donations will be disbursed at the end of each month.

Once your project is accepted you can now apply for funds from public agencies, foundations, corporations, or individual donors.  TFC will provide you with the necessary documentation to show that your project is fiscally sponsored.

Can I apply to the NEA, NEH, NSF or other government agencies?

The Film Collaborative cannot submit applications on filmmakers’ behalf to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and National Science Foundation (NSF).  Ask us about all other government agencies.

What are the administrative fees involved and what do they pay for?

Applicants must join the TFC and pay a $35 non-refundable application fee.  After that TFC takes 5% of funds donated to your project.  These fees pay for overhead such as staff time processing applications and donations.

Is there a reporting process?

Yes.  You must report to TFC twice a year on all funds received for your project, monies spent and any significant budget changes.  Failure to comply with the reporting process will result in project termination.

Does TFC provide advice on contacting donors and soliciting funding?

We can provide some advice and answer questions.   You are responsible for applying for your own funds and sourcing your own donors.

Is there a difference between this service and others like Fractured Atlas?

Yes.  TFC only sponsors film projects, Fractured Atlas sponsors many other types of projects in addition to film.  The 5% TFC fee is the lowest of any known film project fiscal sponsor.

How long does the fiscal sponsorship stay active?

Your fiscal sponsorship will remain active as long as your reports to the TFC are up to date and you are still working on your film.  Projects that fall behind on reports will be terminated and will require a fee to reinstate.  Any funds donated to a dormant or terminated project cannot be dispersed until the project reporting is brought up to date.

Is the TFC fiscal sponsorship program exclusive?

Yes and no.  Your project can have another fiscal sponsor that is not a film project fiscal sponsor, for example, a community organization or something related to your project is fine.

Can name changes or change of control happen under the sponsorship?

Yes, on a case by case basis, depending on the change required.  Please ask.

Can I change my project or have more than one project entered into the program?

Depending on the nature of the change it may be considered a new project.  Multiple projects by one filmmaker are possible.

What is your background with fiscal sponsorship/grant funding applications?

The TFC fiscal sponsorship program is headed by the former director of fiscal sponsorship at the Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco.  We are used to reviewing proposals, have relationships with funders and can advise you on creating an attractive funding application.

 

Lynnette Gryseels

Lynnette is passionate about film and helping filmmakers tell thought-provoking stories that entertain, assist social change and support their filmmaking aspirations. She has over 15 years experience working with independent filmmakers, non-profit film organizations and several local and international film festivals. She has previously assisted filmmakers in learning their craft through educational program development and project development support. At Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco Lynnette headed the Fiscal Sponsorship and Grants Program, one of the oldest fiscal sponsorship programs in the country. She brings a depth of knowledge from this experience to her role as head of TFC’s fiscal sponsorship program.

 

July 3rd, 2012

Posted In: fiscal sponsorship

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