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Monday, April 11, 2011

We Know We Can Engage An Audience But Can We Engage Each Other Into Forming A (Necessary) Community Of Supportive Peers?


I need you.

And you need me.

It's that simple. Our rising new media industry--you know that always changing frontier for independent filmmakers--is going to live or die by our willingness to cross-promote, engage, inspire and sustain work for each other. I'm beginning to sense that something remarkable will happen soon among the independents. What is it? An aggressive, hard-to-ignore community of innovative DIY digital filmmakers will take to the frontlines. It HAS to happen.

In his latest Hope For Film post, producer Ted Hope expressed:

"I’ve written a lot about the increasing responsibilities of filmmakers and the absolute need to focus on audience/community building.  How to we get our work seen in an entertainment economy that has shifted from being based on scarcity and control, to one of super-abundance and ever-increasing access?  The tools get better daily, and slowly we start to map out a series of best practices."

It's a very real set of feelings to use as a driving force because the tools--social media, niche online platforms for streaming/distribution, prosumer filmmaking gear--are not only getting more sophisticated but much of the time they're FREE (online exposure through social media pages making up much of that). This temperament is even bleeding off to a new wave of distributors who are looking to align themselves with the next wave of valid, VISIBLE new media independent filmmakers. Consider the mission statement for Variance Films:

"Variance Films is committed to the model of "DIWO" - Doing It With Others. This model empowers filmmakers to take control of the future of their films by ensuring they receive the loud, noisy theatrical release necessary to launch a film into the crowded marketplace while retaining 100% of their rights.

We believe that the only way to achieve this is to ensure filmmakers have access to open, honest ideas about the new paths of distribution that exist for them."


I like that acronym: DIWO. Doing It With Others. It's as simple and vital as that. It's a new fundamental that will be hard to implement in some artists. That's because up until now, the idea of the "independent filmmaker" was largely demystified by the majors. In the past, everyone was out for themselves in hopes of a Sundance success story or landing that studio contract. But things are different today. We're on our own. The good thing is that we have the keys to the car.

In his terrifically thought out article "A Blueprint For The Next Indie Generation," independent filmmaker Ben Hicks proposes:

"The Old Bars of Success were: 
 1) Validating yourself as an Independent Filmmaker by getting into a good film festival (Sundance, Cannes, Toronto etc.).
2) Getting a distribution deal.
3) Getting your films into theaters resulting in exposure, “credible” reviews and a growing fan base.
4) Being able to continue making films and earn a living through studios who finance and believe in your work.

These are the NEW Bars of Success:
1) Validating yourself as an Independent Filmmaker by getting tens of thousands of views on the internet.
2) Earn fans, reviews, credibility, exposure and money by engaging and interacting with fans, selling your own merchandise and getting your film seen and spread  with the help of your fans.
3) Leveraging the demand for your films so you can negotiate fair deals with online platforms (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), and so you can negotiate with movie theaters, to have your film screened, resulting in “credible” reviews, more exposure, money and more new fans.
4) Being able to continue making films and earn a living through fans who finance and believe in your work.

So let’s start breaking it down. What do these old and new models have in common? At the core the new and old bars of success are exactly the same.

1) Validation.
2) Earning Money.
3) Theatrical Screenings and Credible Reviews.
4) Sustainability.

Deep down it is really only these four things that we are looking for. I think most of us don’t really care how we attain these bars of success, we just want to be able to make enough money to sustain and continue making films. Right? We have been looking backwards so longingly because the indie filmmaker success stories of the 90’s were able to attain all of these bars of success but we have yet to see models and filmmakers that have been able to pull off this list today."

And the only way we're going to be able to successfully attain a new business model like this is through interaction, cross-promotion and ENTHUSIASM for each other's work. I think it's a common fact that audience building is becoming more routine for most digital filmmakers (crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and intuitive marketing through social media channels have cemented this notion). So now let's start turning our gears toward REALLY helping each other. If we can inspire each other and encourage one another, the doors for our future will open with more ease.

I'll close this post with an ideal I preached in an interview I did with The Independent Collective last month:

"A common hiccup I see in the DIY arena come from those individuals who refuse the embrace change. So many indie would-be-auteurs are stuck on landing in that Tinseltown backlot right out of the gate. They don’t want to believe in social media. They don’t want to shoot digitally. They don’t want to collaborate or cross-promote. These folks need to get with it. Their refusal to recognize the movement around them only causes a dangerous dissonance. Nobody likes a diva. Independent artists only endure with some kind of support system and these days that system is online. If we can continue to curate good content online and really promote the hell out of each other on every possible page and platform, we will send an important message to the masses. That message: DIY is here to stay."

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