The Hollywood Reporter – saying goodbye was hard

September 11, 2008

It’s always tough to say goodbye to someone with whom you’ve had a long relationship, especially if it’s been good. Often, one party is usually ready to walk away, while the other clings for dear life.

It happened when I tried to say goodbye to my online subscription with The Hollywood Reporter. We had a great relationship for a long time. People change, however. I was no longer signing in often enough to make the $19.95 monthly fee worth it.  So I fought back the tears (not really) as I called the subscriber service department to say goodbye. I assured them it wasn’t them. It was me. I just needed to move on, so cancel my subscription and wish me well, no hard feelings. Unfortunately, THR wasn’t ready to say goodbye.  Read the entire sordid tale after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »


The problem with movies is there are too many of them

September 3, 2008

The Wall Street Journal joins the chorus of “too many films and too few theatrical slots”

It’s yet another example of why alternative film distribution models may eventually save the day.

Budgeting for marketing and publicity

March 25, 2008

“How much is it going to cost?” I hear that question often from filmmakers.  The simple answer is “probably more than you thought you’d need to spend.”

That costs vary widely is an understatement.   At one end of the spectrum are the millions per film spent by the major studios, while at the other end, some DIY filmmakers are doing it for themselves, while others turn their friends and fans into flacks.

fa0109.jpgThe March/April issue of FilmArts Magazine contains an informative article, penned by colleague Lyla Foggia, that explains why it’s important to build marketing and publicity into a film’s production budget, and includes some rough estimates for various costs (as well as a quote from me).

I’ve written before about how important it is to think about publicity and marketing at the very beginning of the filmmaking process. And not only to think about it, and plan for it, but to incorporate it into every phase. You’ll find this article useful, I think, as you plan your production budget for your next film.

The FilmArts Foundation is an invaluable source of information, education, low-cost filmarts.gifequipment access, fiscal sponsorship, exhibition opportunities and numerous other methods of support for the independent filmmaker community. Check them out if you’re not familiar with them. They are a non-profit organization, and can really use some support with their fundraising campaign.  

Article shared with permission from FilmArts Magazine, thanks to Laurie Koh, Managing Editor.

Superbowl Sunday: Pro Football is not a sport. Pro Football is Showbiz!

February 3, 2008

superbowl-42-logo.gifI’m watching Fox’s Superbowl XLII 2008 pre-show game, and find myself shaking my head in bewilderment.  A red carpet?  Ryan Seacrest conducting celebrity interviews?  A clapper shown at the beginning of each vignette that highlights members of the starting line-up for the two teams?  A report on the hottest Superbowl parties thrown by Diddy, Maxim and Victoria’s Secret?   Showing fan videos from   Debuting Paula Abdul’s new music video? 

This is more like E! than any superbowl I remember.  Growing up with a father who used to revere Superbowl Sunday as almost sacred, my memories of this game include Dad trying to hustle us all into the car as soon as church ended while my Mom gave him “don’t rush me” glances; bringing hot bowls of chili into the family room to eat while watching the pre-game show, which seemed excruciatingly long and boring, full of stats and figures that may as well as have been ancient sanskrit, and clip after clip of apparently every past superbowl ever played in history.  My Dad was mesmerized.  I was bored to tears.

 Once the actual game started, you couldn’t get my Dad’s attention, even if you yelled “FIRE!”.   Accidentally walking in front of the TV was a huge no-no.  He did remember, however, to always call me just before commercials, so I could return to the family room for what I always thought was the best part of the superbowl.  The Budweiser Clydesdales were always my favorite. 

Over the past 20 years or so, I’ve noticed my Dad became less interested in pro football and more interested in college football.   He says he pro football isn’t enjoyable anymore, that it’s not about the sport of the game.   He says college football is still mostly about playing the game, the athleticism, the team.  That’s what he enjoys most. 

I found that perplexing.  I mean, football is football.  Isn’t it?  What does it matter whether it’s pro or college?  Six one way, half a dozen the other: a field, a, correction, a pigskin,  big guys in tight pants, John Madden’s annoying shouting and finger painting routes in yellow scribble during instant replays.  It seemed to me like Dad was just splitting hairs.

Until today.  As I sit here watching Ryan Seacrest interview Nick Lachey on the Superbowl red carpet, I think I finally begin to understand Dad.  The sport seems to now take a distant backseat to the entertainment.   It’s no longer about the green field at the 50-yard line. It’s about the red carpet.  Photo ops.  Partying with the stars.   It’s not sport.  It’s entertainment.

I just called my Dad to ask him what he thought of this year’s pre-game show.   After several rings, my parent’s answering machine picked up.  They’re not home. 

Enough said. 

Buy a movie ticket, get the soundtrack for FREE

February 1, 2008

Not my idea, it’s Mark Cuban’s.  It’s an interesting one.  It could possibly work.  He asks:

How many people are going to rush out and buy the Soundtrack to the new Rambo movie ? But riddle me this. How many more people would go to the movie if they knew that their movie ticket stub had a code to unlock a free download of the movie’s soundtrack ? Or if they bought a ticket online in advance of the release, they could download the soundtrack right from the online ticket site?

He has additional ideas for bundling value-added items into the price of a cinema ticket. Personally, I’d love to see a studio or indie distributor experiment with this idea.

Indie films short on publicity often die quickly. Roger Ebert attempts to explain why.

December 1, 2007

I stumbled across this fascinating dialogue between Roger Ebert and indie director Tom DiCillo, whose film Delirious screened in several major festivals, and received critical acclaim, but closed after playing a month in New York, a week in LA, and a one-theater run in Chicago and perhaps a couple other places, grossing $200,000 nationwide. Dismayed and apparentlyDELIRIOUS Screengrab somewhat disillusioned by the lack of theatrical success, DiCillo asks Ebert the questions indie filmmakers everywhere probably ask every day: Why? Why didn’t my film find legs, find an audience, find a way to earn back what it cost to make?  Tough questions to answer. 

Ebert’s responses provide important insight into the struggle for survival of small, quirky independent films amidst the titans of tentpole studio films.  Two concepts he presented especially caught my attention:

Good reviews work best for a visible opening

The key word here is “visible”.  People need to know the movie exists.  That translates to publicity, promotion and advertising.  As Ebert, points out:

“When moviegoers have never seen an ad for a movie and it isn’t playing in their city, state or region of the nation, what difference do reviews make?”

There was almost zero advertising for the film. I can only guess there wasn’t a lot of money to spend on ads.  That makes it very hard to compete for the attention of movie-goers who are bombarded with advertising and marketing campaigns of gargantuan proportions, such as the $53.5 million marketing budget for Cars. 

Film Festivals could be a revenue stream for indie films

Because the small indies don’t get the big opening box office weekends, they tend to find their audiences at film festivals.  Ebert says:

… you didn’t make “Delirious” to sell tickets for festivals. I frankly think it’s time for festivals to give their entries a cut of the box office.

I’m intrigued by the idea of indie films making money on the festival circuit. There are certainly enough festivals with large attendance to consider that a viable financial model.  I’m not sure how many festivals would enthusastically embrace that idea, however.

In light of the film’s next-to-nothing ad campaign, publicity did exist.  It did get some glowing reviews by major press.  The filmmakers did make a publicity effort on the Interweb, with the website, a podcast, the filmmaker’s blog, and a MySpace page. All of these have the potential to be powerful tools in spreading the word and generating buzz about a film. Of course, the key is how they’re executed, integrated, timed, etc.

I’m going to ask the master of movie marketing analysis, Chris Thilk to consider analyzing the effectiveness of the marketing campaign for Delirious.  It may be too late to help DiCillo’s latest film, but perhaps not for his next project, as well as that of other independent filmmakers.

I’ll let you know what Chris says.

Balancing Act: Traditional Publicity and Social Networking, Part 2

September 4, 2007

Part 2 of the Podcast is available on This is the continuation of the three-way conversation between Joseph Jaffe, Across the Sound; Chris Thilk, Movie Marketing Madness; and Kirk Skodis, Real Pie Media, that I posted about on August 27th. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it, so I don’t know if it contains any new developments on the man-crush. Check it out, I’ll be listening to it later tonight.