03 June 2010

Jon Reiss' TOTBO Tips of the Day - Week 7

by guest columnist Jon Reiss.  Follow him on Twitter.

This week’s tips concern the re-born “theatrical” movement in the US and around the world for independent film.  I’m a firm believer that film should be screened in front of live audiences – which is one form of our millennia old tradition of telling stories in a communal environment – usually in the dark (in the old days in front of a fire).   (ps it’s a 4 day week in honor of Memorial Day weekend)


Tip 31 Embrace Live Event/Theatrical

What I call “Live Event/Theatrical” is being reborn in the US with more films using a robust outside of the box booking strategy utilizing a wide variety of venues to screen their works.  I call these Live Event/Theatrical because: 1. They emphasize the live audience and the benefits that come from screening your film in front of an audience.  2.  The Title emphasizes the event nature of the screenings –and I feel it is important for independents to embrace events (not just throw out screenings from Fri-Thurs) 3.  We want to retain the ability to say that we’ve had a theatrical release – hence Theatrical – without having to succumb to the expenses or restrictions of what is known in the industry as “theatrical”.  The tips for the next week or so will concern live event theatrical releases.

Tip 32 Use Organizational Partners

If you have laid the groundwork with organizational partners, you can have them organize many of your screenings what Lisa Smithline calls DIFY – or Do It For You.  This is one of the many added benefits of starting your distribution and marketing groundwork from the beginning.  Even if they don’t do the actual screening organization, they can provide audience, support structure, event production, and event talent.  If you don’t have an organization – but have an engaged audience – you can work with your audience in this way too.  

Again this is one of the many topics that are covered in depth in the workshops.  In NY we are fortunate to have social engagement strategist Sheri Candler and community outreach specialist Caitlin Boyle giving presentations!  In Vancouver we have Colleen Nystadt from Movieset!

Tip 33 When Booking Your Film: Do Your Research

Of course you have done your organizational research, but assuming you are still going to book some conventional theaters the first step is: Research. Most information you need to book your film is readily available online. There are already lists of theaters that book independent films available online.  My distribution and marketing tools site: ultimatefilmguides.com has a list of these lists!  Most theaters have Web sites, and in nearly all of them, the office number can be found if you look hard enough. To compile your list of theaters to contact, check out where other similar independent films have played.

Tip 34 When Booking Your Film: Make the Call

When calling the theater, ask for the person in charge of programming. These bookers are generally very nice people who love film. Why else would they be involved with small theaters that make no money? And remember, it is important to call first before sending an e-mail. An e-mail cannot express your passion, nor will an e-mail exchange allow you to address the bookers‘ concerns about your film in a direct and instantaneous fashion. I always followed up my phone calls with an e-mail and not the other way around.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6th organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13th.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents my theatrical pitch letter and a list of theater listings etc.  I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here.  

Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed filmmaker who has produced and directed three feature films, most recently Bomb It (Tribeca 2007) about graffiti, street art and the battle over visual public space throughout the world. Jon is the author of Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era. For more information go to http://jonreiss.com/blog  or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jon_Reiss

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