Friday, July 30, 2010

"Within" Premiere's On LIFETIME

"Within" is the fabulous Hanelle Culpepper's feature directorial debut. It premiere's on the Lifetime Channel at 9 p.m. on July 31st. The film is part of the Bigfoot Entertainment slate (including "The Dogwalker" and "Midnight Movie") and was produced by Liam Finn - and yours truly,....but he did all the heavy lifting). CHECK IT OUT!! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Independent Film Master Class - Aug. 1st in L.A. AND Webcast!!



When: August 1, 2010 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: The Downtown Independent Film Theater

251 S. Main St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012 (map below)


IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND IN PERSON, register now for the Live Interactive Webcast. It is discounted 50% to only $25 for only the next seven days: Attendees and Live Webcast registrants get access to an archived copy of the Master Class for life!

Filmmakers Alliance's INDEPENDENT FILM MASTER CLASS is the complete, all-in-one package - a definitive, step-by-step, one-day seminar for independent filmmakers offering all the information you need to get your film MADE and SEEN. The INDEPENDENT FILM MASTER CLASS is a clean, clear, concise and complete independent filmmaking blueprint for your film project that will allow you to sustain your life as a filmmaker!!

  1. Concept, Story and Script Development - Developing ideas and concepts that work! Then, writing that script in a way that will get your film made without compromising your vision.

  1. Film Financing and Crowdfunding - Where to find the money and what you need to do to get it. Also, exploring new strategies in raising money for your film.

  1. Pre-production and Production - How to get the most filmmaking bang from your budget - creatively and cost-efficiently managing your project. Also, how best to work with actors, crew, locations, unions, guilds, crafts to ensure your film not only gets made, but looks exponentially more than its cost.

  1. Post-Production - New technologies and methodologies are making it easier to high end work with a low end budget. Find out what they are and what you need to do give a stunning, world-class finish to your film and how to prepare for it long before you reach post.

  1. Festivals and Distribution - Understanding the festival circuit and how to use it to your film’s greatest advantage. And devising and executing a distribution plan that will give your film it’s best shot at success and sustain your filmmaking life!

Speakers include:

  • Saskia Wilson-Brown( speaking about DIY funding strategies with a nod to more traditional ways of raising money.

  • Producer-writer-director Liam Finn serving up war stories on his no-budget first feature "Rejouer".
  • Filmmakers Diane Bell and Chris Byrne talking about financing and other issues putting together their award-winning Sundance fave "Obselidia".


The seminar also includes filmmaker case-studies and open Q&A periods, so come prepared with your specific filmmaking questions - the ones that most have you stumped - so that we can take you to the next level.

SEMINAR SPECIAL - 10 filmmakers will be selected from the attendees for a FREE 6-session series of consultations. You MUST submit your project to no later than June 30th for consideration. Please submit no longer than a single page synopsis, a filmmaking resume and links to any previous work. Please DO NOT send video files or full scripts.



Ticket Prices:

$175* - Includes seminar fee plus one year of Filmmakers Alliance membership (LA).

$125* - General seminar fee only.

$75 - Seminar fee for FA members only (with special discount code)

$50 - Live Interactive Webcast. REGISTER NOW! -

*Fee includes lunch and parking.

Get your tickets and start making your film NOW!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


You can’t be afraid to ask, and you need to find the right time to ask. The balance of those two things is crucial. When you think you’re in a place where a potential investor or donor believes in your project and believes in you, then you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them [for] what it is you need. [On Kickstarter,] you can reach out to friends, family, to whatever networks you have, and hit them all at once with a well articulated, honest and humble pitch. We’ve put together nicely laid together print packages. I don’t know how many people really read those. I don’t think you can go in there as a salesman. I’ve never had anyone invest based on reading the literature we’ve created. They invest or donate because they connect to you as an artist, whether you make that connection over coffee or if you make it over the Internet.
— Matthew Porterfield, Putty Hill

In Matthew Porterfield’s Putty Hill, a feature film that recently received a four-star review from Roger Ebert, a young man’s death in Baltimore unites a fractured family and their community. Visit for updates.

When someone tells me to check out a project, the first thing I do is click on the video. It’s really important to craft a teaser or video to hook people right away, because that’s what people are going to judge you by. Nelson (Dellaggiore, Chess Movie: The Story of I.S. 318’s editor) did that right from the get go. It pulls you in, with music and titles, and makes you want to watch more. Know that the audience is going to be people — in our case — that like chess [or] that don’t like chess, that are film people who understand the creative stuff and people that don’t. You’re going to have to make a video that appeals to all of those people. We were thinking mainstream: “What’s the widest audience?”
— Katie Dellamaggiore, Chess Movie: The Story of I.S. 318

And, our biggest successes, surprisingly, were from the chess world. It spoke to them even though we didn’t focus on any of the things that they would care about!
— Nelson Dellamaggiore, Chess Movie: The Story of I.S. 318

Katie and Nelson Dellamaggiore’s Chess Movie: The Story of I.S. 318, The Best Jr. High Chess Team in the Country tells the amazing story of a Brooklyn middle school with the best chess team in the country and not much else. Follow the film’s progress at

I already had an end goal. I already had distribution. I knew I was going to make something and there was going to be a final outlet for it. I think that was to my advantage. I was pitching (the Ethiopian music festival the Festival of 1,000 Stars) to several people and I heard a response from [Sublime Frequencies] — I’ve been watching the films they’ve put out for years and listening to their music. I sent them a couple of my films in the proposal and they wrote back and said that they would distribute if I went and made it. So then there was the problem of finding enough money to get [to Ethiopia]…
— Olivia Wyatt, Staring into the Sun

Olivia Wyatt’s Staring into the Sun explores the images and landscapes of 13 Ethiopian tribes in this visually stunning film. The trailer is a must-watch. Watch it here, and find out more about the film’s distribution label, Sublime Frequencies, at

For me, it’s been about the overlapping communities. I get a lot of people to donate because they know about the band (Dark Dark Dark). I get a lot of people who donate because they’re fans of street art. And, other people have found out about it through film-related areas. For me, it’s been figuring out those communities and how to reach out to them — whether it’s through email, Facebook, word-of-mouth or announcing it at [shows]. And I think sometimes those communities can be unexpected. It would’ve been easy to overlook people who are into street art — Why are they going to care about this film about a river? — or people who are into the band. It’s [about] taking a look at your project and thinking about the different ways in which people can connect to that project and why those people will care about it. It’s about being as resourceful as you can and funding helps — it’s really important — but I think the most important thing is finding and working with a supportive community of people.
— Todd Chandler, Flood Tide

Todd Chandler’s Flood Tide is a road movie on a river. It tells the story of four musicians who create extraordinary boats out of ordinary junk and set out for open water. You can help Todd and his crew complete the film by donating at Kickstarter. And, for more information, visit Flood Tide’s official site and theFlood Tide fan page on Facebook.

Promote and network yourself as much as possible! That was the key [for us]. We got social networking accounts — like every account. On MySpace, we reached out to local musicians to collaborate with our project. Once they were interested, we also had the opportunity to promote the project to their fans as well. So, it was a quick way to get the word around, by not only promoting yourself but working with other people, getting to know other people. It helps get the word around faster.
— Rhodrick Magsino, Little Brass Bird

Elliott Bambrough, Rhodrick Magsino and Robin Poppert’s Little Brass Bird is a stop-motion show that’s been rewarding donors by creating plush toy likenesses for upcoming episodes. Visit their official site at for more on the show.

You have to have a plan of action. You can’t just put it out there and expect that it’s going to happen. Since [The Battle of Brooklyn] was about an issue that affected a lot of people in New York, we recognized five or ten lists or groups that might be interested. Instead of hitting them all at once, we tried to parse it out so we’d get a bump every couple of days, so that wouldn’t just lay fallow. It needs to have a certain kind of momentum. I’ve invited a couple of other people to [start Kickstarter projects] and they both failed. They didn’t plan. They reached out to everybody on the first day — so maybe they’d get to 20 percent of their goal in first couple of days. But then, it just stopped there. It’s like if you were going to run a marathon and you were going to run the first mile in 4 1/2 minutes, and then 13-minute miles the rest of the way. They used up all of their resources instead of trying to build it [over time].
— Michael Galinksy, The Battle of Brooklyn

David Beilinson, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s The Battle of Brooklyn is a documentary about the use of eminent domain and the fight between real estate developers and residents over the Atlantic Yards, the largest development project in Brooklyn’s history. Read more of Galinsky’s tips for Kickstarter projects at the International Documentary Association and followThe Battle of Brooklyn at

The constant contact is really key. Especially in this day and age, it’s about building and cultivating an audience for yourself so you can hopefully sustain [your film career]. I was talking to someone recently who had contributed to both of my campaigns. She had also contributed to a number of others. She said, “You’re the only one that I really found this connection with.” There are a couple [of other campaigns where] she’s never heard from the people — she was assured that she would at some point. It’s hard because it varies by your own personality, how you connect with people. I do think there’s a real value, when people are giving you money, even if you know their name and address — you have an obligation to be in contact with them and let them know what’s going on. They were excited about the project in the first place! If you do really put an effort into the contact, over time, it will pay off, in terms of being able to get your work out there and sustain your work.
— Gregory Bayne, Jens Pulver: Driven

Gregory Bayne’s Jens Pulver: Driven is a documentary about a champion UFC fighter and his last match. Its Kickstarter project was a smashing success, raising more than $25,000 in just 20 days. For more about Jens Pulver: Driven, head over to

It seemed to be really helpful to give as much of a personal story as possible to why I wanted to make the film, instead of talking about the kind of software I would use or more technical things that most people don’t care about. And that’s a trap that I fall into when I try to explain what excites me about animation. I end up getting technical and jargony. Try to make it a personal story about yourself as a filmmaker as much as you can!
— Vance Reeser, Beast of Black Lake

Vance Reeser’s Beast of Black Lake was an early Kickstarter favorite, an animated short about a man haunted by a vision he once saw in a mysterious lake. Get updates and continue supporting the film

Let yourself and your uniqueness shine through. There might be tendency to appeal to the widest demographic possible, but I think, on the contrary, you should embrace your uniqueness and try to embrace whatever’s unique about you or about [your] project. I think that’s why people are getting excited. In the normal Hollywood system — even in the normal indie funding system — these films would be impossible [to fund]. A lot of these films are trying different things, they’re taking risks. When I see projects that are expressing that, and expressing this level of uniqueness, I can respond.
— Matthew Lessner, The Woods

Matthew Lessner’s The Woods is a feature film about a group of kids who’s attempted utopia in an Oregon forest turns into Lord of the Flies. It’s one of the earliest Kickstarter film projects. Lessner’s personal homepage is

In [my] first Kickstarter campaign, I was really excited to launch it, and it was going well, but I ended up not getting it funded. I was about $3,000 shy of my $5,000 goal. In the process of putting it out there and testing the waters, I was able to refine language, better understand what I was really providing with this project: What was the voice I was offering? But also, How does it connect with people? and, How will they experience the end product? I felt resolve, even though it wasn’t funded, to take those lessons and do a little bit of digging in — and relaunch the campaign. I spent a couple of months connecting with the people that stepped forward during the first campaign. I wrote letters and called them, and I asked them, What was their impression? and, What did they hope to get out of seeing [the project] fulfilled? And then I relaunched [the project] two months ago, and as of two days ago, we reached our $1,000 goal. The lesson I learned was, as in all fundraising, it’s more about how we’re engaging in a conversation with our key constituents and the people that we want to connect the work to. Are they finding value in it? Is it valuable to them?
— Karl Cronin, Somatic Natural History Archive

Karl Cronin documents his dance-derived imitations of various — and eventually every — endangered U.S. plant and animal species in the (now renamed) The Dancing Ecologist. Visit his Kickstarter page or find out more about his work at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Shelf-Life Of Films

I was having breakfast yesterday with Sam Jones, CEO of
Formation Media who is not at all in the film industry, but was introduced to me by my friend DeMille Halliburton who does film production insurance. Sam is obviously a very smart, energetic, forward-thinking and internet-savvy guy who identifies trends and opportunities in all kinds of different business environments as part of his job. He was talking about how old-school it is that films have a shelf life - meaning, they come to us in theaters or on DVD with a big marketing splash (even small indies) then seem to fade away forever once revenues tail off. This was something, I admitted with some embarrassment, I accepted as part of the "life cycle" of films and had never given serious consideration.

This smart non-filmmaker then proceeded to explain to me why this was the case. It is because the concept of a film's shelf-life is rooted in the old brick-and-mortar approach to selling/watching films. Meaning, if you have a theater showing a film, as soon as attendance dips to a certain point, it is time to move that film out and put in a new film that will pack the houses. Or if you sell DVD's in a store, you only have so much shelf space so you have to move out the old and bring in the new to keep sales brisk. Makes sense, right? It is a concept that makes and has made sense to studios and theaters - and one to which they are obviously still clinging. However, filmmakers all the way down to the most no-budget indie have also bought into this concept and are almost as slow at shaking free from it. However, in the digital age, this concept will most certainly go the way of the dinosaur and it should be us indie filmmakers helping to expedite its extinction.

Films are like songs. Time does not necessarily de-value them. Some films actually take a long time to catch on with potential viewers, aging beautifully like a fine wine. Yes, films sometimes are dated by concept/language/style, but that often does not preclude them from remaining relevant and/or entertaining indefinitely. And even if you've seen a film upon it's initial release, you may want to revisit it over an over again. I know people who have seen "The Godfather" 2,796 times. If it pops on the t.v., they immediately stop whatever they are doing - even if it is giving birth - and watch the entire film over again. Again, like a song you want to play over and over again, there are films you simply never get sick of.

So, why can't we just order the films on DVD or download them whenever we want them? Because so many titles are still, incredulously, unavailable either on DVD or digital download. You might be able to get a VHS copy on Amazon, but who the hell can stomach that in this pristine new HD universe we are now living in? And even if they are available on DVD or digital download, they are often difficult to find - even with Google - if they are not on Amazon or some other major product aggregator. Finally, from a an audience perspective, even if you are able to access any film ever made, how do you know what to watch? There is virtually no curation for older indie films unless they are critical darlings, and it makes no sense after awhile for distributors or self-distributors to continue spending money on promotion to keep the film in the public's consciousness.

Well, despite the entrenched studios being unable to "burn the boats" of their tired paradigms and indie filmmakers being too myopic to grasp the opportunities in their midst, there are business visionaries within and without the film industry who understand that the digital age is going to change everything. Those folks will very soon make it so that you will someday be able to digitally download every film ever made and watch it at HD quality - on a big screen, if you so desire or the opportunity permits. And all films will be curated - not by a single or small handful of gatekeepers, but by big communities of engaged viewers who will vote, comment, share and otherwise work to bring good films to light for the sheer love of it. Those older films will not need to just fade away if they still have the ability to move audiences and open them up to a newfound (if not genuinely new), compelling cinematic experience.

And what about films that weren't great in their initial release and don't get any better with time? Well, some films simply don't deserve to be successful financially (even many that somehow manage to strike it rich) and/or catch on with audiences. Some films are simply learning experiences for the filmmaker or personal projects that are without any kind of revenue potential. But new technologies allow even those films to have a second life. How? Well, the filmmaking process never ends, it simply gets put aside. Weak, bad or just mediocre films can be re-cut and/or updated visually or musically to create a more compelling version of the film and then re-released. Or, even more interesting to me, you can make your old indie film available for recutting (for a fee, if necessary or for free if you are open and bold enough) to other filmmakers who can create something completely new and fresh. Or they can create multi-film mash-ups with updated tempo/music, etc. - much like re-mixed/sampled music in new songs. The resultant film can be then re-released or, rather, released totally anew. A lot of very exciting stuff to explore in that realm for filmmakers who don't have an interest in shooting their own material - and for audiences looking for something innovative and outside the box.

Any way you slice it, the new, digital universe opens up many possibilities (probably many I am totally missing in this blog) for aged films (and aging filmmakers) that are simply impossible in the old brick-and-mortar paradigm. But that paradigm is dying fast. You've probably heard the adage "content is king" but that is never so true as in the emerging internet space. If you have your hands on interesting films, they can and will be distributed on the internet....and found by audiences. Each film may not earn a gazillion dollars, but as per the long-tail theory, each can have its own small audience and, in aggregate, earn a nice chuck of money. So, I would urge you filmmakers to get onboard with the future paradigm and plan for your films to lead a long and healthy life. The shelves, the stores themselves, are coming down and the internet itself will become an ever-expanding warehouse of all films ever made with no expiration date on any of it.