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Binger Institut and Thomas Mai

Binger Institut and Thomas Mai

Binger Filmlab is an Amsterdam based international feature film and documentary development center where talented writers, directors, producers and script editors from around the world can place both their projects and their usual working practices within an inspiring environment of fellow filmmakers, to be coached and supported by internationally acclaimed mentors and advisors. When it began in 1996, my partner, Peter Belsito and I would coach there, especially concentrating on the art of the pitch. While it has been many years since we’ve attended, it always retains a special place in our “cosmos” and we are happy to see how far it has progressed in its 14 years of existence.

Binger opened its doors in 1996 as a post academic training facility for film professionals and now has matured into a challenging and unique film lab with intensive five-month programs that focus on the development of projects and the individual talents that create them. The world film community discovered this rich resource and they have welcomed to their global crossroads, filmmakers from Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, The Middle East, Asia, Latin and North America, and the Australia/ Pacific region.

Binger has also discovered its other natural allies in this work of supporting the brightest emerging talents; the Sundance Institute and its Labs in the US, The Nipkow programme residencies in Berlin, and Paris’ Cinéfondation (Cannes Film Festival) residence.

In September of this year Thomas Mai spoke on the current hot topic, the crisis in distribution. Below is Binger reporter Matthew Curlewis’s account.

Watch here for YouTube video summation of the Social Media Revolution.

Dutch Angle Public Debate – The @ of Art Film
23 September 2010 by Binger Reporter Matthew Curlewis

International panel with Rutger Wolfson (IFFR director), Chris Paton (Fortissimo Films), Ronald De Neef (High Point Media Group), Pim Hermeling (Wild Bunch Benelux), Peter Bognar (Budapest Film) and producer/consultant Thomas Mai. Moderated by Mike Goodridge (Screen International).
Organized by the Holland Film Meeting in association with Binger Filmlab and Eye Film Institute Netherlands.

“May I ask you a question?” a robotic-sounding voice inquired over the sound system, interrupting the moderator only a few words into his introduction. This simple sound cue error was eerily on-target – a disembodied, techno-voice already wanting information, only seconds into the discussion. What became abundantly clear during the following two and a half hours is that the future is already here. It’s fast and it’s hungry, and anyone involved in the financing and distribution of independent film better get with it, or prepare to get eaten alive.

The afternoon’s feature guest, flown in from Brazil by Binger Filmlab and the Holland Film Meeting, was former Trust-Nordisk Head of Sales / producer / consultant Thomas Mai. Affably blonde but with razor sharp teeth, Mai’s evangelical energy alone was enough to overheat the unseasonably warm Festival Pavilion, then adding flame to his fire were some high-calibre international panel members. Fortunately Screen International’s Mike Goodridge, with his wealth of experience edged with an aura of cool, was moderating the day’s hot topic: a distribution industry in crisis.

Different panellists weighed in with a litany of concerns and realities, which all told painted a dismal picture of the current and future state of distribution… The majors control the screens and fill them with studio fare, arthouse audiences are staying away in droves, and audiences are harder and harder to reach via traditional radio and television marketing methods.

“Then reach those audiences in different ways!” Thomas Mai countered. “Find out what they want to see, proactively, before discovering nobody’s interested in the topic of your film. Stop thinking in traditional modalities.” Find out how many times a term has been googled before you make a movie about it – at, or measure brand visibility at

Use social media strategically – Facebook allows you to communicate with people you know, whereas Twitter connects you with people you DON’T know. Thomas Mai is in full swing now; “Want to post to your various social media networks, simultaneously? Then use But don’t only collect followers, contribute into discussions as well, then use this base for crowdfunding. “Yes!” Mai congratulated Rutger Wolfson of IFFR’s Cinema Reloaded – “Gold Star for starting such a programme, but now reward financial contributors with special news, updates, information and member-type advantages. Make everything more interactive; make it a two-way portal…”

How? Offer them something: create and sell merchandise for the film before it’s made – others are waiting to do it for you, cheaply and efficiently. Check out:, and if you don’t believe it consider musician Jill Sobule’s story: of raising nearly $90,000 from her online fans to record her album. Or try: Where the hell is Matt? Watch youtube to see Matt do his goofy dance all over the world, get hordes of people to join him, and land a chewing gum company’s sponsorship and 31 million YouTube views. This is all catchy and appealing stuff.

And Mai is way more than just talk. He has some truly staggering statistics, like Monty Python’s profits increasing over 23,000 percent in one week – and no that’s not a typo. The Pythons themselves explain how they upped the ante against piracy by launching their own YouTube channel. This smart move of turning a negative into a positive, triggered their gargantuan increase in sales of DVDs and other Python products.

Mai started developing this presentation after tracking sales figures on two different releases from fellow Dane, Lars von Trier. What changed in the intervening years to the degree that Antichrist, released in 2009, only did 2.5 percent of the business of Dancer in the Dark, released in 2000? They’re both smallish Danish films from a reputable, widely respected auteur. The films hadn’t changed by 97.5 percent – so instead Mai chose to investigate audience behaviours and distribution modalities.

His search for answers led him plunging head-first down the internet rabbit hole to the discovery he now passionately shares: old distribution models are over and the new ones are right here for the taking. No more old concepts like gatekeepers, exclusivity, territories, windows and independence. Now it’s time for no gatekeepers, non-exclusivity, no territory limits, no windows, and fandependence to all take the lead.

And if you’re still despairing your film will never be seen by anyone, just keep in mind three of Thomas Mai’s most salient points.

A. There’s hope

B. It’s not over

C. There are many possibilities for your particular project

Don’t get eaten. Just sharpen your teeth, get out there and have some fun.

A list of some terrific URLs follows, starting with the source:

Create your own audience

Twitter: Using the # sign on Twitter enables you to find specific communities to both follow, and to make tweets within so that you can gain followers yourself.

Email marketing tools and software

Email and event marketing and online surveys

Email marketing 2.0 for entrepreneurs

Fund your own film

Fund and follow creativity

A collaborative way to fund ideas

Be a film producer – invest in cinema

Become a movie producer for the price of a movie ticket: $10

Demand to see the movie Iron Sky in your town

Find, share and promote events

Distribute yourself; become an exhibitor!

Create, collaborate, distribute – an amazon company

Distribute your media everywhere

The global business-to-business marketplace for audiovisual content

Hire a film, show it, keep the cash – organise your own film screenings

Find out licence fees and how much revenue you can generate

Find professionals who get the job done

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