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

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kickstarter: New Site for Crowd-Funding Projects

We've been following various sites for a while that aim to help film and video folks raise money for their projects. One of the newest entrants is Kickstarter, which seems to be open to any sort of film/video/music/art project.

They're featured in the New York Times today. From the piece:

    Earl Scioneaux III is not a famous music producer like Quincy Jones. He is a simple audio engineer in New Orleans who mixes live albums of local jazz musicians by day and creates electronic music by night. He had long wanted to pursue his dream of making his own album that married jazz and electronica, but he had no easy way to raise the $4,000 he needed for production.

    Then he heard about Kickstarter, a start-up based in Brooklyn that uses the Web to match aspiring da Vincis and Spielbergs with mini-Medicis who are willing to chip in a few dollars toward their projects. Unlike similar sites that simply solicit donations, patrons on Kickstarter get an insider’s access to the projects they finance, and in most cases, some tangible memento of their contribution. The artists and inventors, meanwhile, are able to gauge in real time the commercial appeal of their ideas before they invest a lot of effort — and cash.

    ...Mr. Scioneaux, who ultimately raised $4,100, offered a range of rewards to his supporters: for a $15 payment, patrons received an advance copy of the album; for $30, they got a personal music lesson as well. A payment of $50 or more got both of those, and a seat at Mr. Scioneaux’s dinner table for a bowl of his homemade gumbo and a chance to listen to some of his studio recordings. “I didn’t expect people to be all over that one,” he said, “but it sold out almost immediately.”

There's also more in a blog post on the Times' Web site.

Unfortunately, right now you have to be based in the US to use Kickstarter, and you have to get an invitation from some unknown source. Clearly, they don't want the site flooded with more projects that their donors can support... which seems smart. (They also aren't taking a percentage out of the money that gets donated just yet.)

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Exploring Tectonic Media Shifts, Later This Month

I'm looking forward to the big, biennial NAMAC conference being held in Boston later this month, August 26-29.

(To the uninitiated, NAMAC is the National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture, a group of organizations dedicated to "the independent moving image arts, or what we call the 'media arts.'")

I'll be running a workshop (hopefully a very interactive, useful, high-energy one) on Friday, August 28th about the challenges of cultivating audiences and generating revenue in the digital age.

We're in the midst of a major tectonic shift in the way media is produced and consumed, and the conference will address a lot of the big questions that are being raised by this shift -- questions that I often blog about here.

Questions like...

- What kinds of content are people watching, and what platforms are they watching it on?
- What makes content 'go viral'?
- How do viewers want to participate with content-makers?
- How do you get viewers to do something after they've viewed your content?
- What is the relationship between content and social networks?

The event brings to Boston some very smart, forward-looking people, including Wendy Levy from BAVC, filmmaker and media prof Brad Lichtenstein, Tamara Gould from ITVS, Joaqin Alvarado from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris. (And, I'm sure, many others whom I just haven't yet met.) I'm looking forward to it...

For locals interested in attending the conference, there is a $75 day rate (and a $50 student rate.)

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Not Quite Coppola Talking About the Fat Girl and Mozart, But...

Lots of people remember this sorta bizarre prediction from Francis Ford Coppola about the democratization of film, when he says that cheap video cameras will allow just about anyone to make movies: "Some fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, you know, and make a beautiful film with her little father's camera."

Peter Jackson has his own riff on democratization in an interview published today by Reuters to promote "District 9," which he produced.:

    You know, in the old days it was very difficult to make movies 'cause you had to have 35 millimeter cameras, which were phenomenally expensive. Or you had to have rich parents that could send you to film school. Nowadays, anybody, any kid or young person with a desire to make films ... (has) access to this equipment. You have great video cameras and the quality's fantastic. You can make soundtracks and do visual effects. You can do very competent computer effects quite easily."

    ..."There are no excuses anymore. If people really want to make movies, they can go out and do it. And I think we're going see in the next 20 or 30 years a real influx of creativity to the world of entertainment because I believe a lot in the young generation coming along ... the pop culture generation who now can grab these cameras and go make films with them.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Internet Rewards Authenticity (Not Fakery)

One topic I find myself discussing with all kinds of creative folks these days is how the Internet rewards authenticity. Even when the production values are so low as to be subterranean... people can sense when something is for real, and they gravitate to it.

Check out these two marriage-related videos, one shot at an actual wedding with a single, shaky handheld camera, and one staged by Disney executives to spread the message that their theme parks are a great place to get engaged (and shot with multiple cameras).

"JK Wedding Entrance Dance" - 19+ million views (several different copies of the video are posted on YouTube)

"Disneyland Musical Marriage Proposal" - 1.6 million views
(I'm a Disney fan, and this is a little too cheese-a-rific even for me...)

Interestingly, the "JK Wedding" couple also got invited to perform on NBC's "Today Show", which reaches more than 4 million viewers. (But somehow, the "Today Show" reprise feels inauthentic.)

What do you think?

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

What Happens to DVD Extras in the Digital Age?

One interesting phenomenon of the DVD era is how much bonus material is often packed onto the disc: from "making of" documentaries to Q&As at film festivals to director's commentary to fan-generated content. Blu-ray DVDs come with even more goodies.

But one question I've been thinking about lately is: what happens to all this stuff in an era when most people consume movies as digital downloads, sent directly to a PC, mobile phone, or TV?

You'll notice that when you download or rent a movie today from iTunes, Amazon, or Movielink, you're getting the feature only. There's no way to buy, for instance, Robert Rodriguez's fun "Ten Minute Film School" and "Ten Minute Cooking School" videos that have shown up on his DVDs. You can get commentary from Francis Ford Coppola on the Blu-ray release of the "Godfather" trilogy, but not when you download "The Godfather" from Amazon's video-on-demand department.

Here are two scenarios. I'm curious what you think (and perhaps you envision other scenarios):

Scenario #1:

All of these goodies that are today DVD extras eventually become available on the Internet for free. They're used to help market the original theatrical release of the film and get people into theaters, or later to get persuade to purchase or rent the digital version. (Remember, this is a world where DVDs are fading into the sunset.)

Scenario #2:

Some of the goodies become available on the Internet to market the movie in advance of its release. But some expensive-to-produce, in-depth pieces of content (like a great "making of" documentary, or an interview with an ordinarily reclusive director) carry a price tag. For an extra buck on your digital rental (or an extra two bucks on top of the download-to-own price), you might get this bonus material. Or, you might buy it a la carte for a couple bucks after you've seen and enjoyed the movie.

Here are a couple of interesting examples of content that's circulating on the Internet to promote movies, which just a few years ago would've only existed on DVD.

- Maurice Sendak talks with director Spike Jonze about how the book "Where the Wild Things Are" was originally received. Intended to promote Jonze's "Wild Things" feature film, which is coming out this October.

- William H. Macy and Kate Micucci sing "It's Time to Get Laid" (and play ukelele!) to promote the DVD release of the indie comedy "Bart Got a Room."

What do you think? I certainly would like to see filmmakers find a way to earn extra revenue from the extra stuff they produce -- but perhaps it'll be just as valuable as an engine that helps drive ticket or download sales.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Four Kinds of Fans

One of the biggest questions circulating at DIY Days Philadelphia last Saturday was, how do you spur your fans to actually do something? Once someone has joined your Facebook fan group, friended you on MySpace, or started following you on Twitter, how can you actually get them to buy a ticket, a DVD, a download, or some merch?

An important starting step, I'd suggest, is to start thinking about four different kinds of fans.

1. The Impulse Fan. The impulse fan sees a video you've made, or hears about your band from their roommate, and signs up to follow you on Twitter or joins your Facebook group. This fan will never do anything else -- ever. They are good only for your ego: yesterday, you had 1000 followers on Twitter, and today you have 1001.

2. The Prospective / Occasional Fan. The prospective fan is someone who can be lured out to a show or screening, or convinced to buy a new CD/DVD, but with some effort. You may need to dangle free samples. You may need to offer a free ticket to a pre-release, top-secret, underground album listening party. You may need to mention that there will be free, limited edition t-shirts given to the first 25 people who show up. The prospective fan can be activated, with a little creative strategizing. They can be "converted" into an occasional fan, showing up every once in a while to your events or buying a book or digital album download every couple years. And they may even be transformed over time into a True Fan.

3. The True Fan. Kevin Kelly defined the True Fan as "someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name." A True Fan will follow what you're doing on your own site, your blog, your Twitter feed -- wherever you choose to communicate. You shouldn't ignore their care and feeding, but these fans have already been activated.

4. The Super Fan. The Super Fan is a True Fan who is willing to help you out in some way. In Fans, Friends & Followers, the singer-songwriter Jill Sobule says she has a super fan who built and helps manage her Web site. Cartoonist Dave Kellett talks about super fans who have given him a lift from the airport in their city to a local event, or have been willing to accept shipments of books on his behalf and cart them to a book signing. Jonathan Coulton says that super fans have helped him find a great concert venue in which to perform. Super Fans, if you ask nicely (and offer them copious thanks and credit) will post flyers for you in their city, or point you to the best bar for a post-screening cast party.

I don't purport to have discovered all of the keys as to how you activate Prospective / Occasional Fans. But two things are certainly essential: making them feel part of your circle, and that you're grateful for their support. Incentives and discounts and give-aways can help. So can events that feel special, secret, unique, limited in space, or invitation-only.

What do you think the typical breakdown is between these four types of fans, for the typical artist? Just to throw something out that you might think about, I'd suggest:

- 25 percent Impulse Fans,
- 50 percent Prospective / Occasional Fans,
- 20 percent True Fans, and
- 5 percent Super Fans.

I welcome your comments below. If you'd like to read another take on different types of fans, here's a blog post from music industry guru Jason Feinberg.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Pixel Pitch: $10,000 for Your Cross-Media Project

Power to the Pixel conference director Liz Rosenthal e-mailed recently to you all know that the deadline is approaching for this year's Pixel Pitch. It's a chance to win nearly $10,000 (£6,000) for your cross-media project.

    The Pixel Pitch is Power to the Pixel’s ground-breaking new pitching forum for up to ten of the best UK and international cross-media film projects.

    We are looking for stories that can span film, TV, online, mobile and gaming to be presented to a select group of financiers, commissioners, tech companies, online portals and media companies in front of an audience of PttP participants.

Apply by Friday, August 14th to be eligible.

And good luck!

Power to the Pixel also offers this interesting essay on "The Extended Reality of Cross-Media Storytelling." It begins:

    As digital technology simplified the mechanics of filmmaking, it greatly expanded the methods of storytelling. New opportunities exist for filmmakers who reach across platforms to engage their audiences. No longer must films play to passive viewers, who watch at a distance as predetermined narratives unfold. Now, audiences are closely tied to the content they consume, sometimes even helping to shape it. Through the proliferation of social media tools and popularity of user-generated content, audiences have shown their desire to experience narratives on a more personal level. Cross-media storytelling can take a variety of forms, but when it works to engage audiences in real world activities through interactive narratives, it takes the shape of something far greater than just a film. This move towards social entertainment is not some new fad, but, rather, the result of a permanent shift within the creative industries. Through innovative methods, filmmakers and other artists are reinventing storytelling and extending the boundaries of their fictional worlds into the real world, satisfying eager audiences - who are more than happy to help in any way they can.

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