Crispin Glover Using Scarce Resources To Sell His Film... But May Be Limiting His Opportunities

from the think-bigger dept

richw alerts us to an excellent writeup he did about an interview Rich conducted with actor/filmmaker Crispin Glover. Glover's known as a bit of an oddball, but he is doing some interesting things. He's been making a "trilogy" of films, and focusing on selling "scarcities" around the films, focused mainly on his time. Not all that different from one element of Kevin Smith's plan, Glover is touring with the movie and doing Q&A sessions afterwards, along with some other theatrics and a book signing (for which you can buy his various books).

However, Rich notes that he appears to be limiting his overall strategy. While he's focused on selling the scarce, he hasn't also realized the additional value of setting infinite goods free. Instead, according to Rich, he claimed repeatedly that much of what he was doing was due to his fear of piracy. So, he's more or less trying to keep everything exclusive to where he can control it -- so he's not offering any other way to see the movie other than through this tour. This is, certainly, one strategy out there for dealing with the digital marketplace, but it's unlikely to be all that effective long term. Using the infinite as a promotional effort can help increase the value of the scarce good, increasing the audience while also potentially increasing how much they're willing to pay for things. However, in keeping the work locked up, it potentially limits those who know or care about the film, and makes the audience smaller, which is generally not a great business strategy. So there are definitely some interesting lessons to be learned, but it's not clear that this strategy really makes that much sense.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 7:54pm

    "Glover's known as a bit of an oddball"

    That's an understatement. I've been to one of his book signings many years ago. I was super excited but he kind of freaked me out.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 7:58pm

    "However, in keeping the work locked up, it potentially limits those who know or care about the film, and makes the audience smaller, which is generally not a great business strategy."

    Maybe he is cultivating a certain audience. If he can get his audience to pay him a living wage then what does it matter if he doesn't follow the Masnick plan exactly?

     

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    Alias (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 8:17pm

    Locked up

    >> in keeping the work locked up, it potentially limits those who know or care about the film...

    Word, Mike. If you hadn't had a write up of this, I'd have never heard of it. Hey, maybe you should hit him up for some sort of promo cut. :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 8:21pm

    Here's the issue: By keeping the film exclusive like this, he is creating a major scarcity. Now just a preview clip or an interview with a local news channel should be enough to spark people's interest.

    See how it works? You don't have to drop your pants every time to get people's attention.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 8:53pm

    How big does the audience have to be? If this guy can do this tour his way and make a living at it, who's to say he's doing it wrong. Why must everything be about making as much money as possible? What's wrong with making an adequate amount of money and having the freedom to do what you want. Crispian Glover has a very limited audience as it is, one that will greatly appreciate the exclusivity. You can't feel special telling people you saw his movie when they go "yeah, I downloaded it. It was weird."

     

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  6.  
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    Qritiqal (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 8:53pm

    Re:

    You make Mike's point even as you dismiss it.

    The only people who will know about the movie are those who see the preview clip or an interview.

    If he just released his movie (the infinite good) on the internet for all to see, he'd have a MUCH larger market of people aware of the film and thus a MUCH larger market of people that could be interested in the scarce goods he's offering.

    Do you understand this? It seems so simple.

     

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  7.  
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    Qritiqal (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 8:56pm

    Re:

    Again, you make Mike's point even as you dismiss it.

    You say "make a living at it" meaning that it IS about money to some extent, but then why not make it EASIER to "make a living at it" by doing it the RIGHT way?

    Less work, more fun, and he can still do everything his own way, just make it easier for people to see/know about his movie!

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:30pm

    Mass marketing is not always the way to go

    If I throw a party and everyone I want knows about it and comes, why would I feel the need to publicize it to everyone?

    There are advertisers who choose to advertise in highly targeted magazines and at highly targeted events rather than in mass media because they are only interested in a narrow demographic.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 5:48am

    Re: Re:

    Wait.. think past the end of your nose. What would he have a big market for? People coming to see the movie they already saw for free? Remember, all the scarce goods in the world don't sell in an empty room.

     

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    Danny, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 5:56am

    Re:

    Wanting to make a living wage doesn't justify intentionally cutting out potential fans. Its one thing to not have the resources or simply not caring about how many fans he has but as said it seems like he is trying to get as many fans as he can without running the risk of getting robbed by teh pirates.

    Meaning he knows there are fans out there but he's chosen to leave them in the cold under the notion that the pirates will get him.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re:

    If that works for him then why is it an issue? You seem to think only in terms of income. Perhaps income is not his motivation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re:

    Why do you claim that Mike's way is the right way? I'll bet Crispin makes more money than Mike, perhaps Mike is doing it wrong. To Crispin's audience the exclusivity is important. Why give up a small number of high paying fans in exchange for a larger number of fans that might not pay at all? I suspect word of mouth from super fans works better for Crispin than broadcasting to the masses for free.

     

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    Ken, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 7:39am

    Maybe....

    Maybe he is doing this exclusive tour for a while, and then will release the movie in a different way (read: free) in the future? Why can't he have a 2 stage approach to his plan?

     

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    john, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 7:53am

    I've seen Crispin twice with his movies--once in 1996 or 1997, for the first tour of "What is It?" and once last year, and "It is Fine. Everything is Fine!. I'm a fan, but his works have very limited appeal.

    First of all, the shows were both sold out, and I don't think he wants to do any more of them. So I don't see what value there would be in increasing his fanbase.

    Second, as far as I know he loses money on the movies. He takes money from his mainstream acting work and pours it into his art movies. I wouldn't overestimate monetary incentives in his case.

    Finally, his works are deliberately obscure, uncomfortable, and difficult. The fanbase for this kind of thing likes to hear about them "word of mouth"--there's an extent to which obscurity increases the fame of a work. There are plenty of mediocre or just good records that achieve legendary status. Take something like Ceramic Hello. A lot of people like working for years to hear everything from, say, the Nurse with Wound list, simply because the works are inaccessible. They are status goods as much as works of art.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    Finally, his works are deliberately obscure, uncomfortable, and difficult. The fanbase for this kind of thing likes to hear about them "word of mouth"--there's an extent to which obscurity increases the fame of a work.

    Exactly. The "give it-away for free so more people will know about it" is only one possible approach. There are a group of people who want to be part of something before everyone knows about it via the Internet. By the time it has become widely known, they have moved on to something else.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 8:05am

    Re: Maybe....

    Maybe he is doing this exclusive tour for a while, and then will release the movie in a different way (read: free) in the future? Why can't he have a 2 stage approach to his plan?

    Also, he's already got enough fame to draw an audience, so this could be considered his primary offering: the chance to see the film first with him. What purpose would showing the film without him add to the sales pitch? If I have a restaurant and people are already lining up to get in, why would I need to give away free samples?

     

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  17.  
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    Danny, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually I'm thinking in terms of a potential fan. I only heard about this through this post and after looking for tour dates (I could only find through Jan. because I'm at work where most sites are blocked) it looks like he isn't coming around my area.

    I'd like to see what his stuff is all about that's all.

     

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  18.  
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    Huph, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re:

    I'm noticing a similar trend in exclusivity of audience in music over the last few years. Bands giving themselves names that are impossible to Google (the group Girls is one such example), as well as many artists in the "witch-house" genre giving themselves names with complex series of alt+codes and wingdings.

    This post also illustrates another flaw in thinking: at some point the artist has to, you know, CONNECT with the fans. You can gather an audience, scribble your name in as many public places as you can realistically reach, advertise on blogs, give your music away to everyone for promo, but it's worthless if you don't do something special to connect with each individual. And it should be something that makes the person feel special, not the group or society in general. Society is not a "thing", it's simply a designation for a collection of individuals. Focus on the person.

    I think the reality is that you're going to see a lot more of these types of exclusive events that focus on small audiences. I know that in small music scenes, which is seemingly all that's going to be left soon, people undertake active exclusionary tactics. Indie kids will not be welcome by Hardcore kids at a Hardcore show. Straight-Edge kids will violently eject smokers from their shows. Punks don't like hippies. Hip hop beef... well that stuff is legendary and has resulted in murders, nothing more needs to be said. It's not a lovey-dovey world out here by any means.

    And obviously, we all know that lots of people hate anything that's popular. Nevertheless, those people are still a market to be tapped.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re:

    You make a simple mistake here, assuming that Mike's way is the "RIGHT way", as you refer to it as.

    Newsflash: Mike's way isn't the right way, it's just a way, one that works for some and not for others. Free is the easiest selling point in the short term, but has long term negative implications for those people who use it. We can see in the music business where making some music free (through piracy) has pretty much gutted the market price (and often the perceived value) for recorded music. The short term benefits (getting people's attention) do not appear to offset the major decreases in music sales.

    Assuming that Mike is always right is probably the biggest business mistake you could even make.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    I've been to one of Mr. Glover's shows and was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with him.

    I think the monetary angle is over-stated. His main concern that has put him into lockdown mode is that he wants the films to be seen within a certain context. Part of it is that he wants to avoid the "hey check out this film with the retards and the watermelons" response and instead show these admittedly strange films in a setting where he can openly discuss the film-making process. He spends quite a bit of time emphasizing why he made the films -- namely to show that people with Down's Syndrome can act in a context where their part isn't about them having Down's Syndrome. His first film had one of his collaborators as an actor, a man who cerebral palsy who I believe died right around the time he finished filming the second film. Here again, Glover didn't want this man's brave display of his body taken out of context.

    Dropping these movies out on BitTorrent is directly opposed to how he wants these films to be experienced.

    He said that he only took the part in Charlie's Angels 2 to finance his films. These are a labor of love for him, not cash. He isn't willing to let the films go free of context and he has made his choice with his eyes open.

     

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