Tag Archives: film industry

Webseries — Marketing

So you’ve made a webseries, now what?

I am going to list what I believe is most important for the marketing of your webseries. Some may be irrelevant to your project, or you may need additions. Adjust it according to your project.

First and foremost, make a website for your webseries. Place the series on as many sites as possible, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, etc. Different viewers go to different sites, so opening it up to as many people as possible should always be your goal. You should know about youtube’s partnership program that allows you to gain some “sponsorship” from them. They will likely not pay you much, but it is definitely worthwhile.

Maybe try to enter it into film festivals, especially those specializing in new media. I see the publicity for media heavy festivals as publicity within the industry, which can certainly help you with future collaborations.

This is kind of obvious, but make a facebook for the series. Twitter account. Tell your family and friends to share it with their families and friends.

If you find that your locale may be to your advantage, approach local media sources. If not, or in addition to, approach relevant blogs and other similar media sources or possibly any random but somewhat relevant sites on the internet.

Sign up for Cynthia Turner’s cynopsis media for the latest breaking news about everything digital…it’s called Cyn Digi for the sign up. I highly recommend it to stay up to date on the happenings within the industry. It’s the insider’s news source.

Think about attending different new media festivals to meet other artists.

Read read read all that you can about webseries. And watch! Know what else is being aired online. Maybe you can ride the wave with someone else that’s already popular. Or maybe you can fill a void that you believe exists. Maybe there is a wave of content about a subject, but nothing more than news sources about it….and you say to yourself, “how cool would it be if there was a show on this subject?”

This leg of the game is all about putting yourself out there. Be scared, but realize fear can drive you. Come up with other creative ways to get the word out there. Make sure to get people’s opinions on it. Let your audience be interactive with it. Let them feel involved. Who knows, they may be able to help you more than you can imagine.

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Morgan Spurlock’s Tips for Filmmakers

At the Sheffield Doc/Fest, Morgan Spurlock, director and creator of the documentaries Super Size Me and POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold gave some great tips to filmmakers during his film’s panel. Those of us that know the Academy Award nominee from the hills of West Virginia know that he loves to push boundaries in his docs, and he has made quite the name for himself for that very reason. We’ve learned to love him and respect his work. So we certainly appreciate any advice he offers.

If you’re in your own movie, don’t be afraid to cut yourself. He surrounds himself with “no men” those that will honestly tell him what they think. I had a friend and mentor tell me, never be afraid to kill your babies in the editing room. You may love it, especially if you yourself is in the film, but if it’s not absolutely necessary for the movie to progress forward, chop it. ​

Keep it on the fly. They don’t shoot anything multiple times. Everything is shot in real time. Rarely do they use a tripod. ​

Love thy lawyer. Spurlock says, “I love lawyers. A good lawyer will keep you out of trouble. A great one will help you cause it. We want to make sure we can dance as close as possible to that edge of that line, but stay on the side of the law.”

Do what needs to be done. Everybody worked for free on Super Size Me. He did odd jobs during the production to keep it flowing. His grandparents paid for the crew to fly out to the premiere at Sundance. ​

Keep it positive! He recommends keeping a good team surrounding you. Drop all negativity, no matter what. His biggest goal is to always hire people smarter than he is. ​

Envision how you’re going to market the film before completing it. This is something I repeat constantly, both in my own head and in the Filmmaking Blog. I believe it is vital to the success of your film. ​

Listen! Listen to people. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to chime in whenever possible. ​

Trust your editor. Spurlock says, “If you want to empower the editor, don’t hover over them. The more you leave the room, the more they’re involved, the more they’re invested. That’s the reason all of our editors want to come back. They get a real sense of creative freedom, which makes all the projects better.”​

​Great advice! Do you have any advice you would add to this?

For more on Morgan Spurlock advice, check out this video about his doc POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold How I sold out

photo (10)

​I guess this flips screenwriting to a more literal term than ever before…considering now your writing will never leave the computer screen. That is, unless your audience upgrades to stream videos straight through their TV.

Now that we’ve shot our pilot episode for our webseries, I decided to step back a moment and read all that I can dig up about writing for the internet. Needless to say, I still need to finish the full script for the series. Procrastination is my ultimate enemy when it comes to writing screenplays.

I’m reading a book called, “The Script Selling Game: 2nd Edition” by Kathy Fond Yoneda. It has a new section in the 2nd edition about writing for the web, specifically for web series.

Laurie Scheer says, “The Web audience has a much shorter attention space. Anyone who wants to write Web content has to understand the web audience wants convenience…they want everything in short bites or segments.” What a straight forward and awesome quote to sum up everything you need to know about writing for the web. KISS works here too…keep it simple stupid. Very few hunt for videos online to sit around and watch on their computer for 30 minutes or an hour like they would for television. Not to mention, you have to consider that a 30 minute TV show is actually only 22 minutes. Those breaks in between allow us to get up and do something else that our mind won’t stop pestering us about. Think about how all of us joke that we’re all a little ADD. Our busy lifestyles are flooded with media that pushes us to be scatter brained. Think about how hard it is to convince yourself to sit still for a long period of time…and when we’re talking about 10 minutes watching a single video on the internet, it feels like 30 minutes. Just something to think about when deciding how long to make your episodes…

I’ve been watching a ton of webseries to get to know what’s available on the internet. One thing I’ve noticed is that if I don’t like it within the first 10 or 15 seconds, switch. Onto the next one. Hook your audience, in some form. Many times awesome opening graphics will hook me into at least watching the first 10 or 15 seconds of live action videography before I switch. BUT, if there are opening graphics, and they are terrible, switch. Those first 10 or 15 seconds are SO important when hooking your audience. It is much simpler for me to move on than to sit around and watch another 15 seconds to give it a second chance. There are no second chances on the internet.

In the book I am reading, they discuss the structure of a webisode. “Each webisode much have the following: A beginning (set-up), A middle (conflict or challenge), and an end (in a comedy, it is usually a humorous resolution to a discussion or situation; in a drama it is generally a cliffhanger designed to have the viewer return for the next installment). It is important to remember that the web audience wants to forget where they are and wants to be taken somewhere, even if it is just for that small amount of time while watching a webisode or short. This is what separates a successful web series from being no more than simply random video.”

The book relates the relationship of strong character development importance for a television show to that of a webseries, “…having interesting characters with a unique, quirky or outrageous point of view is every bit as important to a web short, and especially a web series over the course of a season.”

Other points made in the book for writing suggestions are: Comedies are generally less expensive and time consuming to stage and shoot than dramas. Typically webisodes are restricted to one or two scenes that usually take place indoors or a public place that is free to shoot in. They lack large crowds, complex action scenes or battle scenes due to budget. Watch a ton of webseries…good and bad…to get a feel of what works and what doesn’t work. Most successful shows have their own unique pacing and rhythm. Look at webseries to understand their device or hooks. Also ask yourself, what isn’t our there? What needs to be said that isn’t on the television?

Some more suggestions are think economically when you write. What do you have access to? What does your family or friends have access to? Ask local businesses to sponsor you by asking to shoot at their location after hours to not disturb business, or ask a local boutique to supply clothing for an ending sponsorship credit. Go for product placement. Youtube has a partners’ program that you can easily sign up for to earn some kind of money for your viewership. It may not pay your bills, but it may pay for your some of the props in your next episode. Announce on facebook or craigslist for local actors that will work for food and credit only. Go for a kickstarter if you have enough of an online following or media exposure.

Something that I had not considered is, how many episodes should a webseries contain? This book suggests between 8 and 12 episodes, which seems reasonable. If you are releasing them weekly, that keeps you at the same pace as any television show. Something my company has been considering is whether we should shoot the first four episodes, air those to see how they do, and then continue filming the rest after the first two or so air. The only problem with that idea to me is what if…and this is considering the fact that everyone is working for free….we can’t get everyone to get together to film in time for the next one to air. Then all of a sudden we don’t release a week. There goes our viewership!

As of right now, this is how we are working our plan: We shoot on Sundays. We now have the pilot episode shot, and are planning on shooting a couple other videos (separate from the webseries) and a commercial in September. By that time, we should have the pilot episode in its finished state. While we are busy filming the other episodes, we can send the pilot episode to people we believe will give us a truthful critique. IF they like it but say, “I’m not intrigued enough to watch another episode” or “I don’t know that I would remember to watch the next episode next week” then we will drop the show, air the pilot and move on to another webseries. BUT IF people love the idea and are eager to see another episode, then we will go into production for the rest of the fall to finish out the season. As soon as all of the episodes are finished in post, we will air it online with as much media coverage as we can muster. We will even try to figure out if we should have a premiere in a theater or some other idea that we can muster out of our crazy minds. As you can tell, our distribution phase is still in the making, which is why we have several months to prepare it.

And just to say this ahead of time, we are not making a webseries with the future outlook of money. We are making it to establish our company’s abilities at visual storytelling and solidify our team. We see this as the perfect way to start it all. If you are creating a webseries, ask yourself why? You should have a better reason than money or getting discovered. Yes both can happen, but setting your expectations a little lower will help you from getting crushed or give you an uber amazing surprise if it does happen. A web series can be a great calling card. It can be a huge inspiration for yourself to get you out of the drab work of your 9to5. If you have spent countless hours and years working on other people’s projects, here ya go! Webseries it up! It can be the perfect way to learn for a cheap budget. It can be a great way to create a demo reel for yourself for raising money for a future project. Webseries can be great….use them wisely. The best thing you can possibly do as a filmmaker is get out there and make something.

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.

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 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.

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!