Posts Tagged ‘Distribution’


Blockbuster is Finally Dead – 6. November, 2013

Three years ago I wrote about the end of Blockbuster. Yeah, I know, now that they’re really dead everyone is getting all misty and pancake syrupy remembering their local Blockbuster but I live in LA. We have (had) great video stores that carried foreign, independent and adult (non-porn) films. Blockbuster, they had 500 copies of Life is Beautiful for exactly one week. Yeah, thanks for trying. NEXT!

Do I miss video stores? Yes. Do I miss Blockbuster? Hell no.

If you’re in LA, go to these stores (I sure hope they’re still open):

Ciao Blockbuster – 23. September, 2010

If you saw the writing on the wall, it should come as no surprise that the Blockbuster video rental chain filed for Chapter 11 today. Personally, while I’m saddened that a lot of people will lose their jobs, many of them folk that love movies or video games, I’m not sorry to see Blockbuster go down in flames. I hated their discrimination against adult orientated films. I’m not talking about porn, I’m talk about the fact that Blockbuster would never carry Henry & June. Also, they had a pitiful selection of independent and foreign films.

But I understand the convenience of gabbing a video as you’re racing from Starbucks to the supermarket so if you’re in the LA area, allow me to offer you some alternatives.

Do you have a local gem of a video store you’d like to recomend?

Seeking Great Film Websites – 21. July, 2010

Today I met with a good friend and web designer. We ate, we caught up, we talked about my web needs. What web needs you say?

  1. I have a site, my professional site, and it could use a redesign.
  2. I’d like to tie the design of this blog to that of my site. Let’s call it a new coat of paint.
  3. Finally, I need a website for my film. That’s a “from the ground up” job.

If she can do this, great.  If not, she can point me towards competent folk.  This is exciting. I love getting the creative juices going.

So now I have to develop a creative brief, an “information architecture“, and show some samples of what I’m looking for. I really like the sites for Psyop, Hammer & Tongs, Hillman Curtis and Ruben Fleischer. They all employ a clean and logical design but still retain the spirit of their respective artists. I also like the ONE TOO MANY MORNINGS site if only because it has just about everything a film like mine might need in a site w/o a lot of clutter.

Which brings us to the interactive portion of this post. What are some well designed sites you like? They don’t have to be film sites, just a site that really works.

Posted in Off-Topic

Friday Fun: Beer Wars – 5. February, 2010

Happy Friday everyone!

If you’ve ever met me in a bar or seen me in a decent restaurant and asked “what’s a good beer” then you’ve heard me give an impromptu lecture on brown ales or how a pilsener is different from a lager.  Yes, I’m a beer geek and it’s all because of a documentary called BEER WARS.

This week, that documentary is available on iTunes (and apparently my PS3 too but I can’t stop playing BORDERLANDS to check–help). Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof.

(that’s the documentary on the “iTunes->Movies” homepage sandwiched between NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU and some Hulk cartoon while I download the latest FRINGE).

Of course I’m biased (dear FTC, I worked on it for almost three years but I am not being compensated for this mention… but if the director wanted to buy me some tasty cupcakes I wouldn’t say “no”) but I think it’s a pretty damn good doc. Also, the “making of” was mighty interesting so I can’t wait for the behind-the-scenes book (hint, hint; nudge nudge).

Posted in General

Spying on My Neighbor’s Netflix Ratings – 9. January, 2010

Curious what’s a popular DVD in your area? Then check out this New York Times Map which details Netflix rankings by zip code for 12 major cities.


Muy interesting!

Posted in Distribution

Filmmaker Forum 2009 – 12. October, 2009

This past weekend I attended the 2009 Filmmaker Forum, an examination of the ever changing face of independent film hosted by Film Independent. What follows is a fuzzy recounting of my weekend.


While Jeremy Thomas has had a successful and varied career, his speech was neither an in-depth examination of the indie film industry nor was it a forecast of the impending doom and the blue skies to follow. it wasn’t terrible but it won’t set the blogosphere afire. Saturday’s highlights were:

1) Linda Lichter. As a panelist, she was frank and honest and always cut through the bulls**t. She also always reminded the other panelist that while their version of indie was a $5 million film with Luke Wilson, most of us  were making films for less than a million, often less than a $100k. Linda, if you’re reading this, I want to tell you that you’re a rock star (too bad I already have an awesome lawyer).

2) Peter Broderick. While every other panel should have been titled “why indie film sucks and it’ll only get harder for you” Peter actually brought us hope and inspiration. He told us that we can still make our films and find an audience. Is it harder than ever? Yes, of course, but the tools are there for us to shape out destiny. Thanks, Peter.

3) Lizzie Gillett. First, she crowd-funded a documentary. Second, she had a virtual world premiere where both Moby and Thom Yorke played. Third, she appeared via Skype from the UK. Fourth, I think she’s really cute and she might be single.

4) Richard Klubeck. If he quits the industry, NPR should pick him up. He has a great radio voice.

5) Ron Yerxa. Did a great job moderating a panel plus he was impeccably dressed. As the weekend progressed I realized he wears the same uniform but I still give him points for trying.


I was a bit more out of it this day. I’ll get into that in a bit but here were my highlights

1) “Distribution Case Studies”, “Day & Date: Three Years and Counting” and “New Uses for Film Festivals” panels. These were lively panels and I actually knew two of the panelists (Steak House & Jon Reiss). During each discussion, panelists started interrupting each other, correcting each other, throwing down. In short, it was the perfect kick in the ass to a sleepy Sunday.

2) The following quote constitutes a highlight: “international pre-sales for indies aren’t dead. You bring me an action thriller with Jason Statham and I’ll get you a ton of money out of Germany.” BTW, that was said sincerely and with a straight face.

3) Finally using hash tags in Twitter. I still don’t really understand them (Marsha Collier explained them enough to me so that I’m no longer in the dark) but I started using them and suddenly I saw some of the power and scope of Twitter.

4) Seeing my friend Abby and getting to wish her a happy birthday in person.


The big difference for me this year versus previous years are the meetings I’d set up. If you read my earlier post, you know I had meetings with a distributor, a CE, an agent and a consultant. So active/charming/fearless was I that I also met with three managers and one more agent. Almost every meeting went well. Sure, not all meetings ended with “send me your stuff”, how could they when, say for example, you only rep directors with Canadian passports, but four of them ended with “send me your stuff.”

Let me repeat: I impressed 4 people enough for them to ask me to send my stuff their way. Will they read/watch my stuff? Probably not; that’ll get farmed out to an assistant or intern, but I got my toe jammed into four doors and I call that a major f**king accomplishment.

Time to rest.

(Ha! Yeah, right. I wish.)

Mini Meetings – 8. October, 2009

Wondering about the radio silence? Yes, I am back from all my travels but I’m also attending the Filmmaker Forum by Film Independent this weekend. It’s a 2-day seminar on the current-yet-always-evolving state of independent film.

I know, I know, you’re saying “attending a seminar shouldn’t preclude you from blogging regularly” but I also I signed up for their IndieLink. Normally an IndieLink is a moderated meet-and-greet between two groups of up-and-comping professionals. For example, they regularly have ones where directors and producers get together with composers.

For the Filmmaker Forum, they’re a bit differnt. This time around they’re 10-minute meetings with industry professionals. I sent in my preferences expecting to maybe get one meeting but probably get shutout.

Imagine my surprise when I scored four big meetings. This Saturday, in the space of one hour, I’m meeting with a distributor, a creative executive, an agent and a hybrid distribution consultant.

Therefore, I’ve been doing my homework for the past few days. I’ve been studying up on the kinds of films they package/sell/distribute. I’ve also been trying to figure out how I want to spend my time with them and how to make their time with me, at the very least, pleasant.

In ten minutes, I have to tell them how awesome I am without coming off as an arrogant or clueless jerk. I also have to tell them about one rad project I’m working on, a project that will prove to them that I’m a filmmaker they should want to track.

I think I have a strategy.

  • For the distributor, I can talk about my recently shot feature, ask what kind of distribution is typical for a film of its size and how I can best position my film (as is) for niche distributors.
  • For the hybrid distribution consultant I can also talk about my feature but I also have a multimedium project (aka, transmedia) that I can mention. I’ll be sure to ask about the possibilities/realities of generating revenue for such a project through non-traditional streams, how to maximize social media exposure and the possibilities of sponsorships (I keep thinking Nerve or Match might be a good fit for my feature).
  • As for the CE, I can talk about my feature as well as these two scripts I’m cooking up; one a twist on the bromance genre and the other a haunted house/possession story.
  • As for the agent, I should cover the aforementioned projects while also talking about my recently completed TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES spec and the CHUCK and/or FRINGE spec I’ll write next… but of course I’d rather be directing those shows.
  • I have to engage these people, get their advice and expertise, while pitching myself (and my works, both current and future) without coming off as a desperate creative.

    So, is there something I’m missing? Am I misguided in my logic and approach? What’s your advice?

    Posted in Education, Industry

    Hybrid Distribution Sucks! – 23. September, 2009

    There, I said it.


    Because I got into filmmaking to make films, not to market/distribute/sell films but that’s the new game and you gotta play to win so sign me up.

    If you’re confused, here’s what you need to know: no one is buying indie films. If they are, they’re giving you a 1-10% advance based on your budget for all your rights for 25 years. In short, they’re trying to f**k you.

    Here’s what you do.

    1. Read this Peter Broderick article. Once you’ve done that, read this John August summary.
    2. Pre-order this book by Jon Reiss. I took a 5 week class with him this past summer through Film Independent and, as I’m in the process of editing an independent feature film and developing a multi-medium project, it was incredibly useful.
    3. Subscribe to the Ted Hope blog.
    4. Go make something awesome.

    And now for the interactive portion of this post. Two questions:

    1. What are you working on?
    2. What are you doing to ensure your success?

    Filmmakers Are Dead: What – 13. August, 2009

    Apologies for taking longer than expected to post the second part of this series but I found myself sidelined by a film and I must always heed that siren song.

    Last time we talked about who were the two sides forming up during this indie film meltdown. Today, let’s answer the second question:


    Actually, I think there are two parts to this. “What happened?” and “What next?”

    The first is easier to answer. After the boon of the early 90s and the rise of Miramax, everyone got into the indie film game. Distributors were no long just small New York enterprises run by film lovers armed with PhDs. No, suddenly every major west coast studio had an independent film arm: Disney acquired Miramax, New Line Cinema had Fine Line Features and then Picture House, 20th Century Fox had Fox Searchlight, Paramount had Paramount Vantage (originally known as Paramount Classics), Warner Brothers had Warner Independent, Sony had Sony Pictures Classics, Universal had Focus.

    Oh, and following the Miramax model, all of these new mini-majors created genre arms to fund their indie fare. There is no way Bob and Harvey Weinstein could have made and won the Oscar for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE without all the money generated by the SCREAM franchise (which was the most lucrative horror franchise until SAW. What was the most lucrative horror franchise before that? The NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. Go Wes Craven!).

    But before I start swinging my hatchet wildly, let me say that big company interest was a boon for independent filmmakers. Not only is this how someone like Tarantino got $70 million of make his version of THE DIRTY DOZEN but it also got a lot of struggling filmmakers excellent jobs as TV directors (most of that credit should go to the Barry Levinson/Tom Fontana/David Simon series HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET. Some indie directors that got to helm episodes and put food on the table as a result: Nick Gomez, Peter Medak, John McNaughton, Tim Hunter, Barbara Kopple, Ted Demme, Gary Fleder, and the list goes on). If you made a halfway decent film that got into Sundance, you stood a good chance of getting distributed plus a nice advance and maybe even a first look deal.

    So what went wrong? These large companies don’t know how to do small. They can’t be nimble. They can’t big quick. They can only make things bigger and more expensive in the hopes of making more money.

    That’s when these distribution arms stopped acquiring films and started making flicks of their own. Now you have little studio movies costing $5-15 million instead of less than $2 million like they should.

    To make things worse, these companies started treating Oscar campaigns like arms races. They would spend millions, maybe tens of millions trying to win an Academy Award nomination (and so many millions more to actually win a statue). This bubble had to burst.

    And it did. And so now we have our current state. Gone are the days of healthy advances. Today you’re lucky if you get any advance whatsoever.

    So what next?

    Today, indie and art film’s (I’m not talking about genre films; they still have a market) only chance to recoup an investment is to self-distribute.

    What does it mean to self-distribute? It means you take your film and you sell the foreign and domestic theatrical (if you’re lucky enough to get a theatrical release), home video, cable, television and digital rights territory by territory. You sell your home video to Netflix, your cable to Starz, your television to Turner and your digital to Hulu. And then you do the same thing in the UK, Japan, Germany, Spain, Mexico, etc. By some accounts, self-distributing a film will take 1-3 years of your life.

    (Is it me or did that just sound like a prison sentence?)

    Other experts estimate that one should reserve 50% of their resources for marketing and distribution if you’re going the DIY route. That means if you’ve raised $100k for a film, take $50k of that and save it for marketing and distribution.

    Did you stomach just drop to your knees or leap into your throat?

    I know, you’re thinking “with the internet it’s easier than ever to get your film out there.” True, but with the flood of product it has become that much harder to market yourself, to make your work stand out.

    Are there any advantages to self-distribution? Yes. First, you develop a direct relationship with your audience. If they like you and your work, they’re more likely to buy more of your stuff, even merchandise. Second, you reap all the reward. There’s no studio charging hotel rooms in Cannes against your net. I think if you’re a highly specialized filmmaker (say you’re the guy that only make motorcycle films) then this might be the way to go. Me, I like to play in many different genres.

    Next week: When?

    PS, I had no idea the New York Times and I were both writing the same article.

    Filmmakers Are Dead: Who – 9. July, 2009

    Okay, I’m prone to hyperbole but I’m not the only one wondering if this is a dark age for independent filmmakers or if we are at the dawn of a new golden age (probably both). According to the old guard, the sky is falling, the industry as we’ve enjoyed it is dying, party over, oops, out of time. On the other hand, forward thinking, technically-minded folk like Scott Kirsner and Lance Weiler believe that the readily available means of digital production, the internet as a distribution pipeline and social media as a primary networking/marketing tool will allow anyone, even you, to grow your own audience and take the leap from weekend hobbyest to career content creator.


    Personally, while imbued with a healthy does of skepticism and prone to ranting, I’m looking for a glimmer of hope on the horizon. It is with those glasses and crash helmet that I begin this series I’m calling “Filmmakers are Dead” (we’ve talked about Dark Tony, right?). My goal is very selfish: I hope to better understand what’s going on and hopefully get your two-cents in the process. In order to give this series some structure, I’m gonna release one installment per basic reporter questions (i.e., who, what, when, where, why and how).

    Welcome to the first installment:


    As I’ve already mentioned, this is very much the old guard (mainstream media such as the studios, broadcasters and all those that profit from working with them under the current structure) versus forward thinking up-and-coming artists.

    Allow me a tangent here (the first of many). Let’s breakdown these artists of the internet age into the major disciplines addressed by Scott in the interview above. We can safely say that the majority of internet artists are either musicians, animators or filmmakers. I’d like to permanently break filmmakers out from under this umbrella. Why?

    1. Unlike musicians or animators, filmmakers can’t make movies by themselves in their bedrooms. Filmmakers need crews, locations and actors/subjects.
    2. Films, on the whole, will always cost more than the output of musicians or animators. While Jill Sobule can hold a web-a-thon to raise $75,000 to comfortably record a very polished album, a filmmaker would need to raise anywhere from three to ten times that amount to create an equally commercially viable and polished film.
    3. Independent feature films don’t lend themselves to the internet by simple virtue of their length. According to Scott, five minutes is the longest any internet video should run (after that, viewers bounce). And again, unlike the musician who can put their full length album up as individual MP3s, the feature filmmaker can’t really present their film as a chopped up series of shorts.

    Let me tackle another tangent. The popular term for filmmakers of the internet age is content creator and personally, I hate that term. I know it’s meant to expand the understood scope of what filmmakers create (features, shorts, websites, web seriesgames, ARGs, etc.) but it makes me sound like I’m some corporate shill pumping out widgets for customers. It strips the art out of what we do. Yes, I understand that one of the keys to survival under this is new model is identifying your audience and targeting them with laser like precision but that also means you need to brand and market yourself as a specific kind of content creator. You are the dude that makes motorcycle films, period. Me, I’m still exploring my artistic voice but I beleive all my works are steeped with the themes that drive me, Look at Scorsese. It doesn’t matter if he makes a period romance, a gangster flick, a horror thriller or even a music video, you can recognize his works by their themes and style. Me, I’m a filmmaker.

    Now, let’s get back to the “them” that I simply described as the old guard. Yes, it’s easy to boo the major studios and broadcasters, their corporate parents and all their related media spawn but don’t we all want to play in their yard? I know we’re all in an economic crisis and I don’t know where they get the stones to say “instead of giving you a commercial with a six-figure budget we’re gonna demand a high quality product with a two week turn around but we’re only gonna give ya pizza money and we’re gonna call it a viral video, which we’re gonna post all over YouTube, Hulu, you name it, but we’re not sharing any of the profits. The exposure is your profit. BTW, since we’re the copyright holders we’re not gonna let you post it on your own website. Cool? My lawyers tell me it’s cool” but don’t we still do the job for the exposure and the pizza money? Hey, cold pizza will feed ya for most of the week. Plus, aren’t they scouting us, hazing us, testing us to see if we might be the right person to direct the webisodes based on their new Christian Slater series? I know it’s terribly unfair but…

    Another tangent: I love how clients ask for viral videos. Um, you can’t make a viral video. You make a video, send it out into the world and it either becomes viral or it doesn’t. That’s for the internet to decide.

    So now we have some idea of the players, their motivations and how they clash and commingle but let me leave you with this question: Unions and their members are always confronting major corporations (as they should) but how do they interface with new media? I’m not talking about television shows repurposed for the internet but rather original content. How do they (or any of us) make a living from new media, much less collect dues to pay for benefits? Before you answer so quickly, have you seen the budgets on new media programs? They’re all over the map: Joss Whedon‘s DOCTOR HORRIBLE cost in the low six figures, John August‘s THE REMNANTS cost over $25k and I know some folks that make internet shorts for less than $100 a pop. Want one union’s answer to new media? Check out SAG’s New Media Rate Sheet?

    Next week: What?