There’s been a great deal of breathless chatter recently about comedian Louis CK’s online sale of his comedy show, which, at the risk of dredging up what is old news at today’s pace, is as good a starting point as any for this post.
Some of the latest praise came from Fred Wilson, the founder of Union Square Ventures, who doffed his hat in a recent post to the power of direct-to-fans sales, repeating a familiar refrain that a bracing new age of unbridled creative genius is upon us. In this brave new world, the Artist finally invents and fully controls her own destiny.
Wikipedia gives this definition of Transmedia: “Transmedia storytelling, also known as multi-platform storytelling, cross-platform storytelling, or transmedia narrative, is the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. It is not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchises, sequels or adaptations.…a transmedia production will develop stories across multiple forms of media in order to deliver unique pieces of content over multiple channels.”
Editor’s Note: It is always exciting to see artists using the Web to connect with their fans. And even better when they find a way to make money! Fred Wilson just did an excellent blog post about how Louis CK just did both. We repost it here for you. There are many lessons here for all independent filmmakers and artists of all kinds.
My Reincarnation shows how a well-executed crowdfunding campaign can be used to maximize distribution. In addition to enabling the funding of the theatrical rollout, the campaign increased awareness among core audiences, generated substantial press coverage, and facilitated partnerships.
I’ve known and admired the film’s director Jennifer Fox for many years, and consulted with her on the distribution of her remarkable series, Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman. As tenacious as she is talented, Jennifer has learned, during more than 30 years of independent filmmaking, that it’s “change or die.” After exhausting every familiar fundraising route from grants to pre-sales for My Reincarnation, she tried crowdfunding as a last resort.
We had a lot of great posts in 2011. Our many contributors covered the multiple ways that film is being transformed as the Internet completely reshapes our media environment.
They detailed how innovative filmmakers are taking the reins of social media and altering the fundamental relationship between the creator and the audience. Others made the case that movie theaters should transform themselves so they remain places where we can experience grand stories on the silver screen. Some pointed to the emergence of new story telling techniques and narrative forms that multiple screens and technology now enable. One recent post showed how Twitterhas become a main method of communication for the documentary community. The list goes on.
Now Showing on an iPad, Tumblr and Facebook Near You!
Posted by Chris Dorr
At theFuture of Film Blog, we always look for new ways to make our content available. Here are a few new examples.
We just launched a great new design from onswipe that gives you our blog the way your iPad intended. (All you need to do is visit the blog on your iPad, and you will be automatically redirected.) Here is what it looks like:
Like Zombies…. They are the UN-cabled! And here’s the scary part — they are multiplying! A Credit Suisse analyst this week projected that the multi-channel TV universe will fall by 200-thousand subscribers in 2012. They had previously forecast a GAIN of 250-thousand subs. The report said “the real challenge to the pay TV business model are behaviorally-driven cord-nevers.” Who are these phantoms? They are young. They are growing up watching online video. When asked to PAY for TV - the answer is often “WTF”!
Separately, comScore reported this week that online video watching hit a record 43 BILLION views in October. The average viewer consumed over 21 hours of video. We’ve heard plenty of talk about “cord-cutting,” which really means “cable TV cutting” because everyone still needs a broadband connection. But who’s doing it?
Late last month I got an advance look at the new IPG Media Lab, recently relocated from LA to New York and sporting all manner of flashy tech displays. Where the LA lab was essentially a connected-home display designed to show marketers how people are actually consuming media today, as opposed to five or ten years ago, the New York lab is all about future possibilities and the technologies that enable them.
There’s GazeHawk, which uses Webcams to do eye-tracking studies. There’s TruMedia’s iCapture, an “audience measurement solution” that computes the age, sex, and interest level of people looking at in-store displays. Affectiva, whose “Affdex expression tracker” watches shoppers through a tiny camera tucked under the shelf and measures their emotional response to the products thereon. And then there’s Trendrr—”a company we love,” says Chad Stoller, the lab’s managing partner.
Editor’s Note: Today’s TV guide makes it difficult to find the movie you want, especially if it is an independent movie. There is much exciting work being done to improve that situation. Yosi Glick lays down the rules of the road for those working to make the TV interface of the future.
This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Social Media Revolution
Posted by Jacob Shwirtz
Over the past year we’ve seen countless articles, conferences and conversations revolve around Social TV, social viewing, co-viewing, multi-screen experiences, companion apps, check-in services, smart TV guides and more. Specifically, my goal is to untangle this complex web of terms, trends and technologies that have entwined the digital and media industries over the last year.
The StoryWorld Conference + Expo has had a lot of press in the film, technology and gaming communities lately. This first-of-its-kind event was not only well attended, but it also brought together artists, writers and design architects from across platforms to meet, learn and engage with each other for three days.
As an attendee of the conference, I was energized by the new projects and ideas coming out from all sides of the transmedia world. Most of all, I was astounded by another note-worthy phenomenon: the considerable number of women as presenters and audience members.
Can Hollywood Learn Innovation From The Metropolitan Opera?
If someone had told you a few years ago that New York’s Metropolitan Opera would become a model for digital innovation, you would probably have laughed. Yet, that is what it has become. You might say that the Met is now laughing a bit itself—all the way to the bank.
Stories & Worlds: What Transmedia Has to Teach (and Learn)
by Nick DeMartino
If nothing else, last week’s Story World Conference in San Francisco affirmed the reality of a new creative movement devoted to transmedia storytelling. After years of building connections via online sharing and various ad-hoc collaborations, this gathering of the tribes of transmedia will certainly accelerate the movement, invigorate a cadre of practitioners and theorists, and generate buzz among many content creators.
Amid the drama and headlines surrounding OTT distributors (e.g. Netflix price increases and Qwikster decision, on-again/off-again Hulu sale, etc.), these companies’ content strategies actually seem to be crystallizing, with each trying to stake out a somewhat distinct value proposition for their users. True, there is still plenty of blurriness between them, and each appears reluctant to be pigeon-holed, but recent deals suggest how each OTT distributor is positioning itself.
After the jump, you’ll find a summary of the content strategies of most of the major OTT distributors (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Walmart/VUDU, iTunes and Blockbuster) with a catchphrase that best describes their approach.
Can Brands & Indie Films Collaborate Without Sacrificing Integrity Or Goals?
By Ted Hope
Several weeks back, I joined Steve Wax of Campfire at the MIXX conference for a discussion about the potential of collaboration between Indies & Brands on feature films. Often conflicting agendas mess every thing up, but does it have to?
Our Proposition: Brands can associate themselves with films, particularly independent films, without relying on product placement or other forced connections. There are new ways both sides benefit from the marketing association offered in our new connected culture.
Editor’s Note: On this blog, several contributors have written about how movies/TV/moving images are going through a period of reinvention. This phenomenon is often called participatory storytelling or transmedia. The Tribeca Film Institute takes this a step further. They actually give money to projects that are creating new kinds of stories. Here is a brief description of their first round of recipients. (Please note: the next round of applications for funding opens January 2012—so get your proposals ready.)
Over the last several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to be a participant on several panels and roundtables focusing primarily on the subject of the future of film, particularly on innovations in distribution and how to reach the marketplace.
A New Path to Engage Film Audiences and Create Careers
By Jon Reiss
Editor’s note: A new book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, written by The Film Collaborative (Orly Ravid & Jeffrey Winter), Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler has just been published. It is a great new resource for independent filmmakers, replete with details on how a few innovative filmmakers are connecting with audiences. It is available in a variety of formats, (I am currently reading it on my iPad, where the enhanced version comes with video interviews). We have excerpted this portion by Jon Reiss as he explains how filmmakers should look at film rights.
Redefinition of Film Rights
I feel that the traditional way that film rights have been separated by the studios has been largely in reaction to technological developments. In other words, when television was invented, the studios created television divisions. When VHS tapes were invented, they created home video divisions. When the Internet arose they created digital divisions.
A boy carries a robot and sets her down in front of London Bridge. He rests her on a railing and pulls a camera from his bag. In Switzerland a girl puts the finishing touches on a small knitted version of a robot. Satisfied, she sets the tiny robot down on a piece of moss — then steps back and snaps a picture.
Photo credit: Jasmine Lyman
Meanwhile in Sydney, a mother and her daughter assemble a robot that shares their passion for “Brains,” their feisty Jack Russell terrier. While it takes less than 5 minutes to make their robot, they spend half an hour attempting to photograph “Brains” with his new tiny friend.
Photo credit: Evelyn Saunders
I know these stories because each of these people took time to play in a storyworld that we’re co-creating entitled Robot Heart Stories.
Designed as an experiential learning project, Robot Heart Stories uses collaboration and creative problem solving to put education directly in the hands of students.
Who Are Today’s Curators? And Where The Hell Are The Rest Of Them?!!
By Ted Hope
In this Age Of SuperAbundance, one of the things we need more than anything is trusted filters. How do we prioritize what to watch? How to discover new work? How do we escape our echo chambers to be reminded of how expansive our taste really is?
We need folks whom we trust to lead us to where we would not go on our own. Ideally, these people will do more than just lead us to good work; they will expand our mind, and widen our social circles. But where are they?
Don’t try this. Very dangerous. When you are running at full speed to complete your film on your way to your premiere, don’t fool yourself that you have the perspective to cut your own trailer. We thought we did. At that point we had totally lost perspective and were in no shape to edit the trailer. So after we got our breath we found someone else to cut it.
2. My Views Are Bigger Than Your Views
We have updated our trailer so many times that there is no way I can care anymore about the view numbers. We had our Sundance version, then the one that was cut afterwards, then we kept tweaking the end slate. This is a very long way of telling you: there will be many versions of your trailer and throw the need to have high video views out the window.
When you hear the term hacking, or hackathon, the first image that probably comes to mind is a handful of programmers staying up all night long, fueled by Mountain Dew and Twinkies, hacking away on laptops at arcane code. But recently hackathons have become a big deal. TechCrunch Disrupt is one of the most well known events, and it attracts talented developers, members of the press, ventures capitalists, and new technology companies who open their technology up to these gifted programmers.
The format is simple: the idea of a hackathon is to set a fixed period of time for a group of programmers to develop innovative applications using a certain technology. The mindset is DIY and open-source. Done right, a hackathon is win-win for everyone involved. The technology companies see what new applications can be created out of their platform. The programmers get to show off their talents and work on something that interests them. And the investors get in at the ground floor when an idea is just a proof of concept. Many new businesses have started out of hackathons.
When filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain set out to make her first feature, she wanted it to focus on “a brief history of everything in the universe.” After watching that first cut, she realized her signature humor was completely absent from the film. Almost on cue, life intervened and entirely rewrote her goals. Her new objective for the film practically dictated itself: she had to enter her film, becoming both an on-screen presence and one of two narrative voices. Suddenly, the story was given the poignancy she desired.
Shlain’s finished product, Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death, & Technology, moves through the history of connectivity and the highly personal reasons why we as humans forge relationships. In her typical style, she remixes archival images, stock footage and modern animation to convey emotions impossible to derive from talking head interviews. When Shlain wants to explain her feelings upon receiving devastating family news, she doesn’t sit down in front of the camera and weep; she shows us images of falling buildings, natural disasters, and things dying. In those archival materials lies that universality that Shlain was seeking so adamantly—a collective memory that could relate to a human experience of connectivity.
We talked with the filmmaker right before a screening in Los Angeles, where she touched on emotion, the rewriting process, wanting to show the finished film to her father, and how time slows down when you eventually learn to unplug.
Tribeca: So the last time that Tribeca saw you was with The Tribe in 2006. What has changed in your professional life and in your filmmaking style since then?
Tiffany Shlain:Connected was the first time I was in my own film. I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t intend to do it. The film was totally about connectedness and didn’t have anything to do with me.
Why Marshall McLuhan Would Dig Transmedia and DIY Distribution
By Nick DeMartino
Marshall McLuhan's pronouncement that “the medium is the message” was revolutionary back in its day.
Nearly 50 years later, McLuhan’s influence survives, with many of his ideas serving as memes for wave upon wave of new media. Not for nothing did WIRED Magazineanoint McLuhan as patron saint at the dawn of the Internet! Digital hipster Doug Coupland even published a McLuhan book subtitled “You Know Nothing of My Work” that riffed on the old gent’s ironic appearance in that Woody Allen flick.
McLuhan asserted that the container (the medium itself) mattered more than its actual content. Or something like that. Pissed a LOT of people off back then, especially people making the actual content.
IndieGoGo Films Showcased at World-Class Festivals in 2011
By Adam Chapnick
IndieGoGo filmmakers have been rocking the world stage in 2011. In the first six months, no fewer than fourteen films that successfully campaigned on IndieGoGo appeared in the world’s leading film fests, including Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Tribeca Film Fest, HotDocs, and LA Film Fest. These films have gone on to win top awards (Tribeca Audience Award) and get picked up by top distributors (The Weinstein Company).
In my responsibilities at IndieGoGo and Distribber, I’m regularly asked for advice and help with all facets of film finance and distribution. After answering so many of these one-off questions with the words, “lots of IndieGoGo campaigners have already figured that out,” it’s clear the filmmaker community would benefit from an update from IndieGoGo filmmakers who have had success.
Like many documentary directors, I kill my babies. That’s the somewhat disturbing way of saying that nothing makes the final cut if it doesn’t serve the story. One of the most challenging things I faced while editing my last film, The Tillman Story, was accepting the amount of material that had to end up on the cutting room floor.
For nearly three years, I had explored the case of Pat Tillman, the football player turned Army Ranger whose death was twisted into a symbol of patriotic fervor by the government and the media. In gathering material to tell this incredibly complicated story, I wished that the film could have followed every intellectual tangent, narrative tendril and web of facts that I came across. But documentaries are about efficient, linear storytelling. Thus, I had to kill my babies.
But that doesn’t mean I forgot about them. In the year since The Tillman Story came out in theaters, my team and I have chewed over various ideas about how to incorporate all this ancillary material into viewers’ experience of the film, especially as it continues to provoke an outpouring of interest in Pat Tillman’s case among those now viewing it on DVD and television broadcast. The typical approach in this situation is to create DVD extras or a freestanding website with additional information on the story. But why not create a way that viewers can access material while watching the film itself, making the experience interactive and participatory?
Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture
By Sam Ford, Joshua Green, and Henry Jenkins
Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, the new book by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, will appear from New York University Press in Fall 2012. The core concept of “spreadable media” will be a central topic of discussion at this year’s Futures of Entertainment conference to be held at MIT on November 11-12, 2011. Futures of Entertainment is an event where top thinkers from academia, industry, policy, and journalism gather to talk about cutting edge issues which will impact what happens next in arts and entertainment. Here’s where you can go to register for this year’s event. The following is an excerpt from their upcoming book.
I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. [ … ] Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes. Conventional wisdom urges me to demand payment for every use of the film, but then how would people without money get to see it? How widely would the film be disseminated if it were limited by permission and fees? Control offers a false sense of security. The only real security I have is trusting you, trusting culture, and trusting freedom. —Nina Paley (2009)
For me—for pretty much every writer—the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy [ … ] I’m more interested in getting more of that wider audience into the tent than making sure that everyone who’s in the tent bought a ticket to be there. —Cory Doctorow (2009)
Animator Nina Paley and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow are two of a growing number of independent artists rethinking and reinventing the process through which their texts enter circulation. Both offer their art to fans as “gifts,” hoping the community will support their efforts. While they differ on the best models, both artists are strong backers of the concept of a “creative commons,” and both want to escape what they see as constricting copyright regimes. Such “gifts” do not represent “free content.” This sort of gift-giving frequently implies some form of reciprocity, and that is openly acknowledged in both these cases. But these artists’ willingness to sacrifice some control over their works’ circulation helps it to spread.
Spreadable media is a theory of circulation. Distribution historically refered to a top down, industry controlled system which sought to control the movement of media content across the culture. Independent media makers have often been locked out of the most established systems of distribution by powerful gatekeepers who have worked to protect the interests of mainstream media. Circulation, on the other hand, refers to an emerging hybrid model, where a mix of top-down and bottom-up forces determine how material is shared across and among cultures in far more participatory (and messier) ways. Collective decisions people make about whether to pass along media texts are reshaping the media landscape. A system of circulation offers far more opportunities for independent media makers to enter the consciousness of their desired publics, to court relationships with fans and followers, and to engage with audiences beyond their national borders.
Filmmakers: Focus On Your Goals and Know Your Audience
By Jon Reiss
Editor’s note: A new book, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul, written by The Film Collaborative (Orly Ravid & Jeffrey Winter), Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler has just been published. It is a great new resource for independent filmmakers, replete with details on how a few innovative filmmakers are connecting with audiences. It is available in a variety of formats, (I am currently reading it on my iPad, where the enhanced version comes with video interviews) and it is free until October 1. We have excerpted this portion by Jon Reiss as it lays out what every filmmaker should focus on—their goals and their audience.
A New Path to Engage Film Audiences and Create Careers: An Introduction
The three films that I researched for this book, while different in genre, size, year of release and experience level of the filmmakers also share a remarkable number of similarities in addition to their differences. I want to compare those similarities and contrast the differences in a structure that that I use to help filmmakers conceptualize strategies for their film’s releases. Some of this system is included in my book Think Outside the Box Office, while some of it I have developed through my work with filmmakers over the past two years.
There is a dramatic shift now underway in the way many independent filmmakers are finding audiences for their work.
In the movie business, audiences are usually described as either mass or niche. Typically, Hollywood movies seek a mass audience and independent movies seek a niche audience. And, of course, every indie filmmaker dreams that they will reach a mass audience with a surprise blockbuster hit.
In 2005 I started a documentary project that became Bomb It which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007, was released on DVD, iTunes and Netflix via New Video and has had an extended life on VOD (Gravitas), Web series (Babelgum), various foreign sales (PAL DVD this month on Dogwoof) etc. As many of you know, my experience releasing Bomb It inspired me to write a manual for other filmmakers to release their films in this new distribution landscape: Think Outside the Box Office.
I originally wrote this post for Sundance Institute’s Services who approached me to write a post on how I would release Bomb It in today’s distribution landscape (and knowing what I know now). I’ve actually thought about this a lot (mostly kicking my self for what I could have done better!)
When asked for a blog post on how digital media is changing the way we tell stories, my mind immediately gravitated towards music.
The great composers are also master storytellers, and always have been. Clearly, the classic works of opera tell timeless stories, be they comedies such as Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, or epic myths such as Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung. Moving into the 20th century, Woody Guthrie has told us stories of working class people struggling for survival, while Hank Williams has told us stories of despair and heartbreak. Nick Cave has picked up Williams’ mantle, while Bob Dylan has updated Guthrie, and the best hip-hop artists have updated him even further. Tom Waits has brought us stories of life on the streets, while everyone from Britney Spears to Kiss have documented the difficulties of life as a rich and narcissistic pop star. Progressive rock has kept Wagner’s spirit alive, with bands as famous as Led Zeppelin frequently weaving Tolkienesque tales into their songs.
A couple of years ago I found myself in a small town in Patagonia called San Martín de los Andes. The town lies in a fold in the mountains, but a short, steep hike through the woods gets you to an extraordinary vista point—the dry, scrubby buttes of the Patagonian steppes in one direction, the blue waters of Lake Lácar and the snowcapped peaks of the Andes in the other. But as with much of Patagonia, the journey is every bit as remarkable as the destination.
In this case it meant following a seemingly random network of trails that wend their way up the ridge. About halfway up I encountered the trails’ author—a half-dozen head of cattle. There was no “right” path, for the cattle any more than for the people. Instead, the paths all converged at a dusty spot near the summit where three old women sat on the porch of a cabin. As I approached, one of the women stood up and asked for a peso.henry Kenk I paid the toll and walked past a ramshackle house sporting a large satellite dish to the lookout, where I got to see a condor from above. Choose your own adventure indeed.
Netflix has become at great place to see all kinds of movies, on any screen you want. It is also upsetting the big media applecart. With insightful detail, Will Richmond tells us why.
Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine you’re running a major cable TV network and your fastest-growing distributor (and largest, by number of subscribers) offers to license your content for approximately $300 million each year, a sum that is about 10 times the amount it has been paying under the current deal struck less than 3 years ago. The new deal would have a very material impact on your P&L as your company’s operating income last year was about $400 million. Seems like a pretty tough offer to turn down, right?
However, there are certain catches. First, this distributor is considered a disruptive competitor by all of your other long-time distributors (who collectively paid you about $1.3 billion last year). If you proceed with this new deal, you’re concerned that these other distributors may retaliate by paying you less when they renew their deals in the future. Second, this distributor wants a degree of exclusivity that limits your ability to make incremental deals with companies it deems as competitive. Third, key suppliers of your content have escalation clauses that entitle them to incremental payments if you proceed with this new deal, which would in turn erode your margins. And last, but not least, the manner in which this distributor wants to compensate you would alter the way you are positioned in the market - from a “premium” to a “basic” channel - consequently risking a perception that your content will be irreparably devalued by consumers and other distributors.
Exploring the Frontiers of the Recently Possible With HTML5
By Elizabeth Bahm and Ben Moskowitz
You find yourself in a surreal world, flowers blooming over a cityscape as you travel through. In the next moment, a herd of buffalo stampede across a countryside in a dark wave. The visuals are lucid, dreamlike - and most like a dream, you’re the one influencing these dynamically generated images. This is the world of Google Creative Lab’s Three Dreams of Black, an HTML5 music video experience that lets users reshape its landscape, generating new visual experiences in real time.
Three Dreams of Black is just the tip of the iceberg. The web opens up massive potential for completely new kinds of storytelling: documentaries that constantly update with breaking information, storyworlds built and shaped by users, and interactive films that let viewers chart their own path.
At Ted Hope’s suggestion a few years ago, I started using Twitter to engage with my audience more directly. Ted spoke to me originally about the idea of cultivating 500 true fans…and then quickly amended that to 5000 true fans. The thinking was if you could amass an army of people who enjoyed your work, they could serve as connectors and influencers on your behalf.
With my last film Nice Guy Johnny, a great part of our success had to do with my Twitter followers getting out there and spreading the word. In fact, when I asked them to help get Nice Guy Johnny to the iTunes rental chart “top ten”, we immediately saw a spike in rentals and drove the title to number 6 on the chart over the course of 2 days.
Making a feature documentary with 200 collaborators from around the world is no stroll in the park. Nevertheless, producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin Macdonald have done just that via a unique partnership between Scott’s Scott Free Films, YouTube and LG Electronics.
Conceived as a user-generated feature-length documentary, shot on a single day (July 24, 2010), Life in a Day empowers the global community to capture a moment of their lives on camera. The date chosen was a Saturday—a day the producers felt many people could devote more time to the project. Additionally Scott and Macdonald sent 500 small digital cameras to far-flung places around the globe, partnering with Against All Odds Productions, a California-based company that specializes in large-scale global photographic projects—such as the best-selling Day in the Life book series. Participants were invited to shoot on one of the SD cards in the preset camera, send back the card and keep the camera. The producers wanted to try out a melding of YouTube as a social media platform and traditional film formats. Having put out calls for clips on YouTube several times, the team ended up with a staggering amount of material: over 80,000 submissions, totaling 4,500 hours.
The Difference Between Connected TV, Social TV and Expanded TV
By Nick DeMartino
With television moving onto different platforms, it seems like nowadays we can watch TV everywhere. What is the ultimate future for television in a world that expects more from their screens?
The tech world is rife with trend-mongering, much of which winds up as wishful thinking or is downright wrong. The future of television technology is no exception (Remember web TV, Intercast, and interactive set-top boxes?). Prognostication is a mug’s game.
And, so it is with great caution that I approach the latest trio of trends — Connected TV, Social TV and Expanded TV. Whether or not these jargony trends hurl us into the future, they reflect the challenge that every content creator (and distributor) faces today: