Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Content, Distribution and Shameless Self-Promotion!

With a new year comes the opportunity for new projects, new energies and new chances to get the art out!  I have just finished a feature entitled Mr. Bricks:  A Heavy Metal Murder Musical.   We started pre-production last January and here we are a year later with a completed film!  My goal is to crank out one of these films a year.

I have found when working in the "B Movie" world content is king.  I work at Troma Entertainment and Lloyd Kaufman  has discovered that maintaining a healthy web presence with his informative PSA's and trailers for new releases helps Troma stay in the forefront of the fans minds.  This is also the case with many web series, content is king and new content helps the creator stay fresh and relevant from month to month and week to week.  The worst thing that can happen is for people to forget or not know that YOU the creator of content exist!  The internet is such a chasm of content it is difficult to stay ahead of the curve.  But if you have good content, a niche, something that people are interested in, chances are you can stay in the game for a good while longer.

Which brings me to another point.  There is nothing wrong with self-promotion!  This is another crucial thing I have learned at Troma.  Lloyd Kaufman is a huge proponent of doing whatever it takes to get your work out there even if a little ahem, fellatio is involved.  In film school it seemed to me the prevailing attitude of self-promotion was a form of selling out, a form of whoredom!  In fact, in film school there were no classes for distribution or promotion, you just finished your film and hoped it would secure a deal in the carnival land of film fests.  Today, the chance of securing a good distribution deal at a film festival is nil, next to zero.  In the 90s, film fests were the hot ticket for distro (from here on out distribution will be referred to as distro, because it easier to write and it makes me sound like I am using hot industry jargon!) after Pulp Fiction hit in 94, film buyers were clamoring for the next big thing.  Pulp Fiction had changed the filmmaking landscape, now low budget quirky indie movies with fractured storylines were all the raaaaagggge!  Filmmakers had a better chance of obtaining a distro deal with real money involved.

Fast forward 16 years later.  The DVD business is hanging on by a thread and piracy is running rampant.  The music industry is hemorrhaging money and is all but dead.  Musicians like filmmakers now have to go the route of self-distribution, which in itself is not a bad thing.  The major labels usually end up ripping off the musicians anyway, and in a last ditch effort to save money and the dying label business the music industry has resorted to suing single mothers and anyone else who has illegally downloaded music.  They have shown their true face and greedy fangs... whoa wait, hold on... I digress, this is an issue for another blog!  

The point is the commerce of art whether it be movies, books or music has changed and the name of the game is survival of the fittest.  And where does this leave the creator of the content?  If you can't survive making art or selling it, what's left? How about giving it away for free!  That's right, say your film gets pirated, you can do one of two things.  Fight the website who has pirated your movie with a cease and desist letter or look at it as free advertising!  If you can't get your movie into fests, consider the internet the biggest film festival of all!  Millions of viewers are potentially watching your film and your name is getting out there, hell some forums might even start spreading your name and movie.

Nina Paley, who made the excellent Sita Sings the Blues cannot distribute her film because of legal issues concerning the music used in the movie.  Sucks right?  Seems like all is lost, however, she has put the movie on her website and let PBS air it for free... and what happened?  She GOT MONEY!  On her website she offers merchandise for the film and people who like her movie have given her donations which to this date has totaled over 6 figures.  The game has changed.  You know the expression, "if you love something set it free?"  This might be the new mantra for artists working in the 21st century.  The point is nobody knows what will work when it comes to distro on the internet and small indie film/music companies offer next to nothing for acquiring your work.  Self distribution is a whole new beast and will be a subject for many other blogs!

Until then, if you want to learn more about distro check out this scene from Direct Your Own Damn Movie, a film I co-directed with Lloyd Kaufman and edited, available at (see there's that self-promotion at work!).  This clip features directors Eli Roth (Hostel, Hostel II) and William Lustig (Maniac, Manic Cop) talking about the best ways to distribute your film.

Until next time friends, keep working and plugging away!

Trav of All Trades