Over at Filmmaker Magazine, Jake Abraham, writer/producer of “Lovely by Surprise”, wrote yesterday about his troubles with Twitter and file sharing. I know he’s not the only one, so it seemed a good opportunity to share a few points on how to turn these tricky points to your advantage.
Twitter in particular has proven to be a great device for communication amongst our followers. It has also become a tool for evil, I’ve discovered. On Saturday, August 8th, one month after our official release date, there was a spike in tweets related to LBS. We wondered why and took a look. It appeared that people were tweeting and re-tweeting a URL that linked to a pirated version of the film.
Remember the pink slime from “Ghostbusters II”? For most of the film, it was also a “tool for evil.” But Dr. Spengler et al. sprayed it all over the inside of the Statue of Liberty, and then it made everybody hug. (Ok, it represents a slightly different kind of “free,” but I think the analogy holds.)
I don’t need to spend a lot of time on how to compete with free, since it’s a well-covered topic. Kevin Kelly’s essay “Better Than Free” lists a number of factors that you can build into your film/story/product to give it value that make it worth paying for, even when it’s available for free. Brian Newman has a blog post and video on it, which is worth watching.
What this is really about is taking advantage of Twitter and other communication tools to play a major part in the global conversation about your work. (If there isn’t one, you need to start it.) Piracy on Canal St. happened before the Internet, and illegal downloading happened before Twitter. As Abraham acknowledged, you can’t stop it. Beyond pointers to free downloads, people are going to be saying lots of things about your film that you don’t like, including bad reviews, off-brand descriptions of your work and possibly even lies or personal attacks. The power of the Internet is that you can be in on it. You can know it’s happening, you can respond to it and you can preempt it.
As a filmmaker, you are at a tremendous advantage in owning your brand’s online story. Presumably, you know all about your film before anyone else does, so you can start putting your message out there before anyone else gets to it. You own the domain name, twitter account, etc. for the name of your film. (You don’t? Get on it!) And the people who love the film are probably the most vocal about it, and they’ll link back to you. You have to work real hard to piss people off enough that the haters will shout more loudly than the fans. If you keep the conversation going, those tweets and blog posts about torrent links and other nastiness will drift off the front pages and into obscurity. There are a few tiny things about me personally from way back that I’d rather not have out there (nothing too juicy, sorry), but you have to dig pretty deep to find it, because I’ve put myself out there with Twitter, an open Facebook account, my blog, etc.. But if you keep quiet, the nasties will fill the void for you.
Of course, it’s much harder to take advantage of this when you’ve got $1 million or more at stake and you address the matter after your film is already out. I think it’s wise to keep budgets low for now, as the details are still being worked out, but they will be worked out, since these are not entirely new business principles. Mercedes-Benz doesn’t go out of business just because it’s cheaper to get to work in a Hyundai. And Coach is still profitable, even though their belts are being knocked off everywhere. That’s because Mercedes and Coach are premium brands, and it’s not about a cheap ride to the office or keeping your pants from falling down. Their advertising messages reflect that, which is why Mercedes ads have Janis Joplin and vintage cars instead of some announcer shouting about seasonal discounts.
Most independent films are also premium brands. Your film is probably not about killing 90 minutes. It’s not about catching a glimpse of Megan Fox bent over, and it’s not about keeping the kids quiet in the back of the minivan. You can’t compete with “free” on price any more than Mercedes can compete on price with Hyundai. So don’t. Your film is about a deeper story, and the ability to create that is your sustainable competitive advantage. Twitter and other digital media are your opportunity to demonstrate that.
I’m writing a film right now, and even before the script is finished, I’m planning some cool stuff for screenings, merchandise and other payment points to add value along the lines of Kevin Kelly’s article. When I release the film, I will probably put it online for free. By putting it out there myself, I can beat the pirates to it and make sure free copies are burned with a URL to my online store, and I can track how many people are watching it. But it also tells the story that my film is a full experience and more than just a few hundred megabytes of pixels. After all, as a filmmaker, I should know how to tell a story, right?
Sure the Internet is a double-edged sword. But if you know where to swing it, you don’t have to cut your face off.
I am currently in Austin for South By Southwest Film and Interactive conference and festival. I’m here with the From Here to Awesome team, meeting (and recruiting) filmmakers, finding screening partners and shooting video for the educational component.
I’ve also been invited to speak on a panel about short films. The panel is on Tuesday, March 11 at 11am, in room 15 of the Austin Convention Center. Friends Jigar Mehta and Brent Hoff are on the panel with me.
Is it the Golden Age of Short Film? People keep saying it is, but I doubt many filmmakers have felt the gold yet. Some short films are bringing in more money than most award winning documentary’s are being sold for. Find out what is the best way to capitalize on these new potential revenue streams as Filmmakers and industry experts discuss if this will really finally elevate/free shorts to become an art form and not just a stepping stone to features.
If you’re in Austin, come find me.
For you die-hards who are still curious to learn more about Four Eyed Monsters, here is yet another audio interview. Director Daniel Schechter interviews Susan on Renart Films. This one is worth noting because it is a semi-rare opportunity to hear Susan’s side of the story alone and because Schechter moderates a compelling discussion covering a wide range of topics in a (relatively) short period of time (51 min).
Susan tells about an email that Arin received from someone who discovered the film as a free, unofficial (and basically illegal) download on Bittorrent. He loved the film so much that he bought a t-shirt and DVD from the website. This is a great follow-up example to the grilling a London filmmaker gave me about whether it’s possible to make money when you’re giving your film away for free.
Renart Films Podcast Episode 28 – Susan Buice
On occasion, I find that life slows down a bit. On those sad, slow days when there’s no movie premiere party, the Simpsons rerun showing is a clip show and pre-production on my next film has halted ’cause I’m waiting to hear back from a co-writer, I can come dangerously close to experiencing boredom, or worse, full-blown ennui. In these rare cases, the last resort to avoid heat death of the universe that is my brain is that most desparate, contemptible activity: reading. Newspapers, magazines, even sometimes weblogs. And once, I read a book. I’ll be honest with you, dear loyal readers, it’s come to that.
In my usual, attention-grasping style, I’m going to share something silly that I read. I found it in that silliest of publications, The New York Times. Michael Jernofsky and Sarah Kershaw write:
Shawn O’Hara, national chairman of the Reform Party, which was founded by Ross Perot, sought to play down differences with Mr. Nader. He insisted that Mr. Nader’s views were not entirely out of synch with the party as currently constructed, at least on some issues, like their mutual opposition to world trade agreements and the United States military role in Iraq.
“We’ve moved to the center,” Mr. O’Hara said, while conceding that he once favored the execution of doctors and nurses who performed abortions but now embraced abortion rights as provided by federal law, as Mr. Nader does.
For those of you who are in the pitiable position of being bored enough to care about politics, the full article is available at the Times website. There. I feel much, much better now.
I’ve got a few goodies for those of you who are missing out on all the way cool stuff I do and see every day. Most of you, I know. But hey, that’s why I’m here!
The New York Times did a whole section on the history of Times Square, which just turned 100 in April. I know this one is way old, but it’s good. And like the Times, I like to come to the story way behind the curve but give it the full treatment. There’s a cool slideshow narrated by James Traub. A Day in the Life is surprisingly fascinating: “And what of the sights? ‘We did see the Eiffel Tower,’ says Julie Pasket. She meant the Statue of Liberty, but the confusion is understandable. All those French structures look alike.” Even better is a comment by Elaine Swann, 85, in Their Times Square who says, “The idiot tourists come in droves. I want to kill them when I’m trying to get across the street.” I know, Elaine. I know.
Next up, Monday was the premiere event for Meme, a new “music, art and mixed media” organization. Off to a bit of a rocky start with a 25 minute atonal clarinet/laptop duet, the evening turned out nicely, thanks in part to the handsome and funny host. The second piece, another atonal clarinet/laptop duet, was quite a bit better than the first, mostly because it was quite a bit shorter. This time, they played in front of a large, digital projection of a screensaver, which eventually dissolved to reveal soft-core porn. So that was pretty cool, I guess. Everything after that managed to be relatively innovative and engaging. A guy jamming on his electric cello, Kamala singing a Mozart opera thing into a webcam and a fun music video/sex documentary. there was plenty more after that, but I had to leave around 12:45 am to go somewhere even more fabulous. Not to go to sleep or anything like that.
Wednesday was more mainstream, but no less fun. Metropolitain Opera in the Park on the Great Lawn. One of my favorite summer events, almost up there with the (practically identical) Philharmonic in the Park. An unusually large crowd turned out for Madama Butterfly. I didn’t really follow the story, since it was in French or something. But the wine was good…or at least, there was a lot of it.
Keep an eye out for the Philharmonic as well as Bryant Park Movie Night every Monday this summer. See you out there.
On occasion, I have been known to send the blog.chirls.com staff out onto the Internet to find stuff for me to read when I’m too bored or disgusted to deal with the people around me. Today, as I was having my New Year’s Day pedicure, I found this wonderful little piece on page five of this morning’s print-out. It’s a review of the film Trainspotting, written by a lady from Massachussetts, USA.
I think we could all learn a lot from this review about life, journalism and film directing. I, for one, will pay close attention to these words when working on my next film, whether in writing, casting or drinking at the wrap party.
if you think junkies are glamorus
I just couldn’t believe the hype this movie got when it came out. I had trouble trying to follow the conversations (they were spoken in a very thick Sort of Scotch accent). The people were sooooooo ugly. What happened to all the beautiful movie stars????????????? The men were ugly and the women were even uglier if that’s possible. These people where obviously extreme low end people. Unless you like junkies, baby death and ugly people pooping in their beds don’t bother with this. Rent “The Full Monty” instead! It was a much better movie.
[From amazon, link by chirls]
A swell showing tonight at The New Yorker‘s “Fiction Live” at Joe’s Pub. Hope Davis read “Friendly Skies” by T. Coraghessan Boyle. T. really raised the stakes with this one, and Ms. Davis showed how much a real actor can add to a piece. (Plenty.) Brian F. O’Byrne read “The Dinner,” a piece by Roddy Doyle that was way funnier than it should have been, given that it’s been done before. Neither the author’s awareness of that fact nor the quality of the performance could have hurt much. Prolly good directing also. Oh yeah, some guy from some TV show was there too.
And the fiction editor was totally checking me out.
Database: Columbia University Libraries
Search Request: Keyword = christmas and carol and conducted
Search Results: Displaying 1 of 1 entries
How to combat anti-Semitism in America; the six prize winning essays in the…
Title: How to combat anti-Semitism in America; the six prize winning essays in the contest conducted by Opinion-a journal of life and letters.
Physical Description: 91p. 18cm.
Publisher/ Date: New York, Jewish Opinion Publishing Corporation, 1937.
LC Subjects: Jews–United States.
Material Type: Book
Location: BUTLER STACKS
Call Number: 893.19 H83
Status: No information available
I don’t care what the Colombians say. “The Simpsons” is not funnier in Spanish.
Okay, one more…
Steve Martin has agreed to star in the remake of The Pink Panther. Pleaseohpleaseohplease let this not suck!