g The Film Panel Notetaker: Filmmaker Conference - Finding Your Audience – September 16, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Finding Your Audience – September 16, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Finding Your Audience – September 16, 2007

Moderator:
(WB) Will Battersby – Producer, Trumbo
(TT) Tory Tunnell– Producer, Trumbo

Panelists:
(MR) Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Rooftop Films
(KL) Karina Longworth, SpoutBlog
(BH) Brent Hoff, Wholphin
(JV) John Vanco, IFC Center
(TR) Todd Rohall, Director, The Guatemalan Handshake

(TT) Discuss ways to find your audience.

(BH) Wholphin is a subscriber-based DVD magazine. Also sold in stores. We select films that would not have traditional means of distribution. See a potential for downloadable distribution.

(KL) Spout is the Myspace for film fans. It has a community/friends section, editorial (via SpoutBlog), the FilmCouch podcast, and more. Spout successfully sponsored the placement of Four-Eyed Monsters on YouTube.

(MR) Rooftop Films has been around for 11 years. Has a lot of NYC premieres, some of which go onto theatrical release.

(TR) Guatemalan Handshake premiered at Slamdance in 2006. It’s still in theatrical release. Have been taking it on the road for the past year and a half. Have Vaudeville-type shows along with the screening.

(JV) IFC Center works directly with filmmakers. There are a lot of venues in NYC. We try to emulate some of these theaters like Lincoln Plaza and Film Forum. They have a close relationship with their audiences. Our competition is not other theaters, but the couch. We’re the only theater to run shorts before each feature. We have more filmmaker appearances than any other theater.

(WB) How do you program the films at IFC Center?

(JV) IFC Center is the sister company to IFC Entertainment. We play a lot of IFC Films, but also films from other distributors like Magnolia and Picturehouse. In addition, we accept submissions from filmmakers. We’re pretty accessible to filmmakers.

(WB) The means of distribution have opened up. How do you choose which films to cover?

(KL) I started Cinematical. We were concerned more back then with the news cycle as told to us by publicists. I got burnt out on that. Eventually came to Spout, which allows me to run the cycle I like. Spout trusts me to allow my tastes to drive the blog. I try find one or two movies at a festival that are not getting as much attention as the bigger films. For example, Heavy Metal Baghdad at the Toronto Film Festival.

(WB) Would you go about distributing your next film the same way you did for Guatemalan Handshake?

(TR) I don’t know. Probably not. I wouldn’t make my next film the same way as the last. I know what I’d be walking into. I wanted to screen GH on a 35mm anamorphic print. Didn’t just want to show it on DVD. I had to get people to see it.

(WB) Do you mostly seek out films shown on the web, or do you also scout festivals?

(MR) It’s a combo of submissions and festival films. We received 2,500 submissions this past year. We showed 18 features this year (3-4 that will be playing in theaters, 3-4 that might play at theaters, and the rest, give opportunity to others). We’re looking for undiscovered gems. For shorts, if we haven’t seen them, most audiences probably haven’t either.

(KL) Mostly from festivals. We receive a lot of DVD submissions. Hard to get through all of them. Also browse filmmakers on Myspace.

(BH) Word-of-mouth from friends. Track down hard-to-find films. For example, a short from Paul Thomas Anderson starring Elliot Smith and with a cameo from Bette Midler.

(JV) It makes a difference to have some kind of representation. We get a lot of blind submissions. Unless your film has a great log line, it will probably be at the end of the pile. Films from sales agents and distributors will get to us sooner. They move up in the pecking order. Try to avoid first time mistakes.

(WB) What are some economic models of distribution?

(BH) Deal mostly with shorts. Take it on a film-by-film basis. There’s a broad range. We’re starting to figure out downloadable elements. There’s a lot of economic potential for downloadable and on-demand models. It has completely different contractual issues.

(WB) What are some strategies for successful grassroots marketing?

(MR) Tie in your film with some sort of community or network. IFC Center’s Generation DIY series wad great. Rooftop tries to create a different cinematic experience than anyone else.

(WB) How did you start marketing Guatemalan Handshake early on?

(TR) I thought about it while making the film. Tried to be realistic about it. It premiered at Slamdance, which is where I got the idea to take the film on tour. I had met with the people who did the Fuel Tour in 1997. I was advised not to do it.

(WB) How receptive were theater owners to your tour?

(TR) My connections to theater owners helped. If I called them directly, they weren’t interested. Even my hometown said no. I created a booking agent for the film by using a separate email address, but emails were forwarded to me. It made it more legitimate.

(WB) Is the mainstream media catching on to what you’re doing?

(BH) Wholphin has received phenomenal coverage. Was in the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Newsweek, etc. Has resulted in more subscribers. There needs to be hooks in the DVDs for the press to want to cover them.

(JV) A lot of press coverage because of the conventional runs.

Audience Q&A

Q: What are some ways you’re distributing experimental films?

(MR) Rooftop pairs some of its shows based on themes. For example, if the theme is “romance,” we’ll have shorts, animations, experimental films, docs, etc.

Q: What are some specific strategies to effectively publicize a screening?

(JV) Sometimes frustrating, because we see a lot of movies we like, but realistically, it’s so competitive in NYC. We can’t take the plunge to play all films for a week-long run (which are the films that get all or most of the press as opposed to single night screenings). We set up series of alternative screenings, such as Stranger than Fiction, so publicize them as a block.

(MR) Tap into real existing communities. Create a real engagement for these communities. Keep them always involved.

(JV) Log lines can be more appealing to people than reviews or marketing.

Q: Is there a formula for what content is shown? What’s in store for the future?

(MR) Our mission is to find films we don’t see enough of.

(KL) I watch a lot of films on the web. Really into web series. Like BlipTV, which is curated one level above YouTube.

(JV) There used to be very strict windows, ie. Theatrical, then home video/DVD, then cable, etc. That’s been broken down. IFC is now doing day-and-date (simultaneous release in theaters and cable)

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