The Online Presence

I’m going to change gears a little bit with DIY distribution to talk more about online presence. At Ingen Pictures, we are filming our first web series now. It has been an exciting process, and we hope that it will better our company. We will be airing it on youtube, but decided to do a hybrid between youtube styled video and a television show to accommodate our mixed targeted audience of youtubers and traditionals. So, I decided to not only write about our experience of making this new series and how it works out in the long run but to also write about all of the research I will be doing regarding that series. So here it goes…

I think one of the greatest things about making online content is you are not controlled by the network OR by distributors OR by the market. If you’ve ever worked with a television network, you know that they have the final say and will manipulate the content however they please. It is a VERY frustrating process for the artist. It’s about what will sell for the highest ratings. With the internet, all of sudden we have a freedom to develop content that no one has ever seen before…ORIGINAL. If you are passionate about one thing in particular, create content around that. Go with what you know and what you love when you write the story.

Next, who is your audience? It’s always best to have a niche audience to target. You can start with that niche audience and then hope it grows outward from there. Come up with a plan before you start filming….or as soon as possible.

The Tom Cruise blog is a great read. When talking about how important the story is, it states:

Mike Ajakwe jr, founder and Executive Director of The LA Web Series Festival, has watched more than 500 web series. He’s endured and enjoyed more web originals than most mortals, and he is unequivocal about what works: “The story has to move. The same rules of film, television and theater apply. You want a three-act structure—a beginning, a middle and an end. Every scene must mean something, must drive the story forward,” he says. ”You can have a show that looks great, but if it’s not about anything, then it’s not taking your audience anywhere.”

Felicia Day is the creator of probably the most successful webseries to date, the Guild. In her blog  she writes that four questions should be asked before you start. How is my project unique to the Web? How is my series unique to ME? Who is my audience and how will I reach them? Do I Know what I’m getting into?

A great quote clarifying just how important the audience is from Felicia Day’s blog: “If you can’t sit down and easily identify what kind of person will like your show and name 5 places that person might go to on the internet, you will have a hard time getting the word out, no matter how good it is.”

Two great guides are: How to Build An Audience For Your Web Series and Youtube Creator Playbook. You can download both of these books. I will write separate articles about these reads coming up.

Michael Henry’s blog post about the formation of his production company Quandary Productions and the making/promotion of his latest film “I Work” is a great read about the importance of online presence and the importance of getting creative with your advertisement. They took their advertising to another level of creativity. And…it seemed to work. He made a great point: he took a much needed break after filming to travel. It gave him some time to gain inspiration and motivation again to push through post production. After he finished post, he had a one time premiere at a local school. At that point, he had only promoted the film locally, but directly after the screening, he set off to travel Southeast Asia for 7 months. He was able to build his plan over those 7 months, not to mention the reach expanded to worldwide while he met people from all over the world on his trip. Michael Henry posts, “Over the course of the seven months I slowly built a strong Twitter following, set up the Quandary Productions Filmmaker Support Scheme, made the decision to support charities around the world which we had visited, with 5% of all our profits, and made a thorough list of promotional material I would release in order to get the film the attention we felt it deserved. When we returned, all the hard work paid off. We made back the (modest) budget in the first ten minutes of release, and ‘I WORK’ has started to receive something of a cult-following online.”

Now they are using their online following to support a kickstarter (but on their personal website) for their future projects. In this article, he writes about utilizing social media at every step of production. People love to watch behind the scenes, so even before filming begins, flood (or generously post) about casting announcements, crew announcements, thoughts, or any message pertaining to the film. During production, keeping an on-set blog up-to-date peaking interests. Post messages, announcements, pictures, anecdotes, actor and crew profiles or even short clips of video. Make sure to have varieties of high resolution press photos, allowing the media to easily write up a story about the production. Remember publicity is free advertisement!

Coming to the bottom line, online presence is what will propel your filmmaking products beyond anything in the past. If you utilize to its potential, you can truly make something powerful move. Remember as filmmakers, all we dream for is to get as many people as possible to view our work. Now we have the opportunity via the world wide web. Let’s figure out how to make it work for us.

Have you had the web help you with your film? Or have you heard of it hurting someone’s film? Do you know of any success stories? Looking forward to your comments below.

Next Up for DIY Distribution

Last week I touched on an article written by Jon Reiss to follow my discussion on DIY distribution through theatrical, online, and DVD release. I continued researching him this week, finding many more articles about his experiences.

One at filmmakermagazine.com goes a little more in depth about DVD distribution. He was lucky to find a reliable company for DVD distribution rights ONLY, fully allowing him to continue selling his film online and do the theatrical distribution route….although most of his theatrical showings were prior to releasing the DVD. Definitely check out this article if you will be negotiating DVD distribution deals in the future.

He recommends asking yourself these questions before you begin preparation for DIY distribution. “What is its best market? Who is its audience? How are you best going to reach them? Will you potentially sell to libraries and universities as much as or more than you will to individuals? Is there pressure to release your film in a timely way (will it be dated, is there another film you are racing to beat to market)? Answering these questions will help to fashion your DVD release strategy.”

Note: In these articles he used the company Neoflix. This distribution company has shut down due to not paying filmmakers.

This week, to dive deeper, I’d like to discuss DIY web marketing to support your film distribution. In another article by Jon Reiss, he recommends creating your presence on the web by starting a basis with your website. Constantly update your website with intriguing information that is similar to your films or to the audience you are looking to reach. By consistently blogging, you can easily keep traffic frequenting your site. Make sure to tag your blogs. Embed links to your site in your social networks. Also, create relationships with other sites that would find interest in your film or in your blogging. He gives his students this assignment:

Ways to create a relationship with other sites/organizations:

Next he says to create a marketing strategy early, even while you are in the script stage. This is when you have the most energy and are not burnt out on the film.

To read this full article, go here:http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/issues/spring2009/bombit-part3.php

Utilize your social media networks, which seems obvious, but many people do not create a facebook page for their work. Friends and family can be huge advocates for your film. Hit up film bloggers online for reviews of your film. Or even hit up other non-film sites that are related to your subject material for reviews or press. Find a way to cross-promote with other companies. Put a trailer up on youtube or a sample of the material on youtube with a link to buy it. Provide an incentive for people to sign up for your email list. Email them weekly or bi-weekly with updates on new articles or pictures, clips, whatever may be interesting for your audience. Be careful how often you email them. If emails come too often, they will quickly unsubscribe. Then there’s always advertising on the web or through affiliate marketing. Do your research to figure out what routes are best for you.

All of this information is a bit dated, but it provides great ground work to get someone started. Do you have any experience with indie distribution? How did it work or not work for you?

Get Started Working

Since I am working with MTV all week, I thought I would write an article about working in the film industry, aka “the biz”.

2 questions that I get all the time are, how did you get started in the industry? How do I get started? Well, here’s my answers:

I started out working as a PA (production assistant) for the first year or so, much of that time volunteering my services for free. Being a PA sucks, but it allows you to see how a set runs and hopefully find your way into a certain department. That department for me was the production team or the producing staff. Eventually I started coordinating on commercials and indie films. Then I worked my rear end off with one company as a PA on a television pilot, and as that show went further into development, they moved me up the ladder. I became an associate producer, and then a producer on the series. Even though I have produced, coordinated, and managed sets, when I’m not busy and a new company calls me for a few days to work as a PA (for a good day rate) I almost always take it. I believe in networking, and the opportunity to work with new people opens up more doors. Put yourself out there and do it! Let others know you want to work!

Getting to this point in my career was a ton of hard work and a bit of luck. ANYONE can do the same if they set their mind to it. I am constantly learning, growing, and expanding my career. Never quit pursuing.

Oh that dream of working in the movies….

Photo courtesy of Mark Totten​

If you’re dreaming of one day working in the biz, I recommend putting yourself out there to PA on set. Go to local film schools and ask if you can assist on their projects, or find local production companies and ask to apply as a PA for upcoming productions. Don’t worry, no experience necessary. All you have to do is show them that you want it bad, and you are willing to work your tail end off to get it.  Create a quick resume of your skills. If you need help with what to put on your resume, ask anyone that knows you well or knows your talents.

Want to move up?

If you have been PA’ing for months or even years, and are asking yourself, “how do I move up?” the answer is easy. Ask to move up. When you work with a new crew, network like crazy. Keep in touch with anyone that you connected with. Even just to say a quick hello or hit them up on facebook. Give them a reminder that if they have anything coming up, you are available to work. If you’ve recently worked on a big project, let them know. Ask them how they recommend taking on a higher position. If you show interest in it, they will likely recommend you in the future. You never know when someone from two years ago will call you to do such and such for their upcoming film. And if you are lucky, that person will ask what you are currently doing or trying to do and bring you on in that position.

If you found a department you want to work in, ask if you can work as a PA in that department. Or hire you as an extra person within that department at a lower pay. If you can find an independent film to work on, they will likely take less experienced people. Get on Mandy.com or craigslist to see if you can find some local jobs. If it’s driving distance or you know someone that lives nearby that you can crash with, go for it. even if it’s far away. If you are applying for a bigger budget film, particularly a studio film, it’s a bit tougher to get on to their crew. Don’t be discouraged to apply. If you are bound and determined, find their production office and ask for a place to apply. Sit in the room until they get you someone to talk to in person. In person is ALWAYS better. You are much more likely to get the job. Persistence and Determination are key.

Good luck!

If you have any questions, please comment below or send me an email at jen@ingenpic.com​

The Game of DIY Distribution

The changing ways of distribution is something that highly interests me. So, weekly I will post an article about different routes of DIY distribution that I’ve found, whether it be through case studies or just ideas that pop into someone else’s head or mine. So here it goes. Look for an article every Tuesday if you are interested in DIY distribution of films.

I read a fantastic case study about a film that made it to Sundance, but they took a completely different strategy for distribution after the Sundance hype. The film is called Indie Game: The Movie, and it is about the world of indie gamer developers. Instead of going the traditional route of distributors offering to buy rights to their film for theatrical distribution, limiting them to their digital distribution rights, they decided to self distribute. They built buzz through the Sundance premiere, their kickstarter campaigns, twitter, other social media, and targeting their niche markets. Five days after Sundance, they were on the road for two weeks for a multi-city promotional tour with seven dates and 15 special event screenings. They also had 37 theaters across Canada launching a one night special event. These screenings generated a lot of hype through word of mouth. ”We had this sort of hype machine happening. We didn’t put out advertising. Everything was through our mailing that started with the 300 on our first Kickstarter and through Twitter,” said co-director James Swirsky. Now the team has over 20,000 on their mailing list and 10,000 twitter followers. They released 88 minutes of exclusive content that didn’t make the final cut to their funders, put creative suggestions from their online forum to use, and sent out updates of the folks they interviewed in the film. While they were doing all of this promotion, the film was available online at several digital platforms. This did not affect their theatrical releases. They made the film available on iTunes, VHX.tv, and Steam, a gaming distribution platform.

They had no idea if this plan would work, but it did. They made most of their profits from pre-orders. They offered three DVD packages, one for $9.99, $24.99, and a special edition DVD for $69.99. They offered an additional 20 interviews in that package, making it the highest seller. For a more in-depth blog about this, please visit shericandler.com.

Now that’s creative and going against the grain.

Here is a chart made by Jon Reiss for an article in Filmmaker Magazine that compared a service deal for distribution vs. what he budgeted for distribution vs. what he actually spent to distribute his film. It gives you a nice heads up on what to expect if you are planning self distribution in the future.

Jon Reiss wrote an article for filmmaker magazine about his experience with releasing his filmBomb It.  A bit that stuck out to me was this:

It was now the fall of ‘07, and I knew I had to release the film by the spring because that‘s when New Video was putting out the DVD. Also, a similar film had just been acquired by a small distributor. I wanted to beat them to market, or at least run concurrently with them. (If possible I do recommend having your film come out at the same time as a similarly themed film — we had a great experience with Better Living Through Circuitry when three films about rave culture were released into the marketplace at the same time. This offered us not only higher profile reviews but also feature articles on the phenomenon of rave-culture films.)

I have witnessed many filmmakers stressed or almost ruined by someone else stealing their ideas or realizing that their dream film or life’s work is being done by someone else at the same time. In the back of my mind, I saw it as free publicity, but I never actually said that to anyone’s face. If someone else is doing film about on the same subject matter as mine, that means double the publicity, because technically I could run off of their back. For instance, the Hatfields and McCoys story is certainly not a new one, but when the history channel television mini-series aired and did extremely well, the story blew up. Not only was there a television series, but a documentary was made and aired on the history channel as well. Then came the casting call for the reality series about the current day Hatfields and McCoys. Before all of this, there was a theater group that performed the story every summer, but now the theater group has seen their audience grow like wildfire, not to mention the amount of tourism in the area has grown exponentially. All of this growth came from one successful mini-series.

Reiss posted every lesson that he learned while distributing his own film. I highly recommend reading the article.

He also has some good lectures on youtube.com/thejonreiss.

That’s it for this week. Come back next Tuesday for more on DIY distribution.

The Changing World of Film Distribution

The old tradition for filmmakers: make your movie, enter film festivals, distributors eat it up, and Waalaa….you make your investor’s money back…and hopefully you put some in your pocket. Today, it seems that is the old man’s way of doing it. If I were to rely on that method, it would be equivalent to putting all my savings into buying lottery tickets. Times have changed. And keep changing. Every day. How do we, as independent filmmakers, keep up?
Many people are running to Netflix and VOD. Is that a better option? Or an addition to the film festival route? So far, I haven’t heard any positive reviews about Netflix experiences. Maybe you know someone who has? VOD seems to be a positive route, but does your film have enough hype around it for VOD to be useful. For that matter, millions are making movies all the time, so how are ours going to stick out of the crowd?
I keep going back to the potential of proper use of the internet. The majority of people are on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going to the theater, but marketing usually hits me online. Maybe the best route today is finding your niche audience online. Let them enjoy your film.
Thomas Woodrow, the producer of the film Bass Ackwards, came up with one of the first creative distribution solutions after failure to get distribution from a successful festival run. Said Woodrow, “We knew that the only one thing Sundance guaranteed us was a tremendous amount of publicity, a chance for people to hear about the film and to be curious about it. We also knew that we had an anti-commercial film, difficult to market, without an obvious target audience outside of the people that go to film festivals. We knew we had virtually no chance for traditional pick-up, and imagined that if we did things the regular way and waited for other companies to come to us, we’d probably see ourselves on IFC’s digital platform six months later, and nothing else.
We also knew that we had spent so little on the film that we could afford to take risks,” he continues. So we decided to just go for the jugular and to use the publicity generated by Sundance to release the film directly to the audience. We knew we couldn’t wait until people forgot about the Sundance press, so we decided to launch the film as wide as possible immediately after the Festival, meaning February 1st…one day after the Festival concluded.”
After spending $15,000 for the Sundance release, the team also made preparations for the aftermath of the release. Theatrical bookings were being made to run immediately following Sundance. Digital platforms were being armed with the film so that people could see it as soon as they heard about it. DVD release was scheduled immediately after the festival with Amazon.com on pre-orders to ship on Feb 1. Cable VOD was coordinated to work immediately after the Feb 1 release, except it ended up being pushed back 1 month.
For more detail on Bass Ackwards.
Bass Ackwards was the first to take the step into the unknown. Now things have changed considerably, but at least Woodrow made $35K back on his film. Better than nothing. Maybe it was worth it, maybe not.
Curt Hahn, director and producer of the film Deadline, took a unique approach. The film is about two investigative reporters so felt they could get support of the newspaper industry for this movie. Major newspapers hosted premieres of the film in their cities. Not only did they write stories, but they also promoted the film in their ad space, $700,000 worth. They took this grassroots approach and traveled in a tour bus to 46 different premieres in 46 cities. They set up a red carpet every night, which is a big deal in smaller cities and towns. Television stations covered it as well. Genius!
For the interview with Curt Hahn.
For more on the film, visit their website: deadlinefilm.com.
So, what is the best method for you to distribute your film today? I believe that is entirely up to you and your creativity, and how much involvement you want in the distribution process. There is no harm in going the traditional route if you want to hand the job over to someone else. You may not make as much money as you would have several years ago, but you never know.
IF you want to get creative with it, get out there and study study study BEFORE you make your film. If you’ve already made it, it’s never too late to start studying now. Develop your own method, mix and match, pull from other ideas, whatever you have to do to make it happen. There is help in sites built specifically to teach, such as Film Specific who helps in all areas from packaging your film to distribution, or something I found recently on indiemoviemaking.com called Distribber.
It seems somewhat pricey to me, but maybe others have had much success out of it. Has anyone used this before or know someone who has?
I am in the process of piecing together a distribution plan for our “secret” project. It’s not really secret, we are just in the VERY early stages of development and don’t want to release any details until we are further along. I will post details of any projects that have used distribution methods that I find intriguing as I do my research. If you know of any interesting methods, please comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Also feel free to make any additions or comments about anything in this article or anything completely random!
Ingen’s out.

Web Series by Ingen Pic

We are working on our first web series titled “123 UnderGround.” We are extremely lucky and thankful that we have a great crew and cast working for experience only. ​It has been quite an experience for us. First off, we offered positions to many of our friends that have never worked on a set before. I filled many of the positions myself: Producer/Co-Director/Production Manager. Definitely a way to keep me busy. Even though I explained responsibilities to the newbies on set, I should have offered more training to keep them busy. Learn for next time.

I’m not sure we would change anything on this round. We procrastinated a bit too much and ended up not being able to use a good portion of the equipment we were offered, but it turned out great. Thank you so much to our friend Mark Totten for offering his equipment. ​

One thing I didn’t expect….we said no budget but it ended up being a heavy chunk of a budget out of mine and Kevin’s pockets. Equipment is expensive. Luckily we had lunch donated, which is something I will have to lock down for any future shoots as well. But to keep budget down, we decided on the rule that if it’s not a full day, people will have to provide their own lunch for the next few months or until we can afford to provide it. ​

The great thing about indie filmmaking is that a small crew allows you to move fast! Luckily we had enough people on set that Kevin and I could direct without having to worry about minuscule bits​, but next round I will teach my friends exactly what we need help with to make things move even faster. I believe that if we continue to do this often, people will learn, and we will be more efficient than I ever dreamed.

Planning was key to being efficient. We posted the broken down script on the wall to analyze scenes the week before. All props and equipment were prepped and ready during the week prior. All cast and crew were locked down several weeks beforehand…actually it was more like a month. I changed the script at least 10 times to make things easier on us to shoot. Lunch was arranged a month ahead of time. We had table readings arranged weeks ahead of time to prep the actors. We practiced with the equipment beforehand to make sure everything was in working order. We bought plenty of extras (media cards, cables, batteries etc.). We brought everything to set we could possibly think may be needed JUST IN CASE. We notified the police department. We made sure everything was arranged with the location owner as needed. And nothing went wrong. ​

The only bad thing out of the entire experience was the sound. We chose a location on a major roadway, and wow was it loud. I was hoping we could work while the church crowd was off the roads, but that only lasted for two hours. Sunday’s are just as busy as any other day on the road. ​We will have to ADR everything, build the sound from nothing. But, I don’t necessarily think that will be a bad thing. We may end up with amazing sound. Who knows…we will find out soon.

Mark Totten covered the behind-the-scenes footage for us. He will cutting it together to provide tutorials. Check back soon.​

If you would like to stay up to date with us on our webseries, please follow the facebook page.

Shoots and Ladders Filmmaking Emagazine

SHOOTS & LADDERS

Maybe you attended a movie premiere, watched a television show that rocked your world, imagined the perfect commercial for a brand, or maybe you’ve been obsessed with filming since you can remember. You watched the credits roll, just thinking “How cool would their job be?”

My epiphany was similar. As soon as I realized I wanted to work in the industry, I hit up the local film office asking how I could get started. After working for 9 months, I decided to attend school for theatre…that being the only thing that was available and similar to film. While in school, I worked on projects here and there, gradually gaining more and more experience. None of my classmates were doing the same. 75% of them wanted to work in the film industry, but all of them had the same mentality, “Move to LA after school. Then get jobs.”

So I started talking to the chair of the department and another professor about this situation. After months of developing an idea, I started a project with the goal of helping people get started in the film industry. We came up with a web series rotating around interviews with industry professionals. I attached people I never believed I could attach. The expense of it though, was astronomical….at least $400,000 to cross the country and shoot/edit the entire thing. So needless to say, it fizzled out.

Since then, I graduated and have been hard at work. And now, I’m back to the project. I will not be doing the cross country version of interviews, but gradually compiling interviews as I go. I will link articles, magazines, books, videos, anything that I find will be helpful to anyone getting started. Also, for any videos that I film, I will make sure to compile plenty of behind the scenes and tutorials for all of you.

Here we go!