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Date: Sunday, 10 Mar 2013 13:14
I've been slow to do this, with busy-ness as my only excuse, but I'm now making the PDF/e-book version of my 2009 book Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age available as a free download. It's about 5 megabytes. Share it with anyone you'd like. If you find it useful, you can make a PayPal donation using the button below.

Info about how to purchase the paperback or Kindle versions are here, on the book's website.




Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 11 Sep 2012 10:21
Visiting Bob Lambert in his office in the ABC Studios Building, for me, was like going to see an archivist, an oracle, and a city councilman. Bob, who spent 25 years at Disney, eventually becoming the media company's top technology executive, was all of that. He knew the history of technologies in Hollywood — both celebrated and forgotten. He could see the future. And, like any good city councilman, he understood the politics and alliances required to actually get things done.

I learned today that Bob died last Friday. Here is an obituary from The Hollywood Reporter, and there are many remembrances on his Facebook page. He was 55.

I'd met Bob only a few times as a reporter for Variety, and a blogger for CinemaTech, before he offered his help on a book I was working on about Hollywood's technological history. He was generous with his time, with introductions, and with his files. As someone who had helped introduce Disney to non-linear editing, worked to digitize the animation process in collaboration with a startup called Pixar, and nudged the movie industry toward digital delivery of its product, in cinemas and over the Internet, you couldn't have asked for a better guide than Bob. He was one of the central nodes in Hollywood's new technology network. Just about every emerging technology was on his radar screen, and he had a strong opinion about all of it. Bob was funny, curious, encouraging...and he had a remarkably small ego for someone who had operated in the movie business for almost his entire career.

The last time I saw Bob was a surprise. I'd gone up to visit a company in New Hampshire, Laser Light Engines, that was working on a laser-based lamp system for digital projectors. One benefit was that it would brighten the gloomy look of most 3-D films. (Bob would later join the company as a board member.) Nashua, New Hampshire, was one of the last places I'd have expected to bump into Bob, who had recently left Disney. We did the usual chit-chat around the conference table, stared at some PowerPoint slides, and then slipped into a makeshift screening room that Laser Light Engines had set up. We sat next to each other, and the lights went down, and we watched a succession of movie clips and trailers projected using the company's technology.

It was Bob in his natural habitat... getting a glimpse of the future of cinema, and weighing in later on what needed work, and how it might realistically find a path to the market.

I'm sorry he won't be around to shape what happens next.
Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 14 Oct 2011 13:16
I've started work on my next book project. It's about people who've taken the leap... leaving a secure job for the unknown.

I'm hoping to interview you, or someone you know, if this describes you:

- You left a job that was pretty safe and secure, but just wasn't taking you where you wanted to go with your life.

- You're now chasing your dreams, doing something that you believe you were put on this earth to do. That doesn't have to be making movies or touring the world with your band... it could be starting a restaurant, surfing school, personal training business, or stained glass studio.

- You've achieved some level of financial stability/success with your new career.

I'd love your help and ideas. My goal is to create a guide that will hopefully be inspiring and useful to others who want to make the leap. (I did it in 1997, when I quit my last full-time job.) Tweet me @ScottKirsner, or e-mail scott kirsner at gmail dot com.

Thanks!
Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "careers, freedom"
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Date: Monday, 14 Mar 2011 16:39
An upcoming events alert for those of you in the Los Angeles or Boston areas...

- Jill Sobule, the singer/songwriter/entrepreneur who was such a hit at the 2010 edition of Distribution U. in LA (and who is featured in my book "Fans, Friends & Followers"), is playing a show with Julia Sweeney in LA Tuesday night. Her tour schedule also includes dates in Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and beyond.

- And next month, in Boston, I'll be doing a two-hour workshop focused on the newest strategies that artists (and arts organizations) are using to enlarge their audiences. This one is sponsored by ArtsBoston and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, and it's pretty affordable ($35 for people who aren't members of one of those organizations.) It happens April 6th, from 3 to 5 PM at the Boston Center for the Arts. It'll be an updated and expanded version of the talks I gave last November at the two Distribution U. events.

Would love your help spreading the word about either/both events...

Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Jill Sobule, Scott Kirsner, Fans Friends..."
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Date: Monday, 20 Dec 2010 20:52
Indie producer and editor Joel Heller ran a great lunch discussion at last month's Distribution U. event in Los Angeles, focused on developing a powerful online outreach strategy. Joel worked on the digital marketing strategy for the excellent doc "Winnebago Man," which premiered at South by Southwest in 2009 and was recently released on DVD and on iTunes.

Joel was nice enough to share the notes from his session, along with a collection of links that'll benefit anyone planning an Internet marketing campaign for a forthcoming film, especially as you think about finding existing sites and communities that are likely to be aligned with your theme — what I call "going where your audience is." (I learned a lot from Joel's notes; who knew it was possible to search people's Facebook walls?)

From Joel:

FINDING GROUPS & DISCUSSION FORUMS

Begin to identify your film’s potential “ecosystem” by searching these websites that host groups & discussion forums.

http://www.meetup.com/find
http://groups.google.com
http://groups.yahoo.com
http://www.facebook.com/search.php?&type=groups

http://www.facebook.com/search.php?&type=pages
http://www.ning.com/search
http://groupspaces.com/c/search
http://lists.topica.com
http://www.lsoft.com/catalist.html
http://www.freelists.org
http://omgili.com
http://www.dmoz.org

Tip: Keep an open mind when brainstorming groups that might be interested in your film. We discovered late in our release that pit bull owners were interested in WINNEBAGO MAN. The main character has a pit bull, but we didn’t think to reach out to pit bull owners until someone asked us for a flyer to promote the film to her local pit bull club. After that, we reached out to pit bull clubs in other cities and offered free tickets to the group leaders to come to see the film on opening night.

Tip: When approaching group leaders to work with you, be prepared with ideas of what your can offer them of value. Can you promote their cause? A joint fundraising screening? A poster giveaway or passes to see the movie?


GOOGLE’S “ALERTS MANAGER”

It’s easy to monitor who’s talking about your film and what they’re saying. Google Alerts can be set up to monitor everything from mainstream newspaper sources to blogs and websites.

http://www.google.com/alerts/manage

Tip: Set up Google Alerts, not only to monitor your movie, but for other recently released movies (with similar genre or subject matter). This will help you identify reviewers, bloggers, websites and groups that might also be interested in your film.

Tip: You can configure Google Alert Manager to deliver the results as an RSS newsfeed. I prefer this to getting a deluge of emails. (You must be signed into your Google account to access the alerts manager)
My settings are: Everything / As-It-Happens / All Results / RSS Feed


SEARCHING FACEBOOK WALLS

Facebook allows you to search the wall posts of anyone who has not set up their wall to be private. It’s the online equivalent of standing outside a movie theater and listening to how people talk about your movie to their friends.

http://www.facebook.com/search.php?&type=eposts

Tip: This is a great way to discover superfans – who you can message and invite to join your street team. (FB is especially useful for messaging, since Twitter does not allow you to privately message someone unless they are already following you.)


FINDING OLDER TWEETS USING GOOGLE SEARCH “UPDATES”

While Twitter’s search function is limited to recent tweets, Google offers a robust historical Twitter search.

http://google.com
Enter your search term, click search, then select on left side: More > Realtime

Tip: Use the the timeline tool in the upper right corner to go back in time.


CAPTURING ONLINE WORD-OF-MOUTH

Row Feeder is a great tool to automatically archive Twitter and FB wall posts. For each search term you choose, Row Feeder will archive every related tweet and wall post, and save it into a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

http://rowfeeder.com

Tip: If you find yourself addicted to searching Twitter every hour, this is a great way to unplug - and know that you won’t miss anything. Google Doc spreadsheets can be shared, so your whole team can privately access the spreadsheet online.

Tip: You can sort the spreadsheet by any field, so for example, you can easily identify Twitter users with the largest number of followers.


WEBSITE REACH & INFLUENCE

With limited time and resources, how do you decide where to focus your online marketing efforts? These tools show you estimated website traffic. (But traffic should not be your only consideration... Most importantly, how good a fit is your film for a website’s audience?)

http://compete.com
http://alexa.com
http://technorati.com


TWITTERER REACH & INFLUENCE

Tools to make sense of who’s who on Twitter.

http://fflick.com
http://twitaholic.com

http://tweetmeme.com
http://www.twellow.com
http://listorious.com
http://twittercounter.com

Tip: Study how other people are using Twitter successfully. Helpful resources include:

http://mashable.com
http://oneforty.com/

http://140conf.com/


KEYWORD REACH & INFLUENCE

Popular key words and trends can provide a window into how people think - and what they’re looking for online. How can you make it easier for them to stumble upon your film?

http://www.google.com/insights/search/#
http://www.spyfu.com/
http://www.semrush.com/


FINDING RECENT UPLOADS TO YOUTUBE

Normal YouTube searching buries new videos in the results, so this is useful discovering fan reaction videos and mash-ups as they get posted:

http://youtube.com
Enter search term, click search, then select: Search Options > Upload Date

Tip: You can send a private message to any YouTube user by clicking on their username and then “send message”.


ANALYZING YOUR WEBSITE’S TRAFFIC

Google Analytics offers a wealth of data to help you identify how people are using your website, and how they found you.

http://analytics.google.com

Tip: Here are the analytics I find most useful:

Traffic Sources > Referring Sites
What websites linked to your site & how many visitors did they deliver?
Traffic Sources > Keywords
What search terms brought people to your website?
Visitors > Map Overlay
Visitors broken down by their geographic location. You can drill down by country, state and city.
Content > Top Content
What pages are popular on your site and what is the average time visitors spend on each page?

Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Joel Heller, Distribution U., Winnebago ..."
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Date: Monday, 13 Dec 2010 20:39
Couldn't resist posting about this quote from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, on Netflix being overhyped. (Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was named "businessperson of the year" by Fortune.)

"It's a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world? I don't think so," Bewkes told a New York Times reporter.

Interesting comment from a CEO whose stock started the year at $30 a share and is ending it just below $32 a share; Netflix, by contrast, started the year at $53 and is ending it at $183. Who is it again, who is not going to take over the world?

I think what miffs media CEOs is that Netflix has spent the past decade developing a strong relationship with consumers, who view the site as delivering value for an $8, $10, or $20 per month plan. Meanwhile, most people have no connection or brand relationship at all with media companies and studios like Time Warner. Yes, they produce great content, but they've forgotten to build a digital relationship of their own with consumers.

Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner, Netflix"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Nov 2010 20:03
We posed that question to our Distribution U. audience at UCLA last Saturday. Here's what they said:

Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Distribution U."
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Nov 2010 10:10
Wow... we had a great group of 200 filmmakers converge on NYU's Cantor Film Center last Saturday for the first Distribution U. of 2010... and now we're looking ahead to the second (and thankfully, final) workshop of the year, this Saturday at UCLA.

Just wanted to share some stuff from NYU.

- Eric Kohn of IndieWire was there as one of our guest experts, running lunch discussions on how filmmakers can get reviews, whether in traditional media or blogs. Afterward, he posted this write-up of the marketing and distribution case study we did on "Exit Through the Gift Shop," with speakers Marc Schiller of Electric Artists and Richard Abramowitz of Abramorama.

- "Star Wreck" director Timo Vuorensola couldn't join us (he was preparing to start shooting his latest project, "Iron Sky"), but he sent this six-minute video explaining his approach to building communities around his films — and raising money for the productions online.


- Participant Moishe Kaufman posted his notes from the morning and afternoon sessions on his great blog about film, the Internet, and media, The M Word.

- Dustyn Gobler, who was part of our excellent team of volunteers in New York (and is also an experienced post-production consultant), posted his notes on his blog.

- One of our other guest experts, producer and Filmmaker Magazine editor Scott Macaulay, had put this post on his blog before the event (it contains some audio from Distribution U. 2009, at USC). Anne Thompson of IndieWire, who'll be a guest expert this Saturday in LA, published this post on her "Thompson on Hollywood" blog, which contains another bit of audio from 2009.

- Here's the Twitter stream from the event. (This Saturday, we'll again be using the hash tag #distribu.)

- Participants shared some really kind words with us afterward. My favorite: "Honestly, this event really exceeded my expectations. Awesome."

- If you're in LA, we hope you can join us this Saturday (or spread the word to folks who might benefit.) We're grateful to our friends at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, who've made it possible for us to come to campus.

- Our discussion leaders in LA are a pretty impressive bunch, and you'll be able to sit down with three of them for a small group chat that we think will be full of helpful guidance:

    Roko Belic, Director, "Genghis Blues" and "Happy"

    Joe Beyer, Producer, Sundance Institute Online

    Adam Chapnick, Founder, Distribber

    Jonathan Dana, producer and producer's rep, "Road to Nowhere"

    Nolan Gallagher, Founder and CEO, Gravitas Ventures

    Jim Gilliam of NationBuilder, the Internet strategist who helped Robert Greenwald launch (and finance) his Brave New Films series of documentaries and online videos

    Roberta Grossman, Producer/Director, "Blessed is the Match"

    Madelyn Hammond, Marketing Expert, Madelyn Hammond & Associates

    • Producer and editor Joel Heller ("Winnebago Man")

    Justine Jacob, Director, "Ready Set Bag" and Partner, Lee & Lawless

    • Oren Jacob, CTO, Pixar and Executive Producer, "Runner's High" and "Ready Set Bag"

    Skot Leach, Co-Founder, Lost Zombies

    Cara Mertes, director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

    Cora Olson and Jennifer Dubin of Present Pictures

    Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder, IndieGoGo

    Chris Shellen, Web strategist and producer, "Marwencol"

    Jill Sobule, crowdfunding pioneer and musician; Jill's latest release is "The California Years," funded entirely by her fans.

    • IndieWire writer Anne Thompson of "Thompson on Hollywood" (formerly of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter

    Nancy Willen, Head of Acme PR, Documentary Publicist (“Taxi to the Dark Side”)

    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "NYU, UCLA, Distribution U."
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    Date: Friday, 05 Nov 2010 21:47
    The two Distribution U. events that I'm organizing with Peter Broderick are fast approaching... and I've been remiss in telling you how you can get a free pass.

    First, the New York edition happens November 13th at NYU's Cantor Film Center, thanks to our friends at the Tisch School of the Arts, and the Los Angeles edition happens a week later, November 20th at UCLA, generously sponsored by the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

    Second, here are some of the people who'll be on-hand to share their advice about audience-building, social media, distribution, and crowd-funding:

    Richard Abramowitz
    (who organized the successful theatrical rollout of "Anvil: the Story of Anvil"), Jill Sobule (the singer-songwriter who enlisted her fans to fund her latest album), Marc Schiller (the digital marketing expert who heads Electric Artists), Caitlin Boyle (semi-theatrical maven and head of Film Sprout), transmedia producer Noah Harlan, Internet guru Brian Chirls, Jim Browne (theatrical booker and founder of Argot Pictures), Adam Chapnick (founder of Distribber, the innovative company that works with filmmakers to maximize their digital revenues), Ira Deutchman (producer and Emerging Pictures CEO), Sandi DuBowski (producer/director "Trembling Before G-d" and outreach director for The Good Pitch), Justine Jacob (director of "Ready, Set, Bag!" and an attorney at the law firm Lee & Lawless), marketing consultant and former Variety chief marketing officer Madelyn Hammond, producer and producer's rep Jonathan Dana ("Road to Nowhere"), Amy Dotson of IFP and "Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo," "ZENITH" director Vlad Nikolic, Scott Macaulay (producer and editor of Filmmaker Magazine), Slava Rubin and Danae Ringelmann (co-founders of IndieGoGo), Anne Thompson (journalist and blogger "Thompson on Hollywood"), Robert Bahar (“Made in LA”), Roberta Grossman ("Blessed Is The Match"), Joel Heller ("Winnebago Man"), Skot Leach of Lost Zombies, Cora Olson and Jennifer Dubin of Present Pictures, and Ben Niles ("Note by Note").

    So of course we'd love to have you join us in New York on November 13th or Los Angeles on November 20th (and you can use the discount code "friend" at either one to save a little dough.)

    And if you would like to try your luck at winning a free pass to the Distribution U. workshop of your choice, just share the link to either one on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, along with the tag "#distribu," and we'll pick a winner by Wednesday next week at 5 p.m.
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "workshops, Peter Broderick, Distribution..."
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    Date: Friday, 08 Oct 2010 17:34
    I'm really excited to be collaborating again with Peter Broderick to put together two new "Distribution U." workshops next month: one at NYU on November 13th, and one at UCLA on November 20th.

    We did the first "trial" one of these last November, filling up a ballroom at USC with 200-plus filmmakers and producers. If you know people who were there, they'll tell you about the incredibly positive vibe. The attitude was: if everyone is exclaiming that "the sky is falling" on independent film, how can we survive and thrive and help one another in a world with a slightly lower sky?

    The event has a couple objectives:

      - Let filmmakers connect, find new ways to collaborate, and help one another succeed.

      - Talk about what's changing in terms of funding, distribution, and audience-building, with actual examples and case studies, rather than theoretical predictions.

      - Hear directly from filmmakers about what they've done successfully with their most recent films to get them seen by a large audience, and earn a solid return. (We also talk about what didn't work, and wasn't worth the time or investment.)

      - Enable participants to sit down with industry experts for small group lunch conversations on very specific topics, like working with the media and bloggers... understanding the way VOD deals work... organizing theatrical screenings that make money... and more.

      - Provide ideas and strategies to several filmmakers in the audience, as part of an on-stage brainstorming session.

      - Get participants charged up and excited about new possibilities, as opposed to depressed about how things are changing.


    New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis was at the first Distribution U. workshop last year, and she used it as the basis for her article "Declaration of Indies: Just Sell It Yourself." Documentary Magazine called the event "casual, participatory, and supportive." One of our industry experts from 2009 told us, "The room felt like the future to me..." (At left is Oscar-nominated producer Adrian Belic leading a lunch discussion at the first Distribution U.)

    I hope you can make it November 13th in New York, or November 20th in Los Angeles. And we're so grateful to our friends at New York University and UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television for making these two events possible.

    Also: there's an early bird registration rate that will last until next Wednesday, October 13th at midnight. Grab a seat soon...and come with your enthusiasm, questions, awesome projects, and ideas.
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "workshops, distribution, Peter Broderick..."
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    Date: Thursday, 23 Sep 2010 11:33
    These are the clips I would've shown in this morning's IFP Filmmaker Conference panel on "Big Ideas for the Small Screen." (Conference venue couldn't show video from the Internet.)
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Internet video, animation, IFP, panels"
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    Date: Monday, 23 Aug 2010 10:05
    There's a great collection of stories in today's NY Times, focusing on efforts to change the way we watch TV (online and in our living rooms.) The overall message is that viewers are either pretty happy with the cable/broadcast/satellite programming that finds its way into their living rooms, and that most media companies (except Sony) have pretty much given up trying to produce original shows for the Web. There's also the obligatory piece about 3-D TV.

    Links to the stories below, along with a short excerpt from each one:

    - Sony's Bet on Sticking With Web Shows

      Sony Pictures Entertainment has continued to pour money into Crackle.com, ordering Web shows that cost up to $1 million each. Why is Sony still betting so big? For one, it thinks it has hung around long enough to learn important lessons about consumer psychology when it comes to the Internet. But Sony also has a potential ace up its sleeve when it comes to funneling Crackle video to TV sets.

      Analysts point out that Crackle could become the primary entertainment channel for Sony’s PlayStation Network, a fast-growing video service that pumps games and online content into the living room via PlayStation 3 consoles.


    - Crowded Field for Bringing Web Video to TV

      Start-ups and tech giants alike are offering what they say are easy ways to pipe shows and movies to a TV, hoping to win over people who might want a cheaper or more diverse alternative to cable and satellite service.

      These companies have a lot of convincing to do. Most people do not have the tech-savviness to tackle the hardware and software setup that these products often require. And the companies are not able to offer access to many shows and channels that are on traditional pay TV, nor bundle services like phone service and Internet access at a discounted rate, as TV service providers do.


    - TV Makers Predict a Bright Future for 3-D

      If all goes as analysts predict, 3-D TV could account for half of all television sales within five years.

      So far, 3-D TV is a sliver of the overall market, accounting for about 2.5 percent of new television sales in the United States in the last quarter, according to a survey by the market researcher iSuppli.

    - Plenty to Watch Online, but Viewers Prefer to Pay for Cable

      These are confusing times in the living room. The proliferation of Internet video has led to much talk of “cord-cutting” — a term that has come to mean canceling traditional pay TV and replacing it with programming from a grab bag of online sources.

      But so far Americans are not doing this in any meaningful numbers. “Nor is there any evidence of it emerging in the near future,” said Bruce Leichtman, the president of Leichtman Research Group, which studies consumer media habits.

    - DIY TV: How Are You Watching?

      Everything I watch is from various online sources, or is viewed at the apartment of a generous friend or at one of the bars around New York that hold screening parties for popular cable shows.

      Although we’re still in the minority, some like me are cobbling together a patchwork way to watch our favorite primetime and cable TV shows without ever signing up for Comcast or a similar provider.
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Internet video, Crackle, cable, 3-D, tel..."
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    Date: Sunday, 06 Jun 2010 19:02
    It was a real treat to be invited to speak at the PGA's "Produced By" conference this weekend; I was on a panel moderated by Emerging Cinemas' Ira Deutchman called "Smashing Windows: DIY and the New Hybrid Distribution."

    I took some notes throughout the day Saturday on things that struck me as worth remembering, during panels on transmedia, digital cinema, "The Simpsons," and the producer's role. (I had to fly home Saturday night, so didn't stick around for the second day of the conference.) The subtext of most of the sessions I went to was this: we acknowledge that new stuff is happening and new technologies are emerging...and we know audiences want to interact with content in new ways...but it's unclear how we'll make anything approaching decent money in this new world.

    I got a chance to ask noted producer (and onetime United Artists chief) David V. Picker whether he felt worried or energized by the changes technology is bringing about. "I'm curious," Picker said. "No one knows how they're going to make their money back. No one has figured it out." But it seems obvious, he added, that "you just can't keep making $100 million movies."

    Picker moderated a panel of producers talking about the relationship between producer and director. (The panel was supposed to feature Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott, but both were mysterious no-shows. Not too eager to dwell about "Robin Hood," maybe?)

    Larry Gordon, who produced "Die Hard" but also "Water World," said that anything can happen to a project (mostly bad) as you're trying to package together the screenplay, actors, and director. "You're not shooting until you're shooting," Gordon said.

    Gordon said a lot of a producer's job is "protective work," mentioning that he once had to battle to keep Paramount executives from firing an actor on one of his films that they deemed unfunny. (The actor was Eddie Murphy, and the film "48 Hours.")

    Douglas Wick, producer of "Gladiator" and "Working Girl," said that "creative alchemy [mentioned in the title of the panel] is an interesting topic, because it rarely occurs. A good movie is a miracle. There are so many ways things can go wrong." Producers, he added, are called upon to solve every imaginable problem that comes along.

    Bruce Cohen, producer of "Milk" and "American Beauty," said that Spielberg told him on his first producing gig that the producer's job is to "get the director's vision up on the screen." Cohen said that is a "great mantra to start from," but that it's also important to figure out where a director may need help — on creative issues, sticking with the budget, or organizational stuff, to "keep them from getting in their own way."

    Cohen had some funny stories about being reluctant to give notes to Tim Burton while he was shooting "Big Fish." He observed that Burton "paces back and forth very fast on the set, which makes it impossible to have a conversation with him, which is the point."

    Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner Entertainment moderated a panel on transmedia storytelling, with an impressive group of execs that included "Avatar" producer Jon Landau and "Battlestar Galactica" producer David Eick. Gomez mentioned that the PGA is forming a think tank on transmedia.

    Gomez started by showing some slides to explain his view of transmedia. Some of the benefits: transmedia can create intense loyalty, long-term engagement, lifespan extension (of the property, not the viewers, I presume), a desire to share the experience with others, and increased revenue.

    Landau talked about writing Pandorapedia, a "definitive version of the world" of "Avatar," by getting a dozen people in a room for a few days. That helped others who were building content related to the film.

    Cary Granat of Bedrock Studios talked about the way Walden Media has created educational programming for school kids around movies like the "Narnia" series and "Holes," through a program called "Reel Thinking."

    Larry Tanz of Vuguru mentioned "The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers," intended to start on the Web and then move to TV.

    Landau was asked why there weren't more transmedia tentacles extending from "Avatar." He said they'd pitched some that Fox hadn't wanted to fund. "Trying to get a big studio to embrace new ideas is never easy," Landau said. "No one ever got fired for not trying something."

    "All these extensions cost money," said Tanz. "And not all of them generate money. You may only be paid for the TV show of the movie... Some of the pieces can be liabilities on the balance sheet."

    Transmedia needs to come from an authentic place, Eick cautioned: "Once the audience starts to feel manipulated, you're dead... and maybe not just the off-shoot, but the mothership, too."

    The panelists were honest about the current state of transmedia: it can still be hard to figure out where to invest to actually generate good returns (whether that means ticket sales, TV viewers, or game buyers/subscribers.) "It can be hard to understand if webisodes actually have any impact on box office," said Granat, but he pointed to Disney's recent "Tickets Together" experiment in selling advance tickets to "Toy Story 3" on Facebook as something that may point in an important new direction.

    Landau agreed that embedding transactions into media, whether virtual goods or ticket sales, is likely the future. He also suggested that some of the spending studios do today on traditional TV and print advertising might be better invested in transmedia projects.

    Granat added, "The big studios are not going to continue [investing in transmedia] until they understand the metrics."

    But Granat mentioned an interesting transmedia example toward the end: Disney's decision to create a Broadway version of "The Lion King." The studio took a risk in hiring Julie Taymor to reinterpret the film, and wound up creating a stage franchise that has since surpassed the movie in revenues by playing for years in theaters the world over (at a much higher ticket price than the film, of course.)

    During a session on "Digital Cinema and You," Cinedigm Entertainment executive Michele Martell trotted out some stats about the industry. Of about 39,000 movie screens in the U.S., 8,400 have digital projectors today, and 3,700 can show 3-D content. Of 100,000 screens worldwide, 15,000 are digital, and half of those can show 3-D, she said. Also, she referred to a survey that found that one in four Americans say they plan to buy a 3-D TV. (But when?)

    On 3-D television broadcasts, Fox Sports exec Jerry Steinberg said, "It is still a technology in search of a business model. People will have to pay extra at home, or for theater tickets." But Steinberg is a believer that it'll happen: "What 3-D does for sports is recreate the experience of being in the premium seats, and we as an industry haven't sold that yet." He said his expectation is that 3-D TV, just like high-def, will be an 8 to 10 year transition. "We're two years into it," he said.

    Jonathan Dern, a Cinedigm executive and a long-time producer of animated TV shows and movies, said, "I don't intend on producing anything from now on that isn't in 3-D. [That way,] you have an archive that is the future."

    In our panel on "DIY and Hybrid Distribution," I tossed out what I've found to be four essential truths of the new media world producers are living in: "Distribution is free. Choice is infinite. Demand is instant. Noise is unprecedented." You can either develop strategies to address those shifts, or you can try to ignore them. (I've found that many studios and more established producers are doing the latter.)

    "Simpsons" writer-producer Tim Long moderated a panel of his colleagues, including "Simpsons" creator James L. Brooks, that was a hoot, as you might expect. They talked about some of the guest stars with whom they most enjoyed working (Michael Jackson, Dustin Hoffman, Mr. T) and some with whom they had problems (the late Gary Coleman apparently didn't want to say "Whatchu talking about, Willis?" on his episode.) They agreed that Conan O'Brien is one of the funniest people they've ever met, seeking to entertain anyone who'll make eye contact with him, at any moment. They said that the reason that Homer and Marge have stayed together after so many years is that the sex is great. (Apparently, this is Julie Kavner's explanation of the secret of their marriage.)

    "The show is a labor of love, but it's also a labor of work," said "Simpsons" executive producer Matt Selman. More seriously, he added, "we try to cram the maximum amount of awesomeness" into every episode.

    I only caught the end of Mark Cuban's conversation with LA Times reporter Dawn Chmielewski, but he made the comment that "if anything, the studios have gotten more power [over the past few years], not less."

    He also talked about the EBIF standard for developing interactive applications on TVs, and said that as new Internet-enabled cable boxes crept into American homes, we'd start seeing more applications layered onto TV shows, like the long-heralded ability to click your remote and buy an outfit that a character is wearing, or dive into more data about a documentary. Cuban said that there are already about 20 million cable boxes deployed that support the EBIF standard.

    So those are my notes. You can read tweets from the conference here, and hopefully the PGA will post audio or video at some point.
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "transmedia, The Simpsons, digital cinema..."
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    Date: Saturday, 05 Jun 2010 11:54
    I'm panelizing later today at the PGA's "Produced By" conference in LA, and just wanted to share some links with the audience (and you). The title of the session is "Smashing Windows: D.I.Y. and the New Hybrid Distribution."

    Here's are ten links worth checking out (and feel free to add your own in the comments):

    - Required reading: Peter Broderick's "Declaration of Independence: The Ten Principles of Hybrid Distribution."

    - Manohla Dargis in the NY Times: "Declaration of Indies: Just Sell It Yourself!"

    - Videos from the DIY Days series of conferences, on the WorkBook Project

    - Ira Deuchtman's blog and Twitter feed

    - Book site for "Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age" (with lots of free content)

    - Truly Free Film, a blog overseen by producer Ted Hope

    - The IndieGoGo blog (site that supports Internet-based fundraising)

    - Jon Reiss' blog, filmmaker and author of "Think Outside the Box Office"

    - Videos from The Conversation @ Columbia, a gathering held this past March, including panels on "Attracting an Audience Through Social Media" and "Digital Distribution."

    - Blog Maverick, Mark Cuban's blog
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Produced By, Producers Guild of America,..."
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    Date: Tuesday, 18 May 2010 15:57
    YouTube is marking its fifth anniversary this month.

    It felt like a good time to go back to the notes from my October 2005 interview with co-founder Chad Hurley; I'd interviewed him while working on this New York Times story about video-sharing sites, which compared YouTube to other start-ups that helped publish your videos, like Vimeo and Blip.tv.

    When Hurley and I spoke, the company was still being funded only by its founders; by the end of the year, they'd taken a $3.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital, and by October 2006, Google had acquired YouTube for $1.6 billion.

    These are interview notes from my phone conversation with Hurley, lightly cleaned up. It's interesting how determined Hurley was to make the site easy to use for consumers, and to attract up an audience first before introducing advertising.

      Video, we felt, really wasn't being addressed on the Internet.

      Last summer, I was in Italy, and I took some video clips on my cell phone. But with cell phones or still cameras [that could record video], you'd get it onto your computer, and there was no easy way to share it, no services like Ofoto or Shutterfly. [Co-founder] Jawed [Karim] has thousands of clips on his computer.

      There were problems with all the different formats [and whether you had the right plug-ins to view the video in your browser.] We were focused on making a product that had a consistent kind of experience. We started encoding these video files on the fly into Flash video, so they would seamlessly integrate into the Web page.

      We all have parents on the east coast and in the Chicago area, and we wanted to make something that everyone could use, easily.

      We're receiving thousands of public videos per day, and serving up hundreds of thousands of views every day.

      We let people upload files of up to 100 megabytes, which is a very generous amount of space. But we're trying to prevent people from uploading 'Spiderman.'

      [As for people posting copyrighted content to YouTube,] as we expand, we're hoping the community will become more responsible.

      We feel like the video market is in a place where the digital photography market was a few years ago. We think we have a good head start on the rest of the competition. In the next few years, users are going to start adopting video more widely.

      We're purposely trying not to add too much to the site. We want to just empower people with video. With our PayPal experience [all three founders had worked at PayPal previously], we allowed anyone to accept payments, which really empowered them. We want to do the same thing for video, and create a solution for everyone. You don't need to be an advanced videoblogger to know what's going on. We're making a straightforward product that people can use.

      Right now, we're concentrating on the user experience. We feel that's the most important thing — serving customers. But it's clear that we're going to be an advertising-based product. We're not sure what direction we're going to head with that, but we won't do force-fed video commercials in front of a video, like where CNN forces you to watch a 15-second commercial before you see a video clip.

      We've been taking video of the genesis of the company, shooting with digital [still] cameras. They take pretty good movies.


    Wonder if that video has ever surfaced....
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "YouTube, Internet video, Chad Hurley"
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    Date: Wednesday, 12 May 2010 16:56
    We shot the three main panels at the March edition of The Conversation, held at Columbia University. (The audio is a bit rough at points, due to some mics onstage that were cranked up a bit too high.) Thanks go to Emily Branham, director of the forthcoming doc "BeBe," for doing the shooting (and the audio issues weren't her fault, I should say!)

    > Tiffany Shlain's Opening Remarks:

    ConvoNYC - Tiffany Shlain's Opening Remarks from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    > Ira Deutchman's Opening Remarks:

    ConvoNYC - Ira Deutchman's Opening Remarks from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    > Panel: What I've Learned About Attracting an Audience Through Social Media (in three parts, with Arin Crumley, Jason Spingarn-Koff, Ryan Werner, Sandi DuBowski, Nina Paley, and Ian Schafer...moderated by me)

    ConvoNYC - Attracting Audiences Through Social Media - Part 1 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    ConvoNYC - Attracting Audiences Through Social Media - Part 2 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    ConvoNYC - Attracting Audiences Through Social Media - Part 3 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    > Digital Distribution: Addressing the Big Questions (in three parts, with Cory McAbee, Richard Lorber, Steve Savage, Hunter Weeks, and Thomas Woodrow...moderated by Peter Broderick)

    ConvoNYC - Digital Distribution - Part 1 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    ConvoNYC - Digital Distribution - Part 2 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    ConvoNYC - Digital Distribution - Part 3 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    > Stories Elsewhere: Making Media in New Ways (in three parts, with Asi Burak, Gita Pullapilly, Fred Seibert, and Lance Weiler...moderated by Wendy Levy):

    ConvoNYC - Stories Elsewhere - Part 1 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    ConvoNYC - Stories Elsewhere - Part 2 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.



    ConvoNYC - Stories Everywhere - Part 3 of 3 from Scott Kirsner on Vimeo.

    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Events, The Conversation, Columbia Unive..."
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    Date: Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010 10:42
    I've been helping out the good folks at the Maryland Film Festival with a new event, coming up on May 7th in Baltimore: the Filmmakers Taking Charge Conference.

    It'll focus on topics like "generating buzz in a digital world," "the new rules of distribution," and what filmmakers can learn from the music industry's experiences with radical changes to its business model.

    There's a great list of speakers — most of them filmmakers — including Josh and Bennie Safdie ('Daddy Longlegs'), Lena Dunham ('Tiny Furniture'), Ed Sanchez ('Blair Witch Project'), Aaron Katz 'Dance Party'), Joe Swanberg ('Alexander the Last'), and Linas Phillips ('Bass Ackwards'). Janet Pierson, who runs the SXSW film fest, will be there, as will Rick Allen from SnagFilms, Ira Deutchman from Emerging Pictures, and Scott Macaulay from Filmmaker Magazine.

    Help spread the word to folks you know near Baltimore/DC/Philly... and there's a $25 discount on passes purchased by this Friday (April 30th).
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Maryland Film Festival, Filmmakers Takin..."
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    Date: Monday, 29 Mar 2010 22:19
    The line-up for the 2010 "Produced By" Conference, organized by the Producers Guild of America, looks great. Speakers include Mark Cuban of Landmark and 2929 Entertainment; James L. Brooks; Brian Grazer; and Darla K. Anderson, producer of "Monsters, Inc." and the upcoming "Toy Story 3." They've also got sessions on producing online content and videogames; DIY and hybrid distribution; and indie film marketing.

    If you're a PGA member, it's just $295 to attend; for others, the price is steep: $995. The event takes place at 20th Century Fox Studios. (There's a discounted rate of $595 if you are in another guild or a member of various film industry groups, so that's worth checking out.)
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Produced By, Producers Guild of America,..."
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    Date: Monday, 29 Mar 2010 13:43
    Thanks to everyone who made The Conversation @ Columbia happen last Saturday — after I'd moderated my opening panel on building an audience, I mostly felt like I was free to goof off and just eavesdrop on other sessions, workshops, and lunch groups.

    We're posting all of the links, notes, tweets, and other material from the event over here, on The Conversation's official blog.

    Open to your thoughts on what we should talk about next time, and where we should hold it. (Last time was UC/Berkeley in October 2008.)
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "The Conversation, Columbia University"
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    Date: Thursday, 25 Mar 2010 20:22
    I'm both happy and a bit sorry to say that the New York edition of The Conversation, March 27th at Columbia University, is now sold out. (I've already gotten a handful of e-mails from people asking how they can get in...)

    But ... we are looking for a one- or two-person crew to shoot the three main panels of the day and help us share them after the event (likely on Vimeo or a similar site). You'll get a comp pass to the entire day, which will let you participate in the lunch discussions and afternoon workshops. Get in touch with me if you're interested.

    Update: We found someone great. Thanks for the responses!
    Author: "Scott Kirsner (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "shooter, cinematographer, help wanted, T..."
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