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The Five Smartest Things Said at the Cannes Distribution Panel

The Five Smartest Things Said at the Cannes Distribution Panel

All this week, the American Pavilion in Cannes has been hosting a series of industry and talent conversations. On Friday afternoon, AmPav took on the always tidy subject of releasing a film in its panel, “Indie Film Innovators: Keeping Up with New Thinking in Distribution.” As usual, the statistics are grim. Few films are chosen for film festivals; even fewer are picked up for distribution, leaving many indie filmmakers to their own devices. So now what? 
 
Imparting their knowledge were panelists Jon Fougner from Facebook, Tim League of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, Oscilloscope’s David Fenkel, Berry Meyerowitz of Phase Four and moderator Scott Macauley, Editor-in-Chief of Filmmaker Magazine.

The theme: In today’s rapidly evolving market, indie filmmakers must be proactive in finding the mediums that best bring their films to the masses while still recouping their investments. Below are five main points to take away:
 
Think Outside the Box Office
Macauley and Fougner both recommended “Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era” by Jon Reiss. It provides an inside look at the new windows available for indie filmmakers and looks beyond obvious formats such as Hulu, Amazon, and iTunes. This book is available both in paperback and electronically on Reiss’ website. 

Don’t Always Be Selling
Fenkel noted that consumers feel smothered when they are constantly barraged with product. The best way to use new media is to create a regular community, not just a sales community.  Vidal Sassoon already had a base of 8,000 fans on Facebook, so when the movie “Vidal Sassoon” came out, it was easy to exploit that fan base. Fenkel also pointed out that the dialogue needs to begin long before a film’s release; three months is not enough. 
 
“Create a signal out of the static.”
That came from PreScreen’s Shawn Bercuson, who pointed out that distribution means not only identifying a target audience but also finding a way to communicate with them.  Social media platforms should be used to listen to fans as well as talk to them. That engagement makes fans involved in the process and furthers their commitment to a film.  And with deeper insight, you’re in a better position exploit the target audience.
 
Social Media Means More Box Office
Fougner said an aggressive Facebook marketing campaign for the two weeks leading up to the release of Warner Brothers’ “Dark Knight” created roughly $4 million in additional box office revenue.
 
You Have Many Windows, But One Shot
While the panelists differed on their views of how to best use “windows” for a film’s release (theatrical and/or VOD), League pointed out that a film has one shot. That makes it important to push on all monetized platforms, including (but not limited to) a standard theatrical release, VOD, Amazon, iTunes and Hulu.  

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