Kicking off with an "it can only get better" rallying speech from indie film guru Ted Hope and concluding with cautionary "budget for P&A" advice from "Bass Ackwards" producer Thomas Woodrow, the Los Angeles Film Festival presented an extremely insightful marketing and distribution symposium over the weekend. Those independent filmmakers lucky enough to be one of the 200 people seated in the Grammy Museum auditorium heard innumerable words of wisdom from heavy hitters such as Jon Reiss, Peter Broderick, and Kickstarter's Yancey Stickler. Here are ten things that particularly resonated.
1. "The world we're living in is worse than what we're moving forward to." – Ted Hope
In his opening remarks, Ted Hope said people in the independent film business are still nervous about what the future landscape is going to be. But there is no reason to fear the future. We are entering the age of the artist/entrepreneur. "For the first time, we have the potential to establish a broad middle class of creative individuals who support themselves through their art, aligning and collaborating with specifically defined audiences, and not having to conform to the limited dictates of the mass marketplace and its controllers."
Hope raced through his power point presentation, which he promised to put online at some point in the future. Two other notes from his speech:
2. "We are no longer in the business of one-offs."
Hope clarified, "You cannot afford to rebuild the wheel with each project. Focus on the ongoing conversation with your audience. You won't be delivering a single product anymore. You will be delivering many products in many formats in many variations."
3. "It will be to your advantage to have a previously aggregated audience base."
Audience building before production even begins was a key part of many speaker's presentations. Hope's advice was to collect 5,000 fans prior to seeking financing, then gain 500 fans per month during prep, prod, and post.
4. Re: projects raising funds on Kickstarter, "If a project reaches 25% of its goal, 92% of the time it will get funded." – Yancey Stickler
Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Stickler rattled off stats and advice regarding how to use Kickstarter successfully to raise money. The majority of film projects using Kickstarter are documentaries and webseries. Features have a harder time raising money than documentaries because there isn't a core group interested in the subject, so you're selling yourself. It's very rare that a film's full budget is raised, most common is finishing funds. A shorter time period for raising funds is better than longer – 30 days seems optimal, with $8,000 the average amount raised for film projects.
5. "Personal experience between those who create the film and those who enjoy the film gives the viewer a history with the film and a connection." Cory McAbee
Filmmaker/musician Cory McAbee of "The American Astronaut" and "Stringray Sam" fame skyped in to have a conversation with Jon Reiss, author of "Thinking Outside of the Box Office." Sharing his experiences touring with his films, McAbee pointed out that filmmaker appearances are an important part of the film's life, so make sure you have in the initial production budget "a small stipend to cover rent" for at least a year of touring your film.
6. "The secret to social media is storytelling" – Sean Percival
In discussing social media tools, MySpace Director of Content Socialization Sean Percival reinforced that social media is just another way of continuing your film's narrative. "You're telling the story of your movie – your successes, your failures, bring your characters to life… You need to adapt your knowledge of storytelling to these new platforms. Get people on the hook and keep giving them stuff that they enjoy."
7. "In the final analysis, it's all about audience" – Peter Broderick
Having recently spent weeks thinking about crowdfunding, consultant Peter Broderick presented his thoughts on the importance of finding audiences, reaching out to them, engaging them, and harnessing their power.
Broderick reminded us that in "old world" thinking, the audience is the last part of the equation. In the new world, the audience comes onboard very early in the process – by financing the film via crowdfunding. In the old world, there were barriers between you and your audience – filmmakers were not interacting directly with audiences. Previously, the audience was anonymous; now we know them/have their emails. In the old world, the audiences were passive. Now we must engage them. Previously they were just consumers. Now we need them to be evangelists and patrons that you can take with you to other projects.
8. "A stunt is no substitute for actual P&A" – Thomas Woodrow
When asked his best advice for filmmakers, "Bass Ackwards" producer Thomas Woodrow immediately responded, "Budget for P&A. It's obligatory with these small films. You'll be so much happier and you'll insure release for a film you worked so hard on."
9. "Film is a face-to-face business. A filmmaker is the best sales person of the film." – Mynette Louie
Producer of "Children of Invention" Mynette Louie warned that DIY distribution will suck up a lot of your time and your other projects will be neglected.
10. "No one knows enough. You are as much the authority on how to market and distribute your film as anyone. Ask around within your community. You will find out information from your peers. Read Truly Free. Read indieWIRE." Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures