Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Buy An Ad In The Program?

First, a little bit of business.  Quentin Tarantino often quotes, "Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness."  It's all fine and good to live by that Machiavellian principal, but you must be ready to suffer the consequences if forgiveness is not forthcoming.  We had a film lie to us about their world premiere status.  Is the premiere status so important to us as to without forgiveness?  No.  We understand filmmakers have tough choices to make in their festival journey.  We've programmed films that have premiered at other places –  even though we'd wished they started with us.

It's the lie that requires penance before the forgiveness may come.

That's a fancy way of saying another slot just opened up for a lucky short filmmaker, and a perfect example of why we say, it's not over 'til it's over.  Pass letters will start trickling out this week, but among them will be one or two invitations.

For those who are in the festival, keep an eye on this blog for advice between now and opening night.  For those who aren't in, stick around.  The advice applies to you as well on your run at other venues.

Programs in film festivals are as different as the festivals themselves.  Some are throwaway newsprint intended to get you to a movie you might like, and little more.  Others, like ours, are beautifully printed keepsakes.  Some cost money. We think that's crazy. Why charge your audience money for your best form of advertising?  We give them away for free.

That's a tough combination – a free program that is expensive to make.  To help pay for your piece of memorabilia, we sell ads.  We sell them to corporate sponsors. We sell them to small indie companies, and we sell them to you, the filmmakers.

So should you, or should you not buy an ad?  There's a festival that shall remain nameless, but whose initials are The New York International Film and Video Festival (at least it was, I think it may be defunct now).  They were famous for calling filmmakers who had taken the deal on their buy-in fest to pressure them into buying an ad in the program.  I had the chance to be on the receiving side of one of those calls, and let me tell you, they are hilarious!

"We screwed up! We're about to go to press with the program, and we don't have a front cover!  That means we need to give you a great deal on this one-time only opportunity to have distributors see your film's key art..." blah, blah, blah.  All with an emphasis on the distributors who will be flocking to the festival, see my ad on the cover and rush right out to buy my movie.

I said no for so long that I finally had to remind the sales person that she started the conversation with "we're about to go to press," and hadn't she better move along with that? 

When the festival came around, there must have been fifty movie posters plastered on the cover, each no bigger than your pinky fingernail; each representing the hopes and dreams of someone who probably spent their last dime on what they believed was their chance to get an edge.  That's the wrong reason to sell an ad, and the wrong reason to buy one.

Distributors are not going to buy your movie because they see an ad in the program.  Some audience member might see your ad, then flip to the summary, and if they find it interesting and have the time, they may come to the movie.  Great, but is that enough of a reason to spend money on a full page ad? Or even a little business card sized one?  I don't know.  That's your judgment call.

Here are some reasons I can think of to buy an ad:
  1. Thank your investors.  Investors are the most important part of indie filmmaking. Treat them like the gold they gave you. They probably figured you were never going to pay them back – or even that you'd ever make a "real" movie – so a warm, public thank you might be all they need to feel good about what they've done.  And, oh boy, are they about to be surprised when they see what incredible things you've created with their little green pieces of paper.
  2. Thank your Cast & Crew.  Investors give money, cast & crew give time, and we know what time is, right?
  3. Help support the festival.  Our "no stars" policy makes it hard to win over sponsors that don't understand what we do.  Unlike a destination festival that can go to the local business community with numbers and stats, we have to find sponsors that want to get into the uber-indie world.  To be cool before it's cool.  To win a demographic before they are one.  Ads in the program help us do that.
  4. Some reason you have in mind that I don't.  After all, you're a creative type, right?  You're bound to have an angle none of us have thought of.  So let's see what you've got.
See you all May 30th!


Anonymous said...

All other film festivals should take note on the compassion, forthright and openness that Dances With Films provides for their process.

I am submitted to film festivals all over the world and the only one I know where I stand with is Dances with Films.

Yours truly,

A Round 2 finalist that is sadly expecting a pass, but dreaming of a premiere. Regardless plan on submitting next year.

Jet Blue has a 48 hour sale right now, so it'd be awesome to get that nod any minute now... : )

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we got a final round e-mail as well. Fingers crossed. Did you confront and ask the filmmaker why he wasn't forthcoming regarding his premiere status or was it a misunderstanding?

Thanks DWF Staff.

RSMellette said...

That's for the great feedback. It's nice to know the blog is time well spent.

As for the other filmmaker, I don't want to get into details, but of course we discussed the issue. We always want to give filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, but when there is no doubt left, something must be done.

Anonymous said...

Are you guys slatted yet and just customizing pass letters, because you have hearts...


RSMellette said...

Not completely slated... I don't think. That changes hourly. We had a feature drop out because they didn't think they'd have a cut they'd be happy with ready in time - which is cool. So we had to fill that slot... stuff like that.

And yes, we are also customizing pass letters.

Anonymous said...

RS, Firstly, thanks for this blog. I'm not a filmmaker so I have no dog in this show but it's nice to read a blog about the indie business that talks honestly.

So here's a question for you...

If your festival starts on 5/30, why haven't you guys notified all the filmmakers yet?

Am I mistaken there? It seems like for indie filmmakers money probably isn't dropping off of trees so making flight/lodging arrangements, getting time off of work, etc., might be a little more difficult for some of these people.

When does DWF let filmmakers know about their involvement and whn do you guys publish the film list?

Thanks again for a great blog!

Anonymous said...

To the previous commenter: You should try reading the blog. All the selected filmmakers have been notified a while ago, so they are currently arranging schedules and transportation. Yes, the programmers are still deciding on a few they can squeeze in, however I'm sure those filmmakers would love a last minute rush for transportation. I am one of them :)

You not being a filmmaker, but somehow thinking this process is somehow too difficult for us, us true independents who eat, sleep and breathe difficultly, suggests you should remain in the audience where everything is safe and predictable. Well, except for not knowing if a film will suck or not :)

RSMellette said...

Sorry it took me so long to get back to my comments, and thanks for covering for me.

The respondent is correct about us trying to notify everyone as soon as we can. I tend to champion those films that are on the bubble, or might step in when others can't make it. They do get last minute notifications - but that's better than none - and for filmmakers everywhere, a screening in Los Angeles is like private audience with the Pope, or Superbowl tickets. You make the time.

I would also like to point out to the responder that there's an unhealthy amount of animosity toward a non-filmmaker in your reply. There's another word for non-filmmaker; it's "audience member" and they are the boss. Show respect. :)