Monday, September 22, 2014

Marketing – Books, Movies, Life

This is the off-season for Dances With Films, but I noticed a tremendous spike in page views lately.  Whether that is due to film festival submission season kicking into gear with Sundance's last submission deadline coming up, or because I've started promotion on my book, Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, I don't know – but I thought I should give either audience something new to read since it's definitely too late to be a part of this year's festival (it was over in June and the subject of my last post).

My mind right now is on marketing.  As just about any experienced artist in any medium will tell you, they knew marketing was important, but didn't listen when they were rookies and someone told them marketing starts on the first day of production. 

In a way, all artists are marketing all of the time.  No matter what discipline, we are communicating something through our art, and so are trying to present that communication in the best possible way.  From the political, in-your-face, theatre of the 60s and 70s, to the pop-art of the 1990s, to the indie film and book circuits of today, every artist begins with a story to tell and a way to tell it.  That's marketing, like it or not.

Lately, artists have become more and more responsible for the marketing end of things.  Ask any author lucky enough to get an advance, and most of them will tell you they've rolled that into their own sales plan.  Alumni of Dances With Films know how much we push each filmmaker to have a marketing strategy, and many of them have come back to thank us for that over the years. 

As I now launch into sales of Billy Bobble, I'm learning a ton regarding internet marketing, that I'm not sure filmmakers know about – which they should.  Films are being sold side-by-side with books these days on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, etc.  The same campaigns that drive people to those sites for books can work for films.

One example is blog tours.  Now almost passé with books, I'm not sure many indie filmmakers are aware of them.  Blog tours reach out to the super-fans (or super-bloggers) for certain subjects and arrange interviews, guest posts, or reviews.  Reviews, of course, every filmmaker knows about, but most seem fixated on the Trades and The Times (New York and LA).  Sure, those are extremely important, but just as important are the super-fans on Amazon.  Getting good reviews from fans with large followings has become a must with indie novelists – and they should with filmmakers, too.

When dealing with these bloggers, be respectful.  There really isn't any difference between a critic on a blog and one for a major news organization – except that the blogger is usually a volunteer.  The blogger doesn't usually have a staff, and is often doing this on their own time just for the love of it.  They don't owe you a favorable review.  Hopefully, they'll write a good one, favorable or not.  Regardless, make sure to say "thank you."

That's it for now, and possibly for a while.  We are busy getting ready for year 18!  Some filmmakers may have already submitted.  That's fine, but submission don't officially open until sometime in October – I think.  I don't keep up with that part.  I just watch 'em and help pick 'em. 

In the meantime, filmmakers, finish your sound!  Short filmmakers, try cutting your movie in half and show it to your beta testers.  See if they like it better.  If so, LISTEN TO THEM!  If your music is a bunch of random cords (usually on a piano, usually with a cello coming in on the big emotional part), thank whatever friend you asked to do the music and go find a real composer.  If you've already shot your movie, these are the things you can be doing to make it better.

Believe me, everyone at Dances With Films wants your movie to be better!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

You Can Still Be A Part Of The Festival

Every year about this time I think of the movies I loved, but we couldn't fit into the Festival.  I'm tempted to mention the titles here, but I think that could open a can of worms.

I won't give the old line, "this hurts me a lot more than it does you." I know it sucks for you.  I've been where some of you are now.  I know.  But it is also hard knowing a movie that I've greatly enjoyed won't be in the festival for any number of reasons.  This is a tough business.

But if you've gotten one of our famous pass letters, don't think that it means you can't be a part of the festival.  I remember one year talking to a filmmaker.

"What film are you with?" I asked.

"My film didn't get in," he said.

I told him I screen for the festival, I might have seen it, and asked the title.

"Vitreous Floaters," he said.

It turns out I'd like his movie a lot.  It was in the running right up until the end, but when push came to shove, we just couldn't find a spot for it.  He had come a long way just to see the movies that got in.  He wanted to learn more about the festival circuit.

In my memory, we all treated him as we would any other filmmaker.  I hope my memory is right.  It certainly was my intent.

So if your film isn't in this year's festival, it doesn't mean that you can't be.  Come on out and see some movies.  Hold your head up high, because you are a filmmaker, and this festival is all about you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Orientation - And The Wait Continues

I know some of you talk to each other.  I know some filmmakers in SoHo should make plans to share a hotel in Los Angeles.  I know a lot of you have posted how excited you are to be in the festival, even though we try to keep that hush-hush before our official press release.  Shame on you. 

I know the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow - African and European.

Our filmmakers' orientation meeting is Friday.  As is often the case, we might very well go into that meeting with slots still open.  As I write this, we have slots still open.  The wait continues.


If you are out of town, the filmmakers' orientation meeting is NOT worth flying in for.  It is worth a half day off from work.  It will be extremely hot, so dress for the weather.

Please do bring plenty of screeners.  These are not only for the press, but also for our key personnel.  We like to have them screen the movies ahead of time because: 1) they are too busy to see them in the theatre, and 2) to help the buzz on each of your movies.  When someone wonders in the lobby and asks about what movie they should see, it's nice to have a team there who know all of the movies and can help.

Those of you still waiting to hear, hang in there.  We are still hashing things out.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Don't Stop The Presses

Just a quick note...

You're going to start seeing some press about our official slate.  You're going to start hearing squeals of excitement from people who have heard they got into the festival.

Please note.  As of this morning, we still have 2 slots to fill for narrative features.

We still haven't programmed any docs.

We still haven't finalized our shorts schedule.

We haven't even begun to program Dances With Kids.

But the Press must go on, so sit tight.  Keep your hands and feet inside the car and don't remove your seatbelt until the ride comes to a complete stop.

Friday, April 25, 2014

It's Own Special Hell

I just want to give a quick shout out to thank those of you who have received an invitation but haven't said anything publicly yet.  Sitting on good news is its own special hell.  It's almost as hard as waiting to hear news one way or the other.

Almost... not quite.

Those who haven't heard - sit tight, we're still working on it.  If you have suggestions for your fellow filmmakers on how to make the wait better, give a shout out!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

We're Getting Closer And Closer

The time is getting near. Keep checking your e-mails.

Again, until you get an official pass letter, you're still in the running. 

At this point, though, if you submitted before our late deadline and you haven't heard anything from us since we accepted your submission - and you get an offer for another screening... Do what's right for your film.

If you have received a second or third round e-mail from us, and you get an offer in the next few days, ask them to wait and GET IN TOUCH.  We will work something out that's best for everyone if we can.

Have a nice weekend.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Quick Observation on Women In Film

We're in the heat of programming, so no time for a long blog - but just a quick note.

Dances With Films could careless about who makes the movie as long as it's a good one.  Sure, when we enjoy a movie and then see that filmmaker isn't a rich white male, then great.  We're glad to support the cause.  But if the filmmaker is a rich white male, that's fine, too.  The merit of the film is all that counts.  Really, we don't care one way or the other.  Just please make a good movie.

The quick observation here is the number of women's names I'm seeing as Director's of Photography.  Anyone who has been in a film set knows that the camera crew - including Grip and Electric - is traditionally a testosterone-fest.  Not that you'll find bad attitudes toward women there, anymore than you'd find bad attitudes toward men in Oprah's studio audience.  A camera crew will get behind anyone who pulls their own weight and doesn't make their department look bad.  It's just that, traditionally, they've been men.

So, just a quick kudos to all of women heading up the camera department out there.  You won't get any special favors from DWF, but we're glad to have you.

Back to programming.