We’ve been getting questions on our distribution strategy lately, and I wanted to talk about what our current thinking is. Much of the following is lifted from a distribution Q&A we recently filled out for IFP.
Which of these describes your ideal, realistic distribution strategy?
(festivals as your primary exhibitor)
Service DealTheatrical Release
Event-Based Theatrical Release
Some combination of the above (please elaborate):
* Getting into a festival of our choice - AAFF, Hot Docs, Tribeca, SXSW - in 2013 is the ideal situation that we would like to see the film start out, but regardless of whether or not we get into one or multiple festivals, the end goal will be to release the film online.
* Very shortly after a festival premiere, we would release the full film (exclusively) on the film’s main site for free, this would last only a week or two. Then, we would move to a pay-what-you-want model (using VHX) for 2-3 weeks. After that, the film would start to be released on services like Vimeo, iTunes, etc.
* We are reaching out to potential sponsors that are rooted in the cycling and adventure travel world for event based screenings that will target and build our audience during the summer months - especially along the northern tier of the US, the route featured heavily in the film. We would do Q&As after the screenings with people who have taken their own trips, etc.
Why is this your primary strategy?
Our main goal for the film is to have people see it.
I don’t have producers who need to make their money back, I’d rather not sell the rights away and have the film die a quiet death because it’s hard to market. People seeing the film, whether they pay $3 to see it on the site, stream it for free via Vimeo, pay $9 through iTunes, come to an event behind a local bicycle shop in Montana, in any situation, people seeing it and connecting with it is my main goal.
1) First official day of Film Week! 2) Taking a break between meetings. 3) More meetings! 4) Erica and I walked calmly down the stairs… around the corner… trying our best to play it cool… then, when the coast was clear, we celebrated an amazing meeting! 5) Out way, way past our best time in Brooklyn. 6) Feeling sleep-deprived and yet, wired at the same time - we took a walk down the street at our place in Harlem to grab a few late night drinks. 7) Heading back home to LA…
1) Having drinks and doing prep-work with Oakley and Alex just before IFP film week. 2) Gino will have to explain this one. 3) Bringing a new garage chair that we snagged at the thrift shop! 4) Having lunch with Evan - him and Erica were looking over negatives. 5) Filming everything… as per usual. 6) Testing out the iPad book I made of the film to take with us to NYC. 7) Made it safe to NY, grabbing some breakfast before our first day of orientation.
…you’ll have front row seats to the long and painful process of independent filmmaking… before this ends I’ll have been turned down, shut out, knocked out of the race, dragged through the mud, riding on the edge of disaster, against all odds, between a rock and hard place… and that’s just preproduction.
Strangely enough… I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The above is from the first post on For Thousands of Miles - well, back then, before it had the title it does now, it was just called Project Pedal; re-reading it now it feels like something from another life… I remember very clearly writing it, I remember the apartment I was living in back then… I remember thinking I might be wrapped up in this undertaking for the next two of my life, maybe three years, at worst.
We filmed in the summer of 2007, I imported the first handful of tapes in 2008, I finished importing / logging all 120+ hours five long months later, in 2009 I had assembled a 5+ hour edit of the film, I spent all of 2010 and then some writing the script for the film, locked down the first 2 hour edit in 2011, more writing followed, more editing. And, as of 3 nights ago, I locked down the version of the film that I’ll be submitting to a handful of festivals - thanks in large part to the encouragement and advice of IFP.
I feel happy… surreal… the road that took me from point A to point B has been such a mess of wrong-turns and sidetracking that it’s hard to even really see how far I’ve come. I think about all the people who helped me… all the people who kept the film going… all the people who gave their time, money, wisdom, on and on. I hope when the film is released that it lives up to their expectations.
This is, I’ve been told, the half way point in the life of a film, not so much in time specifically, but definitely the half way point in energy-spent; from here on out things will build a natural momentum, the film will start to go on to have a life of it’s own after the festivals, but there is still so, so much to do! Here’s to whatever comes next!
photo by erica_hampton via instagram
4 a.m. on the subway
Erica and I made it safe-and-sound back to LA after a long, long day of subways / trains / airplanes / buses / taxies and dead-stop traffic jams. It feels good to be back on the west-coast.
This weekend I’ll be re-recording the narration for the film; I’m probably going to head into the office on Saturday just to make sure I’m in a 100% sound-proof environment. Once I have a clean narration track, I’ll have to race to get that cut into the film within the next two weeks, tighten up a few edits in the film, and find a way to afford a quick temp-sound pass!
If I can pull all of that off before November 1st, we’ll make submission deadlines for Hot Docs, SXSW, AAFF, Tribeca and Sundance (we have an extension for Sundance). Once we submit to these festivals - all of which, with the exception of Ann Arbor, are expecting For Thousands of Miles after our face-to-face meetings during Film Week - then I have to track down a vintage penny-farthing bicycle for an archival recreation scene. But that’s another story for another post.
I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m trying to stay focused.
In the last few years that I’ve been working on this film, I found it harder and harder to answer the question: what’s your film about? It was one of my most dreaded questions. People would introduce me at events, saying, “this is Mike, he’s a filmmaker”, and when that happened, it was usually all downhill from there.
Erica has really, really, really been pushing me to figure out a way to answer that question, because, well, it’s becoming more and more impossible to avoid it; and if I’m going to get anywhere with this film during IFP Film Week, I can’t just freeze up and stare at my feet everything someone ask about For Thousands of Miles.
The above audio file is of me practicing the film’s pitch with Erica late last night - it is the first time, in all the years I’ve been working on the film, that I a) answered that question clearly, and b) it took less than 3 minutes!
This moment wasn’t just a breakthrough for answering that question when it happens to come up, but it was a real breakthrough in presenting the film going forward.
Discover tomorrow’s next great independent films today! Exclusive excerpts from the 20 projects participating in IFP’s 2012 Documentary and Narrative Labs.
If you’re going to be in NYC on the 17th, Erica and I will be attending the Rooftop films IFP event - I’m both really excited and really nervous to have 20 minutes from FToM screen infront of an entire-rooftop of people!
Hope to see you there!
seven days till film week
Most days after I come home from work are spent pouring over IFP-related homework for Film Week - there is a lot to prepare for… and it’s not uncommon for me lately to crawl into bed at night feeling a bit overwhelmed, defeated and confused.
I would like to think that my operating on a strange kind of hyper-home-movie mindset, during these last years of writing and editing, has helped keep me grounded to the very personal aspects of For Thousands of Miles; there are so, so many decisions when writing and editing that can lean towards: 1) what does this mean to me?, vs 2) what does this mean to an audience? Both of which are important questions, and, in many cases, the end result may be the same on a question-to-question basis, but I tried, as much as possible, to make decisions on what things meant to me personally - as I didn’t want to get too far down the road of making decisions in favor of an audience.
The point of all this being, with Film Week less than 5 days away till we leave LA!, I’m struggling to shift years of habit and approach, to find just the right internal-balance of an unfamiliar-business-world, with the more comfortable hyper-home-movie mindset. It’s easy to be scared by things we don’t understand, and when I read through the details regarding sales agents, equity financing vs gap financing, prebuy options, minimum sales rights, finishing funds, on and on…
I can feel myself becoming almost defensive, but I know it’s only because I don’t know exactly what these words mean, I mean, I know what they mean, but I don’t know what they mean for the film; and so I swing too far back to home-movie mindset. I’m trying to imagine myself and Erica sitting across the table from someone from SXSW, from Tribeca, Sundance, Rooftop, HBO, NYFF, POV… and I try to imagine myself being confident, smooth, witty, charming, but… I know myself a bit too well to let that fantasy play out too long. I know everything is what I make of it - so I keep reminding myself that these next two weeks could mean the difference between these last stages of post-production taking a matter of months vs years.
Close eyes. Deep breath. Insert something here about a blue whale.
via ftom film:
Erica and I woke up early this morning for a group phone call with IFP, we spoke with Milton about what we needed to be focusing on to get the film ready for Film Week, which is approaching fast! I was glad we talked though, I had been stressing far too much about the 15 minute presentation that I recently mentioned, and Milton helped calm my nerves about that - the two pages of notes we took focus much more on:
- update elements of the film’s websites to make it easier for new people to follow the project and stay in touch…
- choosing / creating the main marketing images…
- 100-200 count of postcards for NYC with film info…
- use iBook Author to make EPK (electronic press kit) to take to IFP meetings…
- finish applying to cinereach…
- reach out to mentor for advice on face-to-face presenting / speaking about FToM…
With only 2 short weeks left will we board for NYC, I feel both very excited to see everyone again involved with Labs, and, at the same time, a little stressed about getting everything prepared intime to make sure we make the most of this unique opportunity.
I just finished reading that in September, during Film Week, I’ll be giving a 15 minute presentation focused on our audience and marketing strategy, which has left me feeling a little nervous and unprepared at the moment. 15 minutes can be a long time to stand infront of a small crowd of people, a few months ago I gave a 10 minute presentation at work and my nerves before hand were wrecked.
Nervousness aside, I wanted to start thinking about all of this out loud, I thought it might be a) interesting for other people to see some of the notes Erica took during Labs, and b) a lot of you reading might have far better ides as to how to go about some of this… I’m far too close to this film and sometimes I get the feeling I miss the more obvious answers.
Here’s some of the notes so far ⇢
- Core audience : People who have bicycled across the norther tier of the US.
- 2nd tier audience : People who have bicycled across any part of the country.
- 3rd tier audience : People who have always wanted to travel the country.
- 4th tier audience : … ?
- Note : I would like to find a way to aslo reach people other than bicyclists, the film almost never addresses bicycling specifically - visually it does, but through the narrative and through the sound design it makes every effort to talk about everything but the bike… I’ve tried to make it a story that everyone / non-cycle-enthusiasts would enjoy.
How to reach audience ⇢
- Partnering with route organizations, such as the ACA.
- Partnering with a bicycle manufacture that actively encourages travel , such as Rapha.
Outreach ideas ⇢
- Early screenings projected in bicycle parking lots.
- Touring with the film across the northern tier : following the exact same route as the film, especially towns shown clearly in the film. Note: Each showing of the film could have a Q&A afterwards, with people who have done their own long-distance trips.
- Release last parts of 64 Days series as build up to film release…
- Posters w/ travel-related quotes via Kickstarter.
- Presell a limited run of handmade DVD packages via Kickstarter.
Release goals ⇢
- To have the film play at the Michigan theater in Ann Abror, MI - my personal-favorite theater, even including all the amazing theaters here in LA.
- To take the film on a worldwide festival tour for 6-12 months.
- To release the film for free online, or through a pay what you like model.
- FToM on VHX!
- … ?
Things we don’t have that I wish we did ⇢
- Digital Rights Lawyer
- … a finishing grant.
That’s all for now! I’d really appreciate any notes / ideas / feedback that you might have.
1) At the pet store… again… torturing ourselves via adorable kittens we can’t bring home with us. 2) Still reeling from post-IFP music licensing information. 3) Watching the eclipse cast strange shadows on the kitchen walls. 4) Xander and Erica sending photos of dog butts back and forth to each other. 5) Seeing Stephen off after a recording session for Bright White Hearts. 6) Giving into peer pressure with Angeline and Johnny. 7) On our way with Lan and Vu to watch Moonrise Kingdom at the Hollywood Arclight… while listening to the Drive soundtrack.
The word is out, the press release is live… so please feel free to add this link to your websites, spread through your social networks and twitter feeds, and hire that sky writer to tell the world your project is one of the 165 incredible films to be showcased this year.
- IFP, via Film Week 2012 Project Forum Slate
Today, IFP announced its industry activities for the 34th edition of Independent Film Week, as well as the 2012 slate of 165 new films in development selected for its esteemed Project Forum.
Pretty damn proud to be included on this list.
1) Approaching NYC - I’ve never flown into NYC before, it was really amazing seeing the city pass by outside. 2) Erica and Xander talking about their day. 3) FIrst day at IFP Labs… getting a quick introduction before heading into the screening room. 4) Hanging out with Jon Freeze after dinner. 5) Playing around with the constellation globe in our air-bnb place. 6) Taking pictures of Grand Central station. 7) Heading back home after an amazing week.
Last week I had posted an update on what I’ve been keeping busy with in preparation for Film Week at IFP, Mike Hedge left a comment on that post asking a lot of good questions, and I wanted to reply to them here. I’ll just run down the list:
so what does the 500 word version say?
It just so happens I updated the synopsis tonight - upgrading it from a short synopsis to a full-fledged 500 word synopsis, which talks a bit more opening about the story. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on it!
what does your bio say?
I’m not sure where to post my longer-bio yet. I like it, like I mentioned before, it’s my first real bio, but I still feel awkward posting it publicly. It’s nothing too exciting, just a standard artist bio - not that I prefer the word artist, I try to never use that word, it just makes me uncomfortable. I’m getting side-tracked. It just says I was born in Jackson, MI, and when I got my first camera, and what I spend my time working on. But!, it still mentions blue whales.
why do you need $60,000?
Back in June, when I mentioned certain aspects of IFP proved to be one hell of a wake-up call, I specifically was thinking about the wake-up call in necessary-funding needed to get this film finished: $25k for sound, $10k of which is for foley work, the film needs a tremendous amount of foley design; $7k in lawyer things… things like E&O insurance (which stands for errors and omissions), etc; ?-$30k for music rights… if we’re lucky. Keeping my fingers crossed that the two songs I’m especially attached to aren’t unaffordable; a bit of money set aside for color correction, which I’m hoping I can get Olivier to do - I’d need to cover his travel expenses and time.
The $60k doesn’t include marketing - we were strongly, strongly, strongly encouraged to set aside $40k for marketing, but right now… I just don’t know how to go about factoring that into everything I’m struggling to raise.
glad you figured out the smooth cam thing!!!
It sadly didn’t fix everything! Frustrating! But, for the time being, I sent the film to our mentor with a note about the smoothcam bug - as for the files I needed to send to IFP for Film Week: I had to export, without any smoothcam filters, as finished ProRes files, then bring those into FCPX, let it analyze everything, chop-up the shots that needed stabilization and apply FCPX filters one-by-one… it was a mess.
At least everything will look nice when we have our meetings with studios in September.
so you got the film exported and to your mentor?
Yes, we did - I’m excited to hear his notes! From what I’ve seen of his work, he tells very beautiful and strange stories… which I like.
why would ftom be difficult to get money for?
I guess I really don’t know why… I suppose I feel that way because its not a social issue film, it doesn’t address any cultural or political messages that typically A) draw people’s attention, and B) find funding through grants. It’s much more of an emotional journey, and well, selling a film about feelings is just… people who have seen the film say they really love it, they say it’s beautiful and told in a very risky way… but they also warn me that it’s not the easiest film to get financial support for.
[Your] film from what I’ve seen is awesome! and would be great for all people that enjoy bike riding and travel.
Thank you! I hope you’re right!
you have yet to release some kind of trailer. something more than the awesome teasers you have released.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I have a good outline of what I feel would be an appropriate and hopefully engaging trailer; even after all the recent re-writing that was done for IFP, I still feel the trailer would hold its own that way it’s written now. So, that might be something I start to work on. At the moment, I’m caught in financial-limbo, once September comes around I’m hoping that won’t still be the case, and I can move forward confidently - I wouldn’t want to release a trailer too soon.
you have an olympic athlete who can also promote the film. maybe look at what Hunter and Mike are doing. they got Salsa cycles behind the screenings and the promotion of their new film.
That was part of our homework actually - Jon Reiss mentioned Mike and Hunter; I think, if I’m remembering right, he even mentioned that he helped them structure a marketing and distribution plan - I hope I’m remembering that correctly, if not, never-mind what I said.
He helped us start a list of possible organizations we could work with, and gave us a real roadmap on who our core-audience is, who our general-audience is, etc. Erica helped me think of a few companies that we could reach out to - I’m just waiting till a few other things are in place before I start reaching out to them. Well, maybe “waiting” is the wrong word, I’m better planning what to say, how I can work with them, what I can offer, what I hope to accomplish… things like that.
keep rockin Mike!
Thank you, Hedge!