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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5 Spots Remain for In-Depth Workshop on Building a Fan Base & Generating Revenue, 12/1 in San Francisco

I'm doing an in-depth version of my workshop on "Building Big Audiences and Generating Revenue in the Digital Age" next Tuesday evening, 12.1.09, at BAVC in San Francisco. There are just five spots left (and the registration rate goes up on Saturday at midnight... if any seats remain.)

We'll explore several important case studies of media pioneers who've built big fan bases online, including Joss Whedon, OK Go, M dot Strange, ze frank, Michael Buckley, and Jonathan Coulton. We'll talk about online fundraising, selling merchandise, digital downloads, and other new revenue streams. We'll detail some of the really simple techniques for turning a small audience into a big audience -- stuff I've picked up, and stuff you've picked up.

And as a group we'll brainstorm strategies for several projects being developed by the workshop participants.

Even though this is San Francisco, I'm assuming that participants are artists, not techno-whizzes, so this will be a workshop delivered in plain English, with lots of time for Q&A. I want you to leave with a few practical, powerful things on your to-do list, not questions and confusion.

The full description of this evening workshop is here. Everyone will get a free paperback copy of Fans, Friends & Followers.

I wrote the book for independent artists (filmmakers, musicians, stand-up comics, writers, artists) trying to make a giant dent in the world, without a major media conglomerate's resources. And that's exactly who this workshop is for.

Hope to see you there!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

"Fish Where the Fish Are" (Video w/ Tim Kring & Reif Larsen)

Last month, I had the chance to host a session with "Heroes" creator Tim Kring and author/artist Reif Larsen at the first annual Boston Book Festival.

Larsen's talk was hilarious; Kring spoke about the origins and essence of transmedia storytelling (although he also spent a bit too much time for my taste screening "Heroes" promos).

The message that stuck with me from this session was that if you want to be a storyteller, rather than struggling to get people to come to you (on whatever medium/distribution platform you've chosen to use), why not take your story to where the audience is? "Fish where the fish are," Kring says. That may mean bringing your message to cell phones, video games, embedded Web videos, whatever. You may be surprised at the artistic and economic sparks that fly in those different media.

The video is now up.

video platform
video management
video solutions
free video player

At the 45-minute mark, we talk about attention. I suggest the game that all storytellers are playing is about winning peoples' attention.

"Our greatest asset is our sustained attention," Larsen said, quoting Ken Burns (who had done a session earlier in the day that I missed.) "That's the asset that is quickly disappearing."

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Talking with Jon Reiss, Author of 'Think Outside the Box Office'

Back in September, I sat down with filmmaker Jon Reiss to talk about his forthcoming book, Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era.' Jon takes a very nuts-and-bolts approach to creating a distribution strategy that combines the best of the old world and the new world. The book just went on sale this week, and if you're in New York, Jon is giving a presentation tonight at the IFC Center. (Jon was a discussion leader at Distribution U. earlier this month in L.A., and the photo above is of him signing a few advance copies of Think Outside the Box Office at that event.)

In our conversation, we talked about:

- Why filmmakers still feel compelled to make feature-length films, when everyone is watching short videos on the Internet
- Developing a marketing and distribution strategy before you hit the festival circuit
- Thinking about your core audience, especially if you're making a narrative feature or a doc on a broad societal issue
- Services Jon recommends for selling DVDs and digital downloads.

You can download the MP3 (it runs about 14 minutes) here, or just click "play" below.

Your comments welcome...

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SXSW Panel Highlights: Audience-Building for Creatives (Video)

The folks at SXSW did a nice job plucking six minutes of highlights from a really jam-packed panel I moderated this past March.

The panel featured artist Natasha Wescoat, politics blogger Markos "Kos" Moulitsas, musician Jonathan Coulton, filmmaker Brett Gaylor, and animator Burnie Burns. (Everyone but Markos is featured in some way in Fans, Friends & Followers.)

I posted an MP3 of the complete panel earlier this year.... and in the current issue of SXSW World magazine, I have a short piece about audience-building on page 24.

New approaches to audience-building are a big focus of SXSW each year -- and it's obviously an issue I care a lot about.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Distribution U. Wrap-Up

Wow: two hundred filmmakers made their way to USC on Saturday (braving a walkathon that encircled the campus) to talk about the future of film marketing and distribution.

Amidst the continual caterwauling about the indie film “crisis,” Distribution U. was remarkably optimistic, as Peter Broderick and I had hoped it would be. Rather than organizing a panel where various experts would wring their hands about how it’s impossible to turn a profit making indie films anymore, our objective was to focus the day solely on strategies and tactics for finding an audience and earning a return.

I began the day by looking back at the history of cinema, briefly. Thomas Edison thought that movies projected for a communal audience would spell the end of his lucrative Kinetoscope business: the movie industry’s first existential crisis. In the late 1920s, most of Hollywood was convinced that sound technology was too expensive and complicated, and probably a passing fad anyway. TV was seen as a threat to the studios’ box office take, and a few decades later, once a big TV licensing business had emerged for movie studios, they were certain that the VCR and home taping would mean the end of that gravy train. Now, studio honchos and indies alike worry about declining DVD sales and digital revenues that, of course, will never be sufficient to support high-quality content creation.

But the bulk of my talk consisted of examples of how filmmakers (and musicians, artists, and writers) are engaging with their audience in new ways, and generating substantial revenues. (This was a one-hour version of a three-hour Fans, Friends & Followers workshop I’ll be giving in San Francisco on the evening of December 1st, at BAVC.)

Peter’s presentation was split into two hour-long parts, and though I’ve seen him speak several times before, each time there are new examples and clips that make me excited about the future. You can certainly keep hoping for the lottery ticket distribution deal, where someone hands you $10 or $20 million and turns your film into a great hit. Or you can be as creative with marketing and distribution as you were with your film, and take matters into your own hands.

One tidbit from Peter’s talk: he emphasized the need for filmmakers to create a persona – to be a human representation of their film, the “character” responsible for its creation. You might call this personal branding, and I know it doesn’t come as second-nature to every producer or director, some of whom prefer to operate behind-the-scenes. One of the filmmakers who was present at Distribution U. to lead a lunchtime discussion group, Adrian Belic (“Beyond the Call,” “Genghis Blues”), is a near-perfect example of someone who has cultivated a larger-than-life filmmaker persona. Belic is so enthusiastic about his movies, and bursts forth with stories about them, that you feel like the absolute next thing you must do is go see them.

We ended the day by inviting five filmmakers up to the stage to tell us a bit about their current project. (People were chosen at random.) Then, several of our guest experts – as well as other filmmakers in the audience -- offered constructive ideas and advice about marketing, sales, and distribution. (Among the folks who chimed in were Belic, Thomas Mai of Festival Darlings, filmmaker and marketing guru Marc Rosenbush, producer Cora Olsen, and Madelyn Hammond, most recently a top marketing exec at Variety and Landmark Theatres.)

The five films we talked about were:

- ”Two Spirits”

- ”Tricks”

- ”In My Sleep”

- “While Time Stands Still”

- ”Becoming Bert Stern”

It was a nice mix of narrative features and docs from some really driven, creative filmmakers.

We closed the day by asking the participants to boo if they were feeling more depressed and pessimistic than they had been in the morning. The room was quiet. Then we asked for applause if people were feeling more energized and enthusiastic, and it seemed like just about everyone was clapping.

Were you at Distribution U.? If so, what was the idea or tactic that struck you as most useful? What did you get out of the lunch discussion you were part of? Was there any advice you had for the five filmmakers who were part of the brainstorming session, but didn’t get a chance to impart? Do post a comment….

And here are some more pics from the event...

Madelyn Hammond leads a lunch discussion group.

Cora Olsen talks with the audience after her case study session.

Sacha Gervasi shares some advice with the audience.

Thomas Mai leads a lunchtime discussion on foreign sales.

Adrian Belic leads a lunchtime discussion group on theatrical bookings and working the festival circuit.

View from the back of the room. (Yes, we're hoping to release a DVD of the course at some point...)

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