Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Matching new art with eyeballs

One of the main reasons I started blogging (way back before “blogging” was even a word) about movies—apart, I mean, from the fact that I needed to expend all that energy which kept building up in my fingers—was to provide some encouragement in my own way for filmmakers out there. Not necessarily for the big Hollywood names you know well, but for the ones who are doing it for the pure love of the art. The ones who films only get seen in a few arthouses or at a number of film festivals or (these days) on Vimeo or YouTube.

It started out purely as a desire to express myself, i.e. to foist my own opinions on hapless strangers—and maybe as an excuse to hone my HTML coding skills. But as time went on, I came to realize that a lot of those filmmakers—whether kids in film school or industry employees making a move to the directing chair or old retired guys belatedly chasing a lifelong dream—actually appreciated the attention and, more importantly, the publicity for their work—even coming from someone as humble as myself. The more I go at this, the more I appreciate how daunting a task it is for these artists to get attention for their work, given the glut of media output bombarding us from all kinds of sources out there. It has never been easier, technically, to make a film or to make it available to the entire world (if you don’t care about covering your costs), but it has perhaps never been more difficult to get one’s work noticed by a significant number of viewers.

People keep trying to come up with new models to break through the corporate constraints (on the top end) and the flood of media (everywhere else) to bring attention to new filmmakers. Such a new model has recently come to my attention. Filmmaker Ron Jackson, writer and producer of the movies 5 Hour Friends and $elfie Shootout, and his brother Wayne have started an online distribution site with the aim of providing paid international distribution for independent filmmakers. You can read about how this is meant to work on their IndieGoGo page, where they are looking for funding for marketing. Basically, the idea is this. They have founded an online film festival, The Niftie Indies Virtual Film Festival, to solicit new films. Film fest winners will be chosen by votes of the film fest’s online community. The top films will get contracts for distribution. Filmmakers who get contracts will see a larger percentage of the profits since, according to the Jacksons, the 35 to 50 percent usually paid to corporate distributers is cut out, as well as the 25 percent usually paid to an agent.

Will this actually work? Who knows? But it sounds like it’s worth a try to me. Their first challenge is to get the word out. If they can get the participation, they already have the infrastructure in place for the distribution. And, if it does work, it will provide new opportunities to budding filmmakers and add to the number of movies that are available for film buffs to see. And it will provide an alternative to such corporate online distributors as Amazon, iTunes and Netflix. If that sounds interesting to you, find out more by clicking on the links in the previous paragraph.

To show my support, I have agreed to be an advisor to the Niftie Indies film festival. Not sure exactly what that means yet, but it should definitely be fascinating to find out.

-S.L., 6 April 2016

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