Here’s the latest news.



More turmoil in the film festival world this past week but I am still hopeful about a path for film and filmmakers - much of it coming from the vibrant activity in our community to find solutions.  I am part of a bi-weekly Zoom distribution discussion group that is trying to do just that.  Last week the organizers asked everyone to contribute their “5 Best Practices to Get Audiences Into Seats”.   I thought I would share my five with all of you: 

1.  Know Your Audience.(for your film and for you personally)- how they consume media - what creates value for them - where they reside in space - geographically, online, organizationally. 

2. Cultivate Your Audience Over Time - (not just for this film but for your career) develop and cultivate an email list (or however your audience wants to stay connected with you). These super fans are very important in many ways: not the least of which is to get them to come to your screenings and get other people to do so as well. 

3. Outreach to your communities/organizations nationally and locally.  Start early - engage them in the process - give them ownership. This can work for fiction as well as docs if done creatively.  In our releases we find that outreach is the key factor to get people into theaters for smaller films -  much more than advertising/social media/press - I have heard this from many other people as well.

4. Create Events - At least filmmaker q&a, better the subject, better yet music and/or panel discussion or something new and fun. Specifics determined by what will engage your audience and encourage them to come out.

5. Create Community and events for that community. For exhibitors make your theater as a hub of activity that understands how people want to engage with events and event spaces.  The new Vidiots space in LA does this very well.  Be open to one night specialized events in a variety of formats. What kind of experiences does your community want? How can cinema fit that? How to expand the conception of those experiences to make people excited to engage in your space?  (As a distributor I find that many venues are very accommodating and adventurous and these are wonderful partners! But we still face theaters that don’t want to do one night events, don’t want to make accommodations for music, staff that doesn't want to be bothered (literally once turning off the lights during a Q&A to get people out of the theater)).

I agree that a lot of the above have been repeated ad naseam - but while many people are following these guidelines and more - many people/institutions don’t - and that’s why they keep being repeated.

One Best Practice that was suggested by others in the group that I think is wonderful: How certain theaters and festivals are programming films and events for people under 18, especially children, to encourage families to start making cinema-going a habit that is carried through to adulthood to create new generations of audience.  At Sundance, Barbara Twist, head of Film Festival Alliance, told me about an initiative she and Lela Meadow-Conner from Arthouse Convergence are developing around this concept - hopefully more on that soon.

If you agree/disagree on any of this- have other thoughts or suggestions - I’d love to hear them - just hit reply and let me know.

Gina Gershon on Plantscendence

Gina Gershon is a good friend, 3rd cousin by marriage and really good at titles - she is the one who came up with the title for my podcast Plantscendence. She is our guest this week talking about how ketamine helped her get over her debilitating depression.  Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Last week’s guest Sitamaraya Sita was the ceremonialist that I did my first entheogenic experience/ayahuasca with - so if you want to hear about the start of my journey - take a listen to that as well.

The Ride Ahead at Hot Docs

The Ride Ahead premiers at Hot DocsI have had the good fortune to work with Dan Habib - previously on his film Intelligent Lives.  Currently I am advising him and his co-director Sam Habib on their new film The Ride Ahead which is premiering at Hot Docs with other festivals scheduled and in the works.  The Ride Ahead follows Sam Habib who is a typical 21-year-old, itching to move out, start a career and find love. But no one tells you how to be an adult, let alone an adult with a disability. Can a community of disability activists help him follow his dreams?  Its a beautiful and fascinating film that will have a very long and productive life.

Continued Turmoil

Unfortunately the announcement of the premiere of The Ride Ahead was a week before a mass resignation of programmers at Hot Docs- no less than one month before the festival opens.  But Dan and Sam are very pro-active filmmakers and because they know that they have to be responsible for their own release - they are taking this in stride and feel confident that this will not adversly affect their launch. Time and again I have seen filmmakers who take matters into their own hands, are then not dependent on unstable systems and as a result continue to persevere and succeed.  This is needed in these crazy times where this week alone also saw the closing of the venerable Human Rights Watch Film Festival as well as the resignation of Joanna Vicente from her position as CEO of the Sundance Institute who oversaw the emergence of Sundance from the pandemic culminating in one of my favorite Sundance experiences this year under the helm of Eugene Hernandez along with the rest of their excellent staff. 


I'm planning to attend this years reinvention of the Arthouse Convergence IND/EX.  Looking forward to meeting arthouse and festival programmers from around the US as we discuss how to create a more robust and vibrant screening culture!  There's just 8 weeks left to register for IND/EX at the regular rate. Registering now saves you $200 over the "last call" rate. The IND/EX team is cooking up some truly excellent programming (more than 30 sessions and workshops!)

I'll also be at Getting Real this year - 8 Above will be co-hosting a get together with the DPA and The Film Collaborative. For $75 off either an All Access or a Virtual Together pass, please apply discount code ZQ38THKMN32X8KY at checkout at our Getting Real '24 Pass Purchase site. GETTING REAL ‘24 will be held April 15–18, 2024 in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. All conference events, with the exception of select closed sessions, will be live streamed to virtual passholders and available for post-conference viewing on IDA’s YouTube channel.  Hope to see you there!