Being a film maker today is both easy and incredibly difficult. Because of the casual, affordable access to technology, way too many people are making films today. The accumulation of crap has outpaced good work by a wide margin. It seems everyone thinks they're a film-maker, without actually paying their dues and learning the art and technology involved. This is like piling blankets on serious film artists. It's not the competition—it's that their work gets lost in a sticky bog of mediocrity.
Here are just a few shocking stats on what happens when you post work work on the usual-suspect websites. About 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! Be aware that over six billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that's about an hour per person. (Yes, per every person on Earth!) 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S., but Nielsen says YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than Comcast. Millions are subscribing every day at a rapidly accelerating rate. That is amazing.
Vimeo is a lot more U.S.-oriented, with only 16% of its approximately 100 million views a month originating outside the U.S. It is small potatoes next to YouTube. Either way, the numbers are mind-boggling. How in hell is anybody going to find your work, much less the right people?
The two big questions are: How can I find my best potential audience? And: How can I get discovered and have doors open for me?
Well, I suggest that you need a credible film to start with. Then a credible venue in which to display it — a venue that will not host garbage. How do you know if your work is great, has potential, or is DNR (Do Not Resuscitate?) I'd say you need people who really know. Not a bunch of friends who will be nice to you and say wonderful things and inflate your ego. Save the ego until after you become successful.
What you want is the opinion of people who have a track record of making great cinema. You want the truth. Trust me. it may hurt, but it is the only way you will evolve in the right directions. That, my dear reader, is extremely difficult to come by. One answer could be….
A Film Collective
What is a film collective? I actually didn't know when I started writing this, so I asked Kathleen Wilson and Rick Pagano, co-founders of Rikaroo, an evolving film collective. Here's what they told me:
“The word "collective" came to us when we were discussing the increased democratization that has occurred as a result of more and more content being distributed on the internet. The word connotes a business that is primarily driven by the people who create the product—in this case, the filmmakers themselves."
I would clarify: not third-party distributors who have their own agendas.
“It also refers to the collective of all the film lovers who are looking for those hard to find, rarely seen, quality films out there.”
I asked Rick and Kathleen were they are in Rikaroo's evolution, and they laid out the plan in progress.
Phase I: Finding Films via a Call-to-Action Website
“We started off with a call-to-action site, clearly designed for filmmakers as a place to find out about Rikaroo and how they could tell us about and submit their films to us. Combined with a Facebook presence, we hoped to get some interest, but were clearly too early on in the game of digital exhibition. Very few seemed to know what we were talking about and/or were not interested in digital. They were holding out for the dream of theatrical release."
Phase II: Finding Films by Actively Seeking Them Out
"We moved into phase two, which has involved actively searching for good films, reaching out to filmmakers, getting their screeners, reviewing films, and selecting those that might be appropriate for Rikaroo. We set up a clear set of criteria by which to classify and evaluate the films we were sent.
"We ended up finding 600 or so films in the first pass. We screened about 100 and selected 12. Of the 12 we selected, only two were available for exhibition. (The others had distributors, but their distributors had not released their films so they were stuck in limbo).”
This indicates a serious problem for beginning filmmakers — ending up with no control over your film because a distributor is sitting on your work.
Phase III: Getting the Word Out and Building an Audience
“The initial site that's up now is an information site about Rikaroo, a blog with posts about the intersection of independent film and all things digital. amd a small collection of good but rarely seen films in seven different categories that are currently available on the web for free. We have a call-to-action window for film lovers and filmmakers alike to send us either favorite but hard-to-find films or films they've made that have been to festivals but not gotten distribution. That's where we are now. But we are working hard on the critical Phase IV — and that's where you come in, Peter.”
Phase IV: Rikaroo Film Collective – for Filmmakers and their Film-Loving Fans
Making this effort a success is going to take filmmakers and film-lovers. I wrote this blog in an effort to help my readers help themselves create an alternate means of film distribution that will be satisfying and pay some bills. Here is how Rick and Kathleen see the next phase of Rikaroo's evolution:
“Once we have gathered a small but continuously growing collection of quality films, we will promote them on Rikaroo. Peter, your blog post and others like it will be part of getting the word out — of helping filmmakers see the value of a site like Rikaroo to get the kind of online exposure they need to build a reputation. For phase V, we are exploring developing a subscription/revenue-sharing service. We are also working towards the kind of credibility that will prompt distributors to reference our site when looking for the best [films and filmmakers] to represent.”
About Rick Pagano and Kathleen Wilson
Kathleen is an innovating media pioneer. Formerly VP/creative director and a founding member of Viacom Interactive, she was also an executive producer and founding member of Paramount's Media Kitchen. Kathleen is a member of the adjunct faculty at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Interactive Telecommunications Department. She knows visual entertainment from top to bottom, has connections, and is personally motivated to help young film makers.
Rick has been a casting director in Hollywood for more than 25 years, working with the top guns in the industry, from Oliver Stone to James Cameron and many others. He has an eye for talent and he is also an outstanding writer. Rick has has cast more than 70 feature films, including X Men: The Last Stand, Hotel Rwanda; Rudy, Drugstore Cowboy, Fool's Game, and my favorite TV show, Black List, among more than 100 others. He and his partner, Debby Manwiller, have won a pair of Emmys for their outstanding work.
Rick has directed a number of his own stage plays and has co-directed a critically-acclaimed adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles. his latest stage play is titled Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant.
If you are reading this and you have a film that you have some confidence in, contact them through Rikaroo. I've known Kathleen for 25 years and she is the real deal. I just met Rick and clearly he is too.
If You Have Talent…Read on
If your movie is average, forget the rest of this and go back to being a barista at Starbucks. If your work is genuinely excellent (again, I did not say good) Then here's what you do.
You submit your work to the folks at Rikaroo.com for review. They review truckloads of films and they are qualified to do so. Check out their creds further on their website and IMDb or WIKIpedia. These are people who know entertainment – what works and what doesn't work. They will be honest with you. It will hurt.
Those 600-plus films they reviewed were not all crap. Some were quite good. They picked the special ones. You need to find a way to make your film not only excellent, but special. It has to be more engaging and entertaining than the average studio release. That should not be difficult if you really do have talent. Okay, it is difficult, but required.
In the meantime. Rikaroo is an option you should be considering. If you don't get accepted. It will hurt, but that isn't the end. It just means you have a lot to learn, and they can help you learn that stuff.
Kathleen told me, “We have managed to make a growing number of industry people aware of the needs of curatorship in this ever-expanding galaxy of online content.” And Rikaroo has begun curating. “We've identified some of the obstacles to collecting, and exhibiting, the work of indie filmmakers in a way that would also help them recoup their production costs.” Rikaroo is pushing hard to overcome those obstacles. Actually recouping your outlay? Nearly unheard of for most filmmakers.
I asked what the next step is. Kathyleen said, “Going forward we’d like to carve out more time and resources to expand the collection of films that can be viewed on our site, as well as increase the amount and frequency of our communications to our online audience–in the form of more writing from us and members of our Board of Advisers, as well as anyone who wants to share thoughts on these issues with an intelligent perspective.”
She also said that they are building a community of filmmakers who can use each other as resources, making connections that will serve them well in the near future. They help each other get the work done and share sources. This builds camaraderie among these young people suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous personal choices. Rikaroo is bringing them together with solid additional resources to improve their chances of success.
They are currently working on a blog series covering ways for filmmakers to avoid pitfalls and bad deals. Another focus is helping filmmakers understand what it means to make their work special. These posts may seem obvious to the veteran film maker, but to newbies they prove invaluable. So here is a place where seasoned filmmakers share their experience with younger ones just getting their feet stubbed…er, wet, and where avid audiences speak their mind openly giving feedback directly to the makers.
When you visit Rikaroo, notice that they define filmmaking broadly. A great example of what I mean is the Cloud Chamber Mystery project. Check it out; it is pretty fascinating.
Then go. Get connected, get famous, get fabulous and send me your autograph. Seriously. I'll frame it.
I'm torn about what my next blog will be about. Lots of interesting stuff going on, and I'm torn in several directions. I promised you a look at more ways of finding work for VFX artists, but for the moment I'm bored with that. I'm looking at exciting new software, new ways of doing things. I'm thinking about telling you more about 5D, the organization that was created to keep creative directors and production designers abreast of the latest developments in immersive design and other cutting edge methodologies in film design. I am one of the first co-founders of the organization, which is headed by Alex McDowell, one of the top production designers in the world. Keep your eye out. I'll be back soon.
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