Welcome and hello to the thousands of you who visit the IS (not Islamic State!) website every week.
By way of an introduction, I’m Miranda Fleming, and I’m thrilled to be starting this new monthly column. I’ve worked extensively in development (Channel Four Films aka Film4) and I’ve Produced, Exec Produced and supported funding of award winning indie shorts and features through my former role as Head of Development & Production at UK funding agency Screen South.
And, now, I’ve stepped into the brave new world of digital where I head up UK Film and Creative (including YouTubers, books, theatre, games) for Indiegogo, a San Francisco based crowdfunding platform you’ve probably heard of. I’m seeing huge change around me, and here I am, monthly to discuss it all with you. It’s all part of one big conversation so I totally invite your thoughts and feedback in the comments section (below). You can also chat to me and feedback on Twitter where I’m @FlemingMiranda.
A few years ago I read Sheri Chandler/Jon Reiss/Orly Ravid/Jeffery Winter’s (The Film Collaborative) novel Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul – that started my interest. I had fallen prey to a ridiculous distributor catastrophe with my own feature film as a producer (I won’t bore you with the shaggy dog story of this critically acclaimed film which a handful of people saw) – I highly recommend also reading the blogs written by The Film Collaborative. I made a discovery that there were some good indie films coming out of film festivals like Sundance and Tribeca with hybrid and self distribution strategies. I realised it made absolute sense to double up your festival premiere as your main premiere followed by release on VOD. (I’ll be writing in more detail on this in future blogs). And then I discovered ‘Aggregators’ (oh yes we’ll get onto that later) – for a small fee they can get your film on all major VOD platforms. This is all exciting times for filmmakers – there is some real independence for finance and distribution.
In summary, the break up of the established film distribution model has created new models which are coming back round/home to development.
The US are really working and supporting these new models. They are working it hard. I’ve watched it closely working for Indiegogo for nearly 6 months. The US filmmakers (writers/directors/producers/exhibitors) are getting bucks. Canada just stepped up. Now it’s time for the UK. Be gentle though, it’s a new medium, successes come with failures, but don’t close the door on it, take a few steps. Make them daring rather than tentative. We haven’t got time for the latter.
It seemed to make sense to focus my first blog on how these new models can help writers avoid ‘Development Hell’. Development Hell exists. It is a state of hell for most of us in the film industry, wherever and whoever you are in the global film industry.
‘It’s not going to happen to us’ – Says the Writer. So says the Producer. So says the Director. But it always does. We take the cheque. First draft. Second draft. You know the rest (this is a development focused platform right?)……..
Time. It’s not on our side as filmmakers. When I was forced to look at the time I had (literally) blown in Development Hell (with no a lot to show) it added up to 25% of my working life. 25% of my ACTUAL WORKING LIFE! I got some ‘development’ monies for the work, but not much when you break it all down.
There is a new kid on the block for us filmmakers – Writers, Producers and Directors can take the lead. You can crowdfund development!
This could be a whole new eco system for the development process. KAJAKI (brilliantly written by my fellow IS columnist Tom Williams) raised it’s £50k development funding on Indiegogo. Not only did this greenlight the process of making the film, but it gave the film a powerful bargaining tool with financiers and distributors – they proved there was an audience. That proof comes with data (you inherit a dashboard when you crowdfund) and you can see all your contributors, referrals (people who have recommended and spoken up for you on their social media).
For future distributor sales or perhaps just enticing a producer to join your project, you will get a look at where you audience lies. I’ve seen some UK films watch their development funding come in the main from the States. This might lead onto the successful decision of searching for a US producer rather than a UK one. This kind of data would certainly get a US producer’s ears up……
So as you can see, it is more than just about the money. It’s the power of the data.
And if it fails? Well in the tech world they would see this as a proof of concept. It means there probably wasn’t going to be an audience for this story in the first place. Better to learn that now than spend 2-6 years in development hell.
Which stories work best – Find a niche. Your niche is your audience. Your small film/story can have a massive niche. Kajaki had military heros. Perhaps you write in blogs online – anyone who has given away content online (written or YouTube) can now ask their followers to pay up. You’ve never asked before but you are asking now.
Check out Indiegogo and Vimeo’s announcement this Saturday at Sundance.
Full details of how filmmakers might benefit from the partnership on Indiegogo blog post:
Hear the conversation continue. This month I will be on 2 panels at Rotterdam International Film Festival, and I’ll be back here again next month with more tales from the frontline of crowdfunding…
Miranda Fleming is Head of UK Film & Creative for Indiegogo, one of the world’s foremost crowdfunding platforms. Formely Head of Development at UK funding agency Screen South, Miranda started her career at Film4 and has produced several independent feature films including DUMMY. You can follow Miranda on Twitter, check out her IMDb profile, read old posts on her blog and tell her where to go in the comments box below…