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The Sky Is Not Falling: Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System // submit a post -- nelson@nelsoncarvajal.com

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Mass Digital Distribution Calls For Even More DIY Marketing & Self Promotion

It was only a matter of time before the big fish in the pond began seeing the incredible potential in digital distribution and new media exhibition platforms. It's more than just iTunes or iPads or online streaming. The potential comes in the revival of niche programming, a renaissance in avant garde indie content. Up until now, any indie auteur relied solely on festival exposure to have any chance at reaching a targeted audience; this would often prove to be a nominal gesture for said filmmaker because big wig marketers usually catered to the wrong crowd. We know now, with web 2.0 and filmmaking 2.0, that free online tools help content creators curate their targeted audience

So when you add aggressive self promotion, free online platforms and sophisticated tools for distribution (tablet devices, small digital cinemas), you have a new wave of moviemaking and thus a resurgence in the cinephile moviegoing community. And for any exhibitor or distributor, a revived community equals positive ticket sales. Therefore, it's no surprise that heavyweight entities are entering the ring of new media digital distribution. Consider this snippet from a recent New York Times article called "Tribeca and Sundance Festivals Plan Big Growth" --

"For years, the business function of festivals was straightforward: create excitement for independent films, and hope that distributors acquire them for release.

But the rise of Web streaming and video-on-demand services freed festivals from their geographic limitations. Suddenly, the likes of Sundance, Tribeca and South by Southwest [SXSW] were experimenting with simultaneous film premieres at their festivals and on Web sites like YouTube or cable on-demand systems.

Now comes a new development — the end of experimentation and the start of full-fledged digital distribution efforts by festival operators."

This new digital frontier brings trouble though. Because movie titans like Sundance will have understood and mastered the marketing edge to these digital distribution channels, new media indie filmmakers will face more of an unexpected uphill battle: 

"At the same time, Web streaming and growth of video-on-demand systems in living rooms lowered the bar for distribution. Suddenly all kinds of indie films — not just the ones that showed strong theatrical promise — could be served up to wide audiences. The problem is that as digital offerings grow, these films, which come with little or no marketing budgets, have increasing difficulty breaking through the clutter." 

How do we break through "the clutter"? Well, we continue to harness the power of social media and storytelling 2.0 (i.e. concepts like transmedia and also having the life of your film exist outside its format and running time). By continuing to grow and cultivate your audience, avenues like DIY cinemas should become more common. Why aren't we seeing more of these makeshift cinemas become part of the emerging cinephile 2.0 culture? Anyone with access to a projector, a wall and suitable content should take the initiative. Now is the time.

Added, people aren't talking much about "dial tones" these days and that worries me. How could content creators and producers still consider entities like Facebook as elementary tools for recreation? Social is media very real. The valuation for these platforms grows everyday--as illustrated in the video below--and these are very real dollar signs. Dollar signs that don't emerge from ad sales. Dollar signs that instead emerge from engaged audiences.

How about that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"I Just Like To Make Things"

The need for neoauteurs is great. Probably more needed than ever. And not for conventional reasons of industry argument either (e.g. to exist as the antidote to such Tinseltown dreck as Avatar or The Ugly Truth) but because this recent democratization of film has given birth to a wave of faux novice filmmakers who are more in love with their camera--and not their content. Our indie cinema needs more narrative risk takers and more artists challenging our perception of the world.

I'm not saying that there aren't any neoauteurs around right now but with filmmaking 2.0 being available at every corner, it seems that now is the most opportune time to really experiment with conventional form, delivery and method.

A few years back a colleague of mine, James Choi, managed to get a few questions in with one of my favorite filmmakers Harmony Korine down at the SXSW Festival. It's a gem of an interview because Korine plays his usual role as a subtle prankster, challenging our judgment of what is real and what isn't, until he finally arrives at why he makes films "independently."

Mister Lonely - Harmony Korine Interview from jcpov on Vimeo.

After watching this piece, isn't it liberating to see an artist so unphased by hype, the Hollywood machine and everything else that tends to weigh down the struggling independent artist? So just make your work. Any way you can.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Filmmaker 2.0 Gameplan -- Get Your Project To Your Audience

The beautiful and elusive aspect to the golden Hollywood exhibition model is that the work you create could actually be projected on thousands of screens across the country. How about that?

But if you're not at the helm of Just Go With It or The Green Hornet or any studio-backed production, chances are you are also amidst the undefined the landscape that is new media independent moviemaking. So where do you go? How do you begin to stake your claim in this market?

For a while now, many of the articles I have published on Cinefile.com have marched to the same beat: Today the notion of DIY is less novel and more necessary. The Do-It-Yourself mentality has (luckily) grown into more of a business mindset and less of a "renegade" or "guerilla" mentality. It was inevitable. When an industry like ours sees less opportunity for independent film to flourish--albeit through domestic sales or production capital--on a mainstream scale, doesn't it seem natural for our grassroots work ethic to evolve into a commerce survival tactic?

In an older piece I wrote called "Why Storytelling Needs To Exist Outside Of Your Script Page," I pointed out the following:

"Considering that the audience for your film is right on par with familiarizing themselves with new mobile platforms (e.g. Apple's iPad) and are looking for intuitive new ways to be engaged with movie content, it is only logical that you--the independent artist--utilize free platforms, like Cinefile.com, to share both your work and the story behind your work."

It's no joke. Those tablet devices are going to be an integral part of the moviegoing future. That's not to say that these tools will completely replace the group moviegoing experience (a la cinematheque!). Which brings us to...

Looking ahead: It appears that digital filmmakers and independent content creators who have the knack and bravado to embrace the FREE new media online tools (i.e. social media platforms!) in order to cultivate appropriate audiences, will be the ones at the front of the line once the Tinseltown suits realize that they're bone dry of engaging material. Before, only having a good product was the key to success. Yet we know that good content is being created everyday--mostly in short form and online--but not everything is getting bought. So what's there to hold on to?

Your audience!

Producer Ted Hope notes in his piece "The New Model Of Indie Film Finance":

"Clearly we are at a point in US film culture where the infrastructure is not serving either the investors, the creators, or the audiences.  Good films are getting made but not being delivered to their audience."

Now take a few steps back and see your project in early stages of fruition, whether its a concept or a viral web short. If you consider the importance of delivering your work (I know, I know--even if it's not finished!) to your targeted audience, you will only add valuation to your project in the long run. You see, Hope goes on to highlight that "as artists build communities around their projects in advance of actual production, they are developing a plan to give domestic value to their films."

And that's the goal: To get your project to its RIGHTFUL audience as soon as heavenly possible. Kickstarter. A blog. A Cinefile projectFILE page. A Myspace FILM account. Whatever the channel is--use it.

I admit the importance of such an act may not permeate as much right out of the gate but since we know that the current infrastructure is obstructive, why not in the meantime garner those eyes and ears toward your work? Because when the dust settles, and big name studios and foreign investors are rummaging the land for potent content, what better incentive can you bring to the table than a product that has its niche, devoted pool of fans who are already willing to crowdfund, willing to watch and willing to share your work?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Free Is Good

Social Media is not a gimmick. It's a force to be reckoned with.

Crowdfunding works. Especially when the content is as good as the hype.

Focused platforms and niche dial tones are the future. They will integrate networking and cross-channel viral promotion. It's the future of social media. Cinefile.com is prime example of this -- and yes, it holds a dear place near my heart of course!

Cinefile.com: The Movie Industry Network from Cinefile.com on Vimeo.

And what's the great thing about all of these tools? THEY'RE FREE.

Seize the moment.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How I Learned to Love the Reshoot (Learning Lessons in DIY Filmmaking)

Independent filmmaker Gary King produced this terrific and insightful video on the trials and tribulations of new age moviemaking. Enjoy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The New Independent And The Vitality Of A Liquid Network

Maybe it started with the Democratization of film. Maybe the Internet was destined to be the revised distribution and exhibition system. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: This is the most exciting and daring time for independent cinema.

This Steven Johnson video has been circulating the net for a bit and its content should resonate with every independent artist, content creator and financier. The notion of having a "liquid network" is quite radical when you consider how much we believe in guarding our secrets. Even social networks like Facebook, tend to be more competitive than collaborative -- I have more fans than you do! or My trailer link got more 'Likes'!

The bottom line is this: Moving forward in this wild west landscape, known as "independent moviemaking," I feel it is vital that we not only continue to work together but we must also be open to fucking up in front of each other. Drop that iron curtain. Say whatever is on the tip of your tongue. Take a risk and pitch a concept. Shake some bushes. SHARE YOUR STORY. Lets create an open online incubator for ideas, works-in-progress, fears, completed projects and all things indie so that we become our OWN content curators. By doing this, I believe, we are going to shape the new foundation for indie film production and exhibition.

Join me.