Archive for the ‘Filmmaking’ Category

Los Angeles Film Festival Seize the Power: Ted Hope

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Ted Hope was the first speaker at the LA Film Festival’s Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium, shop and he set the tone early.  Ted has made many great films that have had to find their niche in the marketplace, and he was unambiguous in saying that life is only getting tougher for independent filmmakers.  Ted rightfully pointed out that anyone referencing a business model prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, is not living in the real world.  What little money was around has dried up, and filmmakers cannot rely on investor-backed film funds or foreign presales to get their films off the ground.

Anecdotally, I was working on a fund-backed TV show in September of 2008, and we did indeed shut down in October.  However, I have in the last year worked on features that have been funded through foreign presales and investor-backed funds, so there is always an exception.  It did help that both of these projects were able to attract name talent.

Ted gave us all a reality check when he said that most films will not be able to go theatrical.  It just doesn’t make financial sense.  However, most films will be able to attract an audience to screenings with some groundwork.  Hybrid distribution is no longer the exception: it’s something that every indie filmmaker should plan for.  Independent filmmaking has transformed from a B2B model to a direct sales system, from a business of one-offs to an ongoing conversation with an audience.  We no longer have the luxury of focusing only on development and production, we have to add discovery, promotion, presentation, participation.  We have to think of ourselves as the creators of worlds, not just DVDs.  We have to build ramps to give our audiences access to our film, and then we have to build bridges to bring them along to the next one.  We have to harness the power of community, not only to promote our films, but in order to get all of this extra work done.

I’m always interested in how speakers at these events practice what they preach, and Ted is doing a great job with his Hope for Film series of blogs.  In addition to sharing his expert knowledge, Ted writes guest posts for other people’s blogs and features guest posts from other filmmakers.  It’s a great resource for independent filmmakers and a great way to build and nurture a community of filmmakers.  I know that I am much more likely to watch Adventureland and Super than I was prior to poking around Ted’s sites.  Mission accomplished.  Ted suggests having five thousand total followers across social networks.  He has just over six thousand on his Twitter.  Personally, I think this is a low goal for new filmmakers, as followers of non-celebrities will be less engaged by tweets about our films than followers of Ted Hope will be about his next project.

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Paranormal Activity 2: Marketing Trumps Moviemaking

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

There is a new teaser-trailer for Paranormal Activity 2, adiposity and it mostly plays the way you would expect: long, advice disquieting security camera shots, nite-vision audience scares, and cheap scare cuts that aren’t that scary.

In what I feel to be a major coup, Paramount managed to get this trailer for a film that’s still in pre-production and comes out in October onto the head of the biggest movie of the summer in their demographic.  Well-done.  But the bigger news is that they’ve managed to get the trailer pulled from screenings of Twilight Eclipse in Texas and make a news story out of nothing.  Well-played.

Meanwhile, the likely far-scarier REC 2 comes out next week and likely will draw a fraction of the audience.

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The Power of the Tweet

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I attended the LA Film Festival’s Power of the Tweet poolside chat with Eli Roth, pill Adam Shankman, Richard Kelly, and Jon Chu, moderated by Ari Karpel.  While a lot of interesting ideas were batted around, there was a bit of a disconnect between the audience of nascent filmmakers and this panel of celebrities who have tens of thousands of followers each through no effort of their own.

Jon Chu’s case is probably closest to what any of us could hope to use as a blueprint.  As I understand it, he’s built a following through his youtube channel and leveraged that into a directing career on Step Up 2 and this summer’s Step Up 3D.  At the panel, he spoke about tweeting pictures from set and asking fans to make simple choices about production design and wardrobe.  This kind of fan engagement seems really smart, and I’d imagine that it will reward him over time.

Adam Shankman, on the other hand, was a producer on Step Up 2 who originally played the part of old Hollywood, trying to lock down the set and put a lid on the tweets, but he eventually came around to the value of being able to reach fans in such a personal way.  Apparently he got a little too personal with Miley Cyrus on the set of The Last Song and made a minor scandal out of nothing.  You can’t buy publicity like this, so why try to keep it from your set?

Perhaps most relevant was the admission that all of the panelists will and have looked at materials sent to them as mentions on Twitter.  I have a prior relationship with Eli Roth having worked with him on The Last Exorcism, but it was a tweet about Devo that got him to follow me.  Adam Shankman apparently sent his agent a Youtube video that somebody had tweeted to him, and his agent is now representing the guy.  To test the theory, I tweeted Richard Kelly that I didn’t get to ask him if Twitter would have helped the fate of Donnie Darko at the box office.  When I got home, I found this in my mentions from @JRichardKelly:

@jaytrautman Maybe. It took 2-3 years for anyone to refer to the film as a “hit”. But then, people HATED the film at Sundance…

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DIY Distribution

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about the changing landscape of independent film (and music), rx and I want to explore what I’ve been thinking more deeply.  SXSW was an intense immersion into the world of people who have really been doing this with varying levels of success, more about but as soon as I got back from Austin I was dumped into round-the-clock dailies on the new movie and didn’t get a chance to process what I heard as thoroughly as I would have liked.  So, viagra having spent the weekend hearing different perspectives on the same problem, I’m planning a series of posts on the talks I heard.  These will probably take the form of loose ramblings, but I think writing out my notes in a more stream of thought manner might help me figure out what I think about all of this.  Stay tuned…

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