Below is an interview that I did with Lance Weiler for the Workbook Project about what we are doing at Emerging Pictures, and how I think we could potentially be part of the solution for theatrical distribution of independent films. If you don’t know about the Workbook Project, and all the transmedia work being done by Lance, you should check it out at www.workbookproject.com.
UPDATE: Unfortunately the Workbook Project website is no longer with us.
Last Spring I was approached by the filmmakers of a documentary film called “Who Does She Think She Is” about using Emerging Pictures to distribute and exhibit their film. The film is a moving exploration of the difficulties women have in being taken seriously as artists. It had already had some modest theatrical exposure, and the filmmakers had been besieged by individuals and organizations who wanted to organize events and buy copies of the DVD. They had read all the various manifestos about DIY distribution, and armed with that information, were keen on trying to break the mold in the service of getting the film out to as many people as possible.
I liked the film and the niche audience it was playing to, but I’m always dubious about filmmakers’ abilities to deliver an audience. My experience is that no matter how many organizations come forward to help, and how big their mailing lists are, they are very good at delivering an audience for one night…and that’s it. When I expressed this, I was pleased to find out that expectations were not out of line, and that they were game for whatever made sense. After many brainstorming sessions, assessing all the opportunities, we had a plan. Continue reading “A Successful Non-Traditional Theatrical Model”
Yesterday, I tweeted my frustration about the synopses I’ve been finding in the web for indie films. I decided to use more than the 160 characters of Twitter to vent a little further. The context is that we play a lot of independent films at Emerging Cinemas, and once a month we collect info on those films to use on our web site, on physical calendars that we have printed and on web blasts that are sent out to our affiliated venues. Month after month, we check the official web sites for the individual films, the web sites of the distributors, the IMDB, the web sites of various theater chains and on-line ticketing sites. In almost every case, the same synopsis is used in every location, indicating that it came from some official source (typically either the distributor or the filmmakers). The other thing they have in common is that they all suck. Invariably I find myself re-writing them, trying to make the films sound like something people might actually want to see. Don’t you folks realize that the synopsis is a very important marketing tool? Why do you make all these very compelling, stimulating films sound like work? They are either too academic sounding (particularly the docs), or focus on the disease of the main character or have convoluted point-by-point scene descriptions (this happens then this happens etc.) They include cast names (in parenths) that no one has heard of, which interrupt the flow of whatever plot they are trying to get across. They leave out background info that would be important selling points such as festival awards, prior work by the director, etc. For all of you folks out there who are embracing the idea of DIY distribution, let’s try practicing writing a single paragraph about your film that makes audiences want to buy a ticket. OK. I got that off my chest.
Thanks to MOMA and indieWIRE, some 60 or so representatives of the “indie” film world got together yesterday to discuss the state of the business. A tip of the cap is due to Eugene Hernandez and Anne Thompson for their valiant attempt to reign in a group of outspoken, opinionated and polarized people arranged around a conference room that was clearly designed for far fewer active participants than were attending this particular event. The very existence of such an event, and the number of notable people who showed up, is both a testament to how hungry we are for this type of discussion, and a reason to be hopeful about the future of the business. In the course of a rambling two plus hours of talking, some deep arguments were addressed, some real insights were made and some of the attendees slipped into the kind of self-serving pitches that we hear on a million panels. But by the end of the day, I felt that all the real issues facing our business had at the very least been thrown on the table. My only frustration was that each of the many topics that came up deserved further exploration. Hopefully this can happen in a series of more focused discussions some time in the future.
One personal frustration was that the format didn’t allow me to get in my two cents on a number of points that I felt needed to be made. So, I’m going to use this space to do that very thing. At the beginning of the conference, Eugene asked that the particulars of who said what should be kept off the record in order to allow people to be as open as possible. I am going to respect that and deal only in the issues that were brought up without naming names. I am also going to take a piece of advice from Ted Hope and make this a list, which he says gets more hits than straight prose. So here goes… Continue reading “10 (9 actually) Responses to the Issues Brought Up at the “Indie Film Summit””
While I was at the PGA “Produced By” Conference in L.A. (which I’ll write more about shortly), I was interviewed for a podcast called “The Brand Show” which is described as being about “the growing connection between storytelling and branding.” If you are curious about the subject, my interview is below. You can find others at the Two West web site.
UPDATE: Unfortunately the Brand Show podcasts are no longer available.
Juliet Goodfriend, the Executive Director of our affliliated venue in Bryn Mawr PA, and her companion Marc R. Moreau, PhD Chairman Philosophy Department, LaSalle University wrote this excellent summary of the films they saw in Cannes this year…
Quick impressions from the 62nd Cannes Film Festival
Juliet J. Goodfriend and Marc Moreau, May 16-21, 2009
The blue sea, white yachts, black-tied men with spike-heeled arm candy make this the festival of festivals. Yes, there are also the grunge-clothed industry professionals, and the bizarre groupies who stake out a square foot of territory on the median strip of La Croisette so they can oogle their favorite stars from padded step ladders (seriously). All of this and the parties and crowded sidewalks make the environment bubble like champagne. The sun soaked long lines for admittance can be deadly, but we escaped that punishment being in a wheelchair and with industry badges that put us at the head of the line. So we are thrilled to have been to Cannes, would recommend it to others, but may not bother to go again, since Toronto has the films and it’s a whole lot easier to get to, albeit not nearly as glamorous! Continue reading “Bryn Mawr Film Institute Reports from Cannes”
On March 25th, I participated in an event sponsored by the Producers Guild that was called, “Independent Filmmaking in the Digital World: A Conversation with Ira Deutchman.” The PGA has kindly provided the video so I can share it. It’s divided into four parts, assuming you can last that long. Let me know your thoughts.
UPDATE: Unfortunately this video is no longer available.
Ever since I joined forces with my partners Barry Rebo and Giovanni Cozzi to form Emerging Pictures, one of our goals was to use the new digital technologies to revive the idea of the neighborhood repertory cinema. At first, there was a lot of resistance…from filmmakers and from theater owners, both of whom were still married to the 35mm format. Over time, that resistance has worn down, as both filmmakers and theater owners began to realize the economic benefits of leaving 35mm behind. But perhaps more importantly, as they began to experience it in a theater, they realized that the compromise in picture quality was very minimal, and was compensated for by not having the degradation that goes along with running 35mm through a projector. The image was the same in week 3 as it was in week 1. It was the same in Oklahoma City as at the Zeigfeld. Continue reading “Could digital projection save repertory cinema?”
I’d like to bring to your attention a movie that Emerging Pictures is repping which will have its world premiere next week at SXSW. It’s the life story of Wavy Gravy, a guy who I was vaguely familiar with from the movie “Woodstock.” Those of you who have see that film might remember him as a kind of goofy guy in a cowboy hat who ended up becoming the unofficial MC of the event. He mentions in “Woodstock” that he’s “from the hog farm,” which I always thought meant that he was from some hog farm in upstate New York. Little did I know.
Now that I’ve seen the film “Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie,” I know better. Wavy (as he is known) is the personification of the counterculture and proof that it is alive and well and having a true impact on the world we live in. The Village Voice once called Wavy a cross between Harpo Marx and Mother Theresa. I couldn’t have said it better myself. The only thing they left out is that he is also Zelig…somehow turning up at every significant counterculture event from the ’50s though today. Wavy’s story is the history of that culture, but more importantly, it is the inspirational story of someone who made up his mind to devote his entire life to doing good in the world…and has made good on that commitment. When the film is over, and you’ll be singing along with Wavy’s song “Basic Human Needs,” and you’ll want to get out and make a difference yourself.
Those of you who are going to SXSW, please make a point of checking it out. There’s a pretty amazing party planned for afterward…details to come.