Thursday, January 07, 2010
Filmmaking and Releasing - changing the male climax model
Filmmakers spend a lot of time leading up to the making of a film - development, pre-production, production and then....release. Play a fest, flirt with a distributor, find one who takes it out for you, because your job is finished. Filmmaker is done and on to the next show. Getting the film in some fests is the filmmaker’s release.
The distributor follows this same male climax pattern. Lots of attention is paid to building a campaign, taking it to market, woo-ing audiences. Once the audience comes to see the show, be it in theaters, DVD or VOD - distributor is done. Wham bam thank you ma’am. (Ok, it’s a longer process than most males can handle...)
Festival’s premiere policies, theatrical and then ancillary windows, media attention - it’s all built around this same model. Even filmmakers that are getting in to the whole viral video, build your audience, transmedia, etc thing are usually focused on what leads up to launch and nothing after. Their game, ARG, viral video campaign all usually end once the film is out and being seen by an audience. In fact, this idea came from a discussion with media expert Christy Dena, who speaks about this in an interview to be podcast on Workbook Project soon. She commented to me about the problem of filmmaker’s only thinking of transmedia leading up to a film’s release and how we need to broaden our thinking. She’s right, but I think it pertains to a lot about the business.
What if we thought a little more about what happens after release? What if the film was just the beginning of the experience, with more to come? What if it led you to something else? Can people re-experience the ARG months later if they didn’t hear about it until after the film? A film’s life is much, much longer than the initial release - just look at the cult faves like Donnie Darko, Primer not to mention Bourne. What if we built strategies to sustain that momentum beyond the release?
On a simpler level, once you’ve built that great following on Twitter, Facebook, etc for your film are you keeping those audiences engaged on a regular basis so that they are ready for the next film? Are you using them to push new audiences to see it a year later?
When I ran Reframe, a project to bring back out older films, I was shocked at the amount of filmmakers that were doing nothing to push their older films - many of which they now had rights to again from their distributors. Think of how many older books get rediscovered every time an author’s new release comes out - sometimes their sales for older titles jump as much as 40% or more. Are you pushing your older films every time a new one comes out?
Festivals swear by premieres, but not only do most of your audiences not care (as long as it’s new to them), but I’m willing to bet that careful programming of even older titles could sell. A lot of thought will have to be put into this as filmmakers start to do more day/date releasing with their festival premiere. Can you imagine a world where every other fest still plays that film, even though it’s online already? We’re going to have to, I think.
I’m not sure what exactly could replace this model, but I do think we are losing attention too early, and probably losing audiences as a result. What are the possibilities if we move away from the climax model? Thoughts?