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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Catching Up: Peter Broderick Video, DVD Data, 'Inbound Marketing' book, SMPTE Talk

- Filmmaker Magazine this week published an interview I conducted with Peter Broderick at Sundance this year, talking about new approaches to indie film distribution. (You can tell I have the usual Park-City-in-January cold.) I'm planning to post the full 30-minute interview here soon. This video is part of a series I'm doing on the future of entertainment, underwritten by the nice folks at Akamai. The idea was to take some of the topics we discussed at The Conversation last fall in Berkeley and make them more accessible to people anywhere in the world. I invite you to embed the video wherever you like, link to it, or comment on it.

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

This video, of course, is also a nice little appetizer for the Distribution U. workshop Peter and I are doing next Saturday, November 7th, at USC.

- This NY Times piece from Monday is really worth a read: "Studios' Quest for Life After DVDs." Here's just one juicy passage from Brooks Barnes' story:

    In the first six months of 2009, revenue from disc sales declined 13.5 percent, to $5.4 billion, according to Mr. Morris’s evaluation of Digital Entertainment Group data. A $200 million uptick in Blu-ray sales partly offset a $1 billion decline in DVD sales. Over all, home video revenue declined just 4 percent, helped by a spike in rental revenue.

    That bleak picture has studios now openly discussing what they have known privately for a long time: DVDs will continue to play a role, but it may be a supporting one to digital.

    “DVD is going to remain very viable, but you’ve also got a strong base of interest in digital consumption,” Mr. Chapek of Disney said. “I see a peaceful coexistence.”

- The best book I've read about marketing and social media in a long while was just published this month. It's called Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. This is the kind of book I guarantee you'll find useful if you work in marketing or are trying to sell DVDs or downloads of a film (or other creative work.) It was written by two of the founders of a marketing firm in Boston called HubSpot, and the company also runs this weekly video podcast about Internet marketing, which you can subscribe to (for free) in iTunes. (That, by the way, was not a paid promotion...just an honest endorsement of something worthwhile!)

- Variety was kind enough to run some coverage of my keynote talk last Wednesday for the annual SMPTE Tech Conference in Hollywood. (This was a version of my talk about Inventing the Movies, with lots of movie clips. It was fun to have a few digital cinema pioneers in the audience whom I'd interviewed for the book back in 2006 and 2007.)

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three Cool Ideas: Streaming from the Set, OpenIndie, and "14 Islands"

I hear about way too much cool stuff via e-mail, and am constantly feeling guilty that I don't / can't blog about more of it.

So, if you are doing cool stuff (whether or not you have been letting me know about it), please keep it up! You're awesome.

For now, just wanted to share three cool ideas that have popped into my inbox this month:

1. Australian marketing and distribution consultant Simon Britton e-mailed to let me know about a cool live streaming project he is involved with that takes place on November 4th, to help generate awareness for a feature film about sharks called 'The Reef.' From his post:

    In what we think is a world first, the production company will provide all-day live stream from the shoot in Hervey Bay on November 4th.

    Viewers will be able to see [director] Andrew [Traucki] and the cast in action (and probably in the water) as a video crew follows him around on the day.

    It's live coverage and a making-of rolled into one, featuring interviews with cast and crew as the action unfolds. Viewers will be able to ask questions in real-time.

Simon tells me via e-mail that he "will be be going to location for the stream, doing some camera work and editing. In typical Australian style, everyone on the team does whatever is required!"

2. OpenIndie is a new distribution project from Arin Crumley and Kieran Masterson which hopes to raise $10,000 from 100 filmmakers this month. (They are about half-way there.) Eric Kohn serves up the details on IndieWire, but the gist is that they'd like to have independent filmmakers pool their e-mail lists of people interested in seeing their film (or in putting on screenings), and then be able to collectively use the people in that database to understand where the greatest demand is for a given film, organize screenings and fill theaters (or house parties.)

3. I love this contest for filmmakers in the UK: "The 14 Islands Film Challenge." From the PR e-mail I received:

    The 14 Islands Film Challenge ( is an initiative to find 14 of the best young filmmakers in the UK - to send to the 14 islands of The Bahamas, where each director will create a movie of any genre, on their own island with the help of a local team. They will be there for 14 days and once they return there will be a BAFTA red carpet screening where a grand high winner will be selected by public vote and a panel of judges to win, yes, £14,000!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You, Me & Peter Broderick: Distribution U., Nov. 7th @ USC

Here is the scary thing about talking about the new landscape of marketing and distribution at a film festival:

The panels and presentations are often too short (and sometimes too superficial) to really make much of a dent. Ask the audience at the end whether they're feeling more confident and in control of their destiny, or more anxious and confused, and they're likely to say the latter.

I've been talking for the last couple months with Peter Broderick about taking a different approach. We wanted to create a full-day workshop that'd dive into some of the marketing and audience-building strategies I explore in Fans, Friends & Followers, and would get into the nitty gritty of distribution and savvy deal-making, which Peter works on every day with his clients. We also wanted to bring in some guest filmmakers to talk in detail about how they've gotten attention for their work -- and made money from it.

Finally, we wanted to make this a great opportunity to meet other filmmakers and writers and producers who're working on this "bleeding edge" of new marketing and distribution strategy -- to create lunch discussion groups around topics you're interested in -- and, if you'd like, to get some ideas from Peter, me, and the rest of the group about actual, tactical things you might do with your film, online and off.

We're calling it "Distribution U.: A One-Day Crash Course on the New Rules of Marketing and Distribution." We're doing it on Saturday, November 7th in LA, on the campus of USC. If you register before noon on October 18th, you can take advantage of the early bird discount.

Our goal is to cram in as many examples, case studies, data points, and proven strategies into eight hours as is humanly possible. The complete schedule is here.

Right now, we're planning on doing this just once.

Hope you can make it, and if not, perhaps you'll spread the word to friends who are in LA.

(And if you'd be interested in a DVD of the proceedings, which we're considering, send me an e-mail.)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Live Streaming on Wednesday: Power to the Pixel

Great speaker roster for this year's Power to the Pixel conference in London, including folks like Ted Hope, Nina Paley, Hunter Weeks, and Lance Weiler. You can watch the presentations streaming live on Wednesday here.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Video: 'Heroes' creator Tim King talks about transmedia storytelling

While in LA last month, I had a chance to sit down with "Heroes" creator Tim Kring in the show's production offices. Kring is part of a session I'm hosting on October 24th at the Boston Book Festival.

We talked for about a half-hour. I asked Kring about the ukelele made of mango wood that was sitting on a stand in his office, and he played a couple chords for me. We talked about George Lucas as the original transmedia storyteller, introducing characters like Boba Fett on television first (and in a parade!), and then later weaving them into the narrative of the Star Wars films, books, and of course, toy lines.

The part of the conversation I captured on video covers Kring's approach to transmedia storytelling... some of the books that have spun off from the "Heroes" TV he thinks about the audience's desire to participate in the "Heroes" universe...and a little bit about "Flag of Orpheus," the trilogy of books (unrelated to "Heroes") that Kring is working on with the novelist Dale Peck. (I mistakenly call it "Gate of Orpheus" in the interview...the perils of shooting and asking questions at the same time...)

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

An Update on the State of Indie Film Online

I worked on a piece for Variety this week that intended to examine why no online destination has emerged specifically to serve up independent films.

From the piece:

    A decade after the dot-com boom, when the Web promised to make any piece of content globally accessible to any interested viewer, a dominant online destination for indie film has failed to emerge -- though many have tried.

    Earlier this year, San Francisco-based Caachi quietly shut down, and world cinema purveyor Jaman let go most of its staff. Two of the first sites to try to connect cinephiles with streaming and downloadable indie films, GreenCine and Intertainer, have since exited that business.

As usual, there was a lot of material that didn't fit into the piece... and Snagfilms CEO Rick Allen e-mailed to take issue with some of the data I presented.

- Gary Hustwit told me his last doc, 'Helvetica,' has already broken into six-figures of iTunes earnings. He says his new film, 'Objectified,' is now available for pre-order on iTunes, and it's already in the iTunes top ten list for documentaries. Hustwit is also selling a USB drive containing the movie (pictured above). They're $75 each, and they've been produced in a limited edition of 500. Hustwit says they're selling briskly.

- Cory McAbee told me that a deluxe package of 'Stingray Sam' goodies is selling well through his site: for $49, you get a DVD, t-shirt, photobook, soundtrack CD, and two digital downloads (HD and standard definition).

- Rick Allen, CEO of doc-streaming network Snagfilms, takes issue with the traffic figures I cited in the story, supplied by Compete says the Snagfilms site gets about 100,000 unique visitors a month, compared to about six million for Hulu. Allen accurately points out that some of Hulu's most popular full-length films actually come from Snag (like 'The Future of Food' and 'Super-Size Me.') And he argues that a lot of Snagfilms content is viewed on other site, describing Snag as "a massively sub-distributed network." Unfortunately, Snag doesn't share any data of its own about how often films are viewed on its site or others, so reporters like me have no choice but to cite statistics from independent third parties like Compete or Quantcast.

- An interesting quote from Eric Lemasters, who handles digital distribution for E1 Entertainment: "iTunes and Netflix are probably leading the pack, but there’s a huge middle of the pack. Hulu is doing well, as is EZTakes. There's Amazon, Blockbuster [Movielink], CinemaNow. They all seem to be holding their own. EZTakes has done the best in that world. Snag and Jaman aren’t moving the needle much." Lemasters says 'Welcome to Macintosh' and 'The Bridge,' both docs, have been doing especially well on iTunes.

- Steve Harnsberger of Jaman says that site has no plans to shut down, but they're focusing more on providing "white label" video delivery services for other customers, like content owners, electronics manufacturers, and potentially telcos. "The Jaman site is definitely here to stay," he says. "It's a demonstration site for our technology."

- Distribution consultant Adam Chapnick of Distribber: "You have to be reminded that people like studio movies more. The reason that 90 percent of revenues online goes to studios is because most people don’t like indie movies." One reason that indie-only Web sites haven't succeeded, he believes, is that "most people don’t say, 'I’m in the mood for an independent film tonight.' They want a destination where all film can be aggregated."

- Some data points from Chapnick: "I know of one film property that's been making $50k/ month on iTunes, but it's not a feature, it's a stand-up comedy offering. I'm told by Netflix that they pay up to 30k for their [streaming] rights; of course that means they probably pay at least twice that to a really worthy title.

"But my bet is that 90 percent of indie films sell under 1000 units on iTunes, and 90 percent of indie films on Netflix are paid under $2500 for a year of [streaming] rights..."

- Some data from an anonymous source about indie content on Netflix and iTunes:

    Per-title agreement [for two years] with Netflix can go up to 5k-20k, especially if we give them a 60 day pre-dvd release window, and we have.

    Standard on one-year day-and-date ranges from .8-2k and catalog renewal can go as low as .25-.5k per if the titles is 5 years old or more...

    Per-title revenue on iTunes for one year has proven to range greatly, from $ 50 to about $ 2000 with the average well below $1k thus far, but they have only been offering indies for just over a year so let's allow them to continue to build steam.

Your comments welcome...

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