Saturday, September 27, 2008

Film Festival Secrets: the book is finished.

Film Festival Secrets

Has it been quiet around here lately? That's because one cannot complete a book and blog at the same time. At least I can't.

I've been devoting all of my writing resources to completing Film Festival Secrets: A Handbook for Independent Filmmakers and I'm happy to say that it's finally finished. Since I don't want to spend months or years looking for a publisher I'm putting it out myself through Amazon's Createspace print-on-demand service. A downloadable PDF version will be available for free and the print edition will list at $24.95.

There's still the print proof left to approve but I'm confident that I will be able to make the PDF and print versions available simultaneously on October 16th with a launch at the Austin Film Festival.

So now you know what I've been up to and why it's been so quiet around here. I'll be doing more writing on the blog in coming months with excerpts from the book (annotated and expanded to include things that didn't make the print edition) as well as new material, interviews, etc.

More to come.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Catch me this weekend at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival

I'm serving on the narrative shorts jury this weekend at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival in Birmingham Alabama. You should be able to see me on a panel or two during the festival, in particular the "alternative distribution" panel at 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Niche Marketing Tools Panel - Independent Film Week

These are my notes on the Niche Marketing Tools panel, including some of my thoughts before the panel and some of the more interesting concepts that came up during the panel. I've listed them below in no particular order and attributed them to the panelists where I could remember where they came from -- apologies to those whom I misremember.

- To speak generally, niche marketing is about identifying special interests in your film, researching that special interest, and contacting those heavily engaged in that interest to spread the word within the existing community. Tapping into existing communities who can spread word of mouth for you is the goal.

- The basics of marketing a film still apply -- still photos, well-written supporting material, making a good first impression. (Jon Gerrans)

- Jason Cassidy - On marketing "Blindness" -- speaking to the built-in core audience of people who loved the book was hugely important in marketing that film.

- Larry Fessenden - On creating a film web site: Stills, etc are important but it's also important to use the ability to customize to help draw visitors into the story of your film and the story behind the film. A director's statement (while it may seem corny) can very much influence press and audience perception of the film. Web site preferable to facebook or myspace in this way because you can customize a web site in ways that one cannot with facebook.

- Larry Fessenden - On building community -- your community consists not just of your fans but also of other filmmakers, journalists who cover your genre (including bloggers, etc). Recruit them to your cause and be a partner to them as well. Larry has built a network of horror/genre filmmakers who have their own stories that feed into the larger story of this filmmaking community. Like a mini-studio or unofficial releasing "brand."

- Jason Cassidy - On Facebook: New media like facebook can make marketing more efficient but the social tools only work if people are drawn to them. That can actually take a media/advertising spend to gain critical mass and make maintaining Facebook presence worth it.

- Jon Garrans - On Facebook: Facebook is a great place to store data like trailers, etc, which might otherwise cost you money to store and transmit (outgoing bandwidth fees).

- Aaron Hillis - On bandwidth fees - Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) can also help with storage at low cost.

- Aaron Hillis - Facebook & MySpace can be oversaturated, difficult to attract an audience to any one thing -- get more creative, take steps beyond just setting up a social network page.

- Stephen Raphael, on communities - some communities are stronger than others and distributors make decisions based on that. For example Jewish community networks are very strong and can be relied upon to spread word of mouth but also have strong formal networks (community centers, email lists, etc).

- Stephen Raphael, in answer to question about tapping known niches - Don't self-distribute to a niche if you think you might want to beyond self-distribution. If you tap out a potential revenue source then you're reducing the value of your property to a distributor. Doing the research on that niche, however, is a selling point -- the more supporting evidence you have that there are people out there just waiting to buy your film, the stronger selling advantage you have.

Web sites for panelists:

Jason Cassidy, Miramax -

Larry Fessenden, "The Last Winter" -

Jon Gerrans, Strand Releasing -

Aaron Hillis, Benten Films -

Stephen Raphael, Required Viewing - ???

See also Film Tiki's Eyewitness report of the panel.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Independent Film Week


For the next couple of days I'll be hanging out at Independent Film Week in NYC. Everyone still calls it IFP but they rebranded this year and moved to the Fashion Institute of Technology so I guess I'll do them the favor of using the proper name, but if you want to read about it on Twitter you'd better search for IFP.

Saw the talk on festivals yesterday which was pretty basic but it sounds like a lot of people need the basic info; it only reinforced my feelings that Film Festival Secrets (the upcoming book) is a book that needed to be written. Speaking of which, I'm making rapid progress and on track to release the download version by mid-October; the print version should either be available at the same time or shortly thereafter. If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter I suggest you do so, as I'll be releasing a sneak preview to newsletter members only.

I also stuck around for the Kevin Smith talk, which was a variant of the same Q&A Kevin Smith always gives -- there are only so many questions to ask the guy, and he has answers ready for all of 'em. This might be a bad thing but since he's such a born yarn-spinner it's usually entertaining even if you've heard the story before. When asked to compare his experiences between indie and studio filmmaking, he shot back:

I've made one independent film: Clerks. But I'm labeled as an independent filmmaker forever. I saw in indieWIRE the other day that I'm a "veteran independent filmmaker." That made me feel old. But I guess it's like being gay, right? You suck one cock and you're always gay.

Smith also encouraged filmmakers to make Clerks, as it's the only way he knows to break into the industry.

Nobody's made a convenience store movie in 15 years! You could be that guy.

When asked what the reaction might be if Clerks were released today:

"This guy rips off Judd Apatow!" . . . (smiles) You feel me?

I'll be in New York for the next couple of days and moderating the Tuesday afternoon panel on Niche Marketing Tools. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Independent Cinema - The Revolution Is Dead, Long Live the Revolution

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times:

INDEPENDENCE in the movies is a cri de coeur and an occasionally profitable branding ploy, but mostly it’s a seductive lie. For much of American movie history it has been shorthand for more aesthetically adventurous films, bolder in form, freer in spirit and at times more overtly political than those churned out by the Hollywood studios. Once we were one nation under the movie screen, indivisible, with liberty and Shirley Temple for all, but independent film gave us new ways of looking, or so the story goes.

Read The Revolution Is Dead, Long Live the Revolution.

(Via DIY Filmmaker Sujewa.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

indieWIRE: Eating, Drinking, and Shopping in Toronto

Tens of thousands of people are about to converge upon Canada's largest city for one of the world's largest film events, socializing and networking all over town. indieWIRE surveyed a group of Toronto locals and insiders about their favorites places to eat, drink, shop and chill, including some of our own tips from indieWIRE staffer (and former Torontonian) Peter Knegt.

Possibly the most useful thing indieWIRE has published all year. If you're headed to the Toronto International Film Festival, you must read indieWIRE: TORONTO '08 | Eating, Drinking, and Shopping in Toronto: An indieWIRE Insiders Guide.

Past DIY Film Festival Winners

The DIY Film Festival is proud to talk about.. itself! We've had a lot of talented filmmakers in the past 8 years, and we want to brag about a few of them. Early winners from the festival, include Jeff Wadlow, (Tower of Babble, 2002, and Katching Kringle 2004) who won awards in two festivals, once for a comedy short, and another year for an animated short. He went on to win the Million dollar Chrysler Film Festival, and then Jeff went on to direct the feature film Cry Wolf in 2005.
2006 BEST DRAMATIC FEATURE and BEST DIRECTOR for "SELF MEDICATED" filmmaker Monty Lapica went on to release his film theatrically after winning numerous other film festivals.
2006 BEST FILM "AMAZING GRACE: JEFF BUCKLEY" went on to win numerous other film festivals, as well, the terric and moving portrait of the winger, and is awaiting release on DVD.
The 2007 Festival included recent theatrical release "Last Stop for Paul" by director Neil Mandt. "Last Stop" went on to win awards in 45 film festivals and was released theatrically this past spring. And finally, last year's Documentary feature winner "The American Drug War: the Last White Hope" went on to win numerous awards and was purchased by Showtime where it made its debut in March and is now on DVD. Congratulations to director Kevin Booth and kudos to all the filmmakers who've allowed us to get a glimpse of their careers early on! Keep up the good work!!

Last year's winner Best Film "Buskers" is showing at the upcoming Coney Island Festival on Sept 8th.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

2007 DIY FILM Festival Winners

Just to recap.. for those who are new to the blog..


"Last Stop For Paul" Wins Best Film Award

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 12, 2007)_ The hilarious comedy "Last Stop For Paul," the tale of two cubicle-bound workers who take an inspired trip around the world with a dead friend's ashes, has been named Best Film at the 2007 DIY Film Festival, which concluded Sunday.

The film was screened as part of the 2007 DIY Convention, which took place Feb. 9-11 at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

In "Last Stop For Paul," director Neil Mandt improvises a film based on the idea of a worldwide journey seeking both pleasure and to honor the memory of a departed comrade. Using local amateurs and actors he picks up along the way, Mandt crafted a hilarious film from a cast that the makers of "Babel" would envy. For his innovative use of resources and his flair for storytelling, Mandt wins the 2007 DIY Film Festival "Best Director" honors to go along with his best film award.

A special award was granted acclaimed writer/director Henry Jaglom, who was named "DIY Filmmaker of the Year" for his vast body of independent filmmaking, which includes 16 feature films. Jaglom was honored at a special Saturday evening screening of his latest film, "Hollywood Dreams," and participated in a post-screening interview with DIY Film Festival programming director Richard Martini and lead actress Tanna Frederick.

The other winners of the 2007 DIY Film Festival include:

In the vein of "Fight Club," a group of friends decide on a novel way to pick up girls: staging a street mugging and then pretending to save them. But things go downhill when one of the friends falls in love with a victim...

An uproarious comedy depicting a dysfunctional family from Liverpool. Reminiscent of "Little Miss Sunshine," the story revolves around a young girl's first communion and her completely wacky family, all told in DIY fashion with residents of Liverpool as the cast.

Two Russian slackers move to London to scam their way to riches in two weeks. Thoroughly exploring the immigrant underworld of the UK, this film manages to feel like a "Borat" through the eyes of two hip Eastern Europeans.

Director Kevin Booth exposes the people behind the so-called "War On Drugs" proposed by the Nixon administration and still operating as government policy – or is it? Featuring interviews with a former DEA agent, a conservative judge and other political leaders, Booth uncovers the lies and conspiracy theories of the drug trade.

A famous "Jab" dancer passes along his secrets to dancing, life, love and native cooking to a protege.

An insightful and funny look at the new Christian evangelical movement through the eyes of Stephen Baldwin, punk rockers and skateboarders.
A guy loses his girlfriend and goes through an unusual fantasy of what happened – a dream where all the characters are played by her.

Touching story of a young boy whose attempts at communication with his grandmother are stifled until he realizes she's hard of hearing.

This clay-mation animated feature from South Africa takes a look at life and love in Johannesburg.

A fresh and unusual look at a relationship told in split screen, and sometimes in triptych, where our hero's running monologue with himself is played in variations until he gets it right.


CALL FOR ENTRIES The International Film Festival Submission System
The DIY Film Festival prefers paperless entries submitted via The International Film Festival Submission System (BrigitFest) – on the Web at Withoutabox provides cost-saving, online entry to major film festivals throughout the U.S. and in Europe with one master entry form, allowing you and us to enter your film more quickly and with greater accuracy. This method is free and easy. Members who choose to join Withoutabox also get $5.00 off their Entry Fees, plus the advantages of Extended Deadlines and Online Press Kit submissions. Click over to Withoutabox, then follow instructions to apply online:CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Click to Enter the 8th Annual DIY Film Festival

Interview: Jason Connell, New York United Film Festival

When asked for his advice for upcoming filmmakers:

I was on a panel at the Maryland Film Festival about a month ago, giving filmmakers advice on getting into festivals. There are so many and the shorts are incredibly long. They have a tendency to be longer than need to be. 16-minute shorts are hard to program, but if it's a great 5-7 minutes, it's easier to program. But it has to be special. Also, have someone else look at your film, since a director is too married to the film and someone else has a different eye and can offer objectivity. Festival competition is tough, so be sure to submit early, too. If you submit late, the lineup for an evening may already be locked up, no matter how great your film is. Our submissions are cheap, too. Those things are key. Oh yeah, make a great film. That's important, too.

Read Interview: Jason Connell, New York United Film Festival - ARTISTdirect News.