“Gathr is the Love Child of Netflix and Kickstarter”

Editor’s note: Two weeks ago, we published our first in a series of pieces on crowd-sourcing platforms that are helping filmmakers get their work into theaters without a traditional wide release. Today, Scott Glosserman shares some background on his motivation for developing the new platformGathr. By clearly laying out the benefits for all parties—filmmakers/content owners, theaters, and audiences—Glosserman makes the case that services like his can successfully broaden the reach of independent film.

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Peter Weyland of Prometheus Makes a Surprise Appearance at TED

By Frank Rose

Yesterday saw the release of one of the most compelling TED talks ever: Peter Weyland’s in the year 2023. Of course, 2023 hasn’t really happened yet, and neither has Sir Peter. But both will arrive soon enough—in June, to be precise, with the release of Ridley Scott's Prometheus. The TED talk—performed by Guy Pearce, who plays the seriously overreaching CEO of Weyland Corp. in the film—is one of those great in-fiction artifacts that make the boundary between entertainment and reality so fungible these days.

Pearce’s stentorian delivery makes him the perfect TED orator: He comes across as a sort of Richard Branson on steroids. As the camera sweeps the stage, he holds its gaze relentlessly:

At this moment in our civilization, we can create cybernetic individuals who in just a few short years will be completely indistinguishable from us. Which leads to an obvious conclusion: We are the gods now. For those of you who know me, you will be aware by now that my ambition is unlimited… . For those of you who do not know me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Peter Weyland, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to change the world.

Directed by Luke Scott, Ridley’s son, and written by Damon Lindelof, who co-wrote the screenplay for the movie, the video is presented on the TED site in deadpan fashion, with an “about the speaker” write-up that details Weyland’s role in launching “the first privatized industrial mission to leave the planet Earth.” In a Q&A on the TED blog, Lindelof says, “I never thought in my wildest dreams we would get the actual TED branding.” But he got in touch with TED's Tom Rielly, and pretty soon they were on.

Lindelof has been involved in this sort of thing before, of course. In May 2006, when he and Carlton Cuse were exec-producing Lost, ABC ran an ad for the fictitious Hanso Foundation. This turned out to be a rabbithole for The Lost Experience, the alternate reality game that played out that summer. Two years later, ABC ran a spot and even put up billboards for Oceanic Airlines, whose plane crash kicked the whole thing off.

But Lindelof is hardly the only one to use real-world media outlets to spread an in-fiction narrative. This past December, as part of its viral experience for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 42 Entertainment produced a vintage episode of Hard Copy that contained disturbing allegations about the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. And back in July 2008, a few days before Mad Men began its second season on AMC, Advertising Age published a special issue from 1960 that featured actual ads from purported clients of Sterling Cooper as well as an amusing interview with creative director Don Draper:

                                            Mad Men

                                                       Credit: Ad Age

How do you think this new medium, television, will change the way advertising talks to consumers—and how will it affect advertising in general?

Well, the first thing I’ve noticed, it seems to be more about show business, not just putting ads into television shows without irritating viewers. But the ads themselves have to tell stories, have music, have striking images, be entertaining—maybe even more entertaining than the shows. It’s going to be a tough one.

In its advertising column, the New York Times reported that Lionsgate, which produces the show, paid for the fake issue of Ad Age (actually a 16-page insert in a regular issue) at the suggestion of its media agency, Initiative. So far, the Times itself has not (knowingly) been sucked into anyone’s fictional narrative. I’m waiting. 

Originally Posted on Deep Media

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The Art of Immersion: Why Do We Tell Stories?

Frank Rose is the author of The Art of Immersion and West of Eden:The End of Innocence at Apple Computer. He is also a contributing editor at Wired. Follow him on Twitter @frankrose.


Using Pinterest For Your Film

By Sheri Candler

I know, collective groan “yet another social network to keep up with?” Seems like there is a new one born every minute and many of them fail to get off the ground. But here is why Pinterest might be a site you should consider using for your production.

Pinterest

• In just one month (December 2011-January 2012), Pinterest saw traffic increase over 155% and over the last 6 months, traffic increased by 4000%. As of this month, they had over 11 million unique visitors to the site and over 10 million registered users from all over the world.

• Statistics show Pinterest drives more referral traffic on the Web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined. The beauty of pinning photos/videos is they link back to websites, thus driving traffic. They are no follow links, so it doesn’t help with SEO, but any link that drives traffic to a site is good for awareness and conversion.

• Mainly, the site now attracts women in the age range 25-44 who love fashion, home decorating and family related products. As it gains more of a following, this is bound to change. Still, if that is a target demographic for your film…

Activities are based on images so rather than having to write a lot, you can simply post photo collections and they don’t even have to be your own photos! I think this is the highly attractive thing about Pinterest, in fact I am hearing about Pinterest addiction. Users typically spend 11 minutes on the site each visit. User scanning pictures is a lot more enjoyable than scanning status updates on Facebook clearly. Plus there is no EdgeRank to deal with. Once someone decides to follow your boards, they continually see new additions you make in their stream whenever they log in.

• The key for users doesn’t seem to be gaining followers, but gaining repins meaning they want to have people think what they pin is cool (or hot, or whatever). They strive to be INFLUENCERS and that is exactly the people you want to find and connect with. Because people can follow boards they find interesting, it is possible to have many more followers on your boards than you do on your account profile.

• It integrates with your other social accounts like Facebook and Twitter and hopefully Google Plus is coming. There are embed badge widgets you can install on your website to integrate all of your social channels. Word of caution, at the moment the site only connects to Facebook PROFILES not business or professional pages, so you probably shouldn’t opt to sign in with Facebook if you are using this for your film, just sign in with your email and don’t connect to Facebook. If you want to tie Pinterest to your Twitter account, make sure it is the one you use for your film and when G+ comes online, make sure you have signed up using a gmail account for the production, not for your personal gmail account. However, other users can sign in with their social accounts and things they pin show up in their Facebook or Twitter stream, very handy for word of mouth to be spread about you and your film.

There is a “scoreboard” of sorts showing how many boards and followers you have over all, as well as followers of only certain boards and repins of your pins. The site also allows you to glean from others what they are interested in. You can start to “listen” to what your potential audience thinks is interesting by viewing what they select to pin. You don’t follow people as much as you follow things, ideas, topics on Pinterest. You can repin something someone else has posted and this can open the door to a conversation. They can do the same with your pins and you are alerted via email when someone does this and it shows under that image on your board. This is an enormous help when you are trying to figure out what to post, what boards to create, what resonates most?  While Facebook is about people and brands, Pinterest is about things and interests. You can only post images or video and some comments and tags in text on your boards.

I only recently started using it for the Joffrey project I am working on which is why all of my boards are devoted to that. Looking at them gives a good idea on the kind of thing you could use it for on your production. In my workshop presentations, I talk about posting regularly on your social channels and not just information directly about your film, but also about the interests of your audience; those who would be a fan of your film and of yourself as an artist. I am using the boards to show Joffrey history through pictures and videos; the ballets they created, the ballets they revived, their alumni dancers, Robert Joffrey through the years as well as photos of the merchandise available to buy through our site. It’s a balance of audience interest and promotion for the film.

I noticed Ted Hope is using his boards to express his personal interests , things and people he admires and wants to draw more attention to, his artistic accomplishments and resources he uses that he thinks would be helpful to his connections. All of these things help in attracting an audience both to his films, but also to his professional life as a producer. His personal tastes are reflected in all of his boards and none are devoted to posting family vacations! The point being, we can get to know Ted as a professional person without his having to reveal too much private information.

Other artists in the indie film space currently starting to use Pinterest are writer/director James Gunn; transmedia educator/artist Christy Dena who uses her boards to showcase ideas about narrative, interactive and game design ideas she has discovered; filmmaker Erik Proulx has created boards that show his advertising and design background and what he finds inspirational for this. You may remember his short film Lemonade about those who were laid off, particularly in the advertising industry, and found inspiration to reinvent their lives completely. I think Erik into these inspirational, motivational, life changing stories which is why he is making another film called Lemonade. Detroit about a city that is reinventing itself. Filmmaker Gary King uses his boards to show his inspirations, showcase actors and actresses he loves and his career accomplishments. Film blog Film School Rejects uses their boards to keep readers updated on this year’s Oscar contenders, interesting movie posters their readers might like and films they are watching.

Pinterest is just getting started so don’t be alarmed that you have missed the boat. You still have first mover advantage here. You must join by invitation only, but those invitations aren’t difficult to obtain. You can request one on their site.

A word about self promotion

As with any social network, you should be using Pinterest to directly connect with audience on a personal level, not as a one way promotional channel. Use creative ways to showcase your personal identity and vision and use it as a magnet to attract those most interested in what you, as an artist, have to say. You will find your audience is much more willing to stay with you across projects when you are mindful of their interests. Show us your style, the way you see the world, the way you tell a story, not just “buy my DVD.” Contribute something of value to the community, and they will keep coming back.

Populate your boards before you start trying to add followers. As with any new endeavor online, you need some interesting content first. You wouldn’t promote a website that only has a landing page that says coming soon, so start by thinking through what you want to say about yourself and your work, who are you trying to attract (this could be different types of audiences, which is fine), and analyzing visuals you can use from your own assets. Also, the account can have more than one contributor, which is good for sharing the responsibility of board maintenance with your marketing team.

As with anything you do online, track referral traffic coming to your site via Pinterest. If you use Google Analytics, you can find out how to do this here.

Pinterest is dead easy to get started on, but if you like tutorials, watch this video.

In the meantime, here are some helpful Pinterest jargon, for all you beginners out there:

A Pin–an image added to Pinterest by a registered user

A Pinner–someone who is a registered user of Pinterest

Pinning–the act of sharing an image on Pinterest

A Pinboard–a collection of pins usually categorized around a topic, interest or theme

Repin–sharing some else’s pin on one of your own boards

Pin It Button–a widget badge one can embed on their website to let others know about a Pinterest account. Also a bookmark shortcut one can add to a toolbar to easily pin something seen online to one a board.

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Sheri Candler is an inbound marketing strategist for independent films. Through the use of content marketing tools such as social networking, podcasts, blogs, and online media publications, as well as relationship building with organizations & influencers, she assists filmmakers in building an engaged & robust online community for their work that will help develop and sustain their careers. Currently, she is working with Hybrid Cinema to release the documentary film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a history of the Joffrey Ballet. She can be reached on Facebook: Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity, on Twitter @shericandler, on Google Plus Sheri Candler.

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.

Ted+Hope+and+Steve+Wax

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Goodfellas vs. The Sopranos: The Power of Film

By Jon Patricof

In a panel last week that was part of Advertising Week, filmmaker Ed Burns, Rich Lehrfeld from American Express and I sat down with Bob Safian from Fast Company to discuss the Future of Film. We covered a number of topics, but there were a few that stood out for me:

1. The reality that there are only a few passions that are as far-reaching and deep as film. People spend a lot of time watching TV, but it doesn’t even come close when you think about how resonant film is with audiences. Compare the number of lines and scenes you recall and cherish from The Sopranos — 6 seasons, 85 episodes — compared to those from the 146 minutes of Goodfellas.

2. Independent film and filmmakers can’t succumb to being pigeonholed by media or its core audience. We have to disrupt ourselves and push the envelope. Some things that critics and even our core audience might not like, whether it be serialized filmmaking, audience participation in scriptwriting or soundtrack, have to be tried.

3. Magic of film transcends the movie theater. Ed told a great story about how he discovered Woody Allen as a kid because his mom loved the films, and how he discovered them on his home television. Think of the countless films you love that you never saw in a theater.

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Jon Patricof is Chief Operating Officer of Tribeca Enterprises, the parent company of the Tribeca Film Festival and related entities. You can follow Jon on twitter @jpatricof.

Marketing a Movie - When Digital and Physical Worlds Collide

By Liz Gebhardt

What does it mean to market a movie?

Historically, marketing a movie, whether it is a wide release from a major studio or a niche ultra indie, is not the same as marketing a similarly priced consumer product (an item priced at about $10). Movies exist in an environment filled with a nearly infinite variety of creative choices for an audience that needs to make a purchase decision (and an often one time purchase decision) without trial. They don’t personally know if they like it until they have actually tried/viewed it, and there are no returns. For the studio, the value of that initial ticket purchase decision is non-trivial, as it has historically set the tone for the all important downstream revenue opportunities.


(Figure 1)

So how does a marketer make a potential viewer feel that “they know” the movie and become invested in the experience, and provide signals that raise the chance of ticket purchase, without giving away the creative surprise that is at the core of movie viewing?

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"That’s Brisk, Baby!": What Needs to Happen for Branded Content to Work

By Frank Rose

Everywhere I go this year, I seem to run into a branded content discussion. From DIY Days in New York, to the "Brisk: Machete" panel I did with Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo at SXSW interactive, to the Branded Content Salon I spoke at at LBi London, to Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at Hot Docs and Sheffield, the idea that brands can commission entertainment instead of merely advertising in it keeps popping up. The subject is not entirely new, of course: the term “advertainment” was coined more than a decade ago. It’s the momentum that’s changing—picking up in large part because (Spurlock’s clever satire notwithstanding) producers are embracing it as readily as marketers.

%22That%27s+Brisk%2C+Baby%21%22%3A+What+Needs+to+Happen+for+Branded+Content+to+Work
The reasons why started to become apparent when two of America’s most prolific and respected indie film producers, Ted Hope and Christine Vachon, sat down for a “fireside chat” at DIY Days in March. These are the people behind such ground-breaking and uncompromising films of the ’90s and ’00s as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Velvet Goldmine, and Boys Don’t Cry (Vachon) and Eat Drink Man Woman, The Ice Storm, The Laramie Project, and Human Nature (Hope). So it was instructive to hear them speaking unabashedly about how attitudes toward commercialism have evolved in 20 years.

A big factor in that evolution has been economics. As Vachon pointed out, the ’90s were the heyday of international co-productions: The path to success was to get a script, wrangle some talent, and cut a lot of deals at Cannes. But eventually, that started to dry up—and then the recession hit. Attitudes changed accordingly. You can view this with cynicism, of course, but you can just as readily argue that artists, who live like the rest of us in a relentlessly commercial society, began demonstrating a refreshing lack of hypocrisy about it. As Hope said, “Who does it benefit to draw a line between art and commerce, marketing and content?” Ultimately, it’s all storytelling.

The obvious question is, does the branding sway the storytelling? So I raised it when Ted and I met for a drink a few weeks later. His answer was, sure—but so does everything else. He offered American Splendor, his 2003 biopic of comic-book writer Harvey Pekar, as an example: “I said, I’m going to make a film that’s going to win at Sundance.” (It did, and the film critics’ award at Cannes as well.) “It gave me a higher awareness of market-based writing.”

But it’s not just artists whose attitudes have evolved; it’s also corporate marketers, a point Rodriguez made at SXSW. The panel—staged by PepsiCo, the corporate entity behind Brisk Iced Tea, at its Plugged-In Stage at the Austin Convention Center—paired Rodriguez and Trejo, the Latino star of last year’s Machete, with Brisk brand manager Jamal Henderson and Ian Kovalik of the San Francisco ad shop Mekanism. (PepsiCo gets its own branded space at SXSW because it’s a “super sponsor” of the festival.) Machete, introduced years earlier in a fake trailer that appeared in the Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature Grindhouse, was a hyperviolent actioner in the B-movie tradition—not exactly the sort of thing you’d think would inspire a corporate marketing campaign. Yet PepsiCo was happy to take the leap. A movie with an Hispanic star and a cult following among twenty-somethings, for a “value brand” (99 cents a liter) that hadn’t advertised in nearly a decade? “From a brand perspective, it was divine intervention almost,” Henderson told me before we sat down for the discussion. “We were trying to get back into the popular culture, and this seemed the way to do it.”

The success of their effort was apparent as soon as we ran the spot. People in the room, most of whom must have watched it a half-dozen times or more already, started whooping with delight the instant the reel began. The 60-second video is essentially a parody of a parody—a claymation version of Trejo as Machete, a Mexican federale who wields a wicked-looking pair of knives while yelling “Negotiate! Negotiate! Negotiate!” It’s also very, very funny. Rodriguez, who had made stop-motion movies as a kid, not only gave his okay for the spot, he actually tweeted about it when it came out:

Thank you @mekanism for making that killer Machete Lipton Brisk commercial. Fantastic work! Stop Motion is still king.
Updated via web at Thursday, January 06, 2011 11:06 PM

Meanwhile, Rodriguez was making some branded content of his own—a six-minute video for Nike’s Kobe Bryant Collection, with Bryant in the starring role and cameos from Trejo, Bruce Willis, and Kanye West. The video was presented as a mini-movie—“Kobe Bryant Is The Black Mamba"—and advertised as such, both in 30-second spots and in a giant billboard on the Sunset Strip. Anticipating Spurlock’s tongue-in-cheek approach to product placement by several months, Rodriguez framed the video as a director’s pitch to the star/brand manager. Sample dialogue:


BRYANT

So. Are there gonna be a lot of close-ups on the shoes?

RODRIGUEZ

Product placement gives us a bigger budget. Bigger budget, bigger explosions.

"I don’t usually do ads," Rodriguez said during the discussion. "I’ve done a couple of European ones with George Clooney, he’s a friend of mine—they’re more cutting-edge over there, you can do a little more different stuff… . And then this one came up because they said you can do whatever you want. So when I talked to Kobe I said, Okay, let’s do something that deals with legends and icons—you know, you’re a legend, Kanye in the music world is a legend, Bruce Willis is a legend, Trejo is a legend, the brand Nike has its own legendary status. So I wanted to do something that kind of put all that together."

“They’re actually cool shoes,” Trejo said, putting his right foot forward to show off his swoosh.

"Celebrities don’t do commercials here because it’s just not cool," Rodriguez continued. "But you make it cool, they’ll show up. Nike couldn’t believe it."

"That thing was so cool, people were actually waiting for the movie," Trejo added. "People were asking me, Are they gonna do that as a movie?"

Obviously, not every bit of branded entertainment is going to be stuffed with legends. But it can still be fun, as Philips demonstrated with the Nigel & Victoria Web series it showed off at LBi London. Created for the Dutch electronics giant by Hoot Comedy, a London shop that specializes in, yes, branded content, Nigel & Victoria is another arched-eyebrow production that seeks to tout its brand and mock it too. What makes it particularly intriguing is the way the whole series acts as a none-too-veiled metaphor for the increasingly if sometimes awkwardly intimate relationship between brand and content.

The series focuses on Nigel, the handsome young “Philips guy” who’s overseeing the production of some commercials for the company’s consumer line, and Victoria, the comely blond actress who’s been hired to star in them. Nigel has developed sort of a thing for content—er, Victoria—and his bumbling courtship seems destined to go on indefinitely, or at least until the end of season one. (Season two, which began two weeks ago, takes a different tack.) Will Nigel win Victoria’s heart? Will his clumsiness turn her off completely, or can he charm his way into her affections? Will they ever make squalling, red-faced little brand-content babies? Stay tuned for the next episode.

If there’s a lesson in Nigel’s courtship of Victoria, or in Rodriguez’s pitch to Kobe, or in Machete’s exploits for Brisk, it’s that you can never bullshit the viewer. Forget the sales pitch: Nobody cares any more. The litmus test, the thing brand managers have to accept if they’re to survive in this cool new world, is that branded entertainment has to work as entertainment if it’s to work at all. Don’t take your brand too seriously. Go with your gut, assuming you have one. Otherwise, you’re just making television spots for viewers to TiVo through.



This post originally appeared on Deep Media Online.

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Frank Rose is the author of The Art of Immersion, just published by WW Norton, and a contributing editor at Wired. Follow him on Twitter @frankrose.