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Recent Talks on Building Your Fan base for Film

I’ve just gotten back from Atlanta, where I gave two different versions of the same presentation at Push Push Theater and GSU’s DAEL. I also gave a similar version of this talk at Mark Stolaroff’s No Budget Film School recently, and everyone keeps asking for me to post my slides. So here they are. Most of this won’t make sense without hearing me speak, but the slides are examples of what I’m talking about, and most people want them so they can explore the links further. The entire talk is about how to build your fan base, connect with those fans to support your work, and how to build what I call a “Plan A” for your film and career: which is, what you can do for your film without the help of anyone else, and then you evaluate this vs other offers (From distributors, for example) who must offer a better Plan B than your Plan A.

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Panel at IFP Week: Social Capital

I’m excited to be attending IFP Film Week this week. I’ll be doing acquisitions work for Brainstorm Media and DIrecTV, and also speaking on a panel about social capital. Here’s info from their website, and you can click here to learn about other panels, or to buy passes.

Social Capital: You’re Richer Than You Think:

Social capital is the goodwill and excitement generated by your network of invested friends, family and fans. It can help your projects earn wider audiences — but how much can it do toward creating financial success? What are the practical limits of the word of mouth? Is social capital always necessary to create a successful independent film — or to be a filmmaker? We’ll discuss and debate the importance of social capital with some of the forward-thinking creatives who maintain artistic integrity while making the most of their fanbases.

Panelists: me, Dana Harris (Indiewire, moderator); Emily Best (Seed & Spark), Jon Reiss (filmmaker and media strategist).

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Vote: Two Panels at SXSW

I’ve been asked to speak on two panels at SXSW this coming year. Both look great and are being organized by some cool folks. SXSW picks panels (largely) through online voting, so if you think these are good topics, please click through and vote. While you’re there, check out some of the other panels and vote for them as well.

Panel One: The Key to Making Money with Digital Discovery

In today’s content oversaturated world, digitally released films often get buried so deep that audiences can’t ever discover them. How can technical advancements work to make the world of independent film a better place? How can filmmakers ensure their films are more discoverable and get audiences to pay attention? While there is no silver bullet to virality, great content isn’t enough. It takes resources both financial and physical, which filmmakers often don’t have access to. But with new tools emerging that apply discovery technologies to video – changing the way we find and watch films, and making lesser-known media tools more accessible. The future is bright for filmmakers who know how to marry filmmaking, social media, and technology. Join Jonathan Marlow, CCO at Fandor, an industry leader in streaming entertainment, and other thought-leaders for a candid discussion about video discovery and how filmmakers can make their films more accessible, and ultimately, more profitable.

Put together by the folks at Fandor

Panel Two: Didn’t Get In To SXSW

Didn’t get your film accepted into SXSW? Don’t sweat it. Every year, thousands of films are rejected from major film festivals, yet many still go on to become major hits. Learn how to turn a negative into a positive by making your distribution “Plan B” into your “Plan A”! A panel of industry professionals will offer their expertise on how to pursue alternative (and potentially lucrative) methods of distribution for your film—even if you didn’t necessarily win that big name laurel.

Additional Supporting Materials:

Put together by the good folks at Passion River Films

I’m not on it, but I’m also a fan of this panel on subscription VOD

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Old People Rule the (Movie) World

I’m back from my social media and “real” vacations. During my vacation, we went to only one movie, a special screening of The Black Pirate with a live orchestral score by the Alloy Orchestra at the tiny Cape Ann Community Cinema in Massachusetts.  It reminded me of everything I love about the cinema – a small, local cinema with couches, good movie snacks and beers, a great film that barely gets shown anymore, a great score by some amazing musicians. This was event-based cinema at its best. But there was one “problem.” My wife and I, in our forties, were the youngest people in the room, probably by decades. As I thought about it, almost every arthouse movie I see in a theater (not at a festival) is predominantly older as well. That would seem to be a problem, but I think it could be turned into a good thing.

I love me my 80-year-old friends. Seriously – through some weird work factors, I’ve probably got more friends in their 80s than any other age group, and I think they’re much more interesting to hang with. Seriously, it has something to do with them forming their personalities before television, I think, but that’s another essay. So it’s not with any ageism that I say that the graying of the audience is a possible bad thing. Let’s face it, you don’t want your primary audience dying off on you, and if we aren’t building an audience of younger people who love going to movies, we might have some problems getting butts in the seats before too long.

There’s a lot of reasons for this situation, and I think most of us know them: younger people have more options for their time; they might like blockbusters more; etc. Perhaps the most important reason is quite simply that an older generation both grew up going to movies for entertainment, and that those who are retired have more time to go to the theater. What’s equally clear, however, is that there are not a ton of movies specifically aiming for this older demographic. Sure, there’s the occasional Boynton Beach Club by Susan Seidelman (which did great business in Florida), and of course not every “older” person wants to just watch films about their demographic, but if you look at any week’s list of indie/art-house openings, you’d be hard pressed to argue that anyone is taking this audience seriously. That’s a mistake, I think.

This audience is big, it’s growing and it tends to be well educated and just happens to love going to the movie theater, which is increasingly something that lots of people hate doing. There’s also a lot of great actors who don’t get cast as often (unless they’re a Redford and need to be the love interest of a teenager), which should mean cheaper casting for cash-starved indies. The audience actually reads the NYT, in print even, and will thus hear about your movie too. While I know many people focus on a younger demographic for a host of reasons, and that creatively, it can be good to work with what you know, it would seem to me that the entire industry, and especially smart indies and arthouse folks, should be focusing on those above the age of 40 or 50, and much even much higher, with the films, marketing and messaging. 

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I’m on social media vacation

It’s time for year four of my annual social media vacation. I won’t be around this blog/Tumblr, won’t be posting or reading on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, might accidentally post to Instagram and won’t be responding to anything sent to me that’s not on email or text. Oh, and for those who know me well, I take the last two weeks of August away from electronics entirely, so no phone or email either.

Why am I telling you this at all? Well, as I’ve said in the past when i’ve done this, I don’t want anyone to be offended if I don’t respond to them while I am away. I’m not important enough to just leave social media altogether, and some friends, clients and people I’ve never met but who contact me online, might not know I’ll be gone unless I tell them. 

Why do I do this? I’m not anti- social media in general, but I think that as much as it is changing the world for the better, it tends to stifle my personal creativity – instead of writing that novel, or that essay, or just enjoying life, I turn to social media as a giant procrastination tool, and I like to spend August being more creative. It’s helped every year, and I increasingly find it hard to come back to the social media world. So I encourage you to take your own little vacation and spend some time with your thoughts and see if it helps your creativity too.

So, until the day after Labor Day…

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Transmedia: Why I’m not Buying

My good friend Ted Hope recently posted a couple of blog posts about the indie/art world film biz, and how given that we live in an age of superabundance, we need to embrace new models. Specifically, that we “need to build extensions, collaborations, and expansive discovery nodes into your storyworld architecture,” and that we must “Show them ways that people can expand upon the narrative, where the background can be deepened, why people will engage deeply and often, and why they will feel they have a greater takeaway, a greater return, of the investment of their engagement.”

Really? And Really? I agree that we live in an era of superabundance, and I’ve given many speeches and lectures where I’ve addressed some creative and business strategies artists can adopt to get noticed and make a living in a time when everyone is an artist and over 40,000 films are submitted annually to film festivals each year. But while I agree that transmedia is one of those strategies, I don’t believe it is the only one, or even remotely close to the best one. Why?

Because I don’t want to be bothered with deepening my connection to you as an artist. I don’t want to see you expand your story world, and I don’t want to engage more deeply with your story. I just want to be entertained, or enlightened (or educated, or…) for some period of time. That’s all the pay-off I need. If you tell a cool story, I’ll come back for more. If you tell a certain story, it might lend itself to being serialized in some fashion and I might watch several episodes. Those few of you with a story that needs an entire story world and multiple platforms on which to tell it…I’m probably not that interested. Some people are, and if you’re an artist interested in this, by all means pursue it. But don’t forget, not every story fits this model, and not every fan wants to engage more deeply with all types of content. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of your fans don’t care for it either. I hear lots of buzz about transmedia, but after attending over a dozen conferences about it and speaking with multiple “experts” on it, I haven’t seen a single successful model in the indie/art world.

What’s more important to me is that artists can now build a direct connection to their fans. Online web video artists, mostly working in serial formats but some expanding to long-form, have had much more success than any example you can point to from the non-Hollywood/Comic-Con world in transmedia. They’re the ones to follow.

As I’ve said before: copy Freddie Wong (but in your own artistic way) or Jenna Marbles (seriously) or any one of the next generation of YouTube stars. That will lead you to a better business model than deepening your story world. In fact, don’t even use that term, it’s so horrible, possibly worse than transmedia. 

Instead, focus on slowly and painfully building your fan base. You might also build a project that happens to have a film, comic book and genetically modified ear of corn tie-in, but that isn’t what matters, only the fan base does.

So, in summary, I agree with Ted that we need new models, but I think they’re already being built and are easy to find. Indies just need to adapt them to our ends, and that shouldn’t be too hard.

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No (Data) Collection without Conversation

In an era where goods/products and money was king, governments over-reached and implemented taxes without representation. The great social cry of that time was “No Taxation without Representation.

We now live in an era where data is king, in both its public and private (secret) forms. Today’s government’s overreach in surveillance and collection. Yet we know almost nothing about what is collected and how it is used. We can’t even expect our representatives to debate or push back on any aspect of the surveillance/data collection because it is all secret. We need to be able to know what is collected, why and for what purpose and discuss whether it makes sense. Today’s social cry is “No Collection without Conversation.

Oh, and by the way, given the power of corporations today, and their data practices, this applies to them as well.

Postscript: Just after writing this, I saw Clay Shirky tweet about an earlier blog post he wrote saying “big data is our generation’s civil rights issue.”

Guess we’re all on the same wavelength these days, and he’s right. So let’s give it a rallying cry.

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Crowdfunding Projection Template

Thinking of launching a Kickstarter (or other) crowdfunding campaign? There’s a lot to consider – how much can I raise, what rewards should I offer, what shirt should I wear in my video? Too often, however, artists forget a lot of other details: fulfillment and processing costs amongst the many other factors.

Taylor Davidson has just launched a new financial modeling tool for anyone about to embark on a crowdfunding campaign. It gets very detailed – helping you estimate the impact of marketing, which rewards might be popular, costs and even let’s you compare what is going on to what you hoped.

I’ve used Taylor’s other financial models in my business, and I highly recommend that anyone considering a campaign use this template. It might help you plan for the unforseen, think of new ideas or just make sure you do it right.

Here’s the video from his site:

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Stephen Dane recounts experience on Blade Runner

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Stephen Dane recounts experience on Blade Runner

Stephen Dane recounts experience on Blade Runner

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