Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Movie of the Day – 02/26/2010

February 26, 2010

I will post a picture of my tv screen displaying a scene from a movie I’ve seen recently and you’re supposed to guess what movie it is from. The picture will be something that can be identified by someone that saw the movie, but not by someone that didn’t (at least not very easily). Leave your guess in the comments.

Movie of the Day

Movie of the Day 02-26-2010

“You Might Have Noticed”

February 8, 2010

Brand new interview with me up at Colonel’s Crypt

Check it out if you have 20 minutes to spare (I’m typically long winded).

IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 6

January 7, 2010

Background: My first film, “Hunting Season was released nationwide on August 1st, 2009 via Cable and Dish Video on Demand (VOD). In conjunction with the VOD release I wanted to capitalize on the added exposure by offering DVDs for sale on-line. The best way to do this without dropping a minimum of $1,000 up front is to distribute through one of the DVD On-Demand sites, www.IndieFlix.com or www.CreateSpace.com (there are others but these seem to be the most popular). Since both sites are non-exclusive I decided to distribute through both of them simultaneously to see which one offers the “better” (in my opinion, for my needs) experience, and document it all here.

I have 2 requirements:

  1. I will ONLY be selling DVDs on Demand. Both of these sites offer numerous digital download options. None of what I write about here will take that into consideration.
  2. I want to price the DVDs as low as possible but still make an acceptable amount of revenue per disc (equivalent to the average that I will receive per VOD purchase).

Please see the previous blog post “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1″ and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 3IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 4 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 5 to catch up.

I’ve pretty much completely written off CreateSpace as an option at this point. It has NOTHING to do with their service. The fact is that, at this point, IndieFlix is offering me everything that CreateSpace is offering, and more.

WOW! It has been a LONG time since I updated this blog. I would LOVE to say that a lot has happened in the meantime but… I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, an apology: I apologize for leaving everyone hanging for so long. My intentions were to continue to follow-up and post updates whenever there were new developments in the IndieFlix distribution of “Hunting Season” and you will soon read why there haven’t been any updates in awhile (aside from the fact that I’ve been extremely busy co-writing a novel, writing a new screenplay, and working on distribution of Burning Inside (which will be coming out in the spring via James Felix McKenney’s (MonsterPants) new “Channel Midnight” distribution banner)).

This story continues where the previous chapter left off, My contact at IndieFlix, Mike Williams, sent me an e-mail on September 10th with the following information:

Dear Nathan,

This is just a quick notice that your film “Hunting Season” will be released for sale at IndieFlix next Tuesday, September 15th.  A few of points of preparation:

§         I need to pass along to our Marketing department the answer to one key question for their release promotions— “Why does someone need to watch this film?”  In one or two conversational sentences please let me know the answer and I’ll pass it along to them.

§         If you haven’t already, please be sure to add as much information about your work as you have into your ‘Manage Film’ page online (***).

§         If you have a specific preview scene clip (about 1 minute) that you’d like customers be able to watch and haven’t inputted the time code to your Manage Film page yet, please email that time code or give a scene description to me and I’ll pass it along to Production.

Finally, please feel free to let me know soon if you’d prefer that date be postponed (i.e. the date doesn’t fit for your marketing push, if you have custom DVD artwork that you need yet to send, etc.) and we’ll be happy to do that.

That’s great right!!!??? The only problem was that I got this e-mail on the 10th and the movie was being released on the 15th, how am I supposed to get Press releases out for web sites to put this in their “Coming Soon on DVD” sections?? It wasn’t going to work out for marketing purposes, plus there was no mention of an Amazon.com release date.

I responded to Mike the same day at around 8pm Eastern Time (IndieFlix is in California) with the following:

Mike,

This is great news but I do have a few questions:

1) We have previously discussed making Hunting Season available on Amazon.com. Will it be available on September 15th?

2) When do I set a price for the film?

3) I have submitted custom artwork, did you receive it?

4) Do I get a “proof” copy to approve?

Mike got back to me at 3:30pm the following day:

Amazon takes somewhat longer to get the films released so it’ll take a couple more weeks there, I believe.  We can ask them to set up a pre-sale page if you’d like, however.  That wouldn’t take long at all or we can hold the IndieFlix.com release for a coordinated release.  Just let me know what your preference is.

You can set/change your pricing at anytime just let me know what you want and we’ll make the adjustment.  The DVD default minimum for feature length titles is $9.95.

Production has your artwork and it’s all set

Since IndieFlix is primarily a consignment distributor all copies must be purchased but the good news is that you’ll receive 70% net back as a kind of rebate in the form of your quarterly royalties.  Later this year we plan to implement a wholesale purchase option so you can get the discount upfront.

As always, please don’t hesitate to let me know should you have any further questions/concerns.

Totally acceptable answers within an acceptable time frame, my man Mike Williams has always been good.

I replied:

Excellent!

I would like to do a coordinated release with Amazon. I’ll set a higher price point for the Amazon sales but I’m sure I can get more coverage in the genre websites for a DVD release if the DVD is available in multiple places. I just need to know when that release date will be so that I can get press releases out on time.

Thanks for all your help on this. It’s been a real pleasure working with IndieFlix.

And he countered:

Nathan,

Okay great, I’ll let Production on this end know to hold it and will let you know as soon as I learn the date Amazon will have.

So at this point we were all set and had a little bigger window to be able to get the word out, once we knew what that date would be.

13 Days later (on 09/24/09) I received the following from Mike:

Dear Nathan,

This is just a quick notice that your film “Hunting Season” will be released for sale at IndieFlix next Tuesday, September 29th in conjunction with the Amazon.com release.  A few of points of preparation:

§         Our Marketing department needs you to finish the following sentence:

Someone needs to watch this film because …”

§         Using brief casual wording (something like a Twitter post), please let me know how you finish the sentence and I’ll pass it along to them.

§         If you haven’t already, please be sure to add as much information about your work as you have into your ‘Manage Film’ page online (***).

Finally, please feel free to let me know soon if you’d prefer that date be postponed (i.e. the date doesn’t fit for your marketing push, if you have custom DVD artwork that you need yet to send, etc.) and we’ll be happy to do that.

Hmmm. This e-mail seems a little familiar. (but, hey, I’m not too concerned that they use a form letter to let producers know the release dates. They’re probably pretty damn busy). The only problem is that the letter was, once again, sent FIVE days before the DVD was coming out! This leaves ZERO time to do any marketing. But what the hell, let’s just get it out there.

I sent out press releases to every magazine and web page that was remotely associated with indie film, horror or movies in general (and we got at least one good mention: shocktilyoudrop) with the big news.

And then the BIG DAY arrived: Hunting Season was released for sale at IndieFlix.com and Amazon.com on September 29th, 2009!!

I got an e-mail from Mike on the special day reminding me:

Your film, “Hunting Season,” is now up for sale at IndieFlix (http://www.indieflix.com/Films/HuntingSeason1).  Unfortunately, due to a delay in the roll-out of our new VOD platform, the 30-Day Streaming Rental option isn’t yet available.  We expect it to be up by this weekend or early next week.  If you’re working with IndieFlix for VOD Only your Film Detail page is up so that customers will be able to see the Preview and once our developers are ready we’ll turn on that option.

Also, “Hunting Season” is now available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Season-Nathan-Wrann/dp/B002Q0WKCS/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1254249251&sr=1-10.

Our most successful films are those for which the filmmaker is out spreading the word about their work so please be sure to talk about it, send emails, blog, hold screenings, and do all you can to let people know that your work is available.  You can also update information about your film and track your sales in real-time, anytime online via your Filmmaker Account (**).

As always, don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the film.

(NOTE: The VOD platform rollout didn’t affect me because I was not distributing Hunting Season digitally)

(NOTE: Since the very beginning of this process IndieFlix had been mentioning a NEW PLATFORM that they were developing for their site)

Nevertheless…

It was a very exciting day. I tweeted and facebooked and myspaced and e-mailed my ass off telling everyone I knew that the movie was now available for sale on DVD at Amazon (and IndieFlix)! I asked all of those people to tell everyone that they knew. E-mails were forwarded and champaigne was popped. So now all I had to do was watch the Hunting Season “Sales Ranking” at Amazon.com tick downward from its starting point (84,399).

It was a long wait, so to make the time go by and continue my research comparison between IndieFlix and CreateSpace I bought myself 1 DVD from each of the two vendors (NOTE: I believe that the DVDs sold on Amazon are made by the same manufacturers that makes the DVDs for CreateSpace. If they aren’t please let me know.)

Product Comparison:

The DVDs from Amazon and IndieFlix played identically and at the same quality of the master that I sent in. The “special features” (Trailers etc) and menus that I put on the master also found their way onto the Amazon and IndieFlix discs

The differences between the two are apparent in the packaging:

The Amazon DVD package and full color disc printing are mint. The graphics, images and text are all the same high quality that I would expect from a store bought studio DVD. The paper is a high quality heavyweight gloss stock.

The IndieFlix DVD packaging and full color disc printing are of slightly lower quality with and a little off-color with some visible digitization. This is primarily visible in the yellow text of the title, which seems a little greyish and textured. Also the paper is lightweight and clearly perforated around the edges.  Chances are it was printed with a high-end inkjet printer.

Customer Service Comparison:

I ordered the Amazon.com DVD on September 29th with their in-depth order summary, and the auto-confirmation e-mail they sent me on the day that I ordered I can confirm when I placed the order and what credit card I used. Amazon tells me that the order shipped on October 4th and I received it on October 7th.

Unfortunately purchase tracking isn’t as comprehensive with IndieFlix, in fact I am currently unable to find any purchase history when I login to my account and the link at the bottom of the confirmation e-mail sends me to a “page not found”. I did save a PDF of the order confirmation which tells me that I placed the order on October 4th. I do remember it took a considerably longer period of time to receive the order from IndieFlix than it took to receive the order from Amazon.

A few positive things that should be noted:

Amazon.com put a “pre-sale” page up for Hunting Season

On September 30th Amazon.com sent an e-mail to a filmmaker that I know with the following: “Dear Amazon.com Customer,As someone who has purchased or rated “Spoils”, you might like to know that Hunting Season is now available. You can order yours for just $9.95 by following the link below.” Which is great from a marketing standpoint!

IndieFlix included Hunting Season on their “IndieFlix NewFlix Tuesday” mailing that goes out to all of their mailing list subscribers

IndieFlix featured Hunting Season on their main page as a new release for at least a week after its release date.

A few negative things that should be noted:

IndieFlix had serious platform issues leading up to and following the launch of their new site. Hunting Season was originally available on DVD at the OLD site, I had entered a description, bio and all of the other necessary info. When the new site went live all of the info that I entered disappeared. Also Hunting Season was available on DVD and WAS available as a digital download! This was a major problem because of my VOD contract. I contacted Mike Williams and he got the tech team on it right away. Apparently this wasn’t an isolated incident and affected other films across the site. However when the tech team did their fix they removed the DVD and left the download. Another e-mail to Mike got the issue elevated and fixed 3 days later.

Other issues with the site upgrade: The sales tracking feature was missing. To this day, sales prior to October 12th (the day of the upgrade) are not available to filmmakers.

No sales tracking for DVDs sold through Amazon. I can get the number from Mike whenever I need it though.


Now is the moment of truth.

The primary reason for starting this blog report was because it is nearly impossible to find out what kind of sales other films, similar to mine were having by self-distributing through Amazon.com. There’s probably a reason for that.

I previously mentioned that “Hunting Season” debuted on Amazon with a sales ranking at 84,399. This means that there were 84,000 other DVD products that were selling better than “Hunting Season”. By the 8pm Eastern time the sales ranking had jumped (or would it be dropped?) to 24,590. I must have sold A TON OF DISCS to jump ahead of 60,000 other products! The next morning I woke up to find that the ranking had moved to 17,484! The ranking stabilized and a few days later was at 15,899 on 10/02. After that the ranking steadily climbed until it ended right around where it currently rests: 114,830 (I think we may have actually been as high as around 150,000).

After watching Hunting Season’s sales ranking jump ahead of almost 70,000 other products I was itching to know what our sales report actually was so I contacted Mike Williams to get a report from him:

On October 21st Hunting Season had been on sale for 3 weeks and sold:

A GRAND TOTAL OF 9 DVDs on AMAZON

and

A GRAND TOTAL OF 1 DVD on INDIEFLIX

wow. really? yes.

Let’s not forget that I ordered 1 DVD from each of the vendors which means that in reality I sold 8 DVDs on Amazon and 0 DVDs on IndieFlix. And I bet that at least half of those 8 DVDs were sold to family members or friends that were excited to support me.

So that’s it.

What can we glean from this?

We can determine that selling 1 DVD will move you thousands of places up the sales ranking at Amazon.com.

We can determine that Amazon.com is DEFINITELY not a Field of Dreams (Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come). It still takes, at the very least, a marketing and advertising presence. Strong press presence (reviews, write ups, interviews etc). A pre-existing fan base probably helps too.

I think the bottom line is that for what I used IndieFlix/Amazon for it was not beneficial, but it wasn’t bad. I got a 2 year old movie out there, available for DVD, that is still making the rounds on VOD. It would have never been available otherwise. My VOD contract prohibited me from taking advantage of IndieFlix’s digital download distribution network (which is probably, truly the strength of their business model). The fact that I made Hunting Season for about $5,000 in 2006 and have already recouped that just from sales at conventions made it possible for me to do this experiment. I twittered, facebooked, myspaced, message boarded, networked and newslettered non-stop. I got a few on-line write-ups. If I had put HS up on Amazon when it was first made/released and had the Fangoria, twitch, dread central write ups (it’s a horror movie so targeting the genre isn’t hard) I may have sold more, but truthfully, I doubt it.

Am I “down” on Self-distribution, IndieFlix or Createspace (Amazon)? Hell no! I always say, if I’m gonna bet, I’m gonna bet on myself. These companies do a great service to filmmakers with a lack of resources and given a similar situation in the future I would use IndieFlix again. they are a young company and will continue to improve. This is only one aspect of Self-distribution, if you’re considering making it the only aspect it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

So now I turn it over to the readers of this blog:

Tell me your self-distribution stories.

Tell me your self-distribution successes and failures.

Tell me what to do to do it better next time.

Tell me your experiences dealing with any and all distribution, aggregators, or self-distribution services. There are a ton out there and I’m not finding a lot of success stories (and nobody is willing to discuss their shortcomings)

Tell me how self distribution will work without marketing and advertising.

Ask me what I think about the most recent self distribution fantasy that you heard.

The only way we can be successful is if we get these experiences out in the open and share them so that others may learn and improve upon them.

This concludes my IndieFlix vs CreateSpace blog report.

If you are a representative of either CreateSpace or IndieFlix and have stumbled across this blog I openly welcome your input (especially if any of my statements or “facts” need fixing).

BSG: The Plan. My Review

October 27, 2009

It’s been awhile since I posted a blog and it seems a little weird to come back just to write a review but the first thing I did today after work was swing over to Best Buy and pickup a copy of BSG: The Plan (I wanted to get Graham Reznick’s “I Can See You” but our Best Buy wasn’t carrying it. Maybe yours does, It’s worth buying, especially since it comes with the 3-D short “The Viewer”. I highly recommend it). Needless to say I’m a huge fan of the Battlestar Galactica rebooted series (liked the original as a kid, haven’t seen it since). Here goes. It’s pretty quick.

DISCLAIMER: IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SERIES, WATCH IT FIRST! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW, DO NOT WATCH ‘THE PLAN.’

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan

The Plan is essentially a 1 hour 52 minute recap of the ‘new’ Battlestar Galactica series from the beginning up to the middle of Season 2.5 with new scenes sprinkled in. The new footage is, virtually, deleted scenes that redundantly over-explain the attempts and failings to exterminate the human race by the Cylons-that-look-like-us-now. To over-explain what I mean imagine taking the “Previously on Battlestar Galactica” portions of each episode and cutting in some extra scenes with Cylons talking to each other explaining or summarizing or revealing things that either A) Never needed to be revealed, summarized or explained or B) Are so “on the nose” it reeks of repetition, redundancy and back tracking. At around the 1 hour 20 minute mark the purpose of “The Plan” becomes apparent: Love Conquers All. And then the next 30 minutes are spent taking the “Previously on Battlestar Galactica” portions of each episode and cutting in some extra scenes with Cylons and humans talking to each other explaining or summarizing or revealing things about Love, Love, Love. I can appreciate the subtext, moral and themes at the core of this recap of BSG, however, it could have (and should have) been done so much better. Maybe in a single story line with a few key characters.

The bottom line is that The Plan is completely unnecessary, poorly written and lacking in imagination (and the special effects were sub-par). In fact it does the nearly impossible and diminishes, to the point of ruin, some of the best, most intense affecting moments of the series. As a comparison, ‘The Phantom Menace’ doesn’t “ruin” ‘Star Wars’ yet somehow ‘The Plan’ has ruined “Battlestar Galactica.”

I’ll be back soon with another blog about my movie “Hunting Season” available on DVD as well as an update on the projects I’m currently working on.

Sundance Goes Lo-/No-Budget. Kinda.

September 10, 2009

About a week ago, on September 2nd, the Sundance Film Festival announced a new section of the festival called NEXT. Sundance’s website describes this as “a new section featuring six to eight films selected for their innovative and original work in low- and no-budget filmmaking.” (You can find the full description as well as a downloadable official press release here .)

Low- and no-budget filmmaking !? WOW! Awesome. That is exactly what I traffic in. My first film “Hunting Season” was made for $5,000 and my second feature “Burning Inside” had a budget of $10,000, which is clearly in the realm of “low- and no-budget” films and is definitely “innovative and original”. I had submitted a work-in-progress version of “Burning Inside” for last year’s Sundance fest and was rejected but with their new focus on low- and no- budget films maybe the playing field would be leveled and “Burning Inside” might have a better chance against $10 million dollar films with Hollywood stars attached.

One thing that I have learned in the past 10 years or so is that there is a WIDE definition of “low- and no-budget” when it comes to filmmaking. And one thing that I noticed about Sundance’s announcement was that there was no specificity or guidelines in regards to what actually constitutes a “low-” or “no-budget” film. I can pretty much guarantee that my definition differs from theirs. I was considering re-submitting “Burning Inside” but before I shelled out the $100 submission fee (yeah, Sundance made the “low- and no-budget” announcement when the only realistic deadline left was the one that costs $100 to enter. Not exactly affordable in the realm of no-budget filmmaking.) but I wanted to see if there would be a better chance against the 5,000 films already entered, than there is in any normal year at Sundance. So I did some research.

A lot of articles were written about this big announcement but none had any more clarification than the information on Sundance’s website. In line with today’s journalism status quo, most articles were just a regurgitation of the info from Sundance’s page (I think they call this “aggregating”). I decided to contact Sundance to see if I could get some answers to my specific questions.

The Sundance submissions page has an e-mail address: programming@sundance.org. So I fired an e-mail off to them that said:

I’m sure you’re inundated with questions about the “NEXT” (Lo/No budget) announcement made the other day. I have a question or two:

1) “Lo/No budget” can mean many different things to many different people.  What is the criteria for a lo/no budget film? Is there a budget cap that you will be implementing for the films that fit this category?

2) If I submitted a film last year that will fit the Lo/No budget category ($10,000 budget) can I resubmit it this year (final cut was made on 03/30/09) for consideration?

Thank you very much for your time.

Nathan Wrann
Dalton Gang Productions
www.daltongang-productions.com

Today I finally received a response (after sending a follow up e-mail).  Here’s what they sent in regards to my questions:

“Nathan,

The films that play in the NEXT category, like all of our categories, are determined by the Programmers AFTER the film is selected for the festival. When you are submitting a film, you are submitting to the festival as a whole. Programmers will be making their choices based on atmosphere and aesthetic.

For a better idea of the NEXT category, I would direct you to this article: http://www.indiewire.com/article/john_cooper_we_are_looking_for_creativity_born_of_limitations/

If your film was completed AFTER our deadlines last year, then you are still eligible to submit to this year’s festival.

Best,
Programming Department
Sundance Institute
8530 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor
Beverly Hills, CA  90211″

In the e-mail an article on IndieWire.com is linked to give me a better idea of the “NEXT” section. It’s interesting to note that in the article the film “The American Astronaut” is used as an example. “The American Astronaut” has a budget “between 1 and 2 million dollars” according to the wikipedia page about the film (hardly low-budget to me).

Taking this information, and the information in the e-mail into consideration it appears that it will be business as usual for Sundance. They will select whatever films they select (with no additional consideration for low/no budget, starless features) and then the films (if any fit) will be marketed in the “NEXT” category. In other words a $5,000, $1,000,000 or $10,000,000 “Indie” film all have the same chance of getting selected.

I’m not complaining about the films that Sundance selects or why they select them. They have a place in the whole scheme of things and if their niche is $10 million indie films then so be it. But I don’t think that they should make an announcement that implies they are re-focusing on selecting low- / no-budget films when they aren’t.

If you’re a low- / no- budget filmmaker and were considering forking over the $100.00 submission fee I hope that you found this blog before doing so. Not so that you would be dissuaded from submitting, but so that you will be better informed in your decision.

As for me and resubmitting “Burning Inside“, I’ll be saving my $100 fee. That’ll go a long way toward feeding the cast and crew of my next feature.

Indieflix vs CreateSpace Update 5

August 27, 2009

Background: My first film, “Hunting Season was released nationwide on August 1st, 2009 via Cable and Dish Video on Demand (VOD). In conjunction with the VOD release I wanted to capitalize on the added exposure by offering DVDs for sale on-line. The best way to do this without dropping a minimum of $1,000 up front is to distribute through one of the DVD On-Demand sites, www.IndieFlix.com or www.CreateSpace.com (there are others but these seem to be the most popular). Since both sites are non-exclusive I decided to distribute through both of them simultaneously to see which one offers the “better” (in my opinion, for my needs) experience, and document it all here.

I have 2 requirements:

  1. I will ONLY be selling DVDs on Demand. Both of these sites offer numerous digital download options. None of what I write about here will take that into consideration.
  2. I want to price the DVDs as low as possible but still make an acceptable amount of revenue per disc (equivalent to the average that I will receive per VOD purchase).

Please see the previous blog post “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1″ and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 3 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 4 to catch up.

I’ve pretty much completely written off CreateSpace as an option at this point. It has NOTHING to do with their service. The fact is that, at this point, IndieFlix is offering me everything that CreateSpace is offering, and more.

Last week I received an e-mail from Mike Williams stating the following:

Your submission of “Hunting Season” has been received and screened.

A couple of quick notes before we can slate the release date:

  • Due to a large number of submissions IndieFlix has moved to accept primarily film festival selected work so if you could, please email me a list of where the film has screened as soon as you can.
  • Also, if your film uses any non-original licensed music we’ll need a music cue sheet.

I sent the requested information yesterday and received GOOD NEWS today:

Thanks Nathan,

I’ll email you the week prior to the film’s release to confirm the date.  It’s typically about three weeks.

So it looks like Hunting Season will be available on DVD in about a month! Then I’ll be able to report on the completed experience, including the trials and tribulations of attempting to make sales.

A littler further information:

This blog series started out as a comparison between the two services IndieFlix and CreateSpace it quickly became apparent that a comparison wouldn’t be necessary because there was no reason to continue to pursue distribution (and comparison) through CreateSpace since IndieFlix could offer the same service, but better.

One thing that you may have noticed above is that Mike Williams requested information on the festivals (IndieFlix indicates all over their filmmaker submission guidelines that they only accept films that have played a festival. However I did receive an e-mail from Mike Williams stating “Although film festival selected film are automatically accepted, we certainly welcome all submissions and try to let the audience decide what they want to see rather our filtering some out“) that Hunting Season has played at. Hunting Season screened at NewFilmmakers in NYC on Halloween Night in 2007. This must have fulfilled the festival requirement. This is one area where IndieFlix and CreateSpace differ drastically. CreateSpace will take almost ANY dvd (they do have some restrictions: Porn, etc) but IndieFlix has some sort of quality criteria. If Hunting Season had not been accepted by IndieFlix I would have turned to CreateSpace.

If you are a representative of either CreateSpace or IndieFlix and have stumbled across this blog I openly welcome your input (especially if any of my statements or “facts” need fixing).


District 9

August 18, 2009

It’s been awhile since I blogged about something that I’ve seen, heard or read so I figured it’s time:

This is a quick review, no spoilers hopefully.

Went to “District 9” tonight.

Paid $6 per ticket, That’s the Criterion Cinemas, New Haven, CT special Tuesday night Member’s Price. Pretty cool.

I’ve been inundated with hype surrounding this movie. Seems that EVERYONE who has any blog or site related to movies has seen a preview of it and declared it the best movie of all time.

I was looking forward to it.

Here’s what I knew about it before going it: It’s a fictitious documentary (aka Mockumentary) about a species of aliens who have been relegated to living in a refugee style slum for the past 20 years because their spaceship stalled over Johannesburg, South Africa. The human locals of Johannesburg grow tired of the Alien population and violence begins to break out and conditions (bad as they were, deteriorate) A huge multinational military defense contractor (Halliburton) type company is tasked with relocating the 1.8 million Aliens to “District 10” which is a new, refugee camp with shining barbed wire and white tents. And then all hell breaks loose.

“District 9” was EXCELLENT.

But I didn’t love it.

Let’s start with the good:

The Acting was phenomenal. Due to the “documentary” style the performances HAVE to be spot on and they were, especially the lead Sharlto Copley playing Wickus Van De Werwe. A+

The special effects were FLAWLESS. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why any movie with a budget over $30 million should ever have unrealistic digital effects from this point forward. The spaceship, the aliens, I don’t even know what else was digital because it was all blended perfectly. A++

Flawless digital Effects

Flawless digital Effects

The Directing Very, Very good. But this could be debatable because I’m not sure which of the script aspects of the film below fall into the lap of the director.

The Style: Remember the fictitious documentary style I just mentioned? The filmmakers (script? Director?) only stick to this format for about half the movie and then it transitions (not very gracefully, or completely) to a narrative cinema-verite style. When the movie (any movie) is 100% Documentary, awesome. When the movie is 100% narrative fiction, awesome. Blending the two, not awesome. Especially since there isn’t a ‘hard line’ distinction between the two. I’m watching the “documentary” “District 9” and all of a sudden there’s narrative footage of Prawns (the derogatory name for the Aliens) digging through a garbage pile. My first thought is: “What part of the documentary crew shot this footage???” Then a short while later the narrative style is more and more frequent (now we’re seeing scenes INSIDE the Prawn’s shacks?? The documentary crew got some AMAZING access and just at the right time  😉 ) And then the documentary style falls by the wayside completely. I understand WHY the second half of the movie isn’t documentary style (because A) It would be ridiculous to think that a documentary crew would follow Wickus around at this point and B) It would be ridiculous to think that Wickus would allow a documentary crew to follow him around at this point).  But I don’t like it. If you’re going to have a gimmick this powerful, don’t be afraid of it. Don’t ditch it because it’s too hard to creatively develop the story with this kind of ball and chain, embrace it and make a better movie despite the limitations of the style. OR ditch the documentary style and go cinema verite narrative fiction THE WHOLE TIME. The movie would not have suffered from it. Hell, even start the movie off with some exposition as a documentary (a la the propaganda films in the beginning of Starship Troopers) but please do one or the other. Reminded me of “Diary of the Dead” copping out on the “found footage” style and adding in additional external footage (albeit “justified” in their minds). The blend of the styles didn’t work for me and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what purpose having it half and half served (other than the “cool factor” which isn’t a real purpose)

More Flawless Effects

More Flawless Effects

The Script: HORRENDOUS. Yes, HORRENDOUS. General plot was okay, but there are some specific plot issues (I’ll get to those in a minute). But this script has some SERIOUS issues with really, really bad exposition delivered by the aliens. Unless maybe this race of aliens ALWAYS says what is EXACTLY on their mind in order to fill in the blanks. Worse than any exposition M. Knight Shyamalan has ever written. Really depressed me whenever they would talk to each other. There’s a few timeline issues I won’t go into for fear of giving away plot points but usually when a Multinational corporation has a timeline to move 1.8 million beings that timeline is adhered to. I still don’t know why the ship stalled (and this is kind of important).

I really, really should have liked this movie. I should have loved this movie. It’s sci-fi with heart and meaning, it’s deeper than the surface it’s got all these aspects of what I think makes a really great movie. But for some reason, halfway through I started to wonder why I didn’t like it, and that’s never a good sign. Sure I liked PARTS of it. The last 30 minutes or so is pretty thrilling. But as a whole, something didn’t work.

I can’t not recommend it but I also can’t recommend it. You’ll have to see it to decide for yourself. I’m glad that it is making a killing at the box office, maybe more “smart” sci-fi genre stuff will get out there in mass distribution. If you’ve seen it please comment I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read the comments, I can’t guarantee there won’t be SPOILERS.

District 9

District 9

“If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable.”

August 11, 2009

On Thursday, August 13th at 7PM Eastern Time I will be interviewed via live chat by Eugene Driscoll of the Valley Independent Sentinel (www.valleyindy.org). We’ll be talking about my movie “Hunting Season” on Nationwide VOD, shooting (movies) in CT’s Naugatuck Valley and probably a variety of other things that involve movies and The Valley.

Eugene’s a good interviewer with a lot of insight and the whole format is interactive (you can join the chat and ask questions) so make sure to stop by: Valley Indy Live Chat on  Thursday, August 13th at 7pm Eastern Time

The quote that makes up the title of this blog is from the feature film “The Hurt Locker” directed by Katheryn Bigelow (“Near Dark”) now playing in theaters everywhere. Kim and I saw it last week and I definitely recommend it as a peek into the mind and life of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team in Iraq. Directing and Acting all get A+. Overall it gets a B. Screenplay gets a B-.  (On a bit of a side note, when my U.S. Army enlistment was nearing an end in 1996 I gave a great deal of consideration to reenlisting as an EOD Tech. We weren’t at war at the time). (Another side note: Katheryn Bigelow directed the superior vampire flick “Near Dark” (seek it out if you haven’t seen it) and the Keannu Reeves / Patrick Swayze excellent surfer-bank-robber actioner “Point Break” (which was remade a few years ago and retitled “The Fast and The Furious”). I don’t know if she’ll get a best director nomination or a best picture (unlikely, even with 10 nominees) but I hope the success and rave reviews of “The Hurt Locker” help her continue to make quality pics.)

One more thing: A comment was posted on my “The Big Day. Help?” blog entry regarding violence in film. I responded and hope to get a dialogue going about this very subject. Please check it out and comment away if you have an opinion one way or the other.


IndieFlix vs Createspace Update 4

August 10, 2009

Background: My first film, “Hunting Season was released nationwide on August 1st, 2009 via Cable and Dish Video on Demand (VOD). In conjunction with the VOD release I wanted to capitalize on the added exposure by offering DVDs for sale on-line. The best way to do this without dropping a minimum of $1,000 up front is to distribute through one of the DVD On-Demand sites, www.IndieFlix.com or www.CreateSpace.com (there are others but these seem to be the most popular). Since both sites are non-exclusive I decided to distribute through both of them simultaneously to see which one offers the “better” (in my opinion, for my needs) experience, and document it all here.

I have 2 requirements:

  1. I will ONLY be selling DVDs on Demand. Both of these sites offer numerous digital download options. None of what I write about here will take that into consideration.
  2. I want to price the DVDs as low as possible but still make an acceptable amount of revenue per disc (equivalent to the average that I will receive per VOD purchase).

Please see the previous blog post “IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 1″ and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Day 2 and IndieFlix vs CreateSpace Update 3 to catch up.

I’ve pretty much completely written off CreateSpace as an option at this point. It has NOTHING to do with their service. The fact is that, at this point, IndieFlix is offering me everything that CreateSpace is offering, and more.

I received some responses from Mike Williams (the Filmmaker Relations & Acquisitions guru at IndieFlix and my contact):

My Question:

“I’m sorry to keep bothering you but I have one more question before I send my master DVD in. What is the best way to make the Master? I burn with iDVD. Should I put a menu page? Should the Trailer be on the same DVD? or should I save it as a Disk Image or just save it as a Video_TS folder?”

Mike Williams’ response:

“Yes, ideal would be for you to submit your DVD with menus and a trailer included on the disc.  However, that’s not a requirement if you don’t have that available.”

Perfect. That’s easy enough. (And I’m going to slip a trailer for my second movie “Burning Inside” on the disc too. See if we can drum up some advanced notice for its future release.)

My next question (this is in regards to distributing the disc through IndieFlix on Amazon.com):

How do the royalties work when IndieFlix goes through CreateSpace? In the research I’ve done the rates are different? Does the 70/30 IndieFlix split happen after the Amazon 60/40 – $4.95 split?

Mike Williams’ response:

Yes, the royalties through any revenue source we offer is 70/30 or the NET (rather than Gross) so prior to our begin paid we have to pay out any costs.  In the case of Amazon DVD (via CreateSpace), we pay out their $4.95 and the remainder is our Net Royalty with 70% going to you.

Holy CRAP! That’s considerably better than CreateSpace’s deal with Amazon (which is that Amazon takes 40% off the top, then minus $4.95 and the filmmaker gets whatever is less).

I just want to clarify
one thing about this. The only COST prior to the IndieFlix NET through
Amazon via CreateSpace is the $4.95. So the 40% that Amazon normally takes
on top of the $4.95 (if I were to go through CreateSpace myself) does not
apply?

For the following scenario: Retail price = $14.99

Amazon Via CreateSpace:  $14.99 – 40% – $4.95 =  $4.04 (to filmmaker)

IndieFlix Amazon via CreateSpace: $14.99 – $4.95  = $10.04 (NET) – 30% =
$7.02 (to filmmaker)

Is that how it works? If so, AWESOME! I’ll have my DVD and agreement in the
mail as soon as I hear back from you.

Mike Williams’ response:

IndieFlix has a different, enterprise, deal negotiated with
Createspace/Amazon than is available for individuals.  I believe $4.95 is
correct but since IndieFlix usually doesn’t use that service unless by
filmmaker request, I’m actually less familiar with those details as I should
be.  I’ve just left a message with our enterprise contact there to make sure
I have the correct numbers.  Unfortunately it sounds like she’s on vacation
through the weekend (as is our CEO and Accounting who’d know the details on
this end) so I’ll probably have to get back to you next week on that point.

In any case, you’re free to select only those revenue sources that work for
you when working with IndieFlix.  I’d love to have you get the submission
underway so that we can screen HUNTING SEASON and once it’s accepted get it
into the release queue for IndieFlix.com.  Subsequent to our accepting it we
can work out what third party outlets work best for you.  And, of course,
you’re not locked-in with us so you’re free to pull the plug at any time.

And then the next day I received this from Mike Williams:

I’ve just gotten word from Createspace that I did actually have the incorrect split on that.  IndieFlix pays $4.95 only for our internal orders from them. For sales on Amazon.com we get a straight 42.5% of the selling price. So, a title for sale on Amazon.com at $12.99 would earn a $5.52 royalty.  Of that $5.52, you’d receive 70% and IndieFlix 30%.

I hope that helps.  As always, please feel free to let me know should any further questions/concerns arise.

Let’s see how that stacks up against selling on Amazon directly through CreateSpace:

For the following Scenario: Retail Price = $14.99

Amazon via CreateSpace: $14.99 – 40% – $4.95 =  $4.04 (to filmmaker)

Amazon via IndieFlix: 42.5% of $14.99 = $6.37 @ 70% = $4.45 (to filmmaker)

That comes up pretty close but the IndieFlix deal is still better. Of course this deal will fluctuate with the retail price of the DVD:

Let’s look at it with a $12.99 Retail Price:

Amazon via CreateSpace:  $12.99 – 40% – $4.95 = $2.84 (to filmmaker)

Amazon via IndieFlix: 42.5% of $12.99 = $5.25 @ 70% = $3.86 (to filmmaker)

Now we’ve got a $1.02 difference. Which is pretty considerable. As the retail price of the DVD goes down (= better for the consumer) the IndieFlix deal is better for the filmmaker. The CreateSpace deal is better for the filmmaker when the retail price is somewhere between $15.99 and $16.99 and up. Requirement #2 above is to keep the retail price as low as possible. In order to do that IndieFlix is the only way to go. In fact at a $8.99 retail price through Amazon via IndieFlix the filmmaker is bringing in $2.67. Amazon via CreateSpace nets only 44 cents.

Plus IndieFlix offers a straight 70/30 split for disks sold through their own site.

SOLD.

My MASTER DVD and Filmmaker’s Agreement will be in the mail tomorrow.

P.S. You may have noticed up there that Mike Williams made this statement:

“…I’d love to have you get the submission underway so that we can screen HUNTING SEASON and once it’s accepted get it into the release queue for IndieFlix.com.  Subsequent to our accepting it we can work out what third party outlets work best for you

I underlined a few key words in there. Those terms are the somewhat “gatekeeper-ish” which can be a bit worrying. There is still the chance that IndieFlix may not deem “Hunting Season” fit for their distribution. At which point the game is over and I move forward with the CreateSpace distribution model. I will be sure to keep you informed.

The BIG Day. Help?

July 31, 2009

(I sent the following e-mail out to virtually everyone on my e-mail mailing list. Please feel free to copy, paste and distribute. I truly, truly appreciate any and all support we can get to help “Hunting Season” find an audience)

Today is the big day.

“Hunting Season”, my first movie (produced with Kimberly Dalton, my wife) premieres today (August 1st) via Video on Demand on virtually every cable and dish network across the country, except Comcast and TimeWarner (see www.huntingseason-themovie.com for details).  We are extremely excited that the friends and family that volunteered their time, blood, sweat and tears will finally have the potential for a nationwide audience to see the fruits of their labor.

This is a huge accomplishment for us for a couple of reasons but a major one of them being that we made “Hunting Season” for under $5,000 (plus the aforementioned blood, sweat and tears) and it is now competing on an equal playing field with movies that had production budgets at least $300,000 more than ours.

In reality though, the playing field isn’t equal, those movies with budgets that dwarf ours also have marketing and promotional budgets and the ability to buy advertising to drive viewers to their films. All that we have is our network. Let me rephrase that: WE HAVE OUR NETWORK! I believe that the friends, family, filmmakers, musicians, artists and others that I am sending this e-mail to undoubtedly have the knowhow, heart, the fanbase and the DIY mentality to truly level the playing field against the bigger budgeted behemoths we’re competing with.

That playing field can be leveled in 1 easy step. Forward this e-mail on to everyone in your e-mail address book.

I’m not  asking (and would never ask) you to watch or purchase “Hunting Season” I’m simply asking that you please spread the word by any means possible. Like an e-mail forward, or a blog, or a Facebook Event Invitation or a Twitter tweet. Ask your friends and family to spread the word the same way you are. The goal is not to convince people to buy “Hunting Season” but to build awareness. The ultimate sign of success would be if people start inquiring snopes.com to see if this is real. Or maybe I receive a forward from someone else 6 degrees removed down the chain. Then we’ll know we’ve arrived.

If you don’t want to forward this longwinded e-mail, copy and paste the passage below into a new e-mail. feel free to alter it however you like:

Today is the big day! My friend Nathan Wrann is an independent filmmaker and his first film, “Hunting Season” is now available on Video on Demand on cable and dish networks all over the country (you can find out where here: www.huntingseason-themovie.com). “Hunting Season” is a pretty brutal horror film and Nathan knows that it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea so he’s not asking you to buy it or watch it but he would be eternally grateful if you could please forward this e-mail on to the family and friends in your address book and ask them to do the same. Simply getting the word out and raising awareness about this micro-budgeted independent film is the goal.



If you want to learn more about “Hunting Season” please go to www.huntingseason-themovie.com

If you want a press release (that has more detailed info about the cast, crew, music, etc in the film) or have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at nw@daltongang-productions.com

I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to read this e-mail and help us get the word out about “Hunting Season”.

Thank you
Nathan Wrann
www.daltongang-productions.com
www.huntingseason-themovie.com
www.burning-inside.net
www.facebook.com/nathanwrann
www.facebook.com/huntingseason
www.facebook.com/burninginsidemovie
www.twitter.com/nathanwrann
www.twitter.com/daltongangprod
Now on VOD!

Now on VOD!