Archive for the ‘documentary’ Category

Oprah's Documentary Club- much better than free cars

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Oprah Winfrey has started a documentary club. To some observers, this is cause for alarm. After all, look at what she’s done to books! Mysterious, important things like books are now being manhandled by the great unwashed, with big decals on them no less.

I’m fond of old fashioned things, but the attitude that some things should be above the mass market is beyond stodgy. It’s simply unrealistic to suggest that certain things should be kept in box A or B when the way we access most cultural information is boundless. Any way to help certain films or books or conceptual art projects reach an audience has value.

Boundless access also means that no matter how many resources go into OWN, it does not “hurt” other films. It’s much more likely that increasing documentary awareness among Oprah’s audience will allow other filmmakers with subjects or styles appropriate for the OWN audience to take advantage of the marketing going into the general programming.

And filmmakers who are seeing the license fees OWN is paying are likely not unhappy, either.

When new things come along, try exploring how the new thing can be useful before trying to put the cat back in the bag. Pet the cat a little.

Digital Doc Distribution- San Francisco Ed.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I’ll be presenting a workshop on Digital Doc Distribution at SFFS on June 7- discussing how doc filmmakers can reach their audiences in the current environment. There are great new opportunities as well as some challenges but overall, the changes can be a little confusing and it’s good to know about tools and resources to make it easier to manage.

Filmmaker Jen Gilomen will be on hand to talk about her film DEEP DOWN and we will talk specifically about projects in the room as well as about digital marketing and distribution tools doc filmmakers can use today.

Thom Powers on the success of Stranger Than Fiction

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

A video made for THE MAIN EVENT: Finding YOUR Audience, a panel I moderated at SXSW. Thom Powers, founder of the fantastic NYC doc series Stranger Than Fiction and doc programmer for TIFF, shares a few tips with filmmakers hoping to capture some of STF’s success for their own releases.

Thom Powers on making a doc screening a success from Laure X on Vimeo.

Play/Pause Ted Hope

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Ted Hope interviewed for the new documentary Press/Pause/Play. Hope may be the most important voice right now in the emerging film–>next world, not only because he has had success with the old model but because he has an intuitive understanding of how technology, creativity and communication with the audience intersect. And he is still making movies.

Festivals! Conferences!

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Just flagging some upcoming events I’ll be attending at which I hope to see you and give you one of my new cards.

Making Your Media Matter- DC, February 11-12 “Cutting-edge practices for making your media matter”

Free Culture X- DC, February 13-14 “Free software and open standards, open access scholarship, open educational resources, network neutrality, and university patent policy”

South By Southwest- Austin, March 12-18 (Presenting a panel about event screenings and attracting audiences)

The Conversation NY- March 27 “New business and creative opportunities” in film and media

Copyright, docs, Lessig, licenses

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Recently in The National Republic, Lawrence Lessig addressed the issue of copyright in documentaries and how it is keeping classic films like Eyes on the Prize out of commercial circulation. The problem is that filmmakers must clear copyright for archival elements in their work such as television clips and music, and generally the licenses for these clips is for a limited time period like 10 or 20 years. After that time, the filmmaker would need to clear (i.e. re-license) all of the archivals again in order to sell the work.

For most docs, this can be extremely onerous since the opportunity for revenue is small whereas the cost of the licenses is often significant.

I’m on the committee for the Women’s Film Preservation Committee through NY Women in Film and we worry about preserving the negatives of films that are decaying, fading, or otherwise in danger of being lost. But Lessig’s point is well-taken that without adjusting the issues around copyright, many of these films are effectively vanishing regardless of the quality of available prints.

Digital distribution has changed the meaning of copyright, and in some ways it’s made the original copyright holders more avaricious. They feel like they need to get all they can from television clips and music placed in films, as it’s one of the few reliable revenue sources left for content.

But Lessig’s essay prompts an interesting solution. What if, for example, there were some kind of limitation placed on the initial license period, after which all usage reverted to a straight royalty system based on percentage of the work? For example, if you used a clip of the Kennedy assassination in your film, you would have to pay whatever the market rate was for a 20-year license.

But after that time, you would have to pay a royalty to the rightsholder based on how long the clip was versus how long your film was against whatever revenue you received from the film, unless you got a deferral or consideration from the rightsholder. This could be used for music rights for fiction films as well, in theory.

2010: Odyssey Two (Or, it's my year)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The year is starting out with big news for me- I’m leaving my job as Director of Home Media Sales & Marketing at Zeitgeist Films, where I’ve been in charge of selling DVDs and the move to internet and VOD licensing.

I’ve decided to return to the equally if even less logical pursuit of making docs, consulting, and looking for a sustainable day job. I’m very excited and I hope I’ll be able to give readers of this blog an even more first-hand take on the challenges and opportunities for filmmakers today.

Stay tuned!

The Free North- Fun stuff from TIFF

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Some cool stuff from the Toronto International Film Festival last week:

Liesl Copland, formerly of Netflix and now with William Morris Endeavor’s Global Finance & Distribution Group, gave a keynote at the Doc Conference about the state of digital and what it means for the industry. The takewaway: theatrical still has life; filmmakers need to learn about metrics; crowdsourcing is the new focus group.

Ted Hope, as captured by indieWIRE’s Eugene Hernandez, about Hope’s Doing It With Others (DIWO) philosophy. The takeaway: Blog, tweet, Facebook your whole life- or at least your projects and interact with other people using those tools. (He’s made a lot of films but does he have time now with all these social networks? He says yes.)

A conversation with a number of distributors in the New York Times about the state of distribution and what’s to come. The most interesting response for me was IFC prexy Jonathan Sehring’s, when asked about the glut of films in the marketplace (something the other respondents universally decried, as per conventional wisdom).

The one comment from my colleagues that drives me nuts is that there are “too many movies.” If one looks at specialized film as “art,” it is the only art form I can think where people who work within the industry say there are “too many” of. I never hear anyone in the music industry say there are too many songs, no one in publishing says there are too many books, no gallery or museum says there are too many paintings, no one in fashion says there are too many designers — why too many movies? When my colleagues say this it sounds like the anti-immigration, protectionist rhetoric from the far right.

Pat Aufderheide from the Center for Social Media on ‘what she learned at TIFF’- the takeaway: People still find Peter Broderick’s “DIY” presentation new, even after about 500 wears- he must be using Tide with Bleach Alternative! Also, go see some good docs.