Exciting news to kick off 2015. Papa Machete, the film I co-produced in Haiti, will be having its US Premiere at Sundance. Dolphin Lover, a short doc I produced, shot, and edited, will be having its World Premiere at Slamdance.
Excited to finally head out to Park City for the festivals with two projects. Though coming from an 80 degree beachy winter in Miami I’ve got a lot of cold weather gear to buy.
Papa Machete trailer below.
Dolphin Lover to come soon, but let’s just leave it with the Slamdance logline. The true story of a man with a porpoise.
Bots High was rejected from SXSW. Bots High is playing next Tuesday in Austin in a SXSW venue. This Friday it will also be represented at an official SXSW event. This took about two emails and ten minutes to make happen. And it’s free. Here’s how.
Bots High is my feature documentary on high school battling robots. I finished it about two months ago and have been working on a DIY distribution model at schools, theaters, co-working sites, and pretty much anywhere with a screen. SXSW was obviously a top choice to premiere at, but I got the rejection email and moved on to other plans (like having a World Premiere on my own terms).
Fast forward a few weeks, I get an email from a friend about documenting a Miami StartupBus that’s heading to SXSW. 30 entrepreneurs have 48 hours to start a company on a bus to present at SXSW.
So now that I’m going to end up at SXSW, I figured I might as well capitalize on that opportunity. I jokingly threw out an idea of an underground screening – set up a projector and show the film on the side of a building or something. But from this joke I got a pretty good response – people said they would come if it was playing.
A projection on the side of the building didn’t seem ideal, so now I started thinking of other venues. This is about two weeks before the festival – any obvious place will either be booked or insanely expensive.
Then I started thinking about schools – there’s University of Texas nearby, have to be a bunch of high schools and middle schools – and they all have auditoriums. I checked out UT’s website – not only do they have an engineering school, they have a Women in Engineering Program. And I’ve got a film that features all girl teams building robots – I feel a win-win happening here.
So I shot them an email, got a reply from Tricia the Director who thought it was a great idea and booked an auditorium Tuesday evening, the week of SXSW. The day before there will be a SXSW panel in the same room – so it’s not a venue in the middle of nowhere.
I feel like this was bizarrely too easy, and that leads me to wonder why I’ve never heard of other films doing this, aside from maybe the start of Slamdance.
Major festivals attract large crowds, and what festival goers wouldn’t love a free screening of a film? This is a really interesting model I definitely want to explore further. I wish I had more lead time so I could get more swag together, like stickers, t-shirts, 3 lb. robot battles…
The other SXSW event I’ll be at is an Ignite/Dorkbot event. Ignite is a collection of 5 minute presentations, 20 slides each set to auto-advance every 15 seconds. They’re really cool. But it was Dorkbot that drew my attention – if you have the word ‘robot’ or ‘bot’ in your title, you’re a target for my film.
Before the Ignite talks there’s going to be a “science fair” with booths setup with projects on display. I emailed them, knowing I was late to the game, if I could get a booth for Bots High and surprisingly they had some open spots. And this is an official SXSW event. So if I play the whole movie on my laptop, does this mean Bots High officially played at SXSW?
The timing works out perfectly as well, because Dorkbot is Friday, the screening is Tuesday, so it’ll be a great opportunity to promote the screening.
My other SXSW experiment will be how to make the most of the festival without a badge.
So if you’re at the festival, please come by one of the events. Or shoot me an email and we can meet up. And if you’re not there, please spread the word! Here’s the Facebook Event Page.
I’m stuck in the airport right now due to there being no one who can fly the plane or something. I have one book in my bag (thanks to the versatility of the iPad) – the 3rd Edition of Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide. “3rd?,” you may say, “but the 4th edition is the latest!”
And you would be right, the 4th Edition is the latest and I bought it as soon it came out. I’ve had the 3rd Edition as soon as I started making films and realizing I should be sending them to festivals. I don’t think there’s a book on my shelf that has more highlights, more dog eared pages, or more post-its and flags sticking out. The FFSG is a great directory of festivals, along with a great selection of curated lists and indexes sorting the festivals by date, genre, and location.
It’s a pretty thick book, so I was surprised when the 4th Edition came in that it was nearly half the thickness. It has all the articles written by filmmakers about navigating festivals and distribution – interesting stuff and good articles. But as for the directory and lists of festivals, in the back of the book is a note pointing you to a website, where it says all the festival information is now online.
On the surface this seems like a great idea. Festivals are changing all the time. The information is old as soon as it’s printed. With a website you can keep everything up to date. People can review festivals, lists can be curated, you can search based on different factors.
Great idea – horrible execution. ((I should note this has bothered me for a while, ever since getting the book. It’s resurfacing again since I just sent the first batch of festival submissions for Bots High out and am looking for particular niche festivals.))
So I signed up for an account, put my book’s serial number in, and went to the Fests A-Z directory. Unsurprisingly is a festival directory in alphabetical order. I tried to find lists, like Festivals for Women on the Screen, or Best Documentary Festivals. Nothing. Nor could I search festivals by genre. I could just look at a long list of festivals in no useful order, or search for a festival by location. If I wanted to do that I could just use Withoutabox. I want curated lists and a way to find out about festivals that’s better than Withoutabox. This has none of it.
So that’s why I have a copy of 3rd Edition. I know a lot of the festivals in it have ceased to exist, but it’s worth sorting through it to find niche festivals.
If anyone’s had a similar experience but found the secret tab that I’m missing, please share.
Jon Reiss (@Jon_Reiss) has become one of the main voices on DIY and alternative distribution (along with Ted Hope). He’s a filmmaker and the author of the book Think Outside the Box Office, an invaluable resource for anyone who’s made or (more preferably) is thinking about making a film.
In the podcast we talk about different distribution options, alternative screening venues, building an audience, the closing of B-Side Entertainment, Tribeca’s VOD announcement, and more.
This podcast episode has a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. Basically you can share and reuse this episode however you like, but all I ask in return is that you also share it and you Coffee and Celluloid by linking back to this page.
I’m somewhat familiar with the world of advertising, though admittedly most of that knowledge comes from watching Mad Men. Either way I love advertising (well, advertising done well), so I was excited to see that Art & Copy was at Full Frame.
People scoff at advertising. Like, literally – when a factoid popped up in the film that said the average city dweller is exposed to 5000 ads a day, peopled scoffed. But advertising is what makes the entertainment system work; it’s what puts TV on the air and magazines on shelves. This isn’t really a surprise – publications are folding or downsizing all over the place because advertising revenue is down. This is even flooding over into online news media.
People want everything free and uninterrupted. I like free stuff (and I believe news should always be free), so I think giving 30 seconds of my attention is a fair trade off to watching The Daily Show online for free. It’s pretty simple – you don’t watch ads, advertisers stop spending money because no one’s watching them, and then studios don’t have money to make shows.
Of course part of this is to blame on advertisers. If all ads were great and entertaining, we’d be just as excited to watch the ads than the program, like the Super Bowl (though now that the Super Bowl ads are all online I just gained four hours one Sunday a year).
For every car dealership who puts their screaming kid in a commercial, or Billy Mays yelling at me about how my detergent sucks, there’s a fair balance of mediocre commercials as well as those few gems, and I’m okay with that. I’ll put up with it for good, free TV.
If you get one thing from Art & Copy it’s that advertising is hard and good ideas are rare. “Oh, it’s only 30 seconds, how hard is that?” Well, in that 30 seconds you need to cram a beginning, middle, end, send out your message, create a scene, create characters, emotionally connect with the audience and, oh, sell your shit. And after reading this paragraph, your time is up.
And for print ads, as you just read above 5000 ads are competing with each other a day. Talk about trying to stand out.
One very cool story in Art & Copy was the idea of bringing the Art Director and Copywriter into the same room (thus, Art & Copy). The Art Director is mainly responsible for the visuals while the Copywriter handles the copy, or text. Having the two work together is standard practice today, and you’d think that should just be common sense – they’re producing one final product, the visuals and text should work harmoniously together, but no, which is why a lot of old ads are sketches of happy family with big blocks of text under it. The revolutionary firm that did put the two together was new, scoffed at by the old, large firms (lots of scoffing), and, of course, they kicked ass (Think Small).
I just got back from a press/filmmaker meet and greet. Felt a little like Hugh Grant when he worked for Horse and Hound, but I ended up meeting Vero Bollow, director of The Wind and The Water.
It’s the first fictional feature to come from Panama, and though the theater is not near where I’m at and I wasn’t planning on going, Vero was really cool and the film sounds really interesting (she pitched it well), so I’m going to make a mad rush after another film and check it out.
Also, I’m very excited that the very, very last film the festival is screening is Tokyo!