Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Silence

Just an FYI for anyone who might be checking my blog for Festival Updates.

I don't do that sort of thing. It's not that I'm too busy. I could probably squeeze in an article a day, but I don't want to. I am busy... having fun! If you want a blow-by-blow of what's happening, our Social Media guru, Kim, keeps our Facebook page up-to-date. Like us and follow along.

If you're in the LA area, come join us. Buy a copy of Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand from the Alumni Store - or, you know, any of the dozens of films from past years we'll have for sale. I'll sign my book for you. The filmmakers will sign your DVD.

If you're not in the LA area, you can get my book, or their films, on Amazon.  I'll post links of what we have available once it's solidified.

Okay, back to work!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Minding The Store

This year Dances With Films is featuring something brand new that I think you'll be seeing on the festival circuit around the world in the near future. Remember, you saw it here first.

What is this new feature?

The Dances With Films Alumni Store.

Why will this become a mainstay on the festival circuit?

Honestly, it might not, but it should.

People see the digital revolution hit an industry and they thinks it's one & done, but in fact it comes in waves. A first wave will radically change everything, then a second wave rides in on those changes. Then a third, forth, etc.

Right now, the indie film industry is probably on it's 3rd or 4th wave when it comes to distribution. Remember video stores? Remember when watching something on Netflix meant a DVD was delivered to your house? Remember when scripted TV shows were actually on TV?

Okay, I'm maybe a year or two ahead on that last one - but the point is, things have changed. For the uber-indie filmmaker those changes mean they are not only the filmmaker, but also the film seller. Distribution now means having a film thrown up on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc. with no PR or marketing support. Like novelists have had to do in the last few years, filmmakers now have to do their own shilling.

Well, Dances With Films is here to help.

At the Dances With Films Alumni Store, alumni can sell their DVDs directly to this year's DWF audience. If customers don't watch movies on DVD anymore, they can get information on how to download the films. These instructions will probably come with a request to post a review on Amazon. Reviews are a huge help to anyone selling anything online, so if you like a movie, book, song, etc. make sure to give it a review.

What does a filmmaker get out of selling a few DVDs at what amounts to a trade show booth at a festival? Well, for one thing, cash. Not a lot, but face-to-face sales are what work best in this business and building a fan base starts with one person at a time.

They also get a promotional opportunity. Pictures of them with their DVDs at the Festival to post on MySpace (sorry), Facebook (sorry), Instagram and Pinterest (with an auto-link to Twitter)! So for each face-to-face sale at the festival, they might get one or two more online sales from the promotion.

And remember those Amazon review requests? Online promotions are often based on software algorithms. Once an item gets a certain number of reviews, they begin to be recommended to customers who buy similar stuff. "Because you watched..." etc.

So, if you are an alumni, contact me about adding your films to the store.

If you're an audience member or current-year filmmaker, buy a movie (or... you know, a book like Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand) from an alumni. Get it autographed.

And next year, someone will do the same for you!

See you at the store.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Joys and Heartaches

I know many of you are waiting for one of those few letters of acceptance that have yet to go out.

Yes, that's right folks. Our competition films are going to be announced in the morning (Monday, May The 4th be with you) - but believe it or not, we are still working to fill some screening slots. 

Remember, nothing is decided until you get a pass letter, and those should all be out by the end of the week.

But that's not the point of this article.

There were somethings I didn't say at the Orientation Meeting that I meant to. Nothing big or deeply insightful, but hopefully helpful - if not at Dances With Films, then at whatever festivals may screen your film.


A good producer always has two extra tickets in his or her pocket, ready to hand to any VIP who might show up unannounced. As we said at the orientation, we don't give out industry comps. The people you want to use them never do, and the lost revenue is pretty much what kills theatre in LA. Any executive worth talking to can expense the price and should respect that DWF wouldn't have survived for 18 years by giving away free tickets. Still, some big shots in this town are either jerks, or legitimately can't afford a movie ticket anymore than you can. Unfortunately, you can't afford to not have them there, so make sure you have a pair of tickets ready. If they go unused, the cost is a cheap insurance policy against an awkward situation.


We said this at the orientation, but it's worth repeating. It's a good policy to check in with the festival to find out which restaurant sponsors might have deals on a screening party. Not only can you get a good price, but you'll be helping the festival tremendously by supporting those who support them.

This also applies to just hanging out, getting lunch, a drink, etc. Look through the program and go to the bars, restaurants and shops that have taken out ads. Wear your festival badges and make sure the staff know you've come in because they are a sponsor. If you want to have some fun, go make rude gestures to those merchants who didn't support the festival. (That's a joke ... really). 

Still on parties. Consider having everyone meet for dinner or drinks BEFORE your movie. This is helpful in getting a crowd. Old people like me, might not like the idea of going to a 9:00 movie with the obligation of a party afterward - but it's easy to meet before hand. This also gives you a time buffer for those people who are perpetually late.

Program ads. 

Some festivals give a hard and heavy pitch to filmmakers about buying an add in their program. They promise that distributors will see your ad, fall in love with your movie sight unseen, and make you a million dollar over-your-budget offer based on the ad alone. Don't let this shock you, but that's not going to happen. Sorry.

But there are some good reasons to buy an add in the DWF program. For one thing, it's not a cheap piece of newsprint. This program is collectible. They cost us more money than a xeroxed copy stapled in the corner, and your ad will help insure we're able to make the program something you'll cherish for a long time.

Also, a program ad is a fantastic place to thank your investors, cast, crew, mother-in-law, etc. Then, on the off chance that a distributor does flip through our program - and, actually, they do - they might not offer you a deal based on your ad, but they will know you're a class act.

In case of emergency. 

If for some strange reason you haven't given us a back-up copy of your film (Blu-Ray, DVD, etc.), bring it with you to the screening. I say this so I won't have to drive like a bat-out-of-hell back to your hotel room to get the back-up copy when it turns out the one on the screen was copied three frames out of sync. (True story, in the Tape days). 

See everyone's movie! 

I know it's hard to do, and chances are you won't be able to see the film that screens just before or after yours - but ask to trade screeners or Vimeo Links. The only thing worse than not winning an award yourself, is knowing nothing about the movie that did win. 

And finally - remember to have fun!

These eleven days are like summer camp for grown-ups, a brief time in your life that you will never forget. Whatever happens - good or bad, at Dances With Films or some other festival - celebrate it. You're an artist in the company of your peers presenting your work to the world. Damned few people on the planet will ever know the joys and heartache that can bring. The chance to have either, or both, is a blessing. 

Thanks for reading.