Not only did the phenomenal weekend of new model distribution practices put on by Chris Jones feature keynote turns from Sheri Candler and Jon Reiss (detailed here and here respectively), it also managed to fit in several fascinating, inspiring and illuminating turns from key indie film supporters and enablers as well.  Here’s a (very) quick low down on what we got from them all.

OPEN INDIE

Kieran Masterton stopped in on Day 1 to talk to us about OpenIndie.com, the great new website for indie filmmakers designed to help organise screenings of flicks where they’re most in demand.  I’m not going to go into heaps of detail, as it’s all available on their website, but I did learn a huge amount from Kieran about a platform I’d previously been a little dismissive of.  Although I’m still somewhat sceptical about how many non-filmmakers will join the site and thus the number of potential audience members who’ll be requesting films, I do think that given the right support and promotion among filmmakers and film fans, it has the potential to be a game-changing site for indie distribution.  I’ve gone from disinterested disbeliever to fascinated, active observer, so Kieran clearly did his job well.

He also treated us to an impromptu masterclass on websites for filmmakers which was remarkably insightful seeing as he was essentially riffing unprepared from his own experiences.  His key advice: know what you want your site to do before approaching a developer.  And don’t confuse development with design – they’re two VERY separate things.

SHOOTING PEOPLE

Although I have to say I didn’t learn anything new about SP from James’ talk to us on Day 1, it did serve as a reminder of just how effective it is as a tool to connect filmmakers across the country and – potentially – the globe.  As part of the new model of distribution and marketing, I think its use is limited given that it’s an audience of filmmakers, but as a resource to help you get your movie made it’s clearly invaluable.

OPEN CINEMA

Not to be confused with Open Indie, our presentation from Christoph of Open Cinema served as a stark reminder as to how we as filmmakers can make a real difference.  Open Cinema is a project aimed at kitting out hostels for rough sleepers with their own cinemas to show challenging, thought-provoking films to some of the most under-priviledged people of our country.  They also run projects to help homeless people tell their stories through film by partnering with established filmmakers.

This presentation really hit home to me and is something I very much want to be involved with.  I hope to have a meeting with Christoph in the next week or so to see how I can apply my skills in education to helping out with the Open Cinema project.  And I would encourage any filmmakers who can spare a little time to check out Open Cinema and see about volunteering to help brighten the lives of some truly wonderful but over-looked people, even just for a day.

NOVEMBER FILMS

We also had a great presentation on true DIY distribution from James of November Films, whose documentary BEYOND BIBA has been sold all over the world from James’ office at Ealing through judicious phone calls and constant hard work.  Along with global sales, the film is also a prime example of Jon’s “Live Event/Theatrical” model, having held over 60 screenings all over the UK that have been hugely successful.  They also highlighted the fact that merchandise can play a key role; at one screening, the team took over £1500 in sales.  Granted they had the film’s subject there and a packed auditorium of her biggest fans, but it still shows how making your screenings an event can turn a profit for you.

As I’ve said before, I could write reams of stuff on here about the weekend, but I could never do the experience justice.  I cannot recommend this workshop enough, nor the importance for filmmakers to follow, interact with and learn from Sheri, Jon and Chris.

What makes these three unique is there truly unselfish willingness to share their knowledge, insights and theories with all filmmakers and to enter into discussions over how to get this model out there.  They’re not precious; they want the best for all indie filmmakers and are willing to debate the issues we face from dawn ’til dusk (and then a little after that, too).  If they’re coming anywhere near you with this workshop, you HAVE to do it.

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