sujewa films nyc

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where people who can write well about films are needed

Not a link to a help wanted page (sorry :), but, some thoughts & perhaps useful suggestions for film critics, film bloggers, or anyone who likes writing about film and are interested in doing more - both to further develop the independent film world & also to create possible new revenue streams for themselves:

- Indiewood maybe dying, but the number of people making films, spending money on films, and watching films are expanding:

I've spoken with - whether in person or through e-mail - perhaps over 50 indie filmmakers in the past year, and, despite challenges involved in making & marketing & making money from indie films, not one person is planning on getting out of indie filmmaking & most, if not all, are actually planning on expanding their filmmaking practices in the coming years - bigger budgets, new equipment, more titles, trying different genres, etc. So, indie film is not going to die anytime soon - but rather looks to expand in the coming years. In fact, as long as indie filmmakers keep making films and at least a very small segment of the population keeps watching them, indie film can't die.

HOWEVER

Not enough films are being written about, or being written well about. Of the several thousand films rejected by Sundance, is it possible that there are a few hundred good titles there? Most definitely. If I were a film writer I would try to track those down, check 'em out, & write about the best of them.

Such action would be a part of the re-invention of indie film that is going on in all sectors. Production is being re-invented (HDV, HD, Red Camera, etc.), distribution is being re-invented (DIY experiments, digital distribution experiments), financing is being re-invented (IndieGoGo, re-evaluating filmmaking as a possible non-profit service, etc.), so, it would be a good idea for film writers to look at areas in the indie film world where their skills maybe useful - non-traditional employment - as opposed to getting paid by a newspaper or a magazine to review a film or write an article about a film - take a look at how they can collaborate with filmmakers, audiences, distribution companies and other groups that make up the indie film world while also providing their traditional services - criticism, interviews, and articles about films, makers, actors, and other articles related to film.

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A good film writer can be very useful to the indie film world. And, so far, I do not see enough of them.

Yes, we've got the people who write for indieWIRE, and Spout, and Cinematical & such sites - and a lot of them to a pretty good job most of the time, but, how those sites make decisions on what to write about still seem to be based on how the indie film world worked in the 1990's. Basically, if a film is playing at a big festival or is getting distributed by a distribution company it gets written about. I would say that at this point, out of the probably 5,000 - 10,000 indie films being made every year in the US, the films that reach the audience through the 90's methods (somewhat established distributors and film festivals) are probably the great minority. If not already, then very soon, some type of filmmaker initiated/partnered DIY distribution route will be the way the vast majority of indie films will connect with their audience.

IT IS POSSIBLE THAT FILM WRITERS COULD FORM THE NEW CORE OF THE NEW INDIE FILM WORLD.

Basically film writers can now decide if they will primarily play a follower & supporting role to indie film distributors & festivals as they have done for years or they can, if they want, play more of a leading role in shaping the new indie film scene.

Since the web is popular and publishing on the web is cheaper than publishing in print, film writers could seek out & discover indie films outside of the normal channels (distributors, film fests) and then by writing about the films they like they would be creating, or helping to create, new careers, new revenue streams, and will generally be expanding the indie film world.

FILM WRITERS - INSTEAD OF BEING JUST CREATIVES - SHOULD ALSO LOOK AT BEING ENTREPRENEURS & COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS

Or at least collaborating with entrepreneurs to build indie film review & news websites, & possibly print versions (quarterly magazines, etc.) of such sites. What if the site you build is awesome & you get 10,000 dedicated, loyal readers a year? Would such a site be valuable to advertisers? Sure, probably as valuable as an indie film fest, if not more so.

FILMMAKER SERVICES

Film writers could work with some of the thousands of new & veteran indie filmmakers who make a feature every year in America. Some areas where it would be a good idea for an indie filmmaker to employ a film writer, to consider them as a part of the production & distribution team:

- creation of all written material about the film: from the synopsis to web sites to e-mail campaigns to blogs to press releases to posters to DVD covers and beyond. Indie filmmakers are not the best at writing about their own work, so, a film writer who likes the project may be able to produce far better & more useful written material regarding the project. In turn adding to the value of the film in the eyes of the audiences.

On even a $10K film, it would be well worth the money to spend $1K on getting a great film writer to assist the filmmaker on all written material regarding the project.

WHAT OR WHO WILL MAKE UP THE CORE OF THE INDIE FILM WORLD - DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES AND FESTIVALS OR PEOPLE WHO ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT FILM & LOVE WRITING ABOUT FILM?

It is probably a good idea to set things up so that the points where filmmakers and audiences connect are not only through film distributors or through film festivals, but also, and perhaps by and largely through (since writing an article about a film is far more affordable than paying for a theatrical run or DVD release or producing a film festival) people who write about film.

POSSIBLE FUTURE:

1. Dude stumbles (through e-mail, an ad, Facebook, MySpace, word of mouth, whatever) onto a web review or an article about a film that he's never heard of but sounds very interesting.

2. There's a link in the article to the filmmaker's website.

3. Dude goes over to the filmmaker's site & orders the DVD.

4. Everyone is happy.

WHAT ABOUT FILMS THAT ARE HATED BY THE CRITICS & OTHER FILM WRITERS?

The makers of those films will find other ways to market them. Billions of $s have been made through the distribution of films that were mostly not loved by reviewers & other film writers.

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Anyway, THE BIG IDEA:

1. Thousands of people are spending millions of dollars making indie films in America, every year.

2. Tens of thousands of people are paying tens of millions of dollars or more consuming indie films in America.

3. Not enough indie films get written about 'cause they are not following a 1990's indie release pattern - distribs & fests - 'cause those paths have narrowed - & thus good films may never be made available for audiences because no one has heard about them, written about them.

4. At least several hundred people are really good at writing about films, and most of them are or have been let go of their traditional employers (newspapers), and it would be very easy for them to start up a film blog & start working on collaborating with the indie film world on new ventures.

5. Basically I see many ways for film writers to get paid by taking a more collaborative & leadership role in the indie film world as opposed to playing the traditional distanced critic/reviewer/journalist role.

What do you think film writers?

- Sujewa

ps: The Kevin Lee Situation creates another area where leadership by film writers will be necessary & useful - helping the rest of the world figure out what is intellectual property theft & what is essential quoting from intellectual property in order to discuss, understand, & possibly contribute to the increase of value of that intellectual property.


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