I made it through a screening, a Q&A and two 8-hour days of sitting on my butt, listening to riveting discussions about independent film during the Film Independent Forum. It was insightful, inspiring, and oh so painful to my rear end. But I survived and I'm so much better for it - mentally that is!
I love attending seminars because I get so pumped up and hopeful about the future. And this forum definitely got me pumped.
The event kicked off with Werner Herzog saying, "You can't be a director without knowing the heart of men." Love that. And then he went on to kick butt at SAG (thank you Werner for that) and to tell everyone that you need to be serious about the money and you will survive. Werner you are a producer's dream. And then he said he's a "fluffy husband," and I realized he's a wife's dream too.
I attended a panel on documentary financing, which equates to television licensing, grants, charitable organizations and wealthy individuals. It sounded almost doable versus the struggles in narrative film financing. I also learned that there are some great organizations committed to financing the release of social documentaries so they can inspire community action. That was really great to hear.
I listened to filmmakers discuss their successes in crowdfunding and social media. I know firsthand how challenging it is to run a crowdfunding campaign (I'm sorry friends and family for always bugging you for money) and I have to hand it to those on the panel. They raised tens of thousands of dollars. The entire audience was in awe.
Next was marketing and distribution. It's so clear that the onus is on the filmmakers to build an audience, keep them informed and entertained. One filmmaker had an ingenious idea of finding the busybodies within a 10 mile radius where his film was playing and making them the ambassadors of the film so they can rally people to go to the theater.
So instead of relying on TV commercials like the studios do, we need to rely on reaching out to individuals via email and phone calls and engaging them personally to come to the theater. It's proven to be the best and really only way to have a successful indie film run. Even a publicist said, she can get the reviews but she can't get butts in seats. We need to do that.
Then at lunch, they have these awesome networking tables with each hosted by a seasoned indie professional. The first lunch, I sat with a development exec at Lionsgate and got to pitch a horror film I am developing, and the next day, I sat with Michael Polish (director of For Lovers Only) and got to pick his brain on their incredibly successful internet release of their film(s).
All in all the entire weekend was super invaluable and I recommend it to every indie filmmaker. Thanks for putting it on Film Independent! See you next year!