Jun 12

Digital distribution: New Low

My friend, the super-talented Adam Bowers, talks about how he digitally distributed his Sundance screened film New Low

My first feature, New Low, was released about a month ago digitally and on DVD. You’re about to get insightful analysis on the success of our distribution model by someone who got a D in Microeconomics. If this were the old Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios, Doc Brown would be telling you to strap in right about now… But it isn’t, so if you’re reading this while driving, please pull over.

He also has a fun, semi-regular column at IPF, and is about to shoot a new movie I’ve been told.

Apr 11

Why State Filmmaker Tax Incentives Get Used (And Sometimes Abused)

Put simply, most films lose money, but nevertheless hundreds of films are produced each year–almost in defiance of the laws of supply and demand.

Moore proposed two rationales for this: (1) the “sex-appeal” of being in the business; and (2) the chance for a big payoff (while 600 to 700 movies are produced each year, only 200 movies may obtain a theatrical release; of these two hundred, a handful see a profit; but rare “blockbusters” produce exponential returns, and may offset the loss suffered by dozens of films.) As he points out, this is gambling in its purest form, tax-credits, therefore, would be analogous to playing with the house’s money.

via Alexander Malyshev, Financing Film Through Aggressive Tax Incentives – A Losing Proposition for the States?, Media L. & Pol’y, Fall 2010, at 229, 233

Mar 11

No Edits

Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki have asked fans to forget [Warriors of the Wind’s] existence and later adopted a strict “no-edits” clause for future foreign releases of its films. On hearing that Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein would try to cut Princess Mononoke to make it more marketable, one of Studio Ghibli’s producers sent an authentic katana with a simple message: “No cuts”.

How anime classic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind became “Warriors of the Wind

via The Critical Eye

Feb 11

Movie Sequels and Comic Book Adaptations: Based on a True Soda

Movie Sequels and Comic Book Adaptations: Based on a True Soda

While I don’t agree that this article‘s argument that the following is a bad thing:

Let’s look ahead to what’s on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children’s book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.

I do think the author is totally correct about how Inception’s success has been so easily dismissed as a fluke:

Consider: Years ago, an ace filmmaker, the man who happened to direct the third-highest-grossing movie in U.S. history, The Dark Knight, came up with an idea for a big summer movie. It’s a story he loved—in fact, he wrote it himself—and it belonged to a genre, the sci-fi action thriller, that zipped right down the center lane of American popular taste. He cast as his leading man a handsome actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who happened to star in the second-highest-grossing movie in history. Finally, to cover his bet even more, he hired half a dozen Oscar nominees and winners for supporting roles…That film, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, received admiring reviews, became last summer’s most discussed movie, and has grossed, as of this writing, more than three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide.

And now the twist: The studios are trying very hard not to notice its success, or to care. Before anybody saw the movie, the buzz within the industry was: It’s just a favor Warner Bros. is doing for Nolan because the studio needs him to make Batman 3. After it started to screen, the party line changed: It’s too smart for the room, too smart for the summer, too smart for the audience. Just before it opened, it shifted again: Nolan is only a brand-name director to Web geeks, and his drawing power is being wildly overestimated. After it grossed $62 million on its first weekend, the word was: Yeah, that’s pretty good, but it just means all the Nolan groupies came out early—now watch it drop like a stone.

And here was the buzz three months later, after Inception became the only release of 2010 to log eleven consecutive weeks in the top ten: Huh. Well, you never know.

He makes the case for why Inception was good, but I don’t think he really makes the case for why any of those things like “four adaptations of comic books” or even “two sequels with a 5 in the title” are bad.

I know he’s not directly saying that a movie based on a Stretch Armstrong action figure will have to be bad or that its creators are somehow plotting against good cinema to make it, but he’s sure implying it.

This article does a lot to summarize the great points that he makes. My problem with the full article though is that those really valid points about how the movies don’t cater to certain audiences because marketers aren’t interested in learning anything about those audiences (which he does prove), is muddled by the subtext of the article: that Hollywood’s “bland assembly-line ethos” creates end-products that aren’t as good as they could be (which he doesn’t really prove).

The other conclusion that I can agree with are that good movies die and mediocre ones get greenlit because of fear. Just like any business where a lot of money changes hands, the people who control the money tend to be risk averse. When you can lose millions of dollars in one weekend, it makes sense to hedge you bets with known commodities — even if your commodity isn’t any more certain than a Magic 8-Ball.

For the studios, a good new idea has become just too scary a road to travel. Inception, they will tell you, is an exceptional movie. And movies that need to be exceptional to succeed are bad business. “The scab you’re picking at is called execution,” says legendary producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network, True Grit). “Studios are hardwired not to bet on execution, and the terrible thing is, they’re right. Because in terms of execution, most movies disappoint.”

Just look at Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Brilliant execution, but for one reason or another, people didn’t come. You can blame the marketers if you want, but at some point, you the paying movie-going public is responsible as well. You get more of the types of movies that you go support.

Critics: imagine a five-part Hollywood movie as a classic movie serial, and you might feel good enough about it to actually give it a fair chance. It’s a shame that if a summer movie is based on a Philip K Dick short story critics will give you a pass, but as soon as it’s based on a comic book, you movie somehow becomes guilty until proven innocent. Movies are movies no matter what their source material are.

I’ll even go further and say that I personally welcome any innovation that will keep the movie industry in business whether that be bad, misguided 2D-3D conversions or flavor-of-the-week event movies because those are the things that keep the industry alive, allowing them to make movies like Inception every few years.

If you want to name your movie after an action figure, a video game, or a brand of soda to get people in the seats go ahead…

I’ll be happy as long as you also make sure to make that movie good.

via GQ

Photo Credit: Chung-Cha

Feb 11

Viacom v. Youtube: Business as Usual

This article explaining why the Viacom v. Youtube ruling (1) didn’t change the law and (2) will have little to no effect on online entertainment industry business practices so well it doesn’t even need prefacing.

It’s a bit amusing watching the entertainment industry and copyright maximalists respond to the a judge’s ruling upholding the basics of the DMCA safe harbors. We already noted Viacom’s initial attempt to respond to the ruling by claiming that the case is about something entirely different than it’s actually about. Take for example, the article a few of you sent in from someone pretending that Viacom probably wanted to lose (uh… yeah). Some are raising some interesting questions however. For example, this article by THREsq questions whether or not user-generated content sites will drop their filters now that the judge said they’re not required. This question seems silly for a variety of reasons. First, I don’t think any company is going to act directly in any way based on this ruling — since everyone knows that there’s still an appeals process to go through. Second, there’s no reason why any company would change what they’re doing because everyone in the tech world already knew that the DMCA does not require filters, even though Hollywood wants to pretend it does. If Congress intended the DMCA to require filtering software, it would have included that in the law.

via Techdirt

Feb 11

Know Your Audience

Mark Gill’s 2008 keynote speech at the L.A. Film Festival on the state of independent film was a game changer, so was James D. Stern’s response in 2009. The amount of science Stern dropped was outrageous, but one of his most memorable points is a case study that shows the importance of figuring out who your audience is before you make your film.

It’s pretty short-sighted to think that a quality product will always find an audience.

I was blown away when I found out that the #32 film on the all-time documentary box-office list is a little 2005 film I’d never heard of, called “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” (It’s about wild parrots living on Telegraph Hill, by the way.) Can you imagine how tiny the market sliver is of people willing to take a night out to go see this peculiar-sounding film?

Well, the filmmaker did imagine them. Rather thoughtfully, in fact. And then proceeded to use viral marketing to rally those people into the theater, by making the film an event for every bird-lover on God’s green Earth.

Audubon Society members. Bird-watching clubs. Breeders. Veterinarians. Humane Societies. Feather-fancier magazine subscribers. There are a lot of people out there who really love birds. And I think every last one of them went to this movie.

via Film Independent

Jan 11

Why Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Failed To Find An Audience

Scott Pilgrim’s failure should be a case study for producers and film marketers.
1. Don’t release an honest, representative trailer; release a trailer with mass appeal that wows the cheap seats.

2. Great quality and innovation doesn’t translate into ticket sales.

3. Don’t spend $100 million on a niche movie (especially a niche “musical”) if you expect to make your money back.

Hipsters aren’t geeks and geeks aren’t rock musicians and rock musicians aren’t old school gamers and aging gamers don’t like musicals. In a perfect world none of that would matter and people would simply show up to the theater and be blown away by the innovative level of creativity on display in Scott Pilgrim, but you have to get them there first… Maybe Universal could have lied more in the marketing, but it’s hard to fault them for being honest about the movie they had to offer. They were proud of Edgar Wright’s work, and advertised it accordingly.

via Cinemablend

As a law-student legal clerk at New Media Rights, Shaun Spalding provides pro-bono legal assistance to artists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs and anyone else who creates or shares their work online. If you have any legal questions, you can direct them to Shaun’s supervising attorney. You can tap into what he's thinking via Tumblr, or figure out what he's doing via Twitter: @SASpalding

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