By Janine Saunders, November 4th, 2010

This November Distribution U returns with a stops in NYC and LA. The day long event provides a crash course in distribution and audience building. We caught up with Scott Kirsner co-founder of Distribution U to get his take on interesting trends, projects and services that are doing innovative things in the space.

WBP: What are some of the interesting trends you’re paying attention to within tech that could benefit filmmakers?

Scott Kirsner: Obviously, iPhone apps and Android apps continue to be huge. I think filmmakers collaborating with software developers (maybe at a local college) holds a lot of promise. And I just heard about a new startup called Groundcrew that’s doing neat stuff around helping you coordinate activities for people in your social networks — actually getting them to do things in the real world and participate using their mobile phones.

WBP You cover the tech industry with a focus on start-ups. How could filmmakers learn from start-ups? What are some of the takeaways that would directly apply to filmmaking?

SK: I think many start-ups try to build something cheap and simple — a prototype, or a “minimally viable product” — and then get feedback on it from the market. That’s antithetical to the way many filmmakers work, raising and spending lots of money on something, finishing it, and then seeing what people think. I’m not an advocate for letting the Internet community write your script (thought that could work for some projects), but I do think there are creative ways to get input from your target audience earlier in the process.

WBP: If you were sitting down to write Fans, Friends & Followers now what would you include that you didn’t in previous editions?

SK: Probably more examples of people who’ve not only created big networks on Twitter or Facebook, but actually used them to get people to do something, whether it’s buying an iTunes download or a t-shirt or showing up for a screening. There’s a big gap between “friending” or “following” someone and taking an action.

WBP: What do you think our the top 5 things for filmmakers to consider when taking their film to market?

SK: Oh man, I’m not sure I have a top 5 list all baked and ready to hand you. But one thing that very few films do is show they’ve built up a potential audience — a following — online before they get to their first festival, or start talking to distributors. Showing that you’ve generated 50,000 views on a YouTube channel or 5,000 Twitter followers can give you more leverage in any negotiation, since it’s a promotional platform that you can use when you launch the film.

Iron Sky

WBP What are interesting projects that you’re seeing that are doing innovative things with distribution and audience building? Can you share some links?

SK: Well, I like how much Tiffany Shlain has been giving presentations and public talks in advance of her next doc, “Connected.” She has also been posting footage and montages from the film on YouTube. I think she has some innovative distribution ideas once it gets into festivals next year. ( I’m also curious to see what Timo Vuorensola has up his sleeve with “Iron Sky,” where he has raised north of 300,000 Euros through crowdfunding. And I was really impressed by all of the outreach that “Winnebago Man” did to influential blogs, and what they’re doing with DVD and t-shirt sales online.

WBP: What is distribution u and why now?

SK: We did the first one last November, at USC in Los Angeles. It was a first attempt to really collect and present examples of how filmmakers have been successfully taking control of their marketing and distribution strategy, and connecting directly with an audience. That one sold out, and people seemed to think it was really helpful, in terms of helping them make new connections and think through what they would do for their next project. The New York Times did a big piece on it, too. Obviously, a lot more has happened since last November, so these two Distribution U. events will present more recent data points, and also dive in a bit deeper to crowdfunding, where we’ve seen people having more success in the last year.

For those interested in attending Distribution U see the following links

Links to register:

New York, Nov 13th:
Distribution U – NYC

LA, Nov 20th
Distribution U – LA

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Posted in audience audience-building distribution

Janine Saunders is a producer, media collaborator, and DJ living in NYC.  She has worked as a producer since a very early age, in music, video and publishing. She has worked closely with writer/ documentarian/ graphic novelist Douglas Rushkoff, and directed and edited Life Inc: The Movie.

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