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in Filmmaking
on Jan 16, 2010

I just caught up with this Manohla Dargis piece from the New York Times published on the 14th. What she writes about — the DIY and hybrid distribution distribution strategies espoused by Peter Broderick and Jon Reiss as well as the current discussion about transmedia — will be familiar to readers of Filmmaker, but it’s still interesting to see them covered now in the Times.

From the piece, titled “Declaration of Indies: Just Sell it Yourself!”:

The new D.I.Y. world is open-source in vibe and often execution. Participants refer to one another in conversation and on their Web sites and blogs, pushing other people’s ideas and projects. (On his Web site, peterbroderick.com, Mr. Broderick even posts discount codes for other people’s books.) But these new-era distribution participants are not engaging in blog-rolling. By sharing information and building on one another’s ideas, they are in effect creating a virtual infrastructure. This infrastructure doesn’t compete with Hollywood; this isn’t about vying with products released by multinational corporations. It is instead about the creation and sustenance of a viable, artist-based alternative — one that, at this stage, looks markedly different from what has often been passed off as independent cinema over the past 20 years.

Although D.I.Y. has become shorthand for this new movement, a more complex idea of the filmmaker-audience dynamic is emerging (Mr. Reiss calls it “a sea change”), partly as a response to the shifts in the industry, though also in reaction to the changes in the audience or more specifically audiences. Although some viewers still enjoy the ritual of going out to see movies, others don’t want to experience their entertainment in a theater, preferring to immerse themselves in a media-saturated world across a variety of platforms. “My son,” Mr. Reiss said, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, “consumes media on his computer and his iPod, and he will occasionally go out to a movie theater.” He tries to encourage his son, who’s 13, to go to the movies, but finds it tough. “He would rather interact with media on his computer than anywhere else.”

One of the buzzy ideas in D.I.Y. is transmedia, a word borrowed from academia, in which stories — think of the “Star Wars” and “Matrix” franchises — unfold across different platforms. “Star Wars” helped expand the very idea of a movie, because it involved a constellation of movie-related products, from videogames to action figures, all of which become part of the understanding and experience of the original, originating work. This isn’t just about slapping a movie logo on a lunchbox or a screensaver: it’s about creating an entertainment gestalt. As the theorist Henry Jenkins writes, “Reading across the media sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption.” In other words, you can sell one ticket to a moviegoer or enlist fans into media feedback loops that they in turn help create and sustain.

If you haven’t caught up to some of Filmmaker‘s articles on these subjects, here are a few:

Jon Reiss’s “My Adventures in Theatrical Self-Distribution, Part One”. (The remaining articles in the series are posted as well.)

“Lessons in DIY”: Four case studies of filmmakers who released their own films themselves.

Lance Weiler’s “Culture Hacker” column in which he discusses the basics of transmedia for filmmakers.

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