Review: Filmmakers, Are You Thinking Outside of the Box Office?

by | February 22, 2010 | Uncategorized

From Patty Fantasia | Filmmakers Notebook

Filmmakers: Are You Thinking Outside of the Box Office?

This year I bought myself one Christmas present – a copy of Think Outside the Box Office written by filmmaker Jon Reiss. Without a doubt it should be required reading for anyone interested in making movies from amateurs to seasoned professionals, especially since traditional distribution models have been broken and the current alternatives are being constantly evaluated and debated.

During the past year I have read numerous articles, scoured blogs and attended conferences looking for hardcore, factual information in this area and it has been difficult to find and assimilate. Several times I have wondered when the data out there would be consolidated in one place and now it finally is. Think Outside the Box Office is the blueprint filmmakers have been waiting for, providing step by step instructions for marketing and distribution including how to build audiences, plan strategies and develop and manage websites, transmedia and digital rights.

It is evident that this book was written by a filmmaker for filmmakers, as we are given the opportunity to learn from Jon’s mistakes and experiences and read in his own words how he has been promoting and selling his projects in this new world. The book covers everything from getting started, to planning theatrical events, to handling marketing and publicity. It won’t do the work for you, but it will give you the knowledge you need in order to get the job done.

Think Outside the Box Office details most, if not all, the options out there and summarizes the current confusing state of affairs plaguing the industry. It is also apparent that Reiss is very aware of the transient nature of some of the information he is writing about. Since delivery systems are in flux, this is more of a how to cope with the current situation and thrive type of book, rather than being the roadmap to a final destination. What Jon has created is a solid work in progress, answering many questions and offering specific resources that can help others succeed.

One key fact to keep in mind, is that while filmmakers are being given this data, it is going to be up to them to determine the best way in which to utilize it. The book emphasizes the need for developing a strategy from the moment a script is found and pre-production begins. Because of this I found Chapter Six, Rethinking Marketing, to be of particular interest. Jon mentions having Marketing Producers or Consultants on the development team and suggests this may be an effective solution, since not all filmmakers have the skills or the inclination to take on these tasks. From what I’ve observed it seems that many prefer limiting their focus to making films, so adding team members to handle these functions is a logical progression. There is also a lot of discussion going on about the value of marketing and how it fits into the new distribution paradigms. I think filmmakers are going to have to evaluate projects individually and then decide what is going to work best. This book covers a multitude of options that can be used to develop unique strategies, which is another reason why I refer to it as a blueprint.

There are several gifts Reiss has added into this material, including sample budgets showing cost breakdowns for both materials and expenses. It is necessary for filmmakers to build these charges into their initial budgets, so that P & A is covered and not left to chance or else their projects will have even more limited distribution options. Another plus is the Appendix, which offers advice from such notable filmmakers as Curt Ellis and Ben Niles. If you are making films now or considering doing so in the future, Think Outside the Box Office is a tool you must have. Just think of it as the shot list for your film’s marketing and distribution programs.