By Sheri Candler

It is a question I was thinking deeply about because I encounter filmmakers and industry players all the time who say that they put up a Facebook page, opened a Twitter account, started a Youtube channel, but the people didn’t come, views didn’t go up and the sales didn’t happen.  So what’s the point? It doesn’t work, clearly. I know they opened those accounts because it is “the thing to do” and besides it was free which is totally budget friendly, but just opening up accounts with no time, commitment, team, strategy, budget to maintain and grow them and truly utilize what they are best at  is not going to work and I recommend to go ahead and close them. Seriously!

Yes, social media is the newest communication tool (really it isn’t that new, but some still think it is) and Americans in particular spend almost 80% of their time on the internet (30% are online globally), with 22% of their time on social networking sites and 21% of their time in internet searches (there are over a billion search queries on Google every day!). I’m sure you can find another way to communicate with these people though, perhaps visiting door to door or cold calling or throwing obscene amounts of money into advertising all over the place and crossing your fingers (works for Hollywood). You’ve got that kind of time and money, yes? Honestly, start now thinking about what tools you will be using instead.

artists rarely use social media correctly

Once I look at what is being done with these sites, I am hardly surprised that it isn’t working. Most artists do not have a commitment to building up strong ties with an audience, they do not use social tools for “listening” and researching what audiences respond to, they do not post regularly except for “please make it happen for us on Indiegogo,” “Vote for my film on (name some film contest site),” or “my film is now available on iTunes.” Basically the chatter is all “do something for me” which is really tedious to read (I would say every day, but they don’t usually post regularly). For many publicists, this is how the channels are used as well; here’s a press kit, write about my client except that instead of only reaching writers, they are broadcasting to everyone and rarely listening at all.

 I wrote some time back about how Facebook wasn’t a good sales medium and I still stand by that post though there have been changes at Facebook that affect showing up in a newsfeed and the use of landing pages. Facebook, of course, would have you believe that it is a good sales tool, after all they have the most to gain from perpetuating that idea  in the business community.

If all you are using social media for is sales, STOP. I release you from feeling the burden of using auto tweeting and sending that same message through all of your profiles. No longer should you hire outside companies to do it for you either and pretending to be you. If you have done this, you already know it doesn’t work. Stop paying companies to send 5 prewritten tweets a day about your film to their 60K+ followers. You will not find that it makes much difference if that is the only effort you are making. Stop making inquiries for “some of that social media stuff” so your trailer will “go viral.”

Here is what the tool is very best used for; name/brand recognition, trust and loyalty building, sustained interest, long term sales and that most indescribable feeling of connection that begins to permeate. This is really an emotional space and it is something I would think independent artists would understand, you express ideas and emotions in your own work, right? And you hope to convey that to other people and elicit some kind of emotion from them. I know you don’t usually start from “I’m making a product that’s going to sell” point of view so why do you use social sites that way?

I say indescribable because you can’t point to that one “campaign” that brought your work to someone’s attention, it is an ongoing process that sinks deeper than “a message” or tagline and begins to spread and lasts far longer because little pieces of your thoughts, your connections and projects leave footprints behind online; not just on Twitter and Facebook, but everywhere on the internet globally. Someone who stumbles across your efforts, even years later, can find you and evidence of your work. No ad campaign or newspaper clipping is going to allow for that. Many people point to Twitter streams and Facebook newsfeeds as being fleeting and they are, but you can make more, endlessly. Can you do that for little money with an ad in the Times (pick a city) or a magazine cover story? While you may feel like you reach more people in a short amount of time, there’s a new cover story tomorrow or next month about someone else. There are only so many covers to fill, only so many talk shows to be on, only so much space in the newspaper or magazine for ads. Should you ever use traditional media? Should you ever use advertising? Yes, of course, but now you can have one more tool to use that is available to anyone, anywhere. You can choose to use it or not, but make sure you understand how to use it correctly and commit to doing it, every day. Also come to terms with the fact that if you are choosing not to use it, you are totally dependent on having third parties promote your work. New artists emerge every day and very few companies are truly committed to anyone.

Without a commitment to developing a community of supporters by using social media, save your time and possibly money and find another tool. You won’t be successful here.

 

August 29th, 2012

Posted In: Marketing, Social Network Marketing, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

by Bryan Glick

Sandwiched in between SXSW and Cannes, it is very easy to dismiss or overlook the Tribeca Film Festival. Yet, last year’s crop of films included the world premieres of two of the highest grossing documentaries of 2012 Bully and Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  However, most buyers seemed much more hesitant to strike this year.

Part of the issue is that Tribeca Films went all out acquiring The Giant Mechanical Man (starring Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina), Sleepless Night (France, estimated budget €2.5m) Struck By Lightning (with Christina Hendricks and Dermot Mulroney), Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story (documentary), War Witch (Canada, estimated budget $3.5m), Resolution (estimated budget $1m), Side By Side (documentaryproduced by Keanu Reeves and Death of a Superhero (Germany/Ireland, estimated budget €3.8m) (The latter two premiered at Berlin and TIFF), so most major buyers settled for one title or none at all.

Outside of Tribeca Films, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight were among the most active buyers. The latter took US rights to the world premiere Replicas (Canada with Selma Blair and Joshua Close and US and UK rights for As Luck Would Have It (Spain with Salma Hayek which premiered at Berlin.  Meanwhile, their sister division, Sundance Selects, went for North and Latin America, UK, and Scandinavia rights to  The Flat (Germany, documentary) and also grabbed the best narrative film winner Una Noche (US/UK/Cuba with Dariel Arrechaga) for North America.  In addition, the fest also hosted the North American premiere of Beyond the Hills (Romania)  which they acquired out of Berlin.  IFC got in the game with US rights for Knife Fight (Sweden with Jennifer Morrison and Carrie-Anne Moss, estimated budget $7m).

The only other distributor to acquire multiple films was Film Buff. They secured digital distribution rights to Knuckleball! (documentary) and US rights to The Russian Winter (US/Russia, documentary)
The star studded Revenge for Jolly (with Elijah Wood, Ryan Phillippe & Kristen Wiig) got US and Canada covered courtesy of Sony Pictures Worldwide and the festival award winning The Revisionaries (documentarywas acquired for North America by Kino Lorber.  Cinedigm continued its banner year with US rights to Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (documentary about the band Journey who hired their new lead singer via Youtube). Another company making their presence known was, Entertainment One, who couldn’t resist getting  North American rights for Freaky Deaky (with Christian Slater, Crispin Glover and Michael Jai White, estimated budget $10m). Meanwhile, Strand Releasing paid six figures for North American rights to Yossi (Israel, estimated production budget $500K), continuing a very effective partnership with the popular Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox. Other films to sell include Whole Lotta Sole (UK, with Brendan Fraser and Colm Meaney) which went to Arc for near seven figures, Room 514 (Israel) was bought for North America theatrical by Film Movement, and Unit 7 (Spain, estimated budget €3.5m which sold for US Pay TV and VOD to HBO.

Presently, the Tribeca festival arguably does a better job serving as a platform for films that have already been seen elsewhere or have distribution in place. Films that had North American or world premieres, but were bought before the fest include Magnolia’s Jack and Diane (with Juno Temple and Kylie Minogue), a partnership that featured sports themed documentaries sponsored by ESPN Films with Broke, Benji, and Town of Runners,  The HBO Doc release One Nation Under Dog, the Netflix exclusive documentary The Zen of Bennett (about singer Tony Bennett), Cinema Guild’s “Planet of Snail (Finland/Japan/Korea),  and Fox Searchlight’s box office bomb Lola Versus (with Greta Gerwig and Bill Pullman) which to date has grossed just barely over $250,000 theatrically in North America. Two special release docs Wagner’s Dream (NCM Fathom Events) and Queen: Days of Our Lives (Eagle Rock Entertainment) were also a part of the slate. Another film to sell before the festival was the Morgan Spurlock documentary Mansome, which Paladin acquired for US Theatrical. It has since grossed a very wimpy $36,280 showing that the days of, “Super Size Me” have long since passed.

This Keanu Reeves produced doc opened last week

FINAL THOUGHTS: Several of these deals have only taken place in the past few weeks (though the fest was back in April) and there were fewer than five deals to report during the festival. There is still a lot of value to screening at Tribeca, but it seems it serves more as a pre-launch into the Cannes market. With Tribeca Films buying so many films both before and after the festival, it raises the question of what is there for other buyers? They have also yet to have a film that has broken out both theatrically and on VOD though “Struck by Lightning” has real potential to do strong business.

Conspicuously absent this year was Magnolia Pictures, Oscilloscope, and The Weinstein Company. All of them are based in Manhattan and TWC and Magnolia struck documentary gold with films they bought at last year’s festival. It is doubtful that any of them would jump into the fray at this point, but it does seem to hint that the commercial prospects for films this year at the festival were not perceived to match those of last year’s slate. The festival still has to figure out how to excite the industry in NYC and convince them that they should go to a festival in their own town.

All that said though, the amount of deals shows that the festival is an increasingly good alternative to Sundance and potentially even SXSW.

ADDITIONAL FESTIVAL DEALS
Since the last blog posts about SXSW and Sundance there are a few more deals to report and some DIY movement.

-Sundance saw a number of films announce deals or DIY  plans in the past month.

-Wolfe Releasing secured US DVD/VOD rights to the Sundance documentary Love Free or Die.  In addition and in partnership with Wolfe, Kino Lorber will handle the film for educational/non-theatrical screenings. It will have its television premiere on PBS stations nationwide as part of the series “Independent Lens.”

– Fellow US Documentary competition title A Place At The Table (It was called “Finding North” At Sundance) was acquired for the US by Magnolia Pictures. They will release in partnership with Participant Media. The deal was negotiated by Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment.

-Drafthouse films went for Wrong and will release the film in North America in 2013. It is only the third World Dramatic film to get distribution in the states from this years festival.

-Kimstim Films will be releasing Bestiaire theatrically starting October 19th. This makes it the second of the New Frontier films to secure a theatrical release this year.

-Grand Jury Prize winning documentary The House I Live In will be released theatrically by Abramorama with guidance by Cinetic. Snag films has acquired domestic distribution rights to the film.

-Earlier this month, world documentary competition film Big Boys Gone Bananas did a DIY theatrical, Oscar qualifying run in NY and LA.

There are still over two dozen films from this year’s Sundance that have yet to sell or establish DIY distribution. Of those, almost half were in the world dramatic competition section. Still, when compared to other film festivals, its sales numbers are fantastic! Over ¾ of the films that premiered at the festival this year have been acquired or announced plans for DIY distribution.

On the SXSW front, IFC Midnight decided to stick its teeth into The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (Formerly called “Jeff”). They acquired both North American and UK rights. The deal was negotiated by Submarine Entertainment.  Producers Distribution Agency is betting on Brooklyn Castle which they will release in the US October 19th. Based on how their first three features The Way (BO gross $4.4m), Exit Through the Gift Shop (BO gross $3.2m) and Senna (BO gross $1.6m did this should be one of, if not the highest grossing film to come out of SXSW.  Finally, Tribeca Films could not say no to Somebody Up There Likes Me (with Nick Offerman). They took North American rights to the SXSW world premiere. The deal was negotiated by Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers LLP. Snag Films continues its best of fest approach and acquired domestic distribution rights to Grand Jury Prize documentary Beware of Mr. Baker Abramorama is handling the theatrical.

A full list of sales deals from Tribeca is listed below. Box office grosses and release dates are current as of August 19th.

 

Film Company Territories Sales Company Box Office/
Release Date
As Luck Would Have It IFC Midnight US and UK Premiered at Berlin
Benji ESPN Films PRE FEST
Beyond the Hills Sundance Selects North America Wild Bunch
Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story Tribeca Films North America Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Broke ESPN FILMS PRE FEST
Death of a Superhero Tribeca Films              $607
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey Cinedigm US
Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie Magnolia US Submarine Entertainment
Freaky Deaky Entertainment One North America Paradigm
Jack and Diane Magnolia Pictures Worldwide
Knife Fight IFC US WME INDEPENDENT
Knuckleball Filmbuff Digital Distribution Rights        September
let fury have the hour paladin
lola versus fox searchlight acquired pre fest $252603
Mansome Paladin US Theatrical $36,280
One Nation Under Dog HBO Doc Films PRE FEST DEVELOPED
Planet of Snail Cinema Guild US Bought out of IDFA $7978
Queen: days of our lives Eagle Rock Entertainment PRE FEST ALREADY ON DVD
Replicas IFC Midnight US Turtles Crossing LLC
Resolution Tribeca Films North America XYZ Films
Revenge For Jolly Sony Worldwide US and Canada UTA Independent Film Group
Room 514 Film Movement North America
Side By Side Tribeca Films North America Justin Szlasa and attorney Marc Simon $6956
Sleepless Night Tribeca Films US Bac Films
Struck By Lightning Tribeca Films US Traction Media and ICM Partners
The Flat Sundance Selects North/Latin America, UK, Scandinavia
The Giant Mechanical Man Tribeca Films US $7,396
The Russian Winter Film Buff US
The Visionaries Kino Lorber North America            October
The Zen of Bennett Netflix  Exclusive bought Pre fest
Town of Runners ESPN Films PRE FEST
Una Noche Sundance Selects North America
Unit 7 HBO US Pay TV and VOD Vicente Canales’ Film Factory
Wagner’s Dream NCM Fathom Events and the Met Screened with The Ring Cycle in May
War Witch Tribeca Films US Premiered at Berlin
Whole Lotta Sole Arc US
Yossi Strand North America Films Distribution partner Nicolas Brigaud-Robert

 

NB: In an effort to put these  films in a useable context for filmmakers/investors/distributors, we have provided information (when available) on country of origin, notable names involved, and estimated production budget. From this information, one can see where the sales trends seemed to be at the festival.

August 22nd, 2012

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, Theatrical

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

This article first appeared on the Sundance Artist Services blog on August 13, 2012

written by  Bryan Glick with assistance from Sheri Candler and Orly Ravid

Indie Game: The Movie has quickly developed a name not just as a must-see documentary but also as a film pioneer in the world of distribution. Recently, I had a Skype chat with Co-directors James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot . The documentary darlings talked about their indie film and its truly indie journey to audiences.

Swirsky and Pajot did corporate commercial work together for five years and that eventually blossomed into doing their first feature. “We thought it would take one year, but it ended up taking two. I can’t imagine working another way, we have a wonderful overlapping and complimentary skill set, ” said Pajot. “We both edited this film, we both shot this film. It creates this really fluid organic way of working. It’s kind of the result of 5 or 6 years of working together. I don’t think you could get a two person team doing an independent film working like we did on day one. It’s stressful at times but the benefits are absolutely fantastic, ” said Swirsky.

According to Swirsky, Kickstarter covered 40% of the budget. “We used it to ‘kickstart’, we asked for $15000 on our first campaign which we knew would not make the film, but it really got things going. The rest of the budget was us, personal savings.”  The team used Kickstarter twice; the first in 2010 asking for $15,000 and ended up with $23,341 with 297 backers. On the second campaign in 2011, they asked for $35,000 and raised $71,335 with 1,559 backers.

The hard work, dedication, and talent paid off. Indie Game: The Movie was selected to premiere in the World Documentary Competition section at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival winning Pajot and Swirsky the World Cinema Documentary Film Editing Award . “[Sundance] speaks to the independent spirit. It’s kind of the best fit, the dream fit for the film. Just being a filmmaker you want to premiere your film at Sundance. That’s where you hear about your heroes,” noted Swirsky. “Never before in our entire careers have we felt so incredibly supported…They know how to treat you right and not just logistics, it’s more ‘we want to help you with this project and help you next time.’ It was overwhelming because we’ve never had that. We’ve just never been exposed that,” interjected Pajot

They hired a sales agent upon their acceptance into Sundance and the film generated tons of buzz before it arrived at the festival resulting in a sales frenzy. The filmmakers wanted a simultaneous worldwide digital release,  but theatrical distributors weren’t willing to give up digital rights so they opted for a self release. “There were a lot of offers, they approached us to purchase various rights. We felt we needed to get it out fairly quickly and in the digital way. A lot of the deals we turned down were in a little more of the traditional route. None of them ended up being a great fit,” said Pajot.

Several people were stunned when this indie doc about indie videogame developers opted to sell their film for remake rights to Scott Rudin and HBO. Pajot explained, “He saw the trailer and reached out a week or so before Sundance. That was sort of out of left field because it wasn’t something we were pursuing.” Swirsky added, “They optioned to potentially turn the concept into a TV show about game development…As a person who watches stuff on TV, I want this to exist. I want to see what these guys do with it.” The deal still left the door open for a more typical theatrical release. However that was only the start of their plan.

“We had spoken to Gary Hustwit (Helvetica). We sort of have an understanding of how he organized his own tours. We had to make our decision whether that was something we wanted to utilize. Five days after Sundance, we decided we would and were on the road 2 weeks after… Before Sundance this was how we envisioned rolling out…[We looked at] Kevin Smith and Louis C.K. and what they’re doing. We are not those guys and we don’t have that audience, but knowing core audience is out there, doing this made sense,” said Swirsky.

Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky

They proceeded to go on a multi-city promotional tour starting with seven dates and so far they have had 15 special events screenings of which 13 were sold out! This is separate from 37 theaters across Canada doing a one night only event. They also settled on a small theatrical release in NYC and LA.  When talking about the theaters and booking, they said theaters saw the sellout screenings and that prompted interest despite the fact that the film was in digital release. They accomplish all of this with a thrifty mindset. “P&A was not a budgetary item we put aside and if an investment was required, we would dip into pre orders. We didn’t put aside a marketing budget for it,” said Swirsky. Regarding the pre order revenue, they sold a cool $150,000 in DVD pre-orders in the lead up to release of the film. From this money, they funded their theatrical tour.

While the theatrical release was small, it generated solid enough numbers to get held over in multiple cities and provided for vital word of mouth that will ultimately make the film profitable. The grosses were only reported for their opening weekend, but they continued to pack the houses in later weeks.”I don’t look back at the box office. The tour was more profitable than the theatrical…They both have the benefits, having theatrical it gets a broader audience. It was more a commercial thing than box office,” said Swirsky. “We are still getting inquiries from theaters. They still want to book it despite the fact it’s out there digitally,” said Pajot. “We had this sort of hype machine happening. We didn’t put out advertising. Everything was through our mailing that started with the 300 on our first Kickstarter and through Twitter,” said Swirsky. Now the team has over 20,000 people on their mailing list and over 10,000 Twitter followers.  In order to keep this word of mouth and enthusiasm going, the filmmakers released 88 minutes of exclusive content – most of which didn’t make the final cut – to their funders, took creative suggestions from their online forum and sent out updates on the games the subjects of their film were developing over the course of the two years the film was in production.

Following the success the film has enjoyed in various settings, Indie Game: The Movie premiered on three different digital distribution platforms. If you were to try and guess what they were though, you would most likely only get one right. While, it is available on the standard iTunes, the other two means of access are much more experimental and particularly appropriate for this doc.

It is only the second film to be distributed by VHX as a direct DRM-free download courtesy of their, ‘VHX For Artists‘ platform. Finally, this film is reaching gamers directly through Steam which is a video game distribution platform run by Valve. This sterling doc is also only the second film to be sold through the video game service, where it was able to be pre-ordered for $8.99 as opposed to the $9.99 it costs across all platforms. This is perhaps the perfect example of the changing landscape of independent film distribution. Every film has a potential niche and most of these can arguably be reached more effectively through means outside the standard distribution model. Why should a fan of couponing have to go through hundreds of films on Netflix before even finding out a documentary about couponing exists, when it could be promoted on a couponing website?

As they are going into uncharted territory, both Pajot and Swirsky avoided making any bold predictions.”It’s just wait and see. It’s an experiment because we’re the first movie on Steam. We’re really interested to look at and talk about in the future. I don’t want to make predictions…I do think documentary lends itself to that kind of marketing though. We’re trying to not just be niche but there is power in that core audience. They are very easy to find online,” said Swirsky.

Just because they are pursuing a bold strategy doesn’t mean they were any less cost conscious. “The VHX stuff, it was a collaboration, so there were no huge costs. Basically subtitles, a little publicity costs from Von Murphy PR and Strategy PR who helped us with theatrical. Those guys made sense to bring on,” said Pajot. “A lot of our costs were taken up by volunteers. If they help us do subtitles, they can have a ticket event, a screening in their country,” added Swirsky.

They also note that a large amount of their profit has been in pre-orders. 10,000 people have pre-ordered one of their three DVD options priced at $9.99, $24.99 and a special edition DVD for $69.99 tied with digital. While the film focused on a select few indie game developers, they interviewed 20 different developers and the additional footage is part of the Special Edition DVD/Blu-Ray. That might explain why it’s their highest seller.

All this doesn’t mean that any of the dozens of other options are no longer usable. Quite the contrary,  they have also taken advantage of the Sundance Artist Services affiliations to go on a number of more traditional digital sites. Increased views of a film even if on non traditional platforms can mean increased web searches and awareness and could be used to drive up sales on mainstay platforms.

The real winner though is ultimately the audience. For the majority of the world that doesn’t go to Sundance or Cannes each year, this is how they can discover small films that were made with them in mind. The HBO deal aside, this is bound to be one incredibly profitable documentary that introduces a whole new crowd to quality art-house cinema. “We are still booking community screenings. If people want to book, they can contact us…We are thinking maybe we might do another shorter tour at some point,” said Pajot.

Here’s to the independent film spirit, alive and well.

Update Feb 2013: The creators of Indie Game have written their own case study discussing the many tools and techniques they used. Head over to their website for the full study. 

August 16th, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, DIY, Film Festivals, iTunes, Marketing, Publicity, Theatrical

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Orly Ravid

It is difficult to definitively explain what The Film Collaborative (TFC) does in a few sentences. Often, when asked for a company bio for a speaking engagement, we are asked to sum up in a few words, but here is the thing…we do different things for different films and that is what makes this non profit company devoted to independent film distribution different. We are a membership organization and we offer a menu of services that are separately available.  For our members, we are largely an educational and informational organization. We will work with any film/filmmaker to provide consultation and educational resources which are included in our membership fees.

We can provide services such as: worldwide festival distribution, worldwide sales, domestic sales, worldwide direct digital, domestic theatrical, limited domestic educational distribution, grassroots / social network marketing services, and contract negotiation services. These are all subject to additional fees so the filmmaker must have significant budget to allow for the labor and expenses incurred and our acceptance depends on the workload currently undertaken by the company.

We also serve in a sales agent capacity with SOME films. Due to this dual nature (educational and service oriented), we are very discerning about the films we take on in this capacity. We can work on any aspect of distribution, but with a strong emphasis on direct distribution being part of  your overall distribution strategy. We can connect you with service providers/buyers we think are right for your film, and ones we trust and recommend, but WE NEVER OWN YOUR RIGHTS and filmmakers can cancel the service at any time. This clearly sets us apart from other sales agents and can be confusing to those who are accustomed to typical sales agent arrangements. The deals we make are almost always between the buyer and the filmmaker. The only exception to this are bulk deals whereby doing the deals individually is just tortuous for all involved.  We are very boutique in our sales agent offerings, not wanting to disappoint or take on more than we can handle. If we don’t think a title is suited to our strengths and our mission to offer quality films of artistic merit with strong distribution potential, then we don’t take them on for sales representation. Which brings us to merit…

Not all films will have distribution potential, not all films are good, not all films have an audience, or not a significant one. There, we said it! Time and again we see filmmakers willingly, enthusiastically going into debt, either raising money from investors or credit cards and coming to us for help in getting their creations out into the world. Sometimes those creations just won’t have a life out there and no matter what is spent in time or money, a significant audience won’t be found. We drill down into every member’s film in order to give the best assessment, but there are times when the prognosis is not favorable to the kind of success they are seeking.

For members’ films, we remove our  personal tastes from the equation and try our best to determine WHO in the world would be enthusiastic for the film and how many such folks are out there? And where are they? And can they be reached given the resources available? When you made the film, were you thinking of an audience?  When you came to us expecting the film to: get TV sales, international sales, a nice Netflix fee, a theatrical release, a theatrical even after you did a DIY DVD and iTunes release, were you basing that on another film that is similar? Do you understand the decision making process involved in the buying of films for release? Was any research at all conducted BEFORE the production started? With the amount of information on our site and thousands of others online, there is no longer an excuse for not knowing the answers to these questions well before a production starts.

I am starting to want to be the tough love nursemaid and say we don’t want your babies to be orphans. Filmmakers now have to educate themselves a bit before conception and well before giving birth so they will be able to  cover all the rearing their film baby is going to need to claw its way through the mobs of other film babies, their TV siblings,  Webcontent cousins, and the rest of their multimedia distraction family. As with conceiving real babies, it is all fun and games until the reality of raising a child sets in. You need to be fully prepared for the long haul.

We have information, we keep up with the current shifting sands of distribution, we receive opportunities because we represent quality films, we have contacts, years of expertise, we’re friendly, we’re not gonna f*ck you over, but we cannot save every film from oblivion nor can we convert every film into a success however you define it.  So much of that has to start with you, being clear and honest with yourself, before you say “action”.

 

photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor

August 8th, 2012

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, International Sales, Marketing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

by David Averbach, Creative Director, The Film Collaborative

In the past two and a half years, The Film Collaborative has worked closely with hundreds of films. When it comes to Creative, such as key art, trailers, web sites, press kits and stills, we see a lot of small and not-so-small mistakes. As Creative Director of TFC, it’s my job to flag anything that could pose a problem, whether it’s on the film festival circuit, being presented to film buyers, or being prepared for digital distribution. In the coming months, I’m going to try and tackle many of these items one by one in depth. The first blog, if it indeed will fit in just one post, will focus on the technical, aesthetic and practical concerns involved with creating key art. In the meantime, I offer some teaser “tips”:

Trailers.

If your film is having a theatrical release, or even if it’s not, chances are that you will want it to be on iTunes one day, either in the iTunes store for sale/rent, or on iTunes Movie Trailers before your theatrical. Apple is very strict with their trailer specs: you’ll need to produce either a 1080p or 720p .mov file that is either uncompressed or outputted in ProRes HQ. They will not accept up-res’d or otherly compressed trailers. So make sure you leave room in your budget to produce such a file, because you may need your lab to do it for you. The good news is that a 2 minute trailer will generally fit on a data DVD, or a USB thumb drive, so you won’t need to buy a special hard drive to submit.

But there is one more catch: the trailer needs to basically be PG, or approved for appropriate audiences. Remember, trailers are not behind Apple’s pay wall. Apple will reject trailers that have expletives (even in subtitles) and nudity of any sort (including sex toys), and could reject a trailer for the same things that the might cause the MPAA to give the trailer anything but a green band if it were ever to be submitted for a rating, such as underage drinking, pot smoking, excessive violence, etc. So while cursing and nudity will definitely be rejected, for those of you who point to other trailers on iTunes with someone snorting cocaine in them, I would respond to you this way: why risk it? Are these things so essential to your trailer that you would want to have to pay your lab or editor to redo it, while at the same time postponing getting your trailer up? Remember, the majority of Apple’s trailers come pre-rated by the MPAA, who is known for being wildly inconsistent when it comes to their rating rationales. I have no reason to believe Apple is any different, and we know so little about their process that it doesn’t make sense to take chances. So if you want to create a racy trailer, that’s fine. Just also remember to create a squeaky clean version as well.

Press Kits.

Do you NEED a “designed” press kit? You know, the kind that has edge-to-edge bleed? The short answer: probably not, unless your film gets into a top-tier festival in Europe with a film market, such as Belinale/EFM or Cannes/Marché du film. Because if you don’t, it will be like showing up in a tweed jacket to a black tie wedding. Those Europeans have really nice press kits, with all of their fund and film foundation logos, so it’s best to play the game. And I believe that Berlinale asks for a certain number of printed copies to be sent to them in advance, and Cannes makes their press kits available for download right from the film detail page, so make sure you keep this in mind. Otherwise, there’s really no reason why your press kit can’t be a PDF of a Word document.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Why not use the same or similar fonts to the ones in your key art (you can even ask your designer to give you the fonts or your title treatment for this purpose) and create a really good-looking press kit yourself. But if you’re doing it in Word, don’t despair too much about how it looks when it is printed out. Very few people will do this, so don’t import hi-res photos into Word…it will only weigh your final document down. Use web-res photos (72 dpi sized down to no larger than 7.5″ wide) so that they can fit in your document and your file size can still remain relatively low. The last thing you want is a 12MB press kit…it’s just bad form. Keep it under 2MB, but absolutely no more than 4MB. Also keeping it in Word allows you to update it more regularly with new quotes or laurels. If you need samples, there are many examples of good-looking press kits on the TFC site.

Press Stills.

The stills you include in your press kit do not have to be the same set as the ones you make available to the Press and to film festivals? Why? Because in your press kit, they will be viewed as a group. In a review article or in a film festival catalog, there will be no more than a handful, and more often than not, they will only choose one, and you won’t get to choose which. Regrettably, many filmmakers send us photos to put up that are just plain dull; that have unreasonable copyright restrictions; or that are lo-res or poor quality. So, what questions should you be asking yourself when accessing photos? Here are a few: Does this photo represent the film well enough if that’s the only photo used? Will this photo make anyone want to see my film? Is this photo compelling? Engaging? Do you have a famous or recognizable star in your film? How will that photo look when placed next to six others in a festival catalog? Am I thinking about marketing when I chose this photo or am I thinking about art? If this were the only photo shown, does it make sense in conjunction with the synopsis I’m providing about my film?

Another recommendation: Embargo the main still you choose for your key art. Otherwise, your campaign can look unnecessarily narrow. If you look at the film carousel on TFC’s home page, you’ll see that each film has a different image as the main image in the carousel than from the image used most prominently in the poster.

And if you are using 1080p stills, which are only 1980 pixels wide (about 6.5 inches at 300dpi) do not crop your images, as festivals may need to use every inch to fit the design spec of their catalogs. Many festivals like having 16:9 images.

And for Pete’s sake, do not be stingy with your press stills. Make them available. Easily. Don’t require passwords or permission or complicated ways to download. You don’t have to offer every still this way, but you should have 5-10 that can go out into the world without complications.

Key Art.

Design your posters to be 2:3. Not the proportions of 8.5×11, or 11×17, or something else. This will give you the greatest flexibility as you move forward with marketing.

So, if we’re talking web-res, like for IMDB of if you’re submitting for VOD, 1200×1800 is a great size to give them, although Apple requires 1666×2500. They don’t display the art this big, but they appreciate being sent these sizes, not tiny thumbnails.

But even before you are submitting, have your designer output samples in a variety of sizes, like 600×900, 300×450, 200×300 and 150×225 (all multiples of 2:3), or resize them yourself in Photoshop or Apple’s Preview app. Why? Because you need to access your art and see how it’s going to look in a variety of sizes. What will it look like when it appears in the iTunes store or Netflix or Flixter next to an array of other titles? What happens when you see it a little bigger, like on a detail page? Can you make out the title and the main image? This is probably the most important question you need to ask regarding the value of your key art, and you need to do it in the size it will be when it’s finished.

How about printed one-sheets? Printed posters in the U.S. are either 27×39 or 27×40. It’s close to 2:3 but not exactly. And you may need up to a .25” bleed on all sides. So tell your designers to design to 27.5 x 41.25. That is 2:3, so you can then take your huge poster file and resize it down to your webres sizes. Make sure to leave plenty of room on all sides, so you’ll be able to crop it to the size your printer can print, and also you won’t run into the risk of having the edges of your poster blocked by a marquee and making your poster feel unnecessarily cramped.

Website.

Do you need a website? Yes. Will people think less of your film if you throw up a generic-looking WordPress site? Yes. Stay away from flash sites…they are pretty but costlier and harder to maintain and not viewable on many, many mobile devices. The best sites integrate Facebook, have a trailer, provide a list of where the film is screening, and have a place where film festivals/industry can go to get what they need. This is the minimum. I believe that it’s better for your site to inspire confidence by good aesthetics and do less than for your site to do everything under the sun and look like heck. Because there’s always your Facebook fan page as well. I’m certain that our Director of Social Network Marketing has a lot to say on this subject, so maybe in the future, you’ll see a joint blog post where the two of us can hash out the relationship between website form and function.


I hope these tips were helpful. And TFC members, keep in mind that if you need advice about any of your creative, you can request that some of the hours you receive for distribution analysis with your TFC membership go toward advice about your Creative.

August 1st, 2012

Posted In: Creative, Key Art




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