We hear this all the time. It's about who you know. Most professions in life seem to benefit from networking, but in filmmaking it is about as important as it gets. And getting out to network can become very difficult when you are spending weeks and months in the edit room and have devoted your entire income - plus whatever you can muster up on your credit cards - on the film you are making. That being said, you have to find ways to network and you can start by doing it online and through email.
We didn't realize how important networking was until after we were done editing 10 MPH. We definitely talked to people and met up with friends who knew friends, but didn't figure out who exactly was who until we started getting into film festivals. I now realize this 'who is who' stuff can actually help get you into bigger festivals and build a bigger impression of your film from the get go.
My advice on how to make the best bang for the buck when it comes to getting to know this industry is to get yourself over to one of the key conferences for indie filmmaking. The two that I really like are the IFP Conference and SXSW's conference and panels that co-exist with the film festival. I went down with my buddy Kelly Wilkinson (also an Assoc. Producer for 10 Yards) during the 2007 festival and we met tons of people that had quite a bit of influence. Not only did I understand the industry better after this experience, but I was a lot more confident about how to position our next film - 10 Yards. Another perk about a film festival like SXSW is that just about every feature film has a party of some sort following its screening and so do all the major sponsors. So take advantage of these and don't be afraid to crash a few parties. Kelly and I got into Morgan Spurlock's party after the screening of What Would Jesus Buy, a film he executive produced. Some of the people we met earlier changed their tune about us after they saw that we were 'invited' to this event.
To get 10 MPH released, we knew we needed connections. We didn't know how we'd release the film, but initially envisioned that some company like THINKFilm would come on board and do everything for us. The very first thing we did - after getting a decent rough cut finished - was fly to Toronto to meet with a few of the execs at THINKFilm. We sat in a conference room and watched our movie with them. It's funny when I look back on this because it was probably not the best use of time and money for us at that moment, but I think this did something for us that has potentially paid off in other ways and still might pay off down the road with another film. We still keep in touch with the two execs who watched our movie and they are interested in our future projects.
This brazen approach for getting recognized and figuring out how the industry worked set the stage for other meetings and networking opportunities down the road. We talked to the brother of a friend who did some PR for very big-named people. He got our movie into the hands of some influential Hollywood types. They of course insisted we needed to hire a professional editor until they did us the favor and passed the movie to a professional editor who really liked the film and felt the editing was very solid. We ran around in circles like this for a few months, and it helped us start figuring it all out. You hear about rejection and how anyone making films gets used to it. But this period (7/05 to 12/05) was where we really got to experience that. By the end of 2005, I was certain we had probably gone down a dead-end path trying to be filmmakers. But during these encounters, we listened to people and got feedback on the film that I believe ultimately made it stronger. You are never done editing a film until you abandon it and show it to the public at large.
After we started getting a few acceptances to festivals in early 2006, our enthusiasm for the film picked up again and we found more ways to network and look for a way to get this film out there. At this point, we were still dreaming about a big distribution deal. I was fortunate enough to work for a marketing agency that did some work for Blockbuster. Naturally, I worked on making my responsibilities with this client as strong as possible with the hopes that maybe somehow it might lead to a connection that could benefit my true passion. I got the chance to visit Dallas (Blockbuster's HQ) and after wining and dining my key clients (who I still keep in close touch with), one of them offered to introduce me to this buyer who supposedly had some good connections in the industry.
The next day I met him and handed him a screener of 10 MPH. He was a good guy, but like every other connection I felt this would be one of the dormant ones. As it turned out, he loved the film and found it a really fresh alternative to all the typical Hollywood crap he's stuck watching day after day. Over several conversations, he told me he felt this film deserved to be distributed and asked me to send him several copies. He was, in effect, going to serve as a producer's rep for us and help find a deal. We were pretty hyped up by all this, but like most things in this business, the buzz eventually fades and you get stuck in this terribly agonizing waiting period of wondering whether anything is actually going to happen.
By summer of 2006, we were getting invites to more festivals and starting to film 10 Yards, so the urgency to find a way to distribute 10 MPH had faded. Film productions take over and during 10 Yards, we had some real life struggles that were also complicating things. It wasn't until early 2007, after primary production had wrapped on 10 Yards, that the connection with the Blockbuster buyer finally turned into a serious lead. He hooked us up with a sub-distributor called RepNet, LLC, which wasn't of course the big distributor we were envisioning at the time. Ultimately, though, this is where the DIY path would begin for us. I do wonder sometimes how things would be different if we didn't make the connections we did during the last few years. My guess would be that I'd probably be sitting in a stanky cubicle somewhere doing meaningless busywork for 8+ hours a day.
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Other DIY films
+ Four Eyed Monsters
+ Tijuana Makes Me Happy
+ Head Trauma
+ The Talent Given Us
+ Guatemalan Handshake
+ Book of Caleb
+ Black Gold
Film Festivals & Distribution Books
+ The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution (Stacey Parks)
+ Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide
+ The Complete Independent Movie Marketing Handbook
+ I Wake up Screening: What to Do Once You've Made that Movie
Filmmaking & Production Books
+ Planning the Low Budget Film
+ The Complete Film Production Handbook
+ Clearance and Copyright: Everything the Independent Filmmaker Needs to Know
+ Film Scheduling: Or, How Long Will it Take to Shoot Your Movie?
+ Film and Video Budgets
+ Filmmakers and Financing, 5th Edition: Business Plans for Independents
+ The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers
+ Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from Concept Through Distribution
+ Workbook Project
Major Film Festivals
+ Sundance Film Festival
+ Slamdance Film Festival
+ Intl. Film Fest Rotterdam
+ Berlin Intl. Film Festival
+ Miami Intl. Film Festival
+ True/False Film Festival
+ AFI Dallas Intl.
+ The Gen Art Film Festival
+ Full Frame Doc Festival
+ Hot Docs
+ Tribeca Film Festival
+ Cannes Intl. Film Festival
+ Seattle Intl. Film Festival
+ Los Angeles Film Festival
+ Telluride Film Festival
+ Toronto Intl. Film Festival
+ Sidewalk Moving Pic Fest
+ New York Film Festival
+ Woodstock Film Festival
+ Hamptons Intl. FF
+ Amsterdam Intl. Doc Fest
+ AFI Fest
+ Denver Intl. Film Festival
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