By lance weiler, June 12th, 2008

This edition of TCIBR is brought to you by IndieFlix and Breakthrough Distribution – Skot Leach and his brother Ryan are on a mission to warn the world about a secret zombie outbreak. Their Lost Zombies project is a crowdsourced zombie flick that has user-gen sightings coming in from all over the world. Community members submit video, audio, photos, and articles as they document zombie outbreaks. In our discussion Skot details the project and explains how the community is helping to shape not only the storyline but also a social experience that lives online and off.


For more info on Skot and the Lost Zombie project click here.

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Posted in audience community content cross-media crowdsourced experiment interview online podcast remix sharing user-gen vidsocial web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

  • TCIBR Podcast – Don Argott
    This edition of TCIBR is brought to you by IndieFlix and Breakthrough Distribution – Our guest today is doc filmmaker Don Argott. Don exploded… read more
  • POV: Distribution Value Added
    For anyone who isn’t reading Brian Chirls’ blog you are missing out on a valuable resource. He’s a self professed Indie Nerd Filmmaker (Director, Distributor,… read more
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    If you’ve never dealt with trying to get into film festivals and that’s in the plans, go buy Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survivor Guide.… read more
By lance weiler, April 29th, 2008

I’ve just return from Hot Docs where I participated in a panel of judges for the newly formed Convergence Lab. Created by DocAgora, the lab focuses on a number of projects. The lab brings together producers, filmmakers and interactive designers in an effort to develop cross-media strategies for their projects.

Cross-media (the telling of stories across multiple mediums, devices and platforms) is a topic that we discuss often – an exciting and mind-boggling concept that opens a digital Pandora’s box. It challenges the concepts of linear structure. Sure there are numerous cross-media plays that just re-package traditional media or the new media plays that just emulate traditional media practices in a digital space. But cross-media storytelling offers new ways to build audiences and with some work could lead to new forms of project financing.

What I’ve come to learn is that it starts by listening to the audience. Everyone is their own media company these days as they publish, life stream, upload and throw their media into an every growing collective of bits and bytes.

The writing is on the wall. We were in a similar situation a decade ago when we made THE LAST BROADCAST one of the first desktop digital features and beamed it into theaters across the country. At that time it was the digital vs. film argument. Now it feels as if we’re reaching a tipping point. The days of the creation of just a feature film are gone. It’s not enough to just make a film anymore.

So how do you shake the shackles of the traditional and move into the next phase of what could prove to be a digital storytelling renaissance? There will be those who say I can’t be bothered and by all means I’m not saying that the story shouldn’t be the focus. It is all about story. I’m merely suggesting that you consider the new tools and outlets that are emerging. These developments allow you to tell your stories in new ways, larger ways, and in many cases more challenging ways.

One thing that I was asked numerous times at the Lab was where do I start? The following is a list of things to consider before you start a cross-media push.

1. Start by looking at the way your audience consume their media
2. Script it out – you wrote a script, storyboarded or created a shot list now its time to look at where people will enter your “world” and how they move through it
3. It’s a conversation. Nobody enjoys a one sided conversation so build in elements that allow your audience to interact with your content. Give them a sense of ownership through remixes, forums, fan art etc.
4. Be prepared for the audience to take control of certain aspects and know how and when to let go.
5. Listen to what the audience tells you even when they are not talking directly to you. Their actions and discussions with other audience members are a good indication of what’s working and what’s not.
6. Be prepared to move in radical directions. The best laid plans are meant to change and some times a new direction can result in larger audiences
7. Remember that there are no rules every cross-media project is different
8. Most importantly have fun since cross-media is a new way of telling stories it is a great way to experiment.

So if you’re looking to promote a project, build social awareness around a cause, or just want to have a larger audience for your work then cross-media storytelling might be for you. I’d love to hear about your projects so please send links and descriptions our way.

More reading:


Lance Weiler is a filmmaker and a self distribution pioneer. His films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA are distributed in the United States and in over 20 countries around the world. Lance often lectures on filmmaking, technology, media consumption and distribution. He’s spoken at the Sundance, Berlin and Cannes Film Festivals in addition to numerous Universities and film societies. Lance is currently working on a number of new film, tv and cross-media projects. He is also working on a book entitled “Putting the Mass Back in Media” which will be released in 2008. He currently sits on the board of the IFP, is the founder of the Workbook an “open source social project” for content creators and a co-founder of the discovery and distribution festival FROM HERE TO AWESOME. For more on Lance visit

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Posted in arg audience community content cross-media crowdsourced diy doc experiment funds narrative online production promotion remix tech user-gen vidsocial web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

  • INTERVIEW – Arin Crumley talks with wired
    Arin sent this vid in. He is currently building up a collection of interviews with the press which he’ll later mashup. From Arin: “This is an interview that chronicles how Four Eyed Monsters was promoted using the internet. The result of this interview was an article on’s“ For more on Arin and FEM click here.
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By lance weiler, March 26th, 2008

:: PROJECT -Nerdcore Rising is a fun glimpse into the world of the nerd hi-hop movement. Negin Farsad’s doc follows the trials and tribulations of MC Frontalot as he embarks on his first national tour; complete with strange opening acts, missing gear, and a single groupie that follows them from the Florida panhandle to New Orleans.

WHY: An entertaining look at a subculture that has legions of dedicated fans. What’s interesting about the self funded flick is the strong following the film has created by identifying its audience and turning to them to help spread the word.

::TOOLS -Friendfeed – for those looking to find an easy way to aggregate their social feeds into a single outlet – Friendfeed might be for you. One of a number of services that is offering to help make discovery easier. Keep up-to-date with your friends and share links, music, photos, blog entries, and video.

WHY: Lifestreaming is an interesting emerging trend that promises to ease discovery. Friendfeed is a simple services that allows for a wide variety of feed importing so you can snag blog, youTube, flickr, twitter, and bookmark feeds.

:: SITES -indiegogo – an interesting crowdsourced funding site that enables filmmakers to raise money for their projects. Filmmakers create pitches and provide a variety of perks that allow contributors behind the scenes of the process. Interested parties can make a contribution to a project to help support it.

WHY: Since the site’s launch in mid January three projects have raised 10k in contributions. And some filmmakers are even using the site to raise money to promote and distribute an existing project.

*WEB 2.0 -Plugoo is a service that allows you to bring IM to a site or blog. By embedding the chat client you can easily communicate with visitors to your site or blog in real-time.

WHY: For those looking to extend a personal touch to a project it is a simple and free way to engage your audience. The only downside is a conversation limit of five people. Other solutions like meebo rooms allow for more participants to a chat but have become the target of IM spam.

:: TOOLS -Sprout Builder is a service that lets you construct robust widgets within minutes. You can add video, audio, photos, news feeds, and bookmarks. The interface enables you to construct a flash based widget that can be embedded in a blog, social networking profile and / or site.

WHY: Widgets are a good way to help promote a project and to keep audiences update. But since widgets can be embedded within sites your audience can help to amplify your reach.

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Posted in audience call for entry community content crowdsourced discovery embed funds hoard online promotion resource sharing sites software stream tech tools web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

By lance weiler, March 16th, 2008

In this special video podcast Christy Dena interviews workbook project founder Lance Weiler. Dena, a cross-media entertainment strategist, mentor, designer, writer and PhD researcher conducted the interview for her universe creation podcast. Here’s what Dena had to say about the interview.

Filmmaker Lance Weiler is the special guest on this first video podcast at UC101. Weiler talks about the unique ways he has experimented with extending the storyworld of his feature films out to other media platforms and artforms, and he shares his insights into innovative digital distribution techniques he has been spearheading for years.

To jump to particular topics, here is a short guide:
03:02 The Last Broadcast
14:32 Head Trauma
44:14 From Here to Awesome
54:53 Workbook Project
59:01 Random Future

::ARG Netcast, Episode 39 Lance Weiler discusses Hope is Missing
::Hope is Missing CASE STUDY

For more on cross-media storytelling visit Universe Creation 101


Christy Dena is a Universe Creator and Transmodiologist. She is an industry strategist, mentor, transmedia writer and designer and PhD researcher. She has provided advice and presentations on multi-platform storytelling to the Australia Council for the Arts, Film Australia, Center for Screen Business, AFTRS, ABC, dLux Media Arts and the ACT Filmmakers Network. Christy presents regularly on Alternate Reality Game creation to a variety of organizations, practitioners and corporations such as Nokia in Finland. She co-wrote the International Game Developers Association Alternate Reality Game Whitepaper and manages an ARG Researcher & Educator listserv. She currently advises to clients including the Australian Literature Board and film production houses such as Killer Bald Men and Instinct Entertainment. She is part of the Sense Worldwide Network, a company that provides contextual research and concept development services to Blue Chip and Fortune 500 clients. Her PhD, at the University of Sydney, investigates narrative in the age of cross-media production. She recently gave a keynote at the First International Conference on Cross-Media Interaction Design in Sweden.

Christy runs two popular blogs: and co-edits She will be launching a podcast in July at and has her bio information at

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Posted in BTS arg audience biz community content cross-media crowdsourced diy experiment gaming narrative online podcast producing production promotion remix resource screening tech theatrical user-gen vidsocial web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

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By lance weiler, March 13th, 2008

For anyone who isn’t reading Brian Chirls’ blog you are missing out on a valuable resource. He’s a self professed Indie Nerd Filmmaker (Director, Distributor, Technologist) with a unique perspective on the emerging digital DIY movement. In addition to contributing to the Workbook Project he is also the Head of Theatrical for From Here to Awesome.

by Brian Chirls – Here at SXSW, I’ve met a number of cool, smart, ambitious filmmakers, some of whom even have great films. Even as I attend premieres and parties that fit the fantasy, the sad reality of distribution prospects for the films is all too evident. That’s why I’m working with the From Here to Awesome team to build a strong case for DIY distribution. Maybe, rather than drag filmmakers kicking and screaming, we can see a DIY distribution as a positive opportunity.

Inspired by our roundtable discussion, I pulled out a couple of old distribution contracts I had and took them apart to look for the value that the distributors brought to the table in exchange for the rights granted. A typical distribution deal will offer the following:

  • Physical distribution
  • Cutting the deal
  • Promotion
  • Cash advance and/or minimum guarantee

If we can understand what this value is, we can evaluate whether these distribution deals are the best option. Here is a look at what each of those means and which rights and costs to the filmmaker are associated with each service.

Physical distribution

Getting your film (and soundtrack, posters, t-shirts, etc.) to an audience is a clearly necessary and valuable service. It includes replicating and shipping DVDs and placing them in stores (online and offline); theaters and film prints or digital cinema; and digital download or streaming services. Most of the above services are commodities, in that there are many competitive companies from which a filmmaker or distributor can choose, so prices tend to be reasonably close to the actual cost of time and materials. For physical distribution, the filmmaker often pays either a fixed fee or a small percentage of revenues. Exclusivity is almost never required, and contract terms are for short periods of time.

DVD replication is a great example. Depending on volume, you can pay about a dollar or two per DVD. Shipping costs are fixed, as is the amount per unit that a retailer will usually pay. Download services are not quite there yet as far as deal terms. ITunes is pretty good, passing along 70% of gross revenues, though you have to go through an aggregator, who will take their own small cut. (See the next section.) Other download services have yet to come on board with reasonable terms. It is fair for a download contract to lock you in for a certain amount of time to cover encoding costs, but those costs are always falling and terms should become shorter. (The term should be somewhere from zero to no more than three years, but about one year is fair.)

Cutting the deal

Unfortunately, many distribution platforms won’t work directly with filmmakers, so you need someone to close the deal for you. This could include a lawyer to double-check your contracts. Again, iTunes is one such example; they require that you go through an aggregator, though it’s very possible that they’ll eventually drop that requirement as they learn how to scale the acquisition process. Think of these people as agents, whose services might be worth about 10%.


Promotion is perhaps the most illusive and tricky of all the value points distributors will claim to offer. They will often incur costs for advertising, though incurring cost is not the same as providing value. Unless you have the kind of movie that is well represented by newspaper ads, billboards and trailers on television, a distributor is not likely going to know better how to promote your movie than you do. To look at it another way, you can spend $30,000 (guesstimate) on a quarter page ad in the New York Times. For a truly independent film, that might bring ten or twenty people to a screening. (For Four Eyed Monsters, it brought one.) Now, imagine what you could do spending the same $30k on a web video series, where your audience can subscribe and interact repeatedly directly on your website.

Promotion is particularly nasty because it’s the primary reason for someone to demand exclusivity. The idea is that if a theatrical distributor pays for a newspaper ad, someone might see that ad and then buy a DVD instead of going to the theater. So they need to not only get a cut of that DVD but also determine how and when you can sell that DVD. You can get around exclusivity by working with companies that don’t do much or any promotion, though there are many that will claim that they promote your work but don’t really. A buried listing on a website or in a catalogue is not sufficient promotion to justify exclusivity. You may want to offer very limited exclusivity (e.g. on a given platform for 30 days) in exchange for a great promotion or placement opportunity.

Cash advance

At the point that a film is picture locked and ready to screen, filmmakers often find themselves desperate to make a deal that will cover their budget. Such desperation gives any source of said cash undue negotiating power, and the whole situation should be preventable by preparing distribution funding in advance. Consider that a distributor’s advance/minimum guarantee is simply time-shifting of money and sharing of risk. It happens that these are the exact services that financial institutions and equity investors provide. So why would you go to a movie company for financial services instead of to a financial services provider?

Typically, before shooting a single frame, a filmmaker will raise money from one or more investors – perhaps private equity (like a dentist uncle), from a production company or by credit card. At that point, the investor is taking on a great deal of risk and will expect an accordingly high share of the profits. Maybe the film will stink; maybe the production will go catastrophically over budget; or maybe the director will get hit by a bus. But once the film is completed, much of that risk has dissipated. The movie has been delivered, and maybe it’s even pretty good. Any further investment from then on should take significantly less ownership, corresponding to the lower risk.

Given an investor-filmmaker relationship that has been successful enough to make it to picture lock, a filmmaker might be best served to return to the original investor(s) to fund delivery and distribution until revenues start coming in from box office, retail, etc. Better yet, one might prepare a business plan to receive a first round of production funding with a high-risk return, followed by a second round of distribution funding at a pre-determined lower return rate once the picture lock milestone has been reached. This is no different from how start-up companies prepare for venture funding.

Build vs. Buy

Whatever resources I need for a film project, I’m always asking myself whether to build or to buy. I look at the costs and benefits of hiring another company provide a service for me, compared with the costs and benefits of putting together the resources to do it myself. Once you break down the real costs and added value of any distribution or other deal, you can determine at each step whether you really need someone else to do it for you. Depending on what you find out, a distributor may be the best way to go, or maybe it’s just better to DIY.


Brian Chirls is a filmmaker and technologist in New York. He has worked on the film Four Eyed Monsters as Manager of Distribution and Marketing. Brian is currently consulting on the distribution of John Sayles’s latest film, Honeydripper, while continuing to develop and write about ways for independent artists to create and distribute their work. Brian has also produced and directed a number of short films, video blogs and a bit of machinima.

Before becoming a filmmaker, Brian built financial software and worked in construction management on subway stations and highways. He graduated from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania and is the least successful member of his graduating class.

To learn more about Brian’s work, see

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lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

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