The Socialization of Film
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Last weekend, I was competing in a Judo competition in New Jersey when a friend approached me and asked, “How is that you are not a referee or coach yet and still step on the mat with those young wrestlers?”
The answer to that question is the same as why I started Film Annex and decided to take the side of independent filmmakers willing to wrestle in today's world. I wanted to create a financial system in which filmmakers can have full benefits of being independent, receive 100% of the sales revenues their films generate and in addition get a percentage of advertising revenues. The Film Annex model works in a loop, in which content generates revenues and goes straight to the filmmaker, enabling her to create more content and generate more revenues.
A person might want to be a filmmaker to make her Hollywood dream come true or fulfill her wish to make a difference in the world by educating and entertaining millions of people with her work. In today's world, independent filmmakers are in a hopeless battle with big studios and they receive unsatisfactory offers from large distribution companies that leave them with very limited chances and returns.
The number of independent filmmakers screening their films at prominent film festivals is a very low, and the number of filmmakers that find the kind of theatrical or TV distribution to cover their production cost is even lower. Most independent filmmakers are not really independent because they end up selling their distribution rights even before the film is completed. They maintain none or a very small percentage of their ownership on their film by the time the film hits the festival circuit.
To achieve objectivity and artistic integrity, a filmmaker must be financially independent and in control of her film's distribution. By using social media in an effective way, an independent filmmaker can create an army of soldiers willing to work shoulder to shoulder with her in the development, promotion, and distribution of her film.
The Film Annex Filmmaker Manual suggests independent filmmakers to:
o Never give away internet rights or only give away a minimum percentage of ownership rights
o Always work with more than one online platform to find the best partners and maintain close relations with those partners to make sure there are no changes in the distribution deal without the filmmaker's consent. The partners should be aware that the filmmaker has many options and does not have to work with one distributor only.
o Create her own distribution channels and do not give her best content to big platforms like YouTube.
The key phrase here is own distribution channel, which Film Annex creates for filmmakers under the name of Web TVs. A Web TV is an online video channel that presents films in digital format to online audiences. We create our Web TVs under dedicated domain names (for example, the domain name can have the filmmaker’s name, the production company’s name, or the film’s name). This way, the Web TV becomes a branding tool for the filmmaker and a platform where the filmmakers can showcase their films. However, Web TVs are not just online platforms; they’re also a revenue source as the content providers gets paid with the advertising revenues generated on their Web TVs every month.
Once the filmmaker decides on the right platform for her film and creates a Web TV (or a web channel) for her work, it's time to create a strong army of filmmakers and fans. The bullet points below are some examples from what we suggest a filmmaker to do:
o Have a simple and catchy description for your Web TV. Tell the viewers what you will be presenting on your Web TV. If you're trying to raise money for your next project, mention that too, so they know that they're contributing to your project by simply visiting your website and commenting on your content.
o Include a "Call for Action" in your Web TV's description box. Your call for action may target your audience and the way you want to interact with them. You can ask them to give you feedback on your films, call for crew members for your next production, etc. As an example, check out http://www.rednoticetv.com and http://www.waroffilms.com.
o You can comment on your own films! Don't think that it's "weird" or "awkward" to comment on your own content. The comment doesn't have to be something like "great film;" it can be a question or an idea that will motivate other users to join the discussion.
o Use your comment section below each film page to let your viewers know about the developments in your projects, your screenings, the festivals you're attending, etc. In short, interact!
o Create an interactive platform where filmmakers and viewers exchange news and ideas and create a community within the film industry. The mission is to promote and distribute professionally made, high quality videos and films.
Your traffic today and tomorrow:
To see the improvements in your traffic and find out who your audience is, become a user at http://www.quantcast.com or similar services. Your Web TV should quantified on http://www.quantcast.com and have outstanding information up to the smallest detail that will help you market your films outside of your network. This information will shape the conversation you will have with a theatrical or TV distributor, as you will be able to identify your audience before you start shooting your film.
Here are some ideas on how to get your viewers involved with your Web TV and productions:
o Join/help the production
o Viewers might be interested in becoming a crew member
o Help you with food and transportation if you're shooting in their area
o Suggest to you friends and acquaintances who have professional production/post-production experience.
o Help with the promotion
o Viewers can help you spread the word about your film via word of mouth, social networks, their blogs, etc. Give them some good material they can talk or write about, something that will interest and excite them.
o Have access to venues you don't have access to. They might own screening spaces, bars, restaurants, rooftops, a venue that you might want to screen your film at, where you can get to know a new community.
o Host your content. If they have highly-trafficked websites, you might consider embedding your Web TV player on their site, and both of you can benefit from revenue sharing opportunities.
Once again, the keywords to success are: comments, call for action, and interactivity with viewers!
o http://www.AbelFerrara.com - A container of 4 Abel Ferrara Web TVs (we are adding 1 or 2 Web TVs to this container every month).
o http://www.DiplomaticallyIncorrect.org - A container of 9 Web TVs pertaining to the United Nations activities and International Diplomacy.
In addition, our network has another 126 Web TVs, each helping a filmmaker and/or an organization with audience/fan support and monthly revenues.