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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Video interview with Ian Calderon of the Sundance Institute

Here's an interview I shot in 2009 with Ian Calderon, who since 1981 has been the chief digital guy for the Sundance Institute and Film Festival.

In the 17-minute video, filmed at DCTV in Manhattan, Ian and I talk a bit about the challenges and opportunities indie filmmakers face in the digital world.... how 3-D releases might impact the world of independent film...Twitter (of course)...and how difficult it is becoming to break through the marketplace noise, whether you are submitting a film to Sundance or uploading a video to YouTube.

New Directions for Independent Cinema: Ian Calderon from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.

This video first appeared last week on Anne Thompson's excellent blog, Thompson on Hollywood. Anne's post alluded to a 2010 edition of The Conversation in New York, which is happening on March 27th. More soon...

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Monday, January 25, 2010

At Sundance, some new thinking about distribution

I was really encouraged to see this piece in the New York Times today, 'At Sundance, New Routes to Finding an Audience,' Brooks Barnes. It suggests that at least a few filmmakers who've gained entrance to one of the most prestigious indie film fests are thinking about using it as a launchpad for their distribution strategy.

From the piece:

    “We just want to encourage people to throw the traditional model out the window,” said Michael Mohan, the writer-director of “One Too Many Mornings,” a coming-of-age comedy that had its premiere here on Friday.

    Simultaneously, Mr. Mohan let users at download the movie for $10 and started selling DVDs for $20. For $35, customers get a DVD, a poster and a piece of the sofa featured in the film. Mr. Mohan is also selling the theatrical rights via the Web site for $100,000. “Forget a bidding war,” he said. “Whoever gets to their laptop the fastest gets it.”

    YouTube introduced its long-awaited movie rental option at this year’s festival by offering five Sundance films as soon as they had their premieres. The rentals — including “One Too Many Mornings” and “Bass Ackwards,” another film that bypassed the theatrical window — will cost $3.99.

    And for the first time, Sundance will make films available in about 40 million homes through cable and satellite on-demand services simultaneously with premieres. The program, Sundance Selects, includes “Daddy Longlegs,” about being torn between adulthood and childhood.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Saturday: Live Streaming of the Filmmaker Summit at Slamdance

Tune in Saturday, January 23rd for the live stream from the Filmmaker Summit at Slamdance, featuring speakers like Lance Weiler, Jamie King of 'Steal This Film,' Jon Reiss, Timo Vuorensola of 'Iron Sky,' and someone named Steven Soderbergh.

Here's part of their mission statement:

    We believe sustainable independent filmmaking is no longer about the production itself. Instead, it's about how filmmakers must now expand their role and take charge of reaching and engaging worldwide audiences across all viewing platforms. In this direct approach, the viewer is now collaborative, less passive and more connected then every before. New business models will emerge as a direct result of experimentation and transparency around process, the Filmmaker Summit is an attempt to chart a course towards sustainability one that is by filmmakers for filmmakers while at the same time being inclusive of the audiences that support them.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

From Sunday's NY Times: "Declaration of Indies: Just Sell It Yourself!"

NY Times film critic Manohla Dargis was at Distribution U. last November at USC, working on a piece about the revolution in indie film distribution.

Her piece appears in Sunday's paper, giving prominent play to the revolutionary ideas and efforts of people like Peter Broderick, Jon Reiss, Sacha Gervasi, Andrew Bujalski, and David Lynch. The opening:

    LAST November inside a conference room at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, a film consultant named Peter Broderick was doing his best to foment a revolution. Mr. Broderick, who helps filmmakers find their way into the marketplace, was spreading the word on an Internet-era approach to releasing movies that he believes empowers filmmakers without impoverishing them economically or emotionally. Mr. Broderick divides distribution into the Old World and New, infusing his PowerPoint presentation with insurgent rhetoric. He has written a “declaration of independence” for filmmakers that — as he did that afternoon — he reads while wearing a tricorn hat.

    In the Old World of distribution, filmmakers hand over all the rights to their work, ceding control to companies that might soon lose interest in their new purchase for various reasons, including a weak opening weekend. (“After the first show,” Mr. Broderick said, repeating an Old World maxim, “we know.”) In the New World, filmmakers maintain full control over their work from beginning to end: they hold on to their rights and, as important, find people who are interested in their projects and can become patrons, even mentors. The Old World has ticket buyers. The New World has ticket buyers who are also Facebook friends. The Old World has commercials, newspapers ads and the mass audience. The New World has social media, YouTube, iTunes and niche audiences...

Well worth a read. And here (again) is the video interview that Peter and I shot at Sundance 2009, talking about the future of indie film distribution. (We also hope to do at least one other edition of Distribution U. in 2010, so stay tuned.)

The Future of Indie Film Distribution: Peter Broderick from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Events for 2010: Canada, UK, NYC

I'm excited about four upcoming events, all of which involve travel to fun places and the opportunity to hang out with some leading-edge film, video, and TV folk...

In January, I'll be doing two workshops in Halifax and Montreal with Telefilm Canada. Both are called "Multiplatform, Multi-Success," and they're part of the Telefilm Canada initiative "From Cinemas to Cell Phones." (Participation in both of those requires an application.)

Also in January, on the 27th, I'll be doing a free workshop in Liverpool on "Building Audiences and Generating Revenue in the Digital Age." This is part of the Visionary Sessions series put on by Northwest Vision and Media. After my talk, the great Krishna Stott is running a related workshop. If you know folks in Liverpool/Manchester, let them know about it.

Then on March 14th at SXSW, I'll be running a session with filmmaker Gary Hustwit on "Fans, Friends & Followers: Creating Your Own Cult (of the Non-Apocalyptic Variety.)"

And we're starting to plan a NYC edition of The Conversation, likely at Columbia, in the March/April timeframe...more on that soon.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

And the data from 2009 says...

Here's a great chart published in the Wall Street Journal today about how Americans spent money on movies in 2008 and 2009:

A key passage from the related article, by Sarah McBride:

    For studios, which count on income from home entertainment to underwrite growing production costs, the trend represents a giant headache. In the early 2000s, studios began counting on the cash bonanza generated by consumers' building up libraries of DVDs. Now, they will have to alter budgets to reflect the shrinking DVD income stream.

    Hollywood is already offering more ways for consumers to watch movies at home while bolstering studio coffers, including digital delivery, but households aren't embracing them quickly enough to make up for eroding DVD sales.

    While Blu-ray disc sales are growing at a rapid rate, they too represent just a fraction of DVD sales. ...Instead, consumers are flocking to rentals, which represent considerably smaller profit for the studios, especially given the proliferation of $1-a-night rentals from kiosk operators such as Coinstar Inc.'s Redbox.

2009 was an amazing year for theatrical revenues -- perhaps a high water mark, thanks to the recession (movies offer an affordable night out) and an unusually strong and diverse release slate?

It seems clear from these trends that, for today, the bulk of revenues will still be from theatrical releases (if you can promote them and get butts in seats) and DVD sales and rentals. But indies need to have a smart strategy for digital, since that market is poised to grow -- and indies will be more flexible than the studios about pricing, free samples, and release windows, which could give them an edge. (Here's a New York Times story from this morning about how the studios are struggling to make their DRM-wrapped movie files more portable and flexible... without dropping the DRM, of course.)

What do you think 2009's revenue trends mean for indies?

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