Indies Should Consider Digital Premieres Prior To Theatrical Release
via Ted Hope
Indie filmmakers must change how they do things. Too many filmmakers’ actions are predicated on antiquated business practices. These old ways limit a filmmaker’s ability to build audiences and earn revenue. It is time for a serious change.
We now live in an era of cultural abundance and all of our practices need to take this into account. Audiences are overwhelmed with demands and options on their leisure time. It is harder than ever to get people to commit to doing anything. If you accept this is a reality why would you take your film to a film festival (other than the five leading market ones) without having your next steps well planned?
How are you going to build word of mouth for your film? How are you going to do that on timely basis so it does not seem like an old hat by the time audiences can access it? You need to manufacture desire for your film. And you want that desire to infect a forever enlarging community.
Filmmakers need to identify audiences that will most likely react positively to their work. They need those audiences to be aggregated and ideally already developed into a community that shares and discusses films and/or issues. Filmmakers need to think through how they can incite that community to engage, act, and spread.
Studios have long employed two key traditional techniques to refine their marketing and spread interest in a film: test screenings and word-of-mouth screenings. They spend heavily for each of these services, with test screenings costing over $50,000/each and word of mouth screenings as much as $10,000/per. A test screening often involves detailed questionnaires as well as a focus group. Word of mouth screenings are often a challenge to get the right audience to the screening and hence the high cost.
Digital communities offer both studios and independents a way to economically utilize both test screenings and word of mouth screenings. The internet allows us to target specific demographics as well as monitor their behavior while viewing (did they pause? where? and for how long?). Geo-blocking allows for specific regions to be focused on. When the digital community already has a built in video player a screening can easily be accommodated.
I suspect we are not very far away when savvy filmmakers will follow a festival premiere with a one day only digital premiere for a pre-selected audience. They will then follow with more regional festival screenings and corresponding digital screenings. They will utilize those festivals as hosts for digital transactional premieres. They will use the digital community to help proselytize the film. They will bring their film to the local art house armed with an engaged community of fans that will help make sure their friends prioritize the theatrical release on their busy schedules.
I will be participating on an “Industry Dialogue”panel tomorrow at TIFF14 (Toronto) at 330P EDT “FTP: Festivals / Theatrical / Platforms” where we will discuss this and other new practices.
So, the film is finished — the final sound mix is finished… and I’ve been keeping very busy with getting the film seen by festivals and ready for release via VHX.
In the meantime though, there is something that I started that remains unfinished… and I need to fix that before moving on to the next project…
A few years ago I released the first 4 parts to a making-of story called 64 Days — this last week I’ve been writing the 5th and final part to that story. It’s been an interesting exercise for me, to look back on this whole project and articulate what it has meant to me.
Be sure to add yourself to the film’s mailing list - it will be the first place we’ll share how and where to see part 5 of 64 Days - don’t worry about your inbox being flooded, we send out about one email every two months.
Also, if you’re looking to re-watch the earlier parts again, you can so here for free.
Listening to Alexandra mix FTOM over the theater speakers today was like hearing the film for the first time again. We spent the majority of the day going over the ambient mix, it was an interesting way to see the film for me - all the foley and narration, even the music in some cases, was switched off, so that we were just hearing the foundation (sound-wise) for each of the scenes.
It was quite a day… I can’t wait to hear the final mix next week in the big-stage, and I can’t wait to share the film with all of you.
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves
A week from now, I’ll be sitting down with our wonderfully talented sound-designer, Alexandra Fehrman, to wrap up the final sound mix on FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES; even just writing those words is incredibly exciting for me, I’ve long-known that sound would be one of the most important aspects of the film — that there was so much to do with it, so much to say with it, more than could be done visually — it’s been something I’ve looked forward to even before leaving to film during principal photography.
So, what’s the plan after that?
That’s something I’ve been working very hard on these last few months, which has involved a lot of picking back up where I last left off in regards to distribution research and outreach. My desk lately has been a mess of festival schedules, TUGG toolkits, VHX forums, IGTM case studies, on and on. It’s a lot to keep track of, and it’s moments like this when I realize all this hard work I’ve put into getting the film this far, it’s still only half way there.
This year I’ve been approaching film festivals very differently, thanks in large part to the advice of Rodrigo Reyes, who has stressed never submitting to festivals cold — to always find a way to personally reach out to festivals before hand, it helps to start a conversation about why you’re sharing the film with that festival, why you believe they are good fit — those are hard questions to answer sometimes, but it helps knowing that if you can’t answer those questions, then that festival might not be a good fit after all.
Of course, with any festival you’re stuck playing a waiting game, and it’s best to have a game plan for giving your film a long life after it plays or never-plays at a handful of film fest — with FTOM my main focus has always been self-releasing the film, to do this we’ll be using services like VHX, as well as self-organizing screenings through services like TUGG; meaning that any upcoming festival interest will only strengthen and validate the film.
Often filmmakers hope to use festivals as leverage when selling their film rights to various distributors… personally, having complete control over how the film is shared, sold, promoted, etc, is invaluable; not simply as a learning experience, but more so as an assurance that the film is not misrepresented.
As an example, every marketing team and conversation we’ve had about how to represent the film puts all the pressure on “it’s a bike movie!”, “slap a bicycle on the poster, get Trek to sponsor the film”, etc, but all of these things would, personally speaking, present a version of the film that I wouldn’t be interested in watching. So, for me, that’s a dangerous road to go down - and although I don’t know how to market, I do know the film… it is an intimate and personal part of me, and I plan to share the film in a way that is personal and intimate.
The long, trying experience of making this film has taught me far-more about myself than I ever expected - and, if making the film is only half the process, if the remaining half is giving that film a chance at a life of it’s own out in the real world, than I want to be 200% involved in that, I want to understand how to be the best advocate and defender… of something I worked so hard to create.
If you’d like to pre-order the film, you can do so here. Note! If you’ve backed the film on Kickstarter, you likely already have a copy of the film coming you way when it is released, if you’re not sure, please write us to find out. If you’re interested in bringing the film to your hometown theater, you can add yourself to a list of people who we’ll reach out to in the near future, when we are ready to really start pushing for self-organized events.
Heads up - Jamie did this epic interview on Glenn Fleishman’s epic podcast The New Disruptors. Here’s a tiny excerpt — Some Jamie insight into the qualities we see in all of the most successful content creators who tackle internet distribution, regardless of genre.
"A lot of personality, a lot of engagement, a lot of honesty,and I think that’s the thing the internet responds so well to —authenticity. You see that on YouTube too… It’s something we’ve seen with music, it’s even something that we’ve with video games, and it’s just now coming more into the film and TV world. And it’s something we want to be a big part of: [Giving the audience] a direct connection with the creator.”
If you have any interest what-so-ever on self-releasing your film, then you should give this fantastic interview a listen. It’s incredibly educational.
Source: blog.vhx.tv / NewDisruptors
Q/A - We Want to Hear From You! Ask us Questions About FTOM:
We’ve been making a list of questions for an upcoming interview, I’ll be talking about working on FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES over the last several years. The questions cover everything from early development to post production.
I’m very much looking forward to discussing these things in greater detail, some of the questions below have yet to ever be talked about openly on the site before. As an example, I’ll be discussing the scene above, a shot that I’ve always considered to be the most difficult shot out of the whole film, a 360 degree tracking shot at 20 MPH.
Let us know if there are questions you’d like added to the list below - they can be about FTOM specifically or filmmaking in general; whatever your’e curious about.
- Why did I start this film?
- How did this project start?
- How did I meet the crew?
- How did we find Larry?
- How did we get a kickstart on production?
- Talk about preparing to leave…
- What happened on the road?
- Did things go as planned?
- Funny stories during filming?
- What was the most difficult shot?
- Most memorable moments…
- What do I miss the most from filming on the road?
- Influences on the film?
- The editing process?
- The writing process?
- Did I say what I needed to say?