[ Digital cinema, democratization, and other trends remaking the movies ]

AD: Fans, Friends & Followers

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Now totally free, forever: The e-book version of "Fans, Friends & Followers"

I've been slow to do this, with busy-ness as my only excuse, but I'm now making the PDF/e-book version of my 2009 book Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age available as a free download. It's about 5 megabytes. Share it with anyone you'd like. If you find it useful, you can make a PayPal donation using the button below.

Info about how to purchase the paperback or Kindle versions are here, on the book's website.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Goodbye to Bob Lambert, one of Hollywood's true champions of innovation

Visiting Bob Lambert in his office in the ABC Studios Building, for me, was like going to see an archivist, an oracle, and a city councilman. Bob, who spent 25 years at Disney, eventually becoming the media company's top technology executive, was all of that. He knew the history of technologies in Hollywood — both celebrated and forgotten. He could see the future. And, like any good city councilman, he understood the politics and alliances required to actually get things done.

I learned today that Bob died last Friday. Here is an obituary from The Hollywood Reporter, and there are many remembrances on his Facebook page. He was 55.

I'd met Bob only a few times as a reporter for Variety, and a blogger for CinemaTech, before he offered his help on a book I was working on about Hollywood's technological history. He was generous with his time, with introductions, and with his files. As someone who had helped introduce Disney to non-linear editing, worked to digitize the animation process in collaboration with a startup called Pixar, and nudged the movie industry toward digital delivery of its product, in cinemas and over the Internet, you couldn't have asked for a better guide than Bob. He was one of the central nodes in Hollywood's new technology network. Just about every emerging technology was on his radar screen, and he had a strong opinion about all of it. Bob was funny, curious, encouraging...and he had a remarkably small ego for someone who had operated in the movie business for almost his entire career.

The last time I saw Bob was a surprise. I'd gone up to visit a company in New Hampshire, Laser Light Engines, that was working on a laser-based lamp system for digital projectors. One benefit was that it would brighten the gloomy look of most 3-D films. (Bob would later join the company as a board member.) Nashua, New Hampshire, was one of the last places I'd have expected to bump into Bob, who had recently left Disney. We did the usual chit-chat around the conference table, stared at some PowerPoint slides, and then slipped into a makeshift screening room that Laser Light Engines had set up. We sat next to each other, and the lights went down, and we watched a succession of movie clips and trailers projected using the company's technology.

It was Bob in his natural habitat... getting a glimpse of the future of cinema, and weighing in later on what needed work, and how it might realistically find a path to the market.

I'm sorry he won't be around to shape what happens next.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Looking for People Who've Made the Leap

I've started work on my next book project. It's about people who've taken the leap... leaving a secure job for the unknown.

I'm hoping to interview you, or someone you know, if this describes you:

- You left a job that was pretty safe and secure, but just wasn't taking you where you wanted to go with your life.

- You're now chasing your dreams, doing something that you believe you were put on this earth to do. That doesn't have to be making movies or touring the world with your band... it could be starting a restaurant, surfing school, personal training business, or stained glass studio.

- You've achieved some level of financial stability/success with your new career.

I'd love your help and ideas. My goal is to create a guide that will hopefully be inspiring and useful to others who want to make the leap. (I did it in 1997, when I quit my last full-time job.) Tweet me @ScottKirsner, or e-mail scott kirsner at gmail dot com.


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Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming: Jill Sobule in LA, and One More 'Fans, Friends' Workshop in Boston

An upcoming events alert for those of you in the Los Angeles or Boston areas...

- Jill Sobule, the singer/songwriter/entrepreneur who was such a hit at the 2010 edition of Distribution U. in LA (and who is featured in my book "Fans, Friends & Followers"), is playing a show with Julia Sweeney in LA Tuesday night. Her tour schedule also includes dates in Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and beyond.

- And next month, in Boston, I'll be doing a two-hour workshop focused on the newest strategies that artists (and arts organizations) are using to enlarge their audiences. This one is sponsored by ArtsBoston and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, and it's pretty affordable ($35 for people who aren't members of one of those organizations.) It happens April 6th, from 3 to 5 PM at the Boston Center for the Arts. It'll be an updated and expanded version of the talks I gave last November at the two Distribution U. events.

Would love your help spreading the word about either/both events...

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Advice from Joel: Tools for Connecting with Bloggers, Twitterers, Superfans and Groups

Indie producer and editor Joel Heller ran a great lunch discussion at last month's Distribution U. event in Los Angeles, focused on developing a powerful online outreach strategy. Joel worked on the digital marketing strategy for the excellent doc "Winnebago Man," which premiered at South by Southwest in 2009 and was recently released on DVD and on iTunes.

Joel was nice enough to share the notes from his session, along with a collection of links that'll benefit anyone planning an Internet marketing campaign for a forthcoming film, especially as you think about finding existing sites and communities that are likely to be aligned with your theme — what I call "going where your audience is." (I learned a lot from Joel's notes; who knew it was possible to search people's Facebook walls?)

From Joel:


Begin to identify your film’s potential “ecosystem” by searching these websites that host groups & discussion forums.

Tip: Keep an open mind when brainstorming groups that might be interested in your film. We discovered late in our release that pit bull owners were interested in WINNEBAGO MAN. The main character has a pit bull, but we didn’t think to reach out to pit bull owners until someone asked us for a flyer to promote the film to her local pit bull club. After that, we reached out to pit bull clubs in other cities and offered free tickets to the group leaders to come to see the film on opening night.

Tip: When approaching group leaders to work with you, be prepared with ideas of what your can offer them of value. Can you promote their cause? A joint fundraising screening? A poster giveaway or passes to see the movie?


It’s easy to monitor who’s talking about your film and what they’re saying. Google Alerts can be set up to monitor everything from mainstream newspaper sources to blogs and websites.

Tip: Set up Google Alerts, not only to monitor your movie, but for other recently released movies (with similar genre or subject matter). This will help you identify reviewers, bloggers, websites and groups that might also be interested in your film.

Tip: You can configure Google Alert Manager to deliver the results as an RSS newsfeed. I prefer this to getting a deluge of emails. (You must be signed into your Google account to access the alerts manager)
My settings are: Everything / As-It-Happens / All Results / RSS Feed


Facebook allows you to search the wall posts of anyone who has not set up their wall to be private. It’s the online equivalent of standing outside a movie theater and listening to how people talk about your movie to their friends.

Tip: This is a great way to discover superfans – who you can message and invite to join your street team. (FB is especially useful for messaging, since Twitter does not allow you to privately message someone unless they are already following you.)


While Twitter’s search function is limited to recent tweets, Google offers a robust historical Twitter search.
Enter your search term, click search, then select on left side: More > Realtime

Tip: Use the the timeline tool in the upper right corner to go back in time.


Row Feeder is a great tool to automatically archive Twitter and FB wall posts. For each search term you choose, Row Feeder will archive every related tweet and wall post, and save it into a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Tip: If you find yourself addicted to searching Twitter every hour, this is a great way to unplug - and know that you won’t miss anything. Google Doc spreadsheets can be shared, so your whole team can privately access the spreadsheet online.

Tip: You can sort the spreadsheet by any field, so for example, you can easily identify Twitter users with the largest number of followers.


With limited time and resources, how do you decide where to focus your online marketing efforts? These tools show you estimated website traffic. (But traffic should not be your only consideration... Most importantly, how good a fit is your film for a website’s audience?)


Tools to make sense of who’s who on Twitter.

Tip: Study how other people are using Twitter successfully. Helpful resources include:


Popular key words and trends can provide a window into how people think - and what they’re looking for online. How can you make it easier for them to stumble upon your film?


Normal YouTube searching buries new videos in the results, so this is useful discovering fan reaction videos and mash-ups as they get posted:
Enter search term, click search, then select: Search Options > Upload Date

Tip: You can send a private message to any YouTube user by clicking on their username and then “send message”.


Google Analytics offers a wealth of data to help you identify how people are using your website, and how they found you.

Tip: Here are the analytics I find most useful:

Traffic Sources > Referring Sites
What websites linked to your site & how many visitors did they deliver?
Traffic Sources > Keywords
What search terms brought people to your website?
Visitors > Map Overlay
Visitors broken down by their geographic location. You can drill down by country, state and city.
Content > Top Content
What pages are popular on your site and what is the average time visitors spend on each page?

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Time Warner CEO compares Netflix to the Albanian army

Couldn't resist posting about this quote from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, on Netflix being overhyped. (Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was named "businessperson of the year" by Fortune.)

"It's a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world? I don't think so," Bewkes told a New York Times reporter.

Interesting comment from a CEO whose stock started the year at $30 a share and is ending it just below $32 a share; Netflix, by contrast, started the year at $53 and is ending it at $183. Who is it again, who is not going to take over the world?

I think what miffs media CEOs is that Netflix has spent the past decade developing a strong relationship with consumers, who view the site as delivering value for an $8, $10, or $20 per month plan. Meanwhile, most people have no connection or brand relationship at all with media companies and studios like Time Warner. Yes, they produce great content, but they've forgotten to build a digital relationship of their own with consumers.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's the biggest challenge facing indie filmmakers?

We posed that question to our Distribution U. audience at UCLA last Saturday. Here's what they said: