Jon Reiss in SF Gate: What today’s indie filmmakers need to have

by | February 12, 2010 | Uncategorized

From Hugh Hart

WHAT TODAY’S INDIE FILMMAKERS NEED TO HAVE

TODAY’S INDIE FILMMAKERS HAVE TO HAVE A LITTLE SCORSESE, A LOT OF BILL GATES

It’s a matter of brute math, the way documentary maker-turned author Jon Reiss sees it. Only a fraction of movies submitted to top film festivals are accepted, and of those, only a handful get picked up for distribution by major Hollywood studios. That means the majority of independent filmmakers are left hanging when it comes to getting their work in front of paying audiences. Reiss aims to address that quandary in his new book “Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era.”

“Filmmakers have to start thinking like entrepreneurs,” he says, “and not just say, ‘I’m this little filmmaker in my cubbyhole creating a work of art and someone else is going to take it and show it to people.’ That’s old school. It does not exist anymore. My book deals with the notion that making the film is half the process and finding an audience is the other half.”

Reiss, who made the graffiti documentary “Bomb It” in 2007, argues that artists need to become creative and circumvent conventional distribution and marketing models. Merchandise, for example, spreads awareness while producing revenue, Reiss says.

“Filmmakers can sell T-shirts and other products to their fans,” he says. “One of the people I talked to at Sundance made a movie with a lot of alcohol in it so he could merchandise shot glasses and pot paraphernalia branded with the name of his film.”

Filmmakers should also be open-minded about venues, Reiss says.

“A theatrical release does not have to be in a building with its own projection and sound systems. Churches, clubs, parking lots, even living rooms with big home entertainment displays – wherever audiences congregate and watch a film as a communal experience from beginning to end, in the dark – in my book, that’s a theatrical screening.”