General Management


The old world of making a film: I can’t do anything until I raise five million dollars.
The new world: How can I start right now? With $50, $500, or $5,000.

That was the most important lesson from Saturday’s very excellent Distribution U workshop held by Scott Kirsner and Peter Broderick at NYU Cantor Film Center.

The morning started off with Scott and Peter laying the foundations of new world distribution. Scott’s presentation gave many excellent examples of successful artists who have used the internet to build awareness and an audience. Peter’s presentation dedicated a lot of time contrasting the old world model distribution with the new world models.

The briefest summary I could give is: old word models are fundamentally based on control. Content companies control the intellectual property, they control when and where the audience consumes the experience, and they control how the artist gets paid.

The new world model is scary to so many businesses because it’s the antithesis of control. The artists most successful in the new world model are the artists most confident in their art to give up control. Encouraging your audience to remix, reuse, and recycle your art is the surest way to build an audience.

For example, if a band release a music video, encouraging people to remix it is smart because 1) the people taking the time to remix your art are your most loyal and engaged audience, and 2) as the derivative works gain popularity, they will draw people to your original work.

The lunch time sessions were brilliant. Unfortunately the lunch time sessions were “off record” so I can only say that many people I spoke with after the workshop said that the lunch time sessions were thoughtful, engaging, collaborative in nature. “Worth the price of admission alone.” And I agree with that sentiment.

The afternoon case studies were interesting. I can most thoughtfully summarize them by saying; in hindsight the best marketing and distribution plan for a film will seem obvious when you think about the subject of your film.

For example, when your film is about graffiti artist Banksy then a guerilla marketing and distribution plans makes sense. When your film is about the craftsmanship of making a piano then a slower methodical distribution plan makes sense, because your product is evergreen, no need to rush.

The final part of the day was a frenzied brainstorming session where participants went in front of the audience to pitch their ideas and receive valuable feedback from the panelists and the audience. The quality of the ideas were as diverse as the feedback they received. As I mentioned before, the most valuable lesson was: don’t wait around. Start making something today!

Wanna make a feature film, start producing short webisodes to build interest. Don’t have the money for a webisode, then start a blog from the point of view of your character. Build a fan page on Facebook, and always offer people the opportunity to get involved. If your audience has to ask, “What can I do now?” then you’ve already failed.

That about summarizes the day. If you are in the Los Angeles area next weekend, I highly recommend you sign up. You can find out more about Distribution U on twitter here.

Thank you to Scott and Peter for organizing such a thought provoking event. And a special thank you to Scott’s sister Shira who handled a million things behind the scenes.

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