Review: DIY Filmmaking | Think Outside the Box Office and Tips from Bomb It!’s Jon Reiss

by | January 26, 2010 | Uncategorized

From Adam David Mezei (Thanks Adam for the nice words!)

DIY Filmmaking | Think Outside the Box Office and Tips from Bomb It!’s Jon Reiss

I spent Sunday evening flipping through Winter 2010’s edition of Filmmaker Magazine, fresh off the press for January. I stumbled across two excellent DIY articles, one called REMIND (p84) penned by its aspiring editor, the filmmaker Scott Macaulay that reported on several hot do-it-yourself trends from 2009, some of which set to become the norm for the coming decade and beyond. The second was by the excellent guest editor Alicia Van Couvering (“SLUMPDAYS,” p90), who gave a clever summary of five Sundance-entry films that recently shattered the independent funding sound barrier using innovative crowdsourced fundraising approaches which helped catapult these titles all the way to Park City.

For all you indie filmmakers out there, these are less ironclad stepwise prescriptions to follow rather than helpful departure points to jog your memory and inspire you as you go about your own filmmaking odyssey.

That dude pictured above is none other than Jon Reiss, director of the documentary Bomb It and the man most well-known among indie circles as “the DIY guy,” having recently penned the book Think Outside the Box Office in what’s become a key resource for indie filmmakers presently the road to landing traction (read: distribution) for their film. Yes, folks, this is filmmaking’s dirty little secret.

Normally, I’ll blow through a book’s pages in just a couple of sittings. Sure, I’ll take notes and reflect on things as I do so, but T.O.T.B.O. isn’t the sort of work you want to plough through like quicksilver. Instead, and on Jon’s advice in the book which he gets to rather early on, I’ve opted for a more considered approach this time, chapter by chapter with ample breaks in between to put several of the tips Jon suggests in into play. I can safely say that some of Jon’s suggestions have reaped already dividends for us. I’ve plucked out gems about how to better leverage my Facebook and YouTube presences, with nifty ideas on how to gain increased video views and tips on how to better leverage my use of Facebook Groups (better) and FB Fan Pages (not so good) for keeping fans in the loop. Most of all, I admire what Jon repeatedly counsels about conceiving your film’s marketing plan months in advance of your shoot. Jon supplies helpful approaches on compiling your mailing list, your film’s credit list (for when the film locks), and makes available unheard-of indie marketing strategies for geo-locating your fans through such innocuous things like US zip codes to more accurately pinpoint fans when passing through various parts of the country on road shows or for film festivals.

Jon also talks about the appointment of a new position called the “PMD” – Producer of Marketing and Distribution – someone who has production-level authority yet who isn’t directly related to the actual shooting and production of the film because then the P&A (prints and advertising) duties won’t ever be completed. This individual is your point person on the following items in your marketing arsenal, among others, and this position will scale closer to your film’s post-production:

* keeping on top of all Facebook posts, FB Groups and their management, and replying to all comments in a very timely manner. The PMD posts clips, links, and other relevant items of interest to your film’s FB Wall as you go through the production cycle.
* maintaining sole login access to your film’s twitter account, so that the film stays on message and all “@” mentions are responded to on time.
* establishing strategic relationships across various social media spheres as your picture picks up speed.
* moderating and responding to all comments off your blog and keeping content current and tasty off your homepage.
* gaining media exposure for the film, managing your interview schedule, taking phone calls, and various other line responsibilities that have a PA-feel to them, but which aren’t the sole purview of the officially-designated Production Assistant.
* collecting email addresses at festivals.
* shooting DVD Bonus Feature material or organizing spare bits of festival Q&A and other odds and ends for your film’s Special Features.

With social media and Web2.0 taking center stage in the new indie filmmaking cycle, Facebook-ing, MySpace-ing, tweeting, and blog commenting are here to stay. They are the bane of filmmakers, given how it tends to detract from the creative process, but Reiss clearly emphasizes how the new distribution realities in the filmmaking world now compel filmmakers to elevate these daily chores to a higher priority position given how notions like crowdsourcing and “the cloud” and such similar concepts have gained prominence over the past three years.

I’ve been enjoying the read, and I’m sure you will as well.