The Easter holidays. For many it will be one of the first dates in the diary to look out for at the start of the year when it comes to taking time out and getting away from the hustle. For most filmmakers (who are always on the hustle), it will also mean that the Cannes Film Festival is just weeks away. At last year’s event, there was only 1 British film in competition for the prestigious Palme d’Or and Un Certain Regard. Even then, it’s arguable whether a film directed by an American and produced by an Englishman with an English lead actor can count as British (‘Only Lovers Left Alive’). British movies have also had scant recognition at recent Berlin and Venice festivals.
So how does one get noticed at these festivals if you’re not Ken Loach or Mike Leigh. BUFF board member Nadia Denton has been working in the film industry for the past 10 years in marketing, exhibition and distribution. She released her first book ‘The Black British Filmmaker’s Guide to Success: Finance Market and Distribute Your Film’ in 2011. The guide, the first of its kind internationally is available as a FREE download at http://www.nadiadenton.com. She is currently writing her second title ‘The Nigerian Filmmaker’s Guide to Success: Beyond Nollywood’ which will be released later this year. Nadia was at Cannes last year and is well placed to provide insight as to what to expect from these festivals (and many others) as a filmmaker. You can add ‘Nadia Denton’ as a friend on Facebook who at present is sampling the sights and sounds from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Here’s her blog…
Whilst Cannes is undoubtedly the monster of all international film festivals, indie filmmaker should not lose sight of the smaller, more boutique festivals that will help them to achieve their aims at a more realistic level.
Those of you that have attended Cannes will know that the chances of meeting an exec that will green light your project at first sight, or even mingling with the top Directors and stars is remote. Chances are you will spend more time walking up and down the croisette than inside the various film companies and sales agents offices that line the strip. Big business is done in Cannes but only for the very lucky 10% and this is often predetermined before they get to the festival.
Where the business of striking deals at festivals are concerned, it would be well worth you considering other platforms such as the Dubai Film Festival, the American Film market, Berlinale, Sheffield Doc Fest, Tribeca, Durban Film Mart or even Rotterdam Film festival. These events offer an opportunity to present your projects to execs in an environment that more accessible and less frenetic.
Over the next 12 months, where distribution is concerned it’s all about VOD. Filmmakers will help themselves greatly by better understanding who the main players are, how the platforms work and can be used to their best advantage. Filmmakers will need to put themselves in front of content aggregators and inform themselves of the deals before jumping in foot first. In addition to spending time in VOD platforms themselves, filmmakers should compile a list and research who the main players are, which films are doing well and why. They need to consider their budgets in relations to VOD and the likely recoupment. It will additionally be necessary to plan in the time, costs and resources needed to market a VOD release.
Filmmakers need to be wise about their distribution plans at the early stages of their project, ideally at the script development stage. The days of making a film, having a great VIP red carpet and then waiting for the offers to flood in has long gone. Instead, some realism needs to be applied, which in this case means developing a distribution strategy (and marketing plan) alongside the writing of the script. The ideal scenario would be to solicit the interest of a distributor and/or sales agent who can review the script and give some guidance about its place in the market so that it can be positioned appropriately.
Overall, independent filmmakers will increasingly be relying on hybrid methods of distribution where they sell some of their rights (i.e. DVD, TV, VOD) and retain others which they will be responsible for themselves.
There are other strategies that filmmakers may find particularly useful over the next 12 months;
1. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Collaborate across sectors i.e. technology, science, fashion, music whatever floats your boat really. Extend beyond the film industry itself. Think about mixed media projects and exciting ways that you can tell your story through the prism of another discipline. Collaborate across nations. Think about parts of the world where you can shoot with the benefit of tax rebates, or countries which are more likely to be receptive to the films that you want to make. Pool resources and skills even more than you currently are doing. Consider working with a collective of filmmakers where you rotate and share skills on each other’s projects.
2. Learn as much as you can about EIS and SEIS and use it to your best advantage. Talk to your accountant and people in the city. Consider attending an angel investment event. Reconfigure your business so that it is not just about filmmaking, but the creation of products and selling of skills/expertise. Create a business structure that will be more attractive to EIS and SEIS type investment.
3. Shoot outside of London. Explore locations beyond the M25 area. Think about regionalism. There are still swathes of the English heartland that are crying out to be shot in a compelling way and which will bring new perspectives to the story that you are telling. Forget about London. Head outwards.
4. Return to e-mail marketing as a significant way to create public awareness for your campaigns. Social media is great, but don’t forget about your mailing lists. Develop and grow them. Occasionally step aside from the ‘noise’ of social media to a marketing method that is more personalised and in some instances more effective.
5. Reduce the budget of your current project by a quarter, Get tighter with your budgeting. Less is more.
© Nadia Denton/British Urban Film Festival 2014. All rights reserved. Early bird submissions for the 2014 British Urban Film Festival close at 5.00pm on Friday 9 May. For more information go to http://www.britishurbanfilmfestival.co.uk/BUFF-SUBMISSIONS-2014