The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful in Film Distribution This Week
This week Ovid announced a collaboration with Means.TV in which they would each promote their networks to their audiences. This is a long running successful strategy by YouTubers (who independent filmmakers could learn a thing or two from). Popular YouTubers regularly appear on each others channels - cross-promoting each other's audiences. I've been thinking of a variety of ways that filmmakers and those within our ecosystem could do something similar. I also believe that while there might need to be some bigger/broader initiatives - our success will really be built on "smaller" collaborations like the one between Ovid and Means.TV. I'm a particular fan of Means.tv because they are a worker owned.
Please share any movement/policies, programs, solutions that you are seeing or thinking of - I would love to hear about them!
Next is mixed bad news/good news: A letter from the UK Doc Film Council signed by many UK doc makers noting that doc filmmaking in the UK is facing an "existential threat." The letter goes on: “Production funding for independent docs is chronically low and support for development, let alone distribution and exhibition, is practically non-existent. Sustaining careers in these conditions is all but impossible aside for a relatively privileged few, which has direct implications for filmmaker wellbeing and the docs sector’s devastating lack of diversity.”
The good news aspect of this is that it is from an organization formed last year to help deal with this threat: the UK Doc Film Council. It received government funding in the UK to do so. Govt funding for this is unlikely in the US but I would suggest that it is time for organizations and philanthropists with interests in this area to do something similar here (and I'm looking to be involved in these initiatives). These new entities then need to connect on a global level. The tech giants are certainly functioning on a global level.
The Bad (and frankly the Ugly): While the collapse of Passion River and the pain and financial loss it cost its filmmakers - not to mention the time and review history lost for their films etc is not new news. however this week Kelly Thomas' wrote a post about the situation on Distribution Advocates Substack (which I recommend subscribing to). Unfortunately I am hearing from a couple filmmakers that another formerly storied aggregator hasn't paid them or even sent statements in over six months. They both surprisingly received a letter from an employee of that company suggesting that they take action against the company! Perhaps it might be time for a webinar with filmmakers discussing how filmmakers can respond when their distributor starts to fail.
And now for the beautiful, which perhaps is laying it on a bit thick - but it made the headline sing: Our release, My Love Affair with Marriage, which is a beautiful movie, is having super successful run so far selling out screenings in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston with sizable turnouts in all the other markets even outselling Taylor Swift in Glendale! This on top of a NY Times Critics Pick and a rave THR review and an avalanche of other press. What we are finding is that getting butts in seats is the hard work of community outreach (what we call Impact Event Theatrical) via domestic violence and women-centered nonprofits, animators and Latvians. Its nothing new to say that identifying specific audiences and engaging those audiences for a release is a path to success - but it is good to see that it continues to work and form a path for filmmakers. We have found this to be crucial for theatrical releases - even non-documentaries like this My Love Affair with Marriage.
FILM FATALES AND THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE
WOMEN, LIFE, FREEDOM BY NASRIN SOTOUDEH
One of the films we released during the pandemic was Nasrin about the Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh directed by Jeff Kaufman. She has just published a book (from prison) Women, Life, Freedom: Our Fight for Human Rights and Equality in Iran for which she is receiving the 2023 Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal TODAY! Jeff wrote the foreword. The ebook is free, and a copy of the actual book is just $7.99. Jeff also did a wonderful job editing the book for Nasrin with Parisa who was the translator.
Super proud of my former assistant Rory-Owen Delany on the acquisition of his podcast about Leonard Peltier by Wondery+ (Wondery's subscription podcast service). The podcast series details the life of Leonard Peltier and injustices committed against him. Leonard, a Native American activist was falsely accused of killing two FBI agents in 1977. In 2000 he was proved innocent yet he remains behind bars today. You can now listen to the entire series, including four final unreleased episodes of season two on Wondery+.