Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When festival poster art attacks!

A coincidence, I'm sure, but an amusing one:

The 1983 Atlanta
Film Festival poster.
The 2009 Independent
Film Festival Boston art.

Is there a common image source for both? Someone knowledgeable in art history, please let me know.

(Update: some Googling later, it looks like both works are the same take on an illustration in Gray's Anatomy.)

Audio: IFF Boston Audience Building Panel

IFFBBrian Chirls was kind enough to record our panel at the Independent Film Festival of Boston entitled Followers: How Filmmakers are Building Their Audiences Online in the 21st Century. To blatantly copy and subtly edit his blog entry on the subject:

The other panelists were:

Scott Kirsner (moderator) is a journalist and all-around smart guy. He’s the author of two books, Inventing the Movies and Fans, Friends & Followers. He also writes the blog Cinematech.
Brian Chirls is an audience/online guru who works on a number of independent film projects.
Sean Flynn producer and cinematographer at Principle Pictures.
We discussed a range of topics, including:

  • Benefits and pitfalls of social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.)
  • Strategies for reaching audiences before, during and after production
  • Crowdsourcing to build audiences as well as help production
  • How much of your content to post online for free
  • Ad revenue models
  • Distribution formats (DVD, download, streaming, theatrical, etc.)
  • Applying all the above to other media such as music and art

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Steal this idea: use your vacation email message to market your film/event

I got this excellent email "out of office" autoresponder from a festival contact recently:

Absence Alert! I'm out of the office and returning Monday, April 13.

I'll be warm and dry playing outside dressed in my Patagonia Cold Track jacket, Polartec fleece, OR hat and gloves and New Balance Shoes. I'll use my Deuter pack to carry extra gear and supplies from Gore-Tex, Mountain Hardwear, OR, Petzl and Mountain Equipment Co-op. You can find me in the beautiful pristince Yellowstone to Yukon region, making tracks at Mount Engadine Lodge, or skiing one of the fantastic areas of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. Following a great day outdoors I'll relax with a Big Rock ale or a glass of Redwood Creek wine and enjoy reading about travel, exploration and adventure in National Geographic Adventure magazine. I may fantasize about tripping away with World Expeditions or Canadian Mountain Holidays.

I will check and reply to email only sporadicaly. If you need immediate assistance please contact [snipped for privacy].

Laurie Harvey
Manager, Strategic Partnerships
Mountain Culture, The Banff Centre

Laurie not only turned her everyday vacation message into something funny, she also mentioned her strategic partners (aka "sponsors"), guaranteeing that existing sponsors would smile and that prospective partners would get the message: even when Laurie is on vacation, she's doing her job.

If you're a filmmaker, you can use vacation auto-responders to send messages in a similar way. Set one up to cover your email while you're away at a festival, and be sure to include the screening times of all of your upcoming festivals while you're at it. Add a link to your trailer so that everyone who emails you will get a chance to check out your film -- even if they're just trying to sell you "mal3 en#anc3ment" products.

MovieMaker's 2009 List: 25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee MovieMaker Magazine

MovieMaker has released their annual list again, and the results are... interesting. I'm very pleased to see my old home, the Austin Film Festival, listed – arguably the most prominent festival on the list. No time to comment more now as I'm packing for IFF Boston (see you there? I'm speaking on a panel) but I'll have the full rundown next week.

Read The 2009 List: 25 Festivals Worth the Fee in MovieMaker Magazine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Steal this idea - Secret Party for your Twitter followers

Festival directors reading this can steal the idea outright, but filmmakers may need a little more creativity to make it work for them. Either way, it's a clever and subversive way to boost your Twitter followers – the Atlanta Film Festival withheld the details about one of their parties, releasing the details only on Twitter. (You can find them at twitter.com/atlantafilmfest.)

Below is a quick snap of the party page of the Atlanta Film Festival's program guide.

Secret Party

Friday, April 17, 2009

Upcoming panel discussions with yours truly

Normally it's difficult to get me to shut up about myself, but occasionally I get busy enough that I forget to do even that. As a result you may have missed your golden opportunity to see me speak at the Georgia Big Picture Conference this morning. Never fear! I have two more panels here in Atlanta and one coming up in Massachusetts at the Independent Film Festival of Boston. Here are the gritty details.

The Film Festival Circuit: A discussion with authors Heidi Van Lier (The Indie Film Rule Book) and Chris Holland (Film Festival Secrets).
Friday April 17th at 4:00 p.m.
931 Monroe Drive
Atlanta,GA 30305

Distribution Options and Alternatives
Sunday April 19th at 10:45 a.m.
Hotel Midtown
Atlanta, GA

Digital strategies for building and communicating with your audience
Sunday, April 26 at 12:00 pm
Somerville Theatre
55 Davis Sq
Somerville, MA 02144

The other panelists are:

  • Scott Kirsner (moderator), author of the Cinematech blog and two very cool books.
  • Brian Chirls, digital film marketing guru extraordinaire
  • Sean Flynn, producer and cinematographer at Principle Pictures.

Panels are open to festival/conference badgeholders; please inquire to GA Big Picture Conference or IFF Boston if you need more info.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Awards Smackdown! The Jury vs the Audience

AudienceWhile doing some research I came across this entry on the Environmental Defense Fund blog:

At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the jury of film experts chose Forty Shades of Blue as the best dramatic film.  The Audience Award went to Hustle & Flow.  I don’t know which was a better film, but I do know Hustle & Flow went on to earn $20 million in wide release in the U.S., while Forty Shades of Blue topped out at $75,000.  I’m sure it doesn’t always happen that way, but it goes to show that the experts don’t always know what will succeed in the marketplace of ideas.

We at Environmental Defense Fund just finished something a bit like a film festival — a competition that challenged participants to make a 30 second ad that explains how capping greenhouse gas pollution will help cure our national addition to oil.  This week we announced two winners, one selected by our staff and another chosen by thousands of voters online.  Like at Sundance, the voters and the judges chose different winners…in fact, the video chosen by us "experts" came in dead last in the online voting.

This in essence, is the guiding philosophy behind distributor (and my employer) B-Side Entertainment: the audience is never wrong. When putting together your own festival and distribution plan, polling a wide audience (who doesn't know you) through test screenings is essential. Even when you can't trust yourself or your friends to evaluate whether your film is good or bad likely to appeal to festival audiences, your test audiences will tell you.

(Edited after Alex Orr rightly pointed out that sometimes "audience-pleasing" doesn't always equal "good.")

Read Climate 411 » Video Contest: Your Choice vs. the "Expert" Choice - Blogs & Podcasts - Environmental Defense Fund.

Photo by Till Westermayer.

Friday, April 10, 2009

IFP searches for a Community Manager

IFP (formerly known as the Independent Feature Project) is on the hunt for a new Community Manager, someone with a strong background in marketing and web savvy.

Full-time position available immediately for high energy, organized individual with managerial, marketing and web experience. Must have excellent project management and strong social media expertise - this includes managing forums and online communities for at least 3 years and/or maintaining successful blog for at least 2 years.


The Community Manger is responsible for building an online presence for IFP and its publications and programs. Their primary job will be the maintenance and continuity of information about the organization both internally and externally, acting as a strong community advocate who represents the organization online and off, working to build IFP brand awareness in both directions. They will be in charge of all membership management, online content development and design, and management and marketing of IFP publications, programs and events. The position reports directly to IFP’s Deputy Director and works closely with IFP’s Programming staff members and Gotham Awards Producer.

Inquire with Amy Dotson, (212) 465-8200 x 203.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Does a grant program like Cinereach have something for you?

CinereachindieWIRE posted this article about the Cinereach awards, about which I hadn't heard before. The Reach Film Fellowship looks like an intense program for nascent filmmakers, and Cinereach supports filmmakers in a variety of other ways, including "up to $400,000 in grants and awards to documentary and narrative films."

Last night’s event was the conclusion of the intensive six-month Reach Film Fellowship program in which McQueen, Russell and two other filmmakers - Jules Monteyne and Dena Greenbaum - were paired with mentors and advisors who helped them take their short films from script or treatment through completion.  In addition to Kim and Bishop, this year’s mentors were Producer Jeremy Kipp Walker (“Half Nelson”) and Writer/Director Nicole Kassell (“The Woodsman”). All four fellows received a grant of $5,000 at the start of the program, in addition to donated materials and services from sponsors like Kodak, Postworks and Showbiz Software.

There are a lot of filmmakers out there struggling in isolation (away from film-active cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, where film programs abound) who probably don't think to explore their options when it comes to such aid. There's a lot of money -- not to mention services and expertise -- to be had just for the asking. Get googling and see what you can find.

Read Cinereach Presents 2009 Awards - indieWIRE.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Today's blog sponsor: Shriekfest


Today's sponsor for the blog is Shriekfest, the Los Angeles Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival.

Shriekfest is an international festival and screenplay competition dedicated to getting horror/thriller/sci-fi/fantasy filmmakers and screenwriters the recognition they deserve. What makes our festival unique is that we proactively help the filmmakers and screenwriters by promoting their work to the industry.

Shriekfest takes place in early October; the regular deadline for entry is May 22nd. Mosey on over to the Shriekfest web site now.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fest Circuit 101 - A Guide to Fests

indiewireindieWIRE announced last week that it will be maintaining a guide to film festivals on its site. Presumably this will be a more formal effort to present information on particular festivals than its usual practice of simply covering festivals as they occur. Not that the coverage in and of itself was a bad thing, but it could be difficult to get a sense of indieWIRE's overall view of the festival world.

indieWIRE is rolling out a cross section of North American and international film festivals listings with dates and links to iW coverage when relevant. Big events such as Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and Berlin are listed along with other large fests as well as regional and specialty festivals. This list will continue to evolve and we hope it will be a useful guide for filmmakers, film fans and industry. We also plan to add further features to the list, so please check back in the coming weeks and months.

To get to the guide, hit "Quicklinks" on the indieWIRE navigation bar and select "Film Festival Guide."

The indieWIRE Guide to Film Festivals.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Business of Nonprofits: Ensure excellence when recruiting board members

A little something for the festival staffers out there; indie film consultant Mark Wynns pointed me towards this article on one of the trickier aspects of running a film festival – maintaining a board of directors. Good stuff.

Your board must understand that they are the final authority responsible for your nonprofit's performance, rather than the executive director. They should be familiar with the full range of this accountability - financial management, legal and so on.

The flip side of the accountability issue is a board that micromanages the executive director or other staff. Gottlieb states, "Micromanagement is the opposite of accountability. True accountability is proactive and preventative, while micromanagement is reactive and fear-based."

Read The Business of Nonprofits: Ensure excellence when recruiting board members.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Flick: Trevor's in Heaven

This is a great example of what I call "next-level" humor in short films. So many comedies make jokes that only play on the obvious and go in the expected directions. Trevor's in Heaven lulls you into thinking you know what's going to happen next and then slaps you around for a bit, always escalating the humor to the next level. Just watch.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cinevegas interview with Scott Kirsner


Scott Kirsner, creator of the Cinematech blog, answers questions about the (much-speculated-upon) forthcoming revolution in DIY film distribution. It's inspirational stuff if you're disheartened by the lack of opportunity in traditional distribution right now.

Look, I do think that if you can do what Joss and Radiohead do, which is leverage the power of established media companies and their distribution channels while also doing some DIY experimentation, that’s not a bad thing. But I also believe there is incredible opportunity for total unknowns right now. You have access to the tools to make what you want, inexpensively. And you have access to all these distribution channels – DVD production, CD production, book production, digital downloads – that were really locked up just five or ten years ago. What can you do to overcome the power imbalance? You start by making really remarkable stuff that no one else is making, focus on a niche audience, and then experiment with different ways to grow that small initial audience.

Kirsner just published a book called Fans, Friends, and Followers -- check out a sample on Scott's web site.