Coelho puts MySpace on hold for Festival gamble

January 11, 2009

After first signaling that he was ushering in a new era of filmmaking and distribution, Paul Coelho is apparently re-thinking the distribution plans  for  Experimental Witch.

When I first heard about it, I looked forward to following  Coelho’s crowd-source filmmaking experiment for Experimental Witch, when he announced his plans to solicit MySpace friends to help make the film, and then distribute the film in partnership with MySpace. The plan sounded innovative and fresh, and his announcement of the winners of the MySpace competition signaled this might really work. I had visions of a new model for filmmaking and film distribution.  Very exciting stuff!

Turns out, the monumental shift I was anticipating may be a while coming. Coelho appears to be sliding back towards the classic ‘festival first’ mentality. It seems a “major European Festival” is considering accepting the film as long as it’s not shown anywhere else first, including on the internet. Coelho, hoping to grab critical attention, as well as a possible theatrical distribution deal, by showing the film at major festivals, announced he’s delaying the MySpace premiere while he woos the festival circuit.

This is turning into to a textbook case of old-world film distribution clashing  against, rather than embracing, new-world approaches to reaching audiences:

Old-world: Exclusivity.  Filmmakers allow their films to be trapped by a festival vs. New-world:  Open and accessible.  Filmmakers insist on distribution freedom.

I wonder if the day will ever come when festivals drop this archaic requirement of  our-festival-first exclusivity, and realize that festival audiences are not necessarily the same as global audiences, and that one doesn’t negate the importance of the other. 

I can only imagine the MySpace filmmakers that contributed to Experimental Witch, not to mention Coelho’s fans, are disappointed in the delay.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.


Film distribution: old world vs. new world

October 2, 2008

I’m back from taking some time off from work and blogging and facebooking and twittering and MySpacing and virtually everything else.  It felt good to unplug and get away for a while, and enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature during the unfolding of Autumn in New England. 

Now it feels good to dive back in.

If by chance you haven’t yet read this wonderful 2-part article from IndieWire that discusses film distribution in the old world vs. the new world, I urge you to take the time to do so: part 1 and part 2.

Winners selected for Coelho’s “Witch of Portobello” MySpace film experiment

September 5, 2008

When I first heard about Paulo Coelho’s MySpace collaboration for turning his latest book into a film, I knew this was the kind of experiment in filmmaking by crowd sourcing that would be interesting to follow. 

Over 6,000 people subscribed to Coelho’s proposition.  I don’t know if that means he received 6,000 video entries, or if it also represents other forms of participation from MySpace users.  In any case, he recently announced the provisional selection of the winning videos that will be part of the film.  As expected, the provisional winners will have to comply with some fine print and complete required legal transactions. 

Coelho mentioned the film now runs at 380 minutes, much too long for commercial distribution. He does want, however, to show the full cut on the Internet, before submitting an edited version to film festivals.

In the meantime, you can watch the provisional winning videos.

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.

Oscar® deadline nears. Did you theatrically screen your film as required?

August 28, 2008

Docsider reminds us that Tuesday, September 2 is the deadline for submitting short or feature-length documentaries for Academy Awards consideration — that is, if your film has met the requirements for a one-week theatrical screening in LA and Manhattan.

In light of how filmmaking and film distribution is evolving, I’m wondering if the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences rules will always and forever include this requirement for a theatrical screening.   Marc Rabinowitz suggests documentaries should be allowed to qualify based on festival play or award wins.  That’s not a bad idea.  But what about narrative features?  Digital technology continues to develop, and audiences are increasingly introduced to films that debut, not in the traditional model of theatrical screenings, but on alternative distribution platforms like web streaming and downloads, not to mention the plethora of straight-to-DVD offerings. 

Will these new forms of screenings ever reach a mass critical enough to compete with theatrical screenings?  And if so, would that be enough of a shift to cause the AMPAS to ease, if not eliminate, the rule of required theatrical screenings?  Without the use of a crystal ball, it’s impossible to say.  It will be interesting to see how, or if, the AMPAS will react in the future to the continued evolution of the art and science of making and delivering motion pictures.

Update: In the meantime, documentary filmmakers have been scrambling to meet the theatrical screening requirements, without publicity or marketing the films to audiences, who apparently are scratching their heads about a slew of films they’ve never heard of suddenly appearing in theaters.

Questions from the chat widget: Recommendations for producer’s reps?

August 21, 2008

An indie filmmaker named Susan IM’d me yesterday on my meebo chat widget, saying she was looking for a producer’s rep, but was hesitant to blindly respond to listings on the Web, and asked if I had any recommendations.  Unfortunately, she signed off from chat before I could finish composing my response.  

My answer is that I totally understand the hesitance to blindly pick a producer’s rep.  The relationship between filmmaker and producer’s rep is very critical. Even though it’s a professional relationship, personal preferences do come into play.  it’s very important that the parties share a vision about the filmmaker’s project, that they work well together. It’s a very indidualized relationship, and for that reason, I don’t offer recommendations.  Instead, I encourage filmmakers who are searching for producer’s reps to reach out to their colleagues, other directors and producers, and ask for their feedback on who they’ve been happy with in representing them.

There are lots of places on the web where filmmakers congregate to network, exchange ideas, and generally support each other and the craft.  One of my favorites, FILMCOMMUNITY.COM, is a good place to seek opinions from filmmakers on options and recommendations for producer’s reps.

Links: interesting happenings in indie filmmaking

July 6, 2008

As competition for audiences, especially for indie films, becomes fiercer than ever,  the exploration of alternative methods for finding audiences and attaining distribution is increasingly becoming the focus of discussion, and in some cases, the deciding factor in actions, for independent filmmakers.  Here are just a few recent samples:

  • An award-winning indie filmmaker pulls out of his distribution deal with IFC Films and opts for self-distribution. [via Cinematical]
  • The discovery and distribution film festival, From Here To Awesome, announces DIY Days, a series of workshops and panels focused on film funding, creation, distribution and sustainability.  FHTA will also soon announce which films have won a spot in the festival showcase.
  • An indie filmmaker (full disclosure: he’s my client), having already bought into the idea of joining the conversation with film audiences, takes it one step further by opening his own blog and recruiting actors whom he has directed to blog with him.
  • A group of filmmakers, investors, entrepreneurs, journalists and consultants is putting together “a two-day conversation” to talk about how new technology is changing the business of making film.