20 January 2010

Introducing "Indies for Indies"

One of my pet peeves about the festival circuit is that while most of them do a fantastic job of getting people to the theater to see films from around the country, they don't seem all that concerned with helping filmmakers turn that into something tangible[1]. And while street cred is nice, in a environment where it's increasingly important that filmmakers find ways to make their money back without standard distribution, a festival needs to better focus on helping filmmakers with the self-distribution they're inevitably going to have to do.

You'll see this soon, I'm sure.

With that in mind, I'm teaming with the beautiful restored Hollywood Theater in Pittsburgh to present "Indies for Indies", a filmmaker-centric festival/screening series designed to help filmmakers grow their audience in Pittsburgh and, perhaps mostly, importantly, help put money in their pockets in the meantime. We're working toward the last week of February as a start date. It'll be on-going from there.

Each week, we'll screen a different feature-length film paired with a short three times. I'll act as the master of ceremonies, if you will, and work with filmmakers to promote their film locally. The filmmaker behind the features will get 25% of all ticket sales (we'd love to make it more, but we have to ensure the series survives first) and will be encouraged to sell merchandise at the venue, of which they, of course, will keep 100%.

We're really not sure yet how much that'll be, but we're hoping to grow it into something significant. With some luck, we might even be able to bring out of town filmmakers in to talk about their films. We're also going to try and get local businesses involved in some way, but we're not really sure how yet. One of our primary goals is to make this as attractive as possible for filmmakers, to find ways to get them as much money back as possible, because if you can't make a little bit of your budget back, how are you going to make another film?

We've already got local media support lined up, so at very least, the films will get some sort of media push in Pittsburgh. And that might really be the biggest value of the series to a filmmaker, the chance to get a foothold in a city where they otherwise might have trouble, a chance to connect with audience members that could become fans of theirs for years down the road.

Since it's a festival, the series won't affect distribution or anything like that, plus you get to be an Official Selection, which is always nice to put on the webpage.

We've already contacted a number of filmmakers about this opportunity, but I don't know everyone and I expect some of the best films we could screen I don't know anything about. So, we're accepting submissions, starting now. The submission fee is small, because as a filmmaker I know how annoying submission fees can be, but we have to pay operating expenses somehow. The fees:

Features (narrative, 70 min or longer): $20
Shorts (15 minutes or shorter): $10

We'll be set up on Withoutabox soon and there's a webpage coming, but in the meantime, email us for details: indiesonindies [at] gmail.com

[1] I'm sure this is not true of all festivals.

14 January 2010


Are you a fan of music, specifically the type of indie music unlike anything you've heard before? Do you like film scores? Yeah? Well then go get yourself Jerome Wincek's Blanc de Blanc score, which is available as a name your own price purchase. Go, go, go.

<a href="http://jeromewincek.bandcamp.com/album/les-captures-accidentelles-musique-du-film-blanc-de-blanc-comme-ecrit-programmees-et-effectue-par-jerome-wincek">Abraham Part II by jerome wincek &amp; the old hats</a>

13 January 2010


So, as promised, here's the video of the Q&A from the Blanc de Blanc U.S. Premiere in Pittsburgh. It's edited for spoilers and time (to get under Facebook's 20 min limit). Enjoy.

12 January 2010

a free idea for someone much, much smarter than me

Over at The New York Times (maybe you've heard of them?), there's a super-cool interactive map of Netflix rental patterns in a couple of major cities. Go ahead. Check it out. I'll wait.

There's all sort of interesting stuff there. You can, for example, see that a film like Rachel Getting Married does really well in some parts of NYC (like Brooklyn) and isn't really rented at all in other areas (like the Bronx). And while your first reaction would be that Yankees fan are idiots (and you'd be right), there's more to it than that.

This is a lot of data. Tons of data, actually, and that's clearly just a fraction of it.

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the work of Nate Silver, go read this summary of his processes for figuring out polling data and elections. It can be fairly heady stuff, but this is the important part:
In reality, there is no such thing as national polling movement. Instead, you have millions of individual voters making up their minds in 50 individual states and the District of Columbia.

Like-minded voters, however, can be presumed to change their candidate preferences in similar ways. For instance, relative to national trends, election results in Massachusetts have historically been 90 percent correlated with election results in Rhode Island.

Our simulation accounts for this tendency by applying a similarity matrix, which evaluates the demographic relationships between different states by of a nearest-neighbor analysis as described here. Our process recognizes, for instance, that as the polling in Ohio moves, the polling in a similar state like Michigan is liable to move in the same direction. On the other hand, there may be little relationship between the polling movement in Ohio and that in a dissimilar state like New Mexico.

Do you see where this is going yet?

Let's say you had a film that was accurately described as Rachel Getting Married meets The Wrestler that you were promoting in NYC. You could sort of eyeball where in NYC you'd have better luck promoting it and where you'd be wasting your time. And they're pretty similar (and pretty drastic), so it wouldn't be too hard. You'd probably start putting your resources into Brooklyn, right? But this is only a few films in a few cities. Imagine if you had access to the entire database for the whole country. You might discover that our mythical film would play really well in Birmingham but not in Atlanta.

It's long been a hallmark of Hollywood that if you like a film, there's a pretty good chance you'd like a similar film. It's human nature.

So imagine this: you have a film you're looking to self-distribute. You go to a website that specializes in the Netflix map database and you punch in your closest match films, a minimum of 2 but up to 5 (5 would likely be more accurate) and it'll spit out a nationwide map just like one on the NY Times webpage. You can bring it down to a zip code level. How valuable would that be to an indie film? You'd know exactly where to target your film for the best results. Think of how much time and energy you'd save.

It'd be difficult, sure, but it'd be super valuable. And it wouldn't just help indie films. Theaters could use that data to better program films (even multiplexes!), as could festivals. It's a mountain of information that no one is using (except for Netflix).

10 January 2010

"a rare thing"

We have a Blanc de Blanc review courtesy of Jessica Fenlon at Digging Pitt:

Blanc de Blanc is a rare thing, a nesting-box film that succeeds. Its about love stories and process of relationship itself as much as it is the narrative that unfolds in Jude’s life. I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch it privately, to test it as hard as any one tests a suitor.
There is exactly enough there for us to struggle with the ambiguity of him – the ambiguity allows a lover’s projections of character; the ambiguity provides fuel for the audience to argue with Jude and Dave’s choices in the way we would argue with our partners; the ambiguity found in poetry.

07 January 2010

Blanc de Blanc on Technorati

Thanks to Lisa McKay, there's an article about #2wkfilm and Blanc de Blanc running right now on Technorati.
When filmmaker Lucas McNelly joined Twitter, little did he realize that the popular social media tool would result in a challenge that would lead him to shoot a feature-length film in two weeks. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with film production knows that two weeks is barely enough time to come up with an idea, let alone actually implement that idea. Add budget concerns and constraints into the mix and the complications of working in and around peoples' schedules, and you can see that filmmaking on such a small scale is fraught with difficulties.
Read the full thing here