By lance weiler, March 11th, 2008

Power to the Pixel is a conference that focuses on funding, producing and distributing films in the digital age. The next edition of PTTP will be held in Paris this coming June. Liz Rosenthal the founder of PTTP was kind of enough to share the following video. Please feel free to embed and spread.

The final Power to the Pixel session brings together five pioneering filmmakers who are reinventing the way that films reach audiences and audiences reach films. Lance Weiler, Arin Crumley, Susan Buice, Matt Hanson, Jeremy Nathan explain why they chose the DIY path. Moderated by Liz Rosenthal.

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Posted in audience biz case study community cross-media crowdsourced deals delivery digital downloads discovery discussion distro diy doc dvd embed event experiment festivals funds online panel producing production promotion remix resource roundtable screening sharing social change software tech theatrical tools tv 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 7th, 2008

We’re happy to introduce another contributor to the Workbook Project. Steve Balderson is a DIY filmmaking machine. He self funds, produces, and releases his own films. Some of the films have been shot on 35mm and others on miniDV. He’s taken his work on tour and staged his own “freakshows” in cities across the country. We’re excited to have him join the project and if you happen to live in the Boston area make sure to stop by and meet Steve when he presents his latest film “Underbelly” later this month.

By Steve Balderson – We’ve all learned that we can make our own movies without the establishment, so why once we’ve finished our movies, and we want to release them, the first place we go to is the establishment?

You don’t need someone else to release your movie. It’s YOUR movie.

There are two kinds of filmmakers in the world. The kind who wants to appeal to industry executives and other filmmakers, and the kind who wants to focus on the audience watching his movie, regardless of what other filmmakers and executives think about him.

I am an independent filmmaker. I am not dependent on someone else to finance my movies, write my movies, make my movies, shoot my movies, design my movies, market my movies, or release my movies. This gives me the freedom to not be bothered what other filmmakers or movie execs think of me.

It took me a long time to get to this place emotionally because I was always so concerned with what people thought of me. It didn’t take very long financially because I made a project called “Phone Sex” that sold very well and didn’t cost a cent to produce.

For some it is really challenging to NOT compare yourself to other filmmakers or what the neighbors are doing. I had trouble at first. But trust me: once you confront it, and move past it, having total FREEDOM is something you’ll never want to let go of.

Like a wise investor who wants to diversify his portfolio, it is more logical for an independent filmmaker to make six $50,000 films than it is to make a single film for $300,000. There is a greater chance at the return on the investment. After all, you only have to sell 2000 dvds to make your money back.

Simply identify how many units you think your target market will purchase. If you think you’ll realistically sell 4000, and you want to make some money, you should probably not spend more than $60,000, or so, on the movie. I would avoid going into the movie making process without having first figured out how you plan on making your money back.


Let’s examine my newest, “Underbelly,” which is a belly dance documentary co-starring Margaret Cho. The target market for this kind of product does not read the Hollywood Reporter or Variety. So it would be illogical of me to try and get those publications to write articles about me making that movie. Instead, I decided to focus all the attention to belly dance magazines and the gay/lesbian crowd.

I noticed that filmmakers usually don’t have a merch table when they do screenings. Musicians do at their concerts. I think it’s really important to have dvds available for sale at a festival so when the audience walks out of the screening they can buy a dvd immediately.

It only costs $1500 or so to print a thousand dvds (that means you only need to sell 60 of them to pay for a nice looking dvd). There’s no reason not to do it!

And repeat.

On March 23, Steve will unveil “Underbelly” at the Boston Underground Film Festival. On April 2, he goes into production on his next feature, the outrageous “Watch Out” based on the best-selling novel by Joseph Suglia.
For more information visit:


Roger Ebert named Steve Balderson’s film FIRECRACKER (with Karen Black) on his list of 2005’s Best Films. Currently filming WATCH OUT, based on the best-selling novel by Joseph Suglia, Balderson’s other work includes: PHONE SEX (featuring Margaret Cho, Ron Jeremy, Penn Jillette and Lloyd Kaufman), PEP SQUAD (the satire that predicted American school violence), and UNDERBELLY (a year in the life of Princess Farhana). Steve is also the subject of the award-winning WAMEGO documentary series about DIY Filmmaking. If you are unfamiliar with Balderson’s movies, you can purchase them from anywhere in the world.

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Posted in BTS audience biz community discovery distro diy doc dvd festivals pov production promotion resource screening theatrical

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 5th, 2008

by Marc Lougee

:: Digital Image Capture and why we went there
From the outset, I wanted to shoot the film utilizing a high resolution source. My experience with digital capture for animation started while Animation Director on MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch in New York, where we had used three-chip cameras built for medical operating theatres. The image resolution & color was great for standard definition television, but held no promise of great results when screened in a theatrical.

In addition, the body of the camera was tethered to a control box, gamma scope and computer via cables, power cords and whatnot, limiting maneuverability and placement options dramatically. The necessary antics to work around this assortment of cabling and hardware (on an already cramped set) often landed folks on a chiropractor’s table.

Our plan was to shoot The Pit and the Pendulum with Nikon D70s Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras, sending single frames of animation to Mac Mini’s and then to an external hard drive for storage. Animation referencing was handled with Frame Thief, a low cost, highly cool tool for Macs (apparently not yet available for PC’s). The high resolution RAW or NEF (Nikon) files were captured using Nikon’s remote capture software, Capture NX. This allowed for quick uploading and preview of each frame or single image. Capture NX was extremely helpful in making focus adjustments, saving much tucking behind the camera on set. This requires a little getting used to, rotating the focus ring on the camera while staring at the computer monitor, but it may prevent your having to perform diabolically difficult maneuvers to peer thru the camera’s viewfinder while crawling on the set to do so.


Download Adobe Flash Player.

Here’s the equipment & software used for shooting The Pit and the Pendulum;

Apple Mac Mini computer

17” Flat Screen Color Computer Monitor
(we used flat LCD screens for portability & minimal footprint)

Nikon D70s DSLR camera w/ 18-70 zoom lens
(we switched the package lens for a manual lens)

Canopus ADVC 11 analog to video converter

500 Gig external hard drive, (non-partitioned)

Mini B&W security camera (for viewing thru the camera viewfinder)

Frame Thief capture program (low-cost animation frame grabbing software)

Adobe Photoshop CS2
(great for batch converting RAW files to TGA’s, JPEG’s, etc.)

Adobe After Effects with The Foundry’s Tinderbox 3 ‘De-Flicker’ plug-in
(De-flicker is an excellent tool to remove inadvertent ‘image flicker’; see below)

iMovie HD (shipped with the Mac Mini’s)

Final Cut Pro or Express
(I prefer FCP or Express to Premiere or Avid for editing. Very handy for test comps on the fly, when shooting green/ blue screen animation or elements).

The D70s lacked live output/ video assist to review what you’re doing in front of the camera. We improvised with a miniature security camera serving as a video assist, which was plugged into a Canopus ADVC110 digital to analog video converter, then to the Mac Mini on which two programs ran simultaneously for image capture. Here’s a basic layout of the system;


The first program, FRAME THIEF, captured single frame ‘grabs’ from the mini camera for preview. While the mini camera supplies a constant ‘live‘ feed, FRAME THIEF grabs a single frame at a time from the feed, supplying a low-res version of the captured image in the viewing window. Once selected, the frame grabs are added to the Frame Thief timeline, creating an animation sequence. This would be the reference time line that can be reviewed as the shot progresses.

As well as being easy on the wallet and even easier to use, FRAME THIEF has several very handy features built in, virtually negating the need for surface gauges, etc. One very cool feature of note allows the user to place digital markers on screen (crosshairs or hand drawn lines, circles, etc), replacing any need for physical pointers or markers on the set. There is plenty more to make us of in the program, so I suggest tromping over to the site and have a look at the offerings. PC users fear not, as there are several ‘frame grabber’ programs available as well.

The second software program is Nikon’s remote capture offering, CAPTURE NX. Capture was used in tandem with Frame Thief, requiring both software windows be open simultaneously for the duration of each shoot. Capture NX captured directly from the D70s to the Mac Mini then onto the external hard drive, while Frame Thief captured the mini cam feed to the Mac Mini for reference use, thru the Canopus ADVC. Essentially, 2 camera feeds, one computer. This of course necessitated we have separate destination files for the two programs. The very high resolution images from the Nikon were stored externally on the external hard drive, while the much lower resolution images from the mini camera were stored on the Mac (reducing strain on the processors). This process requires two windows open on the monitor, one showing a low-resolution image preview (Frame Thief) the other a high-resolution image preview (Capture NX).

Additionally, each increment of animation, whether you shoot single or double frames, should be triggered equally on each of the two programs. Unless of course you’re a mathematical genius, then have at it you wild thing. Personally, it’s a lot easier to keep up if both frame/ image counts are reflecting the same numbers as I work my way through a shot. The fewer mental hijinks to wrestle thru, the more energy I have for the animation.

To be continued next week


Marc Lougee – Creative Producer / Director, Hand Hade Heroes Marc’s work as a director blends techniques ranging from 3D/ CGI computer animation to stop motion to classic 2D character animation. His projects integrate live action, special effects, puppets, miniatures, models and all manner of visual effects illusions.

Marc has lent his expertise of mixed-media animation production to scores of national commercial campaigns and broadcast interstitials, including work for ABC Saturday Morning, MTV, HBO, Epic Records, Fox Television, Kool Aid, Parker Brothers, Mattel, Hasbro, The Pillsbury Doughboy and the original “Bud Bowl” Super Bowl half-time campaign for Budweiser (which logged over 350 million viewers worldwide for the 1.5 minute spot).

Lougee enjoys applying his creative sensibilities to broadcast series programming. Working closely with Producer Susan Ma, he played a key role as Creative Producer in assembling the creative team for What It’s Like Being Alone in 2005/ 2006 and his contribution as Episode Director provided a major creative force behind the show. Marc’s directed animation on several series and pilots for MTV, Discovery Kids, Fox Television, Sci Fi Channel, HBO, BBC and the CBC. Several of these series are currently on-air, including the DiscoveryKids! / BBC’s Dinosapien, MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch, and the BBC’s Ace Lightning.

Marc directed and co-produced (with Susan Ma) the award-winning short film, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, executive produced by animation and visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen (Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Clash of the Titans) and Fred Fuchs (Francis Ford Coppolla’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).

Since it’s premiere, “The Pit and the Pendulum” has been chosen as an Official Selection in over 150 film festivals worldwide, garnering several awards and nominations, including Best Animated Film at Miami Shorts International Film Festival, Best Adaptation at the International Horror & Sci Fi Film Festival, Best Animated Short Film at the Dragon Con Film Festival, a Storyteller Award a the Redemptive Film Festival, an Ideology Award at the Cinepobre Film Festival and Best Animated Film at the HD Fest Awards.

More info on the film and the trailer can be found on the official film site;

For the latest news, screening dates, locations check the blog;

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Posted in BTS animation case study diy how to post production resource tech tools

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 3rd, 2008

by Alex Afterman – Since 2003 I have run a video label called Heretic Films. I used to refer to our company as a DVD label, and sure enough DVD is what we specialized in (with occasional forays in to theatrical and television, but I always was clear with potential acquisitions that first and foremost we were a DVD company).

Back in the old days it was easy to see how a company such as Heretic was necessary for filmmakers. For one thing, we had the resources to produce Hollywood level DVDs, launch a full marketing campaign, and replicate thousands of DVDs.

But even more importantly, we had access to retail accounts that the individual filmmaker simply did not. Wanted to be in Best Buy? We could get you there – good luck on your own. How about Hollywood Video or Blockbuster? Same story. Borders, Virgin or Tower? You guessed it – there was no interest on the retail end in working with individual filmmakers. They wanted to work with companies that they knew would consistently provide them with a pipeline of content. It wasn’t worth their time doing small deals with tons of different content providers.

That’s still the case, only unfortunately for us most of the big retailers and rentailers are either out of business (Tower, Hollywood shortly), struggling (Borders) or just plain uninterested in indie content (Best Buy, Blockbuster). For an explanation of why that is check out my last piece for the Workbook Project.

OK, so where is that audience going? They are going to VOD (such as cable OnDemand systems or set top devices like Vudu), digital download services (iTunes, Amazon Unbox), and streaming services (Netflix SVOD). And the next natural question I had was, is there a place for the video label in this brave new world?

Guess what – there is. There may not be the financial barriers to entry in digital that there were with DVD, nor the marketing costs (with the advent of viral marketing and social networking a lot of hustle can overcome a lack of a professional publicist or money for expensive ads), but one major obstacle remains. The services don’t have the time or inclination to deal with individual films and filmmakers. They still want to make one deal and have one set of paperwork that guarantees them a steady supply of films, not a ton of small deals each providing one or two films for their service.

There are exceptions to this rule of course – certain films with huge buzz are attractive to a service like iTunes simply for the marketing attention. But that is the exception, not the rule. If you have such a film and you can get iTunes to return your call and offer you a deal more power to you – you, my friend, do not need a video label. But most filmmakers out there probably will.

So here’s what going with a video label for your VOD and digital sales can do for you:

1. Access – Access to the services that simply aren’t interested in dealing with individuals or small groups of content. This is the biggest advantage but not the only one.

2. Delivery Requirements – Take care of the various delivery requirements for the different services. Most of the services, at least in this nascent stage, have wildly differing delivery requirements for both the video itself and the associated metadata. Presumably at some point some standardization will occur, but for now each service seems to have different requirements. Some are as easy as submitting a DVD, but in most cases they require different encodes, different media (tape, disk, drive) and unique sets of associated metadata. Can you do all this on your own? Sure – if you made a film you almost certainly can handle this. But it’s a lot of work, can get fairly expensive, and if you plan on immediately launching in to another film probably something you’d prefer to offload.

3. Marketing Support – yes, it’s easier than ever to do it for yourself. But, just as with the delivery requirements, wouldn’t it be a lot nicer if someone else was doing it for you? Someone who has been there/done that, has contacts with the major publications and can do group ads that provide lots of exposure at lower cost per film?

4. Accounting – It’s a lot easier for a label to get timely and accurate reporting when the service is depending on the label to continue to provide more content.

Again, in some cases, with that particular film that has really hit, you won’t need a label to navigate the digital waters for you. If you’re dogged about finding your own way, and willing to put in the time and money yourself, you may also not need a label in the digital age. But if you made a good film, want it to get exposure and create revenue for you, but also want to continue your career as a filmmaker rather than a film marketer/cold caller/hustler/self distributor, even in this new democratizing digital age there remains a place for the good old fashioned video label.

Just don’t call us DVD labels anymore!


Alex Afterman is the co-founder and Vice President of Heretic Films, a San Francisco based independent DVD/VOD/Digital label founded in 2003. As label head Alex is responsible for managing everything from acquisition of new titles for distribution, co-ordinating the creation of key art, authoring, production and replication of the DVDs, logistics, and marketing and publicity, including determining advertising budget, co-op purchases and handling all media relations.

Prior to founding Heretic Films Alex spent several years working as a Product Manager and Account Manager for various new media companies including internet content syndication company iSyndicate and web based real estate portal LoopNet. In addition to his responsibilities for Heretic Films Alex also co-produced the documentary ‘24 Hours on Craigslist’, which had a successful theatrical run before being released on DVD through Heretic Films.

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Posted in biz content deals digital downloads discovery distro diy dvd pov resource vid

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, February 26th, 2008

M dot Strange reports – This was part of a presentation called “Adventures in self distribution” I describe the journey I took with my animated feature film “We are the Strange” From my bedroom to Sundance and beyond and back to my little studio again after turning down Hollywood deals and deciding to self distribute and make my films my way.

M dot Strange: Berlin Talent Campus 08 from M dot Strange on Vimeo.mdot.jpg

M dot Strange is a mixed media animator from San Jose, Ca. He recently singlehandedly completed an 88 minute animated film entitled “We are the Strange” which made its world premiere in January of this year at the Sundance Film Festival. A reviewer that saw the film M dot made in his bedroom with 9 PC’s over the course of 3 years said “it looked like something Hollywood would make for 70 million” He has recently been featured in the NY Times, ABC World News , and his youtube videos have been viewed over a million times.

Find out more about M dot Strange and his work

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Posted in animation audience biz case study community content crowdsourced deals discovery distro diy dvd education embed funds gaming how to online promotion remix resource sharing user-gen vid 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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