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in Filmmaking
on Nov 14, 2006

Back in 1995 producer Ted Hope wrote a seminal piece for Filmmaker entitled “Indie Film is Dead,” in which he listed quite a few reasons why independent filmmaking was getting tougher and tougher.

Go back and look at the piece and you’ll see that many of Hope’s industry criticisms hold true today. Here’s one:

“The film industry, like all others, mystifies by design. All industries create their own vernacular, keeping the have-nots clouded in confusion. Variety takes this talent to an art form. The neophyte needs a class in how to read the trades, let alone understand them. Where is the information when you need it? Whether it’s a rolodex or a financial chart, good luck in getting up-to-date info. The industry promotes a paranoia and close-to-the-chest confidentiality in all its’ parishioners, whispering that if you don’t leap in, you’ll be out forever.”

I thought of this very true comment by Hope today when coming across a couple of links to filmmakers who are trying to counteract the trend towards secrecy in this business. My new favorite blog, Scott Kirsner’s CinemaTech, provided the first by alerting me to Lance Weiler’s Workbook Project.

Here’s Weiler on his plan to create a kind of wiki dealing with the specifics of independent film distribution and marketing::

“I’ve been working on a DIY book and I’ve decided to make it a free online resource. The concept is part of a ‘social opensource experiment’ called the workbook project. It’s a simple concept, the workbook is meant to be spread and edited. Meaning that content creators can add their own info, war stories, advice etc. Since the workbook is a wiki that can be saved to the desktop and edited, we’re hoping that it can become a resource that is always growing.

The goal is to have it grow organically as people add what they feel is important. Then over time, the various ‘additions’ can be collected or at least interlinked so that the information can be shared.The first edition of the workbook will include extensive info about:

* Raising capital
* High Production Values with no money
* Putting together a 17 city theatrical release
* Building a fan base and creating buzz
* Clearance and Delivery issues
* A look at actual contracts
* Getting your work into retail and rental outlets
* Making a TV deal
* How to deal with world sales
* Emerging Markets
* and much much more

Visit the site to learn how you can contribute your own info to the project.

The second article came via Sujewa Ekanayake’s Indie Features 06 and is an interview with 51 Birch Street filmmaker Doug Block about his experience working with distributor Truly Indie. It doesn’t have a lot of the hardcore number crunching I’d like to see, but Block does speak straightforwardly about the process of working with Truly Indie as a way of getting one’s film out.

Sujewa: Can you explain how Truly Indie works? As far as I understand it is a distributor-for-hire service: a flat fee is paid to Landmark’s Truly Indie for getting your film screened at a certain number of theaters & you get to keep the $s earned from ticket sales, right?

Doug: Once you get chosen and agree to go with them you’re given a list of Truly Indie cities (about 20), the local Landmark theater it will show in that city, the seat numbers, ticket prices, and an exact fee it will cost for that city down to the dollar. The fee includes a publicist in each city (overseen by Melissa Raddatz, the Landmark Director of Publicity), 2 ads in the local paper of record, and in return you keep 100% of the box office. Most important of all, you keep all other rights to your film.

Sujewa: What made you decide to purchase Truly Indie’s services, instead of attempting to book the film with various theaters by yourself (or did you try to do that first?)?

Doug: We didn’t want to do all the work ourselves. Truly Indie seemed like a good blend of DIY and going with a traditional distributor. And we were able to raise money from investors to support a theatrical release, our exec producers Priddy Brothers Entertainment. They were very intrigued by the Truly Indie model.

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