Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Scheduling Releases

With multiple ways for people to view your movie, you can make it available only one way at a time and maximize your revenue and announcement process.  I’m planning more than one release.  First, there were film festivals, then a limited theatrical release, then broadcast.  After that comes the opportunity for people to purchase the film on a DVD and finally it will be available as VOD (video on demand, both rental and download.)  

The reason I’m doing it that way is, I’ll be able to do more than one release announcement blasted on social media and I’ll make more through DVD sales than VOD so I’d rather most people that are interested purchase a DVD.  Making that the only option for a while, will get impatient people to do just that.  I don't want to miss out on sales though, so shortly after the DVD release will be VOD so that the documentary is widely available to as many potential audience members as possible.

Make sure you have a plan for how you want to release your movie, before you get to that point.  You don't want to miss out on a chance to have your movie in a film festival because you released it online too early.  And you don't want people buying a copy at home before you do a theatrical release, if you want to go that route.  Timing is important.  Make the most of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Because I had a documentary film, it made sense to broadcast it over the air for free on TV (I should say free for anyone to view, not free for me to play it.  Buying air time was actually pretty expensive.)  This might not make sense for most projects, but I’ll tell you why I did it.

First and foremost, I wanted to make sure that everyone in the area had an opportunity to see the documentary without having to purchase a copy.  I think it's important information for people to have no matter where they live, but most especially in Western North Carolina where the documentary was shot.  Having it broadcast also made it eligible for awards like the Emmys and I wanted to have a chance to enter it.  I should hear if it's nominated in May.  Keep your fingers crossed.

In order to have it broadcast, it had to be closed captioned.  There are multiple ways to close caption a film both in how you create the captioning and how you deliver the film with captioning.  I used Adobe Premiere to caption and I ended up needed 2 types of files for delivery.  For broadcast I had to embed the closed captioning in a quicktime file.  Later for selling on Amazon I had to create a separate file called a scenarist closed caption or .scc file.

After having done the work myself, I now know that I'll probably hire someone next time.  It's not that expensive to have a company do it for you and it's so worth the money.  Captioning was long and extremely tedious, but I'm glad for the experience and for gaining a better understanding of how it all works.

I had some difficulty finding a local station that would air my movie because it's a point of view documentary.  Here's a link to a previous post with more on that. 

Warning the follow is boring technical information.  Only Read this if you want more info on captioning in Adobe Premiere CC:

1. You can import a file into premiere or do it from scratch.  I made mine from scratch.  Right click in your project window and choose "new item - closed caption" (bottom right of the project window.) The default is CEA-608 and CC1.

2. You won't be able to see any captions until you go to the upper right corner menu in your program and source monitors and click on "closed caption display - enable."  But that alone isn't enough. You must make sure you are enabling CEA-608 (the default on the monitor was CEA-607 for me. You won't see the captions unless the type you are making matches what you've set to display!)

3. To edit your captions go to the "window" menu and click on "captions" to see the window you'll need to edit in.  Click on the add a new item in the bottom of the project window and choose "captions." (make sure you have selected the caption file in your timeline to see it in the captions window.)

4. Hit the plus button to add a caption and start typing.  You can see the in and out in the timeline, but to change the in and out you have to adjust the time code in the project window.  Text doesn't wrap, so you have to do a hard return at the end of each line.

Those are the basics.  If you have an specific questions leave a comment. Hope that saves you a little frustration in your captioning endeavors.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Limited Theatrical Release

Having a theatrical release seems really lofty, but it’s totally doable.  First, find a small art house movie theater and see if you can get them to give you a screening, maybe at an odd time, maybe for one time only, but see if they’ll split the ticket revenue with you.  Usually the theater keeps 60% of ticket sales and the distributor (in this case that’s you) gets 40%.  You might think, yea of course they’ll go for it, I’m the one giving them my movie, but keep in mind that you’re a risk to them from a business standpoint.  You are responsible for getting people to buy tickets, not them.  You have to advertise your own screening and fill up those seats.  They’ll post the time your screening is happening and maybe they’ll have a marquee or something, but you have to do everything else.  That’s what traditional distributors do, that’s why that system is still in place.  It works.  Distributors buy airtime and ad space.  They screen trailers and get posters out there and seen so people know there’s a movie at the theater that they need to go see.

If the theater doesn't want to take a chance on you, that’s totally understandable and you can still do a screening, just rent the theater.  You can rent a small movie theater at anywhere from $300-$500.  Now there’s no risk to the theater and let’s say you sell tickets at $10 a pop, if you rented the theater for $300 that’s only 30 tickets you have to sell to break even.  Anything over 30 is 100% profit going straight to you.  You might actually make money.

 Another advantage to a theatrical release is a film critic might now review your film, since it’s available to the public.  You might be able to do this at the film festival stage with local critics in the area the festival is happening, but there are lots of films for them to write about and it’s harder to get a review.  In your home town, you stand a better chance.  Reviews give you free advertising, an unbiased opinion that people are more likely to trust and critical reviews show that your film is of interest to the public.
My Toxic Backyard screened at a fantastic local arts theater, the Fine Arts Theater, for a week, which was unprecedented and awesome.  There was never a sold out screening, and audience sizes varied greatly from day to day.  I was a little disappointed at my own inability to fill the theater.  Even with extensive community outreach weeks before the screening, a story on the local news, radio interviews and magazine articles it wasn't enough to generate as strong of a turn out as I would have liked.  I was able to split ticket sales and still made some money.  I also got two movie reviews in local papers.  Both were really positive!  It was definitely a worth while venture, just not something to take lightly.

Monday, March 30, 2015


You have to spend money to make money right?  Sadly, that’s true especially if you see your time as having a monetary value (and you should.)  If you’re like me, you’re working a day job to pay the bills and making your movies on the side with the dream that you’ll be able to one day leave all that 9 to 5 madness behind and just make movies for a living.  But until that day comes, remember that just because it’s called free time, that doesn’t mean it comes without a price.

So where should you spend the precious little money you have for this venture into independent film marketing?  Well you can start with a solid poster and trailer.  Those are your main selling points.  People will look at those two things and decide in an instant whether or not they want to spend their time and hopefully some of their cash watching your movie.

Then there’s your website.  That’s a showcase piece as well.  You might hire someone to make yours and optimize it’s performance.  I thought about that, but I ended up going with wix.  I tinkered around with the design for a while before I decided to spend any money and I like the ease with which I can update and change things.  There are other similar sites, squarespace comes to mind, Weebly, maybe you’re a Word press person.  There are lots of options.

Getting reviews and press about your movie is extremely helpful.  I'll talk about doing a theatrical release in the next post and how you can get movie reviews, but in the mean time get to working on a press kit, you'll need that.  You can google articles on how to make a good press kit for your film, but briefly you'll need: contact info, a short, medium and long synopsis, bios for your cast and crew, photos, and you might want to include a director's statement.

You’re not likely to make the nightly news with your big DVD release, but after you’ve gotten the accredited critics to review your film, you might find some smaller online places that will give you a fresh review just before your online release.  You’ll probably want to do a google search for these wonderful, lovers of movies who are willing to take the time to not just watch your work, but also write about it.  I got a review from Rough Cinema.  In the past I’ve had reviews from Film Threat, they charge a small fee, but honestly I’m surprised anyone will do that kind of work for free.

Mail Chimp is a real thing, it’s not just something you hear about on podcasts.  It’s pretty awesome too.  You can have multiple lists of people and send out customized “campaigns” which are just a way to mass email people on your list.  Hopefully lots of people have signed up to get these, which means they’ve expressed an interest in what you’re doing and won’t see these email updates as spam.  It’s free up to a point.  There’s no reason not to start using it.  I think if you get to the point where you have so many subscribers that you have to pay a fee, it’ll be well worth the money.  They do automation, but you have to pay for that too.  So if you don’t mind doing everything manually, it’s a great way to reach your target audience.  Want to subscribe to my email list?  Click here. See how easy that is?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Film Festivals

For feature films fees average about $50 per entry.  Then if you make it in, you want to be able to attend and network.  So you have to make a very well researched list and budget for all that.

Let me preface this by saying you don’t have to go this route, it’s expensive and if you have something that you think is sellable, but maybe not a good fit for festivals, skip this one and go to the next step.  That said, you only have one year of exclusivity to hit as many film festivals as you can and try to rack up some laurels.  My Toxic Backyard screened at 9 festivals (one of which was an amazing film tour) and won 2 awards.  Done and done.
The cost was high though.  I spent about $1000 just in submission fees (I submitted to a lot more festivals than I got into.) It’s more fun to talk about the places you get accepted, then all the places you’ve been rejected from.  It can be really disheartening to get all those rejections, but you have to develop a thick skin and learn not to take it personally.  Sometimes you don’t even get rejected because the screeners and programmers of the festival didn’t like your film. They might love it, but aren’t able to find a place for it with all the other films they have programmed.  Maybe it just doesn’t fit time wise and/or theme wise.  If you really want to get an idea of what film festivals have to go through to choose the films they’ll go with, volunteer to be a screener.  It’ll be good experience and film festivals need all the help they can get. 

Then there were additional costs in traveling to some of the festivals.  I couldn’t make it to all of them.  Sometimes you might get help with room and board from the festival.  They might offer free hotel rooms or at least discounts.  It never hurts to ask, if you’re planning on going. Couch surfing is a thing.  I've hosted and been hosted and had good experiences.  You also might look at youth hostels.  I've done that before too.

So what do you get out of all that?  It’s fun.  I love traveling and I love movies and this is the best possible mash up.  Your film finds audiences.  Festivals are great places to have your film showcased.  You can engage the audience, generate some buzz, and have a lot of people see your work on the big screen.  Then there’s the laurels.  Laurels say: this film was chosen with a select few out of the hundreds of other independent films made that year because someone thought it was worth seeing.  Film festival acceptances and awards say to the average viewer that someone thought this was better than the rest.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Cannes Film Festival Video

I finally had the chance to go over all the little snippets of video footage that Lela and I grabbed at the Cannes Film Festival with our GoPros and iPhones.  Here's a short video of our amazing time at the festival (including our celebrity red carpet walk.)


Friday, January 02, 2015

PSA for Helpmate

I just made a PSA for Helpmate, a local non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence (www.helpmateonline.org) Had a great team working with me on this one: Andy Crespo working with me behind the scenes. Morgan Purdy, Drew McDermott, and Maya all acting in a PSA that I put together entirely from still photos that have been manipulated to look like super slow motion.  I had the wonderful Billy Goodrum (http://www.billygoodrum.com/) writing a beautiful original score. Check it out: