Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A repost for Thanksgiving: Indie Filmmakers, Be Thankful for Ted Hope!

Independent film producer, Tweeter extraordinare, and IFP board member Ted Hope has posted the following TWENTY NEW RULES: What we all MUST TRY to do prior to shooting on his blog, and asked the Indie Film Community to pass it around. While I did email to several filmmaker friends, I neglected to do this, consumed as IFP has been with the upcoming Gotham Awards (More on that later). Well, it's never too late to show my support and spread the wisdom. These ARE rules that every filmmaker should read:

I am prepping a new film with the shortest amount of time I have ever had to prep a movie. It is also one of the more ambitious projects I have been involved in. There is so much to do I can't afford to squander any time (luckily I have been prepping some blog posts in advance, so this doesn't take time -- it expands time!). The short prep is also unfortunate because now is a time that the producer has to do even more than ever before.

My To Do List may be more of a Wish List these days. Instead of doing everything I think I should be doing, I have to focus first on what absolutely needs to be done to get the film in the can.

Now is the time we should be doing things differently; yet given the opportunity to make the film I want, with the cast I want, even at a fraction of the budget that I want -- how can I let that opportunity go by?

Having more options and better tools, doesn't solve everything by any means.
These times are tough indeed. Everyone knows it is hard out there for an indie filmmaker, particularly for a truly free filmmaker. Most would acknowledge that it is harder now than it has ever been before. Few have revealed (or admitted) how the current situation will change their behavior. I think right now, with reality staring me in the face, I can only speak about what I wish I could do. There is still a big gulf between thought and expression. How does the present alter what we all wish to do on our films?

Personally speaking, I would say we need to evolve the definition of what it means to be ready to shoot a film. Granted, more can always be done on the creative level and that is certainly worthy of discussion, but here -- on TrulyFreeFilm -- we are discussing the apparatus, the infrastructure, the practices that can lead to a more diverse output, robust appreciation, business model, and sustainable practice of ambitious cinema. So, what would I do if I really had my shit together? I have been trying to answer this and share my thoughts along the way.

Today's version:
1. Recognize it is about audience aggregation: Collect 5000 fans prior to seeking financing. Act to gain 500 fans/month during prep, prod., post processes.

2. Determine how you will engage & collect audiences all throughout the process.
Consider some portion to be crowd-funded -- not so much for the money but for the engagement it will create.

3. Create enough additional content to keep your audience involved throughout the process and later to bridge them to your next work.

4. Develop an audience outreach schedule clarifying what is done when -- both before and after the first public screening.

5. Curate work you admire. Spread the word on what you love. Not only will people understand you further, but who knows, maybe someone will return the good deed.

6. Be prepared to "produce the distribution". Meet with potential collaborators from marketing, promotion, distribution, social network, bookers, exhibitors, widget manufacturers, charitable partners, to whatever else you can imagine.

7. Brainstorm transmedia/cross-platform content to be associated with the film.

8. Study at least five similar films in terms of what their release strategy & audience engagement strategy was and how you can improve upon them.

9. Build a website that utilizes e-commerce, audience engagement, & data retrieval. Have it ready no later than 1 month prior to first public screening.

10. Determine & manufacture at least five additional products you will sell other than DVDs.

11. Determine content for multiple versions of your DVD.

12. Design several versions of your poster. Track how your image campaign evolves through the process.

13. Do a paper cut of what two versions of your trailer might be. Track how this changes throughout the process.

14. Determine a list of the top 100 people to promote your film (critics, bloggers, filmmakers,etc)

15. Determine where & how to utilize a more participatory process in the creation, promotion, exhibition, & appreciation process. Does it make sense for your project to embrace this?

16. How will this project be more than a movie? Is there a live component? An ARG? An ongoing element?

17. How can you reward those who refer others to you? How do you incentivize involvement? What are you going to give back?

18. What will you do next and how can you move your audience from this to that? How will you not have to reinvent the wheel next time?

19. What are you doing differently than everyone else? How will people understand this? Discover this?

20. How are you going to share what you've learned on this project with others?

As I've said, I know I am not doing all of these yet on my current production, but that leaves me something to strive for the one following. The goal is to keep getting better, after all. But man, I wish I could be doing more!

The desire to do more is so huge, but time and resources limit me, limit us. Sometimes it feels like an accomplishment to at least get the film financed. Still though, I can't claim to be doing my job (producing) well if I am not doing all of these. I have to do better. I know it is even harder on smaller jobs. Still though, as much as our job descriptions keep expanding as our salary level decreases, this list is what we must accomplish. Or at least it is the list I think we need to accomplish right now.

I am going to shut up now and get to work. There's too much to be done.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Countdown to the Gotham Awards -- One Week!

Exactly on week from now, at the elegant Cipriani Wall Street, the 19th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards, hosted by comedian Kumail Nanjiani will take place. Indie film heavyweights including Joel and Ethan Coen, Willem Dafoe, Anthony Mackie, Oliver Platt, Jim Sheridan, Brooke Shields and Meryl Streep will all present awards at the celebratory affair. As a remind, here are the nominees for the awards, announced by A.O. "Tony" Scott last month at Norwood. For the first time this year, IFP will stream the entire awards show live on UStream, so if you can't afford the ticket, do tune in online. Details to be announced in the next couple of days.

Free Webcam Chat at Ustream

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Three IFP Alumni Shortlisted for Best Documentary Oscar

In the midst of a reception celebrating the nominees for THE BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU, our film critic friend Karina Longworth pulled out her iPhone to show us the just-posted list of the 15 documentaries shortlisted for this year's Academy Awards. As usual, the IFP has great representation on the list, with 3 of the films having gone through one of our programs.

They are: Garbage Dreams (Spotlight on Docs 2006, Good Pitch 2009), The Most Dangerous Man in America (Spotlight on Docs 2007), and Under Our Skin (Spotlight on Docs 2007). Congratulations to our alumni; our fingers are crossed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Best Films Not Playing at a Theatre Near You are Coming to a Theatre Near You (If you live in New York that is)

One of the signature programs of IFP's Gotham Independent Film Awards, The Best Film Not Playing at a Theatre Near You is a highlight of the holiday season.

For the fourth year running, MoMA’s Department of Film, in association with IFP and its quarterly publication Filmmaker, screens the five nominees for the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award. The nominees were selected by senior members of the Filmmaker editorial staff—Scott Macaulay, Jason Guerrasio, Brandon Harris, Ray Pride, and Alicia Van Couvering—and by Joshua Siegel, associate curator in MoMA’s Department of Film. The five nominees represent this year's best American independent films on the festival circuit that have yet to be picked up for theatrical distribution.

They are:

Mike Palmieri and Donal Mosher's beautifully photographed exploration of family, OCTOBER COUNTRY, which has taken the film festival world by storm.

Ry Russo-Young's YOU WON'T MISS ME , which features an astonishing performance by Stella Schnabel and premiered at January's Sundance Film Festival.

Tariq Tapa's ZERO BRIDGE, filmed entirely
in the war-torn city of Srinagar, Kashmir, with a cast of first-time actors and a one-man crew.

Frazer Bradshaw's directorial debut, EVERYTHING STRANGE AND NEW, a haunting film about the disappointment of growing up and the inevitable fracturing of relationships.

And finally, GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH, a delightful musical mash-up directed by Damien Chazelle.

Don't miss this incredible chance to see films that have not been widely distributed. Buy tickets here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

IFP and Shooting People UK Announce Partnership at Sheffield Doc/Fest

Announced on this side on the pond in the midst of Independent Film Week, IFP has joined forces with Shooting People to combine memberships. Last week, in the midst of the UK's biggest and most exciting film festival for nonfiction film, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Jess Search, co-founder of Shooting People (pictured), Ingrid Kopp, US director of Shooting People (pictured), and Danielle DiGiacomo (Community Manager of IFP, and also yours truly) officially announced the dual membership to their 21,948-strong UK constituency.

At the festival, IFP worked to spread the goals and resources of IFP to the international community of filmmakers that attended, including moderating a panel on Documentary Filmmaking: Making a Sustainable Living, while Shooting People ran a Digital Bootcamp as well as a pub quiz at the BritDoc pub (where these happy photos were taken).