Monday, April 13, 2015

Our Short Film Dandekar Makes a Sandwich Won the Grand Jury Prize at IFFLA!

I am so excited to announce that our short film Dandekar Makes a Sandwich won the Grand Jury Prize last night at the 2015 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles!

Brian George as RK Dandekar in Dandekar Makes a Sandwich
The festival and awards ceremony took place at the Arclight in Hollywood. It's such a great venue. And as you can see in this photo below, HBO sponsored the festival. So impressive! We dressed up and came out to the ceremony looking to celebrate the completion of the film, after tons of hard work, and support our fellow filmmakers. We were shocked to say the least when they announced our film had won - we were truly blown away. What a great feeling! I'd like more moments like that please!

Thank you to IFFLA and the Shorts Jury. We are truly honored and humbled.

Overall, Leena Pendharkar, our super talented writer/director, and I had such a great time during this festival. The festival is really organized and they set up so many incredible events with industry executives and festival programmers. As a filmmaker, you feel immense support for the advancement of your career. I can't say enough nice things about the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

To give you a little reminder, we decided to make this short film because we have a feature-length film titled Days with Dandekar that we have been developing to make, hopefully this summer (fingers crossed the full financing comes through soon!).

As part of our development process for the full feature, we thought it would be great to produce a short film based on the lead character RK Dandekar. We hoped it would help us nail the tone and character development, as well as provide us with a tool to start getting exposure for the full feature. None of this was guaranteed but we decided to trust our instincts and go for it! And we are so glad we did.

We funded the short through a successful IndieGoGo campaign. We surpassed our funding goal and were making the film within the month. Doing the crowdfunding campaign allowed us to start growing our audience and gave us the funding we needed to make the film. Win-win! Have I mentioned how much I love crowdfunding movies? It's super hard to execute a successful campaign but when it works, it's amazing and you're making a movie!

Here we are at wrap on our one shooting day - yes, Leena was about 7 months pregnant - amazing! She now has a second beautiful daughter named Sanvi and a short film she can be proud of too.

Leena Pendharkar, Brian George, our Volvo and Me on Set

One of the aspects that I love about independent filmmaking is that you can come up with an idea and work hard to make it happen without having to wait for someone else to greenlight your film. You have the power to greenlight your career - so what are you waiting for?!

But I also know that with that power comes responsibility - responsibility to ensure that what you make is of the highest possible quality. Without having the accountability of a studio or a financier, you can cut corners or get impatient and shorten development before the script is ready. So make sure you put high standards on everything you do. Because that studio may just buy your film once it's made.

Leena and I and our other producer Megha Kadakia will be riding high today, fondly remembering our great experience at IFFLA:

Danny Pudi (one of jurors of the IFFLA short program), Me (top), Megha Kadakia and Lenna Pendharkar (bottom)

And we will be working hard to set up our feature-length version Days with Dandekar:

Stay tuned everyone!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

iTunes v. Amazon v. Netflix v. Hulu from an Indie Filmmaker Perspective

I have had my films Take Me Home, Not Since You and The Diary of Preston Plummer on each of the following platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. And I thought I would talk about the pros and cons of each of these high profile Video on Demand sites. Bottomline, I love them all for different reasons. Definitely try to get your films on all four - only stagger the launch dates. I'll explain why.

iTunes should be part of your initial launch on Video on Demand. Pros: iTunes gets a lot of traffic and being on iTunes gives your film status. People are impressed when they hear a film is on iTunes. Impressed people seek out your work. And on iTunes, your audience must pay for each download and rental, which will help your bottomline. You can also get your trailer placed on their trailer site too, which immensely helps with the visibility of your title. Cons: It costs about $1500 to get your film placed on iTunes and you have to go through an aggregator so it's not the easiest or most affordable platform. And once your deal with your aggregator is over, your title will be removed from iTunes and you will have to figure out how to get it back on iTunes or leave it off. But definitely aim to get your film placed on this platform when you launch online.

Amazon is a great platform to include on your initial release on Video on Demand. Pros: It's a popular, trusted site for your audience. You will get a lot of traffic and I found most of my titles performed the best on this platform. Your audience has to pay for each download or rental, which is nice. And you can easily upload your film yourself to Amazon, for free! Bonus! And you can use their CreateSpace site to offer DVDs-on-Demand to your audience. We do that with our title The Diary of Preston Plummer. It's a great way to offer a DVD without having to make a bunch of DVDs and store them in your closet. Cons: I don't really have a con about Amazon other than Amazon takes a nice chunk of change for their cut but it's a popular site so that's to be expected.

Netflix is awesome once your title has been available online for a few months. I say this because as soon as your title is on Netflix, everyone will go there to watch it. So unless you get a hefty licensing offer from Netflix out of the gate, I suggest waiting to put your film on that platform until VOD sales start dropping off (maybe like 6 months after your initial VOD launch). When that happens, a presence on Netflix rejuvenates your title with audiences and you can secure a nice licensing fee (hopefully) to help boost your revenues for the next year or two. Pros: Netflix is extremely popular so you will be opening your film up to a huge audience. It's prestigious to get your film on Netflix. Prestige is great for your film! Since Netflix is subscription-based, more people will take a chance on watching your film since it's included in their monthly subscription, which means more people are checking out your work. Netflix has a wonderful review section for its members. You can rack up a long list of reviews of your film that you can use on social media to promote your movie. Their license fees are a nice addition to your revenue. Cons: As soon as your film is on Netflix, everyone will go there to see it. You will notice a steep drop in VOD sales/rentals on other platforms. For this reason, I suggest staggering a Netflix sale to later in the process. You will need a sales agent to get your film on Netflix. I haven't heard of anyone directly selling their film to Netflix - I'm not saying it's impossible but it's not the norm.

Hulu is a terrific follow up to your Netflix sale. Based on my experience, releasing a film on Hulu is probably best a few months into your Netflix deal so you can promote both properly. Sometimes it can get hard to be pushing your audience to multiple platforms at the same time. But this is an individual choice to be made with your sales agent. Each film's strategy may be a little different. Pros: On basic Hulu (not Hulu Plus), your film is available for free to your audience - which is a pro and a con since you earn from the commercials they play during the film but your film is chopped up with commercials. If a film is free then you will entice an audience who likes getting things for free. Hulu is a well known platform so people are impressed when you say your film is on Hulu. Again, impressed people will speak well of your film and seek it out to watch. Cons: Hulu places commercials throughout your film. This is not a filmmaker's dream. We don't like it when our audience is taken out of our story to watch an ad, but we do love the wider audience Hulu can bring so it works out. 

If you want to check out my films on some of these platforms, here are the links: 

Not Since You is available as a DVD through Netflix!

Take Me Home will be back on Amazon soon!

I even have some titles on Vimeo, IndieReign and VHX and hopefully soon on IndieFlix. I'm always looking to try new platforms but what I've found is that most of the revenue my titles have earned has been on the larger platforms, even with their hefty fees.

The above insights are based on my personal experiences with my own films. I am not endorsing distribution strategies or platforms. Each film is different and so is every distribution strategy. Good luck figuring out yours!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Poltergeist Trailer!

Poltergeist was one of my favorite films growing up. When I heard a remake was being made, my first thought was, "oh, goodie!" And now that the trailer for the remake is here, I must share it!

What a great cast! I love Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt - two indie faves. I will miss Zelda Rubinstein as the psychic but Jared Harris (of Mad Men) will fill her role quite nicely.

I really hope the remake does the original film justice because the first Poltergeist scared the crap out of me in the best way possible.

And for some nostalgia, here's the original trailer:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Plain Clothes - A Short Film by Sam Jaeger and Produced by Jane Kelly Kosek Premieres on YouTube

Plain Clothes is a short film written and directed by and starring the talented Sam Jaeger (he has also recently starred in Parenthood, American Sniper, and Inherent Vice). Sam and I have made a few projects together, including the romantic film Take Me Home, we came together on this film to honor all of the police officers out there struggling with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).

I'm really proud of the film and the work by the entire cast and crew who donated their time to help make this happen. PTSD is real and it's afflicting so many of our first-responders and veterans of war. We hope this film helps bring more awareness to the issue.

And now you can watch the entire film on YouTube! I hope you check it out.

A Documentary I Worked on "Best of Enemies" Premieres at Sundance Now! Go see it!

Best of Enemies Poster

I handled the research on a really wonderful documentary last year about the debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley during the 1968 political conventions. These debates were important because it is thought that they sparked the often-outrageous political punditry we see on television today.

The boiling point in their debates:

Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) and Robert Gordon (Muddy Waters Can't Be Satisfied) both produced and directed the documentary. No stone was left unturned on the search for archival materials to support the story. Morgan and Robert did an amazing job distilling the story down into a feature-length documentary.

Here's the synopsis from the Best of Enemies Web siteBest of Enemies is a behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God and sex.

The film is on Rolling Stone's Must See list for Sundance 2015. That's awesome!

It premieres this morning in Sundance (right now, in fact!). I wish I could be there but I'm not attending Sundance this year - alas! But I hope you check it out for me. Here are the other screening times:

Friday, January 23, 11:45 am @ Library Center Theatre, Park City, UT

Saturday, January 24, 12:00 pm @ The Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City, UT

Sunday, January 25, 7:00 pm @ Redstone Cinema 2, Park City, UT

Wednesday, January 28, 8:30 pm @ Prospector Square Theatre, Park City, UT

Saturday, January 31, 2:30 pm @ The MARC, Park City, UT

Go Team Tremolo!

Here is a scene from the film: