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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today's Conversation with Robert Greenwald at IFP

I'm at the IFP Filmmaker Conference today (or actually, I'm at an Apple Store in the meatpacking district because there's no WiFi in the conference venue)...and just finished with my late-morning Conversation with Robert Greenwald.

Some quick morsels from the session:

- Greenwald emphasized the importance of having a good title. (One of his early made-for-TV movies was 'Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers.') In today's world, when you often e-mail people about your latest film or online video, having an attention-getting subject line is equally important, he said.

- He talked about how he has been leveraging his team of volunteer "field producers" -- about 2,000 people around the world-- to help research his films, take still photos, shoot B-roll, and conduct interviews. This began with 'Uncovered' and has continued with his Internet video series about John McCain.

- Lately, he has shifted his focus to cranking out short videos for online consumption... most of them hosted on YouTube. It's important to hook viewers in the first five or ten seconds, he said, but there's no rulebook on how to do this. Greenwald says you don't have to be gratuitous -- naked women are not required -- and in fact being serious, and talking about issues that no one else is talking about, can be powerful.

- Greenwald initially relied on a mailing list run by MoveOn.org to connect with progressive, issues-oriented voters who might be interested in his movies. But he quickly discovered the importance of building his own mailing list.

- He said that someone passing along a video to a friend and saying, 'Watch this,' is the most powerful endorsement you can get -- and a near-guarantee that the recipient will watch.

- We touched on Brave New Theaters, a free tool Greenwald and his colleagues created to help filmmakers organize house parties to promote and sell their movies. (He joked that it is not open to right-wing filmmakers... at least I think it was a joke.)

- Just making a video and putting it on YouTube doesn't get you much action. Greenwald says he has a team of four people at his production company doing outreach and publicizing his videos, both to traditional TV and print media and also to bloggers.

I was amazed at the number of people in the audience who stood up at the mics to simply thank Greenwald for his work -- or volunteer to help him.

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