Filmmaker Discusses Creative Marketing, Freeing Up Movies, Embracing New Business Models

from the sounds-cool dept

Nathan Smith alerts us to an interesting interview with filmmaker Sally Potter, discussing her new movie Rage, which has a variety of unique and interesting facets to it. The movie -- which has a bunch of famous actors, including Jude Law, Judi Dench, Steve Buscemi, Diane Wiest, John Leguizamo and others -- is being released first on mobile phones, with a different part of it released each day for a week (I believe this past week). The film is supposed to be from the view of a cameraphone, so that makes sense. But, Potter has also worked hard to cultivate a strong fanbase through a variety of online methods. And, of course, she's all about embracing "free," embracing what the technology enables, and thinks the rest of Hollywood is a bit silly to live in fear and try to lock everything down:
FNB: It's true, everyone is talking about this, what is the economic model? Is there one?

SP: Not yet. The music industry is slightly ahead of us and had to go through the same thing already and it's shock, horror, terror, everyone's going to go bankrupt because everyone can have everything for free. Lots of resistance, I'm talking about filmmaking now, legislating against copyright and everything is watermarked, anxious, anxious, and all that. And I think my attitude is, go the other way. Open the gates, say "okay have it." It's free, it's yours and then if you want me to go on and make other things, you're going to have to complete the circle by going out and buying the DVD. Maybe in the future it will be some sort of subscription model but I always wanted to do that with this one.

FNB: There was a recent article we read that said the next generation of digital consumers still wants to pay to go to theaters. It's not mutually exclusive, which is calming to know that just because one is succeeding doesn't mean the other is going to disappear.

SP: Its not either/or, it's AND. It might make cinema owners and distributors sit up a little bit, and make it a more pleasant and thrilling experience to go to the theater, make the quality of the projection better, the seats more comfortable, make it back to the real beginnings of what joining together in a big group is all about. Similar people can have their own access to watch it home on Blu-ray, its one of the things that I do. I have a good screen and I watch things together with a group of friends. Comfortably lying about. And that feel just as true of a cinema experience as going to some wonderful cinema.
Indeed. We've been pointing out for the better part of a decade that going to the movies is a social experience, and the best way to do that is to make that experience better. Many theaters have started to catch on to this (finally).


Reader Comments (rss)

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Attn. Mike

    "Its not either/or, it's AND."

    Potential T-shirt alert.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:18pm

    Something like this would probably be pretty easy to setup too.

    We just need to get you guys to put a Creative Commons logo or something of the sort on your work so us dumb consumers can know whose side your on. We'll then promote it through our channels appropriately.

     

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    Matthew Krum (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 8:06pm

    Wow...

    Wow, that's about all I can say. I almost wept tears of joy reading these inspiring words that came from a director. I for one will be seeing this film in the theatres, buying the DVD and telling all my friends and co-workers to. Oh, and sign me up for an "Its not either/or, its AND" shirt! Go see Rage!

     

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    Hugh Guiney (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 9:37pm

    How Is This Sustainable Though?

    Filmmaking is already a big enough gamble as it is. Introducing "maybe paying" as the rule rather than the exception is nice in theory but for every 1 person that wants to support the artists there will be 100 more who don't care about who made the movie and just want to be entertained for an hour and a half. With the "old model" these people's viewings would be monetized then and there and it wouldn't matter if they bought the DVD or not, but to make a comparable profit with the "new model" they would need to not only like it, but like it so much that they'd go and buy it multiple times.

    Although I suppose taking out the enormous cost of theatric distribution might help recoup some of those untranslated sales, I just don't see this working all THAT well in a culture where entitlement is increasingly becoming the norm.

     

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      Marc, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 5:23am

      Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

      Although I suppose taking out the enormous cost of theatric distribution might help recoup some of those untranslated sales, I just don't see this working all THAT well in a culture where entitlement is increasingly becoming the norm.

      Spot on. How would you begin to redress the copyright industry's belief that it is entitled a century long monopoly? That it is entitled to control every aspect of our culture and heritage. That it is entitled to constrain free trade and progress. Would simply repealing the DMCA do it?

       

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        Hugh Guiney (profile), Sep 27th, 2009 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

        Repealing the DMCA would be a huge step forward but that wouldn't solve the issue entirely. Change will only come about when people learn to look past the propaganda, to stop fearing the pirates, to see that the tools of the digital age can be used positively, and that their rights are being trampled on by greedy media companies. That way, ridiculous bills like the DMCA wouldn't fly.

        The only other alternative would be the death of the current media companies from refusal to change their business models, but somehow I doubt that will happen; there has already been a handful of traditional companies utilizing new media market strategies and others are likely to catch on, but more importantly: they like money too much.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

      Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

      Except you're missing something extremely important here: The filmmaking industry is already a "maybe pay" industry.

      The entire business relies on whether people want to see the movie or not.

      Theatres are all about people wanting to see a movie a few months in advance (or maybe just going out with friends). DVD sales rely on people liking the movie enough to want to buy it. I could go on, but the point is that the movie industry already relies on people shelling out extra cash when they don't have to.

      And, perhaps more importantly, if it's true that "only 1/100 people will pay", that's all the more reason to give it out for free. Why? Because the volume of viewers will increase substantially when there is no price.

       

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        Hugh Guiney (profile), Sep 27th, 2009 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

        Except you're missing something extremely important here: The filmmaking industry is already a "maybe pay" industry.
        The entire business relies on whether people want to see the movie or not.

        But in that sense, every industry is a "maybe pay" industry. The entire computer software business relies on whether people want to use the program or not. The entire soft drink business relies on whether people want to consume soda or not.

        The point I am making is that this model takes previously-monetized groups of people and removes them from the picture entirely, namely: casual moviegoers and people didn't like the movie.

        The current model works roughly in this fashion:

        1. Preview of the film, entices you to see it (advertising)
        2. Seeing the film (monetization)
        3. Opinion
          • Positive (monetization+)
          • Neutral (no change)
          • Negative (no change)

        This model, however, would work something like this:

        1. Preview of the film, entices you to see it (advertising)
        2. Seeing the film (advertising)
        3. Opinion
          • Positive (monetization)
          • Neutral (no change)
          • Negative (no change)

        Again, I can maybe see this working with the reduced cost of production/distribution using an all-digital workflow (something the industry has been slow to embrace), but two other things also have to happen:

        • Hollywood will have to start making movies that are less formulaic. The reason you see so many cookie-cutter films come out is because producers can estimate the success of a film based on the successes of similar previous films and it makes more sense to rehash a familiar story than take a risk on a new idea. But, I imagine this would be hindered if the monetary reward was a response to actual entertainment value and not the prospect of entertainment. I think many people see the same types of movie, not because they don't like variety, but because they represent the flavor of the month, i.e., it's something to do with friends and dates or because it's gotten a lot of hype. That isn't going to change whether they are watching from a theater seat or their living room couch. But after they're done watching, the movie will already have served its purpose and there will be no logical reason for them to go out and buy a hard copy, even with collectors' items attached. So the general quality of movies will have to go up to keep viewers engaged with the film beyond the first sitting.
        • Consumers of movies will have to become more appreciative of the filmmaking process. This one is a tough one. Few people understand what actually goes into making a movie; they just consume the final product and wait for the next one. But if this is going to be sustainable then viewers will have to learn that if they like something, they have to support it or similar works simply won't be made. I come across many people who pirate every movie they watch because it saves them money. They may love or hate the film but they have no intention of supporting it one way or the other because to them it's just not a priority. I think they would feel differently if they knew that filmmaking employs not just actors, directors, and cameramen, but also grips, makeup & wardrobe, production managers & assistants, teamsters, location scouts, extras, stand-ins, animators & compositors, producers, stuntmen, catering services, casting agencies, set builders, propmasters, and a slew of other dedicated craftsmen. There needs to be a thought shift away from supporting media as just buying entertainment and toward supporting media as feeding families.

         

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 26th, 2009 @ 6:46pm

      Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

      Filmmaking is already a big enough gamble as it is. Introducing "maybe paying" as the rule rather than the exception is nice in theory but for every 1 person that wants to support the artists there will be 100 more who don't care about who made the movie and just want to be entertained for an hour and a half.

      I'm not saying it's "the rule." Just pointing out what one filmmaker is doing.

      Not sure why every time I show yet another example people start complaining "but this will never work for...."

       

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        Hugh Guiney (profile), Sep 27th, 2009 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

        I meant as a rule (business model) instead of the exception (piracy).

        I'm not sure what you're getting at though. This example was used in relation to moviemaking in general, was it not? "Creative Marketing, Freeing Up Movies, Embracing New Business Models"... that doesn't sound very specific to me. Besides which, if we aren't meant to discuss how these practices might be applied elsewhere then what's the point of bringing them? To say "oh, neat"?

         

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          Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 27th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: How Is This Sustainable Though?

          I jump into some of the music discussions for the same reason. Either the examples are being offered as a repeatable business model (in which case let's look at how well it will work for a number of people) or the examples are offered as isolated cases which are interesting, but not the future of the industry.

           

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    Griff (profile), Sep 26th, 2009 @ 12:27am

    Mindset change needed

    If the industry obsesses with "first weekend takings" then the movie world won't change.
    The way John Cusack's "War Inc" was launched (organically, with hardly any marketing budget) allowed a lot more word of mouth and less overhyped media reviews. I bet few people who saw it were disappointed because they were effectively going on crowdsourced recommendations, from people like them.

    But my sister has spent her like making movies and I'd have to agree with the poster who said "it's tough enough getting paid as it is". Try asking your bank manager for a mortgage when your source of income is a movie that you haven't figured out how to charge for yet. Of course, an alternative business model doesn't mean that a canny investor won't put the money up to get it made. Just that it is unlikely an investor will put up the money and then sit back quietly while the arty types muse over whether to charge for the movie.

    Bear in mind also that Radiohead have the luxury of a full bank account when they offer ""pay what you want". So I suspect does Sally Potter.

    But it's not like the music industry. The capital outlay for a band to go straight to MP3 with a recording is nothing like what is required to make a decent movie.
    We can all think of extremely low budget "Blair Witch" type examples (God knows my sister has made a few) but generally people don't want to watch too many of those.
    And there are a lot more people involved in making a movie than an album, some of whom are simply contractors who want pay, not equity in some "maybe" down the line venture.

    Imagine a silicon valley startup asking the minimum wage cleaners if they mind being paid only in stock options. Not everyone shares the director's belief in the project...

     

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    LoL, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 1:24am

    It may not be that expensive

    "But it's not like the music industry. The capital outlay for a band to go straight to MP3 with a recording is nothing like what is required to make a decent movie."

    Colin cost $70 bucks to produce and it was a hit LoL

    Besides that you have a lot of fan movies being made that have some pretty impressive quality like The Hunt For The Gollum or the inumerous takes on Star Trek and you have still people doing films using contributions from fans like the Durian Project that got all the equipment donated to them and cost paid by fans and you have open movies being made granted that most are not blockbusters yet but the point is there is potential to be great and cheap at the same time the old assumption that you need lots of money to do something is being challenged along the other assumption that one needs to control every aspect of something to make some money. I doubt people will do less movies when still profits are in the millions of dollars, the only people who hope to gain from strong laws and enforcement are the ones that needed it the least. General staff don't get royalties.

     

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      Griff (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 2:10am

      "Colin" did not costs $70 to produce

      ... unless you value people's time at $0 per hour, or he made the movie in under 2 hours (in which case I suspect it would be unwatchable).

      You are presumably talking about actual stuff the chap had to go out and spend money on.


      And yes, the odd unusual movie might be a hit, but noone wants to watch nothing but low budget flicks all the time.

       

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    LoL, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 1:50am

    Colin Levy a kid without money

    This dude is fantastic, with little to no money he learned a lot of special effects and wrote about it here and now is participating in more serious productions.

    Another example comes form the guys from Detonation Films that I suspect are really just kids but have good stock footage that they give it for free and some of great tutorials explaining how to make white smoke with coffee powder to some really cool effects.

    Match Moving Tracking also is not that difficult to do nowdays and you don't need to go Jurassic Park either(they did it by hand).

    After being exposed to all of this I just got a feeling that the industry needs to do more then just sit there and say "it is ours we do as we wish", because there is a lot of competition coming soon to homes of consumers everywhere and if they keep these attitude up they could find themselves in route to obsolescence very soon. There are people out there with talent that don't dream with millions in profits and just do it for fun and could become really big players in a new paradigm.

     

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    Sheinen, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 2:54am

    I totally agree that it doesn't need to cost a billion pounds to make a movie - if those involved got paid reasonable amounts it'd be a start - no-one deserves $10million to fart about in front of a camera for a few weeks!

    And why should a film be worth £300million dollars profit?? You could invent the cure for AID's and not get that off it!

    Cinema's seriously need to up their game as well! Those sticky floored, over-priced, hard seated crap holes drive me crazy! You pay £12 to get in and £15 on popcorn and a drink to find you're films on the small screen where they're projecting it with a torch.

    When I went to District 9 the first 20 minutes were ruined because they projected it in the wrong aspect ratio!

    I was kept outside in a queue for 30minutes after the scheduled start of Dark Knight because of a 'leak'

    The Ice Age's latest afair was marred by the advertising reel playing over the top of the middle of the film!

    'You need to go to a new Cinema' I hear you say? Well they were all at different places! Lakeside's and the O2's View and Bluewater's Showcase.

    I go to the cinema a lot because it's how a lot of films are supposed to be seen, but I feel like I've been ripped off every single time!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 6:06am

    "It's free, it's yours and then if you want me to go on and make other things, you're going to have to complete the circle by going out and buying the DVD"

    Celebrating give it away and pray?

    If nothing else this entire post proves that you cannot extend free endlessly.

     

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    Kev Pick, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Quality

    It must be a combination, I believe. I am currently making a film mixing mainstream and Bakhtinian business models. To do this, private funding is sourced for quality cast and crew, including new talents and old experience.

    Without sufficient budget and a reliability on internet distribution, quality suffers. Not only physically in terms of file size, etc, but in the necessary direction such a film must take to satisfy an internet audience. Films built to attract seeds and peers will largely use themes based on internet cultural references, even if they are determinedly opaque or based purely on the ruminations of the internet intelligentsia. This is a present day audience, which will be served, but there is a huge risk of being forgotten in the flood, and is a big factor in making would-be film makers hesitant.

    The strange difficulty is, films which will succeed in today's market have to be made to stand the test of time, which requires excellent storytelling and narrative skills. They must, by the audience's nature, relate to a very disparate audiences. This is, of course, not entirely possible, and sometimes not desired if the film concentrates on a particular cultural or personal story. How to make a personal story open to all, and relate-able to all, and entertaining - that is still the mainstream, and where experience can help.

    It's difficult, and it is a long game. In order to fund such a strategy without quality suffering, it must also answer to the short game - ie, a reason to see it at the cinema. The tradition of cinema is changing, as it always has, to public demand. If people demand a reason to group together in one place to watch a film, then the film must demand it too. This takes patience and trust, which is, as I have already mentioned, an essential part of the entire production model. And the money question? Well, I've already answered that.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 26th, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    Great trailer

    I'm not going to ponder if Sally Potter or the actors are going to get paid. I just want to say that I clicked on the article link, watched the trailer, and loved it. it's like Richard Avedon photos come to life.

     

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    kevpick (profile), Sep 27th, 2009 @ 5:06pm

    It's worth pointing out that physical media is, of course, the real point of the industry's future. It's not wild speculation to suggest that files like AVI and MP3 will soon be a quaint memory, and the idea of downloading 'physical' files to a client device will seem ridiculous on a broadcast platform.

    However, this is not where we are today. That's the point. Current business models which reach towards this any-outlet future should be encouraged, but they cannot possibly predict long-term gains unless they adapt to include current revenue streams coupled with enterprising initiatives, however fragile they might seem.

     

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    JC Dill, Sep 27th, 2009 @ 7:12pm

    who is FNB?

    Your article quotes from "FNB" interviewing Sally Potter, but nowhere in the article do you introduce or explain who FNB is. From the link's URL, I can see this is an interview by FilmNewsBriefs.com. When you copy from and excerpt someone else's interview it's not enough to just give a link to their site, you should name them, give them credit in your post.

     

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    LoL, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 3:28am

    Movies all the time gets old too.

    "And yes, the odd unusual movie might be a hit, but noone wants to watch nothing but low budget flicks all the time."

    You are right, watching movies all the time gets boring that is why I use Miro TV.

     

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