Science, Movies, and A Little Bit of Hooey

Science has an important place in the study of movies at virtually every stage of the film-making process. But movies are also about illusion, a shadow box of dreams. Perhaps that is why a lot of the science that gets applied to film is sometimes a collection of smoke and mirrors.

Take for example the Bechdel Test. Conjured up in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her seminal comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, the test was a pretty savvy and extremely on target dig at the mainstream Hollywood narrative structure.

For years, the Bechdel Test was a major reference in feminist critical analysis. It was a loosy-goosy but pretty quick opening move in critiquing material. It was a half-satiric but incredibly accurate jab. In the right hands, it was even fun to use.

Then, something happened. By 2010, the concepts underlining the Bechdel Test moved increasingly into the mainstream. That was largely good. It raised awareness of the celluloid glass ceiling in the film industry. It brought wider focus to issues that many of us have brought up over the years about the film industry and its treatment of women. It also still provided a nifty satiric point.

By late 2013, some of the major cinemas in Sweden began using the Bechdel Test as part of their rating system.  That’s OK since the Swedish approach to rating films is so strongly based in a distinctive Scandinavian cultural attitude that we neo-Puritans in the States are always baffled by them anyway.  It’s like shopping for furniture at IKEA.  Half the time I don’t even know what you are supposed to do with the thing (but the Swedish meatballs in the cafeteria are mighty good).

Now, Ted Hope wants indie filmmakers to pledge themselves to the Bechdel Test.  It’s a bit like the no liquor pledge from the old Temperance movement (minus the axes and wild storming of saloons). Again, I guess that is sort of OK if you are into doing it. In my experience, talk is cheap and these sort of pledges are utterly meaningless. So go ahead and sign. Whatever.

But this does force some questions about the Bechdel Test itself. The first and most important question: is it valid? The answer is pretty easy: nah. Not really. I mean, how do you define valid anyway? In and of itself, the Bechdel Test is simply designed to be a informative educational tool that playfully pokes at a complex series of ideological structures that have dominated Western narrative tradition since The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Ages ago, Hollywood co-opted a crude (one might even say debased) version of this tradition.  Everything was a love story.  Granted, everything was a male-dominated love story exclusively predominantly written, produced, and directed by lots of guys. But they were all love stories. Heck, back in 1976 when he was producing his gawd-awful remake of King Kong, Dino De Laurentiis kept referring to it as a love story. You know, ape meets girl, ape loses girl, ape drags girl off to the top of tall building till he gets gunned down. I get choked up just thinking about it.

In turn, this narrative tradition is all part of an ideological structure. The Bechdel Test (which is based on an ideological theory, not a scientific principle) touches on this much larger issue ever so slightly. At its best, it can be somewhat enlightening. Mostly, it has provided a lot of web sites with long lists of the major movies that flunk the test. (Word to the wise: most movies will flunk this test – in fact, some of the movies that pass  only do so because somebody stretched the rules.)

So yes, there is an extremely valid point to the Bechdel Test. Part of it has to do with the narrative structure. Another part involves the entire nuts and bolts of the industry. Even though women are now moving more than ever into various important positions within the film business, it is still a recent phenomenon. But this has yet to result in any noticeable change in the movies themselves. Even a recent film like The Heat is primarily an adaptation of the buddy-buddy genre rather than a radical change. We are still a long way off from seeing an American version of Daisies

What is Daisies, you ask? This 1966 Czech New Wave movie by Vera Chytilová was an experimental satire in narrative deconstruction that lampooned the psycho-social ennui of Eastern Europe in the 1960s. It also made fun of men. Especially men of the official type. That may have been the real reason why it was banned for a while. It was also a key step toward the development of the modern feminist cinema. Ironically,  Daisies would not be able to pass the Bechdel Test. Go figure.

But this film is a lot closer to what I am talking about. A real change to the current situation will involve something more than adding a few women to the mix. It will involve major, substantial, even (dare I say it) revolutionary change. The rest is just window dressing.

However, I do make one little request of anyone who signs the pledge. If you are a male filmmaker and sign this thing, please fire yourself as the director and hire a woman instead. That way, you can show your commitment.

Oh, you don’t want to do that? I had a hunch that was the case. So never mind.

Beyond Measure

Having spent many articles pounding on the issue of metric measurement and film finance and production, I need to take a moment to admit that not everything is about measurement. I have to make this admission. Otherwise, I end up sounding like one of those stupid spam e-mails for cheap Viagra.

Last time, I explained why many elements in film-making can be handled with metric measurement and data analysis whereas some aspects are more fluid and need to be treated differently. The whole process of getting a movie financed, filmed, and ultimately released has a quality that often resembles an unraveled ball of yarn. Lots of crazy loose ends and countless tangles. Sometimes when you give it a yank, a nice long piece easily untangles. Most often, it just knots up.

That doesn’t mean these other aspects cannot be evaluated; they simply require judgment and interpretive guidance, to go along with the numerically quantifiable elements. This is not the first time I have cautioned that the numbers are not the final step or advocated for the role of solid human analysis of data results

Some of other non-data elements were neatly summed up in a recent e-mail exchange I had with Sheri Candler. If you are an indie filmmaker, you ought to know her name. If not, you might want to make yourself real familiar with her ideas. She has a surprising habit (at least surprising in this business) of knowing what she is talking about (as demonstrated in her book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. Candler is extremely expert in the rapidly changing field of marketing and promotional work for indie movies, which is why her thoughts (all her quotes below are in bold italics) went straight into the areas that exist largely outside the metric zone:

I think the analysis should take into consideration not the age of those involved in the production so much as their social following. That is becoming increasingly important to distributors who want talent to help push the films, and not just the onscreen talent. 

Most approaches to metric measurement in film will factor in various versions of the age range. Age is a number, so it is measurable. Social following isn’t. It could, maybe, be factored in, but the process is going to be complicated. 

Also take into consideration if the production will be crowd-funded by donation because that indicates an early success with audience outreach. If they have a significant number of people who have given money to see a production made, that indicates a willingness to spread the word later on its release, no matter where that release occurs, digital or theatrical. Number of donors could be an indication of potential audience revenue later.

Again, Candler makes an extremely important point (and you should take note). However, this process (crowdfunding) is still new enough that I personally would distrust the validity – at this moment – of any statistical model built from it until there is more data. This needs to be factored in, but I feel it will (for now) involve the human analysis, not the statistical.

Also an affiliation with film-making labs. Is the producer/director/writer an alum of a major lab in the US or even overseas (Sundance, IFP, FIND, San Francisco Film Society, Rotterdam etc)? As an alum, certain filmmakers and their projects have early recognition as having merit and the ability to make early connections to the industry that might either bring money to the table, preferential consideration at major festivals premiere, early sales shopping to more prominent distributors, talent agents who can bring higher profile names to the project. Those labs are hotbeds for agencies, festivals and distributors looking for the new blood talent and they keep those filmmakers on a tracking board so to speak. If I were an investor, it would sway me to know that a filmmaker or a project is showing an early trajectory for success based on how recognized they are already by industry insiders.

In other words, solid networking. Networking is all part of the human side of the process. So this is the moment when the computer analysis takes a very long coffee break.

Basically any kind of pre recognition for the audience is going to help in the ability to get people interested in seeing the film. Does the production have any affiliation with large organizations? Having a verified partnership with Komen, Heart Association, Greenpeace etc means that the film will have significant help before it reaches the market. This is not just advice for documentaries. Narrative films with an issue or interest group affiliation will also benefit and especially if the film is made for under $1mil.

Privately, I have given the same advice to many filmmakers. This is both networking and promoting.

Finally, Candler kind of summed it all up:

Take most successful independent films and trace back to where they started. Probably in a filmmaker lab, probably a recipient of some kind of grant, probably an alum by way of a short film at a prominent festival (only Sundance), Cannes (in competition, not SFC), Toronto, Berlin or a student Oscar or Oscar nominated/winning short, probably based on a pre existing story that gained some prominence. You’ll start to see that most successful indie films don’t really come from ‘nowhere,’ they received some kind of nurturing well before they were made and premiered. Doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure does separate them from MANY of the others being made without any kind of past validation.

And again, this represents some of the many factors that the human analysis has to make while accessing the figures achieved through the metric measurement process. Obviously, I view metric measurement analysis as an important and necessarily part of the filmmaking process. But the numbers do not exist in a sterile universe.

They have to interact with these other factors as well. And this set of relationships are best understood by people who can analyze and understand both the numbers and the process.

Tangled Nature of the Tangible

The first step toward metric measurement with issues concerning the film business is determining what elements within the process can be quantified. In other words, what can be measured, and what sort of parameters are you using for these measurements.

Easier said than done. The film-making process is full of loose threads and slippery details and the whole thing starts to sound like another paradox about knowing “the dancer from the dance.” The simplest response would be to insist it can’t be done.

That was my first response about ten years ago. In a series of long conversations, I expounded at some length why the filmmaking process was way too complex and extremely intuitive and that it was beyond any form of quantification. I even quoted William Goldman. I gave it the works.

While I was doing this, I slowly came to realize that it could be done. The more I lectured on the intangible nature of cinema, I more I realized I was talking pure bunk. It is not magical. Oh sure, great art should feel magical. But the basic key to film-making is craft, and craft is tangible. That is why any form of metric measurement on the filmmaking process will be focused on craft, not art.

Likewise, the financial value of indie films is eminently quantifiable. Low budget movies are much easier to analysis than so-called tent pole productions. The lower the budget, the more you are dealing with hard figures that are pretty consistent and rational. The bigger the budget, the more the financial process gets very…well, strange. Quite bluntly, the financial structure of any big budget production is designed to confuse accountants. Once a movie goes past a budget of $100 million, the figures largely become a piece of fiction.

Quantifying the craft and the financial package are key, but value relationships cannot be extrapolated in a straight line. For example, the box office results of the director’s previous two or three films do not necessarily mean anything in terms of the box office outcome for the director’s next movie. Oh sure, it’s useful information. But it does not tell you all that much.

The valuation process involves layering different elements, ranging from script to scriptwriter to cast to other assorted parameters, and analyzing different combinations of them. That is why the final results (or what is sometimes called the score) will not be a single figure. It will be a range of statistical probabilities. And they will not necessarily be final. In fact, they are rarely final. Filmmaking is a fluid process. Changes made during that process will effect the analysis and will need to be accounted for within the analysis.

I want to emphasis this point because many people make two major mistakes about this type of metric measurement. The first is the notion that the projected outcome (i.e. box office returns) is some kind of absolute prediction. It isn’t. Such a prediction isn’t even possible and certainly is not the point of the process. It can only give you a range of expected results for the most basic, core-level of limited release. In the past I have characterized the process as best designed to tell you how much you can afford to lose, not how much you will gain. If the film becomes a hit, then that’s fine. Just deal with it. But you have to know and work with the most realistic, basic results. In the case of indie movies, that is most likely all (at best) that you will ever receive.

The second mistake is the notion that these figures are written in stone. The outcomes are process-determined. The many shifts and changes that occur in making a film will have an impact on the projections–as they should. In a full blown application of metric measurement in film-making, the scoring process will be done over and over again to reflect the evolving conditions of the production. There are no absolute outcomes, only results based on information, iteration and assumption.

What does the filmmaker gain with all of this? Quite possibly, a discovery that the project is not economically viable. Sad news, but essential. Or, that it is extremely viable. In my own scoring experience, I have seen it go both ways. Sometimes the process has allowed me to discover one or two elements that, if changed, could noticeably improve the film’s prospect.

One of the biggest points of resistance to scoring is the belief that such measurements will destroy the creative process. And yes, it could. If the people doing this job are real heavy-handed and extremely pushy, and like to act as if the results generated by the computer are the equivalent of Moses coming down from the mountain top, they could screw up lots of things. Such people obviously think they are producing results written in stone and are hopelessly (and mistakenly) focused solely on some type of fixed outcome.

But it is all about process. Process is ever changing and full of many variables. Sometimes, the analysis of the figures are just as important (even more important) than the figures themselves. It is a dialogue, not a monologue. It is even open to debate. Like anything else in science, it is honed through experience and observation. So, although there should be reproducibility, there is never any absolute answer.

Instead, it is about asking the right questions.



Back to Basics

It’s always the same set of questions. Is there any way to tell if a movie is going to be good? How can we tell if a film will be successful at the box office? How can we tell if a movie is worth investing in? By the way, are my pants even on right?

To be honest, the answers to these questions are all quite simple. We can’t. Don’t know. Who knows. And by the way, what kind of pants do you have that could some how go on wrong?

No one knows what it takes to make a good film, especially in the pre-production stage. Heck, much of what made Citizen Kane an important classic is its unique combination of time, place, and visual sensibility. The same is true of virtually every significant film in the history of cinema. These are all pretty elusive factors.

Box office success is a mysterious thing as well. Currently a modest action-comedy called Ride Along has made close to $100 million and has shot way past its break even mark. Meanwhile, a major franchise flick like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has made just over $100 million and is still short of its break even point. Jack Ryan is performing as well as could be expected. Ride Along is beyond any form of expectation. It is all a reminder that the box office is made by audience desire.

What films should potential investors put their money into? Based upon the current logic of the system, I would be tempted to tell potential investors to simply flush their cash down the toilet. Then they will have the giddy fun of watching the greenbacks swirl around for a few seconds. This process can be more emotionally moving than many films.

Does it have to be this way? Of course not. But you have to stop asking all of the wrong questions.

You may not be able to guess what will make a movie good, and especially not the things that will make it great. But what you need to focus on are all of the elements that can make a film really bad. Greatness is often hard to define, but bad is often quite painfully obvious.

No one can tell if a film will be a box office success. But more often than not, we can predict if it will financially function at a core level that has reasonable possibilities. Yes, that can be predicted. The usual mistake made by people when they think about the use of metric measurement in predicting a film’s box office is the fallacy that such systems would be used to predict the film’s actual box office. This is not the point. The method is designed to allow you to chart the core- and most fundamentally low ranges of the movie’s possibilities.

In many regards, the use of data-driven performance measurement systems is a guide to how little it will make: the base figures, not the high figures. You cannot measure the unknowable. But you sure as hell can measure and chart the core figures and data involved in film financial management. It is a means for discovering a series of benchmarks that will tell you what you need to know, not what you wish to hear.

The real question is not in the measurement. It is in the analysis. Well, that, and also the parameters used for the measurement. Of course, to identify the right parameters, you have to determine what elements of the process are quantifiable; and to do that, you need to sort the tangibles from the intangibles; and so on. There are still a few folks who feel the entire film-making process is an intangible. Privately, I view such thinking with the same wistfulness that I have when reading the current proceedings of the Flat Earth Society.

Since various people have begun working on various versions of this measurement process, there is actually a mounting body of hard core evidence to support the theory.  An increasing number of filmmakers and companies are adapting to different but similar approaches along these lines. Some approaches are better than others. A few may really be mostly a mix of smoke and mirrors. Some are actually quite useful.

Over the next several weeks, I will be seeking out ideas and impressions from a selected group of other professionals and see what they think about various aspects of such processes in relation to the current issues in indie film financing. Maybe it will start a dialogue. Maybe not. But what the heck. It might be an eye-opener.

Either way, it might finally put to rest the often quoted (and largely misunderstood) remark by William Goldman that “Nobody knows anything.”


Film Fund-amentals: A Whole Lotta Scamming Goin’ On

Every year I have to take a moment to remind folks of some very basic rules. Real simple rules that are easy to forget.
Unfortunately, there are legions of people out there hoping that you do forget. That’s why the rules are always worth repeating. Especially since the scam operators seem to be multiplying. Heck, in the past year I have gone through at least four direct and indirect incidents of outright scams or, at the very least, extremely questionable business operations.
Except for some bruised egos and deflated hopes, we have been pretty lucky. No cash, no dash. But many others have not been so fortunate. They have gotten fleeced. It is not because they are unusually dumb nor even particularly greedy. It’s because they were just gullible enough to believe that someone was really sincere about investing in their movie. They trusted a stranger in hope of achieving a dream.
First tip about real investors. They don’t hang around social media sites advertising themselves as investors. Really, they don’t. Anyone at a social media site claiming to be seeking indie movies that they can invest in must be viewed with extraordinary suspicion. Oh sure, I suppose it is always possible that some kind of half-nutty Warren Buffett type has nothing better to do with his or her time than troll these sites in hopes of giving away free money, but…. You are much more likely to be hit by a bolt of lightening six times while standing in the same spot.
Some of the people claiming to be film investors are really just fronting for various types of high-risk loan services. Others are seeking people they can hook with so-called “production fees.” You pay them to “produce” your movie. Mostly, they are hoping to take you to the cleaners before you catch on. It is mean and nasty and it is happening all the time.
One tell-tale sign is how fast they will try to force the issue. Most scammers have to get you baited, hooked, and gutted before you have time to really think the deal through. That’s why they first pump you up with the exciting news that they want to help your project. Then explain how everybody will make lots of money from this film. Once you are floating on air, they make their move. If possible, they will try to make the score within a week.
I am aware of a few exceptions to this time-line. Some will drag it out for months before making their play. I don’t know if this is supposed to be some type of reverse psychology or if they are simply not very good at their own racket. But it does happen.
When any would-be investors approach you must check out their credentials. What types of investments have they previously been involved in? Who exactly are they and what is their background? For crying out-loud, do they even actually have any money?
For example, do they or their company actually have a web site? They do. Great! Is it a “real” web site or more of a Potemkin village operation? What I mean by this is: Does the web site actually say anything about what they do or does it drift around in a lot of generalizations with non-working links and bogus material? Heck, I know of one company that claims to invest into advance digital development and then tries to pawn off links to various freeware systems (none of which they had any involvement with) as “support” material to their claim.
Yes, there are such things as bogus web sites. Pieces of eye candy for the scam. Even better are the (equally) bogus offices and mailing addresses often used in these operations. Most American cities now have virtual offices where a person can rent or lease (by the day or the hour) a well equipped and very nice looking space for use. In theory, the virtual office provides the occasional needed meeting place for someone who is working their online business from their home. But it also provides scammers with oodles of legitimacy. Hey, they must be real since they have an office with really nice furniture. Even better, they can clear out within minutes, which is a plus when pesky investigators show up.
Always check out the address they use. Twice in the past year I have encountered the virtual office operator. At least one of these outfits worked out of a combination office and casino in Vegas. It would be a hoot if it were not for all the people getting stung.
Many scammers will not pass this type of simple test. But some will. That is not good because it shows that they are better organized. Oh boy! This is why you need to keep a few basic things in mind. Nobody is likely to get rich off of your movie. When they keep spinning stories about all of the money you can make, dump ’em. Yes, occasionally a small indie movie hits it big. These are the exceptions, not the rule. Any one who says otherwise is either a crook or an idiot. Doesn’t matter. You don’t need them.
Investors make investments. They do not charge fees. It is that simple. I don’t care what their story is, the minute they want you to pay them, dump ’em.
They represent investors who wish to remind anonymous but who are looking to back your movie. Most people who invest in films do so, in part, because they want to be associated with the filmmaking process. As a general rule, movie investors do not seek anonymity. Many of them want to see their names on the big screen. Some are hoping to date the leading lady. If they want to be anonymous, they can just go to any major crowd funding site and donate there.
And always keep in mind one of the key signs of any con artist. They are all extreme narcissists. It is a standard part of their pathology. OK, it is true that this is a tough call in the film business. But trust me, con artists are the worse. They can’t stop talking about themselves. Good grief! I once had to call one of these bozos regarding the mysterious death of one of their “clients.” The official verdict was “suicide” (it was one of the state investigators who kept putting quotes around the word). Either way, I called the guy to inform him that we had found the body. All I got back was a long-winded description of his recent vacation trip to Las Vegas (most likely paid for by the deceased).
They can’t help themselves. But you don’t need to enable them. You just need to dump ’em.

Dennis Toth (C) Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved

Toward 2014, Step Two

At the end of last year, we dealt with the train wreak known as Hollywood. But that was 2013, a year that is so over and done.

It is now 2014, a year full of bright new promise and exciting possibilities. OK, I can’t tell the difference either, but let’s pretend. What does the new year offer for the indie filmmaker?  I suspect it will be both the best of times and the worse of times. Predicting the future can result in a dickens of a fit.

The two key issues at the core of predicting indie future are: 1. financial and 2. digital. The financial question is the simplest and the hardest to resolve. Indie filmmakers need money. You see, it’s extremely straight forward. They know that money is out there, somewhere. As I said, it is incredibly straight forward. They can’t find it. Damn!  I knew there was a tricky part.

Toward 2014, Step One

It is easy to dismiss John Landis recent comments about Hollywood (see the IndieWire story) as sour grapes.  After all, his last movie (Burke and Hare) earned $947 at the US box office ($4.3 million internationally).  Heck, I even know a few people who are still complaining about Blues Brothers 2000.  

Unfortunately, he is also right.  There are no film studios any more.  They are media companies.  In turn, they are owned by large media conglomerates.  Those are owned by gigantic multinational corporations who in turn own about two-thirds of the planet, more or less.

Likewise, making movies is not part of the function of the major film companies.  Not really.  Making movies imply a creative process.  Large companies are not interested in vague  notions like the creative process.  Large companies are involved in ownership.  

VOD Revenue: TS/SCI or OII

Should companies make public the revenue generated by films distributed via video on demand (VOD)?

According to The Hollywood Reporter, this question is a hot topic among indie filmmakers. I’m not so sure that’s true, but it ought to be.  Since VOD is the most probable distribution venue for many indie filmmakers, it would be really nice if they had some sense as to the financial possibilities of this approach. But most VOD distributors are not very forthcoming with the information.

In his report for IndieWire,  Anthony Kaufman outlined The Six Reasons Why You Don’t Know More About VOD Numbers. The core reason is that VOD distributors are, quite simply, unsure how to represent the numbers. VOD distribution is new and rapidly expanding. There is a market. It may be a boom market. Nobody actually has a clue where any of this will go and they are still trying to figure out how it compares to traditional forms of distribution.

Just look at some of the numbers that are available. About a year ago,  Gravitas Ventures  released figures for several films they had released VOD. One of the movies, AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story made $90,000 in its theatrical distribution. But during a three-year run on VOD, it took in $600,000. Obviously that is a pretty good increase.

But what does it mean? Inevitably we will try to compare and contrast the VOD release figures to the box office reports and there are really a lot of differences between the two. First-run theatrical is spread out over a time period of roughly 2 to 18 weeks. VOD may span years. Theatrical rolls out on a systematic release through theaters with a quick report on ticket sales. VOD goes through multiple channels, platforms and venues, which also means that the financial reports are often slow in coming and fragmented. Likewise, VOD is increasingly moving into an inter-connection with the TV market, and this linkage is radically shifting the distribution strategy.

With the little bit of information that is available, we can make some basic observations. The first is simply that VOD is commercially viable. Viable? Heck, it is inevitable. Though some indie filmmakers still question this notion, VOD will become the main means of distribution for low budget films.

The second is that comparisons between VOD and box office reports will require enormous adjustments and may really be pretty much meaningless. The business models are extremely different. It would be a bit like comparing the cost of a first-run movie ticket to the admission price to a major league baseball game. Of course, the MPAA  makes that comparison every year, but that is little more than a self-serving exercise in gibberish.

The big questions remain: What is the real break down between the cost of the various channels involved and the platforms required for large scale distribution on VOD, and what is the final split in return between distributor and producer. Ultimately, how many ways is the pie sliced. It is not impossible that a movie could make $500,000 in several years of VOD release and the filmmaker still ends up seeing only a $1.50 in return. These things happen. Almost every day.

So I do understand why many people in the VOD business would like to keep their figures TS/SCI (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information). But the successful development of VOD practically begs for OII (Open Information Interchange). That is why an increasing number of indie filmmakers are asking for greater transparency in the VOD business. The more VOD becomes the primary focus of indie distribution, the more the producers of indie movies need to know how to determine the film’s economic potential.

Now, transparency is a tricky thing in the movie industry. The mainstream commercial film industry often prides itself on being economically transparent. Of course, that is an Urban Legend.  In reality the entire Hollywood industry is built on figures so fudged, so finagled, and so largely mangled that nobody actually has a clue if they are making money or going broke (for more on this, I refer you to the book Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst – a must read).

But that’s OK. Hollywood has millions of dollars to blow out of their collective wazoo. Indie filmmakers are often forced to panhandle for lunch money. So they need really precise information in order to create a rational business model for their films. Many indie movies can easily forgo a business model regarding theatrical release because they are not going to get a first-run theatrical release. But they do need to know the figures regarding VOD.

The immediate future (which is happening right now) is one in which theatrical and VOD distribution will co-exist in parallel but separate business models. Theatrical is basically the domain of the mainstream media industry. VOD becomes the primary venue for low budget indie film-making. Separate and basically unequal. Or, at least unequal until the VOD approach surpasses theatrical, which will probably happen within the next few years.

So yes, indie films need open information on VOD distribution.  Of course they will also need some guidelines as to interpreting these figures.  I have no doubt that someone is already working on a book called VOD Distribution for Dummies.

It’s bound to be a bestseller.

Dennis Toth (C) Copyright 2013

The Generals of Genre

The romantic comedy genre is dead. The horror genre has received numerous obituary notices over the past ten years. Film Noir is pretty much an historical concept used for stylistic flourish and the occasional directorial hommage.

Genre film-making – a major backbone to the low budget and indie cinema – is often treated as a dead commodity. Reports on the demise of various forms of genre appears almost as frequent as rumors of Bill Cosby’s death. They are also about as accurate.

Social Media for the Anti-Social Type

Where ever you go, the topic is social media. It is the quick fix for everything from fund raising to film promotion and distribution. It is all things to all people, which is why it is a good thing we have so many self-professed experts online to tell us how to use it. It plays a bit like that scene with Groucho and Chico in A Day at the Races.

So let’s begin by stating that I am not an expert on social media. Never have been, and never will be. To be honest, I have a strong anti-social streak which works against the whole concept. I am even thinking of developing my own social media site based on the principle that people ought to mind their own business. I thought I would call it MySpace/Not Yours.


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When the Chinese Bubble BurstAs the summer begins to play like an impending sequel to 2008, the Chinese stock market has taken a bearish turn. Last Spring, the CNN Money report was so bullish, all eyes were focused on the Beijing miracle. Now, the Asian and Chinese markets have taken a fast fall and the ripple effects are billowing. This […]

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